HC Deb 15 January 1991 vol 183 cc734-826

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Wood.]

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Prime Minister, may I say that a very large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in this very important debate. I propose to put a limit of 10 minutes on speeches between 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock, but I ask those who are called before that, particularly if they are Privy Councillors, to bear that limit in mind.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since there have been two debates on the Gulf in the past few months, may I ask whether you will give preference to hon. Members who did not speak in those debates?

Mr. Speaker

I shall seek to balance opinion in the House.

3.37 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

There is overwhelming concern in Parliament and in the country about the situation in the Gulf. That concern is shared by everyone, but must self evidently be most acutely felt by the families and friends of our troops at present in the Gulf.

The position has been brought about, first, by Iraq's illegal invasion of Kuwait and, secondly, by its continued and blatant refusal to implement the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and to withdraw wholly and unconditionally from the country which it invaded in early August. It is now five and a half months since the first of the resolutions and the deadline for Iraq to comply runs out today. Therefore, the Government thought it entirely right for the House to debate the situation.

Since we last discussed these matters on 11 December last year, there have been important diplomatic and military developments. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have both visited the middle east to discuss the position with the rulers and with the Governments there. I have recently met President Bush, President Mitterrand, and Secretary Baker for the same purpose and my right hon. Friend has been in constant contact with his European Community colleagues and many others. Yesterday, upon his return from Baghdad, I also spoke at length to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I intend to cover those developments shortly, although I shall not on this occasion go into the detailed background to the present crisis, which was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) with characteristic clarity last September. I shall, however, report on the various discussions that my right hon. Friend and I have had. I shall then explain why the Government regard full implementation of the United Nations resolutions as being so crucial. Finally, I shall set out to the House how we intend to act.

Before I do so, I should like to make one general point. I hope that this debate will not in any way be seen either here or, perhaps more appropriately, beyond here as a party-political or partisan occasion. With the clear danger of hostilities looming, through no wish of anyone in this country or the House, it seems to me acutely important that our forces in the Gulf should feel that they have the united support of the vast majority of the House and of the country. It will be in that spirit in which the Government approach the debate.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)


Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)


The Prime Minister

I should like to make a little progress, if the hon. Gentlemen will forgive me.

Since the invasion on 2 August the international community has collectively and repeatedly called on Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, 12 Security Council resolutions have been passed, either unanimously or with very substantial majorities, and dozens of visits to Baghdad and appeals to Saddam Hussein have been made by international statesmen from many countries. Most recently, the United States Secretary of State, James Baker, has met Tariq Aziz in Geneva and the Secretary-General of the United Nations has met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Despite all this, Iraq is still in Kuwait and shows no imminent signs of leaving. I fear that the contrary is the case. In recent weeks Iraq has continued to increase the size of its forces in and around Kuwait. There are now nearly 600,000 troops, more than 4,000 tanks and more than 3,000 artillery pieces. Its defences are continually being strengthened. Chemical weapons, already used by Saddam Hussein against his own people, have been deployed. Contrary to international agreements, Iraq has produced and threatened to use both chemical and biological weapons, the use of which would be wholly contrary to international agreements. Iraq also continues to develop a nuclear weapon, although we do not believe thus far that she has succeeded in doing so.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)


The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will let me make a little progress, I shall give way to him later.

At the same time, Iraq has constantly and, in my view, cynically changed the pretexts given for its invasion of Kuwait. At various times we have been told that the invasion took place for different reasons: first, because Kuwait had artificially depressed the world price of oil; then because Kuwait had failed to pay compensation to Iraq for lost revenues; and then because it had occupied territory on Iraq's border. We were then told that there had been a coup d'etat in Kuwait and a new Government established that had appealed for Iraqi support. That absurd untruth soon disappeared without trace. Then we were informed that Kuwait had been wholly absorbed into Iraq, and the Iraqi information Minister told the world to forget that a place called Kuwait had ever existed. It was even suggested that Kuwait had been attacked because it posed a threat to Iraq's security—a notion so absurd that the whole world dismissed it with contempt, and dismissed it immediately.

Finally, we were told, least credibly of all, that the purpose of the invasion had been to bring about a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question. In my discussions in the Gulf, I have found that non-Iraqi Arab leaders are particularly contemptuous of that excuse and have made that crystal clear to me and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The real fact is that Iraq's action has made a settlement of that longstanding and very real problem infinitely more difficult. Only when Iraq has withdrawn from Kuwait shall we be able to resume efforts to find a solution with any hope of success—and that, of course, we shall seek to continue to do.

Rarely in history can there have been a more cynical catalogue of lies and deceits. The reality is clear for all to see: Iraq has used military force to wipe Kuwait off the face of the map and to plunder its resources. Nor is that all. Intimidation, torture and murder of the Kuwaiti people have continued without respite. The appalling details have been carefully and shockingly catalogued in the report by Amnesty International, which should be compulsory reading for everyone who expresses a view on this issue.

What the report reveals is truly shocking: people executed—in my view, murdered would be a better word —for failing to display a photograph of Saddam Hussein in their homes; teenage boys murdered in the sight of their mothers and sisters, their bodies then left on the street as garbage and their families forbidden to take their corpses home to give them a decent burial. This is literally horrifying, a tale of unbelievable and sickening cruelty since last August.

Those who caution delay because they hate war—hate the very thought of war, as all hon. Members must surely do—must ask themselves this question: how much longer should the world stand by and risk these atrocities continuing in Kuwait?

Mr. Cryer


Mr. Strang


Mr. Nellist


The Prime Minister

We are talking not only of atrocities. Hundreds of thousands of Kuwaitis have been forced to leave their country as a part of a systematic effort to change populations, to expunge records and to erase national identity itself. At the start of August, there were 700,000 Kuwaitis in Kuwait; today there are 250,000, a fall of two thirds. Organised robbery has taken place on a gigantic scale, with everything from cars and buses to medical equipment—even incubators for use in hospitals —being taken away: stolen, ransacked and taken as spoils of war to Iraq.

What we are seeing is not just a simple dispute or everyday difference of opinion. What we are witnessing in Kuwait is an attempt to eliminate an entire state by a dictator who has shown himself to be a thorough force for evil in his actions over recent years.

Despite all this, neither we nor our international partners have given up our efforts to find a peaceful solution on the basis of full implementation of the United Nations resolutions. The United Nations, the European Community, the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference have all separately tried to persuade Iraq to comply with the Security Council resolutions. Many individual countries and Governments have made their contribution. And yet, what happened last week when Secretary Baker met the Iraqi Foreign Minister in Geneva to try yet again to bring about a peaceful solution? Tariq Aziz refused even to mention Kuwait or to discuss withdrawal. He showed no flexibility or, shockingly, any remorse for the crimes that have been committed in Kuwait since the beginning of August. And an invitation to Tariq Aziz to meet the European Community was brusquely and immediately rejected and ignored.

Subsequently, as the House knows, the United Nations Secretary-General travelled to Baghdad to offer his good offices. We welcomed that unreservedly. Even at that late stage we hoped that reason would prevail. Mr. Perez de Cuellar's mission had the full support of Britain, of the United States and of the European Community and, I believe, the full support of the whole world community which holds him in such continual respect. Yet his involvement demonstrated, perhaps more clearly than anything else could, that the confrontation is not just between the United States and Iraq or the west and Iraq, but between the United Nations and an aggressor that has overrun a neighbouring small and innocent country.

But I am sorry to report that the Secretary-General's efforts, too, were crudely and brutally brushed aside. When I spoke to him yesterday he told me, without any doubt or hesitation, that there was nothing favourable to report from his meeting with Saddam Hussein; not the slightest sign of willingness to comply with the Security Council resolution either now or in the future.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

In the event of an unprovoked attack on Israel in the days ahead, what would be the British Government's response and what consultation has there been with other Governments about that possibility?

The Prime Minister

Of course that possibility is one which we have been considering, not least because Saddam Hussein has made it clear on a number of occasions that he may seek to involve a nation at present standing wholly adrift from this particular dispute in the way described. I hope very much that that will not happen and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not speculate on what would follow, but I feel sure that the international community, at present part of the allied force, would regard that as a wholly unacceptable way for Iraq to behave and would respond accordingly. I hope very much indeed that the restraint that has been shown by the state of Israel will continue in the weeks ahead. That restraint has been extremely helpful.

In the past 24 hours the House will have seen reports of a French initiative put forward just a few hours after the European Community Foreign Ministers had concluded that the conditions for an initiative no longer existed. It would be more accurate to say that what is involved is an appeal to Saddam Hussein to reconsider and to withdraw even at this late hour, and that is something which we all wish to see. But what I believe we cannot do is to water down the existing Security Council resolutions. We have supported those for a long time. They call for total and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. Nor can we be party to extending the United Nations deadline or in any way reward Iraq for its aggression.

Those are the criteria on which we would judge any proposal. Saddam Hussein must be given no false expectation that peace can be had without complete and full implementation of the Security Council resolutions.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I think that the whole House agrees with the Prime Minister that there can be no question of a watering down of existing United Nations resolutions, but, according to the report in The Independent today, the French initiative calls on the Security Council to ask Iraq to announce without further delay its"— Iraq's— intention to pull out of Kuwait according to a set timetable and to begin now with a rapid and large-scale withdrawal. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he regards that as being a watering down of the terms of the United Nations resolutions?

The Prime Minister

Let me reiterate the point in order to put it in its proper context. We fully subscribe to the idea of a last appeal to Saddam Hussein to obey the Security Council resolutions. We have no difficulty with that point. But we do have considerable difficulty with the French text. All along we have supported the Security Council resolutions and we must judge the French text by two criteria: whether it is wholly consistent with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and whether it is likely to lead Iraq to comply with those resolutions or simply have the effect of taking the pressure off Iraq at this very late stage. In our judgment, it fails those tests and it is for that reason that, although we are content with the idea of a last appeal, we cannot accept and cannot support the particular proposition put forward by the French.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

It would appear that one of the major reasons why the Government reject the French initiative, which I certainly welcome, is the matter of linkage. But is the Prime Minister aware that when the war begins a linkage denied in the conference hall may be established on the battlefield within hours and if Israel is drawn into the conflict the two issues will come together? Is he also aware that, when the war is over, the proposal made by President Mitterrand will be the basis of the peace conference? Why cannot we have the peace proposal before the bloodshed instead of afterwards?

The Prime Minister

As I indicated to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), I did not share the view put forward by the French that their proposal is wholly consistent with the United Nations resolutions as we have thus far known them. Perhaps I may elaborate on that point. The French text only calls on Iraq to announce its intention to withdraw according to a timetable. The Security Council has called for an immediate, total and unconditional withdrawal. There is a distinction. But equally relevant is the fact that I do not think that we would be wise to place much faith in an indication of Iraq's intentions against the background of the lies, deceit and treachery that we have seen in the last six months. There is no basis of trust and therefore we must rely on an appeal either from the Security Council or from the Secretary-General that is wholly and completely consistent with the resolutions that we have supported for so long.

If I add in reply to the right hon. Gentleman a word about my discussion with President Mitterrand, he may find it useful. My clear impression from my discussions with President Mitterrand yesterday is that, like all of us, he hopes and prays that hostilities can be avoided. But particularly in the wake of Iraq's totally negative response to the United Nations Secretary-General, President Mitterrand sees no realistic prospect that Iraq can now be persuaded to take the essential step of withdrawing from Kuwait.

No one, anywhere, can claim that the international community has not tried for peace. If it turns out that we shall have failed, we shall have failed only because Iraq has rejected every attempt to reach a diplomatic solution.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will permit me to make a little more progress.

In parallel with those diplomatic efforts, the international community has, with very few execptions and contraventions, applied economic sanctions against Iraq. As the House knows, they are among the most sweeping sanctions ever agreed by the United Nations. They have interrupted 90 per cent. of Iraq's foreign trade and have caused widespread dislocation of its economy.

What is the real test of the sanctions? It is not just whether they cause economic misery in Iraq. The real test is whether they bring about Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait. So far, they have failed to achieve that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give them time to work."] I will deal precisely with the points that Opposition Members want to raise, if they will give me a moment. It is clear that the sanctions will not succeed by the deadline set by the United Nations for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, or for a very long time after that.

There are those who argue—and I understand their concern—that we should give sanctions more time to work. But at what price should we give them more time to work? Allowing more time for sanctions to work has other implications.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

The Prime Minister has again referred to the tragic plight of the people of Kuwait, of whom perhaps 2,000 have already been killed since the beginning of August. What does the right hon. Gentleman think would be the effect on the people of Kuwait of a war to reconquer Kuwait? Has he read the report in today's Financial Times in which one of the leading members of the al-Sabah family, speaking from the comfort of his luxury hotel in Dhahran, hundreds of miles from the fighting line, said that he would be quite happy to see the "flattening" of Kuwait if it meant that he got back sovereignty of the territory? Does the Prime Minister really think that that sort of war will do anything to help the people of Kuwait?

The Prime Minister

The liberation of Kuwait is an important principle. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, other important principles are at stake in this dispute and in a few moments I will deal with them at some length. If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me, I shall return to the point about the time taken for sanctions to work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I will return to the points raised earlier about sanctions, to which the House is entitled to a reply. The point that was concerning the House was whether we should give sanctions more time to work. I said that more time for sanctions has other implications. It also means more time for Iraq to continue to extinguish Kuwait. It means more time for Iraq to prepare its defences against allied troops and perhaps a greater subsequent cost in the lives of allied troops. It means more time during which Kuwaitis will be tortured or killed. Because sanctions are not having their intended effect, we would, in addition, in practice be extending the deadline for Iraq's withdrawal while relaxing pressure on Iraq to comply.

Mr. Strang


The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall continue.

To do so would destroy the credibility of the international community's response to Iraq's aggression and that is why I do not believe that we have the time, nor would we be wise, to let sanctions run a lengthier and fuller course. That is the situation we face.

Several Hon. Members


The Prime Minister

If hon. Members will forgive me, I shall make a little more progress.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that every hon. Member who is rising to intervene is anxious to take part in the debate. They will not be able to do so if there are constant interruptions.

The Prime Minister

The situation that I have just outlined is the situation we must face. Throughout recent months the Government have taken great care to consult their allies, the United States, Europe and—perhaps most important of all in many ways—the Arab world. Last week I met the Emir of Kuwait, the King of Saudi Arabia, the Sultan of Oman and President Mubarak.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just returned from visits to other Gulf states, as well as Jordan and Turkey, on which he will report in his winding-up speech. Earlier this week I spoke to Mr. Mulroney, Secretary Baker and President Mitterrand—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Blood on their hands.

The Prime Minister

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would show as much concern for the blood in Kuwait City in the past few months.

Throughout my visits I found a rock-solid determination to make Saddam Hussein withdraw. Among our allies there was no talk of compromise, no talk of concessions, no suggestion that the United Nations' deadline should be extended and no inclination whatsoever to weaken or back down in the face of Iraq's intransigence. [Interruption.]

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)


Mr. Speaker

Has the hon. Gentleman a point of order for me?

The Prime Minister

The resolve of our Arab allies to see the United Nations resolutions implemented remains unshaken and unshakeable—[Interruption]

Mr. Blunkett

Does the Prime Minister accept that many of us agree with what he has just said about the need to stand rock solid over the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, but we would be better able to assess for ourselves the effectiveness of sanctions if we had before us an assessment of how sanctions had worked, the loopholes that existed and what might be done to close them? Does he accept that people like myself, who are willing to agree that there should be greater caution today of all days, are also clear that, if professional troops have to be used to get Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, we would back it if we had the information that he has to enable us to make the judgment that he is making? Will he give the elected Parliament that information so that we can make that judgment for ourselves?

The Prime Minister

I have two points to make in reply to the hon. Gentleman's intervention. First, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will deal in his winding-up speech specifically with the details of the impact of sanctions. Secondly, the overall purpose of sanctions is to ensure that Iraq leaves Kuwait. So far they have failed in that respect and show no sign of imminent success.

Mr. Nellist

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall make some progress.

It is to restore the independence of Kuwait, to defend Saudi Arabia and to back up these diplomatic efforts and the peaceful pressure of sanctions that more than 30 nations have contributed to the multinational effort in the Gulf. Over the past few weeks, the scale of those forces has grown steadily. They now contribute an awesome assembly of military power, on a scale not seen since the second world war.

Britain's contribution to that force numbers more than 35,000 service men and women. I was able to meet a number of them last week while I was in the Gulf. I can tell the House with no equivocation that their morale is high, their professionalism obvious and their confidence impressive. They have the equipment that they need and the determination that we would expect of them. They are working well with their American and other allies.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

No, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

I explained to those service men and women while I was there why we had to ask them to be there and what might lie ahead. I told them, too, of the great concern felt for them by everyone at home, as well as the tremendous pride here in their performance in the Gulf. I am in no doubt whatever that they understand the risks and the dangers, as professional service men. They know what they may be asked to do.

Mr. Skinner

You are not going to risk your life, are you?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not make accusations of that kind from a sedentary position. It does not add to a debate on such an important matter.

Mr. Skinner

Yesterday, my hon. Friends and I demanded a vote on whether we go to war—[interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must sit down.

The Prime Minister

Let me just say to the hon. Gentleman in all sincerity that, whatever he may think, I would have been proud to be there with those young men and women. As professional service men, they know what they may be asked to do. They left me in no doubt that they are both able and ready to do it.

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

As one who has a son in the Gulf, may I ask my right hon. Friend to explain the exact chain of command from the President of the United States through General Schwarzkopf to the British commanders in the field? Is he satisfied that the British Government are able to make their contribution to that chain of command?

The Prime Minister

The troops in the Gulf are under British command and under American tactical control. The degree of liaison in the relationship between both commanders and men in the Gulf was—on the evidence of my own eyes—very high and very impressive. My hon. Friend would have been perfectly satisfied with it had he been there.

Mr. Nellist

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I have given way a number of times. I am conscious that a large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to express their own views, and I want to leave them some time in which to do so.

Peaceful means of persuading Iraq to withdraw—the diplomatic efforts, the sanctions and the allied military presence—have been tried for six months now, but without success. A line has to be drawn somewhere and it has been drawn—not hastily by us or by any one state, but deliberately and collectively by the United Nations Security Council with resolution 678.

From tomorrow the situation changes. We continue to hope and to look for a peaceful solution, but from tomorrow we shall also be justified in using all necessary means of bringing about Iraq's withdrawal; and that includes the use of force. That is not a pleasant prospect, but, as we face it, let us never forget that the decision to use force was first taken by Saddam Hussein entirely of his own choosing when he chose to invade Kuwait.

The principles at stake are crucial and we must uphold them. First—I hope that this is not too simplistic, but I feel it deeply—there is a clear dividing line between what is right and what is wrong and what Saddam Hussein has done in Kuwait is, in the simplest and clearest terms, just plain wrong and unforgivable.

Mr. Cryer


The Prime Minister

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has so little interest in the principles at stake in this matter that he is unwilling to listen to them.


Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)


The Prime Minister


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) is seeking to take part in the debate. He will not be able to do so if Saddam Hussein behaves in that way.

The Prime Minister

Secondly, if Saddam Hussein were to get away with his aggression and gain from it, other small countries in the vicinity, and those elsewhere in the world with large and potentially aggressive neighbours, will all too likely face similar problems and similar dangers. That is the second reason why there can be no deals, no partial withdrawal and no artificial linkage to solutions of other problems—nothing but absolute commitment to implement the Security Council's resolutions in full and without delay.

Thirdly, the failure to secure Saddam Hussein's withdrawal would have grave implications for the balance of power throughout the middle east. It would mean putting off difficulties today at the expense of greater difficulties in the not-too-distant future—greater difficulties made more intransigent as Iraq acquires even more devastating and dangerous weapons and as its appetite for success and conquest grows.

But there is a fourth, overriding point. We have made progress, particularly over the past 12 months, towards establishing in many ways a more peaceful world in which there is greater respect for the United Nations and its resolutions. At last it has seemed that the United Nations might live up to the aspirations of its founders. All our hopes for that would fall away if we were to allow Saddam Hussein to get away with swallowing up Kuwait in the way that he proposes. It simply cannot, must not and will not be permitted. So, if we are to have that safe world, we must demonstrate conclusively that aggression cannot succeed. If we fail to do so, when nearly the whole world is united against Iraq, we will face a heavy penalty ourselves for any future aggression. Much of the responsibility would rest with us.

For all those reasons, we have all made it clear to Saddam Hussein that he must withdraw. We have also made it clear that if he leaves Kuwait and returns within the borders of Iraq, force will not be used against him. Let me reiterate that point: if he voluntarily retreats and withdraws into Iraq, he will not be attacked there. But if he does not leave, force will be used and he will be expelled from Kuwait.

Mr. Dalyell


The Prime Minister

Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me?

I hope that Saddam Hussein understands the sheer weight of the forces that are ranged against him and the scale of armour and equipment which the multinational alliance has at its disposal. If he realises that, he will also realise that he cannot win and that the only consequence of failing to withdraw is to bring about the destruction of his armed forces and great damage to his country.

We do not want a conflict. We are not thirsting for war, but if it comes I believe that it would be a just war. However great the costs of such a war might be, they would be less than those that we would face if we failed to stand up for the principle of what is right, and to stand up for it now. I believe that if Iraq does not withdraw, the time has come to make a stand.

But even now it is not too late for Saddam Hussein to relent and to pull out his forces. We have always seen the possibility that he will do that at the very last moment, but I must tell the House that we see no sign at present that that is likely. None the less, we must hope that he sees sense. We must hope that he does not force the allies to fight. But let him be under no misapprehension at all: if necessary, we will commit our forces to fight. From tomorrow, we are ready, with our allies, to do whatever is necessary to implement the resolutions of the United Nations in full to ensure that Iraqi forces leave Kuwait without condition, without delay and without reward.

Over the months, we have worked for peace and we have hoped for peace; but we are prepared for war, and the choice must be Saddam Hussein's.

4.16 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

From the outset of this crisis, caused by the aggresson of Iraq against Kuwait, it has been clear that, in the interests of the whole world community, the will of the United Nations must prevail and Iraq must quit Kuwait completely and unconditionally. It is also clear that great devastation would result from a war. It would therefore be best, if at all possible, for the purposes of the United Nations to be achieved without further use of force, with sanctions and the blockade being given the maximum time to have effect.

It is plainly the case, too, that if it should become certain that the objectives of the United Nations can be achieved only by the use of armed force against Iraq, as authorised by Security Council resolution 678, such force would then have to be used.

As a result of United Nations decisions, the strictest economic sanctions in history and the most complete blockade ever have been enforced. Iraq can buy nothing; Iraq can sell nothing. The Iraqi economy is being severely impoverished, most of Iraqi industry is almost at a standstill and there are, according to the CIA, severe shortages of what it calls "critical commodities", particularly meat and other important foodstuffs. Faced by that and by the huge military forces deployed against him, Saddam Hussein cannot now fail to understand the seriousness of the world's intentions.

As his record shows, Saddam Hussein is, of course, not a man to be impressed or concerned about the scale of the suffering and the sacrifices endured by the Iraqi people. But he must be aware of the fact that, if he does not comply with the decisions of the United Nations, he risks the fate that he has so often inflicted on those whom he rules.

In the months since he invaded Kuwait, Saddam Hussein has offered excuses for his action and has put forward conditions for his withdrawal: none is valid. He has claimed that economic grievances were the cause of his aggression, but he must know now that they can be addressed only if he quits Kuwait. Even if there had been legitimacy in his assertions that Iraq had claims to Kuwait oil, that would not have justified invasion and it would most certainly not have excused the barbarism against innocent Kuwaitis and people of other countries in that land.

Saddam Hussein has claimed that if he completely withdrew he would still be attacked, but those claims have long been met with firm and solemn undertakings—the latest from the Prime Minister this afternoon—that such action will not be taken if he gets out of Kuwait.

Saddam has claimed that he wants to link withdrawal to the plight of the Palestinian people. That claim is, to say the least, cynical. His brutality against his own people, against the Kurdish people and, since 2 August, against the Kuwaiti people deny him any humanitarian credentials. The concern that he has professed for the Palestinians since August is rather too recent to be very convincing. Whatever his other illusions, he cannot believe that there is any realistic possibility of convening an international conference on the middle east and United Nations resolution 681 until the implementation of United Nations resolution 660.

Plainly, there can be no beginning for a conference while there is continuing occupation. Saddam Hussein's presence in Kuwait, far from being the means of propelling the international community into tackling Arab-Israeli conflict and the misery of the Palestinians, is preventing it. By maintaining his aggression, Saddam Hussein is not fostering international action for the Palestinians; he is blocking it.

In such circumstances, trading the immediate convening of a conference for a promise to consider withdrawal would not be the course to peace and stability; it would lead in the opposite direction. If that were to occur, Saddam Hussein would retain his current power in Iraq. He would keep intact his conventional, biological and chemical weapons. He would go on developing nuclear arms capacity. He would be a ready provider of arms to terrorists and oppressors anywhere in the world. He would have the status of a hero among parts of the population in the middle east and elsewhere. He would therefore pose a perpetual threat to the security of the region and, indeed, of the wider world.

To make concessions to Saddam Hussein before withdrawal would leave him with great strength. It would not mean war prevented; it would mean no more than war postponed, and postponed only to a time when the potential for mass destruction is even greater than it is now.

These factors mean that there continues to be no justification for conceding anything that would erode the basic United Nations requirements; nor is there any reason to relax the view, which I put on a previous occasion to the House, that even if ultimately Saddam Hussein retains his "position in his country", he cannot be allowed to retain his power to jeopardise the region."—[Official Report, 6 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 750.] If Saddam Hussein were to accept that he should retain his power to jeopardise the region, it would light the fuse for God knows what in the future. That is what we must recognise. All of us in this place and throughout the world who seek peace and stability must recognise that basic point about the nature, regime, record and ambition of Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq. That much is very straightforward.

Tragically, Saddam Hussein is not the only dictator in the world or the only tyrant in the region—far from it. He is certainly a monster whom the countries now ranged against him have helped to grow. All of that is true. All of it is a bitter lesson for the future conduct of policy by democracies, but none of it changes the fact that it is his aggression, his present and potential power and his menace to the region that must now be reversed without reward. All of us could draw up a supportable, desirable agenda for addressing the atrocities committed by dictators all over this planet. But we know very well that what we have to do now is to address the one posing the most direct threat to the stability of a region and the peace of the world.

There can, of course, he a sequence of events that relates United Nations resolution 681 and the establishment of an international conference to resolution 660 and the withdrawal from Kuwait. But that sequence must begin with the unconditional ending of occupation as specifically required by the United Nations, supported by this country and, at its conference and at all other times, by the party that I lead. That is vital because of the critically important need to get Iraq out of Kuwait. But it is also vital because the authority of the United Nations to be the major instrument for international security in the future is now directly at stake. If, for any reason, the writ of the United Nations does not run in the Gull, the organisation will, at best, be condemned to return to the role to which it was confined by the rigidities of the years of the cold war. The United Nations will then never achieve its full purpose and full status as a means of arresting and deterring the violence that is the cause of so much of the world's misery and so much of the world's poverty.

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the argument for those of us who are opposed to the use of force is not whether the writ of the United Nations should run in the Gulf, but how it should run, and whether there is a way to implement international law and sanctions that will avoid a massive carnage at the end of the 20th century?

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am making the case—and will develop it—for doing everything possible to secure the objectives of the United Nations without the use of force, if that is possible. However, I must say to the hon. Gentleman that if his view is that there are no circumstances—at any time or anywhere—in which force can be used, I should respect his views as those of a pacifist and I should fight to defend his right to hold that opinion. However, the fact remains that, as the instance of the crisis is the most ruthless aggression, as occupation is maintained by aggression, as a threat continues and as it could be forestalled only by the deployment of force, we are not warmongering when we say that the writ of the United Nations should run against Saddam Hussein and his aggression.

If the writ did not run, aggressors—large and small—would be able to act with even greater impunity. Our best chance in this generation for building global security would have been abandoned. If that were to be the outcome of the first post-cold war test of the United Nations, those here and elsewhere who, like the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas)—who is entirely sincere and supportable in his view—desire peace in the Gulf and peace in the world would get less of it.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this party at least has been wholly consistent in its support of the United Nations? We supported the United Nations in 1956 against aggression committed by a Tory Government. We are now supporting the United Nations and international law against a terrorist dictatorship which has committed blatant and criminal aggression in Kuwait.

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out the historic and current truth that our support for the United Nations has been consistent. It is a matter of some pride to me that, thanks to the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), commitment to the United Nations appears in the constitution of the party that I lead. I am glad of that. I also consider—[Interruption.] It was a notable contribution by my right hon. Friend, and people throughout the party recognise that.

There is now a great opportunity and I hope that everyone who has ever sought the asset of the United Nations to try to resolve the tensions and difficulties of the world will take note of it. It could be the case—and I place it no more highly than that—that if, especially by peaceful means, the United Nations can secure the objectives of its resolution 660 in the Gulf, we shall not have to preface our description of and concern about the woes of the world with the phrase, "If only the United Nations had some power". There is the possibility of at least the foundations —if not the full edifice—of power and authority for the United Nations being built now. In the Chamber today, and in the vote tonight, hon. Members should recognise that part of the reason for their vote must be the endorsement of the legitimacy of United Nations resolutions 660 to 678.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

There is confusion about the decision to vote tonight. Technically, the House is debating a motion that the House should adjourn. To make matters clear to those inside and outside the House who are watching and listening to this debate, this whole issue—the most important that the House has debated since 1939—should have been debated on a substantive motion. There is no point in my right hon. Friend lecturing us on how we should vote or what the effect of our vote will be if those on the Front Benches have connived in the adoption of the present procedural position.

Mr. Kinnock

I would not dream of lecturing my hon. Friend, who is a dear friend, but I can offer him some friendly instruction. There was no question of connivance or contrivance of any description whatever between those on the Front Benches on the motion. Moreover, although it would be desirable, helpful and useful to have a substantive motion to discuss, I do not think that there is any conscious citizen in the United Kingdom, watching our proceedings and concerned about the prospects in the Gulf, who does not understand what the issues at stake really are and how hon. Members will act in the debate and vote. To think otherwise would be to misunderstand the level of comprehension of the people of our country.

A subject that exercises many hon. Members' minds is the prolonged agonised condition of the middle east. There is a great need to control and remove weapons of mass destruction throughout the middle east—in every country. There is a great need to end the misery of the Palestinians —the injustice that they suffer—and the insecurity of the Israelis. There is a great need to promote economic development and uproot the poverty that fosters extremism and fundamentalism. There is a great need, in short, for a middle east security strategy to address all these issues. But without a United Nations which has the necessary influence and power, such an enterprise—which I know is sought by the Foreign Secretary and many others, right across the Labour party and elsewhere—will never be undertaken, let alone achieved. That is why the full authority of the United Nations must now be upheld and that must be done by supporting the resolutions on the Gulf crisis—from 660 through to 678.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Kinnock

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me, but I have already given way and I am conscious of the time.

There is no serious person who would not greatly prefer the objectives of the United Nations, set out in resolution 660 and restated in subsequent resolutions, to be attained by sanctions rather than by armed conflict. That is plain common sense, especially when the costs of warfare are so huge. There can be no one who does not realise that war would be massively destructive in the region and that unknown numbers of innocents and combatants would be killed and terribly injured. There can be no one who does not recognise that the consequences of the impact of a Gulf war on the world economy may be severe for many countries and ruinous for many of the poorest.

Those are not the only potential costs of warfare. In our debate on 6 September 1990, several right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House raised important political questions relating to the reaction which could come from many Arab people, depending on the way in which we deal with the crisis. Those considerations still stand. Indeed, they have been sharpened by subsequent events. We have the grim assessment of the former ambassador to Iraq, Sir John Moberley, speaking in the BBC "On the Record" programme on Sunday. He said that war in the Gulf is unlikely to have a clear-cut ending. It will leave a messy and unpredictable political situation. Secondly, there will be an increase in extremism and terrorism in the area, arising from resentment, particularly if there's no progress on Palestine. Thirdly, the long-term security arrangements in the region may cause problems, particularly if the United States is seen to be taking the lead. It would be much better to come under the auspices of the Security Council. And, finally, there's a problem if Iraq begins to disintegrate with the possibility of the Iranians wanting to establish a Shi'ite regime in the south. That is a bleak analysis, made all the more sombre by its realism. It is a considerable argument for using the cumulative pressures of sanctions and the blockade until it can be shown that those pressures cannot and will not secure the objective of getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

A war in the Gulf may ultimately have to be fought. In that case, military victory will be won by the forces against Iraq. But here and now we must consider in this House not just what happens in the approach to war but what happens after such a war. What Sir John Moberley called the messy and unpredictable political situation that will result from the crisis must, together with the potential scale of destruction and probable economic turmoil, be taken into full account. They are essential elements in reaching a judgment about ending reliance on blockade and sanctions and the timing and use of force. No one in the House should neglect those considerations.

Giving proper attention to those factors does not mean that we can or should be diverted from the purpose of achieving the objectives of the United Nations and securing the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. It means that, in the course of pursuing such a purpose, we must address the inseparable need to achieve durable peace and order in the region. In doing that, I do not argue for relying on sanctions alone or for relying on sanctions indefinitely. I have never done that. From the outset of the crisis, it has been obvious that, in the nature of Saddam Hussein's record, regime and actions, sanctions alone could never be enough to prevent his further aggression, either in August or at some subsequent time. Neither would they be enough by themselves to show that the world would settle for nothing less than his departure from Kuwait. That is why it was right for the substantial multinational force speedily to be deployed in the Gulf region. It was right for the United Nations to give navies —as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) continually sought—the power to maintain the blockade with force if necessary. It was right for the United Nations in resolution 678 to authorise the use of "all necessary means" to uphold and implement the decisions of the Security Council.

As the military commitment patently has to be made, no one in the United Nations and no one who supports the United Nations could at any point justifiably say to Saddam Hussein or imply to him, "We shall go this far but never, in any circumstances, go any further." If that was ever done, it would completely contradict the very effect which the combined weight of sanctions, isolation and military readiness is intended to produce. We continue to urge the use of that combination. We do so in the hope that it can still achieve compliance with the United Nations resolutions and in the belief that the purposes of longer-term peace and stability in the region could best be served in that way.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House and the nation how long he would wait and how many Kuwaitis would have to suffer and die before he would act?

Mr. Kinnock

I shall come to that specific point shortly, but in the meantime I will say this. The argument of concern and support for the Kuwaiti people is a good argument. However, it has to be said that when faced with the alternatives of non-violent means or war to secure the clearance of Kuwait by Iraq, the balance must come down in favour of avoiding war if possible and against concern for the Kuwaiti people. The reason for that is straightforward. I know that the hon. Gentleman speaks with sincere concern and he will be aware that, given the size of the settled areas and of Kuwait City, in any conflict the nature of the bombardment that will take place aerially and from elsewhere means that those areas will be utterly devastated with incalculable casualties.

Part of the reason for making the argument for the longest possible use of sanctions in no sense represents a concession to Saddam, acquiesence or appeasement; it is to do with trying to ensure that the kill rate is as low as possible and kept as low as possible. God forbid that any one extra person should be lost if it is at all possible to prevent that.

The force of the combined pressure should be continually deployed, but we must recognise the reality, which I am sure hon. Members on both sides do readily. There is no doubt that there are substantial stresses and problems in maintaining the current scale of allied forces at high readiness over a long period in an extremely difficult climate in the desert. However, it is clear that, if there is any possibility of achieving Iraqi withdrawal without war, such problems will be of a different order from those arising from the results of war. That is true not only in terms of human sacrifice and suffering, but in terms of harm to the world economy and the consequential political instability. That is why 15 January should not be regarded as the date of ultimatum. It is the reason why the climate in the Arabian desert and the proximity of Ramadan, although very important, should not be allowed to be the sole factors determining the course of events. It is the reason why all efforts short of war should be exploited for as long as possible before force is used. [HON. MEMBERS: "How long?"] As I said earlier, until it can be shown beyond doubt that the only means of securing the objectives of the United Nations is by resort to force.

The information required to make that judgment is by definition denied generally, but what we have known from the outset is that the original prognostications about the effects of sanctions and much subsequent evidence prove that there is a tight noose around the neck of Saddam Hussein. For every possible reason—economic, social, humane and military—there must be a substantial argument, especially when the conditions after war are taken into account, for trying to maintain our position for as long as possible without resorting to force. That is the case I am making. I am not saying that force should be prohibited or the case for it dismissed; it should be the last resort and not the eager resort sought by some Conservative Members, although not by the Prime Minister.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kinnock

I shall not give way, as I have already done so several times and I do not want to stretch the patience of the House.

There is speculation that the continuation of reliance on sanctions would, in the near future, produce some weakening of international support for action against Saddam Hussein. In reality, however, there is no available evidence to sustain that view. On the contrary, among those nations that have committed forces, what we might call the western countries have every reason to sustain their stance. The Arab countries have every possible interest in pursuing to success the strategy of getting Saddam out of Kuwait since they are most directly subject to the menace posed by his regime with its present conquest and regional power. In the wider world community, nations large and small need the United Nations to prevail. All have cause to ensure that Iraq does not control a substantial share of world oil reserves in that country and in Kuwait. Those factors support the case for further intense pressures to be exerted for as long as possible.

If, in the wake of the weary and fruitless mission of Perez de Cuellar—I join the Prime Minister in regretting the fact that his mission was not more productive—there is still some surviving chance that the aggression of Saddam Hussein can be reversed without reward and without war, that chance must be pursued to its fullest possibility. That is why it is right for the French and other Governments to continue diplomatic efforts even if the deadline is passed. Certainly they should not be inhibited even as we examine the details of what is proposed.

So much is at risk in war, most of all, as you know very well yourself, Mr. Speaker, for those who fight in that war. Therefore, those who make the commitment to warfare need to be sure that there is no other possible way. They must be sure beyond doubt that war in the immediate future is the only way in which to achieve Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and sure that it is the essential way in which to maintain the alliance. Above all, they must be sure that that is the best way in which to ensure future stability in the region.

The United Nations has decided that Saddam Hussein's aggression must end in complete, unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait.

Mr. Ron Brown

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Kinnock

No. I have already made that plain.

The United Nations has decided that Saddam Hussein's aggression must end in the restoration of international peace and security in the area. I and, as a matter of policy, my party support the decision of the United Nations. Although we and the Government may differ about the best means to implement those decisions, the support of the Labour party for our forces, if they are engaged, is natural, clear and total.

In the variety of discussions that have taken place some say that I should, as they put it, "distance" myself from the Government. I will not distance myself from our basic and complete commitment to fulfilling resolution 660. I will not distance myself from the United Nations and from our forces when they face danger. I will not distance myself from the reality. In government we would simply not have the privilege of dropping a note to all world dictators to say, "Would you please be good enough to act like civilised human beings for the duration of a Labour Government and not invade anybody?" That is reality, a reality which all of us who seek to govern this country in justice must and do recognise.

When I vote tonight I shall vote in the same way and for the same reasons as I have done since our first debate on 7 September. I shall continue to be consistent with the objectives that I set out then and with the adopted policy of the Labour party at its conference. I shall act to ensure that neither Saddam Hussein nor anyone else can represent the subtleties of voting in this House of Commons in this democracy as being in any way a concession to his aggression. I shall vote in support of the United Nations because, for all our sakes, the purposes and authority of the United Nations must prevail.

4.48 pm
Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

As I have been privileged to take part in the two earlier debates in the House, I shall do my utmost to obey your instruction to be brief, Mr. Speaker, so that the large number of hon. Members who have not yet taken part may have an opportunity to do so.

First, I should remind the House of the statement of the Secretary of State for Defence in our debate on 7 September, when he said: We are not there to attack Kuwait or Iraq. We are there to defend Saudi Arabia ‖ That is the present position, and it is absolutely clear."—[Official Report, 7 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 842.] We are now in an entirely different position. There comes a time when Governments and Members of the House should step back a few paces and ask how have we got here, what has led us to this, and what we should do next. The decisions that the Government may have to make in a comparatively short time are some of the most crucial since September 1939.

The second point of which I wish to remind the House is the wording of resolution 660, to which both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have rightly referred. Paragraph 1 condemns the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. On that there is no disagreement. The Leader of the Opposition made an eloquent denunciation of President Saddam Hussein, but all these things were known throughout the eight years in which he was attacking Iran and he was then built up by the United States and by the Soviet Union, and after 1964–65, in a non-armament way, by the British themselves. There is nothing new about this. Therefore, what sometimes makes the rest of the world a little suspicious of such eloquence is the fact that we now have rediscovered the United Nations and apparently have discovered these attitudes and aspects of President Saddam.

The second paragraph of the United Nations resolution demands that Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990". That is constantly said to be United Nations policy.

The third paragraph calls upon Iraq and Kuwait to begin immediately intensive negotiations for the resolution of their differences". It does not say that Iraq must first withdraw from Kuwait and then discussions follow; the two are simultaneous. Obviously he cannot withdraw overnight. There has to be an arrangement, preferably supervised by the United Nations, for his withdrawal from Iraq. The third paragraph continues: and supports all efforts in this regard"— therefore, President Mitterrand can be wholeheartedly supported under the United Nations resolution— and especially those of the League of Arab States". Therefore, everything that is done by the Arab countries to achieve a peaceful solution can be supported.

If the differences which exist, and are well known, between Kuwait and Iraq are to be resolved, the argument that in no circumstances must anything be done which could be pointed to by President Bush or anybody else as being at least face saving or a gain for President Saddam does not enter into it, because United Nations policy is that at the same time the differences between Kuwait and Iraq should be negotiated. That is the point which has been overlooked consistently, or ignored deliberately, by the President of the United States and, I regret to say, by our own Government. It was not mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon. It is of equal importance, and it is to come about at the same time.

The issue at stake is what could become a major war. We have heard some of the appalling consequences from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and from the Leader of the Opposition. The consequences are appalling not only for Kuwait and for Iraq but for the whole of the middle east. The effect on the oil wells could be immensely damaging to large areas around them; the use of chemical and biological weapons could cause immense harm to other parts of the world and could result in complete chaos in the middle east. Because of all this, the United Nations was absolutely right to concentrate on resolving the differences between the two countries as much as on Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait itself.

The last resolution of the United Nations is not mandatory but permissive. The date of 15 January was fixed—I understand, very largely at the inducement of the Soviet Union—in order to prevent the United States from making an earlier attack upon Iraq. On the point made by the Leader of the Opposition about the character of President Saddam Hussein and the possibilities after the affair is settled one way or the other, one can only deal with the President himself if one invades and captures Iraq, and one can only deal with the weapons which he possesses, or any developments towards atomic weapons, if one invades and takes over Iraq—[HON. MEMBERS: "No." ]—unless there is a means of getting a complete security operation instituted in the middle east as a whole. That means that Israel has to be included in the operation and that the lands taken over by Israel must be surrendered in the same way as Kuwait has to be surrendered. That is governed by resolution 242, which has been on record for 23 years, and nothing has happened about it.

Mr. Strang

The whole House respects the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has applied himself to the issue. Earlier he said, rightly, that the so-called phased withdrawal in the French initiative was consistent with the United Nations resolution. Since the Prime Minister sought to argue in his speech that the Mitterrand initiative is inconsistent with the United Nations resolution, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman where the inconsistency is? The Prime Minister did not tell us. Some of us are inclined to the view that the French initiative may be wholly in line with the United Nations resolution.

Mr. Heath

I should like to see on paper exactly what President Mitterrand is suggesting. If he is suggesting that there should be a middle east conference to deal with these problems, I believe that he is entirely within the context of the resolution. President Bush has recently emphasised that he has constantly called for a middle east conference; therefore, I do not understand why he cannot say now that there will be a conference. For those who are always shouting for dates, he could give a date for it, provided the rest of the resolution was carried out.

On the question of dates, I would have been entirely against fixing 15 January as a withdrawal date because of what will happen. War will not be started by the end of 15 January.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Why not?

Mr. Heath

My hon. Friend can ask the Government; certainly it will not be started. President Saddam Hussein can then say, "Look, they said that 15 January was a deadline—and what has happened? Nothing." It gives him that point to argue. Similarly, if a date is fixed for the end of sanctions, that will give him another opportunity later to argue, "As sanctions have not brought me down, it shows that I am winning." That is what we must avoid in international affairs in dealing with such a situation and with someone like President Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

May I put to my right hon. Friend with all respect a possible fallacy in one of the arguments which he has just put to the House, namely, the case for naming a date now for a conference on the middle east after any war? Surely the resolution of such a conference would require the agreement of the state of Israel, and the state of Israel is hardly likely to be conducive to making concessions at any such conference if it is clear that the conference has been called over the duress of trying to prevent a war. Even those who would like to see a conference and a resolution of the middle east problems should pin no faith or hope on calling for a date for such a conference now. For that reason, there can be and must be no linkage.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Heath

Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend and those behind me who are cheering. I am not demanding a date. I said what I did in order to help those who were shouting just now for a date for the end of sanctions. If they want dates for that, they should have dates for other things. I am not asking for a date for the conference on the middle east. If President Mitterrand is going to arrange it, I want to agree that there should be such a conference. As has been said so often in the past, I see no reason why we should say we cannot have it now because it would allow President Saddam Hussein to save face. With President Kennedy's solution to the Cuban missile crisis, as on all such great occasions in history, the objective was to allow President Khrushchev to save face. President Kennedy did that and so avoided a third world war, which was right.

Everybody knew at the time that sanctions could not possibly be effective in four to five months. But all the signs are that they are bound to be effective—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because it is the one case in the modern world in which a country is cut off. It is cut off from revenue and supplies. Those who say that sanctions took 15 years to work with Rhodesia should remember that we knew all the time that South Africa was not going to comply.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

It will take 15 years with Iraq.

Mr. Heath

I shall give my hon. Friend a little map. Iraq is quite differently placed as a country. Unless we put a naval blockade on South Africa, which was impractical for us, we knew that South Africa would go on supplying Rhodesia. What is more, we were constantly under pressure from President Kaunda and those north of Rhodesia to keep open the lines from South Africa through Rhodesia in order to keep those countries going. That was why it took 15 years. The case of Iraq is quite different. All its petrol sales have been cut off. The only case that I have so far seen drawn to public attention—

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)


Mr. Heath

I shall give way in a moment.

The only attempt so far to break sanctions was made by a Russian ship that was apparently keeping President Hussein supplied with Soviet weapons. That in itself points to a danger—a great danger bearing in mind the events in the Baltic states and all the questions opened up about President Gorbachev's future and whether we are now returning to a regime that is much more like the cold war. Where are all our forces and what will Europe do in the event of the re-establishment of the Soviet military? What about the position of Russia with regard to the United States and the rest of Europe? Those issues must also be taken into account because they are desperately serious.

We should continue with sanctions and do all that we can to ensure that they are successful in obtaining the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. Ultimately, the world may come to believe that force is necessary. We must then be fully aware of all the consequences of using force. But until then—[Interruption.] There is no point in asking, when is that exactly?

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North East)

One problem is that, while we prevaricate and wait for sanctions to work, Saddam Hussein may develop a nuclear capability. What will happen to our troops sitting out there on our behalf waiting for sanctions to work?

Mr. Heath

On the first question, it is most unlikely that Saddam Hussein will be able to make any progress on the development of nuclear weapons while the blockade continues.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

Not wholly unlikely.

Mr. Heath

Yes, I accept that it is wholly unlikely that Saddam Hussein can possibly develop his nuclear weapons.

What about our forces in the Gulf? In the words of the American commander, "If it is a question of death or sunbathing in the sun, I would rather go sunbathing in the sun." Our forces are quite capable of coping. What is unforgivable is to say that we must go to war because we are impatient. If we as a country did that—[Interruption.] We did not go to war with Hitler because we were impatient.

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

The same argument was used on 3 September by people in the House.

Mr. Heath

If we were to go to war because we were impatient, our forces could say, "We are being sacrificed because you are too impatient to pursue the alternative course." That is the real challenge facing us. For this period, we should use all our skill to continue to carry out sanctions in an endeavour to bring about a change in President Saddam Hussein's attitude. That is not impossible. He once made a most dramatic change that nobody expected; he welcomed Iran back, gave its people everything they had lost, and was friends with them.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

The right hon. Gentleman has met Saddam Hussein. When he did so, did he ask him to withdraw from Kuwait? If so, what response did he get?

Mr. Heath

This answer should command a large fee. Briefly, I said to him, "The United Nations' resolution states that you must withdraw from Kuwait, and you must do so. If you withdraw from Kuwait, there is nothing left for the British and Americans to do but to go home." [HON. MEMBERS: "What did he say?"] He said, "If I withdraw from Kuwait, what assurance will you give me that, instead of going home, the British and Americans will not go into Kuwait and attack me from there?" Since my visit, the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and President Bush have given an undertaking that that will not happen, but I believe that more is necessary. I believe that the Arab League must put a buffer round to separate Kuwait from the other countries and Iraq. That will be the Arab League's duty.

President Hussein said to me, "You are putting forward hypothetical situations." I said, "Yes, because I want to find out your response to each hypothetical situation." I suggested a number of other such situations to him, emphasising all the time that the United Nations' resolution meant that he should withdraw. Of course, we all know that problems exist between the two countries and have done for a long time. The resolution states that they should be resolved. A peacekeeping force could then be sent in to ensure that the peace remained.

I believe that our duty at present is to persist with sanctions and to do the utmost possible to ensure that they are kept by everyone involved and to see whether there is a sudden change in President Saddam's attitude.

Alternatively, President Saddam may find himself gradually brought to a position where he has no alternative but to withdraw from Kuwait.

5.8 pm

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

When I rose to speak on 6 September following the speech of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members please leave quietly?

Mr. Ashdown

I recall that I bemoaned my fate of always following the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. On that occasion I found myself agreeing with a large proportion of what he said. Today I fear that for reasons which I shall explain I shall have to part company with him on major portions of his speech.

We are dealing with a literally terrifying issue. Democracies go through agony when considering whether or not to embark on war and use force, and it is right and proper that they should go through that agony. Decent people throughout Britain will have come to conclusions different from mine and those of other hon. Members for perfectly proper, right and sincere reasons. Therefore, I echo the Prime Minister's comments at the start of his speech when he said that he hoped that the debate would not be conducted in a partisan spirit, but would address a terrifying, moral and practical problem in a rational manner, understanding the views of different people who had reached different conclusions.

All the conclusions that each of us in our separate ways will have reached will be based on judgments, not truths. It is at the very heart of the democratic process that those judgments should be out in the open and open to question. I should like to explain my position and that of my party and how we rationally approach the answers to four questions.

First, is it possible at this midnight hour to reach peace?

Mr. Ron Brown

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman must forgive me. I intend to make progress and I shall not give way at this point.

Secondly, if we fail to find peace, will it be necessary to use force? Thirdly, if we use force, can we, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup suggested, wait a little longer to ensure that sanctions are tested through? Lastly, if we have to use force, what should be the aims of the war in which we would then be involved, what should be the limitations on it and what should we hope that its outcome will be?

Can we, as we teeter on the last millimetres at the edge of this terrible decision, still reach peace? All hon. Members, whatever their hopes, judgments or wishes, and whatever line they want to pursue—

Mr. Ron Brown

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman must recognise that I am not his right hon. Friend and that I have not the slightest intention of giving way.

We must all recognise that we must be deeply pessimistic about the possibility of achieving peace at this last moment. I know that the Prime Minister agrees that it must be our aim, consistent with the terms of the UN resolution, to search for and to explore any last realistic, constructive approach to peace that remains open to us. That is what I have said that the Prime Minister must do. I think that he has underestimated the French initiative. I agree with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that that initiative does not dilute or undermine the terms of the UN resolution. I believe that it is on all fours with the resolution. However, I welcome the Prime Minister's statement that there will be at least one final appeal from the Security Council.

I hope that the Prime Minister agrees that if today is not a deadline for the start of war, by that definition it also cannot be a deadline for stopping talks. If there are further lines to pursue, they should be pursued, although not as delaying tactics. Only constructive lines must be pursued. In these difficult times we shall of course support our troops on the field if the terrible decision has to be taken, but I must point out that the French initiative requires a timetable for withdrawal, the immediate withdrawal of large numbers of troops and a UN peacekeeping force to monitor and oversee that withdrawal.

There is also the nasty issue of linkage, and I share the Prime Minister's determination that we should not put ourselves in the position in which we reward Saddam Hussein. The French resolution stipulates the calling of a peace conference at an appropriate time, which is already the policy of the United Kingdom Government. It is the declared policy of our Government, and we support it, that there should be a middle east conference to deal with these matters. I must caution the Prime Minister in the gentlest possible terms not to get caught by the following perverse paradox: the moment the first shot is fired or the first bomb is dropped in a war, a middle east peace conference becomes inevitable. Would it not be illogical to go to war on an issue that becomes inevitable the moment we do so? There must be questions about linkage, but we can surely find the wit and the way to portray a conference not as a concession to Saddam Hussein but as a means of resolving the problem of the Palestinians which Hussein's occupation of Kuwait is preventing from happening. In that way Hussein becomes the bulwark to the resolution of the Palestinian problem, not the instrument to which the benighted Palestinians look for a resolution to their problem.

I anticipate that if the French initiative were put to Iraq it would be rejected by Iraq, but if the Prime Minister were seen to be pursuing last steps towards peace without diluting the United Nations resolutions he would take away Saddam Hussein's capacity to play the Palestinian card. I can see no disadvantage in that course of action.

Every right hon. and hon. Member except for a few Labour Members can see clearly that there can be no dilution of the terms of the United Nations resolutions without affecting the authority of the United Nations and undermining the primacy of international law. If, therefore, every last desperate effort at peace having failed, we have to use force, then we must be prepared to use it. It would be a good enough reason to use force to free Kuwait from the misery, oppressions, terror and torture that the Prime Minister described. It might be a good enough reason to consider the use of force to stop the further aggrandisement of Saddam Hussein. Iraq will be armed in two years' time with nuclear weapons which we have no doubt that Saddam Hussein will use once he has them. The use of force for that reason might, therefore, prevent greater conflagrations in future. But these are not the primary reasons for being prepared to use force now. The prime reason was exactly as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition expressed it: if we do not now back international law and take every action necessary to uphold the authority of the United Nations, we shall have a broken-backed United Nations—

Mr. Skinner

Its authority must be upheld everywhere.

Mr. Ashdown

That is true. I have sometimes attempted to ask the hon. Gentleman how he will be able to complain about a Panama or a Grenada in future if on this occasion we do not stand up for Kuwait—

Mr. Cryer

The United Nations resolutions on such countries have not always been complied with in the past.

Mr. Ashdown

That is a departure that we can now make—but only if we back the United Nations on this occasion. I warn hon. Members who oppose my view to beware. If we do not now back the United Nations and international law, we shall have a broken-backed United Nations at the very moment when the world needs a strong one and when we shall have to face—

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)


Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)


Mr. Cryer


Mr. Ashdown

We shall have a broken-backed United Nations at the very moment when international gangsters armed with nuclear weapons confront the world—because we failed to control the proliferation of those weapons. That is the moment when we shall need a counterbalance to a world in which there will be only one super-power—

Mr. Skinner

Why does not the leader of the Liberal party tell the whole story about the United Nations, and about how, when the United States proposed a vote on a resolution to set the date of 15 January, America was so far behind with its subscriptions that it crawled in to pay them before the vote was held—and told Egypt that the United States would bail it out with $3.5 billion?

Mr. Ashdown

Sometimes I despair. Why do the hon. Gentleman and others who take a similar line always seek explanations in the past instead of facing up to the problems that confront us now? However we arrived at this situation, and whatever the ingredients that went into it, the authority of the United Nations is at stake and we must back that authority and support the rule of international law.

Mr. Ron Brown


Mr. Ashdown

I am keen to allow other hon. Members to speak —

Mr. Brown


Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman resume his seat?



Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. Mr. Ashdown has the floor.

Mr. Ashdown

The upshot is that our troops are not in the Gulf to uphold British or western influence. We could be said to have created the monster that is Saddam Hussein, with whom we are now trying to cope, but that does not lead me to the conclusion that the world should pay the price of war because of our past follies in the middle east. Nor are British troops in the field in the middle east to assure our oil supply. Our gluttonous dependence on oil and our failure to learn the lessons of the 1970s does not lead me to believe that we should risk a war on that basis alone. Our troops are there as the instruments of international will, the upholders of international law and the preservers of the authority of the United Nations.

Mr. Franks

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, several hon. Members have sought to intervene and I should like to make some progress.

I therefore come to whether, if we have to contemplate the use of force, we can give sanctions more time. I wish that I could tell the House that the answer to that question in my view is yes. When I spoke on 6 September I said that I hoped that sanctions would be given sufficient time. I said that they needed sufficient time to be judged, but we must judge the present situation according to what is happening, not what our hopes were.

The question is best answered by seeking to obtain answers to two questions. First, would the prolongation of sanctions have an effect on the Iraqi people? The answer would no doubt be that in due course it might. It probably would, but that is not the key question. The question to be answered is not whether it would have an effect on the Iraqi people but whether it would have any effect on the will of Saddam Hussein. Although I wish that sanctions had worked, and I longed for them to work, I do not believe that one can make a judgment which leads one to answer yes to that question without suspending rational judgment in favour of pious hope, and I do not believe that we should be considering this matter on the basis of pious hopes.

What would happen if we were to prolong sanctions, having exhausted every last avenue for peace? In the meantime, Saddam Hussein would strengthen immensely his defences in Kuwait. There are those who argue that his military capacity would be diminished, but that is counterbalanced by far by the preparations that he would be able to make to resist any retaking of Kuwait in the name of the United Nations—by far. In so doing we would raise the cost that has to be paid in the lives of our troops in achieving success.

In the intervening months, Saddam Hussein would be able massively to increase—quantitatively and perhaps also qualitatively—his access to and capacity for delivering weapons of mass destruction. Again, the price that we would have to pay for success if we wanted to use force then would be higher in the lives of our troops.

In the intervening time, although the Leader of the Opposition seems to wish to ignore it, there would be some risk to the cohesion of the international coalition. It may well be that if we waited until September—incidentally, that worry comes not from the western powers but from the Arab powers who have serious problems with the maintenance of the stand of the international coalition —or October or November, the option of force would not be open to us.

The hard and difficult judgment that we must now make is this. A prolongation of sanctions is unlikely to be successful in changing the will of Saddam Hussein. If it were to happen, however, it would be almost certain to raise the cost that must be paid for success in terms of the lives of our troops and may even increase the chances of failure and, with that, the failure of the authority of the United Nations.

Gloomily, I have to reach this conclusion. If at the end of the day, all avenues to peace having been exhausted, we have to grasp this terrible nettle, it would be better that we grasped it when we had to rather than to delay and pay a higher price later.

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 action 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. That means that the Prime Minister should confirm—perhaps the Foreign Secretary will do so when he replies—that the aims of our operation as an instrument of the will of international law do not extend further than the terms of the UN resolutions, that they are consistent with those and do not go further.

Secondly, I greatly welcome the Prime Minister's statement on the use of nuclear and chemical weapons in response. We do not need to use them. We have sufficient conventional forces to deter effectively or to respond effectively without their use. But the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary must realise that the Liberal Democratic party could not countenance and would not support the use of nuclear or chemical weapons.

Mr. Cryer

Nor does the United Nations.

Mr. Ashdown

Nor, indeed, as the hon. Gentleman says, does the United Nations.

Therefore, the constraints that we use must be proportional to the task. The aim has to be consistent with the UN resolutions—the freedom of Kuwait, not the acquisition of Iraqi territory. We all recognise that action within Iraq against its air force and chemical capacity may be part of the operation in Kuwait, but it should not include the acquisition of Iraqi territory.

If we are in the Gulf now as the instrument of international will, supporting the authority of the United Nations, the United Nations has a part to play in that operation. It is obvious that the conduct of the war must lie with those nations which have troops at risk in the field. The United Nations should now be responsible for the construction of any peace which follows. That peace cannot be on the basis of a Versailles conference where those with forces in the field carve up the territory which may or may not have resulted. It must be a peace vested in the United Nations, constructed in the United Nations and based on a broad middle east peace conference, arranged for and carried through under United Nations auspices.

The House today debates a literally terrifying decision. We in the Liberal Democratic party hope that the Government will pursue every last realistic avenue for peace. But if, as regrettably seems likely, peace fails, we believe that action must be taken to uphold international law. In voting with the Government today, we are not only giving that support to which our troops in the field are entitled; we are also expressing our view that it is only by upholding international law and backing the authority of the United Nations that the long-term peace of the world can be assured.

5.27 pm
Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

After the very fine speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and many of the points, but not all, so excellently and eloquently made by the Leader of the Opposition, and the forceful and fine speech made by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), I wish to add only a few points and to detain the House for a minimum of time in doing so.

First, as the hours tick away and the enabling hour for United Nations approval of the use of force approaches, we should have the most profound respect for those who recoil from the very idea of extended force and war, particularly those who have themselves been involved in the great wars of the past and who understand better than some of us the sheer terror, hell, cruelty and indiscrimination of the war process as it continues.

But to those people, whose instincts one completely respects, we have to say that, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reminded the House, we already have war in the Gulf. That war began in the early hours of 2 August when the tanks of Iraq rumbled into Kuwait and when people began to die, and have continued to die ever since. There has been a war, and the issue before us now, which has gradually unfolded with terrifying clarity, is how we check Saddam Hussein, this warmonger, with his intention of evil aggression clearly announced, from expanding that aggression and from strengthening his weapons to control it further; how we check that evil so that a greater evil does not result. When people say that war is evil, we can only agree—but sometimes the smaller evil must be faced to halt the larger evil. That point is at the centre of the immensely difficult decision that must be made.

If Saddam Hussein will not move towards peace, even in these last hours, and if he is not checked, he will continue to use the force that he has shown, and is showing hour by hour—in the form of terror, street executions, man hunts and other atrocities. That is surely an easy lesson for those of us in Britain to understand. Without drawing too much on historical analogies, which can be overworked, it must be embedded in our folk memory that if such people are not checked at an early stage, there is always a much higher price to pay later in bloodshed, misery and terror. That is something which many people in Britain who do not understand the higher complexities and the interweaving of the finer arguments can understand. It is an argument which can easily be grasped by people who remember, or whose parents remember, the hostilities of the past.

Are sanctions failing, or could we somehow maintain them and eventually see Iraq's war effort wither and Saddam Hussein withdraw from Kuwait? There is little evidence of that. Instead, one sees every sign that the effects of the sanctions have long since peaked, and that, like the old fishing net, gaps are developing even in the oil trading system—for there is evidence that trading with Iraq in oil is still taking place on a small scale. Certainly the sinister trade in the international arms market continues. In a thousand other ways, Iraq is at the centre—as it has been throughout history—of a gigantic trading network which cannot indefinitely be bottled up, and which shows every sign of redeveloping.

Of course, sanctions have proved uncomfortable for Iraq, and they will continue to do so—but they will not do the trick. They will not lift Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. They will not even create the starvation among the mass of the Iraqi people that would compel Saddam Hussein to think again, for the very good reasons that living standards in Iraq are appallingly low anyway, and that the potential for expanding its food production is considerable and is now being exploited. Although one prayed that sanctions would do the job, there is no evidence that they will achieve their purpose—certainly not in a foreseeable time frame, and perhaps not for years ahead.

Even if one could foresee the day, a year or two ahead, when Saddam Hussein declares, "We have had enough of being the pariah of the world", where would we be? By then, Iraq would have developed a nuclear capacity. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) suggested that the Iraqis do not have such a capacity now, though other reports imply that they are capable of manufacturing a rather crude nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, it would probably be bigger than anything dropped on Hiroshima, even if too big to carry under the wing of an aircraft. The Iraqis already have the mechanism for creating some kind of nuclear detonation—and that would certainly still be the case in two years' time, sanctions or no sanctions.

As much as one yearns to go with those who argue that we should wait for sanctions to work, the truth is that the clock is ticking the other way, and the longer that Saddam Hussein is allowed to get away with his actions, the deeper he will dig into Kuwait, and the more likely it is that he will successfully defy the collective security of the world.

Collective security is the light which failed at the League of Nations. It was the light which many in the Labour party, and in many other parties also, tried to reignite, and which they believed passionately would somehow secure peace. Again and again it was discredited. Speeches were made, rhetoric was tried, and sanctions were implemented —but they all failed in the inter-war years. After years of the United Nations being a feeble, divided force because of third world arguments, non-alignment, the hostility of the communists against the capitalists and the lining up against anything that the Americans supported, we now begin to see it emerging as an effective force, bringing together all the great nations, and the smaller ones, of the planet. It is uniting the Americans, Europeans, Asians, Chinese—and even the Soviet Union in its travail, as it disintegrates. They and many other countries are working together, having recognised the need to display collective security in such a way that their representations are seen as something more than a tap on the wrist or a rap across the knuckles.

In that situation, one must surely have the support of all political parties and their leaders—as we have in this instance—in emphasising the need for collective security particularly at this time, at the start of the post-cold war period and the beginning of a new era, when there really is a chance, for the first time almost in living memory, for collective security to be effectively organised. That is not to say that such an arrangement can bring peace to the middle east. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) rightly said the other day, the middle east is inherently unstable and always will be. Nevertheless, we ought to be able to create some envelope framework or order by which the instability of that boiling stew can be contained and not spill out to create more hideous tragedies and global instability.

I acknowledge the point made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the tone of the French initiative goes beyond the substance of the United Nations resolutions. However, we should not be too harsh on the French. Their president is himself under some political pressure, and he is in a delicate situation in having to commit French troops to fighting. President Mitterrand must demonstrate that he is reaching his decision independently—in a French way that may sometimes madden us, but it is a trait that the world recognises. I may not agree entirely with the French, but I understand why they feel that they must go the final mile, or kilometre, in proving beyond doubt to the French people that there is no further room for diplomacy.

Ms. Gordon

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the thoroughgoing, two-and-a-half-day debate in the American Congress, during which members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate reflected the unease felt by a large number of the American people that sanctions have not been properly tried. Iraq has only one major export—its oil—and needs to import about two thirds of its food requirements. Even Iraqi dinar are printed in this country. If we turn our minds to devising constructive ways of putting pressure on Iraq—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady is meant to be making an intervention, not a speech. I ask her to make her point.

Ms. Gordon

If we can devise better ways of applying pressure rather than entering into a dreadful bloodbath, we shall save bloodshed, the break-up of families and everything else that war brings—and I have lived through a war, and know what one is like.

Mr. Howell

No one doubts that sanctions are having an impact and are proving irritating, frustrating and difficult for Iraq. Nevertheless, they are not doing the trick. The international oil market is fairly indiscriminate and even now it is being fed by Iraqi oil. Not every sanction is working in the way that it should or in the way that we hoped that it would. The effectiveness of sanctions eventually wears out and I fear that the system is not on our side.

I repeat that we should not be too harsh on the French. As to their proposals for a middle east conference and linkage, I recoil from the linkage concept as it somehow implies that the Iraqis' attack on Kuwait is of the same order as the Israelis' occupation of the west bank. Although there may be injustices in both, they did not arise under the same conditions and they should not be compared.

Mr. Heath

Given that both pipelines from Iraq have been cut, there is a blockade of all shipping, and no roads are available to the Iraqis, can my right hon. Friend explain how Iraq is still able to export its oil? Should not my right hon. Friend inform the authorities?

Mr. Howell

Certainly. I am doing so now and I have done so already. Road facilities for moving oil still exist. I must inform my right hon. Friend—I shall discuss this with him later if he wishes—that people in the oil market tell us that Iraqi oil is somehow seeping into the system. Because of the sanctions arrangements, it should not, but links exist. I do not know whether it goes through neighbouring countries or on ships of other nationalities, but there is evidence that some revenue from oil is passing to Iraq.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howell

No, I must move on as it is only fair to other hon. Members.

I recoil from the question of linkage and there is too much of it in the French proposal. In due course there will be some sort of conference to address the need for security arrangements in the Gulf and the Arab-Israeli issue with more vigour. That will have to come, but there is no question of its coming to order, in response to some agreement made with Saddam Hussein. That conference will begin to make sense only if it is well prepared and if Israel is in a different mood from the mood that it was in when it was considering its security in April and nearly met the PLO in Cairo, but backed out at the last minute.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howell

No, I shall press on.

I do not think that the fact that the French have raised linkage at this last moment should count too much against them. It is worth trying anything to get the message through. However, the truth of the matter is that Saddam Hussein probably does not need a message. Perhaps he needs an excuse or a peg, but that opportunity has been open to him all along. It has been open since 2 August and it is still open now. He could withdraw from Kuwait and bring about peace from the moment that he did so and from the moment that he complied with the resolutions.

One understands all the eloquence which has been directed against war, but it should be addressed to that man in his cocoon, with his inner voices and his Messianic stance, who seems determined, and probably was determined from the start, to provoke a war and to bring the most fearful retribution upon himself, his country and his people. That is what he is going to do unless, in the next few hours, he takes a step to avoid it. We should sombrely and grimly face that fact if the further safety of nations both large and small is to be assured.

5.42 pm
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

I wish to confine my remarks to the question of sanctions, especially in the light of what the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said at the end of his speech, when he stressed that sanctions need to be kept at the centre of our debate. I believe that that is absolutely right. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) put that issue in its proper context. One of the main purposes of our debate should be to get answers from the Government, which we have certainly not had yet. What is the Government's verdict? When did they make the decision? How does that tie up with the deadline? I do not believe that the Government or their allies have fully examined the effects and the possibilities of sanctions. In the face of such peril for the world, it is outrageous that the Government have not given us a much fuller account of that aspect of the matter. I hope that they will reply to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and to the remarks that he made at the end of his speech.

Since our previous debate on this subject the options have closed. Since that time almost all the talk outside the House, and some of it on this side of the House, has been to the effect that the military option is the only one left. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has written about the reality of the military option, if we are forced to it. The House should face that reality and should realise that we are facing more terrifying consequences than those of any brief military action—which is the likely outcome that has been described.

For those reasons, and because the military option has always been viewed in that fashion, it was necessary to explore sanctions diligently, persistently and with a determination to carry them through to the end. I do not believe that our Government or any other Government can claim that they have carried out that obligation. The earlier votes at the United Nations would not have been secured, in my view, if provision had not been made for sanctions as the first major step to try to secure a settlement of the dispute.

Some of the accounts today have been extraordinary. We heard the spokesman for the Liberal party saying that if we continued sanctions—perhaps for another five months until the autumn, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East suggested—Saddam Hussein would have a better chance of improving his economic and military situation than the forces assembled against him would have. That seems an astonishing proposition to me. How could it be that the great powers, with considerable armies, the means of supporting them and all those resources, could be gravely weakened if another five or six months were allowed to pass and that Saddam Hussein would be able to strengthen his position? I do not believe that that is a sensible proposition. Indeed, I should have thought that the balance would have been the other way around. In any case, surely a choice between peace and war should not be based on such an absurd suggestion.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

To be fair to my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), he was talking specifically about chemical weapons and the fact that Saddam Hussein is pretty near to creating some sort of nuclear device.

Mr. Foot

The hon. Gentleman may not have had the advantage of doing so, but I heard the right hon. Member's speech and he was talking about the whole issue. I do not believe that there is much difference between any hon. Members who consider what may be the consequences of a terrible war, if they do it faithfully and honestly, but some people have a rather subdued idea of the consequences which could soon spread from such a war.

For example, if there is a war the Palestinians will be in the worst position. Let us suppose that they joined in the war and rebelled—no doubt they would claim that they were doing it in support of their cause. The ensuing suppression would be horrific because the Israeli Government would feel that their existence was at stake. We should take into account the fate that the Palestinians might have to face, although it does not seem to worry Saddam very much. I believe that the leader of some of the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat, made a grave error by taking the view of the war that he has taken, but that does not alter the fact that we have responsibilities towards the Palestinians and what might happen to them. There are other places in the middle east—although none where the situation is quite so delicate as in Palestine—where this explosion could cause such huge injustices and horrors. We should think not twice, but four, five or more times to try to find a different way out.

Every speaker today and in previous debates has said that there may come a point when there is no other possibility of getting Hussein out of Kuwait than the use of force. However, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and I believe that that point has not yet been reached and the world does not believe that that point has been reached.

Great peace demonstrations have taken place throughout Europe—here in London, in Paris and in Germany, for instance. The demonstrators do not support what Saddam has done in Kuwait, and, although some were pacifists—to whom all honour should be given for having expressed their views—many were simply saying that the sanctions alternative was a much more civilised, intelligent way of trying to settle the dispute, and one that had not yet been sufficiently explored and implemented. If the Government turned their back on such a volume of opinion, they would do a disservice not only to the cause but to our service men, and to all those who must bear the heaviest burdens.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East has taken every opportunity to make that case to the House very strongly and I hope that he will have a chance to underline it this evening. Anyone who reads what he has said about both the scale of possible events in the middle east and the possibility of effective sanctions will recognise that we cannot simply accept the authority of the Government's statement that enough has already been said on the subject.

I was astonished at the insolence of this morning's Times leader about sanctions. That newspaper should be especially careful about expressing views on appeasement, how to deal with dictators and other such abstruse questions. According to the The Times, Yet congressmen and senators could still find reason for backing off"— from resorting to war, that is— not least the notorious appeaser's remedy of 'giving sanctions longer to work.' One would have thought that the hand of a Times leader writer would wither before he dared to write such words.

When sanctions were applied against Italy before the last war and someone suggested that they should be given a little longer to work, it was a previous Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, who said that that was midsummer madness. But, if we had made sanctions work properly then, we might have been able to stop Fascism in Spain, Austria and elsewhere. We could have stopped the second world war by taking effective collective action, starting with economic sanctions and taking further action if they did not succeed. The Conservative Government of the day, however, called off the sanctions before they had had a chance to injure Mussolini at all. In fact, I believe that we supplied Mussolini with even more arms than we have given Saddam Hussein.

I hope that the House will pay proper attention to the alternatives, not merely this evening but in future debates. None of us ever accepted the deadline as the time when it was permissible to go to war. Although Saddam Hussein has shown his intransigence at every opportunity, which has helped to close some of the options, the decision of Her Majesty's Government appears to have closed others. I believe that today's debate can force the Government to reconsider all those questions.

I trust—as, I think, do most other hon. Members who have spoken—that a fresh discussion will be held in the United Nations Security Council to discuss President Mitterrand's latest proposals. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) was very patronising about the French President, but he knows a little about such matters. Is it not possible that his primary wish is to secure a peace —on the basis of collective security, which he, like many Opposition Members, has supported for many years? There will be no desertion of that principle, but we believe that it can best be applied by means of sanctions, at least in the first instance. The time has not yet come to abandon that option and resort to methods that would have incalculable consequences for the middle east and, indeed, the world as a whole.

That would not weaken the United Nations; it would strengthen it. If the world goes to war on the basis of the propositions now being advanced, the chances of maintaining the coalition will be seriously damaged, for a variety of reasons that I—among others—have already mentioned, especially the Palestinian question. I do not want that to happen; I want the coalition to remain strong.

If the Government have the determination to go ahead with a more intelligent policy than war, I believe that we can hold that coalition together for longer and make it more effective still. The House should use this opportunity to give the Government new instructions.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Before I call the next speaker, I must remind the House that from 6 pm speeches will be limited to 10 minutes.

5.56 pm
Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East)

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) has spoken with his customary eloquence and passion, even when propounding arguments with which many of us profoundly disagree and when attempting, in a charmingly deceptive way, to rewrite history. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow his speech. I wish to be brief, and I do not want to talk about the principles involved in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today; I want to discuss some of the practical consequences, which I hope will prove helpful.

I had the good fortune to visit the Gulf last month with most of the members of the Select Committee on Defence, together with the Opposition defence spokesmen—the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell)—and four distinguished Members of the other place. It was a very successful, interesting and stimulating visit. Having seen troops from all three services—the Royal Air Force in Bahrain, the Navy on HMS London and 7 Armoured Brigade in the desert—we were supremely impressed with the high morale, the efficiency with which the complicated operation to send them all out there had been conducted, the equipment with which they had been provided and their general preparedness for a task which none of them wants to do, but which all are prepared to do if that is required. That was the most moving impression that I received: every soldier, sailor and airman to whom I spoke hoped that we would find a way to avoid war, but every one of them was entirely prepared to do his duty if war should come about.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

The hon. Gentleman said that the service people out there expressed the hope that politicians at home would try to find a solution which would avoid war, but have not the British Government simply followed the American line that negotiations are not allowed even though United Nations resolution 660 refers to them specifically?

Mr. Mates

No, that is not true. I regret having given way to the hon. Gentleman; I was trying to be courteous.

Another impressive feature was the level of cooperation with the United States command structure. Loose talk from the ignorant about being lapdogs of the American commanders could not be further from the truth; if it were true, I should be as concerned about it as anyone else. We were able to discuss with the commander, General de la Billière, whom I have known for 25 years, the arrangements that he has been able to make with General Schwarzkopf and with which he is totally satisfied. It was impressive to see the level of co-operation between the two staffs in all the services. As we went around the air control operations centre, we saw members of the Royal Air Force at every third or fourth desk working side by side as a team with their American colleagues, not in any form of subservience but exchanging expertise, experience and advice, which can bring nothing but benefit to a joint operation should it have to come about.

Ms. Short

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mates

I will not give way as I am now restricted to 10 minutes. I should dearly love to give way if I had the time, but I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me.

A question has been raised by the doubters about the efficiency and effectiveness of our equipment. We were able to satisfy ourselves that our forces have everything that they want. The tanks that were so badly maligned are working very well—better than in Germany—and that is largely because they are being used. It is because we have not been able to get them out and manoeuvre them that they have had such problems. Aircraft down-time was much less after more flying than our pilots had found in Germany or the United Kingdom, and the atmosphere in terms of equipment and readiness to do the job was thoroughly positive and commendable.

Enough of that, however. I want to talk about what might occur should war start, not that I want that, as it is better to think about it now than if hostilities commence. I wish to deal with the media and censorship. Already we are hearing cries from certain sectors of the media that they must be allowed to say, do, show and write what they like, but that must not be because sometimes by doing that they may make our service men's cause harder. Certainly, the truth must be told and it must be no part of any censorship to deny to the British people the truth of what is happening, but there is always censorship in war because there is always information which, if it were released to the enemy, would be of help to them and would assist them in countering what we are doing in a better way than would otherwise have been the case.

That raises a difficulty which, in my experience, is totally new. We have never conducted a war in which the media have had full access to both sides. That is the first problem. There will be media in Baghdad as well as in the Gulf. Instant communications will make censorship extremely difficult and will throw an even greater responsibility on the media not to say or do anything which might harm our cause. That point was brought home to me vividly at a press conference in the desert at 7 Armoured Brigade headquarters. The assembled media were there and several of us gave interviews. I asked one of the journalists when the interview I had given would get home. He said, "It's gone." It went instantly. That is totally new. There are telephones out there and if one of our tank commanders could afford to buy it and pay the bill he could have a telephone in his tank and dial home. The reporters are doing just that, which gives their responsibility an entirely new dimension. The media must not say or do anything either consciously, which I am sure that they would not do, or unconsciously which would give an enemy any help. That is a new responsibility and I hope that the Ministry of Defence is addressing it, although with what certainly it can control such things I do not know. I hope that those from the media who are listening will take into account that very new and critically important aspect in terms of what needs to be hidden as well as what needs to be told.

Mr. Heath

I agree with much of what my hon. Friend says, but he will be aware that the BBC and ITN are already questioning heavily the regulations that have been made. The American press will print everything and American television will cover everything, as they did in Vietnam every moment of the day and night. If the information is covered in the American press, it will be impossible to stop it being covered in our press and media in the same way.

Mr. Mates

I hope that my right hon. Friend is wrong and that it will not be impossible. If there is one area in which it is absolutely crucial that the media exercise self-restraint, it is on the question of casualties. The worst thing in the world would be for the wives and families of our service men to see or hear from the newspapers or media that their loved ones have been hurt or killed. That is a responsibility that the services take seriously. They want to ensure that such information is made available in a compassionate and helpful way. It was a major cause of difficulty in the Falklands war, where there was some control, but because it involved largely naval casualties and one knows who is on a ship if it is hit, it was a different problem from that facing the Army and Air Force. Nevertheless, there is a real responsibility to ensure, so far as is humanly possible, that the media do not divulge that sort of information before the proper authorities in this country have been able to take the action that they will be planning with the greatest care to carry out in the most humane way possible.

Finally, the immediacy of communication from here to there has never happened before. Members of the services can be listening to this debate if it is put out on the World Service at this moment. Members of tank crews and air crew underneath the wing of their aeroplanes waiting to fight a sortie can hear the debate. They can hear the comments and the criticisms. That puts extra responsibility on all of us, should hostilities come about, to say nothing which could be interpreted as undermining our total determination to see the enterprise through if it starts. It puts a greater responsibility on politicians, media figures and public figures generally to restrain themselves should hostilities begin. By all means, let us have the post-mortems afterwards, and the criticisms made with hindsight when peace has been restored, but not when our soldiers are there prepared to die and perhaps dying. They should not hear one word of criticism from us which, carelessly uttered, can be delivered instantly to them and undermine the effort that we are making for them.

6.7 pm

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

This is the third time in my nearly 40 years in the House when I have watched a great nation sleep-walking to disaster with its eyes open and its mind closed. The first occasion was Suez in 1956, the second was the long tragedy of the United States in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, and I fear that on this occasion Britain and the United States are sleep-walking together in the Gulf. In all three cases the central problem has been the inability of Governments to accept the facts about the consequences of their actions that have been put to them by their own advisers, allied with a quite stupefying lack of proportion.

Britain embarked on the Suez enterprise in 1956 when eastern Europe was in turmoil and we knew that the Soviet Union was having to decide whether to intervene in Hungary. The United States intervened in Vietnam in the belief that if it did not win that war, all the dominoes in the world would fall. It lost the war and the only domino that fell was a communist domino in Cambodia. In this case we are contemplating war when 15 million Africans are threatened with death by famine and we know that we will not have the money to support them if we engage in a war.

We know that free trade between the developed countries of the world is threatened by the collapse of the GATT talks. Nobody has time to worry about that because of the imminent war, although Britain and the United States are engaged in a recession. We see eastern Europe's attempt to restore democracy crippled by a tripling of oil prices brought about by the Soviet Union, followed by the doubling of oil prices caused by the Gulf crisis and a further doubling or tripling, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund, it' there is war in the Gulf. Finally, we see the Soviet leaders trying to take decisions of historic importance on how to deal with revolt among their nationalities at a moment when those in the west who might influence their choice are so anxious to retain Soviet support for war in the Gulf that they are refusing to say what they really think. I accept what the Foreign Secretary said about that, but what action will follow his rude words we have yet to discover.

Against that background, it is surely madness to embark on war if any alternative is available. Is war necessary to achieve the objectives agreed by the United Nations resolution that was passed a month or so ago? We are assured by the head of the CIA, no less, that it is not. He told the United States Congress in great detail that sanctions were already having a major effect on the civilian economy of Iraq and that within three to nine months they would have a major effect in crippling Iraq's military capability.

When Mr. Cheney, the Defence Secretary, was faced with those statements and his own statements to the same effect, made even as recently as last December, he preferred to use other arguments for not persisting with sanctions. The first was that we cannot any longer allow the Kuwaitis to be submitted to the brutality of the occupying forces. So far, 2,000 Kuwaitis have been killed, but, as I pointed out to the Prime Minister earlier today, the Financial Times this morning reports a senior member of the exiled Kuwaiti ruling family—which, incidentally, left behind 275 heavy tanks and 480 armoured vehicles for the Iraqis to take over and use against us, because it was not warned of the imminent attack, of which the CIA had warned the President two days earlier—as saying: We have already lost a lot of our infrastructure. So we really don't have a lot to lose. I don't want it to be flattened, but, if the flattening of Kuwait is the liberation of Kuwait, I would have that. Let us have no more crocodile tears about the fate of the Kuwaiti people. We undoubtedly feel deeply for them, but a war will subject them to far worse suffering than they have yet endured under Saddam Hussein.

We were told by Mr. Cheney that if we continue with sanctions the coalition will fall apart. All the evidence of the past few days is that if we embark on war the coalition may fall apart. We have, already, major differences between the United States and Britain on the one hand and all the European members of the coalition on the other, which is symbolised by Britain's support of America's refusal to support Mitterrand's proposals for last-minute negotiations, although they are already supported by Germany, Italy, Spain and, we now hear, the Soviet Union.

We are told that our military power is at its peak, but we were told by the American generals that it would not be at its peak for at least another month. We still have to get agreement among the members of the coalition on the command and control of a war. When I raised this question with the Secretary of State for Defence in a recent debate, he said that it was quite improper for me to raise it. I tell the Foreign Secretary, who has some experience of the peace-time Army, that to go into a war with six large contingents, of which only two are under agreed command structure, and in which the French, Saudis, and Syrians are operating the same weapons as the Iraqi opponent, is to invite mutual catastrophe on a devastating scale. In Vietnam, the Americans lost 10,000 of their 65,000 casualties through such a muck-up at the hands of their own forces.

When I consider that we are contemplating a war without formal agreement that the Saudis and the Muslim contingents will join in, I feel very much like the German admiral who, when the multilateral force was explained to him some time ago, replied, "I would rather swim." This is a serious matter because if we go to war without that sorted out, we shall risk unnecessary mutual slaughter of the members of the coalition.

Although we cannot be certain, the war will probably involve an appalling loss of life—we have been told so by the military concerned—economic disaster and political instability in the middle east for at least a generation. It may also have a long-term effect on the willingness of the United States to continue accepting international responsibilities. We are already faced with attacks from all sides in Congress about the unwillingness of the Europeans and Japanese to share the burden. If the war has the consequences which I fear, and which were predicted by many people in congressional hearings in the United States, we could find America withdrawing and Britain being beached offshore on the edge of Europe, having lost its relationship with the Europeans, on which we thought the Foreign Secretary set so much store.

I hope, at this last moment, that the Government will change their mind about the French initiative and will support the view taken by all our European partners, except the Danes, and by the European members of the coalition. If we are committed to war, we shall do everything to support our troops. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and I fought with our troops, although we regarded the Government of the day as responsible for a war that would have been unnecessary if they had taken the right measures in earlier years. If we are committed to this dreadful gamble, I hope that we shall continue to press for peace and an end to the killing at the earliest possible moment on the basis of the United Nations resolutions. That, again, is a matter on which I hope the Government will, for the first time, show some independence of Washington.

6.17 pm
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I want to pick up the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred to today, as he has in the past, about United Nations resolution 660. As he reminded the House, it calls on Iraq to withdraw immediately from Kuwait and on Iraq and Kuwait immediately to begin negotiations on the resolution of their differences.

We must remember the context on which the resolution was passed. It was passed on the day of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—while the invasion was still in progress. Those who are familiar with the United Nations Security Council will know that that resolution is common form in such a situation.

The Iraqis ignored that resolution and pressed forward. In the following days, they completed their occupation of Kuwait. It is not unreasonable, in view of their refusal to recognise the authority of the Security Council, for us now to say that the call for negotiations is out of date and is no longer relevant. I understand that that is the Security Council's position on negotiations between Kuwait and Iraq. Negotiations are not to be contemplated until there has been a total evacuation of Kuwait by Iraq, whatever may happen afterwards.

In recent days, I have been thinking about what I would say in a letter to a nephew if I happened to have one serving with British forces in the Gulf. I believe that I would say something like this. In every generation, a tyrant sets himself up with the ambition to conquer his neighbours—someone who defies reason and does not have the same human motives held by most of mankind. The world is learning slowly and painfully how to deal with such people. The first lesson is to deter them from aggression. That can be done by making it clear that aggression will mean that they will lose more than they gain. That worked in Europe but it failed in Iraq, because it was never tried—partly because the world's responsible countries, which are mostly democracies, had their attention focused elsewhere, partly because they did not take enough trouble to analyse Saddam Hussein and partly because they thought that Iran, the enemy that Saddam Hussein was fighting for eight years, was an even more dangerous threat.

When deterrence fails, the responsible countries must make sure that the aggressor surrenders his gains. I am afraid that that is a much more painful and expensive job than it would have been to deter him in the first place. Nevertheless, we now have a new chance, both of deterring and of remedying aggression, because the Soviet Union appears to be joining the ranks of the responsible countries.

For the first time in the history of the United Nations we may be able to make it an effective peace-keeping body. Until now, on the really difficult questions, the United Nations has been paralysed by divisions between the permanent members of the Security Council, but in the past six months the Security Council has passed 12 resolutions which would have been inconceivable only a year or two ago. This development is of the greatest possible importance for the United Nations and for the future peace of the world. If the United Nations is effective in forcing Saddam to withdraw, a new and more hopeful phase could open up, with an effective and powerful United Nations able not only to monitor situations in which peace has been secured—which is what its so-called peace-keeping forces have done in the past—but to force an aggressor to withdraw or even to deter aggression. But if the United Nations fails this time to force Iraq to withdraw, it will be a serious blow to its power from which it may take years to recover. If the United Nations does not succeed this time, with virtually unanimous support, when will it succeed?

Some people argue that we should continue to rely on the United Nations economic sanctions to get Saddam out of Kuwait, but none of them can say how long it will take. Saddam seems to have absolute control and Iraq is a rich country by the standards of the developing world. No one can say how long the coalition against Iraq will hold firm. If it crumbles, sanctions will crumble too. The coalition was created only with great difficulty and with some very unlikely partners. Unexpected events, perhaps involving Israel—which is hated by the Arab members of the coalition—could break up the coalition before sanctions could force an Iraqi withdrawal.

If we do not take military action soon, we shall have to wait until the autumn. On 17 March Ramadan begins, during which it is doubtful that our Arab partners would agree to begin military action. It is followed soon after by the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca. In any case, by the late spring, the weather will be so hot as to make warfare difficult, especially if there is a risk of the Iraqis using chemical weapons.

Every responsible leader on the western side hates the prospect of war, not least those who can remember the second world war. This war will be shorter and probably more intense, but regrettably the signs are that Saddam is determined to have it. Repeated efforts have been made over nearly six months to persuade him that there is a better course, but one thing that we cannot do is reward his aggression. To do so would entrench him even more deeply in power and make him "a hero". The Leader of the Opposition rightly used that phrase to describe what Saddam's status will be if we fail the United Nations. Saddam might feel free to attack other countries. Other dictators around the world would try to seize their smaller neighbours. It would be a step towards a more dangerous world.

There are two other reasons for taking military action soon in the absence of the peaceful departure of Saddam from Kuwait. First, since August, the Iraqis have been systematically plundering Kuwait and torturing, murdering or expelling many of its citizens.

On purely humanitarian grounds, the sooner we liberate their country, the better. Some Opposition Members have correctly pointed out that that would cause Kuwaiti casualties, but the message that I get from the representatives of free Kuwait in this country is that they are reluctantly prepared to accept that situation. They want Iraq out of Kuwait soon, even if force has to be used.

Secondly, if Iraq, especially under Saddam, were to acquire nuclear weapons, the whole of the middle east—indeed, the whole civilised world—would be under a threat many times more terrifying than we have seen for half a century. That must not be allowed to happen. If there must be war with Iraq, it is better to have it now rather than later.

I would end by saying to my hypothetical nephew: you have an important job to do and the whole of Parliament is proud of you and your colleagues. If there is war, we pray that it will be brief. We are confident that it will be won.

6.26 pm
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

No one in the House would welcome war—certainly no one who remembers previous wars, no one who has friends or family or constituents serving in the forces in the Gulf, and no one who, like me, has family living in Israel or in other areas where they are at grave risk. But we must ask, what is the alternative? Only if there is no real alternative must we accept the sacrifice of war.

The question is whether sanctions will work. It is hard for the House to make that judgment because we do not have the information on which to do so. By its nature, intelligence information goes to the Government of the day and, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition rightly said, it is not shared. I have always been a pessimist about the working of sanctions against Saddam Hussein. I know a little of the area and, for several reasons, I do not believe that they will work.

First, we in this decent land do not understand the nature of dictatorship and what a dictator can impose on the people over whom he has power.

Second, the living standard of the people in Iraq is very low, and they can sustain hardship and privation at a level that we would never endure.

Third, Saddam Hussein is a dictator who is totally ruthless. We should not forget that Saddam gassed and killed thousands of Kurds. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) reminded the House that Saddam did a turnaround in Iran. But that was only after a million people had died. Only then did he turn around and go, leaving matters exactly where they were—except that a million people died for nothing. We should not forget the Kuwaitis. They may not be, as someone said, at the top of the agenda. But they are people. I do not much like the Kuwaiti regime or the other feudal dictatorships; but still less do I like the middle eastern military dictatorships.

What about linkage? I have always wanted a peace conference, but not a peace conference that cannot work —a peace conference where Israel is led to sacrifice on the altar of appeasement. If there are to be concessions, they will only come about in negotiation between people who believe that it is in their interests to concede, and who want to avoid war and death. They will not result from a linkage in which one party is drawn there in chains. That cannot work.

Some of us remember the sigh of relief that we gave —and I include myself even though I was a child about to be evacuated—when Chamberlain avoided war in 1938. We must recognise that he saved lives in 1938 but only at the cost of millions of lives afterwards. Those millions of lives included members of our own forces, members of our own families and, in my case, half my family.

I do not believe in the appeasement of dictators; it does not work. I should like to believe, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) explained with his typical eloquence, that sanctions could work. He has well explained the dread alternatives that would come with war. But appeasement does not work. The only linkage that we should have with Saddam Hussein leaving Kuwait is with peace and not by creating a modern middle eastern Czechoslovakia—which, by the way, will not sit down and meekly accept its own destruction.

I listened with interest to the Prime Minister complimenting Israel on the restraint that it has exercised so far. But for people to say—as some hon. Members have said to me—that if Israel is bombed they hope that it will not react is to live in the unreality of a dictatorship and not in the reality of a democracy. That democracy may have elected a Government whom we do not like, but, if I may say so, so has British democracy—and too often for my taste.

Israel is entitled to react. If Israel is bombed or if Saddam Hussein carries out his threat to drop chemicals or germs on people in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem—including not only Jews like my own family, but also millions of Arabs—the Israelis will react powerfully, and so would we in the same circumstances. It is nonsense to suggest anything else.

Linkage is a concept known to some of us who dabble a little in magic. Hon. Members may remember the Chinese linking rings which link and unlink, and come together and fall apart entirely at the will of the conjuror. Such is the linkage that Saddam Hussein would wish to have. He did not go into Kuwait to help the Palestinians, but to help himself to Kuwait. He went into Kuwait for no reason other than that he wanted to occupy it, to take it over, and to have the oil. From that vantage point he would, effectively, command not only the middle east but the economies of the world.

I hope desperately that there will be no war—for personal reasons, for constituency reasons and for national reasons. If there is to be a war, I hope that it will be very short, that we will win it very fast and that the Americans and our troops will swiftly succeed, because if it is a long and nasty war on land, there will be devastation for us and for the rest of the world. But if the alternative to war today is war against Saddam Hussein in a few years' time when he has nuclear potential, that will be the ultimate disaster.

Some hon. Members may remember that, in 1981, I ventured to suggest that Israel was right to take out Iraq's nuclear potential. I do not believe that anyone agreed with me. This place rose up and shouted. But today I am grateful for Israel's action. I hope that other hon. Members will realise what a catastrophe it would be if Saddam Hussein now had a nuclear potential. I believe that if we must act, we must do so today, before he gets nuclear potential tomorrow.

6.34 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Today, we face war in all its hideousness, its hellishness and its horrors. Those of us who come from 20 years of terrorist war in Northern Ireland daily know something, albeit on a small scale, of the tragedies, sorrow, anguish and agony of deadly conflict. The cry of orphans, the sobbing of bereaved wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, and the mutilation of bodies are ever before us in Northern Ireland.

However, the grim and terrible conflict that confronts us today is a sea of blood compared with a tiny crimson stream. It is the Gulf crisis, and what a gaping gulf it is. If war comes, how many will perish in its maw? However, grim and terrible as war is, there are some things worse than war—to surrender to diabolical aggression, to bow to ruthless tyranny, to permit the devilish murderer to enjoy his bloodsoaked gains, to turn a deaf ear to those who are being savagely tortured and to forsake a small country that cannot save itself. That is worse than war, because that is the sowing of the seeds of even greater aggression. It is the motivation of a tyrant to even greater atrocities and the encouragement of other dictators to follow a similar path, leading to an ever-widening circle of helpless, innocent victims.

The terrible consequences of neutrality in this case—which, in reality, is only surrender by instalments—are far worse than the consequences of war. The aggressor must be resisted and those who draw the sword must learn that they will perish by the sword.

When the House was recalled during the summer recess, I closed a brief speech with these words: Many Hon. Members have used the words 'God forbid that this should happen'. I echo them. I call on the Prime Minister to go to see Her Majesty the Queen and advise her that this nation should have a day of prayer and humility to ask almighty God to avert this calamity."—[Official Report, 7 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 877.] I regret that that did not happen. I still believe that, at this dark and final hour, a miracle could happen. But war or no war, we need to acknowledge that we require the wisdom and help of Almighty God today. Human impotency stares us all in the face. Let not pride lull us into the deception that the race is to the swift and that the battle is to the strong. Let us, with humility, acknowledge our deep need today as a nation.

6.38 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

We have had an interesting debate. The vote tonight is the vote that the Government want as a mandate for the use of force from any time after 5 am tomorrow when the deadline expires. We must not be misled by the fact that it is on a different motion, and I shall come back to that. Every one of us has a duty to speak his mind as best he can. I shall vote against the Government tonight and I hope that other hon. Members will vote against them or abstain.

This is not a debate between pacifists and realists or between those who favour the United Nations and those who do not; it is a debate about how we tackle a very grave problem and a grave attack on international legality.

The House is a representative body. The nation is very deeply divided on the use of force. On 11 December, when we last had a vote on the Adjournment, hon. Members voted by 10 to 1 in favour of the Government for a United Nations resolution bringing us to the point at which force would be used. That very day, Dr. Gallup conducted a poll, which has just been published and which showed that only 31 per cent. of the nation believed that force should be used. Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph suggested that less than half the nation favoured the use of force. We in this place must reflect the views of those whom we represent, and that is what I am doing now.

I shall not go in great detail into the consequences of war when it comes; that has already been done. One million men, armed to the teeth—in many cases by the same arms manufacturers—face each other across the Iraqi-Saudi border. The casualties among troops will be heavy. There will be heavy casualties among the people in the region. Nuclear weapons may well be used. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, Kuwait could be destroyed. There could be an ecological disaster if the oil fields are burnt. A worse third-world famine—there is already such a famine—could ensue as developing nations will not be able to pay the high price of oil. The economies of the west, which have depended to a great extent on the finances from the Arab countries in our banking system, could be affected.

War would solve nothing. We are talking not just about the legacy of terrorism, to which reference has been made —although I am sure that there would be such a legacy. The region that would then have to pick itself up would be in a far worse state, even if we scored what is called a victory after what is called a surgical strike, because Iraq and the area around it would have been destroyed.

I must say in passing—I raised this matter with you, Mr. Speaker, yesterday—that it is an utter disgrace to the House that the different views held by hon. Members should not be allowed to be tested in the Lobbies. In the United States, both Houses have had their votes. Why have the Government given us no chance to test our views on the French initiative; on the length of the sanctions process; or on the possibility of negotiation? I think that it is because they are not so sure of how the vote would go were all those options to be put. One has only to hear Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen on the subject of sanctions to realise that, if an amendment calling for sanctions to be given more time had been tabled, there would have been a vote heavy in favour of it.

That brings me to a point that must be mentioned: there is nobody left in the House who was serving in the House during the last world war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, there is."] I am talking about serving in Parliament during the last war. I am talking about the effect of war on the British Parliament. We have seen—and we will see when British forces are sent into action—that it is the royal prerogative that allows the Government to go to war. That old feudal anachronism is wheeled out to bypass the House. We note reports in the newspapers to the effect that there will be briefings for Privy Councillors across the Front Benches when war begins. That is the way in which the parliamentary process consolidates knowledge at the top at the expense of others. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been brought forward to bless some "limited" bloodshed. The censorship of the media has already begun. No journalist in the Gulf is to move beyond his escort officer. The censorship of dissent by the media has also begun. The House is about to see the internment without trial of Iraqis, some of whom may have come here to escape from Saddam Hussein.

We are now experiencing jingoism—a term that I have looked up. I have listened to the Front-Bench spokesmen saying, "We do not want to fight." They keep saying that. They should finish the poem: We don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do, we've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too. This country is experiencing the greatest wave of jingoism that I have seen in my life. I am reminded of John Bright's speech in the House just before the Crimean war: The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings. I think that I am the first person who has spoken in this debate who has made any reference to those people in society who actually want war. We know it from the popular press. We see it every day. But nobody has made any reference to it. President Bush said—it was reported in The Daily Telegraph— "We will destroy Iraq." He said that the Americans would destroy Iraq if Iraq did not withdraw. Where is the United Nations resolution saying that we will destroy Iraq? Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, "We must topple Saddam before he gets nuclear weapons." Where is the UN resolution about toppling Saddam before he gets nuclear weapons? What emerges from debates of this character is that there is a major difference between the UN agenda, which is to restore legality, and the other agenda.

The arms manufacturers have made a lot of profits out of the arms that will be used. Their scientists will be watching to see which weapons work. War sells newspapers and boosts television ratings. It diverts attention from domestic problems.

I am delighted that the French have come out with their initiative because there must be simultaneously an Iraqi withdrawal, United Nations monitoring, an Arab peace force, a peace conference covering Palestine and Cyprus and guarantees of no attack. If the peace initiative put forward by France today were the policy of this Government and of the United Nations, we should avoid war and secure the objectives of the United Nations resolutions. It is no good talking about linkage—a subject that I mentioned when the Prime Minister kindly gave way. We can deny linkage in the conference chamber until we are blue in the face. But the day we attack Iraq and Iraq attacks Israel and Israel responds, the linkage that we deny will be burned into the history books on the battlefield. Then we shall be back where we started. After the war is over, we shall have to come to the French initiative, so why not have it before the bloodshed?

What is our duty to the troops? They are under orders. Our troops have been put under foreign operational command. We represent them in this place; we must question Ministers here. What the Government have done by denying us a substantive motion is to disfranchise our own troops so that the Members of Parliament who represent them cannot ask the question, and table the amendment, that would allow the interests of our troops to be considered.

This is the most important debate that has taken place in my 40 years in the House. Let my hon. Friends and others be clear: a vote for the Government tonight is a vote for war and will be interpreted as such. Each and every one of us carries a great responsibility. We have to set aside party feelings and electoral considerations, because we must never risk lives to win votes. The lives of millions of people in the world may be influenced by our vote. I beg the House not to give the Government the mandate for war which they want but to oppose the motion, or to abstain, so that we can look afresh at how this problem might be solved without resorting to the most catastrophic bloodshed.

6.48 pm
Sir Ian Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham)

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) was very dismissive about the procedure that has been adopted tonight. He may remember that a motion for the Adjournment brought down a Government in 1940, so it is hardly a contemptible way of doing things. The right hon. Gentleman was certainly able to express his views comfortably, and he did so very well.

Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I shall vote for the Government tonight, although I am extremely unhappy with the course of events. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friends do not want war. I am almost equally sure that President Bush and Mr. Baker do not want war. Nevertheless, we seem almost certain to have a war which is likely to have horrendous consequences and which no one except Saddam Hussein wants. That surely shows that something has gone badly wrong with either the strategy or the diplomacy of the allies, or both. Unquestionably, the objective of getting Iraq out of Kuwait is right. Saddam's wholly inexcusable aggression cannot be allowed to stand. It is not the end which is at fault but the means.

A month or two ago a decision was evidently made not to wait for sanctions, backed up by the threat of force, eventually to compel an Iraqi withdrawal but to rely on force alone while demanding unconditional surrender. It was evidently decided that a massive military build-up, not supported by inducements, would force Saddam Hussein to withdraw. That strategy may still work—we have not reached the deadline yet—but it looks more unlikely with every moment that passes. It was always a high-risk strategy and one which, in my view, was unnecessary.

Sanctions were and are working well. The Government now tell us that sanctions would not do the job. However, they have not produced any evidence for that. The CIA thought that sanctions were working well until it was told to go away and think again. It has been shown that 97 per cent. of Iraq's oil has been cut off. The former chiefs of staff who testified to the congressional committee also believed that sanctions were working well.

Iraq has almost 1 million men under arms. For a country of its size, that is far too many for its economy. All in all, Iraq's position is not sustainable for long. Sanctions should have been allowed to continue taking their toll of the Iraqi economy and Saddam Hussein's war machine.

The allies' diplomacy—or American diplomacy—has been even more defective than their strategy, but perhaps it is still not too late to remedy that deficiency. It has been the allies' position that aggression cannot be rewarded—and it was repeated by President Bush in his letter to Saddam Hussein, which Tariq Aziz foolishly refused to deliver. The President wrote: There can be no reward for aggression. Nor will there be any negotiation. Principle cannot be compromised. Those would be unimpeachable sentiments in a perfect world. Certainly Saddam does not deserve any reward for his aggression or for his many subsequent atrocities. But, equally, innocent Iraqi civilians do not deserve to be bombed into oblivion and in any case "deserts" play a limited part in international politics and diplomacy. The Palestinians do not deserve what is happening to them on the west bank and in the Gaza strip and has been happening for a long time.

More importantly, the principle which Mr. Bush now says cannot be compromised has continually been comprised by the United States Government in the middle east for the past 25 years. Saddam Hussein fought an aggressive war against Iran and was duly rewarded by massive sales of arms—although not, I am happy to say, from the Government led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). He was also rewarded by a great deal of money from countries everywhere around. Similarly, Israel invaded Lebanon two years later causing massive civilian casualties and was duly rewarded by not only masses of dollars but by retaining a so-called security zone on Lebanese soil. So the principle on which the United States now says that it stands is one which it has not hesitated to break in the past.

What is the reward that it is suggested that Saddam Hussein should be offered? It is an international conference on Palestine and the other problems of the middle east. Of course we all know that Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait to help Palestine or the Palestinians. Until very recently, he showed a minimum of interest in either Palestine or the Palestinians. Nevertheless, Mr. Perez de Cuellar has been in favour of an international conference on Palestine for the past eight years, as he said recently. In a non-binding statement, the Security Council has said that it, too, favours a conference at an appropriate time. So do a great many other people.

Now the American Government and apparently my right hon. Friends object to the French proposal for an international conference because they are opposed to linkage between the Kuwaiti and the Palestinian problems. Of course there is linkage. As former President Carter said: There is no way to separate the crisis in the Gulf from the Israeli-Palestinian question". Even the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr. Levi, has courageously admitted that there is "psychological linkage" between the two problems.

Linkage is clear. Apart from anything else, America's behaviour over Israel and Palestine for many years is the reason why many Arabs support Saddam Hussein, however much they may detest him. Of course, I have no idea whether Saddam will accept the French proposals, but surely we ought to find out. Are we really going to go to war in order not to have a peace conference on Palestine? That would be not just the higher insanity but the lower insanity, especially as in any case we are in favour of a peace conference.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Ian Gilmour

No. I have only 10 minutes.

We all know that the United States has domestic political difficulties with its strong pro-Israeli lobby, but it is surely the task of America's allies to help the President to withstand that lobby and not meekly to support it. It would be grotesque to become bogged down in what is linkage and what is not. We are not playing games; we are playing for high stakes. Many lives are at stake. In any case, it should be possible to devise some form of words that produces unlinked linkage or linked unlinkage, or whatever. Even if it is not, to prefer war to agreeing to a peace conference would be unforgivable.

It may well be that Saddam Hussein now wants a war or would prefer a war to giving up Kuwait. He professes that he will win such a war. He is so out of touch that he may really believe that. If he wants a war, it can be argued, even by those like me who regret that the allies have got themselves into their present position, that he should have his way and be attacked as soon as possible. But we do not yet know for sure that Saddam wants a war. We do not know for sure that he cannot be persuaded to change his mind and choose peace, which would mean withdrawal from Kuwait.

Therefore, I very much hope that the French proposals will be adopted and put to Baghdad. If Saddam Hussein turns them down, we shall know that he is determined on war. In any case, if war comes, I shall wholeheartedly support our superb armed forces in the Gulf.

6.56 pm
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

When I spoke in the emergency debate on 6 September last year I made the point that this whole moral crusade launched by the United States in the United Nations was based on their massive oil needs and consumption. I believe that there is universal awareness of that prime economic concern, even among some of the dunderheads on the Benches opposite. I cited the second reason as America's intent to overthrow Saddam Hussein for the protection of Israel and the furtherance of Israel's interests. However outrageous over the years Israel's behaviour has been, whether in the invasion of Lebanon, where the Israelis tried out a lot of United States new weapons and caused thousands of Lebanese deaths, or in their attempts to put down the intifada of the Palestinians in Palestinian territory—where they caused and are causing hundreds of deaths—United States policy has been to defend Israel's actions and to veto in the United Nations any effort by other nations to censure or condemn Israel's conduct. That is all because of the 3 to 4 per cent. of the total American population that makes up the Zionist lobby which dictates America's middle eastern policies.

Most hon. Members are unaware and unconcerned—one should never underestimate the ignorance of Members of the House of Commons on a whole range of issues—and most of our own people do not know, because of the appalling uninformative nature of the popular press, that America has had a strategic alliance with Israel since Reagan's day. Had we taken a test on that before the debate, many hon. Members would have said, "What are you talking about?". They do not know.

There can be no doubt that any military action planned by one of those countries is revealed to the other. When the strategic alliance was set up, no Pentagon planners could foresee that a situation might arise when the United States would work with "Arab allies" in a fake alliance such as has been clobbered together by the United States at the United Nations. The unrepresentative present leaders of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco—undemocratic and corrupt as each of them is—have joined the gang because of the massive bribe of American economic assistance and debt relief.

So the Americans now have a problem. How can they hold this rag-bag of Arab armies and others together if Israel joins in the attack on Iraq? Israel does not give a damn if the alliance falls apart as long as Saddam Hussein is destroyed, which is now the main aim of the whole operation.

When Israel is engaged, the alliance with the Arab countries will start to fall apart. As Iraq is attacked and devastated, the peoples of the Arab world will increasingly voice their hatred of America and there will be an immense growth in the fundamentalist holy war, anti-western drive. There will be a massive rejection of the present leaders of large parts of the Arab world.

If Iraq is destroyed, what can the hated west then hope to do to restore stability in the devastated area and to restrain Iraq's neighbours, Iran, Syria and Turkey, from falling upon the corpse to take their fancied bit of territory? In the process of all that, Israel will play as destructive a role as she can in removing such a powerful Arab country as Iraq. In the aftermath, by some contrived provocation, Israel will move into Jordan, which has long been her intention under the biblical fantasy of Eretz Israel. She will pretend that the Palestinians can settle there, under Israeli control of course.

Last year, when I mentioned negotiations as a proper way forward, the former Prime Minister went into an intemperate tantrum and screamed of appeasement—hon. Members will remember that—but what can be wrong with negotiation if by such a means we avoid a horrendous war? President Mitterrand deserves our gratitude for his efforts to prevent that, even at the last moment.

The Americans persist in their refusal to countenance a conference as part of a peace outcome. However, why should the Arabs, and the Palestinians in particular, believe that a conference will follow the defeat of Iraq? America and Israel have persistently refused to allow a proper resolution of the Palestinian problem and the wrongs that the Palestinians have undergone for more than 40 years.

What has happened to the Labour party? We seem to be so electorally eager that every consideration must be subservient to winning the next election. Every policy, and apparently every principle, must be subject to that aim. If opposing the destruction of large areas of the middle east and avoiding the devastation and the thousands of deaths that would ensue, together with the appalling economic damage to the countries of the third world, leads to the loss of popular support, it is a price the Labour party should be prepared to pay. Principles should still apply just occasionally in politics and, more particularly perhaps, to the Labour party.

7.3 pm

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I shall leave the speech of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) to be sorted out within his conscience and that of his party.

I strongly support the Government and their view that we must support the United Nations. That has also been the message from the Leader of the Opposition and that of the Liberals. That is a key point and we must not overlook it.

I have full praise for my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence for the way in which they have negotiated in the past six months in a particularly difficult period of our history. They have come through with high marks, and they command total support from most hon. Members.

Of course everyone wants peace, but all peaceful means now seem to have been exhausted. Today we have listened to the French contribution, which is now being considered, but I do not believe that Saddam Hussein has said anything in the past five months to suggest that he has any intention of listening to reason.

There seems to be no alternative but to become involved in the war that has been going on for five months. In common with other hon. Members, I believe that further delay is much more likely to cost lives than getting on with action now.

Those who advocate more time for sanctions must balance that view against the nuclear capability of Iraq and, in the shorter term, the inevitable stronger defences that will be erected around the border of Kuwait. It is also important to bear in mind Iraq's input in terrorism in recent years. Its opportunity to influence and to encourage further terrorism throughout the world must be stopped as soon as possible.

There is every indication to suggest that we shall be fighting soon—I hope for a short time only. In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates), I have immense confidence in our services in the Gulf, and those of our allies.

Recently I visited strike command and I was immensely impressed by the chain of communications. I was also heartened by what my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East said about the visit of the Select Committee on Defence to the Gulf. I agree with my hon. Friend about the role of the media. I hope that they will allow our forces and those of our allies to get on with winning the war. The media must try to keep out of the way as it is extremely difficult to fight a war with television cameras poking over one's shoulder all the time. There is a great responsiblity on the BBC and the IBA to behave extremely responsibly and in a manner supportive of our forces in the Gulf.

I echo the praise that my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East has given to our forces, but I should also like to praise our reservists and auxiliaries. We are lucky to have such excellent and well trained reservists. I am involved with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which is a fine force with a fine history. It began its flying operations in the 1920s, and 16 of its 21 squadrons fought in the battle of Britain. Today we have 19 squadrons and units, and all the auxiliaries, in common with the Territorial Army, are volunteers. They train regularly and attend annual camps. They are highly efficient and form part of the line of battle of the Royal Air Force.

In a time of emergency it is certainly right that those auxiliaries should be called out, and the Government have been right to do so. The auxiliaries are trained just for that purpose to support the regular RAF at times of crisis. I am glad to note that 4626 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Wiltshire has gone to the Gulf in support of the RAF medical team. The auxiliaries responded to the call almost to a man—or should I say to a woman since there are more female nurses and doctors in the squadron than male. They deserve great credit for their immediate response in support of our forces in the Gulf. It is important to know, however, that there is a good procedure for those who have compassionate reasons not to be called out. A few people met those reasons and were allowed to stay at home.

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force also has other squadrons specialising in aerodrome defence, movements and communication. Those squadrons are anxious to be called out, if required, whether to go to the Gulf or fill in for RAF regulars in this country or in Germany.

I stress the importance of calling out reservists in an emergency under the Reserve Forces Act 1980. If one is a reservist, it is much easier to be called out than to have to go to one's employer or to one's wife and family and say, "I think I ought to volunteer for the Gulf; I hope you do not mind if I am away for some months." If people are called out, they know where they stand. Their jobs are secure and they know that the financial side will be looked after. The response has been first class not only in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force but in the Territorial Army. I know how well 205 Scottish General Hospital, RAMC, responded to the call. It is important to keep units operating as units with their own officers and NCOs.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has been helpful on all aspects of the Gulf, particularly in answering hon. Members' queries. Is he making progress on reservists' pay and the offer of a 20 per cent. increase in their military pay where the circumstances require it, bearing in mind that reservists have been called out at short notice and may have had domestic, mortgage and other problems to resolve?

With the Gulf and Russia highlighting the uncertainty of the world, should we not think again about "Options for Change"? I appreciate the predicament in which the Ministry of Defence is placed. On the one hand, it is taking a leading role in preparation for the Gulf and for what looks like inevitable war, and on the other it is working on "Options for Change" when it does not know what the position will be in a year's time. The Gulf problem blew up out of nothing. In recent weeks new problems have arisen in Russia. We should put "Options for Change" at the back of our minds for another year until we see what forces we need and where we are likely to need them.

Our service men are anxious to know their long-term future, but they would be happier if they could see a settled world ahead, with their responsibilities set out in front of them, rather than taking a sporting chance on what may happen in 12 months' time. Therefore, decisions on "Options for Change" should be postponed because they will be highly controversial and will cause much hardship and hurt in the Army, particularly if cap badges are to disappear. This is not the moment to contemplate major changes.

I give entire support to the Government and to our forces in the Gulf. I am sure that the Government will have a massive majority tonight.

7.13 pm
Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

A new system of common security in the world depends on our capacity to uphold the United Nations charter. That means upholding it all over the world. The Soviet Union is flouting the United Nations charter in Lithuania by depriving that country of the right to self-determination. Israel has not kept to resolution 242 in the occupied territories. Iraq is in flagrant breach of the United Nations charter in its occupation of Kuwait. The linkage of those three issues is the United Nations charter; they cannot be linked in any other way than by a determination to uphold the charter.

In Iraq there is a real chance, for the first time since the charter was formulated in San Francisco, to get world powers, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union, so to commit themselves to the United Nations charter that it will be much harder for them to escape its implications in other parts of the world.

The key issue in the debate is whether we ought to continue with sanctions and hold back on the use of force. Few people have denied that in order to uphold the charter it is necessary to threaten both economic sanctions and the use of force. It is a question of the balance between the two. It has been little short of a miracle that the multinational coalition has been able to hold so strongly for the last five and a half months. The real reason why we are approaching a time when the multinational force will have to commit itself to armed force in order to throw Iraq out of Kuwait is that, if we are honest, we know that the coalition is coming under considerable strain.

Eduard Shevardnadze in his recent speech made it clear that he was under intense domestic attack for the stance that he had taken on behalf of the Soviet Union over Iraq. We need to remember that the Soviet Union was the largest supplier of arms to Iraq and had a treaty of friendship with it; the continuation of the coalition is causing great strain within the Soviet Union.

France is the other large supplier of arms to Iraq and the European country closest to it. We have seen over the last month how much strain the coalition is causing inside France, with opinion polls showing a majority against committing French forces to uphold the United Nations charter in Iraq.

We have seen how over the past few months the world has begun to accept that Saddam Hussein's reason for attacking Kuwait was to uphold the rights of the Palestinians. No country has a better record of upholding Palestinian rights and providing jobs and occupations for Palestinians and substantial financial support for the Palestinian cause than Kuwait. It is a total corruption of the truth to believe that the invasion of Kuwait has anything whatever to do with the Palestinians. To believe that the path to a solution to the invasion of Kuwait lies through Jerusalem is a delusion.

We must remember that dictators are often impervious to logic and reason. It has been obvious for some time that Saddam Hussein is ready to fight. We will not get through the next few difficult days and weeks with the correct judgment if we think that Saddam Hussein is waiting for diplomatic coverage and an excuse to withdraw. We will have to face the need to eject him by armed force. I do not think that the coalition can withstand until the autumn, or for another five or six months, economic sanctions.

Mr. Tony Banks

Why not?

Dr. Owen

I have tried to explain why I do not believe that it can. In many ways I wish it could.

So we come to the whole question of what should be our posture during any armed warfare and our attitude to a possible ceasefire and a peaceful settlement. I hope that there will be no question of repeating the mistakes of Vietnam when there was far too much political interference with the military. It is a hard thing to say, but this war will have to be fought fast and furiously. There is no room for risking a missile with a gas warhead or a biological warhead coming through the defences, whether it be to Israel, to Saudi Arabia or to any of the surrounding countries. The military must feel that they have the freedom to prosecute a war with the aim of the defeat of Saddam Hussein. That is the fundamental aim.

We must recognise, too, that we shall be doing a service to the cause of peace if we do not try to draw this out with a token force or any of the other partial scenarios. He must know that it will be all-out war. Of course, that war will have to be taken to Iraqi territory. It cannot be confined entirely to fighting within Kuwait. I shall not pretend to be an armchair strategist and shall say nothing more than that I believe that the military leaders must be given the essential freedom to prosecute the war as they feel best to achieve success and protect the lives of the troops under their command.

In my judgment, Saddam Hussein will and does believe that if he negotiates from the battlefield he will achieve more success. If he demands a ceasefire it will be hard not to stop. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that our aims go beyond the United Nations resolution which has not specified our anxiety about nuclear weapons or mentioned the Iraqis' capability for manufacturing chemical and biological weapons or the vast conventional forces that they have assembled. Those four elements are a threat to the region's future security and are a perfectly legitimate target in the event of armed hostilities. That is why they should be hit and hit fast in the early part of the battle. It will not be possible to get back into this once a ceasefire has been declared.

The next issue involves lifting sanctions and what happens after a ceasefire. It seems essential that there must be on-site, on-the-ground inspection and verification of the armed potential of Iraq in the subsequent period. We should not agree to a ceasefire until that is conceded, signed, sealed and settled.

How bad is the war likely to be? Everyone is preparing public opinion for the worst, and it is right to do so. So often things go wrong in war and casualties are frequently caused by mistakes. But we can slightly exaggerate the strength of the forces against us. There is no doubt that in conventional tank warfare, dug in, the Iraqis have built up considerable expertise. I do not think that that is likely to be our first chosen course for battle. However, our superiority in the air is massive, our technology considerable and our intelligence excellent. With good heart, united forces and a clear command structure, we have every prospect of a quick and clean success.

The issue of the command structure is of the utmost importance. I do not expect the Foreign Secretary or the Secretary of State for Defence to reveal all the details in the House—we all know that the matter is massively complex —but I hope that the command structure is being given constant attention because that is where we are most vulnerable and where the whole exercise could come painfully unstuck.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)


Dr. Owen

I shall not give way.

The maintenance and upholding of the United Nations charter is a perfectly legitimate and noble strategic political objective for our armed forces. It may well be that, in future, British forces will rarely, if ever, fight a purely national war for the integrity of the United Kingdom. It is more likely that they will act as part of a multinational force upholding the United Nations charter around the world. Therefore, it is immensely important that that objective is not only achieved, but is seen to be the proper responsibility of our armed forces. If it is successful, the fact that we were able to achieve that end with democratic allies from the west and from the Arab countries will be of tremendous importance. I hope that we are successful and that the war is prosecuted quickly and brutally.

7.23 pm
Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South)

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). I think that I am one of only two hon. Members with a son in the Gulf. He has been there for three and a half months. The House will realise, therefore, that our family, together with 35,000 other families, has followed what has been happening in the Gulf with acute attention in recent months. Such families listen to every news report and daughters-in-law throughout the country hang on every word given forth. Yesterday, I listened to the Panorama programme which reviewed the position in the Gulf.

To a man and woman, all the young people of our armed forces who went out to the Gulf signed on voluntarily. I believe that the vast majority of them signed on consciously knowing that at some time it might be necessary for them to serve this country. Those parents interviewed on the Panorama programme who pretended that that was not so were not faithfully representing their own children.

Our thanks should go out to people such as Mrs. Sue Thomas of Swansea, who is perhaps unknown to all hon. Members except the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). She is a lady who is on her own and, with her son in the Gulf, has acted as a co-ordinator for the news and has helped to ease problems among the young men and women out there. I pay tribute to her work and hope that British Telecom will respond to the letter sent to it by the hon. Member for Swansea, East in which he suggested that Mrs. Thomas's phone bill should be ignored. If it is not, I will pay for it.

I pay tribute to the Ministry of Defence and Ministers. There have been a few slip-ups, as there are bound to be, but the commitment shown by Ministers has been absolutely superb. I have put issues to them, responses have come back via the blueies and other colleagues have made similar approaches. On behalf of our forces who have been in the Gulf during the past months, I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends who have worked long and hard.

I re-echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates) about the media. Our troops in the Gulf will not understand it if the media undertake reporting that is to the detriment of the forces. I hope that the media will also understand that, while we in the House are experienced in handling the media, that is not true of the ordinary man or woman soldier in the field. I hope that that fact will be respected.

I pay tribute to the national health service. I have checked on the reception that will be given to casualties by our hospitals and my research has, thankfully, produced a 100 per cent. response to the effect that this country's hospitals are ready, instructions are clear and preparations have been made. That problem had to be faced and I thank the Secretary of State for Health for the fact that it has been.

The families of our young people in the Gulf know that their relatives face a number of questions. They know that they will be wondering whether it is right that they should be there in the first place. All those in the services to whom I have talked know and all the correspondence that I have received shows that our young people understand why they are in the Gulf. They recognise that it is unacceptable for a small country to be invaded and virtually erased from the map. They also understand that there is a difference between the position in Kuwait and that involving Grenada, Panama and some of the other examples put forward. They appreciate the total purpose of sanctions —a controversial issue. We have all known in our hearts that sanctions imposed on an Arab nation led by a despot were never likely to persuade him to withdraw from a territory that had become the 19th part of his country. Sanctions were imposed to communicate to him that the world was serious and that he had better take the world seriously.

The time has come when we have to make the sad choice to take up arms now or to postpone doing so for about another eight months. It is all very well for hon. Members in this Chamber, which is air conditioned—and all very well for that general in the United States whom I, too, heard say that our colleagues in the Gulf would rather get sunburned—but I wonder how many hon. Members have served in the far east. I worked there for two years and I can testify that it is hard enough to work in hot conditions, so it must be much more difficult to fight in them. How many hon. Members have ever put on a survival suit? I and a few others have, but I have never done so in 120 degrees of heat. If our armed forces are to be asked to fight, let them fight in the relatively cool weather of the next six to eight weeks.

Our young people out in the Gulf have taken their training seriously; they have moved up to the front line; they recognise that they have a job to do; and they are exceedingly well trained. I wish them all godspeed to return to this country.

7.31 pm
Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South)

It is incredible that the attitude to the United Nations appears to have two separate lives—post-August 1990 and pre-August 1990. Hon. Members seem to take their bearings from resolution 660; from it they lay down a new order for the United Nations and they wipe the slate clean of all the transgressions against international law and United Nations authority before that date. Some hon. Members suggest, so it seems, that we can ignore the transgressions of the United States in Panama, Grenada, E1 Salvador, Guatemala, Cambodia and Vietnam; and we can ignore the flouting of international law by the United States as witnessed in its refusal to accept the ruling by the international court that it illegally mined the ports of Nicaragua and should now pay compensation. All that is to be put aside and the new world order that we all seek in the post-cold war period must start from the invasion of Kuwait.

Then we are surprised when the Iraqis and many Arab countries and other nations throughout the world feel aggrieved by our logic and tell us—rightly—that the rules are being made to fit in with our objective, which is oil.

It is also interesting to note that, while pleading for so much peace, we are taken inexorably towards a catastrophic war which threatens consequences beyond our imagination or comprehension and which will inflict untold ecological and environmental damage. It will inflict horrendous loss of life, both civilian and military, in the middle east and disrupt the region's political and economic stability—as well as that of the rest of the world. By ignoring the prospects of ecological and environmental changes that may result, we are possibly putting at risk I billion people in the world, whose crops will fail and who will be faced with climatic changes. And we contemplate a disaster on this massive scale in the name of a moral imperative to which I, too, would subscribe—but consistently. It is wrong to invade another country, wrong to use economic and military might to blunder around the world in order to secure a country's political and economic objectives. But that is what the United States has done and it is not` surprising—

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

What about the Soviet Union?

Ms. Primarolo

No nation that sits on the Security Council can fairly claim not to have transgressed international law.

All these immense problems are being contemplated because we refuse to negotiate or consider what may be on offer. We would rather send thousands to their deaths and put at risk the lives of hundreds of thousands more in a game of brinkmanship that passes for so-called diplomacy —trying to frighten someone into doing something instead of sitting down and negotiating with him.

The liberation of Kuwait is certainly important, and Iraq must be made to withdraw from it—but not by a scorched earth policy which will leave nothing behind. Where is the international justice and peace behind these double standards? How can we build peace on war? The charter of the United Nations was drawn up to avoid war and to settle disputes by peaceful negotiation, so how can we build a future when we use that very organisation to declare war and unleash its disaster on the world?

We live in an era of modern communications, and aggrieved Muslims throughout the world believe that they must continue to seek redress of injustice, so in the next decade this crisis will still be unresolved. War solves nothing: it creates further crises.

It is still unclear exactly what is being sought. There have been many suggestions of how we could solve the crisis. It has been said, for instance, that the Kuwaitis are prepared to lease back the disputed islands. The press has reported that the Saudi Minister of Defence has agreed that there should be negotiations over the disputed oil field. Iraq has committed itself, after the crisis, to the Egyptian proposal of last April to set up a security and peace conference for the region at which all the destructive weapons both of Israel and of Iraq would be the subject of negotiations. If all that is so close to being achieved, what is it that appears to be forcing us into war?

It appears to be two things. First, there is our absolute refusal to deal with the Palestinian issue and to recognise the linkage, despite the fact that since 1980 the EC has actively pursued a peace conference in order to settle that question, despite the fact that it is United Nations policy and despite the fact that the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian areas has been declared illegal. We are prepared to go to war on that basis.

The Mitterrand proposal is accepted by almost everybody except ourselves and the United States. Even the Saudis have said that they are prepared to consider it. Yet we quibble about the words. We will not go to the negotiating table. We are prepared to use the organisation that we say should establish the new world order on a vote to veto something to prevent a new policy coming forward that should achieve peace. That is not the way in which decisions should be made, and it is certainly not the way in which we should be considering the facts before us in this crisis.

In Bristol, as in many other parts of Britain and throughout Europe, a massive peace movement is developing. That peace movement is making its view clear. In December, Bristol presented to Downing street a petition of 8,000 signatures, and one of 5,000 signatures today, pressing the Government to continue to seek a peaceful situation to the conflict with Iraq and to give the United Nations sanctions time to take effect. We urge the Goverment to do the same: avoid the risks of war which may involve nuclear and chemical weapons.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)


7.41 pm
Mr. Robert Boscawen (Somerton and Frome)

No thinking person can hold other than the utmost forebodings of a long war in the Gulf. Any talk that we heard earlier today about jingoism in the House or outside is completely unreal.

As a Member with a substantial defence base of the Fleet Air Arm to represent, I am grateful for the chance to say how welcome it will be to our service men that the House, as I believe it will tonight, gives them its overwhelming support for whatever they are called upon to do.

Saddam Hussein, like Hitler before him, has demonstrated now beyond conjecture that he wants war. Sadly, there is no point any longer trying to fathom why he does so. Nevertheless, the democracies and many individuals representing them, officially and unofficially, have been right to go to the end of the road to see if he can be deflected by reason, provided that we continue to uphold the one principle that naked aggression cannot be allowed to prosper; the principle that so many before us more worthy than us found, sooner or later, that they had to be prepared to fight and many to die for. They faced it even more reluctantly at the time than we are doing here today in the House. Any other course can only allow the evil to fester and progress to a far greater calamity in the end.

The United Nations endorsement of that principle is an enormous plus for the future peace of the world, and I am delighted that it was so ably endorsed this afternoon at the beginning of the debate by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who made a particularly fine speech and by the Leader of the Opposition at the beginning of his speech.

That may be a simple and certainly honourable purpose, but it is the better for remaining simple and undistorted by clever words and complex formulas. There has, of course, to be a complex settlement at the end in the area of the vastly different historical and tribal interests, but it cannot come about through one aggressor robbing a neighbour of his life and freedom for his own peculiar ends.

That the Government and our allies should allow sanctions to continue as long as possible in order to change Saddam Hussein's mind is an important and persuasive argument, but unless we can be sure that that will change Saddam Hussein's mind, our leaders should reject it. They must ask themselves which method will best protect the lives of our service men and allies in the Gulf. That is what our leaders will want above all else, and our people will want to see that they do it. When they ask themselves that question, I believe that they will realise that if they wait too long the lives of our service men will be at greater risk. Therefore, the argument for prolonging sanctions should not be applied. To do so would also take away from the military leaders one of their greatest weapons—that of surprise—and we should in no circumstances allow that.

It appears likely that our service men will shortly be at war in the Gulf. Having spoken to the commanding officer of the fleet establishment in my constituency, I have been convinced that, disagreeable though whatever comes may be, the service men are ready and their equipment is well oiled. We have every right to be proud of them in whatever they do.

The war will be disagreeable. The extent of violence at the beginning of modern war is bound to be terrible and our armed services will suffer some heavy bombardment, many of them for the first time. Disagreeable though that will be, and the noise terrifying, they will soon learn that they will come through and still be around at the end of it. They will learn quickly that noise can be a friend on the battlefield as well as causing them a pit in the bottom of the stomach. They will experience too the marvellous feeling of hearing the support of their own aeroplanes, guns and allies. I am certain that they will give us cause for pride and they will show the tremendous feel for humanity which the British service man is incomparable in displaying.

It is to service men's families and loved ones at home that we should give our greatest regard at this time. Their quiet and silent role is perhaps the hardest of all. In particular, the press and the media have the enormous responsibility of maintaining the guidelines and ground rules laid down in order to allay their anxieties. The media have the power to cause tremendous and unnecessary anxiety in the homes of many of our service people if they fail to meet their responsibilities. We all invite the media to remember that.

We pray that some of our forebodings will be disproved. We ask for the safe return of the British men and women in the Gulf and for those of our allies. We know that they will not let us down. Let us see that we in this House give them our full support.

7.50 pm
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

At the end of 1945. I was a young airman stationed in the middle east and awaiting demobilisation, along with millions of other service men who had served throughout the second world war. I looked forward to a different Britain and to a different world from that which existed when we entered the 1939 war. Over the next 40 years, I fought and worked for a United Nations that would be a world force for peace and sanity.

That was prevented by the catalogue of disasters that was outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo). The cold war prevented the United Nations from working in the way that we wanted, not least because of the Vietnam war, Brezhnev doctrine, Cuban missile crisis, and many other incidents.

In the present post-cold war period, we have for the first time a unanimous United Nations decision aimed at implementing a policy agreed by its members, and that gives us a fresh opportunity. Over the past 30 or 40 years, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have, like myself, fought for a fresh order based on the United Nations. It is no use saying that one wants to achieve such an order but then to deny the United Nations the means to implement its policies, if that becomes necessary.

Having said that, I am firmly of the opinion that not enough time has been allowed for sanctions against Iraq to be properly implemented. The Prime Minister has not given any information today about the way in which they have failed or about the main problems. I believe that we must go that extra mile in trying to achieve peace before resorting to force. That is essential, just as it is essential that the French proposals should be examined in detail. They should be put on the table, and the House ought to have an opportunity to debate them.

Mr. Winnick

But there has been no response to them in Baghdad.

Mr. Orme

Then let them be put to Baghdad, and let us see what the reaction is. That would not be to display any weakness, but rather would be to explore every avenue.

I am very chary of the one or two armchair critics or generals who talk at such times of a quick and swift end to the war. I served in uniform in a war for six years, and it did not end either swiftly or without massive loss of life, particularly in the western world and in the far east.

I am under no illusion about the regime in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Throughout the 1980s, I was involved in an organisation which was concerned with civil rights and with the rights of certain Iraqis. In 1981, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and I went to the Iraqi embassy to plead on behalf of trade unionists and socialists in that country who were being tortured and executed. It was a harrowing experience to enter that embassy and hear the steel doors clang behind us, and to see everyone inside carrying automatic weapons. That is the kind of regime with which we are dealing. What has happened to Iraqi trade unionists and socialists, as well as to the Kurds, is an example of the horrors that have been perpetrated under the present regime. The occupation of Kuwait is another indication of the extent of the action that the Iraqi Government are prepared to take.

I am sure that no right hon. or hon. Member is under any illusion about the need to avoid military action, if that is possible, and to find a solution—which is why we must go that extra mile. Nevertheless, and as has been said by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, if British troops become involved, we are bound to support them. However, let us hope that progress can be made and that every avenue will be explored. I trust that, when the Foreign Secretary replies tonight, he will describe the French proposals in more detail than did the Prime Minister, report what has happened at the United Nations today, and say whether the Government are prepared to go that extra mile.

7.57 pm
Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)

If my hair is as red as my suit, it is due not to vanity but to enemy action.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) asserted that wars solved nothing. She is wrong, for on occasion wars do provide a solution. One might argue that the Great War solved nothing and only postponed a second world war, but the hon. Lady cannot assert that the second world war solved nothing when in fact it brought the downfall of the Hitler regime.

It is clearly true that wars are much easier to start than to finish, and that the objectives for which countries go to war frequently change during the course of the hostilities. Given the likelihood that we shall be at war in a day or two, we should ask ourselves certain questions about the Iraqi situation. If the objective is only to liberate Kuwait —which is clearly a desirable objective—would the allies then be in the position of having to defend a land frontier against an Iraqi counter-attack, and of having to do so indefinitely?

Is it our objective to overthrow Saddam Hussein? 1f so, one wonders quietly whether there are enough freedom-loving, sensible Iraqi parliamentarians prepared to come forward to administer Iraq in the circumstances of their country's humiliating defeat. However, although these problems are acute, it is not the allies' fault that they should be posed for us to solve. It is the fault of the "thief of Baghdad" himself—Saddam Hussein, whose aggression is clearly unforgivable.

The former leader of the Social Democrats, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), referred briefly to the position in the Soviet Union vis-a-vis Iraq. How ironic it is too that it should be, and probably now is, in the western interest that the cohesion of the Soviet Union remains a reality. If the Soviet Union were to break into a series of warring, nationalist-based republics, who would keep control of the 12,000 nuclear warheads which the Soviet armed forces possess? I have always been convinced that the most significant and sinister member of the Communist party is the Soviet equivalent of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow).

I speak as the Member for Aldershot, which is the home of the British Army. We have a thousand Aldershot-based service men in the Gulf at present; and, over and above that, the Cambridge military hospital, which for years has sustained the national health service locally, has moved lock, stock and barrel to the Gulf. Clearly, local residents are anxious that it should return and I have been able to persuade the Minister for Health to give an undertaking that it will reopen.

The problem is that we are now obliged to face the real possibility of war. I do not think that the French initiative is especially useful. Clearly we have to avoid linkage where we can. When it comes, the attack must be executed swiftly, because waiting indefinitely would lower the morale of our troops in the Gulf.

There is a debate between airmen and soldiers. Airmen believe that they have the power, which might of itself win the war. Clearly, it is more important that the Army moves into Kuwait swiftly behind an air attack, because unless one occupies the enemy's territory there is no point is having soldiers out there.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) referred to "Options for Change". It would be tactful of the Government, and especially the Minister of Defence, if they stopped speculating in public for the time being about "Options for Change" because soldiers who are going out to the Gulf to fight, and possibly to die, are not a little anxious that they may eventually return to find that the units, regiments and corps to which they belong no longer exist. There is a good case for a peace dividend, on the assumption that all in the garden will be lovely indefinitely, but I think it wise to stop talking for the moment about "Options for Change".

One certainly gets the impression that majority opinion in this country is reluctantly in favour of hostilities. The situation is not of our making but of Saddam Hussein's making. We have a great interest in destroying his chemical, nuclear and biological capability. We shall enter hostilities as a member of the United Nations. What is important about the exercise is that we are in pursuit not of British national interest but of something different, although just as important—the principle of a real world authority, which should be able to protect small nations against large nations and thereby determine and guarantee the freedom of small as well as large countries. That principle is worth fighting for.

8.4 pm

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

This evening's debate has been wide-ranging, fascinating and, at times, confusing. As a father, and also as a minister giving guidance to people, I used to say, "Never threaten a child unless you intend to carry out the threat, and never make a promise unless you intend to keep it." The tragedy is that having told Saddam that he must leave Kuwait by 15 January, if we are not prepared to stand by our word if he does not withdraw, we shall have opened the way for further aggression.

The hidden agenda is not simply Kuwait—and, ultimately, control of international oil—but the struggle for leadership of the Arab nation. That is one aspect which we need to underscore at present because, in the light of the comments of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo), Muslims throughout the world will be bitter as a result of any action taken at this time. We have to remind them, and others, that the aggressor was Saddam, against a Muslim people, the Kuwaitis. Therefore, we have to go beyond the concept of so-called western imperialists—capitalists or Christians, under whatever guise—oppressing the Arab east. The fact is that there has been naked aggression by President Saddam Hussein against the Kuwaiti people and, ultimately, a threat to the Arab world.

Some hon. Members have asked about the French proposal as though it was on the table and Saddam had sat down to discuss it and was prepared to accept it. I am reminded that the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that it takes two to tango and that he did not find a lovely lady in Baghdad with whom he could tango. We have to stand by the role of the United Nations. When I visited it in November with other hon. Members, we discovered that the general consensus was that if the United Nations could not deal with this problem it could deal with nothing because this is the first time that there has been unprovoked naked aggression by one member of the United Nations against another. If the United Nations cannot deal with that, its whole structure is threatened.

I ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to suggest to us tonight whether, among the other proposals, there have been any proposals from Algeria and the Yemen, as has been reported in the press, and especially whether he is aware if Her Majesty's ambassador in Sana'a has been given a proposal for the Arab solution in Yemen, because when I was there with another colleague as part of the Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation we heard much of the Arab solution and we pressed to be given details. A solution was presented to us and we asked that it be put in writing and given to the ambassador in Sana'a so that it could be transmitted to the Government, not as the personal comment of an individual or as a foreign commentary, but as a commitment from a nation which was speaking a great deal about an Arab solution. The tragedy of our visit was that we heard people in public criticising the use of force, but in private saying that they did not think that Saddam would be put out of Kuwait without the use of force. They all faced that reality. When people seek a linkage between Israel, Palestine and Kuwait it does not exist merely in the event of war developing but because of what has happened—and has already been mentioned by one right hon. Member tonight, to the best of my memory.

The Palestinians have suffered greatly as a result of the invasion of Kuwait. The finances that were being advanced from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to help them have dried up. Along with others, the Palestinian people must face the harsh reality that the whole region is suffering—not because an independent nation, Israel, has sought to defend its frontiers and in so doing has taken over other territory to protect herself. I believe, as others do, that there will come a time when a peace conference will have to be held to make new arrangements there. Nevertheless, we should bear in mind what was said at two IPU conferences by the Speaker of the Knesset, who had himself suffered in internment camps and who had seen so many of his people suffer in the holocaust. He put it on record that he would never remove a homeland from the Jewish people. Where they live is their own decision; they can go where they like in a free society. In his view, however, those who talk glibly about a solution should remember that people have a right to live in a homeland. I should like to think that the funds that have been available in the Gulf during past years, and could become available in the future, might be used purposefully to help Palestinian refugees to resolve the problems, rather than allowing terrorism to continue and destroy the community.

Finally, I must put on record the support of the people in Northern Ireland for our forces in the Gulf. Some of our people are serving with the British forces, and we stand beside them. We recognise, however, that there are others who, looking for peace, fondly believe that it will come as a result of prayers. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) pleaded for a day of prayer to be called by the former Prime Minister, but that has not been done. Perhaps we do not want to bring the Almighty into the matter, but there is a lesson to be learnt from the last world war. Only when our people humbled themselves and sought the help of the Almighty did we begin to be delivered from the dictator, and I firmly believe that only when we humble ourselves again will we see the way forward to success.

I remind anyone who takes a jingoistic view—whether in the international forces or in Saddam's regime—of an old biblical quotation, which says, roughly, "Let not him that putteth on his armour boast as he that puts it off."

8.12 pm
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

I believe that the key reason why this country may find itself involved in war before very long is the overriding need to do all that is necessary to preserve and enforce United Nations collective security in the post-cold war era.

Even at this late hour, we all hope that Saddam Hussein will order an Iraqi withdrawal. He has acted at the 1 1 th hour before, and may do so again. The world community, however, cannot afford to wait indefinitely for economic sanctions to work. That seemed to be the siren song in part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and, indeed, in that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). I believe that they were both wrong, for a delay in the use of force beyond the present cool season in the Gulf could rule out such action altogether.

This is because frontline troops cannot be kept at maximum readiness for ever and have to be rotated. It is because of the political difficulties of holding the United Nations coalition together, especially for Arab states such as Egypt and Syria, whose Governments have problems in holding their peoples under an American-led United Nations banner, and because the Soviet Union itself is in a critical state which means that we can no longer rely on the continuity of Soviet foreign policy. It is also because of the political difficulties of maintaining the resolve of public opinion in free democratic societies with the modern mass media—societies such as the United States and even the United Kingdom.

There is little or no evidence that Saddam Hussein really cares about the fate of his own people, let alone the Kuwaiti people. Indeed, he seems to have an almost infinite capacity to impose cruelty and suffering on others —witness the cruel and cynical way in which he tolerated perhaps half a million deaths in his own country during the long Iran-Iraq war. Nor does he appear to care a fig for the force of world opinion; if he did, he would not have flouted no fewer than 12 United Nations resolutions.

My argument was put very well by Albert Wohlstetter in a recent edition of The Wall Street Journal. He said: Saddam is likely to tolerate the pain the embargo will inflict primarily on his civil society longer than the domestic and international coalition would bear the high political and economic costs of insisting on his getting out without compromise. Nor should we forget, when trying to assess the rights and wrongs of the issue, the way in which the Iraqi president has ruthlessly and cynically shifted his ground in his attempts to justify the Iraqi annexation of Kuwait—a point made very well earlier by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Let me give two examples. Saddam Hussein has for a long time led a secular dictatorship in Iraq, yet we now hear from him and his spokesmen the rhetoric of Islamic holy war. Saddam invaded Kuwait palpably for economic and material reasons; yet he is now trying to claim that he did it only for the sake of the Palestinian cause. Each of those claims should be treated with the contempt that it deserves.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

It seems to me, and to many academic analysts of the middle-eastern problem, that what Saddam Hussein cares about most is Arab public opinion, and that, if he is allowed to walk away from this crisis having seen off the entire world by way of the United Nations force, he will be an unstoppable engine for Arab nationalism in the years to come and will be very much strengthened.

Mr. Forman

My hon. Friend has made a good point. In the psychological warfare that has been taking place in the last few months, there is clearly an important division between the views of the Governments of many Arab states and the views of the street, as it were. Saddam Hussein is plainly aware of the advantages that he thinks there are for him in playing a demagogic part.

Security Council resolution 678 clearly authorised the use of force by the United Nations coalition. It mentioned the date of 15 January in the hope of concentrating Saddam Hussein's mind. It may still achieve that, but deadlines postponed are deadlines undermined. Delay could fatally damage the credibility of the United Nations' position, and bolster Saddam's confidence and prospects.

Today, the choice between peace and war still lies essentially with Saddam Hussein. In a little while there may be no effective choice, for the reasons that I have given. That will obviously mean a bad outcome for the people of Kuwait, and also for those of Iraq. It will be a setback in the search for a durable settlement in the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute, and it will probably make the building of new security structures in the whole middle-east region more difficult.

Yet, if it does come to war, the House can best make its contribution by speaking as much as possible with one voice in support of the United Nations and the principles of collective security—and, if necessary, in support of our magnificent troops, if and when they have to go into battle.

8.19 pm
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Democracies do not easily resort to war. Government, Parliament and people have first to be persuaded that the use of force is right and that it has become unavoidable. Although very different views have been expressed in today's debate, that should not subtract from the large area of agreement that exists on both sides of the House. First, we are clear that we are dealing with an act of naked aggression. Kuwait and its people have been attacked, occupied and cruelly treated for no reason other than that Kuwait is rich, small and virtually helpless against the armed might of its overpowering neighbour.

There have been many acts of aggression since the foundation of the United Nations 45 years ago. However, what has happened in Kuwait is unique in two respects. First, the Security Council of the United Nations is united in its insistence that Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to get away with his conquest, that he must unconditionally withdraw his forces from the whole of Kuwait and that the lawful Government of that country should be re-established. Secondly, it is the first time since 1945 that an aggressor state has sought to change not just the Government of another country or rectify its borders or impose penalties but to destroy and annex the victim nation. That is what Saddam Hussein has attempted to do.

Both sides of the House agree that this relapse into the lawlessness of the 1930s must be halted and that the aggressor must be compelled to withdraw. The House has agreed that action should be taken only with the full authority of the United Nations. My right hon. Friends the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Foreign Secretary have from the start rightly insisted that there should be clear United Nations authorisation for every measure against aggression. While all parts of the House ardently wish that a solution can be found by a combination of resolute diplomacy backed up by an economic blockade, it is agreed that the military option must be available. The only point of dispute—it is a serious point—that has arisen is not about the use of force but when it is right for that option to be exercised. That argument is finely balanced. There are people of considerable reputation and experience in this country and this House, and in the United States and both Houses of Congress, who have taken the view that it is workable and preferable to maintain the blockade until Saddam Hussein is compelled to withdraw.

I shall not rehearse all the arguments for and against, but I want to add two considerations that in my mind have tilted the balance. First, we all know that on 29 November the Security Council authorised the use of "all necessary means", including force, if Saddam Hussein had not withdrawn by 15 January. Of course, it has been said that that is not a precise ultimatum and that there is no immediate resort to arms from midnight tonight. However, having pronounced a date, the authority of the United Nations is now committed and every day and every week that passes from today will lead to the erosion of United Nations' authority and to mounting tension throughout the middle east and the world.

Secondly, I am persuaded that Hussein means war and wants war. There have been numerous chances for him to avoid a clash of arms and I shall not rehearse them all, but his attitude and commitment cannot be doubted by anyone who watched and heard reports of the UN Secretary-General's visit to Baghdad. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was kept waiting for six hours and then lectured by the aggressor. No wonder Mr. Perez de Cuellar put his head in his hands and said that there is little room left for diplomacy. If the French can bring off a last minute coup without loss of credibility to the United Nations' position, like everyone else in the House I would welcome it. However, I do not believe that it will be any more successful than all the other attempts that have been made and all the other missions to Baghdad that have taken place. Those who invest their hopes in an economic blockade and believe that it will suffice have to face those facts.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Shore

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, but he knows that I am under great restraint.

There is, I recognise, a minority view in the House and in the country which was demonstrated in considerable numbers on Saturday in Trafalgar square. There are those who have persuaded themselves that the issue is not about Iraq annexing and invading Kuwait but about American concern for the supply of oil. I find that absurd. It is a paradox that the two nations of the industrial world—Britain and America—who have or could easily obtain their own supplies of oil have been most active in organising the military resistance to Saddam Hussein. Far from being the selfish pursuit of United Kingdom and United States oil supplies, it is because we know from our experience in 1974 and 1979 that it is the world economy, including western Europe, eastern Europe, Japan and still more the non-oil developing countries, that will be most grievously affected that we are concerned that the price of oil should not be driven up and that supplies should not be intercepted as they were so tragically in 1974.

There are those who have deceived themselves or are deceived by Hussein's propaganda that there is a direct link between his aggression in Kuwait and the occupation of the west bank by Israeli troops. Not one Iraqi has been killed or injured in the struggle for Palestinian self-government, but hundreds of thousands of casualties have been inflicted upon others and upon themselves by Iraqi internal repression, by its vicious use of force against its own Kurds, by its eight-year war against Iran and, most recently, its cruel conquest of Kuwait. No one with any knowledge of recent middle eastern history and United Nations interventions there can possibly believe that the unacceptable situation on the west bank arose from a simple act of Israeli aggression or that the Arab nations have accepted what is required of them under Security Council resolution 242.

If—in the next few days or, at most, the next few weeks —war proves unavoidable, it will not be a war waged for imperialist greed or a selfish desire to corner the oil supply of the Gulf but a war for the central purpose for which the United Nations was founded. It will be a war against aggression and to establish the rule of international law and the authority of the United Nations. It will be a war to rescue the damaged and abused people of Kuwait. There can be no crocodile tears about that. They have been damaged, ravaged and abused. It will be a war in which the sacrifices made by those directly involved will earn and deserve the gratitude of their fellow citizens and the world community.

8.27 pm
Sir Richard Luce (Shoreham)

This is a sombre occasion against a background in which we may in a short time ask our service men to risk their lives for their country. It is right that every viewpoint reflected in the Chamber today should be heard and treated with respect. We have heard a great variety of views. I agree wholeheartedly with the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), who has injected a sense of reality in the debate when we had sensed a degree of self-delusion about what is happening in Iraq under the leadership of Saddam Hussein.

We are facing one of the most challenging post-war tests for the United Nations and for all the 30 or so countries involved in the military force in the middle east. It is a unique opportunity for the United Nations to re-establish international law and order in the middle east.

It is nearly six months since the invasion took place. We are entitled to ask ourselves at this stage what evidence is available to suggest to us that Saddam Hussein may in the near future withdraw peacefully from Kuwait. If we examine that question, it is hard to believe that he will do so. One has only to look at his position. He has abused human rights in Kuwait and has decimated the country. One has only to look at the firm entrenchment of his massive forces around Kuwait and his refusal to accept Kuwait's right to exist. Over the past five and a half months he has refused to accept Kuwait's right to exist as an independent nation. He has refused to budge one inch in discussions with several leaders of the western world. His rhetoric is extreme and becomes more extreme and more provocative, and he invokes God to his cause. Despite the fact that many people suggest that he wishes to do so, he has made no attempt to save face. In the past few days, he showed utter contempt for the Secretary-General of the United Nations. In doing so, he treated the United Nations and the rest of the world with contempt. He appears to dismiss, with contempt, the wider consequences of his actions, such as the flow of thousands of refugees from his country, the suffering that that has caused and its effect on the neighbouring country of Jordan. His actions affect world oil prices, which in turn affect the economies of the third world and eastern Europe, which are struggling to achieve economic development and a better standard of life. That shows that the long-held fears of other Gulf states—that Suddam Hussein and Iraq pose a threat to their independence—are justified.

Saddam Hussein's record gives us no sense of hope. Throughout most of his presidency, he has been in conflict of one kind or another; for example, the treatment of his own people and the Kurds, and the Iran-Iraq war, in which at least 100,000 Iraqis and 250,000 Iranians were killed. That was of no benefit to his people or to anybody in the middle east.

It is right to respect the views of those who say that if we allowed sanctions a little longer to work they would have their effect. We must examine that carefully. I have found no evidence to suggest that by prolonging this in the hope that sanctions will have their effect Saddam Hussein will withdraw. If he does not withdraw against the background of the past few weeks and the deadline of 15 January imposed by the United Nations, he is not likely to withdraw in the foreseeable future. In addition, we must remember the world's experience of sanctions being imposed in the 1930s and the post-war years.

Mr. Winnick

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if Saddam Hussein wanted to avoid war, even at this late hour he would have made it clear that he accepted the French proposals in outline? Is he aware that there has been no response to those proposals from Baghdad today? It is quite clear that he wants war.

Sir Richard Luce

If that is so, it is simply further evidence, and the House deludes itself if it thinks that he is likely to change his mind at the last moment, although we must all pray that he does.

We are faced with the prospect that we may need to liberate Kuwait—"liberate" is the most important word —thereby giving greater hope and protection to the smaller states of the world and the interests of international order. There are no precise historic parallels, but we must learn the lessons of the 1930s and the history of Czechoslovakia. If we do not act positively now, the danger of war at a later stage is that much greater.

On 28 November 1988, an Arab leader said in a speech to Arab lawyers: An Arab country does not have the right to occupy another Arab country—God forbid, if Iraq should deviate from the right path, we would want Arabs to send their arms to put things right. Saddam Hussein made that speech. It is right that he should heed his words now, or pay the price that he anticipated. If he refuses to do so, we shall find ourselves near the time when we must liberate Kuwait. In so doing, it must be right that we should let the world know that, in the aftermath of the withdrawal from or the liberation of Kuwait, the United Nations, Britain and the other nations participating in the forces there are ready to work with the forces of moderation in the middle east to help to construct a more stable middle east. Britain's past role in the middle east has been singularly important. We helped to create Iraq and Israel and to protect the Gulf states. We have a heavy responsibility and duty on our shoulders to work to create good from tragedy.

8.36 pm
Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan)

Many states and many individuals have been involved in the process that finally took Saddam Hussein into Kuwait. I want to make it perfectly plain that we believe that in the final analysis one person will decide for war or peace—Saddam Hussein.

I shall quote from a bulletin called "Voice of the Arab World", which is produced by a British organisation. It produced an intelligence report in December that illustrates my point about several people being involved in the process that brought us to the present situation. It says: File Five: Washington and Whitehall policy up to 25 July. The Americans are not the only ones who at one time or another 'took' to Saddam Hussein. A former British ambassador to Baghdad, during his time there, escorted David Mellor, then British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in to see the president. The ambassador said later: 'It was a very sympathetic, encouraging meeting. Iraq was one of Britain's most valued trading customers. She remained the stalwart enemy of Iran. Add that background to the buoyant, self-confidence of Mellor and you have the ingredients for a cordial meeting between two interesting and intelligent men.' The article points out that, while the Iraqis were massing on the Kuwaiti border—apparently the CIA told Washington of that, but it either could not or did not want to hear— the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met Saddam on 25 July at a time when his tanks were lined up on the border. Her recorded words were: 'The United States has no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait.' The ambassador thereby emphasised to Saddam an U.S. 'hands off policy in the Arab Gulf. She pressed on to make two other points: '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.". I draw the House's attention to the word "conflicts" in the statement made by the US ambassador to Saddam Hussein. Many people believe that that was the green light for the border dispute and that the real problem is that Saddam Hussein went beyond the border that was in dispute. Whatever contribution other people may have made to the stimulation of his ambitions, ideas or false information, Saddam Hussein is the person who will decide for war or peace.

I have not evaded or avoided the possibility of military force being employed against Saddam Hussein. Nor am I sanguine about the amount of time that is available to us. It is a purely personal judgment, but I believe that if he is still in possession of Kuwait after Ramadan there will be no prospect of getting him out. If we are honest, we are all aware that the coalition which gathered around the United States and the United Kingdom is shaky and may not last long.

Are we at the final moment? Are we at the point when we can conclude that there is no alternative, barring unleashing force against Saddam Hussein? The Scottish National party and I believe that we are not. Earlier this afternoon, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) mentioned President Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. The important formula for Kennedy was, "Never put your adversary in a corner that he cannot come out of. Always leave him some means of escape." That has not happened in our relations with Iraq over this problem.

I have just been passed a note saying that the French initiative has totally collapsed, which I very much regret. I do not want to go into whether it collapsed because of problems in the Security Council or because Saddam Hussein said he did not want anything to do with it. I am not in a position to relay that information to hon. Members.

It is a great tragedy that the French initiative was not picked up immediately it became known because it had two important elements, one of which was withdrawal. A BBC translation of the initiative states that its purpose is To invite Iraq to announce the intention of withdrawal without further delay. The intention to withdraw to a scheduled calendar and begin massive and immediate retreat". I disagree with the Prime Minister, who said this afternoon that the wording undermined the United Nations' resolutions. It does nothing of the kind.

The second element of the French initiative was a call for a middle east peace conference. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary and the Government will retort that the concession of a peace conference would give some success to an aggressor. I read the Foreign Secretary's article last week in The Scotsman and his speeches and those of the Prime Minister. They talk as though some great, sacrosanct moral imperative is involved.

International affairs have nothing to do with morality; they are founded on state interest and the practical limits of power that can be applied in a given situation. That is why the events in East Timor did not produce the response made to the Kuwait invasion. That is why Lebanon could be invaded by Syria and Israel without a similar response. That is why we have had diplomatic rapprochement with Syria, which not long ago was a terrorist state. That is why tonight all we can do is wring our hands about the Baltic states rather than urge the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to intervene.

If people want to move nearer home on the issue of state interests and the contradiction with morality, let them remember what the House did in respect of the Falklands and compare that with what we did in respect of Hong Kong where, because of our perceived state interests and domestic interests, we were willing to allocate 3.5 million Hong Kong Chinese to a regime which shot young students dead in a square in Peking.

Hon. Members say that the United Nations charter is extremely important and that we will go to the end to defend it. Let us take a hypothetical situation, which could become a reality—the Ukraine, where a range of people have always argued that in no circumstances is the Ukraine other than an independent area which should never have been taken into the Soviet Union. The Ukraine has a seat in the United Nations. What happens if they declare their independence and invoke the charter? Everyone knows that no peacekeeping force would be sent, because of the practicalities of the limitations on power.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I very much admire the hon. Gentleman. This is one of the best speeches that I have heard this evening, not least because I did not get to make mine in this, the third of the Gulf debates. So magnificent a speech is it that I am bound to ask the hon. Gentleman a question. I shall go into the Lobby to vote against a war and against the Government. Will the hon. Gentleman and the Scottish National party be there with me?

Mr. Sillars

I shall deal with that point when I come to the end of my speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] I am not subject to the 10-minute rule.

Mr. Cryer

Say, "Yes, I will" or "Yes, we will."

Mr. Sillars

I shall answer the question put by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) at the end of my remarks.

I want to discuss the issue in terms of the reality of state interests. State interests are involved with the west. If Kuwait were noted for its wheat and not its oil, there would be no crisis and no army. Is it really in the best interests of the west to have war before every aspect of diplomacy is exhausted? That is a key question.

I want to be specific about Palestine. I have heard people say that there is no linkage, and I would not pretend that Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait to promote the Palestinian issue to the top of the world agenda—of course he did not. But he has now introduced the Palestinian issue. He has opened up a possible avenue of escape for himself. Bearing in mind the Kennedy dictum, should we open up that avenue even further to allow him to escape?

Some people say that there is no link, but anyone who knows anything about the middle east knows that the Palestinian issue is a great current that wholly determines, shapes and forms the political climate of the whole middle east. Perhaps it is put better than I can put it if I quote Patrick Cockburn in an article in The Independent today. Referring to linkage, he said: The difficulty is that the security problems of the Middle East are both linked. The fact that the Iraqis did not originally invade Kuwait on behalf of the Palestinians does not alter this. From the first days after the invasion, Palestinians on the West Bank and in their diaspora throughout the Arab world supported Iraq because they, more than anybody else in the Middle East, have most to gain from a change in the balance of power in the region. There is linkage whether we like it or not. All Arab attitudes have been formed by the events of 1948, 1967 and 1973—that is the Palestinian issue.

There are risks. Suppose that we get an agreement and a diplomatic move which allows Saddam Hussein to retreat and he becomes some sort of hero—partial loser but also partial winner. Risks are involved, but they must be balanced against the other risks inherent in the consequences of war unleashed in the middle east. All major conflicts generate death and destruction, but they also whip up political shock waves which knock over previous political structures. Nothing is ever the same after a war. This war will release a shock wave in a region littered with regimes lacking legitimacy in terms of popular support—a region in spiritual, intellectual and political turmoil, one of the most unstable in the world.

For those reasons, we do not believe that we should go to war until the exhaustion of every diplomatic effort has been proved.

I end by replying to the hon. Member for Hillhead. At business questions yesterday I said that it is a disgrace that this place is being forced to vote on a war and peace issue, with all its complexities—not black and white but shades of grey in between—on a technical motion on the Adjournment. If we vote for the motion with the Government, they will be able to claim that we support them and the leader of the Labour party will be able to claim that we support his war aims which go far beyond those of the United Nations. We cannot go into that Lobby subject to that interpretation. The problem of going into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Hillhead is that we do not agree with some of the things that he and his hon. Friends have said—

Mr. Galloway

No war in the Gulf.

Mr. Sillars

No. The hon. Gentleman must take on board the fact that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—[ Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is very unparliamentary.

Mr. Sillars

The hon. Gentleman must take on board the fact that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield has been arguing that in no circumstances can one apply force to Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. We do not agree with that, so we cannot join those hon. Members in the Lobby. It would have been far better if we had had substantive motions which could have been amended and on which we could have voted. We will not be manipulated by the Government or by the Opposition Front Bench or by other hon. Members.

8.50 pm
Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

I am somewhat reluctant to intervene in the trials and tribulations of Opposition Members. I hope that the House will calm down and will get back to the subject. Incidentally, it would be no bad thing if the House got back a little to the principles and morals involved as well. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) would not expect me to agree with most of what he said. He took me and the House around the world so quickly that we are all dazed geographically and politically by his various examples, apart from being dazed by the trials and tribulations.

I should like to think that the hon. Gentleman may be right in believing that we have not yet reached the final moment, but I fear that he is wrong. I was naive enough—I said so publicly as well as privately—to feel that there would be an Iraqi withdrawal at the last minute. I based that view on the fact that Saddam Hussein was not a complete fool. He has conducted himself in a clever and almost crafty way in playing the various forces that have been ranged against him. I thought that Saddam Hussein would not risk the destruction of his country, and the death of so many of his armed forces and of his people. I thought that he would go for the so-called "nightmare scenario", which means a partial withdrawal, and which has scarcely been mentioned in the debate. I believed that he might partially withdraw, but might keep the disputed part of the Rumaila oilfield and the islands. We may even yet have to address that question.

I and other hon. Members in the debate are extremely pessimistic. Saddam Hussein appears to have decided that he can better survive as leader of his country—bearing in mind the fate that has awaited Iraqi leaders historically if they got it wrong—after a defeat and after having fought than after a withdrawal from which he gets little or nothing. That is sad, so I agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) that that man intends to fight. We must, of course, try for peace and we must go down various avenues for the extra mile. Some of my hon. Friends may agree that we have been down a lot of avenues and a lot of extra miles.

The present position is that all the initiatives are as nothing. My own pessimism began when I learned of the deplorable way in which the Secretary-General of the United Nations was treated in Baghdad. On the tapes tonight, we heard—this is quite apart from arguing the question of linkage, with which I do not agree—that after the French had put linkage as part of their terms, the French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said that he had had no tangible response from Baghdad. That is the present position.

The realities are simply these. We are not dealing with what might have been, with whether we could have got something different or with whether, if we had been in charge, we could have done something different. We are faced with an illegal and brutal invasion. We are faced with a second invasion of a different country in a decade. We must face the fact that if nothing is done here, there will be further invasions.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) put the argument well. Against Iraq is ranged the most powerful military force since the second world war. It involves the United States, ourselves and a number of others. It also has the full backing of a world body—the United Nations. To back off now would mean that there would be no world authority left. It would be open season for every dictator and terrorist in the world.

I want to describe what I believe would happen if we backed off. The future would be even more precarious than the future that could await us should there be a war. First, Iraq will take over the military and, increasingly, the political leadership of the Arab middle east and there could never be a more unscrupulous and unprincipled leader. Secondly, the Gulf states are always vulnerable and they would collapse unless we stayed there virtually indefinitely. That is not on and would not be a good thing anyway.

Thirdly, Israel will undoubtedly be involved in a further middle east war if Saddam Hussein has his way in the present crisis. Fourthly, the forces of Arab moderation and balance will effectively be demoralised. Egypt and Syria will not chance their arm again with the west if we let them down over this, which is a very difficult position for them. Fifthly, as has been so well put recently, not only the prosperous world but the third world will increasingly become dependent on the will of dictators. Sixthly—a horrifying prospect—Iraq will become a nuclear power.

We must concentrate on the future, whether there is peace or war. It is paramount that we concentrate on gaining a solution—and it will not be easy—to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to the Palestinian position. The participation of the United States, in the same thorough and good way in which it has led the world during the present crisis, is needed increasingly on the issue, which is the rallying cry for much of the trouble throughout the region.

The region is divided between the countries which are deprived of wealth and are generally more populated and the countries that are under-populated and extremely wealthy. A more equal distribution of the oil wealth must be worked out across the Arab world.

A further point for the future is that we must establish —whether there is peace or war—a United Nations-backed, mainly Arab peacekeeping force for the area and that force will, of course, be backed by the west. We must encourage political progress in the Gulf states. Whatever can be said about those countries, the inhabitants have not in recent years faced an overwhelmingly democratic future.

Last, but not least, there must be far tighter international control of weapons supplied to these countries. They have the money to buy equipment of vast destructive power, but they have few of the skills or the maturity of government which should go with the ability and opportunity to use those weapons. We must aim for all these things in the future.

8.57 pm
Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

There has been the stench of hypocrisy about this debate, and also the stench of racism. I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) who spoke about Lithuania. The British Government have said that Lithuania is a free and independent country which is not part of the USSR. The USSR has sent troops into Lithuania. Therefore, the British Government should do what it has done about Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Kuwait: it should get the United Nations to send troops to throw the Russians out of Lithuania. There is one reason why they will not do that —the colour of the Russians is different from the colour of the Iraqis and that is a fact.

I spent eight days in Iraq as leader of the peace mission organised by the British branch of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement. We were there to find out what the Iraqis thought because the media over here had not been putting the Iraqi point of view. If we are to believe what we hear from President Bush, our own Prime Minister and the gutter press, Saddam Hussein is a half-mad dictator—a devil who rules by brutality alone and does not care about his people. But the fact of the matter is that Saddam Hussein is not mad—he is ruthless, yes, but he is not mad —and he cares about his people. When I was in Baghdad, the Iraqi people told me that they had the greatest respect for Saddam Hussein. The same is true in Jordan. The reason is that Saddam Hussein has made his people feel that the Arab people should be proud of their ethnicity and race. The west takes no account of that.

President Bush says that there should be no linkage. I will tell the House about linkage. I remember when the Americans called a conference to discuss Namibia after the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, at which the South Africans were defeated by the Angolans and the Cubans. The first thing that the Americans said was that they had to have linkage: if they wanted the South Africans out of Namibia, the Cubans had to leave Angola. It had nothing to do with the issue. The Americans are nothing but a load of hypocrites if they think that we will accept the policy of no linkage.

The present situation could be resolved easily if Israel said that she was prepared to go to a conference to discuss the Palestinian issue. Why will the Israelis not do that? It is because Israel wants to maintain her expansionist policy in the middle east—and Israel is allowed to get away with that because the Americans want one power only in the region, and that power must be Israel.

I am opposed to much of what has been said tonight and to sanctions against Iraq. I think that there should be an Arab solution. If the Arabs got together without any pressure from the west, they would be able to resolve the issue. The Palestinian issue must be an integral part of any conference. I believe that there should be a discussion on secure borders for Israel, too, but I certainly feel that unless there is linkage there will be no prospect of peace in the middle east.

If there is war tomorrow, the effects on third-world countries will vastly outweigh the effects within the region. The Minister for Overseas Development has already told us that there will be no extra money for the starving millions of Africa because of the amount of money that will have to be spent on war in the Gulf. That is only one aspect. There will be hunger and starvation the like of which has never been seen before in the oil-importing countries. A report of the United Nations committee on trade and development has already stated that if the price of oil goes to $30 per barrel, $26 billion will be taken away from third-world countries and put back into the coffers of oil-producing countries, including this country. It is clear to me that the world, around America and its allies in the Gulf, is heading for war for one reason and one reason only: it wants control of the middle east.

There is also a subsidiary reason: the people involved are people of colour. I end as I began: if we are talking about white people invading a white country, United States and British forces would never be involved as they are in the Gulf today.

9.3 pm

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

As we approach what may be the gravest turning point in post-war international history, it is right that this House of Commons should remind itself of the nature of the crisis that we face. Parallels have been drawn with other crises in which this country has been involved—with Suez, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), and with the Falklands. Those comparisons are faulty.

Suez was a conspiracy among three countries of which Britain was one. Britain was party to an aggression that violated two United Nations General Assembly resolutions and involved a British veto of two Security Council resolutions: it was Britain against the United Nations. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), from whom we heard again today, should remember all this very well; he was the Government Chief Whip at the time and he had the responsibility of delivering a majority to sustain Anthony Eden's violation of international law. Although Suez had serious international implications, it fundamentally affected only the four countries in dispute. In Britain the Prime Minister was overthrown and the country's imperial role was ended for ever.

In the Falklands there was an act of aggression by a fascist dictatorship which, tired of negotiating what it regarded as a valid case, invaded the islands which it claimed and so violated the United Nations charter. Again, although important principles of international conduct were involved, it was a dispute between two countries, each with supporters of its case, which did not involve the United Nations directly. The solution of the dispute by the United Kingdom exercising its right of self defence under article 51 of the United Nations charter affected only the two countries involved. Argentina was expelled from the islands and the Argentine junta was ousted soon afterwards.

The Gulf crisis that we have debated throughout today is very different. Although one country has invaded and consumed another, the dispute is not simply between those two countries. Immediately after the invasion took place on 2 August, the United Nations Security Council intervened. It took a series of unprecedented measures intended to force the aggressor to disgorge his spoils. If those spoils are not disgorged, the repercussions will affect not merely Iraq and Kuwait, but the entire world community.

If the most stringent measures ever taken by the United Nations fail, the United Nations will in future be worthless as an institution created and designed to maintain international order and security. That is why we in the Labour party have been determined that the will of the United Nations must be upheld and implemented. It was a Labour Government who were involved in the creation of the United Nations 45 years ago. It is the Labour party which has a constitution requiring us to support the United Nations. We have invested too much faith and hope in that organisation to stand by and see it shattered by the recalcitrance of one country.

Ever since 2 August the Labour party has been clear in its view of how the crisis should be solved. We have based that view insistently and inextricably on support for the authority of the United Nations. It is based not on support for any individual Government, including the British Government, but on the firm rock of the United Nations. We advocated economic sanctions and naval and air blockades to enforce them. We advocated diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a peaceful solution fully within the United Nations resolutions. We said that if an option of force was to be available to provide backing for the sanctions and the diplomacy, that option must have what in the House on 7 September I called the clear and unquestionable authority of the United Nations".—[Official Report, 7 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 892.]

Mr. Dalyell

Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of us would be much more comfortable if, to establish the firm rock of the United Nations, we went back not to the Security Council but to the General Assembly and asked a specific question? We should ask whether it is the will of the General Assembly of the United Nations—all the member countries—that we should embark on a human and ecologically catastrophic war. If that question were put and answered, many of us would be much happier.

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend is well aware that such questions are referred to the General Assembly only when the Security Council is stalemated. That is precisely what happened during Suez when the British Government's veto of two Security Council resolutions placed the matter in the hands of the General Assembly. We welcome the diplomatic efforts that have been made and are still being made. I hope that they will continue, whether they are made by France—although it appears that the latest French initiative has failed—the Yemen or anyone else who feels ready to try. But let us be clear that every diplomatic effort that has been attempted has been the initiative of the countries or international organisations united against Iraqi aggression.

It was President Bush who proposed the talks in Baghdad and Washington, which never took place, and the talks in Geneva that failed. It was the European Community that proposed talks with Tariq Aziz, which he spurned. It was a senior French emissary who went to Baghdad and it is the Prime Minister of Yemen who has gone there. It was the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who represents us all, the Security Council and the General Assembly, who went to Baghdad and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) reminded us, was left cooling his heels for six hours before Saddam Hussein deigned to meet him.

Let us be blunt. The senior statesmen and women of the world have danced attendance on Saddam Hussein while he, the initiator of the aggression, has not taken one step to resolve the situation that he has created. He has frustrated the efforts of those who have sought an outcome through diplomacy. Mr. Perez de Cuellar said, after their meeting eventually took place: He never mentioned the word withdrawal". As all of us in the House agonise about how to resolve this crisis peacefully, let us be clear that the crisis could be resolved peacefully in one moment if Saddam Hussein withdrew from Kuwait and if he decided to undo what he alone did—if he simply got out. Instead, as resolution 678 puts it, he is in "flagrant contempt" of the United Nations. He says that he has no grievances, but he knows that UN resolution 660 urges that those grievances be resolved through direct negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup referred to those negotiations today, but they can take place only if there is a Kuwait—an entity whose existence Saddam Hussein denies—and if there is a legitimate Kuwaiti Government restored to authority as resolution 661 laid down.

Saddam Hussein claims that he is concerned for the Palestinians, who indeed continue to suffer under Israeli occupation. If they continue so to suffer, Saddam Hussein must bear a full share of the responsibility, because since the House last debated the Gulf crisis, the Security Council has passed resolution 681 which, accompanied by a statement by the Security Council president, provides the basis for the international conference which Saddam Hussein says he wants to deal with the problem. The statement says that such a conference should be held at an appropriate time. It is an historic and unprecedented resolution. Not for nearly a quarter of a century has the Security Council passed a comprehensive resolution aimed at securing a middle east settlement and justice for the Palestinians.

If the Security Council's authority is flouted over 12 resolutions dealing with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, how can an appropriate time—I should like it to be very soon, for I have advocated such a conference for many years —be fixed for that conference when it can only be convened through the authority of the United Nations? If Saddam Hussein cared as much about the Palestinians as he rhetorically claims, and as much as many hon. Members genuinely care, he would immediately withdraw from Kuwait for that reason alone. However, he shows no sign of getting out. The whole of the UN awaits the decision of one man who holds all of us to ransom.

We all agree that Saddam Hussein's aggression must be reversed. What is causing anxious debate in the House and the country is how it should be done. The Labour party advocates diplomacy and we believe that that should continue as long as there is any point to it. However, diplomacy should not reward Iraq—there can be no reward for aggression—nor should it do a deal with Iraq. The Security Council resolutions insist that withdrawal must be unconditional. Diplomacy should explore, until success is reached or there is no further point, the possibilities of persuading Iraq that withdrawal is in its interests as well as in the interests of the international community.

The Labour party advocated economic sanctions. They have been in operation for 166 days. I am sure that when the United Kingdom Government embarked on those sanctions they did so in good faith. I am not sure whether the Government hoped or expected that the sanctions would succeed in 166 days or fewer, but two things are clear: first, the sanctions have had a considerable effect; secondly, they have not yet had the effect of inducing Iraq to leave Kuwait.

That sanctions have had an effect is clear from impeccable sources. By November the United States State Department had reported that 97 per cent. of Iraq's oil exports had been cut off, that imports of machinery, industrial goods, semi-finished goods and raw materials had declined by 90 per cent. and that some food prices had increased eightfold.

Mr. William Webster, director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, gave evidence to the House of Representatives armed services committee last month when he provided further information. He said that more than 100 countries are observing sanctions, that sanctions have all but shut off Iraqi exports and that imports into Iraq have been reduced to less than 10 per cent. of the pre-invasion level. He said that many light industrial and assembly plants have been affected, as has Iraq's only tyre manufacturing plant. He revealed that sanctions have deprived Iraq of $1.5 billion of foreign exchange every month and that Iraq will have nearly depleted its foreign exchange reserve by the spring. He said: Reduced rations, coupled with rapid inflation … will compound the economic pressures". He said that even with favourable weather Iraq would be able to produce less than half the grain that it needs, and that the effect of sanctions will be felt first by the Iraqi air force and then by its army.

The Iraqi industry Minister has admitted that 60 per cent. of factories are closed due to lack of spare parts or raw materials and that almost 80 per cent. of Iraqis are unemployed or under-employed.

No doubt on the basis of that or similar information, Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine, the commander in chief of United Kingdom air forces and joint commander of the British forces, stated that by the end of October —I have no reason to think that he has changed his mind since—the refinement of crude oil into aviation fuel and lubricants for tanks and other vehicles was already becoming more of a problem for Saddam Hussein. He said: If we can enforce the embargo more effectively life must get more difficult for him. The air chief marshal summed up: We have obviously got to give several months or longer for sanctions to work. We are pinning our faith on sanctions. There is evidence they are starting to bite. That is clearly an important view. Equally clearly, I would be the first to insist that judgments on policy must be the responsibility not of service officers, however senior or distinguished, but of elected politicians. The House should take that evidence into account. Because sanctions have not yet succeeded does not mean that they are bound to fail.

The House should take into account, too, that the date of 15 January, inserted into resolution 678, is, as the Foreign Secretary explained when the resolution was going through the Security Council, not … the date upon which military action starts but It is the date after which member states will be authorised to take action in pursuit not of their own objectives but of the specific requirements of the Security Council".—[Official Report, 28 November 1990; Vol. 181, col. 869–70.] That interpretation was endorsed a week ago when President Bush stated: January 15 is not a date certain for the onset of armed conflict. It was reinforced yesterday by General Brent Scowcroft, President Bush's national security adviser, who said: Every day we're closer to Saddam Hussein's deadline. We don't have one, but he has one. It was with those considerations in mind that I told the House in our debate five weeks ago on 11 December: Stipulation of the date does not necessarily trigger the use of force on or immediately after that date. We in the Labour party repeat our position that the option of force should be invoked only after the maximum time has been given for sanctions to work". I continued: We should not be hemmed in by the date of 15 January. We should not be boxed in by the compulsion of the desert timetable and the effects of the weather on the ability to wage war. If a longer haul is judged likely to achieve the effect of sanctions, we should not rely on other considerations to reject the longer haul."—[Official Report, 11 December 1990; Vol. 182, c. 837.] That has been our position from the start and it remains our position today. We still hope that it will prevail.

We appreciate that as an Opposition we can warn, advise and recommend, but not decide. The prerogative of decision lies with the Government. Therefore, the question arises as to what the Labour party's attitude should be if the Government's decision is contrary to what we recommend and early use of force is decided on. Here, my judgment is very much affected by what has become of the position the Government held at the outset of the crisis.

I have reminded the House tonight that in the first of our debates on the subject on 7 September 1990 I insisted that if there was to be an option of force standing behind sanctions and diplomacy, it should have what I called, the clear and unquestionable authority of the United Nations. I said: We believe that any further operations found necessary … should … be clearly and unequivocally authorised by the United Nations. Much of that debate in September was dominated by discussion of whether article 51 of the United Nations charter was sufficient authority for the use of military force against Iraq. I said: It is not enough to be able to argue a technical case under article 51"—[Official Report, 7 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 892.] That was not the Government's position at that time. The right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), opening the debate as Prime Minister, spent a large proportion of her speech advancing a view quite contrary to the view of the Labour party's spokesmen. She spoke of what she called the right of individual or collective self-defence under article 51, which she claimed was affirmed in resolution 661. She said: To undertake now to use no military force without the further authority of the Security Council would be to deprive ourselves of a right in international law expressly affirmed by Security Council resolution 661. She continued: I have full legal authority for everything that I say on these matters, and for those reasons I am not willing to limit our legitimate freedom of action … My views have been approved by the topmost legal opinions that we can get." —[Official Report, 6 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 737–38.] If that had continued to be the Government's policy, I might have been in considerable difficulty tonight when contemplating my attitude to the use of force should the Government decide, as I hope they will not, to go ahead with force earlier rather than later, if at all. But what the right hon. Member for Finchley stated as the Government's policy on 6 September is no longer Government policy. That policy was abandoned in the most explicit terms on 9 November when, after talks with Mr. James Baker, the United States Secretary of State, the right hon. Lady came to Downing street as was her wont in those days and announced that she had given her approval for the United States to seek a United Nations resolution authorising military action in the Gulf.

The then Prime Minister could not have been more open about this change of policy. She declared: We do not believe one"— that is, a resolution— is necessary for legal reasons. We already have the legal authority. The only question is how best to keep this coalition of opinion together and that, of course, we consider. The Government changed their mind and I am glad that they did. They supported the Security Council resolution when previously they had rejected such a resolution. That resolution went through on 29 November. It is a resolution for which the Labour party pressed and on which we insisted. We are very glad that the Government came round to our way of thinking.

We ardently believe that the option in resolution 678 ought not to be taken up until sanctions have been given a better and further chance, but if that view is rejected we have to be consistent. We must accept that such action will have been taken in accordance with a resolution for which we pressed long and hard, a resolution which is now United Nations policy embodied in that resolution.

That is why I remind the House of our long-stated view that sanctions should be persisted with over the longer haul—[HON. MEMBERS: "For how long?"] Neither the United States when it drafted the resolution nor the United Kingdom Government when they supported it wanted a deadline at all. It was inserted at the insistence of the Soviet Union. The United Nations, having slipped into the error of one deadline, ought not to slip into the error of another.

Ms. Short

I have heard my right hon. Friend say on a number of occasions that the 15 January deadline, which I considered a major error, came about at the insistence of the Soviet Union. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said today that he understood that the Soviet Union asked for that deadline because it was later than the deadline that the Americans were pressing for. This deadline is a major error in the west's strategy in the Gulf, and I should like to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say about the point made by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup.

Mr. Kaufman

I can give my hon. Friend two pieces of evidence, one of which is on the record and one of which is not. I assure my hon. Friend that I obtained the latter in the past eight days on the highest and most authentic authority.

The first piece of evidence was provided by the Foreign Secretary who, in Hansard on 28 November, specifically confirmed that this was done on the insistence of the Soviet Union. As for the other piece of evidence, I have been told by other parties involved in the negotiations that the deadline was inserted at the insistence of the Soviet Union; and there could be no better authority for that information than those parties. If the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup disagrees, he will have to produce evidence contrary to mine, but I cannot imagine any evidence that could controvert the evidence that I have.

I say again that sanctions should be persisted with over the longer haul. I also say to the House that if the British armed forces are sent into action under the authority of resolution 678 and in accordance with an objective that we support, the Labour party will give its unswerving support to our armed forces.

On 11 December I told the House that at the end of that debate I would be voting not for the Government but for the policies that the Labour party has advocated since the invasion of Kuwait. I said that I would vote to send a signal to Saddam Hussein that the Labour party is unequivocal in its support of the United Nations.

I shall vote tonight in the same Lobby and for the same reason, not for the Government, not to urge or encourage war, but in support of the United Nations. I want Saddam Hussein to know that the Labour party is impregnable in its support for the United Nations; that the United Nations demands that Saddam Hussein leaves Kuwait and that leave Kuwait Saddam Hussein will. I pray that he leaves Kuwait peacefully.

9.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

This has been a sombre debate, rightly, because the country may stand on the edge of war and it is right that the House should look into these deeps. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) spoke of his memories and experiences. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) mentioned his family anxiety. Such speeches were deeply moving because of the personal feeling behind them.

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 no hidden agenda. There is no intention to dismember Iraq. There is no intention to impose on Iraq a Government or, indeed, a president of our choice. We have not added to or sought to add to the requirements of the Security Council. The international community has been clear about those aims from the beginning.

I will pick up one or two of what seem to me to be the important points raised during the debate before I return to the main theme. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred, as he has done before, to his interpretation of Security Council resolution 660 and what it says about negotiation between the Kuwaitis and the Iraqis. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) picked up the point, as did the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) just now.

Resolution 660 was passed on 2 August, the day on which the Iraqis moved into Kuwait and before they had secured all its territory. We and all members of the Security Council wanted to see negotiations between the Government of Kuwait in Kuwait and the Government of the invading force, just as we wanted the invading force to withdraw, but it is a very different matter to expect the Kuwaiti Government in exile to take on the full burden of negotiating with the Iraqis on the restitution of their rightful territory, particularly with a Government, one of whose Ministers says that there is no such thing as Kuwait.

Of course there is an agenda. My right hon. Friend is right. There is an agenda between those two countries, not least because it is certain that the Kuwaitis will want substantial reparations from Iraq. But these negotiations can only take place between two Governments who control their respective states. Therefore, before that part of resolution 660 becomes realistic, we must bring about the return of the territory in Kuwait to its legitimate Government.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce) mentioned in passing the position of Jordan. I was there two days ago. A large part of Jordan's economy is theatened or being damaged by the sanctions against Iraq which the Jordanian Government are now attempting to implement. Two days ago, I again had talks with the king, crown prince and Ministers of Jordan, and I came away feeling sympathy for their predicament. I hope that they find a way through. None of my right hon. and hon. Friends nor I agree with the political analysis that the king has adopted throughout the crisis, but the Jordanians seek compliance with the Security Council resolutions. Their standing and place in the region has been seriously damaged. I and other right hon. and hon. Members have talked about that situation to others of Jordan's traditional friends in the region, and we would like to see the resumption of the traditional friendly links between Jordan and countries such as Egypt and the Gulf states.

Mr. Nellist

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hurd

Perhaps I can get on a bit.

Mr. Heath

Perhaps I may return to my right hon. Friend's point about paragraph 3 of resolution 660. In fact, the Kuwaiti royal family left Kuwait before the Iraqis went in and are now established in Saudi Arabia as the Government of Kuwait, so there is nothing to prevent the Kuwaiti Government from negotiating with the Iraqi Government. To start picking and choosing paragraphs from United Nations resolutions at this stage is neither justifiable nor tolerable.

Mr. Hurd

I do not think that the House considers that it is justifiable to expect a Government in exile—whether in London 50 years ago or in Saudi Arabia now—to start negotiating with the people occupying their territories.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) spoke, as he has done before, of the horrors to come if there is fighting. All fighting is a horrible business, of course, but the right hon. Gentleman has been uniquely inaccurate in his past prophesies. In 1982, he predicted that any opposed landing in the Falklands would inflict intolerable casualties on the Falkland islanders, and that the result of a successful British action would be that the Argentine Government would be replaced by a regime far more nationalistic, and far more determined to secure revenge, than that of General Galtieri.

I could not check the accuracy of all the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East as he spoke of some things that I knew not of, but when he remarked on matters about which I do know, he was wrong. In particular, he was wrong about the Soviets, and about the position that the European Ministers adopted in Brussels yesterday when they all—including the French—decided that the Community and its member states would regretfully have to conclude that the conditions for a new European initiative do not exist as of this moment. I fear that that has proved to be the correct conclusion.

Mr. Nellist

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way now?

Mr. Hurd

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

Many right hon. and hon. Members raised the question of the Arab-Israel situation and linkage. Once the aggression against Kuwait is reversed and Iraq is out of Kuwait, it will be possible and necessary to return to the other problems of the middle east. Everyone concerned—President Bush, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and the European Community—have made that clear.

We have been working on a solution to the Arab-Israel problem since the foundation of the state of Israel, and even long before then. In recent years, the Security Council has charted the way. It is a conflict of competing claims and rights, and not exactly comparable with any other problem. The territories in question were occupied by Israel in 1967 as a result of an attack planned against Israel which it pre-empted. We do not agree with Israel's occupation of those territories, and we do not believe that it provides a legitimate basis for Israel's security, but the historical basis for it is different from that of the Gulf crisis, and the Security Council resolutions are also different.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)


Mr. Hurd

I shall continue with this point and then I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

I shall press for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, balanced by Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist within secure borders. Resolution 338 called for direct negotiations.

For many years there was no general Arab readiness to accept either resolution, but we have repeatedly stated that recent steps by the PLO and the Arab League have placed the onus upon Israel to respond. We support self-determination for the Palestinians. We support a direct dialogue between Israel and representative Palestinians, and we believe that an international conference is the right forum for negotiations between all parties concerned, at the right time. That is our policy.

Saddam Hussein has not helped forward this policy, and he has not helped forward the peace processes—he has hindered it and held them up. As the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) made clear, Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait to help the Palestinians; he invaded Kuwait to help himself. It is absurd to argue that one can end one occupation by imposing another.

I should just tell the House that—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Would the Foreign Secretary carry on, please?

Mr. Hurd

Iraq's standing in the Arab-Israel question is that of one Arab state, not as a spokesman for all Arab states. That point was made clearly and insistently to me by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud, when I was in the area the other day.

Iraq's recent aggression makes it much more difficult, for the time being, to work towards a settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute, but once Iraq is out of Kuwait we shall have to return to this, and we shall have to bring fresh energy and imagination to the issue. Fresh thinking will be needed from the Arab states, which are still technically at war with Israel, by the Palestinians, by Israel and by the international community.

I entirely agree, and I am sure that most hon. Members would agree, that the suffering and injustice brought about by this problem must spur us on.

Mr. Ernie Ross

I agree with the Foreign Secretary that it would be wrong to link the two issues, but no matter how hon. Members or people in the west may feel, the majority of people in the Arab world see a linkage, if only because of our failure to deal just as efficiently and effectively in international law with the Palestinian question. If the right hon. Gentleman does not like the word linkage, what about the term parallel endeavours? Since Iraq invaded Kuwait, 72 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli defence forces. As the Foreign Secretary knows, last Wednesday four Palestinians were deported from the west bank and Gaza. Until we deal with those issues just as effectively and firmly—that is in no way linkage, but a parallel endeavour—people will not accept that we are serious about the middle east.

Mr. Hurd

As the Leader of the Opposition said, by invading Kuwait Saddam Hussein has held up and prevented any possible progress on the Arab-Israel question. That is the fact of the matter. Once he is out of Kuwait, as I have said, we shall have to return to the subject with vigour and with fresh ideas.

I have been asked about the French proposal—

Mr. Nellist

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hurd

I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

The Prime Minister dealt with the French proposal in his opening speech. The Security Council has been meeting informally today—the last day of this important chapter in its history. Four months after the original invasion, the original resolution 678 gave Saddam Hussein a further 45 days to decide whether he would comply. The Security Council and the Secretary-General have done their utmost to remind Saddam Hussein that 45 days have now passed by issuing a solemn appeal to him. That seemed to us to be a wholly sensible step. What we have not wanted to do is to suggest, even obliquely, that the time frame set by the Security Council should be extended, or that we have been converted by Saddam Hussein, in the context of his aggression, to the idea of an international conference on the Arab-Israel problem. The Arab members of the coalition would resent that fiercely, as has been made clear to me, and I cannot conceive of Israel's attending a conference convoked in such a way and under such auspices.

That said, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) that there is no case for harshness towards this proposal. What is necessary is for realism to be applied to it. We have been working all day in New York to achieve an appeal to Saddam Hussein around which all Security Council members can rally. We believe that a straightforward appeal of that kind would be the right course for the Secretary-General and the Security Council today.

This morning, we put forward certain British ideas to try to find the basis for such an appeal. I have just received a message from our representative in New York to the effect that the Security Council has agreed that the Secretary-General will make a statement, which he has said will fully reflect the Security Council resolutions, within an hour or two. If that proves to be right, it would seem a sensible end to the day's work.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Hurd

I will give way to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), who asked me to. [Interruption.]

Mr. Nellist

I am not sure why hon. Members find that so funny. What is the Secretary of State frightened of? Why will he not answer the question?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the Foreign Secretary was giving way to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon).

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

I thank the Foreign Secretary for giving way.

If war breaks out—in a very few hours—I believe that the right hon. Gentleman, his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Bush will have been total and abject failures. They will have failed the whole world, and in particular the people of the middle east. They are all failed politicians—wimps—and they will go down in history as the people who caused blood to be spilt by thousands in the middle east.

Mr. Hurd

I shall answer that point by describing where I think the real danger lies. Before I do so, however, I will fulfil the promise given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that I would say something further about sanctions.

It is perfectly reasonable to ask—as many have asked themselves and the Government—whether sanctions should not be given longer to take effect. Since sanctions were imposed, Iraqi oil exports have dwindled to virtually nothing, and Iraq is now cut off from its sources of external finance. Sanctions are not completely watertight, but there is no doubt that the flow of goods to Iraq is a very small proportion of that before the invasion of Kuwait. At the time of the invasion, Iraq had considerable food stocks. Although there is some rationing, consumption remains fairly high, and there is no reason to suppose that Iraqis face short-term difficulty in that regard. Steps have been taken by a dictatorial regime to force an increase in agricultural output.

Industry is also prepared for a long haul. As has been pointed out, many factories have closed as a result of deliberate action by the Iraqi Government to divert resources to the military sector. We believe that the key sectors of industry are likely on this basis to continue operations for a long time, and the Government have the option of closing down more factories without disruption and without affecting essential services.

I come now to the key question—that of the military. President Saddam Hussein has systematically built up a large arsenal in recent years. It is therefore hardly surprising that we see no signs that he is at present short of spares. We believe that that arsenal provides him with so much hardware that he can still afford to capitalise if necessary.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East has studied the matter carefully, and will appreciate this point. One test is the rate of sorties by the air force. It has not declined, which suggests that Iraq does not see a need to reduce sorties in order to conserve spare parts. Similar is true of the operations of the ground forces such as tanks and artillery. Prodigious quantities of hardware are deployed in Kuwait and Iraq, together with ammunition, and we see no evidence that the imposition of sanctions has so far affected those elements. We believe that Saddam Hussein could hold out for a long time without dramatically affecting his fighting arm, and that is the critical point.

Mr. Healey

My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) quoted the evidence given by the head of the CIA, Mr. Webster, a few weeks ago to the American Congress when he stated that the air capacity of Iraq would begin to be affected by about Easter, that other weapons would begin to be affected in six or nine months and that there would be a serious impact on the military capability by next autumn. Does the Secretary of State agree or disagree with Mr. Webster?

Mr. Hurd

I have given the House an up-to-date—as of this week—assessment of the situation. Mr. Webster's evidence was given some time ago. I do not believe that there would be a wide divergence of assessment and I have given the House the best assessment that we have.

Mr. Healey


Mr. Hurd

The question that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has not tackled is whether sanctions will get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. There is no doubt that if they were left in place for a long time, they would impose substantial hardships on the Iraqi people, but that is what they have been used to enduring for years. Saddam Hussein does not care for the suffering of his people. He has proved that in the war against Iran in which 350,000 people died. He is preoccupied with his own position and with the strength of his military machine. Will the right hon. Member for Leeds, East accept that there is no evidence that sanctions will have a decisive effect on Saddam Hussein's armed forces in the foreseeable future? That is the key point. Unless we wish to delude ourselves, we must face the possibility that sanctions, no matter how long they are applied, will not force Saddam Hussein to withdraw. They will not achieve such a decisive rundown of his military machine that he will leave Kuwait.

People could argue that we should put that proposition to the test if waiting were cost-free, but it is not. As time passes, it will be easy for the world outside to forget what has happened. Saddam Hussein has taken a sovereign nation, a member of the United Nations, and wiped it off the map. Its people have fled or been murdered and we estimate that of the 700,000 Kuwaitis who lived in Kuwait before August, only 250,000 remain there. If we let this pass, Kuwait may never be restored. Theoretically, the military option may still be open to us in six or 12 months but, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East knows, in practice it may be eroded. Time passes quickly in these matters and familiarity with a tragedy can easily blunt the outrage. If we do not take action within the foreseeable future, assuming that a peaceful outcome is prevented, it may be that the conditions for action will not again be favourable.

I fear that we must accept the possibility that by the time we looked again at the military option Kuwait would have become just another item on the international agenda. In fact, the will and the means might not come together again. If we blink now, how could we expect Saddam Hussein to believe in a military option again? To those who say, as many do and as many will be tempted to do in coming months, "Let sanctions work", I say that I fear that that is not a safe option.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eccles)


Mr. Hurd

I shall give way in a minute.

In a year or so, we may find that sanctions have not worked, that Saddam Hussein is still in Kuwait after more plunder, torture and killings and that, in practice, the military option no longer exists. I do not believe that any sensible hon. Member would regard that outcome as acceptable or safe.

Miss Lestor

If the policy of sanctions has been abandoned, when was that decision taken?

Mr. Hurd

It has not been abandoned; it is in full force. As the right hon. Member for Gorton emphasised, it was right to pursue it. We must seriously assess its prospects, not in terms of hardship for the Iraqi people but in terms of so crippling Iraqi's military machine that it has to get out of Kuwait. I have given the House the best assessment that I can of that situation.

Mr. Benn


Mr. Nellist


Mr. Hurd

I am coming to a close.

Several hon. Members, particularly those who will vote against the motion, have drawn our attention to many other acts of injustice and repression in the world, some of which are continuing and some of which have defied solution before. Of course it is right that we must continue to look for answers to problems in Cambodia, Lebanon and Palestine, with which I have dealt, and in Lithuania. On 2 August, we were faced with a clear, abrupt act of aggression. I cannot understand how it can be argued that that act of aggression should go unredressed because there are other injustices in the world. We should not forget Kuwait simply because we have other grievous problems to remember—a point made notably by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore).

In all this swell of argument, the essential point is more clearly understood in this country than elsewhere. We must ask, for what cause are we justified in asking young men and women to put lives—their own and others—at risk in war? The answer is safety—the safety of this country and of the international community, of which we are a part. The threat from Iraq to this country is not of invasion or direct bombing, although it might come from terrorism, but if we want a safe world we must accept the principle that a small, peaceable state cannot be obliterated, that aggression must be reversed and that, in part, our safety depends on the safety of others. We have learnt that lesson the hard way several times in this century. We must not only accept the point in argument but act on it. Everybody respects the pacifist position, but pacifists would accept that their position involves accepting, or at least putting up with, acts of aggression and letting them succeed.

Of course we must try peaceful action first. We have used peaceful means for more than five months, and for six weeks Saddam Hussein has known that from tonight members of the United Nations are authorised to use force to secure compliance with the Security Council's resolutions. The right hon. Member for Gorton rightly said that the most striking fact is that Saddam Hussein has refused to discuss, let alone admit, the need for withdrawal. I expected it to be otherwise. I thought that in the past week or so there would have been a flow of clever proposals from Baghdad, designed to divide the coalition and to confuse the issues. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) said about that. I thought that there would be proposals for partial withdrawal—or for withdrawal, but not yet—or that Saddam Hussein would pounce on one of the compromises floated before him in such profusion. That has not been so, and this evening, as I understand it, he has shown no interest—rather the reverse—in the latest French idea. He knows the range of forces against him, and he knows that if he fully withdraws he will not be attacked and that we have not added to the requirements of the Security Council. Unless there is some sudden change, which we can only guess at but cannot, I fear, expect, the only conclusion is that he prefers war to a satisfactory and fair solution of these disputes.

Mr. Benn

rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes 57, Noes 534.

Division No. 36] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Lewis, Terry
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Litherland, Robert
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Livingstone, Ken
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Loyden, Eddie
Bidwell, Sydney McAllion, John
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) McFall, John
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) McKelvey, William
Clay, Bob Madden, Max
Cohen, Harry Mahon, Mrs Alice
Corbyn, Jeremy Mallon, Seamus
Cousins, Jim Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cryer, Bob Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Cummings, John Mullin, Chris
Dalyell, Tarn Parry, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Primarolo, Dawn
Eadie, Alexander Redmond, Martin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Sedgemore, Brian
Faulds, Andrew Skinner, Dennis
Fyfe, Maria Strang, Gavin
Galloway, George Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Godman, Dr Norman A. Vaz, Keith
Gordon, Mildred Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Wigley, Dafydd
Heffer, Eric S. Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Hinchliffe, David Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hood, Jimmy Wray, Jimmy
Hoyle, Doug
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Tellers for the Ayes:
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Mr. Dave Nellist and
Lambie, David Mr. Dennis Canavan.
Lamond, James
Adley, Robert Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Aitken, Jonathan Barron, Kevin
Alexander, Richard Batiste, Spencer
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Allason, Rupert Beckett, Margaret
Allen, Graham Beggs, Roy
Alton, David Beith, A. J.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bell, Stuart
Amess, David Bellingham, Henry
Amos, Alan Bellotti, David
Anderson, Donald Bendall, Vivian
Arbuthnot, James Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Armstrong, Hilarys Benton, Joseph
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Benyon, W.
Arnold, Sir Thomas Bermingham, Gerald
Ashby, David Bevan, David Gilroy
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Biffen, Rt Hon John
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Blackburn, Dr John G
Ashton, Joe Blair, Tony
Aspinwall, Jack Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkins, Robert Blunkett, David
Atkinson, David Boateng, Paul
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Body, Sir Richard
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Baldry, Tony Boscawen, Hon Robert
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter Dover, Den
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dunn, Bob
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Durant, Sir Tony
Bowis, John Dykes, Hugh
Boyes, Roland Eastham, Ken
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Eggar, Tim
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Emery, Sir Peter
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Brazier, Julian Evennett, David
Bright, Graham Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fallon, Michael
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Fatchett, Derek
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Favell, Tony
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Fearn, Ronald
Browne, John (Winchester) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Buck, Sir Antony Fishburn, John Dudley
Buckley, George J. Fisher, Mark
Budgen, Nicholas Flynn, Paul
Burns, Simon Fookes, Dame Janet
Burt, Alistair Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Butler, Chris Forman, Nigel
Butterfill, John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Caborn, Richard Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Forth, Eric
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foster, Derek
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Foulkes, George
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fox, Sir Marcus
Carrington, Matthew Franks, Cecil
Carttiss, Michael Freeman, Roger
Cartwright, John French, Douglas
Cash, William Fry, Peter
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Galbraith, Sam
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gale, Roger
Chapman, Sydney Gardiner, Sir George
Chope, Christopher Garel-Jones, Tristan
Churchill, Mr Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) George, Bruce
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Gill, Christopher
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Clelland, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Goodhart, Sir Philip
Colvin, Michael Goodlad, Alastair
Conway, Derek Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Gorst, John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Gould, Bryan
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Graham, Thomas
Cope, Rt Hon John Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Corbett, Robin Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Cormack, Patrick Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Couchman, James Gregory, Conal
Cran, James Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Critchley, Julian Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Crowther, Stan Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cunningham, Dr John Grist, Ian
Currie, Mrs Edwina Grocott, Bruce
Curry, David Ground, Patrick
Darling, Alistair Grylls, Michael
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hague, William
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Day, Stephen Hampson, Dr Keith
Devlin, Tim Hanley, Jeremy
Dewar, Donald Hannam, John
Dickens, Geoffrey Hardy, Peter
Dicks, Terry Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Dixon, Don Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Dobson, Frank Harman, Ms Harriet
Dorrell, Stephen Harris, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Haselhurst, Alan
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Lilley, Peter
Hawkins, Christopher Livsey, Richard
Hayes, Jerry Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Haynes, Frank Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Hayward, Robert Lord, Michael
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Heath, Rt Hon Edward McAvoy, Thomas
Heathcoat-Amory, David McCrea, Rev William
Henderson, Doug McCrindle, Sir Robert
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Macdonald, Calum A.
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Hill, James MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Hind, Kenneth Maclean, David
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) McLeish, Henry
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Maclennan, Robert
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) McLoughlin, Patrick
Holt, Richard McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Home Robertson, John McNamara, Kevin
Hordern, Sir Peter McWilliam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Madel, David
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Major, Rt Hon John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Malins, Humfrey
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Mans, Keith
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Maples, John
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Marek, Dr John
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Marland, Paul
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Marlow, Tony
Howells, Geraint Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Martlew, Eric
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Mates, Michael
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Maude, Hon Francis
Hunter, Andrew Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Maxton, John
Illsley, Eric Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Ingram, Adam Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Irvine, Michael Meacher, Michael
Irving, Sir Charles Meale, Alan
Jack, Michael Mellor, Rt Hon David
Jackson, Robert Meyer, Sir Anthony
Janman, Tim Michael, Alun
Janner, Greville Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Jessel, Toby Miller, Sir Hal
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Mills, Iain
Johnston, Sir Russell Miscampbell, Norman
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Mitchell, Sir David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Moate, Roger
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Monro, Sir Hector
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Kennedy, Charles Moonie, Dr Lewis
Key, Robert Moore, Rt Hon John
Kilfedder, James Morgan, Rhodri
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Morley, Elliot
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Kirkhope, Timothy Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Kirkwood, Archy Morrison, Sir Charles
Knapman, Roger Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Moss, Malcolm
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Mowlam, Marjorie
Knowles, Michael Moynihan, Hon Colin
Knox, David Mudd, David
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Murphy, Paul
Lang, Ian Neale, Sir Gerrard
Latham, Michael Needham, Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Nelson, Anthony
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Neubert, Sir Michael
Leadbitter, Ted Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Lee, John (Pendle) Nicholls, Patrick
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Norris, Steve
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
O'Brien, William Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
O'Hara, Edward Snape, Peter
O'Neill, Martin Soames, Hon Nicholas
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Soley, Clive
Oppenheim, Phillip Speed, Keith
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Speller, Tony
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Page, Richard Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Paice, James Squire, Robin
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Stanbrook, Ivor
Patchett, Terry Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Patnick, Irvine Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Steen, Anthony
Patten, Rt Hon John Stern, Michael
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Stevens, Lewis
Pawsey, James Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Pike, Peter L. Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Stokes, Sir John
Porter, David (Waveney) Stott, Roger
Portillo, Michael Straw, Jack
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Sumberg, David
Powell, William (Corby) Summerson, Hugo
Prescott, John Tapsell, Sir Peter
Price, Sir David Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Quin, Ms Joyce Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Radice, Giles Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Raffan, Keith Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Randall, Stuart Temple-Morris, Peter
Rathbone, Tim Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Redwood, John Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Reid, Dr John Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Thorne, Neil
Rhodes James, Robert Thornton, Malcolm
Richardson, Jo Thurnham, Peter
Riddick, Graham Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Tracey, Richard
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Tredinnick, David
Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy) Trimble, David
Robertson, George Trippier, David
Robinson, Geoffrey Trotter, Neville
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Turner, Dennis
Roe, Mrs Marion Twinn, Dr Ian
Rogers, Allan Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rooker, Jeff Viggers, Peter
Rooney, Terence Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Rost, Peter Wallace, James
Rowe, Andrew Waller, Gary
Rowlands, Ted Walley, Joan
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Walters, Sir Dennis
Ryder, Richard Ward, John
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Sayeed, Jonathan Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wareing, Robert N.
Shaw, David (Dover) Warren, Kenneth
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Watts, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wells, Bowen
Sheerman, Barry Wheeler, Sir John
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Whitney, Ray
Shelton, Sir William Widdecombe, Ann
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Wiggin, Jerry
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wilkinson, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Shersby, Michael Wilshire, David
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wilson, Brian
Sims, Roger Winnick, David
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winterton, Mrs Ann
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wood, Timothy
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Yeo, Tim
Young, David (Bolton SE) Tellers for the Noes:
Young, Sir George (Acton) Mr. John M. Taylor and
Younger, Rt Hon George Mr. Tom Sackville.

Question accordingly negatived.

10.21 pm
Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter. You will recall that when I intervened in the speech by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon to make a point about the confusion in the House and in the country about the technicality of the motion that we debated tonight, I was, to put it mildly, pooh-poohed. I was told that everyone in the country would understand what the vote meant tonight.

I should be grateful for your advice, Mr. Speaker, because not even everyone in the House understood what tonight's vote meant. There was great confusion in both Lobbies with Conservative and Labour Members going into one Lobby and then coming out. It is an absolute scandal that we should have voted in this way on such an issue.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is a former Whip so he should certainly understand the procedure of the House.

Mr. Ewing

indicated dissent.

Mr. Speaker

Well, if he was not a former Whip, he certainly looks like one. I believe that the House understands the procedure on a vote taken on the Adjournment.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. All sorts of interpretation will be placed on the vote tonight. As a new Member, may I ask whether you can help me out by telling me your interpretation of that vote?

Mr. Speaker

Whenever we have a vote on the Adjournment, the Question is put in the way that I put it this evening. If the hon. Gentlman would like a private teach-in, I should be delighted if he would come to see me after I have left the Chair when I could discuss it with him over a suitable beverage.

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