HC Deb 21 February 1991 vol 186 cc446-92
Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

I make a special plea to those on the Front Benches and those on the Back Benches to limit their speeches. As I have already said, 24 hon. Members wish to participate in the debate and I should like to call as many of them as possible. If Back-Bench Members were to limit their speeches to, say, five minutes each and those on the Front Bench to 10 minutes each, it would enable most hon. Members who wish to participate to be called.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you to reconsider your decision? We are on the point of a ground war and the only way in which hon. Members who oppose the war starting could express their opinion would be to vote for the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and others. I ask you to give us the chance to do that by taking that amendment, too.

Mr. Speaker

Sadly, it is not possible for me to call more than one amendment. I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that. I have made my selection.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you confirm that there have been occasions, albeit rare, when other amendments by smaller groups in the House have been accepted and that this should be one of those occasions? Would you also bear it in mind, Mr. Speaker, that since the motion was tabled last night, another 20 people have signified their willingness to add their names to the 20 who tabled the amendment? Would you, therefore, reconsider what you have just said?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot reconsider. The hon. Gentleman knows that I can select only one amendment, but, of course, those who oppose the motion will have the option to express their opposition in the Division Lobby later.

4.3 pm

Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan)

I beg to move, That this House, having given continuous overwhelming support to British forces in the Gulf and therefore mindful of its responsibility to them, and to the status and integrity of the United Nations, calls on the Government to ensure that war aims, and efforts to create peace and security in the area, are restricted to the terms set out in the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions; and declares that no diplomatic opportunity should be lost to bring the present conflict to an end in terms compatible with United Nations Security Council Resolution 660. In a sense, I am in an unenviable position. I am like a man trying to step on a single spot in a moving river because I understand that information is still coming out of Baghdad. The latest that I have heard is that Saddam Hussein has said—this is a very rough translation and quotation: We will continue the struggle confident that we will eventually win victory …They want us to surrender but they will be disappointed. When Tariq Aziz delivers the Iraqi response to the Soviet offer there will be no other. Hussein says: The mother of all battles will be let loose. I rise to speak in an extremely pessimistic mood. Earlier this week, I talked to people with background knowledge of the situation. Their view of Saddam Hussein was that his calculation is that if he could not personally survive, he would rather bring the whole temple down on his head, irrespective of the human cost involved. This afternoon's debate is highly relevant because whether there is a final, final chance of peace, whether before the land battle starts or when the land battle is engaged, it is extremely important that we understand the war aims for which the troops are engaged. It is legitimate for us this afternoon to probe and investigate the Government's war aims.

Before doing so, I place it clearly on the record that nothing that I say in probing those war aims or in disagreeing with the Government is a diminution of the support of the Scottish National party for British forces implementing United Nations policy in the Gulf. They have our unequivocal support. I also ask the House to recognise that we are arguing, as we have done since 2 August 1990, that Saddam Hussein bears the primary responsibility for the conflict in which we are engaged. It has always been his key decision whether there has been peace or war.

We in the west, who live in a democracy, often find it difficult to understand that someone like Saddam Hussein could have, from the beginning, determined on war as part of his political policy. However, that has always been part of his political policy.

There are two reasons why the Scottish National party chose this issue for debate on our one half Supply day. First, it reflects our long-standing concern about the Gulf, a great strategic region of the world. I advance as proof the letter that I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on 24 July 1990, eight full days before the invasion of Kuwait. I wrote: Dear Douglas, Iraq and Kuwait. I am extremely concerned at the dispute that Iraq has whipped up with Kuwait, and the latest news of Iraqi troop movements at the Kuwait border lends a new dimension of anxiety, particularly in view of Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and the long standing Iraqi claim to what is Kuwait territory. I appreciate that you and other EC governments may be awaiting the outcome of the inter-Arab efforts to settle the dispute, but given the difficulties that other Arab states face in dealing with Iraq, now arguably the most powerful and certainly the most free-moving of all in the Arab league, I believe that other pressures must be brought to bear. As a permanent member of the Security Council, and because of Britain's historic ties with the region, a special responsibility would seem to rest with us. May I urge you, therefore, to place the issue of Iraq's conduct before the full Security Council with a view to that body providing Kuwait, a small nation with considerable elements of democracy built into its system (unlike Iraq), receiving international assurances about its security in the light of aggession from Iraq. I am of course aware that you and your department will not have been idle on the issue, and that considering taking the issue to the Security Council is a matter of fine judgement. However, and again I emphasise Hussein's record, when faced with Iraq seeming to mobilise for conflict, I believe it is right to call upon the UN to act decisively to preserve the peace and protect the rights of small nations. That was written eight days before the invasion.

On 25 July, April Glaspie, the United States ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam Hussein to his face: The United States has no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait … I have been instructed by Secretary of State Baker to emphasise and underscore this message to you … I am under instructions from President Bush to seek better relations with Iraq. No doubt in due course there will be some explanation of that inexplicable American position on 25 July when someone such as myself, a Back-Bencher with limited resources, could see on 24 July what was likely to happen. I put that on the record because it allows us properly to claim a record of reading the position accurately and a commitment to the integrity of the state of Kuwait.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the United States made it perfectly clear that it in no way condoned the possibility of the Iraqis taking over Kuwait?

Mr. Sillars

The important words in Miss Glaspie's statement are "conflict" and "border". The United States probably gave the green light, or at least it was seen that way in Baghdad, to venture into the border dispute. However, I have no doubt that that will be examined in due course.

The second reason is much more important. We are reaching the final phase of the political and military engagement between the coalition and Iraq. It is clear that as we approach it—perhaps we are already in it—the war aims and their consequences, which will carve out the political contours of the middle east for a generation or more, are of prime importance. The war aims have lain at the heart of the past seven days of activity between Moscow, Baghdad, Tehran, Washington, Paris and London.

The Government should give a calm, rational and honest explanation about what has transpired since last Friday afternoon. The House should undertake a calm, rational and honest examination of the Government's conduct in the past seven days. I draw the attention of the House to the motion before it. It refers to our responsibility for the people whom we have overwhelmingly supported—the forces in the Gulf—and our responsibility to the United Nations.

It is one thing for people like us to send young people in uniform to risk their lives for United Nations policy, to uphold the authority of the only organisation upon which we can build a new world order and to liberate Kuwait from Saddam's torture squads. It is different to ask them to risk their lives for an American war aims agenda, which goes beyond the United Nations mandate in respect of the use of force. We have a deep obligation because the troops—the Army, Navy and Air Force—are instruments of political policy. But they are not robots. They are flesh and blood. They have families, wives and children and they also have intelligence and their own opinion.

In a democracy the armed forces will always be the instrument of politics. But we have certain obligations to them. We have an obligation not to allow them to die for policy that goes astray in the hands of politicians.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

If Iraq withdraws from Kuwait with the majority of its armour, artillery and aircraft intact, would the hon. Gentleman trust Saddam not to use them in future?

Mr. Sillars

I shall come to that during my speech.

As I said, the United Nations is the only organisation upon which we can build a new world order. It is paramount that we are not party to using its resolutions as paper flags of convenience, to be discarded when they place limits on any policy that might emerge from Washington and London.

There is a clear implication that there is cause for concern about the war aims and their definition. I intend to develop an argument to show that the Government must respond to that anxiety. My submission is that the war aims are in danger of going beyond the United Nations mandate. I shall come to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) in a few moments. If I am disabused of the notion that the war aims may go beyond the mandate no one will be happier than me. If Iraq tells the Soviet Union that it will immediately meet the terms of resolution 660 and withdraw unconditionally, given our original limited war aims the basis will exist for bringing the killing to a swift end and avoiding the horrors of a land battle.

However, I have been disturbed by the statements made and stance taken by the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom before and especially after last Friday's Baghdad communiqué. Let me first chart the movement of the war aims before last Friday. On 15 January, in an important exchange in the House between the leader of the Liberal Democrats and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said: I now address my remarks briefly to the question of aims, constraints and objectives. I hope that the Government will, in clearer terms than I have heard so far from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence or the Foreign Secretary, announce what the aims of any actions would be. It is important that if we go into this terrible action we do so clear about our objectives. It would be a catastrophe to allow a war which invented its own aims as it rolled along. We must now state what our aims will be."—[Official Report, 15 January 1991; Vol. 183, c. 760.] Winding up the debate, the Foreign Secretary said: The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) asked a key question about our aims if there is a war, and they are clear. They are contained in the Security Council resolutions. They are to get Iraq out of Kuwait—all of Kuwait—to restore the legitimate Government of Kuwait and to uphold in that way the collective security and authority of the United Nations. Beyond that, there is a hidden agenda."—[Official Report, 15 January 1991, Vol. 183, c. 814.] On 17 January, the Prime Minister made this statement to the House: Our aims are clear and limited. They are those set out in the United Nations Security Council resolutions: to get Iraq out of Kuwait—all of Kuwait; to restore the legitimate Government; to re-establish peace and security in the area; and to uphold the authority of the United Nations."—[Official Report, 17 January 1991; Vol. 183, c. 979.] So far, so clear. On the same day, the Prime Minister made a ministerial broadcast to the people, in which he said: Our aims are clear. They have been set out, for all to see, by the United Nations Security Council. First, we must get Iraq out of Kuwait—right out of Kuwait. Second, we must restore Kuwait's legitimate government. And third, we must uphold the authority of the United Nations. We and our allies want nothing more than that. In an article in The Times on 18 January, the Foreign Secretary, maintaining a consistent line, said: Our aims are laid out in the United Nations resolutions. He went on to repeat that the aims were: First, to get Iraq out of Kuwait, all of Kuwait. Second, to restore the legitimate government of Kuwait. Our aims do not go beyond this. We are not trying to dismember Iraq or to decide who should govern it. More generally, we are acting to uphold collective security and the authority of the UN Charter and UN Security Council. The crucial words, "more generally", were the lead-in to the issue of peace and security. However, on 28 January, the Secretary of State for Defence was reported in the Financial Times as saying: Mr. Tom King, Britain's Defence Secretary, yesterday made clear that dismantling President Saddam Hussein's war machine formed part of fulfilling UN resolution 678 … 'It has to be right, after all the effort and all the costs and all the pain that we have been involved in. We cannot leave this half finished with a continuing menace, continuing to threaten other states in the area. The Financial Times commented: While this position has long been tacitly understood both in London and Washington, Mr. King's remarks are the first public acknowledgement in the United Kingdom that disarming Iraq is an aim of the leaders of the coalition. On 31 January—we now see them beginning to creep forward—an interview with the Prime Minister was reported in The Times.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order, given the shortage of time and your direction, for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) to read from newspapers?

Mr. Speaker

It is perfectly in order for the mover of the motion to do so, and it is a rare opportunity for the spokesman for the SNP to make his own speech in his own way.

Mr. Sillars

The Times wrote: Asked if the allied war aims were changing to include more action in Iraq once Saddam's forces had withdrawn from Kuwait, Mr. Major did not rule this out. It was impossible to be precise in defining what was meant by action to secure and preserve peace and security in the region, he said, until the circumstances arose. 'We will judge the situation at the time against the Security Council resolutions.' I go back to 29 November 1990, to the Security Council, at which the Foreign Secretary represented the United Kingdom when resolution 678 was introduced and voted on. We should remember that the Prime Minister was telling us on 31 January 1991 that it was difficult to be precise. This is what the Foreign Secretary said way back in November. We see it as one of the main purposes of this resolution to blow away the uncertainties and set out for the Iraqis exactly how they stand and how we stand. There is no ambiguity about what the Council requires in this resolution and in previous resolutions. We require that Iraq comply fully with the terms of resolution 660 and all later resolutions and withdraw all its forces unconditionally to the positions on which they stood on 1 August.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that dismantling a war machine during the course of a war is helpful in securing peace and stability in the area? Does he further accept that dismantling that war machine in this war would be helpful in removing Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait?

Mr. Sillars

If we are talking about dismantling the Iraqi war machine in what is known as the Kuwaiti theatre of operations, the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question must be yes. But is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the 270,000 Iraqi troops on the border with Turkey should become legitimate targets for the coalition? I would say no—that would go well beyond the Security Council resolution—unless they began to move actively into the Kuwaiti theatre of operations. I acknowledge the fairness of the hon. Gentleman's question. Let us assume that Saddam is expelled from, or leaves, Kuwait. I do not believe that the United Nations has given us a mandate to advance on those 270,000 troops on the Turkish border.

Having sought to show that there has been a creeping of the war aims, I now quote our ally Mr. Bush, the President of the United States. At a press conference President Bush was asked: Now obviously it's a semi-hypothetical; he hasn't gotten out, of course. But could you tell us something about your conditions for agreeing to a cease-fire in the event that he did begin? Mr. Bush replied: Well, it would have to be a credible, visible, totally convincing withdrawal. There would be other things that I will not state here that I would want to see happen.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

There is nothing wrong with that.

Mr. Sillars

I agree that there is nothing wrong with that. My point is that the elected representatives of people who have sent troops to the Gulf are entitled to know what those other things are. We are entitled to know whether those things advanced or retarded the chances for peace in the last seven days. We are also entitled to know whether they are conditions in conformity with or compatible with the resolutions of the United Nations, of which resolution 660 is the foundation and upon which resolution 678, the licence for force, is based.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Have not those troops whom we all support the right to expect us to allow them to get on with the job of dismantling this war machine in every particular? If it is not dismantled, the war machine may result in thousands of British casualties.

Mr. Sillars

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman follows the logic of what he says. The logical conclusion is that there comes a point at which political control is not applied to the military. I profoundly disagree with that.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Sillars

I have been generous in giving way and I want to make some progress. I am trying to balance our right to deploy our arguments with the rights of other hon. Members to take part in the debate.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is one of those seeking to participate later.

Mr. Sillars

On Friday, Baghdad issued its communiqué and on first reading it seemed to be a list of impossible demands designed to procure a negative reply. The Foreign Secretary said that it might have had two purposes, one to split the coalition and the second simply to gain time for Saddam Hussein to regroup his military forces for a continuation of the conflict. Others who have a legitimate position in the international community, in Europe and elsewhere, took a different view. The Soviets thought that it might have been a signal of a willingness to comply. Tehran also thought that it might have been a signal and the Iranian Foreign Minister described it as a wish list rather than a list of demands. Since then everything has gone behind a veil of secrecy.

The time has arrived, especially in the light of Saddam Hussein's statement, for what has happened since last Friday to come into the open. How otherwise can we make a mature judgment about whether the next stage, the land battle and the death toll, is justified? Perhaps I could put it more brutally. What am I, as a Member of Parliament, to say to a mother in my constituency who asks, "Did my young son really need to die in that land battle?" The only answer that I can give at the moment is, "I do not know." We are entitled to know.

Until now there have been no concrete statements. We have read in the newspapers about sources in Washington and elsewhere talking about extending the aims to take out the Saddam Hussein regime, virtually to disarm Iraq and to demand recognition by Iraq of the al-Sabah family as the legitimate Government of Kuwait. That would be a different principle from that applied by the United Kingdom to international recognition, because while for a long time we have not recognised governments, we have always recognised states. Therefore, we seek to impose on Iraq a position that we do not accept in international law. There is also the issue of reparations.

Today we were assisted by the Prime Minister at Question Time telling us that to end the war Saddam Hussein must obey all United Nations resolutions immediately. He used the word "immediately" and I shall examine his use of that word in a moment. When I made my notes, I assumed that only the public would be led to believe that the United Nations has further imperative demands on top of resolution 660 which must be met before the guns fall silent. Now, listening to Conservative Members, it appears that they have joined what I perceive to be the public position. The public has been led to believe that and so have they. If that is the position being put forward by the Government, it is not an honest summation of the 12 resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council.

Eight of those resolutions—661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669 and 677—present no fundamental obstacles if Iraq says that it will withdraw under resolution 660.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Resolution 666 is about food and medical supplies to Iraq following problems which resulted from the imposition of sanctions and the onset of military action, so presumably that does not have to be complied with by Iraq, rather by the United Nations.

Mr. Sillars

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right; he reinforces my argument. Resolution 677 says that the United Nations Secretary-General should hold the register of the population of Kuwait. What does the Prime Minister mean by the immediate implementation of all the United Nations resolutions? Resolution 670 might be important. That refers to violations of international law and the fourth Geneva convention and says explicitly that Iraq is liable for violations against human rights. Is it Government policy that, even if Iraq withdraws under resolution 660, there can be no cessation of hostilities until Saddam Hussein and his regime are brought to a war crimes trial, with all the problems inherent in that? That is important because the Minister's reply to that question will either bring in or knock out one of the resolutions to which the Prime Minister referred.

Resolution 674 refers to the liability of the state of Iraq for the costs involved and the damage done to the property of individual Kuwaitis and others and the state of Kuwait. Nowhere does that resolution mention "reparations" and that proves the absurdity of the Prime Minister's use of the word "immediately". It is not Saddam Hussein who will meet the cost. How will the Iraqi people make reparations immediately? There will have to be a mobilisation of international help for the Iraqi people. We are entitled to some explanation of the Government's attitude to resolution 674.

That leaves us with resolution 660, the foundation policy, and 678, the instrument of implementation. Resolution 660 says that Iraq should withdraw to the positions held on 1 August. It does not say that the Saddam regime should be removed or that there should be disarming or humiliation. That was a considered judgment, reinforced by resolution 678, despite the fact that Iraq had committed the greatest crime among states—the attempt to extinguish one. Is resolution 660 still the foundation of our policy, or, now that Iraq is on the ropes, is the hidden agenda to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime? I have no doubt that any declared intention to bring down Saddam Hussein would be extremely popular among the general public, but it would go well beyond the terms of the Security Council resolution. It is our duty not to be carried away by the fever or the opportunity presented by war, but to think carefully of the consequences of our action.

Perhaps I can put the question in a different form. What precisely does Saddam Hussein need to accept tonight, or when the conflict goes into its second phase, before we will call off the war, or how far into Iraq are we prepared to go? I recognise the temptation for the coalition forces to take Saddam Hussein's regime out by decisive military action. Like every other hon. Member, I detest that man and his regime. I was arguing against it when he was gassing the Kurds at a time when western and other Governments were supplying him with arms and credit.

I know that there is a concern to defeat Saddam Hussein. I am trying to be fair to the Government, and it is a fair point for them to make that up till now one of their anxieties has been that they could win a military victory but that Saddam Hussein could win a political victory because he does not need to win militarily to win politically. Two weeks ago that was possible. I doubt whether it is now.

We are talking about an Iraq with a broken-backed economy, with its social system in tatters, with its infrastructure shattered and with a military machine that is being pulverised daily. But apparently tonight Saddam Hussein is still shaking his fist. After last Friday's communiqué, in which he used the word "Kuwait", not the 19th province, and the word "withdraw", I believe that he was politically and fatally weakened and that his days are numbered.

Let me express my fear that if we are not sensitive to Arab feelings—that is, the feelings of the people and not of King Fand and the other rulers—we could win the war but go on to lose the peace. As much as anyone else, I want Saddam Hussein to get his just desserts——

Mr. Winnick

Let us get on with the war.

Mr. Sillars

Let me tell the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) that it is crucial to the future that Saddam Hussein is brought to account by his own people. Saddam the martyr, martyred by the United States of America, would remain a potent force for evil and instability. If we want peace and security in relations between the Arab world and the west, we must be careful that they are not poisoned by our conduct in the war and its immediate aftermath.

I beg the Government to make the Americans understand the delicacy and sensitivity of the Arab peoples in the wake of an Iraqi retreat or an Iraqi defeat. I do not want to see Saddam the martyr devour the peace from the grave the way he has done while alive.

4.37 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'having overwhelmingly supported the despatch of British forces to the Gulf, welcomes the affirmation by the Government that the aims of British military action are to secure the implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.'. You have asked us to be brief, Mr. Speaker, and I shall seek to be so.

I propose, in the course of my speech, to touch on four issues: the causes of the conflict; the objectives of the coalition; how the conflict can be ended; and what needs to be done when it is concluded.

The conflict began on 2 August last year when, after weeks of intimidation and despite negotiations arranged by fellow Arab countries, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. To the very eve of the invasion Saddam Hussein was promising fellow Arab leaders that he did not intend to use force. That was a lie.

The attack on Kuwait, a small sovereign state, militarily weak, no threat to him and Islamic in character, was wholly unprovoked. His pretence that he invaded Kuwait in order to free Palestine is a lie. He used force in order to promote his own policies in precisely the same way as he used force against Iran in 1980 and against the Kurds in 1988.

Iraqi forces have plundered Kuwait. Two thirds of the indigenous population has been displaced. The country has been looted. Many of its citizens have been murdered. As the Amnesty report makes plain, Iraqi forces have systematically employed brutality and torture as an instrument of policy. This is the nature of the regime and these are the causes of the conflict. It is not possible to conceive of a clearer act of aggression.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) talked about the Iraqi people removing Saddam Hussein. My hon. and learned Friend has just given us a chapter on the behaviour of Iraqi troops in Kuwait. We know, from the massive breaches of human rights in Iraq—the torture, the removal of political opponents and their death at the hands of the security forces—that there is neither the will nor the people to lead any attempt to remove Saddam Hussein in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggested.

Mr. Hogg

We shall see. The destruction that Saddam Hussein has brought upon his people may prompt them to remove him, and to do so soon.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hogg

I shall press on for a little while.

As regards our objectives, the reaction of the international community to this act of Iraqi aggression was swift and resolute. Twelve resolutions have been passed by the Security Council, either unanimously or by overwhelming majorities. Some 30 countries have now committed themselves in support of the United Nations, either to enforce the embargo or to defend Saudi Arabia or to liberate Kuwait. Within this coalition are to be found 11 Muslim states, most notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria. This is an international operation, an exercise in collective security which is taking place under the authority of the United Nations.

Our objectives are clear: the full and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, the restoration of the legitimate Government of that country arid the restoration of peace and security in the region. Iraq must also accept the authority of the Security Council and its decisions. We have no other objectives.

I have told the House what our objectives are. Now let me tell the House what we do not intend: we do not intend to occupy Iraq; we do not intend to change its borders; and we do not wish the destruction of its economy. While we would not grieve if Saddam Hussein were induced to stand aside, or otherwise ceased to be the leader of Iraq, it is no part of our purpose to change the Iraqi system of government or to select its leader for it. Moreover, while part of our legitimate campaign to expel Iraq from Kuwait will involve the dealing of heavy and telling blows, both against Iraqi troops in Kuwait and against legitimate military targets and facilities in Iraq which support Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, the destruction of the Iraqi army is not itself a war aim. That may happen in the course of the campaign, but it is not in itself a specific war objective.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend's extremely wise words will be welcomed throughout the House, with the emphasis that he puts on war aims. Will he confirm that that means there are no plans to occupy Basra, except in the course of pursuing the war, if, sadly, a land war has to start, and that there is no long-term American objective of taking Basra, as has been rumoured? Also, will he confirm that the Security Council will be in regular and frequent session, monitoring the progress of these unfortunate matters as they develop?

Mr. Hogg

As I said, occupying Iraq is not our objective—and Basra is part of Iraq—save in the process of expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait. What is true of this country is true of other countries within the coalition.

As regards the circumstances in which the conflict can be brought to an end, our purpose is to secure compliance with the Security Council resolutions. What the international community requires and has a right to expect is an unequivocal commitment by Iraq to withdraw its forces fully and unconditionally from Kuwait. When the Iraqi Government are ready to comply with the mandatory resolutions of the Security Council, they should say so unambiguously and match their words with decisive and irreversible proof. There needs to be clear evidence of withdrawal, and there must be repatriation of allied prisoners of war. As yet, there has been no such statement, there is no such proof and we have seen no such evidence. Accordingly, hostilities will continue.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

What is the Government's reaction to Saddam Hussein's speech this afternoon, which a number of us have been watching on CNN, including, I suspect, President Bush?

Mr. Hogg

I have not seen the speech, although I have heard reports of it. It would be premature to come to a firm conclusion, but, regretfully, it did not sound like the speech of a man who was about to comply unconditionally and irrevocably with the resolutions of the Security Council.

I now turn to the proposals put forward by the Soviet Government. On Monday evening my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister received a personal message from President Gorbachev. In it, Mr. Gorbachev set out the proposals which he had already put to the Iraqis and which he hoped might form the basis of a ceasefire.

The message was delivered and received in confidence and its full contents have not yet been publicised.

The Soviet Government have given the Iraqis yet another opportunity to comply with the requirements of the United Nations. We welcome that fact. What we now expect from Iraq is a response which fulfils those requirements. When we see that the United Nations Security Council resolutions are to be fulfilled, there can be an end to this conflict. This afternoon's launch of two Scud missiles to Saudi Arabia was not the message that we were looking for.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

In the Minister's judgment, is the view of the United Nations, in whose name this is supposedly being done, taken into account? Is any effect being made to ask the Secretary-General of the United Nations what he thinks before decisive action is taken?

Mr. Hogg

There is no supposedly about it. We are taking action under the authority of resolution 678 of the Security Council. We are acting under the authority of the United Nations and pursuant to the wishes of the Security Council.

Sir Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

Does that include the destruction of chemical materials and possible atomic weapons in Iraq before the completion of the peace agreement?

Mr. Hogg

A great deal of damage has already been done to Iraq's chemical, and potential biological and nuclear warfare capacity, delaying its ability to produce such weaponry for a long lime to come.

Although we will not trespass beyond the terms of the Security Council resolutions, we do not propose to derogate from them. We are not seeking the humiliation of Iraq, but nor are we interested in face-saving formulas designed to remove Saddam Hussein from the hook on which he has impaled himself.

We will not allow the Iraqis to play for time. We will not put at risk the lives of our forces. We are determined to ensure an early return of British and allied prisoners of war. Iraq knows how to end this conflict: by a complete and unconditional compliance with the decisions of the United Nations. As Saddam Hussein was well aware, his proposals of 15 February did not meet that requirement.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

For three days now the War Cabinet has been in possession of the Soviet proposals, but has not yet disclosed them to the House or the public. As the War Cabinet has had an opportunity to study those proposals, it would be very helpful if the Minister could tell us whether the Government believe that, if Saddam Hussein accepted them in their entirety, the requirements that the Minister has set out would be satisfied.

Mr. Hogg

Welcome though they are, the Russian proposals do not ensure full compliance with the Security Council resolutions; nor do they ensure that Saddam Hussein will accept the authority of the Security Council.

When the conflict is over, there will be much to be done——

Mr. Benn

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hogg

No. I have already given way to the right hon. Gentleman.

As I have said, there will be much to be done: the reconstruction of Kuwait, the establishment of a durable and effective security structure for the Gulf states, a renewal of the efforts to promote a settlement of the Arab-Israeli problem, and the setting up of a more effective arms control regime in the area. All those issues are urgent and important, but I shall confine myself on this occasion to the questions of Gulf security and the Arab-Israeli settlement.

We are willing to play a part in underpinning the arrangements that the Gulf states and other regional powers may devise, but the concepts, the proposals and the principal effort must come from within the region. We will respond if that is what is required by our Arab friends, but our commitment will inevitably be modest. It could take the form of a naval presence, training or joint exercises. What we could not consider is the stationing of British ground troops in the area, or a return to the pre-1971 east-of-Suez role. That would not be in the long-term interests of the region.

Saddam Hussein's attempt to link his invasion of Kuwait with the fate of the Palestinians was a lie, and was widely recognised as such; indeed, Saddam's aggression has made the search for a durable solution yet more difficult. Once the conflict is concluded, however, we need to return with yet greater vigour to our efforts to resolve the wider issues within the midle east. There are two principles on which we should stand: first, the right of Palestinians to determine their own political future; and, secondly, the right of Israel to live within secure and accepted frontiers. In the absence of a settlement, the middle east will remain unstable. We therefore have a duty to solve this problem, and an interest in doing so.

Let me deal now with the issue before the House. We applaud the despatch of British forces to the Gulf. We acknowledge their courage, skill and dedication to duty. We assert the importance of their task. We declare that they act under the authority of the United Nations, and to sustain that authority. It is for those reasons that they are there, and upon the achievement of which they will return.

4.54 pm
Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

After this afternoon's broadcast by President Saddam Hussein, this must be a sombre day in the House and throughout the world. The position is not clear but, as the Minister has said, it does not sound promising. Of course, we must wait for an authoritative version of the speech, and we must also wait to see what message Mr. Tariq Aziz takes with him to Moscow tonight. We must hope that Saddam Hussein will see sense even at this late hour, but if Saddam's message constitutes a rejection of the Soviet peace plan and he does not intend to withdraw from Kuwait unconditionally, any decision to start a land assault will have been made not by the allies but by Saddam Hussein himself.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robertson

Not at this early stage—I must get on with my speech.

Today's debate is about war aims. The country will surely be asking, "Are not the war aims of the 28 nations in the coalition perfectly clear, and are they not enshrined precisely and concisely in all 12 United Nations Security Council resolutions under which the liberation of Kuwait is authorised?".

Thousands of British troops—constituents of all of us—are in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Many are from Scotland, reflecting the Scottish domination of the professional army of which this country is so proud. They are ready to risk their lives to get Saddam Hussein's army out of the land that it has annexed and to restore a legitimate Government to Kuwait, a sovereign country which has been eliminated and brutalised by Iraq since 2 August last year. Those British troops demand, deserve and will receive the continuing support of their Parliament and their fellow countrymen and women. They are far from us and from their families, and they face a powerful and well-armed opposing force which cannot and should not be underestimated.

Let us be clear and unanimous on one point. From the beginning, ever since the invasion of Kuwait, the war has been the responsibility of one person and one person alone—the one person who, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) pointed out, could have stopped the conflict, bombing and destruction on both sides at any time of his choice in the past six months. Saddam Hussein started the war on 2 August when he invaded Kuwait. With his rejection of every peace plan that was presented before the United Nations deadline of 15 January, he personally continued that war and the misery that it inflicted on his people and the people of Kuwait.

The hon. Member for Govan, whose professional background gives him great insight into the affairs of the region, said in a perceptive article in The Scotsman on 12 January: I may of course be wrong and perhaps Saddam's extravagant rhetoric is for real and he will not budge for anything. If so then the use of early force is inevitable, because if Saddam is still in Kuwait after Ramadan he will never be removed. On 28 January, the hon. Gentleman wrote in the same paper: Whatever one may think about the use of sanctions or whether a final compromise offer should have been made to him, we cannot ignore the stark evidence that Saddam Hussein calmly chose the path of war. Time and again, he has rejected every opening given to him.

Until last Friday there was not the slightest inkling that Saddam cared anything for an end to the punishment of his people. and even as we speak in this debate there is still no evidence that last Friday's signal was anything more than a device to avoid some possible extension of the conflict.

Mr. Salmond

The Minister described the Soviet proposal as inadequate in some unspecified way. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has had a briefing from the Soviet ambassador. Can the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) tell us whether, in the view of the Labour party, the Soviet proposal is adequate and a basis for settlement?

Mr. Robertson

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made it clear yesterday that, from what he knows and has been told of the outline of the Soviet proposal, in general it contains points that we would support; but my right hon. Friend made it clear on one specific issue, as we have done since the beginning of the war, where there is some doubt about what the Soviet proposal actually says, that we will support a ceasefire only if there is a genuine, complete and immediate implementation of unconditional withdrawal. As I shall go on to say, we believe that the Soviet peace plan offered an opportunity to break the inflexibility, which might well have prevented a further extension of the conflict.

However, for the sake of the wider peace of the world, we must hope beyond hope that even in these few hours President Gorbachev's brave and imaginative initiative may appeal to the Iraqis. Saddam Hussein now knows what he is up against. He knows that he cannot win, and he must by now realise that he must unconditionally leave Kuwait before there can be any ceasefire. He must also know, because he has been told often enough, that by withdrawing he can avoid the assault that will follow any new decision on his part to "choose the path of war". He must also be convinced that if he withdraws and complies there will be no question of an outside threat to himself or the dismantling of his Government or state.

Our troops out there in the desert also know that by a deliberate policy of minimising any civilian casualties in Iraq they perhaps prolonged the conflict and undoubtedly added to their own risks, but it was an essential part of showing that our standards are in marked contrast with those of Saddam, with his indiscriminate and random Scud attacks on populated civilian areas in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Our troops know what they are fighting for and can be clear that the objectives of the whole military exercise are to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and restore that country's own Government in line with all the United Nations resolutions.

We are absolutely clear in the Labour party about this. On 21 January, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said: The war aims of liberating Kuwait from occupation and restoring the legitimate Government are precise and limited, and rightly so. He went on to say that they do not relate to the dismembering of Iraq … or include … the death of a dictator."—[Official Report. 21 January 1991; Vol. 184, c. 33.] On Tuesday this week the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), made it clear that Saddam's removal is in no sense a war aim", and he has been precise and explicit this afternoon as well. I would like also to quote General Schwarzkopf, whose words at a press conference yesterday are reported as follows in The Guardian today: But when asked if he would consider his military mission successful if Iraq withdrew unconditionally from Kuwait, even though Hussein might remain in power with part of his military intact, he replied 'Absolutely. The President has said all along that we weren't out to destroy the country of Iraq, we weren't out to destroy the army of Iraq'. That is the commander of the American forces in the area and the leader of the alliance of 28 nations.

Those words seem to me explicitly to remove any ambiguity that may have existed. The Minister and the general were right to reiterate those truths and they were also correct to underline the strict and sensible limitations on what the alliance is in the Gulf to do.

Ms. Short

I agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) that what the Minister of State said today is welcome. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that when I asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether that part of the United Nations resolution which talks about destroying international peace and security in the area might authorise the attempt to destroy the Iraqi regime, its war machine and so on, he said that it might well, but that what he has said today is a very welcome change and shift back from that?

Mr. Robertson

I am not certain whether it is a change or not, but this debate was called specifically to consider the war aims. I believe that what the Minister has said in such precise terms removes any ambiguity that others may have indicated and that General Schwarzkopf, speaking on behalf of the American forces, has also said something which will reassure those who may have believed until now that there was some ambiguity.

It is right that we should consider the war aims because they are intimately connected with the aims of peace. The peace and stability referred to in resolution 678, which must be the overwhelming objective after Iraq leaves, will be accomplished by the way in which the war is conducted and concluded. There is concern that the liberation of Kuwait will none the less create a martyr and lead to the birth of Saddam Hussein as an Arab hero, even a posthumous one, especially if the masses in the Arab countries who are in the coalition choose to follow his message rather than that of the United Nations. It is therefore crucial that we in this unique coalition win the political campaign as well as the military one. So, in being precise about the aims of the war, we can and must be precise about the aims of peace. That is why the aims of the war and of the peace lie in all the Security Council resolutions and not just in resolution 660.

On the motion and amendment before the House, the Labour party believes that there need not be a vote this evening. Before the House we have a motion and an amendment, both framed in words which seem to say exactly the same thing. One would have to be a forensic scientist—perhaps a political forensic scientist—to spot the differences. So why are we being forced to choose? Could there not have been some common resolution which would have united the objectives of both sides of the House?

Mr. Livingstone

We are going to have a vote, whatever happens, George.

Mr. Robertson

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) would have voted whatever the resolution was and I fear that he would have been on the losing side whatever the resolution was as well.

I add, in a spirit of no acrimony at all, that I frankly cannot understand why the Scottish National party insists in the final line of the motion that the end to the present conflict is compatible only with resolution 660 and not with all 12 of the United Nations resolutions on Kuwait. Labour Members believe that all the resolutions matter, not only for the war but for a just and securely based peace when it is all over. We therefore believe that in those circumstances a perhaps unnecessary distinction is being drawn in the motion which seems to derive from a difference between the Government and the SNP. We shall therefore adhere to our usual policy in minority party debates and stay out of the argument and out of the Lobbies.

Mr. Benn

Two questions will be before the House: whether or not to accept or vote for the SNP motion—which many, including myself, cannot accept—and a Government amendment preceded by a speech from the Minister who has rejected the Soviet proposal as unacceptable. Yet the hopes of the world and of those who wish to avoid a land war hinge on the possibility that Saddam Hussein will accept it. I hope that my hon. Friend will not invite us to assent to the Government's view that the Soviet proposal is unacceptable.

Those are the issues that will be before us.

Mr. Robertson

My right hon. Friend was perhaps listening to the radio rather than to what I said. I said that we would stay out of the argument and stay out of the Lobbies. We support neither the SNP motion nor the Government amendment. My right hon. Friend has been a Member of the House a great deal longer than I have. He knows that speeches are not the same as motions and that we are being asked to vote on a motion dealing with aims and objectives.

The Gulf war has been a wholly avoidable conflict. It was, and still is, the creation of a brutal repressive dictator who, not for the first time, is willing to see his poor benighted people further persecuted for the sake of his own futile megalomaniac territorial ambitions.

The issue before us is of some importance because out of the war, with all the dreadful problems that it has created, has come one major benefit. It is that the role of the United Nations has been exercised, as we always hoped that it would and never expected that it could, and that the United Nations is pivotal to the construction of the peace that must come hereafter. All parties in the House agree that the aims of the war lie precisely in the authority given from the United Nations. If we are to learn from all that has happened, it is essential that the aims of the peace must also lie in the United Nations. In that way alone, the outcome of the peace can be as certain as the outcome of the war.

5.10 pm
Sir Dennis Walters (Westbury)

The obvious joy and relief shown by Iraqi people when it looked as though Saddam Hussein had agreed to withdraw from Kuwait indicated better than anything what their true feelings are. They have already paid a heavy price for Saddam Hussein's indefensible adventurism and we all hope that their suffering, and that of the people of Kuwait who have been subjected to appalling torment since August, will soon be ended. From what we have just heard, however, it would appear that Saddam Hussein is determined to make the ending of the war even bloodier than its beginning.

It was never likely that the Gulf war would end either bloodlessly or in a matter of days. Saddam Hussein's determination to hang on to Kuwait made war inevitable and war is never surgical or painless.

The danger of the war escalating in other directions seems to have receded and Saddam's missiles over Israel have so far not achieved their primary objective. More than anything else, what rockets over Tel Aviv, launched from Iraq, have shown is the futility of the argument that a mini-Palestinian state on the west bank and Gaza was the main threat against which Israel had to guard. With modern weapons, a few extra miles of land are quite insignificant. A future threat to Israel would arise not from the west bank, but as a result of Israel's not having achieved a modus vivendi within an overwhelmingly Arab world and not having defused the Palestinian issue by agreeing to self-determination in the west bank and Gaza. If Israel was willing to do that, it would have an excellent opportunity of living in peace with its Arab neighbours, as it has successfully done with Egypt.

Saddam wanted Kuwait and refused to believe that the United Nations resolutions would be implemented, if necessary by force, so any form of negotiation with him would have come to nothing and he became interested in the Palestinian cause only when he realised that it was a useful card to play.

Even so, our reluctance to give prompt support to the idea of an international conference on the Arab-Israeli dispute—which after all is British and European policy—is not wholly easy to understand. We seemed to get unnecessarily bogged down in the semantics of "linkage".

The reality is that there is a clear association between the incapacity of the United Nations to deal effectively with Israel's unlawful occupation of Arab territory acquired by force in 1967—in particular, of the west bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, which is all that remained of mandatory Palestine—and the extremely effective way in which the United Nations has dealt with the unprovoked aggression on Kuwait in 1990. United Nations resolution 242 has never been implemented. Nearly half a million American and allied troops have gone to war to implement resolution 660.

We all refer constantly these days to the breaking of the Geneva convention—quite rightly so—yet the Geneva convention has been broken day in, day out for 23 years in the Israeli occupied territories provoking little protest. Why did the United States either veto or blunt successive United Nations resolutions on Israel while leading the field against Iraq? These are not academic questions—they go to the heart of the divisions, instability and bitterness that prevail in the Arab world and explain why, despite everything that a devious and cruel despot like Saddam Hussein has done, he still enjoys considerable support. Unless they are satisfactorily answered, the charge of double standards will stand and in the long run the consequences will be disastrous.

When Saddam Hussein has been defeated and Kuwait liberated there will be an opportunity to resolve these festering problems, and it must be seized.

An international conference on the Arab-Israeli question is no magic or exclusive formula. What is essential is that the Palestinian question should be resolved according to the principles of the United Nations charter and the resolutions of the United Nations.

Resolution 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories occupied in the war of June 1967, and which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary described as the internationally agreed basis for settlement", must be enforced. The Palestinians have a right to self-determination and Britain has a particular moral responsibility to Palestine which it must stop trying to shirk.

The Palestinians must negotiate with Israel—of course—but they are entitled to choose who represents them; if that representation turns out to be the PLO, Israel must accept that fact. Alternatively, free elections, supervised by the United Nations, should be held as a matter of urgent priority on the west bank and in Gaza so that the Palestinians can elect their representatives. Palestinians in the diaspora should also be represented, and in any event almost certainly the PLO would continue to be the chosen representatives of the Palestinians within and without.

Israel has a right to guaranteed and secure borders—of course it has—but those borders must be defined according to international law and United Nations resolutions.

Personally I take the view that Mr. Arafat was gravely mistaken in lending support to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, even though he had been seriously provoked. Professor Waleed Khalidi put it well when he said recently that in the years before the crisis Arafat had probed the outermost circumference of concessions to Israel in the hopes of winning the dialogue with the United States. But no sooner had the dialogue begun than it became clear that Washington, despite its commitment to a substantive dialogue, was bent on treating Arafat like a criminal on probation, denying him a visa to the United Nations, hounding the PLO out of UN bodies. That said, Arafat was still wrong because the principles violated by Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Kuwait are the very principles from which the Palestinian cause derives its moral strength.

Western economies are oil-oriented and will remain so in the foreseeable future. It is therefore imperative, even as a matter of pure self-interest, that we should resolve a problem that has been at the root of all the disputes and turmoil in the middle east for the past 40 years and that the United Nations should retain the momentum. An overall settlement should include an agreement to ban all nuclear and chemical weapons in the area. It should apply to all the relevant countries in the middle east, including Israel, and should be properly monitored and enforced by a United Nations supervisory team backed by the Security Council. Unless these things are done, all the efforts and sacrifices to defeat Saddam Hussein will have been in vain. Bitterness and frustration will grow, other Saddam Husseins will emerge, and peace and stability in the middle east will be as far away as ever.

5.21 pm
Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

In the interests of the brevity that the Chair has sought, I shall refrain from following the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir D. Walters) into wider middle east questions. I do, however, agree with almost everything that the hon. Gentleman said on the subject.

This debate began in very sad and sombre mood. Just after 3.30 pm we heard reports of Saddam Hussein's television speech, in which he said that Iraq's armed forces are determined to continue their struggle—thereby, in my view, removing any last hope that the Soviet proposals might have any real effect. Saddam Hussein went on to say that he was sending Tariq Aziz back to Moscow tonight with counter-proposals, which he described—I think I have the correct translation—as the sister of those that he had made previously. In other words, this is a different orchestration of the same tune. This House must do what the five permanent members of the Security Council did in recent days—make it clear that we do not need alternative proposals from Saddam Hussein. All that he needs to do is withdraw unconditionally and quickly. He should announce his intention to withdraw from Kuwait and then withdraw immediately. That would bring the war to an end. But Saddam Hussein is not doing that.

In the meantime, the parliamentary human rights group has produced evidence that the people of Kuwait continue to suffer as a result of the appalling inhumanity of the occupying regime. I shall dwell on this for a moment because, like many other hon. Members, I am impressed by the effect that much of the television reporting from Baghdad has had on public opinion in this country. At the weekends in my constituency I find deep resentment at the fact that so much censored and doctored material fills our television screens. Most people accept, with deep regret, the casualties that have occurred inside Iraq as a result of allied action. They accept that those are a catastrophic harsh accident of war. But that is very different from the catalogue of deliberately inflicted cruelty that the document from the parliamentary human rights group lists. It is different in kind and, in my view, it is altogether different in moral standing. We have to remind ourselves that, in view of the action being taken by the occupying forces in Kuwait, and in view of the many peace initiatives that have been taken but have come to nothing, it is right that our forces should be given full support for the action that they have to take.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir David Steel

I will give way once, but only very briefly.

Mr. Rowe

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the recent accounts of Iraqi prisoners and some refugees having said that the extraordinary accuracy of the allied bombing left their houses untouched, while military establishments next door were destroyed.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

What about the shelter?

Sir David Steel

I accept that there have been regrettable casualties. It was not our intention or our wish that there should be such casualties. All that I am saying is that they are different from the cruelty and barbarism being deliberately inflicted on the people of Kuwait—cruelty and barbarism that were catalogued by our colleagues two days ago.

It is the view of my party that we should not be justified in moving to the next stage—what will inevitably be an even bloodier war on land—were we not fully satisfied that every realistic peace initiative to prevent that war had been completely explored. We have never pooh-poohed the efforts of the Jordanians, the French, the Soviets, or anyone else. However, we have to face the harsh reality that all those initiatives, however well meant, have failed.

It is right that this House, while supporting the forces to the full, should debate the war and lay down limits to its aims. We have to say yet again that we regard the aim of the war as being limited to the liberation of Kuwait, the restoration of peace and stability there, and the restoration of the country's sovereignty and its government. In that connection, I seek three assurances from the Minister of State. I welcome very much what he had to say about the non-occupation of Iraq. That is very important. In the press a few days ago, there was a report of an American official having talked about preparations for some kind of interim administration in the city of Basra. It is very important that such loose talk be stamped on firmly. The Minister of State did so, and on that score we need ask no more.

The second assurance that I seek concerns the nature of the destruction that inevitably arises from allied raids. Of course, we all understand the need to interrupt transport lines and to attack bridges and power stations. A newspaper article, referring to a very important report issued by Greenpeace, says:' The war zone is littered with storage tanks filled with chemicals of the petrochemical industry, including benzene, ethylene and hydrochloric acid. Bombing or land detonation would spill their contents. 'Release of large amounts of these and other toxic substances could cause loss of life both to human and to terrestrial and marine life,' the environmental group said in a report published yesterday. Detonation of phosgene and chlorine gas storage tanks posed a further risk. I should like an assurance that our forces will be given an instruction that every effort that is reasonable, given the knowledge of these tanks, will be made to avoid any further environmental destruction. I repeat: I accept that, in war, accidents are inevitable.

The third assurance that I seek concerns the much-discussed question of the supposed removal of Saddam Hussein himself. No doubt we all agree that that is an end devoutly to be wished. The dancing in the streets of Baghdad the other day following the false reports that he was prepared to leave Kuwait showed that it is something devoutly to be wished by most Iraqi people, too. Those television pictures depicted a very significant interlude. However, it is not for the allied forces to say who should rule Iraq. That has nothing to do with the United Nations resolutions. Were we to try to dictate who should rule Kuwait—were we to try to extend the war aims to include the removal of any government in Iraq—we should be making the same mistake as Saddam Hussein is making. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to assure us that that is not part of the Government's understanding of the war aims and of Security Council authorisation.

The amendment that we tabled, although it has not been selected, expresses our view very clearly. Since hostilities began, I have often expressed the anxiety that we may win the military war but lose the political war. It is desperately important that loose talk be ended. I think that such talk has come mainly from American sources. We have heard it said that there may have to be a long period of western occupation in the middle east. It should be made clear that the presence of American or British forces there following the war is not part of the Government's objectives. We must ensure that any long-term British presence would be under the direct authority or command of the United Nations and that, when the peace comes, the long-term security of the area and the peace settlement will be implemented and supervised by the United Nations. If we can achieve that, out of this disaster may yet come precisely the sort of authority for the United Nations that many of us have long hoped to see.

5.29 pm
Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I think that this is the fourth debate that we have had on the Gulf war. I do not complain about that; indeed, I am glad about it. However, we must bear in mind what has happened in the past. I recall that the turning point of the second world war was the tremendous battle at El Alamein which lasted 11 days. During that time the House was in recess and it was not recalled.

Perhaps on this very solemn occasion I can make a lighter remark. When I first saw that the motion was to be proposed in the name of the Scottish National party, all my historical and Jacobite sentiments began to tingle. I thought that the motion might be some new and startling motion about the restoration of the Stuarts or some other impossible cause. However, I was being far too romantic and imaginative.

When listening to the carefully reasoned and argued speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars), I thought that he was a little cheese-paring in his attitude to the Government. I believe that the Government's amendment is absolutely right to state that the aims of British military action are to secure the implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council's resolution. That summarises the matter perfectly.

Diplomatic opportunities are sometimes dangerous and disappointing. The Soviet opportunity was largely instigated by Mr. Gorbachev because of his obvious inherent local difficulties. I believe that the Soviet action was being used by Saddam Hussein to try, if possible, to divide the allies and to delay the inevitable advance of the coalition armies to repossess Kuwait. We know as a result of the end of the Iraq-Iran war that Saddam Hussein is a past master of deceit and dissimulation. The allied solidarity under the United Nations umbrella has been a remarkable phenomenon, unique since the second world war, and it holds out great hope for world peace in future.

There will be little hope of peace in the region if Saddam is left with a large army, biological and chemical warfare facilities and possibly atomic weapons. The state of Kuwait is now spiritually, morally and physically appalling. It will need to be built up to regain its life as a nation. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will also continue to feel threatened unless Saddam's army is defeated. The whole area will therefore continue to experience instability and the allied forces may be compelled to remain there at least for a short time, although I very much hope that that will not be necessary.

Once peace has been secured and safeguarded, the United Nations will be able to concentrate on the other pressing problems in the middle east such as the highly unsatisfactory situation with regard to Israel and the occupied territories about which reference was made most eloquently and clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir D. Walters).

I am pleased that the motion refers to the overwhelming support for the British forces in the Gulf. As Kipling once said in a famous poem, perhaps it takes a war for people remember the debt that we all owe to our armed services. The armed services, from private to general, have been most impressive on television. The people whom we have sent to the Gulf in the Army, Navy and the Royal Air Force are the cream of our nation and the debt that we owe them is immense. They have maintained in their professional service those ideals of chivalry, honour, courage and service to the Queen to which some other professions in this country could well look.

The only thing that dismays me is that the support for our forces, which is widely felt throughout the country, is not entirely shared by some sections of the news media which have now become so terrifyingly and overwhelmingly important. If the news media are not controlled—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—they will present a great danger to many facets of life in this nation. If we are not careful, we shall be dominated by what comes out of that television box night after night.

At first the BBC—and later ITV—broadcast many programmes which lasted all day and were often boring and repetitive. Like many of my colleagues, I am worried by the attitude of some of the press people in Baghdad who fail to point out that they are speaking under duress and are showing only what the Iraqis want them to show. As a great admirer of what the BBC once was and of Lord Reith, I say with sadness that the BBC has failed the nation as it failed the nation during the Falklands war. Its lack of patriotism sticks out a mile and I should like to see a thorough investigation of those producers whose loyalties seem in doubt. Those ideas men and very dangerous people seem miles away from the ordinary Englishmen we meet in the streets.

We have now heard that the Soviet initiative has been destroyed as a result of Saddam's recent speech in which he said that he wanted war. Therefore, a final assault on his forces seems inevitable. As I know the country and was a soldier there for some time, I emphasise that we must not assume that our attack will he a walkover. Heavy artillery and large tanks which are well dug in are difficult to neutralise by bombing alone. In the end, the poor old infantry—the men with rifles and bayonets—must go over the top and occupy, seize and hold the ground. We must therefore prepare ourselves for the possibility of heavy losses and high casualties, although I pray that I am wrong. Meanwhile, our duty is to back our forces, the resolution and the United Nations.

5.37 pm
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I am pleased to have the chance to participate in this extremely important debate and to follow some enormously important and constructive speeches about the expansion of the war aims and the post-war settlement. However, I must first tell the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes) that, when he criticises the BBC, he undermines democracy in our country. There is no reporting freedom in countries like Iraq. The tide of opinion from the Tory Benches constantly calls for more censorship so that the people of this country cannot learn as much as is necessary about the war that is being prosecuted in their names. That is deeply undemocratic.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Short

I am sorry, but I cannot give way as time is short. [Interruption.] I have a lot to say and I do not want to waste time on trivial interventions.

I want to put before the House my analysis of the grave errors that have been made by the United States Government in their handling of the crisis in Kuwait. shall do so not only to criticise what has been done in the past—serious though that is, and history will analyse it—but because it seems to me that the way in which the war is being prosecuted has major implications for the post-war settlement in the middle east. The evidence so far is that that settlement is likely to be disastrous and to leave the middle east even more unstable than now. In my judgment, it is unlikely that the Palestinian issue will be settled, although it is desperately urgent that it should he settled. In my judgment, there will inevitably he another war in the middle east in the next 10 years. I remind the House that there have been wars in the middle east in 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and now there is a war in 1991. If there is no decent settlement following the war, there will be yet another war.

The background to this conflict and the major cause of the disaster is United States policy in the middle east—[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members will let me put my views to the House—if they are democrats. It is strange that the United States of America intervened when Britain was involved in a disastrous strategy at the time of Suez and prevented that by making a constructive intervention. Ever since then, however, the United States has seemed to have a short-sighted policy, which has basically been to prop up the state of Israel, to hack it in all its intransigence and its gross breaches of international law in terms of its behaviour towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories. The United States has massively subsidised the Israeli state and has given it a mighty war machine. That means that the United States of America has colluded in the confiscation of half the land in the occupied territories—a grave breach of the Geneva convention: colluded in the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories—a grave breach of the Geneva convention: colluded in the detention without trial of nearly half the males who live in the occupied territories—another grave breach of the Geneva convention; and colluded in the horrendous beatings and shootings of men, women and children in the occupied territories, which is also a grave breach of the Geneva convention. Israel has incorporated east Jerusalem into the Israeli state, and also the Golan Heights. That is totally illegal under international law, but the United States of America backs and subsidises Israel and gives it arms.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Tell us why.

Ms. Short

Please allow me to make my speech.

The suffering of the Palestinian people is heartbreaking to all of us who have visited the occupied territories and have seen in hospitals some of the children who have been damaged and beaten since the intifada began. It has also led to enormous distress and to a feeling of humiliation throughout the Arab world. That has led to the attitude in the Arab world that the United States of America is hostile to the Arab world and to the interests of the Palestinians. In the end, it is leading to a great and deep sense of antagonism towards the United States of America throughout the middle east. It also means that the Arab powers feel deeply threatened by the mighty war machine of Israel.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Ms. Short

No, I am sorry.

Mrs. Dunwoody


Ms. Short

I am sorry, but I am not giving way—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)


Ms. Short

I should like to give way, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is obvious from the noise that if I gave way I should not be able to complete my speech. I think that the best thing to do is simply to put my views before the House—if some of the rude Conservative Members, who are hardly honourable, will allow me to do so.

There is an enormous feeling about the Palestinian issue throughout the middle east. There is, therefore, enormous antagonism towards the United States of America because it has backed all the illegality and intransigence of the state of Israel. There is also a feeling of threat and worry about the possibility of future wars because there have been many previous wars. There is therefore a need for Arab states to seek to arm themselves to counter the might of the power of Israel. Thus, western Governments charge into the middle east to sell arms to all the Governments in that region simply to make money, thereby increasing the instability of the middle east and the danger of the constant repetition of war.

Mr. John Marshall

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Short

No, the hon. Gentleman knows that I will not.

The west and the United States of America have played a major role of complicity in building up the power of the monstrous tyrant, Saddam Hussein. It was convenient for the United States of America when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. It was the same breach of international law, but because Iran was seen as a threat to United States interests at that time, Saddam Hussein was massively supplied with weapons, equipment and export credits by the west, and by the Soviet Union. However, there is absolutely no question—it is a matter of historical record—that America snuggled up to Saddam Hussein and supported him by providing him with intelligence information when prosecuting that war because that was convenient to America as Iran was seen as the major threat to American interests at that time.

Although our own country officially stopped supplying arms to Iraq following the beginning of that war—a million people died in a war that the west, especially the United States, helped to feed—we allowed the superguns to get into Iraq. That story has not been fully told—[Interruption.] If hon. Members look at the evidence, they will see that that was not stopped. This country also supplied export credits after we had ceased to supply arms. After the gassing of the Kurds, the current Foreign Secretary went to see Saddam Hussein, offered him export credits and tried to improve the relationship between Iraq and Britain. Tory Members may well rise now to talk about the gassing of the Kurds, but we heard none of that at the time.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) said, we also know that, following the end of the Iran-Iraq war, when there was a dispute between Kuwait and Iraq about whether Iraq had to pay back the loans that had been given to it by Kuwait when helping to prosecute the war, the then United States ambassador gave a signal to Kuwait and to Saddam Hussein that the United States would not object if there was some military action against Kuwait. That is an enormously important issue. History will show exactly what happened, but there is no doubt that that happened and it is another major element in the complicity of the United States of America and the fact that we are now involved in this war.

None the less, the invasion of Kuwait was intolerable and unacceptable. It was a grave breach of international law and must be reversed. The whole world agreed on sanctions. The evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency gave to the committees of Congress in the United States suggested that sanctions were working effectively. Because we have such a weak democracy in this country, we could not dream of asking our intelligence services what they thought about the working of sanctions. That is just one issue that shows the poverty of democracy in Britain.

Not to continue with sanctions for longer was an enormous historical error. We could have dealt with the tyrant Saddam Hussein by using sanctions. If we could have reversed that grave breach of international law by using sanctions in this instance, we could do so in others, and the world would move to a higher level of civilisation. It is shameful and disgraceful that that attempt was not made.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)


Ms. Short

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The question is this: did the United States of America give up on sanctions deliberately because of its strategy in the middle east and because it decided that it had better use the situation in Kuwait to break the power of the Iraqi war machine, or did the United States blunder into war? I am inclined to think that it was incompetence and blunder and that the turning point came when President Bush, who is constantly trying to prove that he is not a wimp, sent out further soldiers. By the time there were votes about sanctions or war, the thing had been decided. The beginning of the end of the sanctions strategy came when the extra forces were sent out in November. I suspect that Bush thought that he could frighten Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, but when all his troops were there he realised that he would look like a wimp if he did not call a war. That is why we have this monstrous war instead of continuing with sanctions.

Another background point is the deeply worrying situation in the United Nations Security Council. We all respect the United Nations—I have never heard Tory Members have so much respect for the United Nations before—but we must recognise that, with the decline of the power of the Soviet Union, there is no longer a balance in the Security Council to represent the interests of the world.

The United States has been able to manipulate and misuse the United Nations to undermine the latter's authority in the world——

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Ms. Short

No, I am sorry but I cannot give way to my hon. Friend because I have not given way to any other hon. Member.

Unlike most of my hon. Friends, for whom I have great respect and whose feelings I understand, I felt, once we were at war and had given up on sanctions, that it was not right for me simply to rail against the war. As a politician, I thought that it was our job to ensure that the war was cut short, to minimise casualties and to achieve a just settlement. Therefore, I have taken a rather different perspective from those who simply say that they were against the war from the beginning, although I respect their position.

The gung-ho Conservative Members and our nasty tabloid newspapers, such as The Sun and The Daily Star, do not care for our troops. Their attitude encourages a bigger war, which means more casualties and more deaths. That is not the best way to care for the interests of our troops. Those of us who wish to contain the war and bring it to an end are doing our best to care for them. That is a more honourable and intelligent attitude.

There is absolutely no doubt that there has been deliberate duplicity on the question of widening the war aims as shown by the evidence produced by the hon. Member for Govan. Once the war had started, it became clear that the United States of America was followed, poodle like, by Britain. Anyone who thinks that Britain has influenced what has happened should realise that Britain has constantly followed what America decided to do. America started to change the objectives of the war. It ceased to talk about the liberation of Kuwait and started to emphasise the part of the Security Council's resolution which dealt with the restoration of international peace and security in the area. That is carte blanche for anything.

I am told that during the arguments on the drawing up of the resolution to authorise "all necessary means", many countries would not vote for a resolution which contained the words "including force"—so the phrase "all necessary means" was used so that America could later interpret it to mean force. At the same time, the section of the resolution dealing with the restoration of international peace and security in the area was slipped in deliberately to allow room for manoeuvre in interpreting it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who says?"] The researchers who did the work for the Brian Walden programme. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but it is an enormously well-resourced and respected programme. However, this is a serious analysis, so it will not interest Conservative Members.

We should all like to see Saddam Hussein fall, but the question of how we achieve that is crucial to the post-war settlement. I believe that the nature of the bombardment of Baghdad, with the deliberate destruction of the civilian population's water supplies, sewage systems and access to medical care and electricity, is, in practice, an enlargement of the war aims. Some of the bombardment cannot be justified for military purposes. The Arab world now takes the attitude that the war aims have been widened and that it is now a question of an attack on an Arab country. The Arabs believe that we do not care about the death of Arab children and Arab women, but only about our own casualties. There has been a sweeping change in attitude in the Arab world—from initial hostility to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait to the belief that America is destroying an Arab country to perpetuate its control of the middle east. That is very dangerous for the post-war settlement. It is a question of winning the war but possibly losing the peace.

There are two possible post-war settlements. I believe that the most likely is the pessimistic settlement. The United States is now determined to destroy Iraq. It is interesting that the United States, again followed poodle-like by Britain, rubbished the Soviet initiative from the beginning.

The briefing from this morning's war Cabinet, as reported in the Evening Standard, said: There will be no let-up in the war against Saddam Hussein, even if he accepts all the Soviet proposals for peace. That means that the war aims are wider than the liberation of Kuwait.

If the objective is to destroy Iraq, the likelihood is that America will continue to see its interests protected by propping up the Israeli state and not settling the Palestinian issue. America and Britain will send arms to prop up the Gulf states and maintain a military presence in the Gulf. There will inevitably be another war in the middle east, possibly over Syria, which happens to have switched sides to the coalition, but which could easily switch back again. That is another horrible, tyrannous regime with a mighty war machine.

The second possibility—and one for which we should aim—is to seek the liberation of Kuwait, and only that. We should then seek to remove all non-conventional weapons—nuclear, chemical and biological—from Israel, Syria and Iraq. We should also settle the Palestinian issue by giving the Palestinians their state based on the west bank and Gaza. Since the Palestinians changed their objective, gave up their aspiration to a secular state in the whole of the old Palestine, and simply said that they wanted their own state in the occupied territories, that problem has been resolvable. It is a disgrace that the United States did not respond to that massive shift by the Palestinians, which meant that the old dispute could have been resolved.

The optimistic settlement would be to remove weaponry from the region, to stop selling arms, to settle the Palestinian question and to seek the development of an economic community which would mean that the wealth of the oil states could be properly shared by the people of the middle east. There is enormous resentment in the middle east that the tiny, undemocratic states monopolise the wealth and that it is not shared by all.

We are now on the brink of a war which, so the military experts and the Iraqi soldiers who have surrendered tell us, will inevitably become a chemical war. That would be a horrendous war, not just in terms of our own casualties, but of Iraqi soldier casualties. Hon. Members should realise that many young Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait do not want to be there. I have a friend whose brave family have resisted the tyranny of Saddam Hussein for years and who have been persecuted for it. That family has a son in Kuwait and he is wholly opposed to the Iraqi regime. There are many like him in Kuwait at the end of a barrel of a gun.

If chemicals are used in the war against Israel, heaven knows what the escalation will be. Even if Saddam Hussein agrees to the initiative at this late stage, a ground war seems inevitable. The Government are not interested in whether he agrees with the Soviet peace proposal. That is disgraceful. The way in which the war is fought is crucial. Are we to try to slaughter the Iraqis in Kuwait or seek an opportunity for them to surrender? Have we made broadcasts or given them leaflets to assure them that they will be properly treated? Have we looked for routes to get them out through the minefields? Today and yesterday, there have been big demonstrations in Iraq of people calling for the downfall of Saddam Hussein and his regime. We are bombing them: why are we not telling them that our war is not with the Iraqi people and giving them the right to get rid of this tyrant who has oppressed them for so many years?

We have heard about the horrendous treatment of the Kuwaiti people. Saddam Hussein's regime has treated the Iraqi people like that for a long time. One report after another from Amnesty International has shown that he put the children of political opponents in prison to torture them and get the parents to confess. The brutality in Kuwait has been perpetrated on the Iraqi people for a long time. We should deplore it all and not use part of it to justify the bombardment of the Iraqi people who have suffered for so long.

I appeal to the British Government to cease being a poodle. It seems that in our mono-power world—in which the United States is dominant because the Soviet Union is in such a weak position—the possible balancing power is Europe. But Europe is unable to act, even though it has a better understanding than the United States has of the middle east and of the need to settle the Palestinian question. Britain is so attached to the policy of the United States that Europa is disabled and unable to act to balance that policy.

In all seriousness, I know that the Foreign Secretary understands the situation in the middle east very well, but he does not talk as if he did. Even when the European Foreign Ministers met, our Foreign Secretary imposed conditions when it was said that there had to be a settlement of the Palestinian issue. He said, "But the question is, who will we talk to?" It is not for Britain or Israel to say with which Palestinians we shall talk. We should talk to the representatives whom the Palestinian people choose. That is democracy. I ask in all seriousness even at this late hour for the British Government to be wiser about this conflict and not lead us into a dreadful war which could escalate horrendously and resonate for years to come.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I reiterate Mr. Speaker's appeal that hon. Members make short speeches, in view of the number of hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate.

5.59 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

I am interested to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). As she knows, I have great respect for her honesty and the courage with which she expresses views which are frequently wrong, but nevertheless sincerely held.

I wish to comment on some of the hon. Lady's remarks before making my brief speech. First, the hon. Lady and several of her right hon. and hon. Friends have a paranoia about the United States which I find depressing. One must remember that the reason why it is possible even to consider Europe as a counterweight to the United States or, indeed, the Soviet Union is that the United States gave so much money and time, and suffered bloodshed, to assist the Europeans to rebuild their economies after the war, which the Americans helped us to win, and to remain steadfastly in Europe at considerable cost to themselves right up till now, when the Soviet empire is crumbling and change has been brought about there as a direct consequence of the support that the Americans have given.

In many parts of the world the Americans have been extremely supportive of democracy. Of course, all great powers and all small powers make mistakes from time to time. The Americans have taken action at times which I would find difficult to support. Certainly, with hindsight, many Americans regret those actions. But we are free to discuss whether the Americans are or are not appropriate allies only because of the steadfastness of America in the past.

I wholly agree with the hon. Member for Ladywood that it would have been lovely if sanctions could have been made to work. If they could have been made to work, sanctions would have been by far the cheapest, least bloody and most effective way of cutting off the Iraqi aggression. If ever there were a sign that sanctions could not work, it must have been the extraordinary spectacle in Baghdad. The Iraqis have virtually no petrol and it is said that they have little water or food, yet Saddam Hussein has no intention of allowing them to deflect them from his purpose. So I fear that sanctions would never have worked and would not have worked within a timescale that we could conceivably have supported.

The hon. Lady made some comments about the war aims. As my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office said so well, it is remarkable that the war aims have changed so little. After all, many things have changed during the war, not least the fact that the Iraqi ambassador has consistently sought to make out that Israel is a party to the war when manifestly it is nothing of the sort. It is astounding that we have stuck to the war aims, as defined by the United Nations, so steadfastly, instead of shifting in some Machiavellian way, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) and the hon. Member for Ladywood maintained that we have done.

I have an extraordinary admiration for the British forces and the allied forces as a whole. It is remarkable that they have meshed together so effectively. At the beginning of the war anyone who thought that a coalition of such diverse partners could fight together with such skill would have been thought to be a dreamer. I congratulate the commanders of the allied forces on the way in which they have made the war machine work.

There has never been a war in which an army has been so constrained or so conscientious. The idea that young men should fly aeroplanes at over 600 mph through anti-aircraft fire a short distance from the ground seeking targets that would be approved even by Greenpeace seems ludicrous. Yet that is what they have done night after night, with an astounding degree of success. Of course, they made errors from time to time. They blew up a bunker which turned out to be a shelter, although our intelligence believed that it was a command post. That is very sad and deeply to be regretted, but it is an extraordinary achievement that the allies have kept so well to military targets.

As I said in an earlier intervention, the latest reports from refugees and others leaving Iraq are that the allies have destroyed military targets and civilian targets next door have remained extraordinarily undamaged. I congratulate the allies on that.

What is more, there has never been a war which has been so meticulously and overwhelmingly covered by the media. The whole world can see day in and day out photographs of what we have done and of what we are alleged to have done. The only thing that is lacking is coverage from within Kuwait. That gives a strangely unbalanced view of what this war is about. I d o not altogether blame the media for that, but it must be constantly borne in mind by those of us who watch our television screens that we are seeing only two thirds of the picture and that the third which matters—Kuwait—is never shown because Saddam Hussein would never dream of letting it be shown.

I admire enormously—and how lucky we are to be able to admire—the dignity, courage and loyalty of our armed service families. Like almost every Member of the House, I have a Gulf family support group working in my constituency. It is made up mostly, but by no means entirely, of women. Parents and wives manage somehow to give each other support, sustain their loved ones in the field and not to complain about very much. The sort of complaints that we hear are that the post office has run out of blueys. That is an important complaint, but it does not undermine the war effort. Families realise that their loved ones have joined up to serve the political purposes of a democracy and, however frightened and anxious they are, they are very proud of what is being done. I support and admire them hugely. It is always a privilege to meet them.

As many hon. Members have said, when the war is won, we shall have to address directly the question of arms supplies. It is not an easy question. Our friends in the Gulf will instantly ask for all the amazing equipment which they have seen in such effective action. It will be enormously difficult for us, when countries can afford to buy them, to refuse to supply the latest weapons to protect those countries. There will be powerful arguments that if we arm our friends we will create stability in the Gulf.

Some of the allies in this great fight are allies only for a short while because it serves their present purposes. We must look carefully at how we re-supply the armed forces of the countries in those areas. That will not be easy. Many employees of arms companies are represented by hon. Members. For example, Opposition Members have complained, for sound reasons, about the closing of military bases in Scotland. Nevertheless, when it comes to the crunch, if we do not supply the arms, another country will be only too ready to do so. Such matters must be dealt with on a much wider basis than simply a single nation trying to achieve a commercial advantage in the short term.

We must remember that, for centuries, it has been common for countries with an advanced military capacity to sell off their second-hand, less good or obsolescent goods to other countries. But those goods are now capable of creating such damage that it is intolerable to continue selling them.

6.10 pm
Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) will forgive me if, in the interests of time, I do not pick up any of his remarks. I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate.

In the 12 years that I have served in Parliament, the Gulf war and all that it entails is by far the most serious issue that I have had to consider. Like every other hon. Member, I have had to give much thought to the issues and implications of our decisions. I concluded that there was no course other than to support the United Nations and the actions necessary to secure the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions 660 and 678.

The war was not sought by this or any other nation, but is a direct consequence of Iraq's refusal to accept the rule of international law as expressed by the United Nations. The world community was and is in no doubt about what is required to achieve peace and stability in the middle east. Iraq must unconditionally remove its forces from Kuwait. The war would never have taken place had not Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on 2 August. His action would not have resulted in this tragic war if, after that event and before 16 January, he had withdrawn from Kuwait.

The United Nations has never in its history spoken with such unequivocal authority on any international crisis—120 member states supported the resolutions and 28 are currently engaged in military action.

One of my constituents, critical of my support for the United Nations and the coalition forces, said that the war was "imperialistic and materialistic". In one sense, he is completely wrong but in another he is completely right.

Mr. Corbyn

Completely right.

Mr. Hogg

As my hon. Friend said, my constituent was completely right.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because of oil. He aimed to secure control of more than 65 per cent. of the world's oil reserves. He wanted to control oil prices and the rate of oil extraction. If that is not imperialistic and materialistic, I do not know what is. The consequences of Saddam Hussein's action, had he succeeded, would have been extremely detrimental to the interests of the world community and not least to the working people of this country.

I respect the view of those who say that they cannot support the United Nations and the coalition forces. I agree with the argument expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to the House on 11 December that the achievement of UN objectives by comprehensive sanctions would be a notable success for sanctions and would strengthen them as an effective international instrument for use in other contexts. But if, in the end, force was necessary, force it would have to be.

Like all my colleagues, I wanted sanctions to work and should have preferred longer time to allow sanctions, the blockade and military readiness to have the maximum effect. In the event, force was used and the Labour party stands by the British troops and the coalition force.

As the war proceeds and sanctions remain in place, it becomes increasingly apparent that sanctions would have taken a very long time to be effective. One wonders whether Saddam would ever have capitulated to such action, even if Iraqi children had been starving on the streets of Baghdad. I have never viewed sanctions as a soft option. Their consequences could be devastating for the nation and people against whom they are directed.

The Scottish National party introduced this debate and I refer to Scotland in the context of the war. I believe that the people of Scotland support the stand that has been taken in support of the United Nations. All the evidence from polls points to that conclusion, as do my soundings in my district. Scots are essentially internationalists in their outlook. They readily work abroad—indeed, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) worked in the district that is now caught up in the conflict.

Many Scots work for international and multinational companies and understand the international dimension of economic life. The same is true of Scottish academic life and the arts. "Scotland in Europe" is a good slogan, if for no other reason than that it taps into the Scots' internationalist outlook. Because of their internationalism, the Scottish people support the United Nations and the coalition forces.

Naturally, there is a body of influential opinion opposed to the war. Although I respect that stand, it cannot be presented as reflecting Scottish opinion. The System Three opinion poll in the Glasgow Herald showed that 77 per cent. of Scots supported military action in the Gulf, while only 13 per cent. opposed it. It showed that war support was stronger among Scottish Nationalists, at 76 per cent., than among Labour supporters—74 per cent. Liberal Democrats registered, marginally, the least support at 21 per cent.

I do not doubt for a moment that the coalition forces will win the war if it is prosecuted to a conclusion. Saddam has a formidable army and war machine, which is said to be the fourth largest in the world. I recognise that such a force could be matched only by a coalition consisting of United States, European and Arab nations, and I appreciate the tensions that such a multinational force presents to the Arab people of the middle east. It means that, when the hostilities are over, tackling the peace will require great commitment and determination, just as was required to prosecute the war.

I hope that, even in the circumstances that are developing tonight, diplomatic activity will secure the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. However, whether by diplomacy or force, we must deal with peace once the conflict is over. It would be naive to believe that the settlement of the Palestinian problem will mean an end to instability in the region. Justice demands that that issue must be dealt with as a matter of urgency, but that will not, of itself, resolve all the problems of the region. There must be a Palestinian homeland and self-determination, although it will be difficult to decide what those boundaries should be and what will be required of other nations in the region. At the same time, Israel's right to exist within secure boundaries must be established and guaranteed by international treaty. That, in itself, will not solve all the outstanding problems caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict. Boundaries, the economic viability of a new Palestine and the issue of Jerusalem must all be considered—the difficulties are formidable.

What I am struggling to say was best summed up in an article in The Economist published last week, which states: The Gulf episode has killed the fashionable pre-war idea that Israel would have nothing to fear from its Arab neighbours if only it made peace with the Palestinians. Peace with the Palestinians is a necessary condition for a stable Middle East, not a sufficient one. True stability will have to wait until democracy reaches the Arab world, so that despots no longer prop themselves up by telling their people that the road to Jerusalem, and to paradise, runs through their neighbour's country. There are mighty forces at work that militate against the stability of the middle east. The absence of any sort of democratic tradition, with Governments run either by military regimes or hereditary rulers, hardly bodes well. It seems unlikely that such Governments can establish stability or accept a limitation on arms. Nothing that has happened in the post-second world war period suggests that such a policy is likely to commend itself. Oil riches will continue to be spent on arms—at least in some of the nations—as a first priority, with social and economic development coming a poor second. We must also recognise that nationalism remains a potent force in the region. Taken with the continuing Islamic revival and its expression in political terms, there exist sufficient ingredients in the cauldron to cause great problems in the future.

This country will be a major player in the settlement that will have to flow from the present conflict, but we cannot continue to be involved. We have already had more than our share of involvement in the middle east and, some would say, there are issues and problems that we created in our previous role. A return to stability and lasting peace must initially come from the nations of the region, in conjunction with the United Nations.

No one dealing with those problems can fail to appreciate the huge difficulties facing the United Nations in the aftermath of the war. Establishing a peace with justice will not be easy. We cannot have repeats of these terrible events, and the responsibility on our Government, the Governments of the coalition countries and the United Nations is greater than has been presented by any other world crisis since the second world war. The British people know those difficulties and understand that they must be faced. I believe that they are right to have placed their faith in the United Nations as the only mechanism to establish and build peace.

6.25 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I shall be brief because I know that other hon. Members want to speak.

I believe that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) said that anything he had to say would not diminish the Scottish National party's support for troops in the Gulf. He referred to his own extensive knowledge of the Gulf area, particularly Iraq and Kuwait. He attempted to occupy the moral high ground by casting doubt on the integrity of President Bush, the Prime Minister and the Government with regard to the aims of the United Nations forces in the Gulf.

As I read it, the SNP motion calls for an end to the conflict compatible with the United Nations resolution 660, but ignores the other 11 resolutions. The hon. Gentleman read out the other resolutions, but they do not appear in the motion.

A letter was published in the Glasgow Herald on Friday 1 February headed, Scots troops in the Gulf". It stated: Sir, The more I look at the Gulf war the more I sympathise with the intelligent anti-war attitude expressed by our partners in Europe and marvel at the arrogance of a UK Government which, under the unbalanced leadership of Margaret Thatcher rushed to commit Scottish, English and Welsh lives at the crack of the American whip and now whines after European financial support. Of course Kuwait deserves help even though only 7 per cent. of the people had a vote and the parliament had been dissolved by feudal rulers. But why only Kuwait? What about the Kurds? Or the Baltic States? Or indeed the many other nations, including our own"— that is, Scotland's— seeking independence from a cynical and callous world? I am especially concerned about the undue sacrifice expected from Scottish servicemen. According to your own correspondent, Ian Bruce, Scottish troops will form 40 per cent. of the ground assault forces. I find this figure hard to believe but, if it is only half true, then the British Army will have carried out a betrayal of Scotland equalled only in recent times by the abandonment of the 51st Highland Division at Dunkirk. That spells out more clearly than anything else could the problems of the SNP.

The letter suggests that the British Government—or the English Government, as the SNP would put it—colluded with Hitler to ensure that his Panzers broke through the Maginot line in such a manner as to leave the Jocks stranded many miles from Dunkirk. Two members of my close family did not return from St. Valery, so I take a personal interest in these matters. There is no doubt that what has been said is a distortion of the facts. The Jocks, as always, fought gallantly, but not effectively due to weapon systems that were inadequate to deal with Hitler's Panzers. I am pleased that the Jocks in the Gulf today have the best equipment available to soldiers in the field. We should be proud of that.

A former SNP councillor, Flora Isles, said that the SNP had different policies for parts of different parts of Scotland, for different people, and no policies. That sums up the SNP's position, which has been clearly exposed tonight. The hon. Member for Govan never considered properly the fact that political control should never be extended to tactical battle decisions, which must be taken by the military commanders on the spot in the Gulf. I speak with some emotion because, as a young service man, I served in the middle east when stupid political decisions cost the lives of colleagues, and I vowed that, if I had anything to do with it, it would never happen again.

The hon. Member for Govan drew attention to the Iraqi troops near the Turkish border. Although badly mauled, the Iraqi military is still a powerful military force, capable of doing immense damage to the United Nations forces. That is why the Government are right to say, as did the Minister of State, that if there is to be a peace and ceasefire, it must include assurances on the return of prisoners of war. We do not even know whether our aircrew are prisoners because we have not been told.

Experience in the Gulf, possible United Nations demands in future and instability in the Soviet Union must mean—I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is listening—that "Options for Change" will, in time, become options not for less defence expenditure but more expenditure on different weapons systems. When service personnel risk their lives in the Gulf as they are doing today, it is not the time for any of us publicly to consider or talk about possible closures of their home bases or the disbanding of their regiments.

The Scots, as always, have contributed more than their fair share to the needs of this nation at a time of distress, and they will continue to do so. As the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) said, if the Opposition say otherwise, they will not be reflecting the attitudes and views in Scotland.

6.30 pm
Mr. Jimmy Wray (Glasgow, Provan)

It is sad to think that we are today trying to decide whether to send our troops into Iraq. I do not know to whom some Scottish hon. Members speak about these issues, but when I speak to my constituents I get a very different picture indeed.

I do not know who wants this war. I am a great believer in the saying that there is a time for living and a time for dying. I fear that Her Majesty's Government have chosen a time for dying, not for themselves but for our troops in the middle east.

I cannot understand the hypocrisy of the Minister when he talks about the Iraqis firing Scud missiles. Let us not forget that they have been bombed every minute since the war started. Thousands of tonnes of bombs have been dropped on them, killing men, women and children. Does any hon. Member really believe in the so-called surgical instrument, the cruise missile, that, we are told, can go in and out of letter boxes? It was disgusting to see on television a general describing precisely how a cruise missile carrying 600 lbs of explosive could go down a vent shaft, where it probably annihilated hundreds of men and women working in a Ministry of Defence office in Iraq.

I did not become a Member of this place to authorise the firing of cruise missiles or the dropping of aged bombs—chemical, biological or any other type—on people. And when people talk about Saddam Hussein having stockpiles of arms, let us ask who supplied him with those arms. One can look down the list of Conservative Members who have been freeloading, running back and forth to Iraq, all their journeys paid for, but who now talk about this bad man, Saddam Hussein.

When we think of the great United Nations and its Security Council, we have to think of the shower of wimps who comprise them. Those who say that our endeavours are on behalf of implementing United Nations resolutions are talking through their hats. The Americans have created this war, and let us not forget the petition that was signed by 42 million Americans.

I am worried about the Scottish troops, some of them aged only 17. Although they are not yet of an age to vote or buy a drink in a public house, they are out in the Gulf battling. We should get some of the brats out of Oxford and Cambridge and put them in the front line. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes) said, "We are proud of them, the cream of the nation." I assure him that many on the Opposition Benches do not think a lot of the so-called cream of the nation. We remember them from the last world war. We are talking about people who are in need of bread and butter and others who have been denied heating allowances.

While our troops are out there fighting for the nation, what is being done here on their behalf by the Government? Ministers are hounding their mothers and fathers to pay the poll tax, even to the extreme of barbaric warrant sales. Those are the sort of people in the Government with whom we are having to deal.

I am extremely worried about the way in which people, especially the Americans, are talking about human life. People talk about other human beings as though they were talking about turkeys. When the matter was raised in Congress, it was suggested that the losses might amount to 900 tanks, 600 aircraft, 63,000 human beings and 319,000 injured. That was the estimate of losses if the war lasted six months. The cost of the war, we are told, is $500 million a day. I believe that Britain does not have that much in the pot, possibly £3 billion. It is costing our country £4 million a day. Not long ago the Minister was going cap in hand begging for more money to carry on the war.

Who are the peacemakers in this affair? I suggest that nobody fills that role. Indeed, I do not think Mr. Bush wants peace. He did not give sanctions a chance and he did not listen to the CIA. I do not believe that our Prime Minister is a wimp. Nor is Bush a wimp because, let us not forget, he was in charge of the CIA. We must also ask who gave the order for the invasion of Panama and Grenada and who arranged for the funding of the Contras and the killing of the Nicaraguans. Bush did all of that.

Our Prime Minister has not been in his present office for long, but in the streets of Scotland he is known as the butcher of 10 Downing street—[Interruption.]—and other names that I do not care to mention. He is hanging on to the coat tails of Mr. Bush. No United Nations or Security Council body has a say over when the war in the Gulf will stop. Bush has already got it all cut and dried.

We need to study British history to see where the truth lies. Whether or not people like it, finding a solution to the crisis in the middle east lies in a study of the history of British, European and United States interference in the area over the years. After the first world war, the Mesopotamian region, which was part of the Ottoman empire, though historically a remnant of the Assyrian empire, was divided by the British into two nations, Iraq and Kuwait, which were geopolitical inventions of Europeans trying to pursue economic and political gains.

The Kurdish people were slaughtered by Saddam Hussein, but those who supplied him with the weapons to do that were every bit as bad. In that respect, we are just as guilty as the Russians, the French and the Italians. We built up this turkey and now we are being asked to vote for its killing. I do not want to be any part of that killing.

I get worried when the Minister casually says, "We fear that we shall have to open up the hospitals that have been closed." We are told that 7,500 beds will be needed in Scotland and that 500 beds a day will be needed for casualties as a result of hostilities thousands of miles away. This is a capitalist war, not a war about principle—[Interruption.] It is about oil, and those who argue that it is about principle must explain why the hell it has taken 23 years to implement resolutions 242 and 238. What is the difference between implementing resolution 242 and resolution 678?

Do those who claim, as the Minister does, that we shall return Iraq to the Iraqis and Kuwait to the Kuwaitis believe that we are talking, in the latter case, about a democratic empire when in reality it is the family possession of the al-Sabah family? I doubt whether the borders about which the Minister spoke will be left intact at the end of this war. The area has been bombed to bits. The Iraqis say that there will be an enormous holy war, a war that every hon. Member here will regret.

My party, the Scottish Labour party, is comprised of international socialists. We have brothers and sisters everywhere—in Iraq, Iran and everywhere else—and we all want peace. We want to save lives, not lose them.

The way in which the media have covered the war has been disgraceful. We see "Captain Adie" and others in uniform running all over the place. Newspapers use terms such as "the bastards of Saddam" and other gung-ho stuff. We belong to a peaceful nation and I am a member of a party that believes in peace. We respect the sanctity of human life.

I am ashamed and disgraced when I hear people asking our troops to run through the sand with rifles and tanks, firing at other human beings who are terrified for their lives. Iraqi troops are surrendering like confetti. About 500 of them surrendered because four helicopters flew over dropping bombs on them. Is that the sort of thing that the Government want? We have suffered not only in this war but in past wars because of decisions taken by the Government's forefathers, and we do not want to suffer any more. The only way for any hon. Member with sincerity and compassion to help the troops is to get them home. To hell with Saddam Hussein and the rest of them: let them get on with it.

6.40 pm
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The number of hon. Members who have participated in the debate and the many others who had hoped to participate show that the Scottish National party has rendered a great service by enabling hon. Members to debate this vital issue. We felt that it was right to explore the war aims and to look beyond the war to see how we could achieve a peaceful settlement. I hope to emphasise the key points of our motion.

First, the motion mentions strong support for the troops in the Gulf. Some hon. Members seem to think that the only way to support the troops is to rant and rave and make pacifist speeches. That is not a line that I pursue. The best way to support our troops is to argue the case for diplomatic means to bring our men home as quickly as possible. My constituency contains two key RAF bases that have been involved in the crisis since early August and whose role in the war will be seen to be significant when the history of the war is written. I know about the worries of the families of service men. They ask us to send messages of support but also to do everything possible to avoid mass killings. They all want to see their families safely home, but they recognise the responsibilities of members of the armed forces.

Our motion emphasises the position of the United Nations, whose status and integrity must be upheld. As some hon. Members have said, the United Nations may be an imperfect organisation, but it is all that we have as a facility for reaching peaceful, negotiated decisions. Unfortunately, upholding the authority of the United Nations means recognising that the ultimate sanction must be used when every other possibility has been rejected. If we do not accept that, we relegate the United Nations to an organisation that is no better than the League of Nations, which was so ineffective between the two world wars.

Some hon. Members have asked why other United Nations resolutions have not been implemented. I have great sympathy for that argument because there are many resolutions that we would all like to see implemented. However, in this case the United Nations has said that it is prepared to use the ultimate sanction, and we must support it. I hope that that will lead to the United Nations becoming stronger and more effective internationally so that we can reach more negotiated settlements in future.

The motion concentrates on the issue of the war aims. Irrespective of their stance, hon. Members have been grateful for the Government's substantial clarification of that issue. That in itself makes the motion extremely worth while. Yesterday I received a letter from the Prime Minister referring specifically to the war aims. The letter states: It is not for us, nor indeed any outsider, to decide who should rule Iraq. Neither do we seek the destruction, occupation or dismemberment of Iraq. The Minister of State, in opening the debate, clearly reinforced that view. We welcome that, because there was genuine concern in the House and throughout the country that we were not altogether clear about the exact aims of the war. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) cited a catalogue of events that seemed to indicate slippage. I am grateful to the Government for clarifying their position.

The motion states that no diplomatic opportunity should be lost to bring the present conflict to an end". The world is holding its breath. Despite Saddam Hussein's belligerent speech today in Baghdad, I understand that negotiations are to occur and that Tariq Aziz has gone to Moscow, where it seems likely that he will continue discussions. Will the Government tell us exactly what the Minister of State meant when he said that there were inadequacies which would make the terms unacceptable? The House has a right to know about those inadequacies, because it seems that this afternoon the European Parliament has supported the Soviet initiative. We are told that there are inadequacies of some sort, but we have no knowledge on which to base a judgment. I hope that in his summing up the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will clarify the matter.

I thank all hon. Members who have participated in the debate. They spoke clearly and frankly about where they stand on this key international issue. Some Conservative Members bayed at us that this was not a Scottish subject. Members of the Scottish National party are the sort of internationalists who were referred to earlier. We have a strong international perspective. SNP Members are elected in the same way as other hon. Members, and we have the right to speak out on issues that we see as issues of great concern. We have done everyone in the House a service.

6.47 pm
The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton)

This has been an interesting debate with varied contributions from Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars), who opened the debate, said that Saddam Hussein bears the primary responsibility for the war, as I think that we all agree. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) said that Saddam Hussein started the war. Since the war started the allies have tried to secure a peaceful solution.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the Minister consider that in the past 10 years the British Government lent £1 billion to the Government of Iraq, sponsored 39 trade missions there, took no action whatever over violations of human rights in Iraq and promoted arms sales at the Baghdad arms fair only a year before the war started? Is this not really a war about oil and about protecting royal families in the region?

Mr. Hamilton

We have heard those arguments from the Opposition many times. We have not sold lethal equipment to Iraq. We have thoroughly maintained that position, although others may not have done so.

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said that he hoped beyond hope that Saddam Hussein would see sense. The House shares that view. I would certainly support any motion that resulted in a peaceful withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait without the necessity for military action. I very much resent the accusation by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Wray), in a noisy speech, that we relish the idea of men being killed and that we thought this would help the Government. That is a very unworthy accusation and I hope that he will take it back. As the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) said, the statement that Saddam Hussein made today probably removed the last hope of a peaceful solution.

Mr. Winnick

Does the Minister agree that virtually no tyrant or aggressor has been given so much opportunity to undo his aggression, five months before the war started and even now, whatever reservations one may have about what Moscow has proposed? He seems to have turned it down. Is not it quite clear that here is a tyrant and aggressor who is determined to stick to the occupation of Kuwait? The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) referred to counter-proposals. We are not interested in counter-proposals. What we are interested in is that he should leave Kuwait—no ifs, no buts and no conditions at all.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, absolutely right. We can be quite unequivocal about this. Saddam Hussein has been given every opportunity since last August to withdraw and he has not done so. It does not seem to make any difference how much pressure there is from the international community; he seems to be prepared to ignore it all.

Mr. Salmond

Will the Minister now answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing)? What aspect of the Soviet initiative do the Government find inadequate in terms of the opening speech that we heard from the Front Bench? What aspects of that initiative would the Government turn down?

Mr. Hamilton

We have already said that the Soviet Union has asked us to keep these proposals secret. It does not want us to reveal what the proposals are, and we are abiding by that request. If we spelt out in detail what our reservations are, we should obviously reveal the original recommendations. The fact is that they do not meet all the United Nations resolutions. Therefore, they are not adequate as they stand.

The right hon. Member for Tweedale, Ettrick and Lauderdale wanted some reassurances. I repeat what my hon. and learned Friend the Minister made clear: the allies do not intend to occupy or govern Iraq or any part of it. Our actions are aimed to achieve the liberation of Kuwait. The right hon. Gentleman was concerned about the Greenpeace report on the environmental consequences of attacks on chemical and biological tanks and so forth. We do as much research as possible into sites that are to be attacked, and we are careful to ensure that the collateral damage is kept to an absolute minimum. As my hon. and learned Friend acknowledged, no one can guarantee that bombs will not go astray. I am afraid that occasionally they do. It is always much better if wars do not start and if peaceful solutions are found.

We do not have to look any further than Iraq to see a civilian population which is held in complete disdain. Iraq is more than happy to send Scud missiles to kill people in Israel and in Saudi Arabia. Any environmental concern seems to be pretty minimal when one considers the wilful pollution of Gulf waters with oil slicks.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the removal of Saddam Hussein. As my hon. and learned Friend made clear, we would in no way grieve if Saddam Hussein were deposed. It would be a very satisfactory solution, but it is not one of our aims to remove him. The selection of a leader for Iraq must be for the Iraqi people, not for the allies.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) talked of the suffering of Palestinian people. I believe, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) does, that, in even considering the problems of the Palestinian people in parallel with the quite illegal occupation of Kuwait, she has been drawn into a trap by Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein made no reference whatever to the problems of the Palestinian people when he moved into Kuwait. That was only a subsequent argument that he introduced in the face of the condemnation of the international community.

Ms. Short

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait to help the Palestinian people. What I said was that the unresolved problem of the Palestinians was the reason why the middle east is such an unstable and dangerous region. If we do not resolve it after the war, it will remain unstable.

Mr. Hamilton

There are many different reasons why the middle east is an unstable region; I do not think that the Iran-Iraq war had any bearing on the Palestinian problem either. There are many difficult and different problems in the middle east. The hon. Lady risks over-simplifying the problems if she believes that a solution to the Palestinian issue would end all the problems of the middle east. I do not think that there is anything to support that argument. Again, she argued that we should have continued sanctions. Sanctions continued for five and a half months. How much longer would she have wanted them to go on? Should we have gone on until Ramadan started, or until the weather got so hot that it would have been difficult for our troops to fight? Should we have gone on for so long that the strains on the international consensus began to show, or until it was impossible to rotate our troops, in which case we would have to start withdrawing from the area?

To advocate that we should have waited a bit longer might have meant waiting for so long that Saddam Hussein remained in Kuwait and Kuwait became annexed to Iraq. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth recognised that we could not go on indefinitely and that action had to be taken.

The conflict has gone well so far for the allies. Allied naval forces have emasculated the Iraqi navy and we are proud of the role that Royal Navy ships have played in the van in this action. We have seen brave actions by Lynx helicopters with Sea Skua missiles. The air battle, which has been more successful than any of us could have dared hope due to the professionalism of our pilots, has now established air supremacy in the area. There have been 3,100 combat sorties by the Royal Air Force. This must be seen in terms of a force multiplier in terms of the aid that it will give to our troops on the ground should the land battle begin.

We can be very encouraged by the action we saw after the town of Khafji was relieved. When large amounts of artillery and the Iraqi armoured forces were massing in the area behind the Kuwaiti border, they were attacked thoroughly by the air forces and serious damage was done to them.

We should also take great heart from the recent helicopter attack carried out by the Americans which resulted in some 450 to 500 Iraqi prisoners of war. If that is their state of morale, we can have every hope that if it comes to a land battle it will be short.

The multi-launch rocket system and the eight-inch M110 self-propelled howitzer have both been fired in anger for the first time. There is no doubt that our troops will fight bravely if they have to. They are grateful for the support that they get from the majority of Members of the House.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent said, the way in which the alliance of our coalition partners has held together through the action is remarkable. Our resolve has never weakened.

Saddam Hussein has promised his people, his poor Iraqi people, the mother of battles. He seems to relish a war that could only kill thousands of his countrymen, destroy his armed forces and lead inevitably to his defeat. If there has to be a ground war, we will fight it and win. I hope that the House will support the Government's amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House proceeded to a Division——

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I am eager to listen to the hon. Gentleman's point of order, but he must wear the hat and be seated.

Mr. Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman gives the hat a firm thump, he will find that it will open. If he then puts the hat on and remains seated, I shall willingly listen to his point of order.

Mr. Brown

(seated and covered): This is the longest-running pantomime in the west end. But one thing that I do know is that this place only gives certain individuals the right to speak. We are all equal, but some are more equal than others. Many people are losing their lives in the Gulf at the present time and, sadly, many more will do so in the near future, but the House deliberately ensures that only certain people speak on the matter. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, extend today's debate so that we can speak about the reality of the issues and how to deal with them? There is a socialist answer to the problem.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not throw down the hat and be so contemptuous of the proceedings of the House. I hope that in future he will desist from any such behaviour. I am not prepared to listen to his point of order any longer.

The House having divided: Ayes 16, Noes 320.

Division No. 74] [7.01 pm
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Salmond, Alex
Bellotti, David Sillars, Jim
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Fearn, Ronald Wallace, James
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Kennedy, Charles Tellers for the Ayes:
Kirkwood, Archy Mr. Dick Douglas and Mr. Andrew Welsh.
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Adley, Robert Cartwright, John
Aitken, Jonathan Cash, William
Alexander, Richard Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Allason, Rupert Chapman, Sydney
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Chope, Christopher
Amess, David Churchill, Mr
Amos, Alan Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)
Arbuthnot, James Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Arnold, Sir Thomas Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Ashby, David Colvin, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Conway, Derek
Atkinson, David Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baldry, Tony Cope, Rt Hon John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Cormack, Patrick
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Couchman, James
Batiste, Spencer Cran, James
Beggs, Roy Critchley, Julian
Bellingham, Henry Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bendall, Vivian Curry, David
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Benyon, W. Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bevan, David Gilroy Day, Stephen
Blackburn, Dr John G. Devlin, Tim
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Dickens, Geoffrey
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dicks, Terry
Boswell, Tim Dorrell, Stephen
Bottomley, Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dover, Den
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Dunn, Bob
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Durant, Sir Anthony
Bowis, John Dykes, Hugh
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Eggar, Tim
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Emery, Sir Peter
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Brazier, Julian Evennett, David
Bright, Graham Fallon, Michael
Brown, Michael (Brtgg & Cl't's) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Browne, John (Winchester) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Fishburn, John Dudley
Buck, Sir Antony Fookes, Dame Janet
Budgen, Nicholas Forman, Nigel
Burns, Simon Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Butler, Chris Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Butterfill, John Forth, Eric
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Franks, Cecil
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Freeman, Roger
Carrington, Matthew French, Douglas
Carttiss, Michael Fry, Peter
Gardiner, Sir George MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gill, Christopher Maclean, David
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian McLoughlin, Patrick
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Goodhart, Sir Philip McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Goodlad, Alastair Maginnis, Ken
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Major, Rt Hon John
Gorst, John Malins, Humfrey
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mans, Keith
Green way, Harry (Eating N) Maples, John
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marland, Paul
Gregory, Conal Marlow, Tony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Grist, Ian Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Ground, Patrick Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grylls, Michael Maude, Hon Francis
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hague, William Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Miller, Sir Hal
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, Sir David
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Harris, David Moore, Rt Hon John
Haselhurst, Alan Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hawkins, Christopher Morrison, Sir Charles
Hayes, Jerry Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Moss, Malcolm
Hayward, Robert Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Neale, Sir Gerrard
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Nelson, Anthony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Neubert, Sir Michael
Hill, James Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hind, Kenneth Nicholls, Patrick
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hordern, Sir Peter Norris, Steve
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, Richard
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Paice, James
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Patnick, Irvine
Hunt, Rt Hon David Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Patten, Rt Hon John
Hunter, Andrew Pawsey, James
Irvine, Michael Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jack, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Jackson, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Janman, Tim Price, Sir David
Jessel, Toby Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rathbone, Tim
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Redwood, John
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rhodes James, Robert
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Key, Robert Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Kilfedder, James Ross, William (Londonderry E)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rossi, Sir Hugh
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rost, Peter
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew
Knapman, Roger Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sayeed, Jonathan
Knowles, Michael Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knox, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Latham, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lawrence, Ivan Shelton, Sir William
Lee, John (Pendle) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shersby, Michael
Lilley, Peter Sims, Roger
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lord, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames, Hon Nicholas
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Speed, Keith
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Speller, Tony
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Squire, Robin Walden, George
Stanbrook, Ivor Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Steen, Anthony Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Stern, Michael Waller, Gary
Stevens, Lewis Walters, Sir Dennis
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Ward, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N) Warren, Kenneth
Stokes, Sir John Watts, John
Sumberg, David Wells, Bowen
Summerson, Hugo Wheeler, Sir John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Whitney, Ray
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford) Wiggin, Jerry
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wilkinson, John
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wilshire, David
Temple-Morris, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Winterton, Nicholas
Thorne, Neil Wood, Timothy
Thurnham, Peter Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Townend, John (Bridlington) Yeo, Tim
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tredinnick, David
Trimble, David Tellers for the Noes:
Twinn, Dr Ian Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Tom Sackville.
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Viggers, Peter

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 301, Noes 25.

Division No. 75] [7.14 pm
Adley, Robert Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Aitken, Jonathan Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Alexander, Richard Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Amess, David Carrington, Matthew
Amos, Alan Carttiss, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cartwright, John
Arnold, Sir Thomas Cash, William
Ashby, David Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Atkinson, David Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Chope, Christopher
Baldry, Tony Churchill, Mr
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Batiste, Spencer Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Beggs, Roy Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bellingham, Henry Colvin, Michael
Bellotti, David Conway, Derek
Bendall, Vivian Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Cope, Rt Hon John
Bevan, David Gilroy Cormack, Patrick
Blackburn, Dr John G. Couchman, James
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Cran, James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Critchley, Julian
Boswell, Tim Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bottomley, Peter Curry, David
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bowis, John Davis, David (Boothferry)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Day, Stephen
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Devlin, Tim
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dicks, Terry
Brazier, Julian Dorrell, Stephen
Bright, Graham Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Dover, Den
Browne, John (Winchester) Dunn, Bob
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Durant, Sir Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Dykes, Hugh
Buck, Sir Antony Eggar, Tim
Budgen, Nicholas Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Burns, Simon Evennett, David
Butler, Chris Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Butterfill, John Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronald Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lord, Michael
Fishburn, John Dudley Luce. Rt Hon Sir Richard
Fookes, Dame Janet Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Forman, Nigel MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Maclean, David
Forth, Eric McLoughlin, Patrick
Freeman, Roger McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
French, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gardiner, Sir George Maginnis. Ken
Gill, Christopher Major. Rt Hon John
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Malins, Humfrey
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mans, Keith
Goodlad, Alastair Maples, John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marland, Paul
Gorst, John Marlow, Tony
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gregory, Conal Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Maude, Hon Francis
Grist, Ian Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Ground, Patrick Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Hague, William Miller, Sir Hal
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Miscampbell, Norman
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, Sir David
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Harris, David Moore, Rt Hon John
Haselhurst, Alan Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hawkins, Christopher Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Hayes, Jerry Moss. Malcolm
Hayward, Robert Neale, Sir Gerrard
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Neubert, Sir Michael
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholls, Patrick
Hill, James Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hind, Kenneth Norris, Steve
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hordern, Sir Peter Owen. Rt Hon Dr David
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Page, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Paice, James
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Patnick, Irvine
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Patten, Rt Hon John
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Pawsey, James
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt. Rt Hon David Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunter, Andrew Price, Sir David
Irvine, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Jack, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Jackson, Robert Rhodes James, Robert
Janman, Tim Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jessel, Toby Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rowe, Andrew
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Salmond, Alex
Kennedy, Charles Sayeed, Jonathan
Key, Robert Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kilfedder, James Shaw, David (Dover)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Kirkhope, Timothy Shelton, Sir William
Kirkwood, Archy Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Knapman, Roger Shersby, Michael
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Sillars, Jim
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sims, Roger
Knowles, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knox, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lawrence, Ivan Smyth. Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Lee, John (Pendle) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Speed, Keith Viggers, Peter
Speller, Tony Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walden, George
Squire, Robin Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Stanbrook, Ivor Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wallace, James
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Waller, Gary
Steen, Anthony Walters, Sir Dennis
Stern, Michael Ward, John
Stevens, Lewis Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Warren, Kenneth
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Watts, John
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N) Wells, Bowen
Stokes, Sir John Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Sumberg, David Wheeler, Sir John
Summerson, Hugo Whitney, Ray
Tapsell, Sir Peter Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wiggin, Jerry
Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford) Wilkinson, John
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Wilshire, David
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Winterton, Nicholas
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wood, Timothy
Temple-Morris, Peter Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Yeo, Tim
Thorne, Neil Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thurnham, Peter
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Tellers for the Ayes:
Tredinnick, David Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Sackville.
Trimble, David
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Abbott, Ms Diane Madden, Max
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Mullin, Chris
Canavan, Dennis Nellist, Dave
Clay, Bob Primarolo, Dawn
Cohen, Harry Strang, Gavin
Corbyn, Jeremy Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Dalyell, Tam Wigley, Dafydd
Gordon, Mildred Wray, Jimmy
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Hood, Jimmy Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Mr. Bob Cryer and Mr. Dennis Skinner.
Livingstone, Ken
Loyden, Eddie

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, having overwhelmingly supported the despatch of British forces to the Gulf, welcomes the affirmation by the Government that the aims of British military action are to secure the implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I, through you, ask the Leader of the House to make arrangements for a statement to be made tomorrow morning in the event of the land war beginning? Today the Minister made an important statement to the effect that the Soviet proposals were not acceptable. I shall not go into the merits of it, but he said that. Since that statement is being clarified tonight and there is a possibility of the land war beginning, may I ask that a message be sent through you to the Leader of the House to ask for a statement to be made at 9.30 tomorrow morning in that event?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

No doubt the right hon. Member's comments will be conveyed to the Leader of the House.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Last week there was an unfortunate set of circumstances, when a most important statement was made by the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and the Government appeared to know nothing about it all day. Finally, a Minister was enticed here by points of order. I am sure that you agree that that is a most unsatisfactory way to deal with an important matter.

In the event of a statement not being made at 9.30 am, which is quite possible, may we have an undertaking, through you, from the Government that they will make a statement during tomorrow's proceedings so that we are not reduced to the unsatisfactory system of trying to raise at 2.30 pm points of order on a matter of international importance?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. Member recognises that these are not matters for the Chair, but doubtless, as with the comments of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), his remarks will be drawn to the attention of the Leader of the House.