HC Deb 17 February 1998 vol 306 cc899-990
Madam Speaker

I must tell the House that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and I must limit speeches between 7 pm and 9 pm to 10 minutes.

3.41 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

I beg to move, That this House condemns the continuing refusal of Iraq to comply with its obligations under the relevant post-ceasefire UN Security Council Resolutions, by allowing UNSCOM to carry out without restrictions the required inspections of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes; believes that these programmes represent a continuing threat to international peace and stability; fully supports the efforts of the Government to reach a diplomatic solution to the present confrontation with Iraq within the framework of these Security Council Resolutions; and expresses its full support also for the resolve of the Government to use all necessary means to achieve an outcome consistent with these Resolutions. This debate takes place at a critical moment in our confrontation with Saddam Hussein. We still seek a peaceful end to the dispute. Military action is not inevitable. We do not want to take military action, and we would willingly stand down our forces if we can secure our objectives by diplomacy.

It is Saddam—not us—who has refused to engage in the diplomatic efforts to find a solution. He persists in refusing to accept that all sites must be open to inspection. In particular, he is still insisting that inspections of the so-called "presidential" sites must be one-off visits, rather than continuing inspections. At no point during this crisis has he ever put in writing the offers of a compromise which others claim he has made.

We are keeping the door to peace as wide open as possible for as long as is reasonable. Britain believes that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, should visit Baghdad to explore whether there is a basis for securing Saddam's agreement to the resumption of effective inspections by the United Nations Special Commission.

Until late last night, the permanent five members of the Security Council met to agree on a common position which would provide the brief for the Secretary-General's discussions with Saddam. Discussions centred on a text drafted by Britain, and I believe that all quarters of the House can be proud that, throughout the present crisis, Britain has taken the lead in drafting work at the UN.

I am pleased to tell the House that the remaining areas where agreement has not been reached are narrowing and we are hopeful that an agreed conclusion can be reached later today, after the representatives at New York have had an opportunity to consult their capitals. I am therefore optimistic that we can secure an agreed authority for the Secretary-General to travel to Baghdad. I cannot express the same confidence to the House about the prospects for his success in Baghdad. That will depend entirely on whether Saddam is willing to take seriously the visit of the most senior UN official, and whether Saddam is ready to recognise that any agreement must be fully consistent with the UN resolutions.

We want a diplomatic agreement. We also want an agreement that will be lasting. We are willing to entertain a solution to the dispute over the presidential palaces through which UNSCOM inspectors might be accompanied by diplomatic representatives. We have never resisted a solution that would result in what has become known as "UNSCOM-plus". What we cannot accept is an "UNSCOM-minus" solution. There can be no agreement that compromises the ability of UNSCOM to carry out effective inspections without restrictions, without time limits, and without no-go areas. That is our bottom line.

We do not draw the line there because of diplomatic nicety. Even less do we draw it there because, as was put to me in an interview this morning, we are concerned with saving face. We draw the line there because UNSCOM's job is to prevent Saddam acquiring weapons that could wipe out whole cities. A gutted UNSCOM could not do that job.

UNSCOM and the associated inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency have scored major successes in reducing the capacity of Saddam to threaten the stability of the region and the peace of the world. They have halted his long-range missile programme, which could have brought Europe within range of Saddam's arsenals, and they have dismantled the nuclear programme, which could have given him an atomic bomb. Through a process of inspection and verified destruction, the UNSCOM inspectors have demolished more weapons capability than was destroyed by the allied forces during the Gulf war.

However, there were four areas in the original mandate given to UNSCOM. It has yet to secure the same success in dismantling Saddam's capability in the other two areas—chemical and biological weapons.

The germ and nerve gas weapons that Saddam is known to covet would be lethal to whole cities. The volume on which Saddam hopes to produce such weapons is on such an irrational scale that it leaves frightening questions over his intentions.

Saddam has not accounted to UNSCOM for 600 tonnes of chemical precursors for the VX nerve agent. That would be sufficient to produce 200 tonnes of the agent itself. One drop of VX is enough to kill.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Are we clear about what would happen if a bomb or a missile hit such a stockpile?

Mr. Cook

We are entirely clear about the dangers of hitting such a stockpile. That is why we have taken great care in our targeting plan to ensure that we do not hit such completed weapons. There are many points on the supply chain that can be interdicted. Saddam has the capability in the form of chemical precursors. He needs large equipment to turn it into the final form. Those points in the supply chain could be interdicted without any risk to human life, and would set Saddam back many years in acquiring the capacity to threaten human life in the Gulf.

Saddam's biological weapons programme goes in parallel with his chemical weapons programme. It is dominated by anthrax. UNSCOM estimates that Iraq has the equipment and the growth agents to produce 350 litres per week—enough to fill two more missile warheads each week. Saddam is also known to have sought to acquire at least two other forms of biological weapon—the botulinum toxin, which kills over a week by progressive paralysis, and the bacterium Clostridium, which causes gas gangrene and produces the most painful death of all three.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the Foreign Secretary address a point which I know concerns even those of us who do not believe that doing nothing is an option? That is that the present course of action might result in the bombing of Iraq and the inevitable risk of civilian casualties; and that the position of Saddam Hussein might be entrenched in Iraq, his capacity to oppress his own people unimpaired and his capacity to threaten others only set back if not removed. Will the Foreign Secretary address that real concern?

Mr. Cook

Yes, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall address that at some length in my speech. Since he has raised the questions at this point, I shall make two points in response to him. If military force had to be used—the objective of our policy is to try to find a solution without it—Saddam most certainly would not be strengthened. He stays in power by military power and force. He should be under no illusion that that military power would be hard hit in the event of a military strike. I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said about doing nothing not being an option, but walking away from the crisis and leaving Saddam in possession of such weapons would not be a peaceful outcome, either. It would only guarantee that the peace of the region was broken at a future date when Saddam felt strong enough.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook

Yes, but then I must return to my speech.

Mr. Mullin

Has my right hon. Friend seen reports that Saddam has taken some of his weapons to third countries such as Libya, Yemen and Sudan? Is there any truth in that?

Mr. Cook

I am not aware of those reports. It would be a very difficult transfer to effect. I shall certainly make inquiries about my hon. Friend's allegations, although we are not aware of any evidence at the moment to support the claim. He is of course correct to draw attention to the fact that the weapons could potentially be easily transported—if Saddam were able to acquire them—and the threat could spread well beyond the immediate neighbours of Iraq.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook

No, I said that I would return to my speech—if my hon. Friend will allow me.

It is important that we remember that, with Saddam, the use of such weapons is not merely theoretical. He used mustard gas extensively in the Iran-Iraq war against fellow Muslims. Next month will see the 10th anniversary of his most notorious use of chemical weapons, when he wiped out the entire town of Halabja and its population of 5,000 Iraqi Kurds with a mixture of nerve and cyanide gases. The great majority of those who were killed that day were women, children and elderly men who were not under arms. That fact demonstrates that the weapons are not legitimate weapons of military defence. They are weapons of terror for use against civilian populations.

It is for that reason that Britain, like most other nations, signed up to the chemical and biological weapons conventions, which outlaw the production or use of such weapons. Those international agreements will be pointless if we allow the weapons that we have tried to ban to be retained in the hands of Saddam Hussein. Saddam himself, as a condition of the ceasefire, pledged to abandon his attempts to build an arsenal of mass destruction. He accepted the UNSCOM inspectors as the means of verifying that he had fulfilled his own undertakings. Far from honouring his commitments, Saddam has persistently sought to defeat the inspectors by an organised conspiracy of deception and concealment. As one paper noted at the weekend, he has woven not so much a tissue, as a wall-to-wall tapestry, of concealment.

Three years ago, Iraqi defectors brought with them evidence of a co-ordinated and sustained programme of concealment by Saddam of his chemical and biological weapons. Since then, UNSCOM has attempted to uncover the key points in the supply chain of those weapons programmes. It has been met by determined obstruction of its work. In the 18 months to November 1997, UNSCOM sought access to 63 sites where it believed that concealment was taking place. It was obstructed and delayed from carrying out inspections at 38 sites. It was flatly refused access to a further 14 sites. In other words, Iraq complied with its obligation to permit prompt access at only one in five of the sites under suspicion. As Richard Butler, the executive chairman of UNSCOM, noted: Saddam avoids answering questions and prevents UNSCOM from finding the answers. Against that background, it is wholly false for Iraqi diplomats to appear on television pretending to be the reasonable party, which wants only to discuss some matters of detail. The only reason why, seven years after the Gulf war, the UNSCOM regime and the sanctions to enforce it are still in place is that Saddam has never reconciled himself to dismantling his weapons of mass destruction, and has persistently done everything he can to frustrate the inspections.

The current dispute over the presidential sites shows how unreasonable Saddam's demands can be. The compounds around the presidential palaces are vast, and are typically home to the very organisations that oversee his military and weapons programmes. It is a measure of the magnitude of these sites that the UN has had to dispatch a special team to Iraq to map them. We understand that their total land mass may be 70 sq km. No inspection regime can be effective if Saddam is allowed to punch such big black holes in the area where UNSCOM's writ runs.

The number and size of the presidential compounds exposes as fraudulent the Iraqi propaganda that sanctions are the cause of the hardship and suffering of the Iraqi people.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

Does my right hon. Friend recall that, after Saddam was defeated in the Gulf war, he set fire to all the oilfields in Kuwait in an act of spite? If, as my right hon. Friend says, Saddam has anthrax and chemical weapons, I suspect that he would unleash them on the rest of the region if he were defeated again. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if that is the case, war should be the very last resort, and every effort should be made to secure a diplomatic solution to this crisis?

Mr. Cook

I have absolutely no difficulty in agreeing with my hon. Friend's punch line. All Labour Members—and, I think, all Opposition Members—agree that military force should be used only as the last resort. We are exploring every possible avenue to achieve a diplomatic solution, which is why we strongly back the visit to Baghdad of Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. If, however, he goes to Baghdad to discuss in good faith with Saddam Hussein the possibility of finding a diplomatic solution, but is unable to persuade him to reach a meaningful agreement, we are nearing the point of last resort.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

The Government's motion clearly expresses the hope of a peaceful settlement. However, if it is carried and Kofi Annan's visit is a failure, the Government will have the authority of the House to use force. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to table such a motion in the Security Council authorising the use of force? If so, can he assure the House that the five permanent members would agree to it, as required by the United Nations charter?

Mr. Cook

I cannot guarantee what other permanent members of the Security Council will do—I can speak only for Britain. However, I can certainly confirm that Britain very much wants a further resolution in the Security Council. Indeed, for the past two weeks, we have been negotiating the draft of such a text with the other permanent members and with a number of the non-permanent members, from which we have received overwhelming support.

We believe that, whatever the outcome of Kofi Annan's visit to Baghdad—even if he secures agreement—it will be prudent to introduce a further resolution to ensure that any agreement is codified before the Security Council, so that we are all, including Saddam Hussein, quite clear about what he has agreed to.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey)

On legitimacy, the use of force is authorised by Security Council resolution 687. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that 687 also reaffirms resolution 678, which authorised Operation Desert Storm? Is he happy that that authorisation covers the use of ground troops as well as air strikes? Some of us are concerned that air strikes alone will not be enough to bring about a satisfactory conclusion of military conflict, if that is the way that we have to go.

Mr. Cook

Neither we, the United States nor any other member of the United Nations have any plans to deploy ground troops. My hon. Friend is correct: resolution 687 is a ceasefire resolution—in other words, it sets out the terms of the ceasefire of the Gulf war, and that is the ceasefire that Saddam Hussein is breaking, which in turn gives rise to a legal interpretation about authority. Having said that, our view is very strong. There should be a further Security Council resolution to demonstrate to Saddam and the rest of the world that any action taken by the United States and the United Kingdom has the support of an international consensus.

As I said, it is Saddam Hussein, not sanctions, who is responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people. There are no sanctions against the import of food or medicine. Those are in short supply in Iraq because Saddam's first priorities are his presidential sites and his weapons programmes.

Unlike Saddam, we are neither afraid of the Iraqi people nor are we foe to them. On the contrary, Britain has continuously been in the lead at the United Nations to increase the oil-for-food programme. I am pleased to tell the House that we intend to table before the Security Council this week our resolution more than doubling the volume of that programme, and we are confident that it will be adopted. It enables Iraq sharply to increase the oil revenues that it can earn, but they must be earmarked for humanitarian purposes, and they will be closely monitored to ensure that they are not diverted from food and medicine into the military machine or internal repression.

Mr. Corbyn

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook

I will give way to my hon. Friend on this occasion, but I must make progress, and this may be the last intervention.

Mr. Corbyn

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, under the current arrangement, only half the value of the oil sold under the oil-for-medicines-and-food programme is spent on medicines and food, and that the rest is taken by the oil companies and the United Nations itself?

Mr. Cook

No, I cannot confirm any such thing. The receipts from that programme are closely monitored. It is not merely food and medicine—about that, my hon. Friend is right—as Saddam Hussein is allowed to purchase equipment that would help him to restore water supplies and to provide for other humanitarian forms of relief. The problem has been that the Iraqi regime has constantly obstructed the programme. Indeed, when the original oil-for-food programme came on stream, the Iraqi regime undercut much of its value by making an offset reduction in its contribution to the rations of the Iraqi people.

Today, we will have a frank and open debate. The House will weigh carefully the gravity of the situation and the complexities of achieving an acceptable solution. Those in the House who may agree with the Government on our objectives, but disagree with the Government on our tactics will be free to deploy their arguments.

Of course, we would not be having this debate at all if Saddam allowed one tenth of that freedom and democracy to his own people. He does not do so because he knows that, if he did, he would be toppled. Any statement critical of Saddam Hussein is punishable by death under Iraqi law.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Just like the Labour party.

Mr. Cook

That was a flippant response to what is a very serious question for the Iraqi people. Saddam and his family remain in power through force and fear. He even murdered both his sons-in-law when they disagreed with him.

If any hon. Member doubts the brutality of Saddam's regime, I invite them to study the report of Max van der Stoel, the UN special rapporteur on Iraq, who only last November described the human rights situation there as "terrible", and concluded: the system of military dictatorship effectively requires that human rights violations occur in order to retain the positions and privileges of those in power. His report describes the use of murder by the internal security forces as routine. Since that report only last November, Iraqi security forces have shot 1,200 prisoners, following a directive from Saddam's son to reduce prison overcrowding.

I began by stressing that we would prefer a peaceful solution to the crisis, but, as I have said, a solution that left Saddam with his present capability would not be a peaceful solution. Saddam Hussein has already used such weapons in the past. If we leave him in possession of those weapons, sooner or later he will use them again. That is why, while seeking a diplomatic solution, we continue to prepare for the use of military force if necessary.

The task of UNSCOM is to find and destroy Saddam's chemical and biological weapons. If we cannot get agreement that enables UNSCOM to do that task effectively on the ground, we are ready to do it by air power. Saddam should not doubt our resolve, nor should he doubt that, in the event of military action, his military power base would be hit hard. The air power now in place in the Gulf is substantial.

There has been some recent speculation that Saddam might retaliate with chemical or biological weapons. Our assessment is that the threat of such retaliation is low, and it would be difficult for him to square any such retaliation with his continual claim that he does not possess any such weapons. As in 1991, he should be in no doubt that, if he were to do so, there would be a proportionate response.

To those who want us to rule out military action now, I warn them that that would make it impossible for us to achieve a satisfactory diplomatic solution. Saddam has a history of backing down under pressure. The more clearly we demonstrate that we are ready to use force, the better the chance we will have of securing the diplomatic solution that all reasonable people would prefer.

That message is widely understood throughout the international community. The majority of our European partners have recognised that the twin tracks of intensive diplomatic efforts, backed by the pressure of military preparations, offer the best prospect of a satisfactory solution. At the informal meeting of the European General Affairs Council last week, the majority of the countries present supported that approach. Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands have all offered support facilities for military preparations.

All the countries of the Gulf peninsula have been visited by me or another British Minister. Our diplomatic success is reflected in the strong communiqué issued by the Gulf Co-operation Council at the end of last week, which stressed that the current crisis has been created by the Iraqi regime alone", and concluded that Iraq alone must bear responsibility for the severe results of what might happen as a consequence of what the council described as Iraqi intransigence".

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

I thank the Minister of State for giving way. How far will it be possible for the Government, the Government of the United States and the United Nations fully to inform the Iraqi people of the situation and ensure that they know what is being said over here, and do not just have to listen to the propaganda of Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Cook

I hope that the hon. Lady does not know something about my demotion that has not yet been notified to me. To respond to her precise point, we have made all reasonable efforts to make sure that that message is heard in Iraq. Indeed, I made a point of spending an hour on television in Kuwait when I visited the Gulf, in the full knowledge that its broadcasts can be received throughout Iraq.

I will not deny to the hon. Lady that it is extremely difficult for us to get past the censorship of Saddam Hussein. The one thing that he cannot censor from his own people is their clear knowledge of the degree of oppression, hardship and brutality that he imposes upon them. We note that he has not had the courage to appear in public in Iraq for a long time now.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook

In view of my hon. Friend's long interest in the matter, I shall give way, but it must be the last time I do so.

Mr. Galloway

I am most grateful to the Foreign Secretary. Can he say how free the debate was in the Parliaments of those countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council that have even the pretence of Parliaments? How free was the debate in the mass media of the countries that belong to that council? Have any of the Governments of the member countries of that council supported his plan to bomb Iraq?

Mr. Cook

I quoted at length from the strong and tough statement of the Gulf Co-operation Council, which pins clear responsibility on Saddam Hussein for any military action. My hon. Friend is well aware of the constitutional arrangements around the Gulf. I can tell him that the press conference I held in Kuwait was a vigorous one, at which I was cross-examined effectively by what were obviously extremely lively media, whatever the limitations on democratic practice elsewhere in the Gulf.

I have mentioned that we have support in Europe and understanding in the Gulf. Around the globe, we have received strong statements of public support—from Australia to Argentina in the southern hemisphere, and from Canada to Japan in the northern hemisphere. At the United Nations, we have obtained overwhelming support for our position among the non-permanent members of the Security Council, and we are working particularly closely with our European partners, Portugal and Sweden, which are currently non-permanent members. Last night's meeting demonstrated the wide common ground and the agreement on objectives among the permanent members of the Security Council.

That broad degree of international support underlines the other issue that is at stake in the current confrontation. It is vital that we win this confrontation because of the clear and real danger posed by Saddam's arsenals of terror; but it is also important that we win this confrontation because the authority of the UN itself is at stake. It was the UN that approved the terms of the ceasefire in the Gulf war; it was the UN that passed resolution 687, which provides the authority for UNSCOM to carry out effective inspections; and it is the UN's Secretary-General who may be about to depart for Baghdad with the full authority of the UN for his mission to get Saddam to abide by the undertakings that he gave to the UN.

If Saddam were now to be permitted to set aside all those decisions of the UN, and if we were to walk away and allow him to do so with impunity, there would be no point in invoking the power of the UN the next time we are confronted by a dictator threatening the security of his region or the lives of his people. There would be no point, because we would have allowed the authority of the UN to become another of the many casualties of Saddam Hussein.

The Government firmly believe that, in the modern world, we need a United Nations that can speak with authority for the international community, and can act effectively against those who threaten the peace of member states. That is why we are determined that Saddam Hussein must recognise the authority of the UN, by abandoning for all time his programmes for weapons of mass destruction. We ask the House to show the same resolve by backing us tonight.

4.14 pm
Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)

I beg to move, To leave out from the second "Resolutions" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: fully supports the resolve of the Government to use all necessary means to achieve an outcome consistent with these Resolutions; and emphasises the importance of setting the clearest possible objectives linked to any action that might be taken.". I am grateful to the Government for arranging this debate, for which I and others called last week. It is essential that the House has the opportunity to consider what is undoubtedly a very grave situation. No one who has taken part, as I did before the Gulf war, in a Cabinet decision to authorise military action can be insensitive to the difficult judgments that the Government have to make. We are discussing today matters of life and death.

We in the Conservative party support the stand that the Government have taken: we support their efforts to find a diplomatic solution and to keep the military options open. The Foreign Secretary has this afternoon described in detail the evil nature of the regime of Saddam Hussein. We endorse that description in full, but the justification for military action goes far beyond the evil nature of the regime. To understand that justification, it is necessary to go back to the Gulf war and its immediate aftermath.

The Gulf war was a great achievement by the international community: naked aggression was reversed and the rule of international law upheld. British Governments, under the leadership first of my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Thatcher and then of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), played a critical part in that achievement. British forces played a crucial part in the military campaign, displaying great skill in what was widely acclaimed as a campaign notable for its support, planning and execution.

However, there are different views about the outcome of the Gulf war. There are those who say that we stopped too soon, that the coalition forces should have continued to Baghdad and that Saddam Hussein should have been toppled. Others point out that there was no authority for action of that kind, that the resolution that the Security Council had then passed did not authorise it and that in the circumstances such action would have been difficult to justify. The point that links that outcome to the dilemma that we face today is this: faced with that difficulty, the Security Council did not do nothing; it did not simply abandon the area or wash its hands of the problems that remained.

The Security Council passed a resolution that formed the basis for what was intended to be a comprehensive settlement. That resolution was Security Council resolution 687 and it was adopted on 3 April 1991. It dealt with several questions that remained to be resolved in the aftermath of the Gulf war. It dealt with the boundary between Iraq and Kuwait and with reparations to Kuwait. It made it clear that the trade embargo against Iraq that had been authorised by previous resolutions did not apply to materials and supplies for essential civilian needs, in addition to the previously authorised exemptions for medicines and health supplies and certain foodstuffs.

The resolution also dealt with the question of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, with stocks of related materials and with ballistic missiles. It recorded that Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop or acquire any of those weapons; and that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, the removal or the rendering harmless under international supervision of those stocks. In order to ensure that Iraq complied with those undertakings, the resolution authorised the formation of a special commission, which we know as UNSCOM. UNSCOM was to inspect Iraqi relevant capabilities and Iraq was to yield to UNSCOM the weapons and stocks referred to in the resolution. Those provisions were at the heart of the settlement in the aftermath of the Gulf war.

Of course, resolution 687 is not the only relevant Security Council resolution—in particular, it has to be read with the resolutions that went before it—but it sets out the basis of the settlement that was reached. It was accepted by Iraq and it represents the clearly expressed will of the international community.

Had the questions then been asked, "What happens if Saddam Hussein ignores these provisions? What happens if he reneges on these undertakings? What happens if he flouts this resolution?", it is inconceivable that the answer would have been, "We should allow him to do so with impunity."

The provisions that I have cited to the House were not empty requirements. They were not formalities. They were not meant to be taken lightly. They were not meant to be defied. They set out a real, compelling obligation. It is an obligation that must be enforced.

It is not, of course, an abstract obligation. Since 1991, UNSCOM personnel have unearthed 48 Scud missiles, 30 chemical missile warheads, 480,000 litres of live chemical agents and a manufacturing plant designed to produce anthrax and other biological weapons. Therefore, the obligation of securing full, comprehensive and continuous access to those sites is not just an abstract question of enforcing Security Council resolutions, however important that is; it is about preventing a dangerous dictator from acquiring the means to destroy whole populations.

We have horrifying evidence of Saddam Hussein's disregard for human life. We have seen his brutal aggression against neighbouring states, against his Kurdish citizens, against his Arab citizens, against members of the Baath party, against members of his own Takriti clan—even against members of his immediate family. Such a man, armed with the capacity to cause destruction at a distance, would not hesitate to use it.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that, after repeated pleas from Labour Members, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to stop the export of the precursors of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons from this country, a previous Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, told me and the House, on 20 April 1990, that I should remember that Saddam Hussein was a signatory to the international non-proliferation treaty and that, as such, the previous Government had full confidence that he would not manufacture nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction? Should not we have at least some apology from the previous Government, who treated today's evil dictator as a trusted ally?

Mr. Howard

The truth is simple. We know now much more than we knew then. Those matters have been exhaustively canvassed since then, and if the hon. Gentleman thinks that the point that he raises has any relevance to the issues before the House this afternoon, he needs to make that clear to the House in a way in which he has not done so far.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Over the weekend, I read that, in 1994, an export licence was given for growth medium to be exported from this country by a British subsidiary of Unilever; the culturing mechanism to grow anthrax spores was exported from this country to Iraq. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House how that was allowed?

Mr. Howard

I heard the Secretary of State for Defence reply to a question on exactly those lines on a television programme last week. He said that he would investigate those reports, and I am sure that he will. The Secretary of State also made the point that distinguishing between materials that can be used for genuine medical purposes and those that can be misused for the type of purpose to which the hon. Gentleman referred, is by no means easy. I expect that it is common ground across the House that it is sensible for us to make available materials that can be used to heal the sick in Iraq.

For the reasons that I have given, securing access to Saddam Hussein's weapons sites is, first and foremost, a measure designed to save human lives—perhaps millions of lives. Another reason why we support the Government's stand is that we believe that lawbreaking, terrorism and violence must never be rewarded. That is an issue of absolute principle. Every time aggression achieves its goals, or is seen to do so, the fabric of the law is torn. If a dictator can use violence to his advantage, others will be encouraged by his example.

That was the lesson of the League of Nations. It is a lesson well understood in this House and in this nation. It was in support of that principle that the United Kingdom fought for the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. It was in defence of that principle that we joined the original coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991.

Mr. Dalyell

If that principle is so immutable, why does it not apply to Israel?

Mr. Howard

I shall deal later with the comparisons frequently made between Israel and Iraq, so I ask the hon. Gentleman to exercise a little patience.

The question, then, is: how is that obligation to be enforced? There is no one in the House who would not prefer it to be enforced without military action, and without the suffering, misery and death that will inevitably accompany any such action. That is why it is so essential that every diplomatic avenue that remains should be fully and thoroughly explored. That is why, if the Secretary-General of the United Nations goes to Baghdad, he will carry with him our hopes and prayers.

Saddam Hussein has stepped back from the brink on many previous occasions; we all hope and pray that he does so again. But—it is a "but" that must be faced—if he does not, are we to walk away and content ourselves with empty gestures? Or are we to combine with our allies to take whatever action we can to enforce those solemn obligations?

We in the Conservative party believe that it is right to take such action. That is why we support the Government in the stand that they have taken. However, we make this plea: let there be no confusion or uncertainty in our objectives. Let there be no doubt or ambiguity about them.

Those objectives have in the past been expressed in different ways. The Foreign Secretary has spoken of the need to allow the UNSCOM inspectors to complete their tasks. The President of the United States has spoken of the need to reduce Saddam Hussein's ability to use weapons of mass destruction to wage war on his neighbours. The Secretary of State for Defence has spoken of weakening the ability of Saddam Hussein and his regime to survive.

The Foreign Secretary used different language again on the radio this morning. Not only do the words of those statements differ; they mean different things. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will agree with me that there must be clarity and consistency in our objectives.

Clear objectives, diplomatic, strategic and military, must be linked to the action that the Government propose to take—and they must be objectives capable of being achieved by that action. That is the purpose of the amendment on the Order Paper in the names of my right hon. Friends and myself.

However, as the Foreign Secretary will be aware, among the things that I have never sought to press him to make public are the range of military options available to the allies, and the specific targets of any air strikes. Ministers have, rightly, stressed the difficulty of discussing those options in public, for the obvious reason that that would alert Saddam Hussein to the allies' intentions. Given that, was it wise of the Foreign Secretary to be quite as precise as he was on the "Today" programme this morning in discussing options and targets?

I have set out the Conservative party's position. There are, however, some other matters touched upon by the Foreign Secretary with which I must deal before I finish.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

May I ask the shadow Minister, just so that I can get it clear in my own mind, whether he is suggesting that his favoured outcome would take us beyond the UN resolution, and that he seeks the removal of Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Howard

Not at all. I have not said anything that would give ground for any such supposition. Indeed, it is for the Government, with their knowledge of all the relevant factors, to define their objective with clarity and without ambiguity.

There are some matters touched upon by the Foreign Secretary with which I must deal before I finish. It is, of course, a matter of intense regret that the coalition of forces that has been assembled to enforce the will of the United Nations is not as broad as it was at the time of the Gulf war. It is a matter of particular regret that there has not been unanimous support from within the European Union. The countries of the European Union are, after all, those with which for the most part we work most closely. They are those with which we have many interests in common. It is bound, therefore, to be a matter of particular regret that notwithstanding welcome declarations of support from many of our partners, agreement across the board is lacking.

I must deal also with suggestions that are made not only in the House but by many of our friends in other parts of the world that we and the United States would in some way be guilty of double standards in taking action to enforce Security Council resolution 687—the point that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) had in mind.

It is one thing to criticise the actions of the current Israeli Government in the context of the peace process and the lack of progress in reaching a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. We have made such criticisms and we shall continue to do so. However, it is quite another thing to attempt to equate Saddam Hussein with the democratic Government of the state of Israel. We do not believe that there is any such equation. We think that the differences should be recognised.

The Foreign Secretary was somewhat less than wholly forthcoming when he answered a question from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) about the fresh Security Council resolution that the Foreign Secretary has mentioned to us in the past. Can we be told in the wind-up to the debate what progress the Government have made in securing it? Given what the Government have previously told us about the legal authority provided by resolution 687, what is the purpose of this resolution? What are the prospects of success in achieving it?

Mr. Galloway

Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman see the pictures last week of Mordecai Vanunu, the longest-serving solitary confinement prisoner in the world, being led into a courtroom in Israel with his face in an iron brace like the one for Anthony Hopkins in "The Silence of the Lambs", to prevent him from speaking out about the weapons of mass destruction in the possession of Israel? On the subject of UN resolutions, has not Israel been in breach of resolutions 242 and 338 for more than 30 years?

Mr. Howard

As I have just said, it is perfectly possible and indeed legitimate to criticise Israel for a number of its actions, but that does not mean that it is right to make the equation that the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends are wont to make between a dictator such as Saddam Hussein and the democratic Government of the state of Israel.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as a Jew, agree with me, as a Jew, that many of the actions of the Israeli Government are disgraceful, loathsome and contemptible, but that such actions cannot be allowed to confuse or cross lines with the gross violations of the dictator who has murdered millions of people and who is ready to murder more if given the opportunity?

Mr. Howard

I have never sought to compete with the right hon. Gentleman in his command of invective. I will not follow him precisely in the first part of his question, although I have readily acknowledged that there are many aspects of the decisions that have been taken by the Government of Israel which are the object of legitimate criticism. I agree with the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, and he makes a telling point.

I welcome what the Foreign Secretary told us about the oil-for-food resolution. It underlines the fact that our quarrel is with Saddam Hussein and not with the Iraqi people.

I hope that when the Secretary of State for Defence winds up, he will tell us a little more about the command arrangements in the event that military action should be necessary. Will British forces on this occasion defer to overall US command? If so, will there be a right of access to a higher political level, as there was during the Gulf war? I hope that we can be enlightened during the wind-up to the debate.

As the crisis in the Gulf reaches its denouement, the Government will have difficult judgments to make. Conservative Members will be scrutinising those judgments with vigilance, as is our duty. We shall continue to insist on clear objectives linked to the means of achieving them. But, in regard to the essentials of the stand that they have taken, the Government can rely on the support of Her Majesty's Opposition.

4.34 pm
Mr. John Major (Huntingdon)

I support the Government's policy. I do so reluctantly, because the situation at present is fraught with danger; but, if diplomacy were to fail, doing nothing would be no acceptable option. For that reason, I believe that the Government deserve the support of the House at the present time.

Let me say at the outset that the present crisis is no rerun of the Gulf war. In 1990, Iraq had invaded a sovereign nation: it had invaded Kuwait. The Gulf war was a mission of expulsion—a mission to throw out an aggressor who had occupied a peaceful neighbouring country. On this occasion, there is a separate problem. This time, the diplomatic action—and, perhaps, the military action to follow—is to enforce international law as set out in United Nations resolutions, and to prevent something that might happen if we did not do so: to prevent the danger of a dictator continuing to develop chemical and biological weapons and the means to use them, perhaps over a wide region.

That is, for many people, a more difficult and a more subtle objective, and the risks associated with it are certainly different. The political decisions to be made, in many ways, may be more difficult than those that were to be made at the beginning of the 1990s.

I want, very briefly, to make four straightforward points. The first is to do with international support. Of course, a diplomatic solution is the preferred option: no sane person would wish for anything else, if it is available. I hope—I trust that every hon. Member hopes—that, if agreement can be reached and Kofi Annan goes to Baghdad, he will be successful. A great deal has been happening, and continues to happen, on the diplomatic front. But whether Kofi Annan's mission is successful will not depend just on what he says to Saddam Hussein; it will depend on whether Saddam Hussein is prepared to accept the will of the international community when, yet again, it is presented to him by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

There is one other element of diplomacy that I think is very important to the Gulf, and very important not just to the international community but, particularly, to the British nation. I think it absolutely essential for the Government to continue to use all our diplomatic resources to explain our policy, and to enlist support from our friends across the middle east. I know that the Foreign Secretary has had meetings in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; I know that the Prime Minister is seeing King Hussein; I know that Ministers in the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office have met other Gulf and middle east leaders. All that is immensely welcome.

Let me say to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that I hope that that effort will continue. Speeches in the House—important though they are—or at the United Nations are not a substitute for continuing face-to-face contact with our allies across the Gulf to explain why we are following the policy that we are following, and what we believe the dangers would be if we were to do anything else.

We British have many long-standing friends and allies in the Gulf. They will have said to the Foreign Secretary, as they have said to many of his predecessors, that they believe that the British have a better and deeper understanding of the wider region of the middle east than many other western democratic nations. For that reason, I hope that the Government will continue to explain personally to our friends that we are not engaged in a knee-jerk reaction to Saddam Hussein, but we are concerned that there are great dangers in not upholding international law—not least to those very friends in the Gulf who are so concerned at the moment. Last time, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. No one doubts that, had he been successful, his next target would have been the Gulf states themselves, which are unable to resist a military might of the size of Iraq's.

There is a further point that I hope we shall emphasise on every occasion. We have no hostility to the Iraqi people or to the Iraqi nation as a whole. We have no intention—neither have the Americans, nor any other western democratic nation—of dismembering the state of Iraq now or at any stage in the future. That may seem self-evident to us in the cosiness of the United Kingdom, but it needs stating and restating all across the middle east, because, outside mosques in every middle eastern country, after every prayer meeting, a different message will be cried out daily to fuel anti-British and anti-American sentiment. We should lose no opportunity to refute that whenever we are in the middle east or have access to a middle eastern audience.

My second point is about what we delicately call collateral damage. It is a fashionable phrase. Bluntly, it means the death of innocent people in any military action that we may be forced to undertake. In our country and in the democratic west as a whole, if military targets are at risk, we move civilians away from those targets, to protect them. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein may well move people to the targets, to protect the targets themselves.

The Foreign Secretary and our other allies will be well aware of that, but if we are driven to military action, I hope that the targets will be the means of production of chemical and biological weapons, and that we shall be as cautious as possible to ensure that we are nowhere near known storehouses—I know that we have a great deal of information about where they are. Our job is to stop Saddam Hussein making more chemical weapons, not by accident to release existing stocks into the atmosphere. The whole purpose is to be able to get at those stocks and safely and securely to destroy them.

I hope that, among the military targets, we shall look at the assets of the Republican Guard and other elements of the Iraqi war machine. They are not only legitimate targets, but their destruction would weaken the apparatus of repression that has kept this man in power, abusing his position and the lives of the people in his country for too long.

My third point is, perhaps, less often examined, but should be: what will Iraq do in the present circumstances? We know little or nothing about what Iraqi intentions may be. I remember that, in the middle of the Gulf war, to our complete surprise Saddam Hussein flew a whole squadron of aircraft to Iran. We were never entirely sure why. To the best of my knowledge, it was not a smart move—he never got them back. It was wholly unexpected. He might have other surprises for us. He fired Scud missiles successfully at Israel—at Tel Aviv. We do know why he did that—to provoke a reaction; to unite Arab opinion against the west and against Israel. I am not confident that he will not do that again.

The Foreign Secretary has assessed the risk as low. I pray that he is right, but it is not a negligible risk. It could occur. For that reason, I hope that Saddam Hussein will be warned, as he was before, of massive retaliation should he attack any third country, including Israel. Those countries, including Israel, should be assured that massive retaliation will come from countries other than themselves. In those circumstances, I hope that Israel—we can all understand how difficult the decision would be for the Israeli Cabinet—would leave the retaliation to other people, were it to prove necessary, as it wisely did in the early 1990s. It would require restraint and bravery on the part of the Israeli Cabinet, but it is necessary. Iraq's motives would be to provoke Israel to retaliate, because if it did so, many of the Arab states would be diverted into an anti-Israeli coalition, and it would magnify the risk of a wider war.

Do not brush aside and underestimate that danger, because, quite apart from extreme Arab opinion, moderate Arab opinion is very sour indeed at present because of the total lack of progress recently in the middle east peace process. I hope that both the United States Government and our own Government will make it clear straight away that, quite apart from this dispute, it is the clear priority of our Governments to re-establish a momentum in the negotiations before that bitterness continues to sour so much of what happens across the middle east.

Mr. Dalyell

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the issue of Iran, as a visitor to Iran in October, I ask him why those who have suffered casualties of first world war proportions—one sees the war memorials to the horrendous Iran-Iraq war in every city and small place in Iran—and who have every reason to loathe Saddam Hussein, and do, still do not think that a British-American air pounding of Iraq, particularly of Karbala, An Najaf and other places of the Shi'ites, is either sensible or justified?

Mr. Major

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, who feels deeply about this issue, that is a question for the Iranians and not for me. I can answer from our point of view. Suppose that we were to do nothing. Suppose that we decided to take no action because it was too difficult or too uncomfortable, or it might go wrong—all those things could happen—and two years from now Saddam Hussein had a delivery system for chemical and biological weapons and used it. What would the House say to itself and what would history say if we knew that we had the opportunity to take action now and we chose not to? I do not suggest for a moment that this is an easy option. The Government have no easy option, and they deserve our sympathy in the decisions that they have to take, but the securest option, the option of least long-term risk, is to accept the policy on which the Government have embarked. For that reason, they have my full support.

My fourth point concerns the internal situation in Iraq—a situation that is intolerable for millions of ordinary Iraqis. We were absolutely right some years ago to allow the sale of oil for the purchase of medicines and food in Iraq. I very much regret that that was not taken up in the interests of the people of Iraq in the way that it could have been, and for the reasons that we intended it to be taken up.

I was very pleased to hear what the Foreign Secretary had to say about a new UN resolution to enable a greatly increased amount from oil revenues to be used for the benefit of the people of Iraq, but it depends on Saddam Hussein taking up the option. I wonder whether he will. Does he really regard that as the way in which he wishes to go? Based on precedent, he might well not. Therefore, I hope that we shall look again at how we might alleviate the hardship of innocent people in Iraq, if necessary through targeted, specific aid, delivered and approved under UN resolution—a most welcome initiative—if we can achieve it. That at least bypasses the obvious and easy block that Saddam Hussein has at present on assistance.

In 1991, in a different range of circumstances, we led the world in establishing the safe havens policy in northern Iraq. I believe that time and circumstances are right to look again at innovative and fresh ways in which we might help other people who are in great distress across Iraq. Not only does that seem right in terms of ordinary humanity, but it would emphasise our concern for the Iraqi people and strengthen support from friendly Arab leaders, who are appalled at the hardship in Iraq and fearful of it worsening. It would also have the incidental advantage, but advantage none the less, that it would massively embarrass the present Iraqi regime if the nations against which Saddam Hussein is whipping up such hatred were to seek to help the very people whom he oppresses so vilely.

We are in a miserable and dangerous situation. This is no time for jingoism: only a fool goes into battle smiling. If diplomacy fails, the Government will be faced with unpalatable choices. Do we allow Saddam Hussein to flout international law, to break his word, to build up a weapons arsenal and to increase greatly the danger of a wider middle east war? Surely that is unthinkable.

Do we accept that there are other would-be strutting dictators around the world who would be encouraged and emboldened if Saddam Hussein were to get away with turning up his nose at the rest of the world? Surely we accept that.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

A year ago, the right hon. Gentleman lent his support to a campaign to indict Saddam Hussein as a war criminal. Does he agree that whatever happens, we must focus attention on Saddam Hussein's crimes? He should appear before an international criminal court to answer for those crimes.

Mr. Major

I believed that a year ago, and I believe it just as strongly today. It applies not only to Saddam Hussein, but to other people. The sooner such an international mechanism is in place and workable, the better.

Diplomacy might not fail, because Saddam Hussein has backed away at the last minute before. From what the Foreign Secretary said, it seems that we can hang on to at least a glimmer of hope for a little while. However, if diplomacy failed, it would be right for us to use force. I do not like it: indeed, I hate it, but I know that it might have to be done. As I understand it, that is the Government's position. If so, they deserve support. I am here this afternoon to declare that they have mine.

4.51 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

When the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) was Prime Minister, he had to deal with problems comparable to those with which my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench now have to deal, and Her Majesty's Opposition gave him their full support. Not only did the elected shadow Cabinet of the parliamentary Labour party give him its full support, so did the parliamentary Labour party, the national executive committee of the Labour party, and the Labour party conference by an eight to one vote. It is essential to draw the House's attention to the fact that the Labour party is pursuing the very same policies in government as it pursued in opposition.

It perplexes me that certain Labour Members have tabled an amendment that, among other things, "notes" the failure of the Iraqi Government to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions. The amendment does not condemn or deplore, but notes the failure of Saddam Hussein to conform to those resolutions. Clause 4 of the Labour party's constitution contains a commitment to the defence and security of the British people, and to co-operating with European institutions, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international bodies. The words "the United Nations" were inserted into clause 4 by one of the principal signatories to the amendment that "notes" the failure of Saddam Hussein to conform to United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The situation is clear. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990. When he gained possession of Kuwait, he murdered and tortured Kuwaitis, destroyed their property, looted their homes and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) pointed out, risked environmental catastrophe by blowing up Kuwaiti oilfields. He had previously invaded Iran, causing massive casualties both to his own population and to innocent Iranians who had never provoked any fight with him.

After Saddam Hussein gained possession of Kuwait, he launched unprovoked missile attacks on civilian populations in Saudi Arabia and Israel. He has murdered, tortured and poison-gassed countless of his own citizens.

There are many dictators and many deplorable Governments in the world today, but there is no Government whose record of murder of their own and other populations compares remotely with that of Saddam Hussein. He has violated every one of the United Nations Security Council resolutions that has been passed since 2 August 1990. More relevantly, he has violated ceasefire resolution 687. If one goes through that resolution clause by clause, one realises what he has failed or refused to do despite the specific commitment he gave when he agreed to the ceasefire in 1991.

The Security Council has affirmed all 13 resolutions that it has passed since 2 August 1990. Let us put on record in Hansard what Saddam Hussein accepted in the ceasefire resolution. He accepted unconditionally the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of … All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities and All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities". We have heard from the Foreign Secretary that Saddam Hussein was working on missiles that could have delivered warheads to this country, which is much more than 150 km away.

As part of the ceasefire agreement, Saddam Hussein unconditionally undertook not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the items and he accepted that there should be a plan for developing the future ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq's compliance". There was not a limited timetable. I utterly fail to understand what is going on in the heads of hon. Members who table an amendment saying that the United Nations Security Council should abandon what was decided in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, given that the resolutions originally passed were unconditional. Saddam Hussein accepted "ongoing monitoring and verification". That resolution is as valid today as it was when it was carried seven years ago, and Saddam Hussein has violated it deliberately, repeatedly and continually.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Did not all hon. Members who signed the critical amendment, if they were here at the time, strenuously oppose the war and the liberation of Kuwait? Had they been listened to at the time—fortunately they were not—Kuwait would have remained under Iraqi enemy occupation and a number of other countries probably would have been invaded.

Mr. Kaufman

That is absolutely true. The issue does not appear to matter to those hon. Members, who intermittently favour conformity to Labour party conference decisions.

I quoted from United Nations Security Council resolution 687 the commitments that Saddam Hussein made and failed to carry out. The resolution reaffirmed a previous resolution, which authorised the military action that was taken at the beginning of 1991. Resolution 678, which was carried on 29 November 1990, made it clear that, in authorising member states to use "all necessary means", it was authorising military action. Those exact words appear in the Government's motion this afternoon.

The resolution authorised the United Nations to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660"— which told Saddam Hussein that he had to get out of Kuwait—and gave validity to such action under all subsequent relevant resolutions". The "all necessary means" that the Government properly included in their motion this afternoon applied not only to all the resolutions passed before resolution 678, but to "all subsequent relevant resolutions", including resolution 687. Although I agree with my right hon. and hon. Friends and with the right hon. Member for Huntingdon that it is laudable for the Government to go to the UN Security Council and seek to obtain another resolution, resolutions 678 and 687 already authorise military action, if that is what the Government, the United States and their other allies decide.

Let us therefore be very clear that the words that authorised the military action on 15 January 1991 also authorise such action now, if such a decision is made. There is specific authority under a United Nations Security Council resolution to do so.

Of course Saddam Hussein has never at any time for a single moment voluntarily accepted a Security Council resolution, ever since he invaded Kuwait in 1990. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Huntingdon were absolutely right to make the point that, if Saddam Hussein gets away with the continuing violation of a whole series of UN Security Council resolutions, he will undoubtedly feel free to continue to violate them. If we do not take action now—whether it is diplomatic action to require him to conform to the resolutions or military action in the absence of his readiness willingly to do so—we shall have to act later, when it will be even more difficult and dangerous.

The Kuwait Information Centre has issued a bulletin that quotes from the emergency session of the Gulf Co-operation Council of Foreign Ministers, stating: The crisis was created by Saddam Hussein's continued refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors free and open access to all suspected sites in accordance with UN Resolutions which Iraq itself had previously accepted … Following the meeting of the Gulf Co-operation Council, ministers issued a statement calling for Iraq to submit to the demands of UN weapons inspectors for unrestricted access to its weapons sites. The Foreign Ministers said Baghdad would be entirely to blame for the grievous consequences if it persisted in its refusal. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and alluded to the fact that the states that make up the Gulf Co-operation Council may not be the most democratic nations in the world, and he has an inviolable point in doing so. However, I would say to my hon. Friend and to others that, if the Gulf Co-operation Council had taken a different point of view and declared its opposition to military action, I do not think that the lack of democracy in its member countries would have impeded anyone from quoting it in aid in opposing military action.

The bulletin also referred to the firm line taken by Italy, Spain, Norway and Denmark, which announced that they would back military intervention if it became necessary and condemned Saddam Hussein's refusal to agree to the implementation of the existing oil-for-food deal.

Some may say that the bulletin was produced by Kuwait, and one would not expect anything else from that country. Indeed, what else would one expect from a country that has been invaded, ravaged, raped, pillaged, had many of its citizens murdered and its national assets destroyed by the very same person some hon. Members think that we should go a bit soft on and who, if we are nice to him, perhaps may be nice to us? There is no evidence whatsoever that Saddam Hussein will respond to anything but the toughest possible line.

Like the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, I hope that the toughest possible line will stop short of military force, but if there is to be military force, it is better that it should be now, at the end of the diplomatic road, rather than later. It should be swift, definitive and conclusive. If force is used, only the dictator of Iraq will be to blame. My right hon. Friends have the total support of the overwhelming majority of right hon. and hon. Members in the line that they are pursuing.

5.6 pm

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)

The Government deserve our support in the Lobby tonight, not least because of the balanced and rational speech by the Foreign Secretary. If anyone had been in any doubt about the Government's position, surely that doubt would have been removed by the eloquent sincerity of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). He speaks with an informed and proper understanding of the serious and even sombre issues involved in the debate because, just over seven years ago, he had the responsibility of committing British service men and women to the action to remove Iraq from Kuwait. For Parliament to contemplate that is a serious and sombre moment, and we should never forget it.

As the Foreign Secretary made clear, for seven years, since the end of the Gulf war, Saddam Hussein's behaviour has been characterised by prevarication, deception and obstruction. The issues that lie at the heart of the present crisis could have been resolved long ago. The rehabilitation of Iraq could have begun and the condition of its people could have been improved. What stands in the way of that today is exactly what has stood in its way since the end of the Gulf war—the unconscionable intransigence of Saddam Hussein.

In preparation for this debate, I have read again the House's debates between August 1990 and February 1991. I cannot help but observe that—as we have just passed the second anniversary of the publication of the Scott report—the character of some of those debates might have been rather different had the House possessed the information that Sir Richard Scott set out in the report that he ultimately published. Neither should the House ignore the fact that Michael Rose, Hugh Beach and James Eberle—three men with distinguished military careers—have once again, this week, underlined the folly of failing to control properly the export of materials that, in the hands of adversaries, could easily be used against our own service men and service women.

As the right hon. Member for Huntingdon said, the issue in 1990 was the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait. Nevertheless, the debates are striking, because many of the issues of principle that were being discussed then are the same issues of principle that we are trying to grapple with today. The debates are striking also because military action was seen then as a last resort. For six months, Saddam Hussein was given chance after chance to withdraw from Kuwait. Each opportunity was spurned. Notwithstanding that, diplomatic efforts continued—although, time after time, they were treated with contempt.

As the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) rightly reminded us, during that period of six months, Kuwait City was laid waste. Its citizens were taken hostage. The people of Kuwait City were intimidated and murdered; their wives and daughters were raped; and the city was sacked, as if by some mediaeval warlord. Even the traffic lights were looted.

After all that—after the Gulf war—the international community gave Iraq an opportunity for redemption and to make reparation; and it did so, rightly, with conditions. Does anyone now say that those conditions were unreasonable? I think not. Does anyone now believe that Saddam Hussein should not have been required to give up weapons of mass destruction? I think not. Can anyone say that Saddam Hussein has not had enough opportunity to do so? Again, I think not.

Does anyone believe that Saddam Hussein should be permitted freedom of action, to acquire and maintain chemical and biological weapons or the means of their manufacture? Does anyone seriously believe that, if he acquired that capability and the means of delivery, he would not threaten to use it to pursue his aims in middle east? Does anyone deny that, if he had weapons of mass destruction, there is a real risk that he might use them? He has done so in the past.

Just as was done before the Gulf war, we must take every opportunity to resolve those issues by diplomatic means. It is right that the United Kingdom should be in the vanguard of such efforts. There can be no compromise on the principle of immediate and unrestricted access, as set out in the terms of resolution 687—which, as the right hon. Member for Gorton has just said, followed hard upon the terms of the agreed basis upon which a ceasefire was entered into.

Diplomatic efforts should be directed to three separate issues. First, there is room for manoeuvre on the composition of inspection teams, so long as their core membership remains suitably qualified and trained inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission. We can add diplomats from other countries to those teams so long as the teams retain the technical capacity to identify and destroy weapons of mass destruction, the means of their manufacture and the means of their delivery.

Secondly, we can permit or—more correctly—encourage increased sales of Iraqi oil for humanitarian aid. It is surely a measure of Saddam Hussein's inhumanity to his own people that he has consistently failed to take full advantage of opportunities to sell oil for food—just as he has consistently failed to import food and medicines, against which there are no sanctions. The international community can only do its best to reach out over the head of Saddam Hussein to try to assist the citizens whom he is so readily willing to sacrifice.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

The hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned the debates on Iraq in 1990 and 1991 and the diplomatic objectives. Is he concerned, as I am, that, if Saddam Hussein remains in power regardless of what happens in the next few months, in seven years, those of us who survive general elections will be back discussing the same issues?

Mr. Campbell

If, seven years ago, someone had said to those of us who were then hon. Members that we should be revisiting the issue in seven years, because Saddam Hussein would not have destroyed or allowed access to the means of production of weapons of mass destruction, we simply would not have believed it. In the post-Gulf war atmosphere, it was believed—perhaps naively—that so comprehensive had been the defeat and so easy had been Iraq's ultimate expulsion from Kuwait that there was no basis on which Saddam Hussein could resist the will of the international community.

Thirdly, as part of those diplomatic initiatives, it should be made clear that—if the inspections are permitted and all the obligations and resolutions are implemented—sanctions can be lifted. There is a view that sanctions must last as long as Saddam lasts. It is sometimes said that that is the view of the United States. If it is the view of the United States, it is wrong.

Sanctions were imposed by Security Council resolutions that required the implementation of certain obligations. However, there is no continuing legal basis for sanctions once all those obligations have been fully met. The Security Council should make that clear. As a clear matter of legal principle, one cannot impose penalties beyond those that are authorised by resolution.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman recall the resolution on the need for Saddam Hussein to end his repression of the Kurds? As he has not ended his repression of the Kurds, how can it be said that we should proceed on the basis described by the hon. and learned Gentleman?

Mr. Campbell

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that he heard the preface by which I reached that conclusion. I said that, if the obligations in the resolutions are implemented in full, sanctions can be lifted. If, as he said, there are resolutions containing provisions dealing with the continuing repression of—if my memory serves me correctly—not only the Kurds but the marsh Arabs, continuing sanctions to that extent would be legally justified.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)


Mr. Campbell

I should like to make some progress.

Six diplomats of considerable experience proposed in the pages of The Independent on Monday the foundation for a United Nations Security Council resolution. From their experience and understanding of those matters, it is clear that that proposal is worthy of serious consideration. I hope that it has received such consideration in New York.

We were told by the Foreign Secretary that the Secretary-General of the United Nations may go to Baghdad, but that as yet, unsurprisingly, the complete details of his mandate are unclear. I hope that he receives a more courteous reception than his predecessor did some six or seven years ago, when Saddam Hussein kept him waiting in an anteroom cooling his heels for approximately six hours.

When the Secretary-General goes to Baghdad, if he does, it must surely be the case that he should carry the instruction of the Security Council that the principle of the observance of the obligations and the resolutions of the Security Council is not something upon which he can compromise. Suppose all those efforts fail? As a last resort, I accept that we should be prepared to use military force. I do not say that lightly, without having weighed the consequences or without being conscious of the risks.

The first objective of military action should be to reduce Saddam's present capability to manufacture and deliver weapons of mass destruction; the second, to suppress his capability to do either of those in the future; the third—as I thought the Foreign Secretary rather implied in response to an intervention—to target his wider military capability as a recognition of the refusal to implement the obligations contained in the peace settlement and embodied in the UN resolutions.

Questions have been asked as to whether such military action is legal without a further resolution of the Security Council. In my opinion, it is—for these reasons. The ceasefire was agreed on certain conditions, including the obligation now contained in the resolutions. Saddam Hussein is in material breach of the obligations and, as a result, in breach of the terms of the ceasefire. In those circumstances, it is my considered view that there is no further legal reason for a Security Council resolution before military action is commenced. However, there may well be compelling political reasons, and I very much hope that the initiative being taken in New York at the instance of the British Government is successful.

Supposing we were to rule out military force? Supposing it were impossible to reach a diplomatic solution to the present crisis? What sanction would we have? How could we encourage or compel compliance? The truth is that the threat of military force is not separate from the diplomatic campaign—it is an essential part of it.

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway)

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree with the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), and endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), that there is legitimacy in an attack immediately upon other targets in Iraq—specifically military targets, such as those of the Republican Guard—on the basis of the UN resolutions?

Mr. Campbell

Yes, and I rather thought that I had made that point.

It is right to emphasise again that we have no quarrel with the Iraqi people who daily have to suffer the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime. Let us be clear—Saddam Hussein does not care for his own people. Otherwise, he would not use them as human shields; otherwise, he would not have refused, until recently, to avail himself of the oil-for-food arrangements; otherwise, he would not subject them to systematic barbarity. Iraq is a country in which executions on a whim are commonplace, in which there is no due process of law and in which sadistic cruelty is practised without care for the consequences.

In the debates of 1990 and 1991 which surrounded the Gulf war, there was a constant theme which, regrettably, still provides a context against which present events must be assessed. The theme contained two elements. The first was that, once Kuwait was liberated, strenuous efforts must be made to achieve a just settlement between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian people. The second was that there could be no lasting peace in the middle east unless there were such a settlement.

Strenuous efforts were made after the Gulf war, for which President Bush has never received the credit he undoubtedly deserves. Those efforts culminated in the Oslo accords, based on the principle of land for peace. Those accords have the status of treaties and the Palestinians and the Israeli Government are bound by them. Their implementation was never going to be easy, but Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin—with great personal and political courage—signed them and began to try to put them into practice. Mr. Rabin, in due course, paid with his life for that courage.

The Government of Mr. Netanyahu are in breach of the treaties, and therefore in breach of international law. The Government of Mr. Netanyahu consistently breach international law by the programme of illegal settlements in the Palestinian lands, particularly in and around Jerusalem. The peace process is in stagnation. That is deeply damaging for stability in the middle east but, worse, it has provided Saddam Hussein with an opportunity to harness anti-American sentiment.

The timing of the latest crisis is no accident. It follows hard upon the failure of the economic conference at Qatar where, in spite of the efforts of the United States, there was a clear demonstration of Arab disillusionment. The stagnation of the peace process has made it impossible for Egypt to support military action. It has embarrassed Jordan, and made it impossible to form a coalition such as was created in the days before the Gulf war.

As we are uncompromising in our condemnation of Saddam Hussein's breaches of international law, we must be equally vocal in our criticism of the failures of the present Israeli Government to fulfil their obligations. In international law, resolutions 242 and 338 of the UN have the same weight as resolution 687. By 242 and 338, the Palestinian people are, by law, entitled to a proper homeland.

Like everyone else in the House, I earnestly hope that military force will not be required, that Saddam will accept his legal obligations and that diplomatic initiatives will prevail. If he were to accept the obligations, the stability of the middle east would be greatly enhanced. However, there will, in truth, be no opportunity for long-term stability until the international community does as it promised seven years ago—find a just and lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Until that is done, Saddam Hussein will be quick and adept to exploit the frustrations of the countries of the middle east, and these debates may be rather more frequent than we should have preferred.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. As the House knows, a large number of hon. Members wish to speak. It would be appreciated if hon. Members did not approach the Chair to ask where they are in the order of things. The shop will be closed.

5.26 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

If this debate is to make sense, we should understand the area of total agreement and where differences of opinion exist. First, no one in the House supports the regime of Saddam Hussein, who is a brutal dictator. I shall come to the support he has had from the west, but he is a brutal dictator and nobody in the House defends him. Secondly, no one in the House can defend for one moment the denial by the Iraqi Government of the implementation of the Security Council resolution which said that there should be inspections. The third issue on which there is major agreement, but little understanding yet, is the sudden realisation of the horror of modern chemical and biological weapons, which do not depend on enormous amounts of hardware—previously only available to a super-power—but which almost anybody, perhaps even a terrorist group, could deliver.

The disagreement is on how we deal with the matter. The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major)—whose speech was listened to with great attention—was talking about a preventive war. I shall read Hansard carefully, but he talked about a preventive war. There is no provision in the UN charter for a preventive war. If we are realistic—we must not fool ourselves—that huge American fleet of 30 ships and 1,000 aircraft is not in the Gulf waiting to be withdrawn when Saddam makes a friendly noise to Kofi Annan. The fleet has been sent there to be used, and the House would be deceiving itself if it thought that any so-called "diplomatic initiatives" would avert its use.

This is a unique debate as far as I am concerned. I have sat here with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) through four wars—the Korean war, the Suez war, the Falklands war and the first Gulf war. I cannot remember an occasion when any Government asked the House to authorise, in a resolution, action which could lead to force.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Benn

No. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I want to develop a case briefly.

The reason is that the right to go to war is a prerogative power. The Government are inviting the House—I understand why—to share their responsibility for the use of force, knowing that force will be used within a week or two.

We are not starting afresh. I opposed the Gulf war. We should have asked why Saddam got into Kuwait and why he was not stopped. We had the war. The equivalent of seven and a half Hiroshima bombs was dropped on the people of Iraq—the biggest bombardment since the second world war. Some 200,000 Iraqis died. Depleted uranium bullets were used. I have had two or three letters from Gulf war veterans in a mass of correspondence in the past week, one of whom has offered to be a human shield in Iraq because he feels that he was betrayed by the British Government and does not want the Iraqi people to suffer again.

All the evidence confirms my view that sanctions are another instrument of mass destruction. They destroy people's lives, denying them the food and medicines that they need. It is no good saying that Saddam took the money for his palaces. If that is the case, why does the United Nations Children's Fund now say that there are 1 million children in Iraq starving, along with 500,000 who have died?

Bombing the water supply and the sewerage plants is like using chemical weapons, because the disease that spreads from that bombing contributes to disease in the country. And, at the end of all that, Saddam is stronger than he was at the beginning. Nobody denies that. People ask why we have to go back seven years later. It is because the previous policy inevitably made him stronger. We know that when a country is attacked, leaders wave their fists and say, "We will never give way." It happened in Britain, it happens when we are dealing with bombings from Ireland—it happens all the time. Are we such fools that we think that if we bomb other people they will crumble, whereas when they bomb us it will stiffen our resolve? The House ought to study its own history.

The Government's motion would not be carried at the Security Council. I asked the Foreign Secretary about that. Why is he asking us to pass a resolution that he could not get through the Security Council? On the basis of his speech, the Russians and the Chinese would not vote for the use of force. Why involve the House of Commons in an act that runs counter to what the Security Council would accept?

Several hon. Members


Mr. Benn

I have very little time. I want to develop my argument. There are many others who want to speak. I hope that the House will listen to me. I know that my view is not the majority view in the House, although it may be outside this place.

I regret that I shall vote against the Government motion. The first victims of the bombing that I believe will be launched within a fortnight will be innocent people, many, if not most, of whom would like Saddam to be removed. The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, talked about collateral damage. The military men are clever. They talk not about hydrogen bombs but about deterrence. They talk not about people but about collateral damage. They talk not about power stations and sewerage plants but about assets. The reality is that innocent people will be killed if the House votes tonight—as it manifestly will—to give the Government the authority for military action.

The bombing would also breach the United Nations charter. I do not want to argue on legal terms. If the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) has read articles 41 and 42, he will know that the charter says that military action can only be decided on by the Security Council and conducted under the military staffs committee. That procedure has not been followed and cannot be followed because the five permanent members have to agree. Even for the Korean war, the United States had to go to the General Assembly to get authority because Russia was absent. That was held to be a breach, but at least an overwhelming majority was obtained.

Has there been any negotiation or diplomatic effort? Why has the Foreign Secretary not been in Baghdad, like the French Foreign Minister, the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Russian Foreign Minister? The time that the Government said that they wanted for negotiation has been used to prepare public opinion for war and to build up their military position in the Gulf.

Saddam will be strengthened again. Or he may be killed. I read today that the security forces—who are described as terrorists in other countries—have tried to kill Saddam. I should not be surprised if they succeeded.

This second action does not enjoy support from elsewhere. There is no support from Iraq's neighbours. If what the Foreign Secretary says about the threat to the neighbours is true, why is Iran against, why is Jordan against, why is Saudi Arabia against, why is Turkey against? Where is that great support? There is no support from the opposition groups inside Iraq. The Kurds, the Shi'ites and the communists hate Saddam, but they do not want the bombing. The Pope is against it, along with 10 bishops, two cardinals, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Perez de Cuellar. The Foreign Secretary clothes himself with the garment of the world community, but he does not have that support. We are talking about an Anglo-American preventive war. It has been planned and we are asked to authorise it in advance.

The House is clear about its view of history, but it does not say much about the history of the areas with which we are dealing. The borders of Kuwait and Iraq, which then became sacrosanct, were drawn by the British after the end of the Ottoman empire. We used chemical weapons against the Iraqis in the 1930s. Air Chief Marshal Harris, who later flattened Dresden, was instructed to drop chemical weapons.

When Saddam came to power, he was a hero of the west. The Americans used him against Iran because they hated Khomeini, who was then the figure to be removed. They armed Saddam, used him and sent him anthrax. I am not anxious to make a party political point, because there is not much difference between the two sides on this, but, as the Scott report revealed, the previous Government allowed him to be armed. I had three hours with Saddam in 1990. I got the hostages out, which made it worth going. He felt betrayed by the United States, because the American ambassador in Baghdad had said to him, "If you go into Kuwait, we will treat it as an Arab matter." That is part of the history that they know, even if we do not know it here.

In 1958, 40 years ago, Selwyn Lloyd, the Foreign Secretary and later the Speaker, told Foster Dulles that Britain would make Kuwait a Crown colony. Foster Dulles said, "What a very good idea." We may not know that history, but in the middle east it is known.

The Conservatives have tabled an amendment asking about the objectives. That is an important issue. There is no UN resolution saying that Saddam must be toppled. It is not clear that the Government know what their objectives are. They will probably be told from Washington. Do they imagine that if we bomb Saddam for two weeks, he will say, "Oh, by the way, do come in and inspect"? The plan is misconceived.

Some hon. Members—even Opposition Members—have pointed out the double standard. I am not trying to equate Israel with Iraq, but on 8 June 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad. What action did either party take on that? Israel is in breach of UN resolutions and has instruments of mass destruction. Mordecai Vanunu would not boast about Israeli freedom. Turkey breached UN resolutions by going into northern Cyprus. It has also recently invaded northern Iraq and has instruments of mass destruction. Lawyers should know better than anyone else that it does not matter whether we are dealing with a criminal thug or an ordinary lawbreaker—if the law is to apply, it must apply to all. Governments of both major parties have failed in that.

Prediction is difficult and dangerous, but I fear that the situation could end in a tragedy for the American and British Governments. Suez and Vietnam are not far from the minds of anyone with a sense of history. I recall what happened to Sir Anthony Eden. I heard him announce the ceasefire and saw him go on holiday to Goldeneye in Jamaica. He came back to be replaced. I am not saying that that will happen in this case, but does anyone think that the House is in a position to piggy-back on American power in the middle east? What happens if Iraq breaks up? If the Kurds are free, they will demand Kurdistan and destabilise Turkey. Anything could happen. We are sitting here as if we still had an empire—only, fortunately, we have a bigger brother with more weapons than us.

The British Government have everything at their disposal. They are permanent members of the Security Council and have the European Union presidency for six months. Where is that leadership in Europe which we were promised? It just disappeared. We are also, of course, members of the Commonwealth, in which there are great anxieties. We have thrown away our influence, which could have been used for moderation.

The amendment that I and others have tabled argues that the United Nations Security Council should decide the nature of what Kofi Annan brings back from Baghdad and whether force is to be used. Inspections and sanctions go side by side. As I said, sanctions are brutal for innocent people. Then there is the real question: when will the world come to terms with the fact that chemical weapons are available to anybody? If there is an answer to that, it must involve the most meticulous observation of international law, which I feel we are abandoning.

War is easy to talk about; there are not many people left of the generation which remembers it. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup served with distinction in the last war. I never killed anyone but I wore uniform. I was in London during the blitz in 1940, living where the Millbank tower now stands, where I was born. Some different ideas have come in there since. Every night, I went to the shelter in Thames house. Every morning, I saw docklands burning. Five hundred people were killed in Westminster one night by a land mine. It was terrifying. Are not Arabs and Iraqis terrified? Do not Arab and Iraqi women weep when their children die? Does not bombing strengthen their determination? What fools we are to live as if war is a computer game for our children or just an interesting little Channel 4 news item.

Every Member of Parliament who votes for the Government motion will be consciously and deliberately accepting responsibility for the deaths of innocent people if the war begins, as I fear it will. That decision is for every hon. Member to take. In my parliamentary experience, this a unique debate. We are being asked to share responsibility for a decision that we will not really be taking but which will have consequences for people who have no part to play in the brutality of the regime with which we are dealing.

On 24 October 1945—the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup will remember—the United Nations charter was passed. The words of that charter are etched on my mind and move me even as I think of them. It says: We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our life-time has brought untold sorrow to mankind". That was that generation's pledge to this generation, and it would be the greatest betrayal of all if we voted to abandon the charter, take unilateral action and pretend that we were doing so in the name of the international community. I shall vote against the motion for the reasons that I have given.

5.42 pm
Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) spoke with passionate sincerity, as he has spoken often in the House on such matters. As the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman spoke with equally passionate sincerity at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. If his voice had been listened to then, Kuwait would still be a ravaged, pillaged and destroyed country—and very probably, other countries in the middle east would be as well.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield said that people's lives were at risk by the House's decision tonight. I do not think that anybody listening to the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) or my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) is under any illusion that anybody is enjoying this debate, or believes that it is an opportunity to score some political success. The House is facing the least worst option in an appallingly difficult situation.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) correctly reminded the House that the motion incorporates words that are directly lifted from United Nations resolution 687: "all necessary means". In that respect, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield is correct. I did not have a chance to leave the Chamber to check, but I am not sure whether he is correct in saying that this is the first time that the House has been asked to support the Government's position on the use of force, because that was precisely how we approached the previous unfortunate encounter which led to the Gulf war.

Debates were held consistently in which the House was asked to support the Government's use of military force. With increasing majorities on every occasion, the House supported the Government's position, which eventually led, following the refusal of Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait, to the need to use military force.

This is a critically important debate. It is very important that we stand up and make clear our position. It is important that, if the House supports the Government, as I and other right hon. Members do, it makes that support abundantly clear by the clearest possible signal. It is no secret that Saddam Hussein and the regime in Baghdad are some of the keenest observers of international opinion, attitudes and views. He watched CNN regularly before and during the Gulf war.

It is no secret, either, that we are here today because Saddam Hussein observed divisions in the Security Council; the international community was no longer speaking with the same united voice. Saddam Hussein saw that as his opportunity, which, as the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) pointed out, has been made all the greater by disaffection among much moderate Arab opinion from Israel's attitude. Saddam Hussein has seen his opportunity to test once again the international community as he did with the invasion of Kuwait. We must show very clearly where we stand.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon said that this is not a rerun of the Gulf war, and of course he is right. But, in a real sense, it is unfinished business. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe made the point very well. Where did resolution 687 come from? It is the ceasefire resolution. It was the condition under which we stopped the previous, highly successful, military campaign to liberate Kuwait. Some might say that we stopped it too soon, but stop it we did, and on the explicit condition that the resolution would be observed.

On 6 April 1991, the Iraqi Foreign Secretary wrote to the UN Secretary-General accepting the terms of resolution 687. The right hon. Member for Gorton clearly spelled out how the core of the resolution is, explicitly, the setting up of UNSCOM and the rights to search for, identify, inspect and destroy weapons of mass destruction. It has been accepted specifically by Iraq. Connected resolutions which have followed have been implicitly accepted as well.

The Foreign Secretary occasionally says that UNSCOM has destroyed more weapons of mass destruction than were destroyed in the Gulf war. Everyone who was familiar with the problems of bombing in the Gulf war—I shall speak about them later—knew that the programme of destruction would not be hugely successful, because, at that time, we knew relatively little about many of the dispositions in Iraq, It is no secret that intelligence is one of the commodities in shortest supply because of the strength and ruthlessness of the Iraqi regime.

We won the victory that secured the liberation of Kuwait, and we caused significant damage to Saddam's military capability, but we were not particularly effective in destroying the weapons of mass destruction. Resolution 687 recognised that the programme to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction would have to be continued.

I pay tribute to the extraordinary courage and determination of the officials and members of the United Nations team. Some hon. Members will have read in the Sunday newspapers this week the interesting personal account of a member of that team, who described what it was like to be in Iraq and to look down the barrel of the gun of a security man who was determined to obstruct the UN's work.

The article described what it was like never to know whether one's life was at risk because the people UNSCOM was dealing with were going to engineer an unfortunate accident. UNSCOM has carried out its work and destroyed so many weapons of mass destruction in the face of the Iraqi regime's massive attempts at evasion and deception.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield referred to common ground. I hope that all hon. Members accept that Saddam Hussein has been determined to maintain a programme for the production of weapons of mass destruction of a nastiness and evil that the world has arguably never before seen in terms of biological and chemical warfare. We cannot simply walk away and allow that to continue. I hope that part of the common ground, even for those who are not in favour of military action, is that that massive programme must be stopped.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield asks whether we care about young children and the casualties that might occur as a result of military action. We are here today precisely because we care hugely about the possible consequences if the situation is not dealt with, not only for children, but for people of all ages and all races, in Iraq, in the middle east and perhaps beyond.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. King

I hope that the hon. Lady will excuse me if I do not give way at the moment.

The critical point is to establish whether we can secure diplomatic agreement to a strong and united resolution. I am concerned about developments in the United Nations. I had the privilege to be Secretary of State for Defence when we had strong support in the United Nations and the middle east, including from the Arab community.

The current situation is obviously much more difficult, but I hold the view that resolution 687—which flows directly from resolution 678 and refers back to it—is firm ground on which to stand. I hope that, whatever political imperative drives the new resolution, the strength of our position—of which I share the interpretation of the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife—will not be undermined.

I agree with the proposal to expand the oil-for-food programme, which the Foreign Secretary announced. If I recall rightly, one of the grievances that Saddam Hussein claimed to have against Kuwait when he invaded it was the way in which it was handling the oil market; he believed that Kuwait had allowed the upstream price to fall too low, but was profiting from its downstream retail distribution. Significantly, the world oil price is currently at rock bottom; the oil-for-food programme must be expanded if only to take account of that, although there are obviously also strong humanitarian grounds for expansion.

I hope that we shall secure a strong United Nations resolution, to prepare the ground for the Secretary-General's visit to Baghdad. I believe that he is the right person to go. I do not believe for a moment that the Foreign Secretary should go—that would be quite improper. This is a United Nations matter, based on a United Nations resolution; it is not, as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield tries to pretend, a personal fight between America and Iraq or between Britain and Iraq.

I trust that the Secretary-General will not go to Baghdad unless it is pretty clear that Iraq will give a positive response. It would be unacceptable if he were humiliated in an attempt by Saddam to score a public relations coup. With that reservation, I hope that he will go.

Everyone must devote their efforts to solving the crisis peacefully; the Foreign Secretary made it very clear that that is much the best way. I have a modest qualification for knowing some of the problems of a military response. I believe that targeting can now be much more effective than it was in the Gulf war, as our intelligence about the dispositions in Iraq is much greater than it was then. Many lessons have been learned to improve the accuracy of weapons; I believe that we are better equipped to ensure the most accurate possible targeting.

None the less, everyone recognises that there is no certainty in this. Military action is an extremely dangerous and difficult course on which to embark. It is also obvious that there is a limit to what air power alone can achieve. If all other options fail, however, the world community cannot walk away. I have assumed that there is unanimous recognition in the House that Iraq has massive supplies and the determination to continue to produce extremely nasty weapons of mass destruction. That knowledge—I hope that it is common ground—surely makes it impossible for us to walk away.

It has often been said that, during the Gulf war, a perhaps rather surprised world was shown for the first time—it was the end of the cold war and all those years when the United Nations had not worked, with vetoes coming from one side or the other and no real cohesion, authority or power—that, when the nations of the world, with the permanent five and the other members of the Security Council, were prepared to stand together, they could be a real force for good in a troubled and uncertain world. In some ways, on this occasion we are fighting too much on our own. Perhaps too few countries yet appreciate that the United Nations standing together is a precious asset that is valuable to every citizen in the world.

Therefore, I hope that we will understand the importance of standing by the authority of the United Nations, and will recognise that it must be defended at all costs. I hope that, from our standing together with other nations that share that view with sufficient resolution, Saddam Hussein will recognise the force and determination of the world community, and our objectives will be achieved by diplomatic means. If not, alternative, military action may be necessary.

5.59 pm
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

History, constitutional law, political practice and the Executive orientation of our political system have determined that the House does not declare war, or initiate or terminate wars. Our role is to endorse, which we usually do, or to oppose, which we rarely do.

On occasions, opinion in the House and in the country is divided. Some would argue that the House is at its best when we are indulging in hysteria and displaying signs of being a legislature on heat, with the hurling of abuse and creative tension, but I would argue that, on national security issues, the House is at its best when it displays none of those characteristics, but exhibits a large degree of consensus. I suspect that when people analyse our proceedings today, they will appreciate that there has been a remarkable degree, if not of unanimity or consensus, of basic agreement. I cannot recall many occasions on which a Foreign Secretary's speech was largely approved by the Opposition spokesman, who made a similar and almost indistinguishable speech. A former Prime Minister, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on defence and foreign affairs and almost everyone else who has spoken have said that we do not want to go to war, that we are not being jingoistic and that we are speaking critically, not cynically. In most cases, we are speaking without emotion and telling the Government that they must negotiate hard, but that if the negotiations fail and we have been seen to be using our best endeavours to resolve the crisis by negotiation, regrettably, we may have to have recourse to physical force.

I deeply disagree with the imputation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), whose views I do not agree with, but respect. He is part of our post-war history, although I disagree with his interpretation of that history. I do not believe that if I go into the Lobby in support of the Government—which I will—there will be blood on my hands. If I sit on my hands or oppose the Government, and if the House is foolish enough to dissent from their view, we shall have to accept responsibility for that action too. In supporting the Government—as we will do—we shall not be initiating the action, but endorsing it. We shall be saying that we must share a responsibility. If things go right, we shall claim some of the credit. If things go wrong, we may want to run and hide, but we must accept responsibility for our individual and collective action.

Having studied security issues for many years, I cannot say with absolute confidence what is going to happen tomorrow morning, let alone in one, two or three weeks. One politician is supposed to have said of another, "I wish I was as certain of some things as he is of everything." I do not approach the crisis with any absolute confidence that what our Government or the American Government are doing will inevitably turn out be right. The world is not like that. To accept the argument in terms of simplistic good and bad or right and wrong, is to delude oneself considerably.

The House has debated other wars. On one occasion, it was not even recalled to discuss a war because it was thought to be too insignificant. On occasions, the House has been deeply divided—divided Houses and divided countries will almost inevitably lead to the failure of the military venture that has been reluctantly authorised. Jingoism has been absent from this debate. The House's sober approach reflects the fact that most people realise that the Government have proceeded cautiously and with good intent.

I do not like the phrase, "the just war". There are very few just wars. Even during the second world war, there was no unanimity. The fascists opposed what we were doing and until the Communist party in Moscow gave the British communists direction, there was considerable ambivalence among them. There were pacifists, whose views I respect, and those who believed that we should sit out the war and gain the advantage after it—a view that I do not respect. If ever there was a just war, it was the second world war.

People should not have a moral sense of superiority, saying, "My perception of history and events is so perfect and my moral perception so beyond criticism that anyone who dares disagree is per se immoral, his views should be deprecated and he or she bears blood on their hands." That is to reduce a complicated dilemma to such a trivial level as to be almost worthless.

What the Government are doing is right and just. The alliance of nations that George Bush was able to assemble in 1991 may not be so arrayed on this occasion, but let us remember that most of the coalition countries played a marginal role in providing military forces as their role was largely symbolic. The United States could have completed its military task without recourse to anyone else but, politically, the authorisation of the United Nations was necessary.

Are we to say that because France, Russia and China, which have their own agendas, do not endorse what Britain or the United States wants to be done, the whole institution should be paralysed? If necessary, we have an authorisation for the use of force, as lawyers have told us. Even if there were not that authorisation, we could argue strongly that it would be necessary to threaten or use physical force.

As everyone knows, even those who oppose physical force, Saddam Hussein has violated international law and United Nations resolutions, and has built up such a substantial and threatening arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that he has to be stopped. Those who argue against military force rely on the United Nations and its moral authority to undo the damage. However, the United Nations was unable to resolve the crisis in Bosnia by using purely its moral authority. Only when certain countries, notably the United States, decided to put more than moral authority into resolving the crisis was real success gained.

Saddam has repeatedly obstructed, prevaricated and done everything possible to elevate ducking and diving to a science. To argue, as he does, that he has been co-operative with UNSCOM inspectors is to stretch reality. If he is not stopped, he will be a threat to regional and international security. In pressurising him and taking him to the brink, up to the point of switching on the engines of the aircraft, he must be given the opportunity of accepting the United Nations resolutions. If he accepts them, it is imperative that we do not simply accept his word because his word is worthless. If we accept a climbdown—there will be attempts to try to mask such a climbdown; certainly to his people whatever he does will be deemed a major diplomatic success—the armed forces should remain to ensure that he complies with United Nations resolutions. The moment the ships go over the horizon, he will be encouraged to return to his old habits.

The consequences of backing down now and withdrawing without achieving our justifiable objectives would be serious, although some will disagree with my reasons for saying that. As a great believer in the North Atlantic alliance, I think that if we leave the United States on its own, the alliance's future would be jeopardised. The United States would ask why it should bother to remain in the alliance. Senators may ask why they should ratify NATO enlargement or retain US forces in Bosnia if, in a time of crisis, their NATO partners are not prepared to stand by them. I believe in the special relationship with the United States; it would be in tatters in such a situation. European-American relations would degenerate worryingly. Above all, Saddam would be left alone. If the United States and other countries do not get together on this, he will be free to use his weapons at a time of his choosing. It is wise to get the lessons—the retaliation—in first.

As many have said, perhaps the United States should be more diligent in putting pressure on the Israeli Government. First, the limited success in putting together a coalition can be significantly attributed to the intransigence of the Israeli Government in implementing the middle east peace accords. Secondly, I believe that we should be more vigilant in controlling the export of arms. Few countries can be free of guilt in respect of exporting arms that can be used for immoral purposes.

Thirdly, I invite our good friends in the Treasury to realise that wars can begin when they are not anticipated. If we have forces that are as capable as ours are at present, we at least have a range of options that would not be available if defence expenditure were further reduced. Fourthly, hon. Members should not hold their breath, expecting a European defence policy to provide an alternative to our current alliance structure. It has been said that some of our allies in the previous Gulf crisis reached for their cheque books and dived into their cellars. It is important that European nations rely less on the United States or the United Kingdom and do more than offer moral support; many are not even offering that.

The Defence Select Committee this morning had a briefing in the Ministry of Defence from the Secretary of State for Defence and the Minister for the Armed Forces. The Committee will visit the United States next week. That does not reflect brilliant timing on my part, but it should be an interesting time to exchange views with our American colleagues.

Mr. Dalyell

Did the Defence Select Committee hear the views or advice of the chiefs of staff? It may be unrealistic to think that their advice could be given to the entire House of Commons, but I have asked the Secretary of State for Defence to make it available to either the Intelligence and Security Committee or the Defence Select Committee. I am not a member of either, but has that been done?

Mr. George

When I began my speech, I did not think that I would agree with what the hon. Gentleman would say, but I would like people such as the assistant chiefs of the defence staff to appear before the Select Committee. With the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, I expect to meet military personnel later in the week.

It is clutching at straws to assume that there is any profound difference between senior military advice and political leadership. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield were here, with his knowledge of history, he could have reminded us that, on defence, the House in the 19th century was largely occupied in trying to establish parliamentary and civilian control over the military. If a member of the military cannot accept political direction from those democratically accountable to the House, that person should seek an alternative career. I suspect and hope that there is agreement. I suspect that, in the country, it is widely agreed that Saddam must be confronted if all else fails. I accept that that is inevitable, but those who wish to exercise their moral judgment against the decision of the overwhelming majority of this House will perhaps give some aid and comfort to Saddam. I am appalled by that.

Mr. Galloway


Mr. George

That remark is not disgraceful. My hon. Friend's views are well known.

I was glad to have been called because I waited a long time in the Falklands debate, but was not called. Even though there was no vote on that Saturday morning in 1982, no one could have been under the illusion that there was more than fractional support for those who opposed the Government's decision to send the task force. I was part of the fractional minority who felt that sending the task force was wrong, first, on the ground that we had been thrown out of better places than the Falklands without resorting to military means. Secondly, it was dangerous; the balance of forces was such that I had no great confidence that we would emerge victorious. I was wrong—just. Once the Government and Parliament had made that decision, my opposition ceased and I totally supported, as we should now support, our men and women, be they up in the air, on the sea, under the sea or on land. I hope that even if hon. Members disagree with what the Government are doing, they will express their views privately. I do not expect them to do it, but I hope that they will do as I did. When the chips are down, we must support the men and women fighting on our behalf.

6.18 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

I wholly endorse the words of the Chairman of the Defence Committee. From my experience of the Secretary of State for Defence and my long-standing knowledge of the Chief of the Defence Staff, I should be surprised if a cigarette paper could be put between them. Any mischief-making suggestions on that account are unhelpful to the decision-making process and totally untrue. I also endorse what he said about how imperative it is that the House sends a strong message to the Royal Air Force detachments and the Royal Naval task force, which will be heartened and invigorated by the support that I am sure will be expressed for the Government in the Lobby tonight.

Let us be quite clear, as everyone has been, that Saddam Hussein and his wicked, vile regime must be dealt with. Beyond any doubt, he possesses chemical and biological weapons and, contrary to all the articles of war, he has used chemical weapons on the Kurds and the Iranians. He invaded the sovereign state of Kuwait and visited the most wicked cruelty and devastation on its population and its land. He dropped Scud missiles at Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Dhahran and Haifa. He is in wilful, permanent and gross breach of UN resolutions and has persistently interfered with the UNSCOM inspectors as they try to carry out their mandate to secure and destroy those weapons of mass destruction.

During my two and a half years at the Ministry of Defence, every three months or so I was visited by Ambassador Ekeus, the then head of UNSCOM, who reported on what was happening. He told me that there was nothing new about that interference, which had been going on for years, but that it had finally reached intolerable levels.

The Iraqis have lied, cheated and attempted to conceal that arsenal of weapons. In the face of continuing Iraqi intransigence, it is clear that they have more to hide and that this matter must be resolved. Saddam Hussein's treatment of his own people is unspeakable, and the world must be a safer place by forcing him to comply with the 1991 ceasefire, let alone the terms of the UN resolutions.

I hope that it does not have to happen, but if it comes to it, it will be the job of the American and British forces to dismantle the apparatus of Saddam's wicked regime. We are all probably agreed upon that proposition, but how to go about it is an altogether different kettle of fish. There are respectable grounds for believing that the bombing of Iraq will achieve nothing. There are people in the House who hold such views with great passion and who have every right to be heard. Such bombing could lead to the strengthening of Saddam Hussein's position internally and it could alienate world opinion, particularly if there are large numbers of civilian casualties. In extreme circumstances, it could increase the risk of a wider, prolonged war.

For my part, and with some reluctance, I believe that, on this occasion, it is right that Britain should support the United States because the proposed military action is for just motives. I pray that the targeting experts will have developed a careful and sophisticated plan. Unlike the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), I hope that they will pause regularly to remind Saddam Hussein that he only has to agree to unrestricted, unconditional access for that military action to be discontinued.

The problem is that the military option is not an effective substitute for UN weapons inspectors having unrestricted access on the ground and the ability to get hold of and destroy those ghastly, malign weapons. It is imperative that every worthwhile diplomatic avenue is explored. There is no point in the Secretary-General going to Baghdad without clear instructions from the permanent five on the Security Council. To do otherwise would gravely damage the credibility of the UN, whose credibility and integrity are already seriously questioned. If he were to go to Baghdad, it should be made plain to the Iraqis that a prompt response is required and that, failing a satisfactory answer, the military option will then have to be exercised.

What will happen? Saddam will be bombed and the sanctions kept in place indefinitely, and the only sure losers will be Iraq's poor, long-suffering civilians. If that happens, this House should understand and focus clearly upon the grave consequences for British interests in the middle east and British foreign policy in Europe and beyond. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) made a good point about the middle east with which I whole-heartedly agree.

I travelled regularly to the middle east when I was at the Ministry of Defence and I always reported back on the increasing resentment and anti-western feeling that existed in all countries of the Gulf. That has come about because the Arabs, quite rightly, deeply resent the uneven-handed way in which the Americans, and, regrettably therefore, ourselves, have dealt with the Arab-Israeli question. They are right to be angry and they are right to be frustrated with America and her allies, but the fallout for us is serious and must be addressed by a more creative and vigorous policy. The middle east peace process is now in critical need of repair and, whatever the result of events as they unfold in Iraq, unless important steps are taken to reinvigorate that process, it will remain a festering and dangerous source of discontent and mischief, with potentially grievous consequences for stability in an already highly turbulent area.

I believe that Foreign Office Ministers have not done enough to push forward the middle east peace process. The Foreign Secretary will need to devote a great deal more time to the middle east than his rather exotic and varied priorities have thus far enabled him to do. The right hon. Gentleman has neglected our friends in the Gulf. Labour Members may disagree, but in nine months in office, he has made one visit to the Gulf and that was only in response to an emergency. It is little wonder that our Arab friends attach so little credibility to the Government's policy on the middle east.

Quite apart from the neglect of our interests in Arabia, the Government have failed dismally during the current crisis to give any leadership in Europe. I agree with the right hon. Member for Chesterfield that it is quite extraordinary that at a time when Britain has the presidency of the European Union, the Government have done so little to try to build a coalition and to carry our European partners with us. It really is time for the Government to drop the rhetoric and lead the Governments of Europe in a new initiative to try to bring peace to the middle east.

Of course, it is much harder for Britain to find common ground with the Germans and the French than it is with the Americans, but that effort must be made. The Government may have tried, but they certainly have not done enough. Our European friends and allies are rightly angry and bemused by the behaviour of the Labour Government. The Foreign Secretary must understand that without a real commitment to the nitty-gritty detail of business with Europe on all fronts, the utility to Washington of the Government-to-Government special relationship will gradually diminish, to our great disadvantage.

It is now clear to European politicians that, at the end of the day, the Labour Administration, with all the rhetoric and fancy packaging about their commitment to Europe, most favour a client state relationship with America. That is a lamentable and foolish state of affairs, which has done our country grave harm.

We should support the current American position, but we should do so from a European perspective. We should not just follow along blindly, but bring to the vital decisions the broader European opinion which, through our presidency, we must represent, and which we have so foolishly neglected in international affairs.

If the military option is judged to be unavoidable and if it is to succeed, the forces must be of a greater strength than those currently prepared. There will need to be a steady build-up of ground troops, but that should be run in tandem with a continuing extensive diplomatic effort. If Britain is to take part in those operations in the future, it is well prepared to do so with the joint rapid deployment force. I pray that it will not come to that.

When the Secretary of State replies to the debate, I hope that he will tell us about the Government's thinking on the future of Iraq, post a military strike. What has been their response to the concerns of the neighbouring countries? What about the Saudis, who really fear that Iraq might be split into a Kurdish north, a Sunni Muslim centre and a Shia Muslim south, supported by an untrustworthy and unreliable Iran? What account have the Government taken of the views of President Mubarak of Egypt, who believes that things will be much worse after an air strike—and he a great supporter of the west? What steps in the light of a military or indeed non-military resolution do the Government intend to take to renew the middle east peace process, which is all of a part with the Iraqi problem? We need some vigorous British and European ideas that will enable us to stop hanging on with both hands to America's coat tails and break the deadlock that is so deeply damaging to peace in the area.

6.29 pm
Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for his assurance that this is a free Parliament composed of free Members of Parliament who have a right—indeed, an obligation—to make their views known in the House and to follow their conscience on matters of war and peace. How different was that assurance from the extraordinary statements of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). It would be a strange sort of Parliament in which Members kept their views private. It would be a strange sort of Parliament in which Members who expressed a view different from that of the majority could be accused of giving succour and comfort to a dictator whom some of us have fought for far longer than some of those who muster such dread condemnation as has been voiced this evening. It would be a Parliament more like the Parliament in Baghdad than the Parliament in this country, for which we fought over the centuries. I disdain to keep my views on this matter secret.

The Iraqi regime has been effectively carpet-bombed this evening and I shall not repeat the condemnations that I have been making all my political life and that have already been made. I shall speak up for some people who have not been much mentioned this evening: the poor Iraqi citizens, who never elected Saddam Hussein and who—however much we make them suffer, however often we bomb them and however long we sanction them—cannot remove the dictator who stands astride them.

Last week, for three whole days, the attention of the whole country was fixed on the village of Chippenham. It was evacuated, people were moved out of their homes and a 30-ft mound of earth was built by the Royal Engineers. Witnesses who saw the explosion of the so-called "fat boy"—the 50-year-old piece of ordnance dropped by the Luftwaffe during the second world war—spoke of how terrifying it was and how awesome were the shock waves. Are we really saying that we are going to vote tonight to drop, not one fat boy, not 10, not 100, not 1,000, not 10,000, but tens of thousands of fat boys on the Iraqi people? Let us be clear: there is no such thing as precision bombing. There is no such thing as a smart bomb—bombs do not have brains, still less hearts. I have been in the Amariya air raid shelter in Baghdad, where the silhouettes of men, women and children are carbonised on to the walls as a result of a precision bomb launched by the United States of America.

In parenthesis, let me tell those who say that the Americans have carefully targeted their strikes so that they will not hit the chemical and biological weapons that my old grandfather was bombed by the United States air force all the way from Alamein to Monte Cassino. Given the US record on friendly fire, I am not sure whether it is a good thing that they know or do not know where the weapons are. One thing is for sure, if one bomb lands on one stockpile of one sort of biological or chemical weapon, it will send into the atmosphere enough poison gas to choke the very Iraqi people with whom we are told we have no quarrel. If the wind changes, all the kings and sheikhs of Araby had better be on aeroplanes' to London or Paris, or they will be choked and poisoned too. If the wind blows the right or the wrong way, poor citizens will suffer the consequences of American precision bombing.

On that subject, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may have noticed the weather report for England on Saturday—St. Valentine's day. As a result of freak atmospheric conditions, sand from the Sahara desert landed on England's green and pleasant land. If sand from the Sahara can reach England, what about anthrax, VX gas and all the other dreadful, hideous and obscene weapons that we have been talking about this evening? By the way, those weapons are in the possession of almost all the countries in the middle east—indeed, they are in the possession of almost all the countries in the world.

We were the first people to drop chemical weapons on Iraq. In 1920, under the colonial secretaryship of Winston Churchill, the grandfather of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), rebel tribesmen in the Euphrates valley were bombed with chemical weapons by the British armed forces. The United States of America, our special friend, has 30,000 tonnes of those obscene weapons—yes, the same United States of America that carpet-bombed with chemical weapons the people of Vietnam for almost 20 years. Agent orange and defoliation bombs were used and, to this day, children are born hideously deformed because of the chemicals dropped by our special friends.

The reality is that the Iraqi people have suffered long enough. It is sheer sophistry to talk about there being no sanctions on food and medicine. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and I have walked in the hospitals where the children are expiring for want of medicines in Iraq. Of course there is a food-for-oil deal now, but for many years under sanctions there was no such deal—[Interruption.] There was not a food-for-oil deal from the beginning of the conflict. For many years the Iraqi Government, even if they were ready to do so, were starved of the ability to buy food and medicines. If the food-for-oil deal is to be doubled, that means that it is now only half what it will become if that proposal goes through; and the current level of food for oil is double what it used to be.

First there was no food for oil, then there was food for oil, then it was doubled and now it is to be doubled again and that is because anyone who has eyes to see knows that the Iraqi people are dying like flies as a result of economic sanctions. Do not take my word for that—ask the United Nations Children's Fund, ask the World Health Organisation, ask the Harvard medical team, ask the Cambridge medical team and ask all the doctors and scientists who have been there and who have smelt the death being caused in Iraq as a result of the sanctions.

Sanctions are at the core of the issue. The Iraqis believe—the Arab world, the broader Muslim world and many others agree with them—that the United States has no intention of lifting sanctions and that it will move the goalposts at each and every opportunity. They have been moved even during this debate: my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that the Iraqis must comply with the requirements of UNSCOM, but other hon. Members rose to say, "What about the Kurds?" and other hon. Members will rise to say, "What about the Shi'ites in the south?" or "What about the lack of parliamentary democracy?" The goalposts are constantly being moved—that is what the Arabs believe. They believe that UNSCOM, which is stuffed with American military personnel and paid for by the Pentagon, not by the United Nations, has no intention of ever giving Iraq a clean bill of health in respect of chemical weapons.

As I am talking about sophistry, let me say that the impression has been given here this evening that the Gulf Co-operation Council countries support the attack on Iraq. That is entirely false. The United Arab Emirates opposes this strike, as does Qatar. Saudi Arabia, our most important ally in the area, opposes this strike. His Highness Prince Sultan, the Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia, has unequivocally stated that Saudi Arabia is against this military strike. What about President Hosni Mubarak, our best friend in the Arab world? Last week, he warned the British Government that an attack on Iraq would detonate shock waves of extremism across the entire middle east, and begged the allies not to do it.

It is a strange policy that can count only on the support of the Government Front Bench, the Opposition Front Bench and Bill Clinton's discredited Administration in Washington, that cannot count on the support of the Arab countries, of the European countries or of a majority of the Security Council of the United Nations. Everyone is out of step except Uncle Sam and Johnnie Bull. Well, it is just not credible.

I shall close on this point. So far—[Interruption.] I hear the Minister for the Armed Forces, sotto voce from a sedentary position, talking about 1940. Let me tell him about appeasement: the appeasement of Israel for 50 years by the international community, during which time Israel has invaded Arab country after Arab country, occupied Arab lands, bombed Arab capitals, and imprisoned, tortured and murdered the Palestinian people.

Let me tell the Minister about the appeasement of a country that has done all that—that has broken international law times without number, and that possesses so many weapons of mass destruction, from the nuclear to the chemical, that it has to wire up its biggest dissident, Vanunu, with a metal cage on his lower jaw so that he does not, in court, impart to the world community how many weapons of mass destruction he saw with his own eyes while working on Israel's nuclear programme.

The appeasement of Israel's crimes is the real reason why the Arabs are not with Great Britain and the United States of America in this enterprise. It is the appeasement—

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson)

May I ask my hon. Friend a simple question? Is it not true that every one of the Arab countries that he listed just now has called on Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions, and called on him to allow the inspectors back in the terms that were in the resolutions? At what point in his speech will my hon. Friend call for that as well?

Mr. Galloway

Right now. Every one of those countries has said what the Secretary of State said, and I say it too. I want to cleanse the entire world of these filthy, obscene weapons, which are sold to dictatorships for profit by private enterprise companies. I want them to be eliminated in all countries. However, the Secretary of State's use of words does not avoid my central point, that every one of those Arab countries opposes this attack. Every one of them is begging the international community to avoid and avert this attack. Why does not the Secretary of State for Defence deal with that substantive point? A policy that cannot command even the support of the royal family of Saudi Arabia is a friendless policy indeed.

I believe that the Americans are holding Kofi Annan back from the car to the airport right now. They have locked the Secretary-General away until they lasso him with enough conditions and enough qualifications to guarantee that his mission will be a failure. I believe that the majority of right-thinking people in the world are thinking, "Godspeed, Kofi Annan. Make haste to Baghdad. Stay there as long as is necessary. Go the extra mile for peace." When Iraqi women and children start to be carried out—no, swept out—of burning buildings in Baghdad, it will be a shame, a blot—which all the perfume in Arabia will never extinguish—on the reputation of this country.

6.44 pm
Mr. Alan Clark (Kensington and Chelsea)

It is certainly an experience to follow, and to listen to, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). Plainly, he has not had implanted in his skull one of those electrodes programmed by the Minister without Portfolio and Mr. Alastair Campbell to which the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) attributes the brain power of every one of the hon. Ladies on the Labour Benches. He is on record as having said that in a recent speech.

It is also a great pleasure, which enlivens every debate in this place, to listen to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), but I should like to supplement his trips down the memory lane of history with a recollection of my own. When he ran through all the various episodes in which the United Kingdom had militarily intervened in theatres around the globe since the war, he rather skated over the Falkland Islands. I was in the Chamber on 9 April 1982, and I remember hearing him say—in a magnificent speech, every bit as eloquent and moving as the one that he made today, and at such pitches of volume as we heard this afternoon—that the President of the United States would intervene, that the task force would have to turn round and come back, that it would be a complete rerun of the Suez expedition, and that we were incapable of recapturing the Falkland Islands because we were under the thumb of the Americans and because we were industrially, economically and militarily incapable of doing so. Well, the right hon. Gentleman chose not to remind us of that occasion, but I hope that it at least establishes that his predictive powers are not always impeccable.

The debate is taking place at a time when, for the second time in six years, there is an amphibious and carrier task force in the Gulf, and plainly the whole House must give the members of that force our loyalty, support and admiration for the manner in which they are responding to the task—a task by no means clear—which has been set them. Therefore, I hope that the putting of a number of questions to the Secretary of State will not be taken as impugning to any degree our support for individual members and units of the armed forces. I hope that you will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that those are questions which can, and should, legitimately be asked in the House.

First, what has been done to protect our personnel from chemical and bacteriological weapons? I understand that the full range of available injections is not being administered. Why not? Secondly, what provisions are in place for protecting the lives and safety of United Kingdom civilians in Iraq? Thirdly, will the Secretary of State make it clear that the abuse and torture of prisoners, as happened in the last Gulf war, would not be tolerated, and would be treated as an escalation of the conflict?

Fourthly—I think the House will agree that this is important—to what extent are we privy to, or have we consented to, United States tactical planning and targeting? Fifthly, do these weapons actually exist—that is to say, in capable weapon form—or are we talking simply about supplies and components that are to be interdicted?

Next come the broad strategic realities. What do we hope to achieve? Is it that Saddam will simply roll over, apologise and admit the inspection teams to wherever they wish to go—or, if that is too Utopian, that Saddam will disappear, be displaced or assassinated? If we hope for that, we have certainly altered our objectives since the time when I was a Minister at the Department of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), when Saddam was deliberately kept in place as a make-weight to the ayatollahs on one side and the unfettered exercise of Israeli power on the other.

If Saddam is to be destabilised by military action—although I suggest that that is no more likely than his being strengthened in his position—what will be the position of a fragmented Iraq? We have heard the Foreign Secretary and others say that there is no intention to break up Iraq but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) pointed out, the break-up of Iraq is almost inevitable if the Iraqi Government are destabilised in conditions of extreme violence. It is the most likely consequence.

Will Turkey then be reconciled to the emergence of a Kurdish state in the north? How will the ayatollahs in Iran respond to division and demarcation between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims? How will all those repercussions affect the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states?

The scene has much of the appearance of an impending retributive military action whose consequences have not been fully thought through. History shows that such actions can be the precursors of very long wars indeed.

6.50 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Like the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark), I descend from the peaks of absolutes and certainties and recognise, with him, the uncertainties and the judgments that will have to be made, often on the basis of inadequate evidence.

There are indeed problems involving the strategic balance within the region, such as the position of Iran if Iraq is crippled. There are also wider questions that we must consider in the context of our transatlantic relations, as well as the problem of Russian-American relations.

Obviously there are no certainties, but at the end of the day we must seek on the basis of principle, with whatever difficulty, to reach decisions. We are not academics, weighing the series of problems that face us. Ultimately, amid all the gloom and the problems, a decision must be made.

As parliamentarians we must accept the fact that much of the evidence is not properly before us. For example, we cannot make a proper assessment of the strength of the Iraqi opposition. We do not know whether they have been so ruthlessly extirpated by Saddam Hussein that there is no chance of their rising up against him.

We do not know about other key matters, either, such as the possible effect of bombing that goes astray and lands on the anthrax barrels. We do not know to what extent, if any, any serious diplomatic movement has been shown by Saddam in response to the flurry of diplomatic activity over the past few days. We can only wish godspeed to Kofi Annan and hope that he has been given a sufficiently flexible brief, not to negotiate but to take a message that will be seen as reasonable by world opinion.

We are prey to many sources, and we are not sure whether some of them may be designed to mislead us. Last Friday, for example, there was a suggestion in The Times that many, or at least some, of the Russian weapons inspectors were feeding information to Saddam Hussein. If that were well founded it would certainly cast doubts on the idea of increasing the number of Russian inspectors, as well as on Russia's mediation efforts. We do not know.

In that context, I congratulate the Foreign Secretary and the rest of the Government on seeking to throw some light on the background by the publication for Members on 4 February of a paper showing not only the mandate of the United Nations Special Commission, which is binding on Saddam Hussein as part of the peace agreement, but an analysis of UNSCOM's work since 1991 and an account of the increasing evasions and obstructions on the part of Saddam Hussein.

In the light of that paper, surely no one can put faith in the veracity of Saddam Hussein's word, or with any credibility see him as a victim rather than as someone who is the author not only of his own fate but, alas, of that of the people of his country. The Foreign Secretary set out a catalogue of deception and obstructions. Anyone inclined to give the benefit of any sort of doubt to Saddam Hussein should read and reread that note, which hon. Members received on 4 February.

Clearly Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator and a threat to the peace of the region, and perhaps more widely. However, there are other evil dictators in the world—other people who threaten the peace of their regions. What is different about Saddam is surely the fact that, as a result of the war of 1991, he reached an agreement with the United Nations of which he is blatantly in breach. We as an international community are faced with the choice of whether to do nothing, to do something ineffective, or to seek to do something that, despite all the problems, is as effective as we can manage.

We must of course concede that there are far greater difficulties now than there were in 1990–91, when the aim was clear. There had been an invasion of a neighbouring country—Kuwait, a member of the United Nations—and the aim was clearly to expel the invader from that country. Had the United Nations coalition force gone beyond that, invaded Basra, gone on to Baghdad and tried tyrannicide, that would have had no international legitimacy because it would have gone well beyond the remit of the UN resolutions.

I can see that different United States spokesmen have set out different war aims and that Saddam Hussein has used the suffering of his people, which he has inflicted on them for his own ends, for successful propaganda. The difficulty of reassembling the Gulf war coalition is now much greater, in part because of the way in which Premier Netanyahu has behaved in Israel, with his settlements policy and his failure to comply, at least adequately, with the Oslo accords.

All that said, Russia has its own agenda, as does France which, putting the most generous construction on it, is best able, it says, to play the role of "interlocuteur valable" by seeking to distance itself from the other European allies. In the main, our European allies are now very much on board in the current initiative.

In spite of all those difficulties and problems, which are different from those of 1991, I remind my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) that, had we accepted his position in 1991, during the six months of negotiation before the military strike we would still have been negotiating—but negotiating with a Saddam who was in Kuwait, and possibly in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states too.

That is the essential weakness of the case—

Mr. Corbyn

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Anderson

My hon. Friend did not give way to me when I was trying to put that case to him.

Mr. Corbyn

That was not me.

Mr. Anderson

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Corbyn

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way now that I have reminded him who I am.

Does my hon. Friend not recall that, in the last few days before the launch of the strikes against Iraq by the allied forces to liberate Kuwait in 1991, President Gorbachev had indeed intervened, and successfully negotiated the principle of withdrawal from Kuwait? Does that not demonstrate that there was a serious attempt by the then Soviet Union to achieve a settlement, which the United States simply did not want?

Mr. Anderson

I suspect that my hon. Friend is rewriting history. Had those diplomatic efforts continued beyond six months, as some are suggesting now, without the option of a military strike, we would still be negotiating and Saddam would still be encamped in Kuwait City. That is the essential weakness of the argument of those who want a form of diplomacy without any military strike at the end to back it. That is the real problem.

Even those who are willing to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of many doubts must acknowledge his clear defiance of the United Nations resolution. What is now the proper response? Do we do nothing? That surely would be unthinkable. What a precedent for any other dictator who sought to defy the will of the United Nations and the world community. Do we rely simply on diplomacy? We know what might have happened if we had tried to do that without backing it with an ultimate military option in 1990–91.

A reasonable policy is surely diplomacy plus. Negotiation has a better chance of success if there is a military message behind it, but the military message can be credible and saleable to world opinion only if it can be shown that a serious process of diplomacy preceded it. The war drums may now be rolling and there may be a feeling of inevitability. I hope that we shall show by all our actions that we are serious about diplomacy, and that we are prepared to be flexible on some key details, such as what we learn about the package that is being discussed with Kofi Annan in respect of the weapons inspectors.

We must show to the people of Iraq and wider regional opinion that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There have been contrary indications from US spokesmen about sanctions. As a sign of good will, there should surely be a linkage between compliance and the gradual removal of sanctions.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

My hon. Friend has invoked the strength of United Nations resolutions and the issue of sanctions. Is it not strange that we return to that argument, especially after listening to the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark)? When he was in power as Minister for Defence Procurement, and when he served at the Department of Trade and Industry, he flouted UN resolutions regarding the imposition of sanctions in the export of arms and conspired with British industrialists to feed Saddam Hussein's war machine. Part of the problem that we face now is that when people like him were in government, they ignored UN resolutions and broke them, when Lord Howe, who was then the Foreign Secretary—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The intervention is far too long.

Mr. Anderson

I hear my hon. Friend. My aim tonight is to give a clear signal, along with all sections of the House, that if the reasonable diplomatic options have been exhausted, the military option exists. If diplomacy stands alone, it will have no effect. Of course any option is high risk and there are many uncertainties, but to do nothing would involve far greater uncertainties than the policy pursued by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which I endorse.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I remind the House that Madam Speaker has placed a 10-minute limit on speeches from 7 pm until 9 pm.

7.3 pm

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

May I say how much I agree with the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). As I have only 10 minutes, and 1 know that many other hon. Members want to speak in the debate, I shall try not to repeat points that have already been made, although I may refer to the fact that I agree with them.

I have visited the United States a number of times, and I was there a few weeks ago with some colleagues. We went to the Senate, the House of Representatives, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department. I could not recognise the policies described by some hon. Members, as though there were some great devious plot on the part of the United States to continue to ram sanctions down the throats of the poor, suffering people of Iraq, to pave the way for bombing and to tear Iraq apart, thereby creating a disruptive situation in the middle east.

I have never found people in the United States more thoughtful than I did on my most recent visit, or more considerate about the repercussions of a policy that is devilishly difficult to deal with.

How does one ignore a country that has deliberately flouted United Nations resolutions? As the hon. Member for Swansea, East said, that is a matter for diplomacy. I agree with him that diplomacy is not an end in itself. There comes a time when it must be backed up with threats, and possibly the threat of military action, which can be be shown only by positioning troops. If our experience between the wars is anything to go by, we must recognise that reality.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) went back to the past and spoke about his childhood. Let me say why, when it comes to upholding the United Nations, I subscribe so strongly to diplomacy plus military action if diplomacy fails. I remember the circumstances in which I grew up. My father had been gassed and wounded in the first world war, and recovered. My mother had the guts to get in a car and drive people round through zeppelin raids as a volunteer. As the shadow of that war began to recede, a new shadow loomed—the threat of another war.

That threat of that war got worse and worse, because we appeased and appeased. We never stopped appeasing. We tried to reckon that we could deal with Mussolini over sanctions. We failed, and a Foreign Secretary resigned. We tried to think that something could happen to stop a dictator moving his troops into a demilitarised zone, contrary to the treaty of Versailles, and we did not have the guts to go in and oppose him.

We could not find allies, just as today it is difficult to find Arab allies. I understand why. Why should Arab states that got involved in the war when one of their fellow states was invaded stick their neck out now, especially in view of the difficulties that arise over Israel? They know that they would put their lives and kingdoms under threat, partly because of Israel, partly because of the lies that are told, partly because of Muslim fundamentalism, and partly because in the end there are some nations that cannot face up to the reality, just as happened between the two world wars.

What, then, are we to do? Are we to sit back and do nothing? I agree with the Foreign Secretary's speech. It is not in line with reality, realpolitik, decency, a sense of moral fibre or leadership if we wash our hands and say that we can do nothing. Of course we have compassion for the people of Iraq, although I am bound to say that, from the shots that I see on television, the people of Iraq look remarkably well fed, compared with pictures of people in the poor states of Africa, where we can see how badly fed they are. We hear of the destruction that was rained on Baghdad, but it is amazing how many new buildings one sees and the palaces that have been built.

I will not take moral lectures from anyone on either side of the House that the responsibility is mine. The initial responsibility lies with the regime in Iraq and with that dictator. I ended up as a soldier in the second world war because of the refusal of many countries between the two world wars to recognise that there are people who are intrinsically evil. We must stand up to them and their dictatorships, because, if we do not, our turn will come in the end. The second world war was unnecessary and would not have happened, if we had had the guts to stand up at the right time.

Opposition Members share similar experiences to mine with regard to the North Atlantic Assembly. We tried to back through parliamentary means the resolution of our Governments to stand up to Russian threats during the cold war. We did so, and we did not at the same time threaten the Russians with weapons or acts of aggression; we stood our ground. That, for me, is the real reason why today there is a generation throughout Europe that can look forward to years of peace—which goes for the Russians as well as everyone else.

In the end, those dictatorships tumbled because we faced them down. That, I think, is the root of the argument that we are having today. Obviously, if diplomacy is to succeed, we must convince those with whom we wish to enter into an agreement—those whom we wish to discard the reckless creation and use of weapons—that there is no future for them in such action. I believe that, by doing so, we shall do them a service, provided that we have the courage in the end to say that a lesson must be learned.

Mr. Mubarak, for example, knows very well where the danger lies. It does not lie in the United States—although it has made mistakes over Israel, as many hon. Members have pointed out. Mr. Mubarak knows that the threat to his country, and to other Arab countries, lies right there in Iraq. That is why he has said—it is on the record; I believe that it was quoted extensively in yesterday's Financial Times—that he would like the United Nations representative, be it the Secretary-General or whoever else is sent, to tell the Iraqi leader that he should submit to the conditions imposed by the Security Council resolution. He should allow the inspectors to return, without imposing any conditions. He could then hope that his friends outside—for he has friends outside—would put pressure on the United States and its fellow UN members to lift the sanctions that have imposed the hardship, and help his countrymen on their way. First and foremost, Saddam Hussein must renounce the weapons he has; but if he cannot respond to Mubarak, how much less likely is he to respond to us at present?

I hope that the Government will have our full support in the rest of the debate. Because we have experienced wars, we know how terrible they can be. I never want to see another, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) has posed some important questions: the public out there need to be convinced.

Let me say one more thing about the United States. I observed no gung-ho attitude among Congressmen. I note that the President is taking the argument to the people, and so should we.

7.12 pm
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Although I feel as passionately as some of my hon. Friends who have spoken, I do not share their view. I have not been to Baghdad, but I have been to northern Iraq many times. If people think that things are bad in Saddam's Iraq, they should realise that things are far worse in northern Iraq.

The Kurds of northern Iraq are the subject of a double embargo—the embargo of Saddam Hussein, and the embargo of the United Nations. I can list the names of the places that I have visited: they include Sulamania, Erbil, Kifri and Penjwin. I have seen children in hospitals who, having taken half a course of antibiotics, have been told, "There are no more medicines for you." Their parents have been told that they will have to rely on the black market.

I have seen refugees thrown out of their homes by Saddam Hussein, who never ceases his repression of the Kurds living in his territory. Saddam Hussein has broken not only the resolution applying to UNSCOM, but many others—resolutions telling him not to oppress the Kurds. That oppression has continued since 1988, and has taken place before and after the Gulf war. Saddam Hussein has engaged in a programme of Arabisation. As recently as November, he was throwing Kurds out of their homes, telling them that they had 24 hours to go into the north or into the desert in the south.

The first time I went into northern Iraq was in 1991, when the Kurds were fleeing across the mountains into Iran. Thousands upon thousands died in those mountains—victims of Saddam Hussein's oppression. I saw what was happening inside the north. As I crossed into the north, I heard continuous bombardment. I stayed for 24 hours; then I came back to the House and described, from the Dispatch Box, what I had seen in the mountains. People—including the then Prime Minister—said at the time, "This will never happen to the Kurds again. We will protect them from the oppression of Saddam Hussein." Unfortunately, although that was the wish, it was not the reality.

As those of us who take a close interest in it know, there is no consistency in foreign policy: there are constant contradictions. We have continually encouraged the Kurds in their uprising. I say "we", and by "we" I mean both the Americans and ourselves, for we were involved as well. We encouraged the Kurds in 1991, and in 1995.1 visited northern Iraq again in March 1995, when the Kurds were battling with Saddam Hussein's forces. They were told, "Keep on fighting—the Americans are coming." We falsely promised them that we would be there to support them in the event of their taking on Saddam's forces. We let them down on that occasion, and we did the same in September 1996.

In January 1996, we and the Americans attempted to deal with the two Kurdish sides which, by that time, were fighting each other over the taxes from the traffic across the borders between Turkey and Iraq and between Iran and Iraq. We ignored the sanctions-busting that has continued since 1991. Kurds fought each other because they were short of resources, and, again, we turned a blind eye. We did not assist them; we just let them get on with what was supposed to be a new democracy. We encouraged the elections and sent observers, but after that we let the Kurds get on with it again.

There was a big gap between January and September 1996. In January, there was a budget freeze in the United States. The Kurds had agreed to reach some kind of peace. A commission was supposed to be being set up to monitor that peace. When the American budget was restored, nothing happened until the end of August, by which time it was too late.

What was the allies' response? Instead of protecting the Kurds from the invasion of Saddam Hussein, who went into the north with hundreds of thousands of troops, we sent cruise missiles into the south. It looked very good on television, but it did not help the Kurds at all. Saddam's forces and the security police were then inside northern Iraq, as they still are.

I am very worried about what may happen now. I believe that it is very important for Saddam Hussein to be made to comply with UN resolutions. UNSCOM has managed to unearth and destroy many of the weapons that he was rebuilding. I ask again: why did he ignore the UN's offer of food for oil for five years? If he was concerned about his people, why did he spend five years refusing to accept that offer? He was, of course, rebuilding his weaponry. Instead of spending the money on his own people, he spent it on increasing his weapons of mass destruction. That is why it is essential that he is made to comply with the resolutions.

I know many of the Iraqi opposition, because I have campaigned on this issue for more than 20 years. We have talked to the Iraqi opposition, and it is not true to say, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) did, that they are totally opposed to military action. Except for the Iraqi Communist party and one other small party, they are not. However, they want to see it linked with the end of Saddam Hussein. They do not want military action on its own, only to find that he is still in power. They want that ruthless dictator removed from the scene. They do not want any more unfinished business.

We all hope that military action will be averted, but if it takes place—because I still believe that he must be made to comply with the resolutions-our Government must have a political programme, and part of that must be the indictment of Saddam Hussein. After that, I suggest that we give assistance to the people in the north and the south of Iraq. Sanctions against them should be lifted, because we have no quarrel with them. They are not involved with Saddam Hussein. They oppose him, so it makes no sense that the UN embargo against them should continue.

A no-drive zone should be put in place, so that Saddam Hussein will not have the opportunity further to oppress the people in the north or the Shias in the south. Most of all, it is important to assure the public in Britain and the Iraqi opposition that we are not sending useless cruise missiles to bomb the deserts—that, if any missiles are used, they have specified targets, and that they will take out those places that may contain the weapons with which we are concerned, the Republican Guard, and the things that Saddam Hussein holds dear to him. If military action takes place, he has it in his hands to ensure that his civilians are moved away from possible targets.

I disagree with those who say that Saddam Hussein is a bad man, but the Iraqi people—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady has had her time.

7.22 pm
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), because I agree with much of what she said. There is not a great deal that is new to be said in the debate, so I shall try to avoid repeating points that have been made. I shall certainly not dwell on the seriousness of the situation, the threats of terrorism that may exist to the United Kingdom, the threats to the whole of the middle east, and the threat to Israel, which could lead to nuclear retaliation and thereby a threat to world peace as a whole.

Before we send our young men to kill other people's sons and daughters, whether or not they be Iraqi soldiers, we should be absolutely certain of what we are trying to achieve. It may be that bombing raids are the least worst option with regard to Iraq, but I urge caution, for it seems that there is a lack of clarity in our objectives.

In January 1991, I volunteered to rejoin the Army because I believed that the threat to world peace demanded that I, too, should play my part. Hon. Members may recall that we were expecting the most awful war. I argued during the selection process for the seat of Blaby that if we had to fight, we should, and I had no reasonable excuse for not going.

The force that we assembled in Saudi Arabia in January 1991 was, I believe, the largest military force assembled by the western allies since D day. The coalition of countries and armies has been called President Bush's greatest success. It was a tremendous logistic effort and was very impressive. It was an outstanding military force. As one very unimportant member of that force, it seemed to me more like taking part in a large military exercise, such as those of the British Army on the Rhine, rather than a war. Indeed, it transpired that our deaths as a result of Iraqi action were fewer than our deaths in road accidents. Indeed, I believe that they were fewer than the deaths as a result of friendly fire from American jets.

One hundred hours after the ground assault began, the Americans stopped the war. Most of us who were there—the allies, including the Arabs—were astonished that we should have left the job unfinished. People said that we must not go to Baghdad. We did not need to. All that we had to do was cut off those in the Iraqi Republican Guard, who were then in the east of the country, from their escape routes. Instead, we allowed them to escape. They would probably have surrendered, as most of the Iraqis did. They then kept Saddam Hussein in power.

Mr. Salmond

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robathan

I am sorry; I cannot.

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Robathan

No. We have only 10 minutes, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

I suppose that the Americans stopped partly because they believed that they had achieved their aim, and partly because there was tremendous American public reaction to the devastation on the road north of Kuwait city. How could anybody have been so foolish as to allow television cameras into A-10s as they shot up fleeing Iraqis? How could anybody have allowed over-excited pilots to make comments on television such as, "This is a turkey shoot?" More than anything else, why on earth was it necessary, because the road north of Kuwait city was already cut some 100 miles north by the French? So it was that James Baker could appear on television in Washington, saying, "The allies have taught Saddam Hussein a lesson." Thus Bush's greatest success became his greatest failure.

What lesson had the allies taught the world? That Saddam Hussein remained and remains in power despite the best efforts of that huge army, while all his protagonists and antagonists—Thatcher, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), Bush and Mitterrand—have gone. The lesson to Saddam Hussein's neighbours could not be clearer. Another lesson that our Government should take on board is that the United States might make decisions that are in its own interests and not in the best interests of Britain and the world.

This is not 1991. For a start, I shall not be volunteering for service. President Clinton is not President Bush. No coalition is assembled. There is no support from the French, the Russians or from many local Arabs for military action. No substantial ground forces are assembled. As far as I can see, there is no specific, attainable and lasting objective. In military terms, bombing can do little on its own. It might destabilise Saddam Hussein, but it will certainly not destroy all his capabilities or his armies, and I fear that it is unlikely to destroy him.

What is the political objective? It has been suggested that this will "bring him to heel". When I hear comments such as that made by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who said: We are determined to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies with Security Council resolutions"—[Official Report, 13 February 1998; Vol. 305, c. 746.], I fear that we have learnt nothing from the past.

When I came back from the Gulf, somebody said to me, "Doesn't it suit us to have a weakened Saddam Hussein in Baghdad?" It was reminiscent of James Baker's comment. We should understand that there is no riding this particular tiger.

There is a political objective that we should have, and it should be stated: the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Everybody talks about him as a tyrant, naming him as responsible for atrocities against his own people and others. He is evil incarnate, but we seem unable to make the final, logical step—to say that if he is responsible, he must be held responsible and removed from power. Instead, we may add to the woes of his own people by bombing them.

As a start, we should, as the hon. Member for Cynon Valley said, indict Saddam Hussein for war crimes or crimes against humanity. The list of his crimes is endless and includes unprovoked attacks on Kuwait and Iran, executing prisoners of war and using nerve agents against his own people. How much worse are his crimes than those committed by Radovan Karadzic in Bosnia, who was, for good or ill, elected in a quasi-democratic process as President of Republika Srpska? The Foreign Secretary said that that may have to await the establishment of an international criminal court. That is nonsense. If there is any point in being a member of the Security Council, surely it is to persuade it to act now on this issue.

We should pursue Saddam Hussein by legal means, and we should ensure that the World Service and others get the message home to the people of Iraq. We must drive a wedge between the coerced and intimidated population of Iraq and the dictator, and we should give that population hope of deliverance.

In September 1995, Saddam Hussein was reaffirmed in office for a further seven years by a vote of 99.96 per cent. Surely that says all that needs to be said about the intimidation and fear on which his rule is based. We should assist the Iraqi opposition as best we can, despite their fragmentation and internal quarrels.

It was reported today that MI6 attempted to achieve the assassination of the dictator. I do not expect any comment on that, or on reports of SAS hit squads trying to get Saddam Hussein. The SAS is not superhuman, and I do not think that there would be many volunteers for that exercise.

Indictment is not the whole answer, but it would at least be a start. We blame Saddam Hussein for atrocities, and then we deal with him as a legitimate leader. He has no legitimacy: he has only de facto authority. This is a man with whom it is impossible to negotiate in any positive meaning of the word. Of course, we must be able to fulfil weapons inspections, but we must be able to dictate terms and not negotiate. We were able to dictate terms in 1991 after the use of force.

In the aftermath of the Gulf war, it was often said that the allies had to stop when they did, because otherwise Iraq might have fallen apart. To which I would respond, "So what?" The kingdom of Iraq was cobbled together by the British in the 1920s. If the Kurds wish to go their own way, that is up to them and we should let them decide their future, notwithstanding any concerns in Iran, Syria or Turkey. It seems unlikely that the southern Shi'ites would be particularly interested in becoming part of Iran, but that is up to them. That would have been the logical result of the uprisings that we encouraged in those areas. What could be worse than the current situation?

My plea to the Government is that we move on, and that we take as our primary aim the end of Saddam Hussein's rule, otherwise we shall be back discussing this problem in another seven years. To his people and to his neighbours he is as bad as Hitler. With the advantage of hindsight, we would not think twice about trying to displace Hitler. If it is considered by better informed judges than me that air strikes are necessary, I support that as the least worst option. But it must be recognised that they are only a temporary option, and that there can be no lasting peace in the middle east while Saddam Hussein remains in power in Baghdad.

7.32 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May I, as a Gentile, say a gentle word to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman)? I visited Jerusalem and was greatly moved by the holocaust museum. I was moved in exactly the same way when I visited the Amariya in Baghdad. Conclusions can be drawn. The commemoration of such horrors has an effect on the Arab people, just as it has on the Jewish people.

I should like to follow the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) and ask questions about chemical weapons. I asked similar questions in the Adjournment debate on Friday, but they remained unanswered.

Anthrax is a bacterial disease of cattle and sheep that can affect humans. The germ can exist as spores, like those scattered from a ripe mushroom or toadstool, which can be blown for long distances by the wind. Rubbed into the skin, anthrax is a deep black sloughing sore that leads to blood poisoning. Inhaled, one hundredth of a millionth of a gram of anthrax spores is enough to cause severe pneumonia, again with blood poisoning.

Both forms of the illness are fatal in up to 80 per cent, of cases within hours or days, unless intensive antibiotic treatment is given urgently. That is unlikely to be available in post-sanctions Iraq or to the ordinary population of its neighbours. No one has told anthrax spores that they must not go for the civilian population, and that they should not harness a wind to be blown to friendly states.

My first question is: are we sure that by bombing we are not risking pollution and a terrible disease scourge in western Asia?

Anthrax spores can survive for a long time in soil or dust, and may remain a risk to health for years. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) knows Gruinard island off the west coast of Scotland. That beautiful conical island has been anaesthetised for 50 years. People still cannot go on to the island because at the end of the second world war anthrax experiments took place there.

My second question is: are we sure that even by accident—not on purpose—we hall not let anthrax spores loose throughout vast tracts of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys and further afield?

VX agent is one of the nerve gases. It was used by Iraq against Iran, and probably against the Kurds. It is similar to sarin, which was used by the Japanese urban terrorists Aum Shinrikyo in the Tokyo subway about two years ago. I am told by Dr. Douglas Holdstock that it is a volatile liquid that can be dispersed as an aerosol. A 1 mg drop can be fatal, and it can be absorbed through intact skin. An amount equivalent to a half-litre bottle of spring water could theoretically kill half a million people. It paralyses the nerve-muscle junction, and floods the throat, lung and bowel with fluid. Death is due to asphyxiation and can occur within minutes.

Treatment requires rapid transfer by trained ambulance personnel to an intensive care unit. Pralidoxime is a specific antidote, but I am informed that only a few hospitals in the United Kingdom stock it, and that it is currently in short supply.

My third question is: does the Ministry of Defence have quantities of that antidote? If so, can we at least be given an assurance, without the details, that such eventualities are taken into account? That dovetails with the question of the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea.

There are three possible ways in which chemical and biological weapon agents may be distributed as a result of an attack on Iraq, and they are not mutually exclusive. It is not possible to give figures for possible casualties, which depend on the amount of agent, population density and weather, as rain would deposit the agents close to the site of deposition.

If Iraq has CBWs in a usable form, such as Scud missiles, they could be fired in response to a US-UK attack, which was the use-them-or-lose-them scenario for NATO and Warsaw pact nuclear weapons for more than 30 years. If those missiles were to land on cities such as Riyadh and Tel Aviv, they could cause many casualties, and in the case of Israel could trigger a response with nuclear weapons against Baghdad.

My fourth question is: are we suggesting that those weapons, if they exist, would not be used? I repeat the question that was put earlier: what would Saddam Hussein do if his back was against the wall in those circumstances? That is a serious question.

My fifth question concerns accidental release by bombing. An accurate direct hit on a cache of CBWs in a closed space could generate sufficient temperature and pressure to incinerate and destroy the cache. As far as can be gauged from reports, the United Nations and the United States do not know precisely how many sites contain CBW agents, or indeed where some of them are. A near miss either from inexact aiming or as a side effect of an attack on another target could liberate large amounts of CBW agents. The House may recollect that an explosion at a Russian munitions factory at Sverdlosk in the Urals in the 1960s liberated anthrax from a nearby store. Although there were not great populations in the Urals, it had an absolutely devastating effect. What do we do in the event of an accidental release?

There is also terrorism. CBW agents could be transported in the baggage of travellers and used by terrorists on US and UK cities. They could be sprayed from crop-spraying aircraft, liberated in underground railway systems—as in Tokyo—or even scattered from high buildings. It would not be without risk to the distributors, but suicide missions are not unknown in the middle east.

The possibilities that I have outlined highlight the risks of the possible bombings of Iraq, over and above doubts that they would advance the cause of weakening Saddam Hussein and allowing the UN inspectors to continue their work. We should take seriously the concerns of the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War and many others.

Finally, it may be asked of people like me, "What on earth would you do?" Frankly, I would at least try lifting sanctions by stages, because that might let loose all sorts of forces in Iraq that wished to change the regime. I know that I am accused of being naive, but at least I speak from personal experience, having been there in 1994, and it is the best judgment that I can offer the House.

7.41 pm
Sir Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), whose sincerity and persistence are greatly admired throughout the House, is right to emphasise the horrors of chemical weapons and biological agents, but sadly, his speech—and the amendment in his name and that of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—suggests that he ignores many of the other factors in the difficult equation with which we are trying to wrestle.

More than a century ago, statesmen of various nationalities tried to construct an international organisation that would somehow eliminate the scourge of war from the world. Of course, the search continues and yet remains to be successful. The League of Nations was a gallant effort that failed—partly because of the non-participation of America, but more importantly, because the democracies of the 1920s and 1930s lacked the courage and resolution to stand up to dictators who were not very powerful when they started out. Mussolini and Hitler could have been nipped in the bud had the international community had the guts to do so.

After the second world war, the international community tried to learn from its mistakes and it constructed the United Nations. Here too, we ran into difficulties with the Soviet veto in the Security Council and for many years, the United Nations was, in effect, neutralised. Happily, we were saved from the ultimate horror of a nuclear holocaust by the balance of nuclear deterrence between east and west. That is not to say that there were not hundreds of small and quite horrible wars throughout the period. That brings us to the crucial importance of the United Nations today and the challenge that Saddam Hussein represents.

The position is clear and we must guard against determined efforts to fudge that clarity, examples of which we have heard from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). They tried to cover the harsh and difficult reality that confronts the Government—and indeed all of us—with a fog of confusion. It is a time for clarity and steadfastness, and the recognition of what is at stake and what is not. What is not at stake includes the issues of Israel and Palestine. They may be serious, but they are not directly related to the issue at hand. The issue is not oil supplies or who supplied Iraq with what and when. Mistakes have always been made and they will always be made. The issue is not the United Kingdom being a poodle of the United States, as has been alleged. The Labour Government and the Opposition are at one in recognising the size of the problem and the remedy that is available to us. Of course it is not a good solution, but it is the only one available and it is increasingly recognised by countries with which we have an affinity and which are generally recognised to have the international standards to which we happily aspire.

It is a simple matter and we must not let the obfuscators get away with it. It is also unique because only Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, invaded a neighbouring country without provocation. Only Saddam Hussein offended against United Nations Security Council resolution 687, having agreed to scrap his weapons of mass destruction and allow UNSCOM to operate. Only Saddam Hussein has shown himself ready to use horrific chemical and biological weapons to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow referred, not only against his enemies, but against his own people. Although other countries may have stocks of those weapons, only Saddam Hussein is producing them in the massive quantities that we have now discovered.

None of those points has been denied. All the members of the Security Council agree on the circumstances and I believe that the course is clear. Of course, we must continue to negotiate, but there must be a limit. Negotiation without the potential use of force will never succeed against Saddam Hussein, as all our experience of him demonstrates. Certainly it is difficult, but any alternative to the course that the Government are embarked on and that we support would be very much worse.

As I said, for nearly a century we have been struggling to find an international mechanism and, on the whole, the position is favourable. Members of the Security Council are not pure democracies by our standards, but at least Russia and China are now countries with which, I hope, we can do business. Of course we do not all see eye to eye at the moment, and the French position on the issue is regrettable, but we can make more progress in the United Nations and the Security Council. The one way in which to torpedo that and to destroy any hope of progress would be to let Saddam Hussein get away with it. If he is seen to win, it will be a fatal blow to the United Nations and to the region, and other rulers in the region know that. Very much has been made of the position of the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, but there is no doubt that if and when Saddam Hussein departs the scene or is toppled, the first to celebrate will be his Arab neighbours.

Let us have an end to the cant and hypocrisy. Of course war is terrible. We do not need the hon. Member for Kelvin to shout at us about his compassion for people who are killed in war. We support the Government's motion because we understand that war is terrible and we want to stop it.

This is an historic debate. Hon. Members have already mentioned the Falklands debates. I remember, on that first Saturday debate, urging some caution. I believe that it is not too fanciful to compare this debate to that notorious one in the Oxford union in the 1930s which—in the words of that motion—encouraged Hitler to believe that "this House" would not fight for Queen and country.

If there were substantial support today for the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield, it would have the most harmful effect on peace in the middle east and on the future of the structure of the United Nations.

7.49 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I should like to nail the lie that the United States, Britain and other countries are engaged in warmongering, and that we cannot wait for military action to be taken. If Britain and the United States were so keen on war—because of the length of the crisis over weapons inspections in Iraq—we would already be involved in war.

There is an overwhelming wish to determine whether diplomacy can succeed. We do not want war; we want to avoid war. Therefore, the accusations made by some—whether they are Members or some outside here—that we are warmongering and cannot wait to bomb Iraq or to see Iraqi civilians killed are lies. Such lies should be nailed at every opportunity.

There will be no war if, because of the latest diplomatic activity, Saddam Hussein complies with the wishes of the United Nations Security Council and does what he said that he would do at the end of the 1991 war. He has only to do what he agreed to do when he lost the war in Kuwait.

What means of persuasion would exist if we said that military action would be taken in no circumstances? Do we expect that butcher—that murderous dictator—to say, "In all the circumstances, I must agree with the Security Council's 1991 decision"? If there is any hope that he will comply—who knows; but I do not have much hope that he will—and avert war, it will come about only because of the threat of force. Only the threat of force will determine whether there is a peaceful outcome—which is what we all want.

Those who demand that there should be no war should realise that responsibility for military action, if it comes, will lie with the Iraqi criminal regime. I do not accept for one moment that there will be blood on my hands or on the hands of any of my colleagues who go into the Government Lobby today; it is nonsense to suggest that. If we were so interested in war, military action and killing civilians, why would we place such great emphasis on diplomacy? If we want war, why are we desperately hoping that the Iraqi dictator will even now see sense?

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) told us that there were terrible civilian casualties in 1991. I deplore those civilian casualties; I will always deplore civilian casualties. However, I must accept that, if military action is taken, there cannot possibly be a guarantee that innocent civilian lives will not be lost.

I was here, in September 1990, when the House was recalled after the invasion of Kuwait, and I was in the Chamber for all the debates that preceded military action in January 1991. The allies gave Saddam Hussein four months to get out of Kuwait; they gave him four months to avoid war. At every opportunity, he was pleaded with to avoid war.

Now we are told that—somehow—the allies, the international community and those of us who were Members of Parliament in 1990–91 are responsible for the casualties and the harm that resulted. Responsibility for what occurred lies with only one source—the Iraqi dictator. As one who said then that military action was justified if Saddam Hussein refused to leave Kuwait, I do not accept responsibility for what occurred. It is as sensible to say that, from 1939 onwards, the House was responsible for the terrible casualties and millions killed in the second world war. We know only too well where the responsibility for that war lay.

The critics were wrong about what happened in 1991. The hon. Member for Kelvin quoted my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). Although I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South, I did not agree with his concluding line. I would be the last person to lecture any hon. Member. I accept entirely that if one believes that an action is wrong, one should oppose it, no matter what. I have no disagreement with the hon. Member for Kelvin on that particular score.

Nevertheless, seven years ago, the critics were hopelessly wrong. Although it does not automatically follow that they are wrong now, the line that they pursued then—that virtually all the Arab world would rise up against the west if war broke out, and that there was no guarantee that Kuwait would ultimately be liberated—was wrong. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait did end. Had it not ended—as sanctions would never have done the trick—not only would Kuwait have remained under enemy occupation, but Saddam Hussein would have learnt that he could invade any country in the region. Why not? If the allies were unwilling to intervene militarily, there was no reason why he should not have continued with other invasions. Therefore, seven years ago, the war not only liberated Kuwait, but has ensured that no other country in the region has been invaded by Saddam Hussein.

Yes, ordinary people in Iraq have suffered—they have suffered greatly. I think that even the critics agree that, for over 20 years, they have suffered from a terrifying, brutal dictatorship. I agree that some—not all—of the critics were enemies of the Saddam Hussein regime long before Opposition Members expressed an interest in it. I accept that entirely. However, it is not very logical for one to be against that brutal dictator and to use every opportunity in the House to say so, but also to be against taking action against him when he commits criminal aggression. I did not see the logic of that seven years ago, and I do not see it now.

We have been told about civilian casualties. What about the casualties in the war between Iraq and Iran? The fact is that, on both sides, a total of 1 million people died in that war. Who started that war? We are told that the United States supported Iraq. That may well be so, but the United States did not instigate the war. Saddam Hussein started that war, with callous indifference to the suffering of the Iraqi people, and he stopped it only when he could not win it. Therefore, when we are rightly told—we should be told; we should remind ourselves—about all the civilian casualties and about all the innocent people who died who were in no way associated with that regime, let us remember also how many others died and suffered because of that terrible war that lasted for eight years.

As we know, Saddam Hussein's regime is a brutal dictatorship. He used gas 10 years ago: 5,000 people were killed. I do not know how many hon. Members protested in the House. Nevertheless, that is the nature of the criminal regime that we are facing.

We are told that other countries are in breach of United Nations resolutions and the hon. Member for Kelvin made much of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I agree that Israel has been in breach of conditions, which I deplore, but it is senseless to be unable to distinguish between Governments such as Israel's and terrible, brutal dictatorships such as Iraq's.

Let us hope that diplomacy works. If we surrender now, however, there will be every incentive for Saddam to continue to play cat and mouse with the UN and the international community. We have a duty and a responsibility to act if diplomacy does not work. I accept my responsibility, as I did seven years ago. If there is, as I hope, an overwhelming vote in the House in favour of the motion, it will be justified and will reflect the broad feelings in the country at large.

7.59 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Two things have depressed me about this evening's debate. First, there have been a number of disparaging references to agendas—"the French agenda" and "the Russian agenda"—as if the United Kingdom and the United States do not have agendas. We are trying in the debate to find the agenda of the international community.

The second thing that has depressed me—I absolve the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) from this—is the attempt to say that people should stop thinking, salute and rally round the flag. I do not think that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) would pay the slightest attention to any such request but no such request should be made and he is entitled to speak his mind, as are others.

Mr. Winnick

I said that.

Mr. Salmond

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would have heard me say that I absolved him from that criticism.

I am glad that I am speaking after the hon. Members for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), who started to put together a better position than either of those taken by the Government and Opposition Front-Bench Members, and also better than the position taken by the hon. Member for Linlithgow and his friends. I do not believe that it is morally indefensible to take military action, but I do believe that it is morally indefensible to take such action unless there is a political strategy designed to end the suffering of the peoples of Iraq.

I want to list a few of the aspects on which I agree with the Foreign Secretary and which I welcome. I welcome his support for the Secretary-General's mission to Iraq and the fact that a new Security Council resolution is to be sought. The legitimacy of the existing resolutions is debatable, and I welcome the doubling of the allowance for oil for food.

I want to make some serious points to the Government about my great concerns about their position. The Foreign Secretary did not touch at all on the substantial charge of hypocrisy that can be levelled against the western world. Saddam Hussein is a western creation. He was armed to the teeth by western Governments and western companies. There is no doubt about that—the only doubt is over how long the supply of weapons went on.

It is also the case that other countries oppress their populations—Indonesia, for one—and that other countries, such as Israel, have weapons of mass destruction. I do not compare even the dictatorship of Indonesia with the evil of Saddam Hussein, and I certainly do not compare Israel with Saddam Hussein. None the less, Israel is a state in breach of international obligations to the Palestinian people.

Whatever we say about the differences, that is not how it will play in the Muslim world. The right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major)—in what was an impressive speech—argued that we should take every opportunity to tell the people of Iraq that we are not really their enemies. However many opportunities we may get on CNN or Kuwaiti television, I do not think that the man in the mosque will believe the occasional interview with western politicians in comparison with what will be put forward daily in the Arab world about western hypocrisy and intentions.

The hon. Member for Blaby should be listened to. He was there, and he saw the duplicity in the aftermath of the last Gulf war, when the Republican Guard was allowed through allied lines to slaughter the people who had been asked to rise up and overthrow the dictator by no one less than the President of the United States. Anyone who has spoken to the Iraqi opposition forces knows the grievance that still exists as a result of that action.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Salmond

I apologise, but because of the time I shall not give way.

The right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) gave the game away by speculating about the impact of the dismemberment of Iraq and about what might happen if there were democracy in Iraq. The feeling among Iraqi opposition forces is that the western aim to keep Iraq together has been more important than the interests of the peoples of Iraq. There are some, perhaps, who would not like to see a democratic Iraq unless there were a democratic Saudi Arabia, or unless democracy spread to the other friendly states of the Gulf.

The charges of hypocrisy cannot be swept aside. Apart from the armed conflict which might result, they are the very stuff of the propaganda war that will inevitably take place, whether there is armed conflict or not. We are in a poor and invidious position, standing with our hands on our hearts saying, "Unlike the other countries, we do not have an agenda."

Where I depart from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and the hon. Members for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) and for Linlithgow is on the question of what has to be done. I disagree not with their analysis, which is correct, but with their conclusions. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield told the House that we should be all be aware of the dangers of chemical and biological weapons, and that there should be international agreements to stop our companies selling those weapons to people who could use them against their own people or others.

However, we already have an international agreement to stop the development of those weapons in Iraq. Where would we stand in terms of forging other international agreements if that international agreement could not be defended? I depart from the hon. Members in that I do not think that the do-nothing option is credible.

That is why I agree with the hon. Members for Cynon Valley and for Blaby. We should try to put together a genuine political strategy. It will not be easy, but bombing parts of the production system in Iraq in the hope that that might destabilise, as opposed to entrench, Saddam Hussein is not an easy option. The collateral damage in terms of the innocent human beings who almost certainly will be killed will be one of the elements not just of propaganda but of truth, which will weigh against that as a successful strategy.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield was correct about the likely reaction among Iraqis to bombing of that nature. Also, the idea of a no-drive zone to stop tank movements south of the 32nd parallel and north of the 35th parallel is not an easy option. It is a military option, but it is designed to expand something that we should have defended; the safe havens concept which the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, rightly, was proud of seven years ago. It is a much better option than bombing, and should be accompanied by the indictment of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity. As the hon. Member for Cynon Valley said, it should be accompanied also by the release of sanctions from those parts of Iraq which we hope to make genuinely safe. We should try to bring about the destruction from within Iraq of its tyrannous evil regime.

I conclude where I started. It is not my position, nor that of my party, that it is morally indefensible to fight in defence of what we know to be right. It would be morally indefensible to impose yet more suffering on the Iraqi peoples unless we have—and can convince everyone that we have—the genuine interests of the peoples of Iraq at heart.


Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) will stand the test of time. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) was quite remarkable. It was moving, beautiful and passionate, but at its very heart there was a flaw. He did not deal with what might happen in the event that the negotiations sponsored by the UN with the Iraqi Government were to collapse. That is what we are talking about this evening. What happens if those negotiations fail? What is the way forward?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) also made an interesting speech. He has a rich tapestry of experience to back up his contributions. He, too, did not come up with any conclusions. The only hon. Member on that side of the argument who did was my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). However, his softly, softly approach on sanctions is opposed by the Iraqi opposition, who believe that it will strengthen Saddam Hussein's position.

We have to consider the basic principles of what we are dealing with. Saddam Hussein is a dictator. We know that he has chemical weapons. We know that he is prepared to use them. We know that he is prepared to occupy neighbouring states. We know that he is prepared to lie. We have to do something. Whatever happens in the negotiations, the major powers will have to address the need for military action at some stage to resolve the problems in that part of the world.

We have to set clearly identified political objectives for military action. Military action without clearly defined political objectives will be a disaster. Everything will be lost and those who participate in the action will be discredited. I accept that military action may be necessary, but we should have specific objectives.

In recent years, we have failed to secure a policy on Iraq that meets political objectives and commands the support of the opposition groups inside and outside Iraq. The Iraqi National Congress has had a lot to offer in the past three or four years. Unfortunately, it has not been treated reasonably by the United States of America or by the previous United Kingdom Government. I do not know what is the present Government's attitude.

I remember going to Washington in 1991 to lobby the Executive on the treatment of the Kurds. Officials in the State Department told us that action would be taken to protect them. That never happened. I went to the inaugural international conference of the Iraqi National Congress in Ankara in 1993. All the opposition parties from here and throughout the near east were assembled. There were great hopes, but nothing happened. Today, much of the Iraqi opposition have been dissipated. The future rests in sponsoring their activities.

I should like to lay a few possibilities before the House. We should support the Iraqi opposition openly. We should release frozen assets in the west to fund the opposition as a Government in waiting. The INC should be given the Iraqi seat at the United Nations. We should promise the Iraqi opposition groups that sanctions will be lifted on the fall of Saddam Hussein. We should announce a limited amnesty for certain individuals who might feel that they were likely to face trial for genocide. I recognise the important work being done by Indict. It is important that some people in Iraq realise that they will not face trial if the Government fall. We should organise and fully fund a propaganda bombardment campaign of Iraq by television, radio, short wave communication and even leaflet drops. We should consider lifting sanctions on the north for some products for which safeguards against leakage are possible.

Most importantly, if diplomacy does not work, we should punish Saddam Hussein for his UNSCOM transgressions by taking the port of Basra on the Shatt al Arab. A Basra enclave should be established, under the control of a substantially reinforced and properly funded INC. That would form the basis for a free Iraq, shielded to the north by the no-fly zone that currently covers southern Iraq. It would be a bridgehead supplied by sea—a sanctions-free zone. Its territory and influence would expand to the north as it gained the confidence of the people of Iraq. I am sure that Ministers recognise the implications for oil exploration and exports, given Basra's location. It is a strategic military site; an oil, trade and freight centre. It should be developed with western money, under the control of the INC.

If that were part of a wider military agenda, which could include the highly selective bombing of strategic sites, there would be potential gains. Bombing without clearly defined political objectives would be a disaster. If the Iraqi people feel sure that the odds are stacked against Saddam Hussein and see hope on their boundaries in the Basra enclave, they will respond accordingly.

8.16 pm
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)

This has, understandably, been a sombre debate, full of emotion. The opinions expressed on both sides have ranged from absolute support for military action to equally passionate opposition. Among those who have reluctantly come to the conclusion that military action is inevitable there has been considerable unease about the enterprise. I suspect that that unease is fuelled by the lack of an international consensus for such action.

I start where the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) started. At least one thing unites us all—our total horror at Saddam Hussein's regime, with his appalling record of human rights abuses and his blatant refusal to agree to the United Nations resolutions on the inspection of his weapons of mass destruction. He is capable of and has carried out atrocities against his people. He is capable of carrying out further atrocities against them. He has the capacity to inflict considerable damage on his people, on his neighbours and on those further afield. That is common ground. We are debating how best to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies with the United Nations resolutions and whether and in what circumstances military action might be acceptable.

It is worth reminding ourselves once again that there is no unanimity among the nations represented at the United Nations on whether military action is at present justified. As we have heard, three permanent members of the Security Council do not support the use of military action. As has been stressed, the United Kingdom currently holds the presidency of the European Union. The majority of EU member states do not actively support the UK's position. Perhaps most important, there is opposition to the use of military force among Iraq's Arab neighbours. My party would be extremely concerned if military force were used given the lack of support among so much of the international community.

It will be much more difficult for the UK-US alliance to use its considerable diplomatic force and weight to achieve a lasting settlement in the area if military force is used. If, for any reason, military force does not achieve its target, diplomatic avenues will have been cut off. There is little likelihood that, after the use of military force, Saddam Hussein—if he remains in power—would allow inspectors to examine his weapons of mass destruction. The moral authority which countries in the west should have would be gravely damaged.

None of us can know whether military intervention would be a success. How can we be sure that it would wipe out Saddam Hussein's capacity to use chemical and biological weapons? How will we know if intervention has been a success unless inspectors are allowed to inspect?

We are told that the justification for the use of military force is that Iraq has failed to comply with UN resolutions and Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. Yet, Israel, which has also breached UN resolutions and similarly possesses weapons of mass destruction, is not criticised. Double standards in approach are clearly not lost on Arab countries in the middle east. There is a stalled peace process in the middle east. Arab countries are quite right when they say to us in the west that we are not treating Iraq and Israel with equanimity. Illegal settlements are continuing without hindrance from Washington.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones

I am sorry but, because of time, I will not be able to give way.

I alluded to the UK's presidency of the European Union, to which the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) referred in detail. I am very concerned too. One of the main criticisms of the common foreign and security pillar of the Maastricht treaty related to its intergovernmental nature and the problems that that would cause. It was virtually impossible, for example, to secure a consistent and coherent European foreign and security policy. That was starkly demonstrated during the war in Bosnia, when individual member states began recognising constituent parts of former Yugoslavia rather prematurely. The lack of a clear EU line in those circumstances was one of the reasons why the Serbs felt able to flout international opinion for so long. I fear that the EU again missed a golden opportunity to address that issue in the Amsterdam treaty. There is still no formal mechanism for adopting a common European position on Iraq.

That leads to the rather ludicrous position of the EU president being prepared to act in a way which is not sanctioned by the majority of member states. That is a matter of current concern, and will cause increasing concern unless it is addressed. I would like the EU to be given a much more prominent role in foreign affairs and security matters. Our experiences teach us that European treaties should be revisited.

Like all hon. Members, I would like the diplomatic initiatives pursued by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to be fully supported by the Government. My party differs from the Government not on the question of the willingness to pursue diplomatic initiatives but on the question of military action. The international community should stand back at the moment, allow the initiatives to proceed, see what results arise from them and go back to the UN for sanctions if necessary. We should not take any unilateral action.

I sincerely believe that all hon. Members in this debate hold their views genuinely. In an article in The Observer, the Prime Minister said: We live in a democracy, unlike Iraq. People are free to criticise the Government over our willingness, if necessary, to use military force against Saddam. So they should be. I accept such criticism is made in good faith. I hope that the Government accept that my party's criticism is in good faith and that we should pursue by all means possible all diplomatic initiatives.

8.26 pm
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

I am glad that the debate has moved away from the opinions of two Front-Bench teams and that Back Benchers are expressing alternative views.

I was one of those who opposed the action taken in the Gulf war, and I would defend that position today. However, I recognise that, in the Gulf war, there were clearly stated military objectives to free Kuwait and rid it of Saddam Hussein's troops. Many hidden agendas were none the less involved, and the hideous action on the road to Basra went beyond the objectives.

What military objective is in front of us at the moment? Basically it seems to be aimed at the Iraqis' allowing American weapons inspectors into Iraq to continue their work and tackle the problems of the weaponry. Some hon. Members have suggested that we should go beyond that, but that is essentially the position of the American and British Governments. What sort of objective is it? It seems one of bombing Saddam Hussein because he will not act in relation to inspection, waiting to see what has occurred and then bombing again because he refuses to act.

Saddam Hussein has a bunker mentality. He has slaughtered and murdered his own population, gassed and bombed and executed. He is therefore not likely to be brought into line by bombing, especially when bringing him into line means his having to accept a weapons inspectorate—and nothing beyond that. Saddam Hussein just continues the game, and our only option is to continue to bomb and bomb. That may put him in a desperate situation, in which he begins to think of anthrax-capped missiles in an attempt to tackle the problem.

I believe that we should look for alternative strategies to ensure that the situation in Iraq changes. I do not go along with those who simply want another military adventure, in which Iraq is invaded and taken over. We should first sort out what we are supporting and what we are trying to achieve—we do not want a substitute Saddam Hussein to be established through our military action.

My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) made a number of proposals, which were of great interest, but what happens if those measures do not work—what option then arises? Will he fall back on the position that the Government may be driven to adopt if they do not make the Iraqi dictator back off—to bomb and bomb? My position differs, in that I would not seek to engage in such action.

Economic sanctions have been entirely counter—productive. Since Saddam Hussein came to power, Iraq has suffered the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war and sanctions. In that period, Iraq, which reached the peak of its economic development in 1979, has absolutely collapsed. The gross domestic product per head is between an eighth and a tenth of what it was.

We are not talking about societies in the 1930s that had developed to a similar level. Iraq had witnessed advances in technology and in the use of energy, but all that was destroyed. The Iraqi people are now in the most terrible circumstances. That is why we should stress the need for action to relieve economic—as distinct from military—sanctions.

I want to consider further the condition of the people. In 1955–56, I was in Basra in Iraq doing my national service. Between that period and the time when Saddam Hussein came to power—a period in which Iraq experienced many different developments—gross domestic product per head grew some six and a half times. That was very much tied up with oil—the Iraqis put all their eggs into one basket—which gave fantastic returns, especially when the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased oil prices in 1974.

Prosperity in Iraq was considerable, particularly in relation to other middle east countries. In 1970, Iraqi GDP per head was 17 per cent, of the figure for the United Kingdom, whereas by 1980—the start of Saddam Hussein's period in power—it had grown to 42 per cent, of the United Kingdom figure. Extensive development had occurred, with all that that entails. There had been periods of agrarian change and new social provisions, such as additional housing.

That was before Saddam Hussein moved the country to military provision, which proved to be a disaster. By 1994, Iraq's GDP per head was only about 16 per cent, of the UK figure. Let us remember the conditions that arose as a result: the shortage of goods; the desertion of the country by professionals; the massive unemployment; the collapse of the economy; hyper-inflation; currency speculation; and the printing—even the photocopying—of money.

To say in the House that the people in Baghdad look as though they are well fed, and that the problem is not ours but Iraq's, is disgraceful. We should be concerned about the condition of the Iraqi people and how they can build up their provisions. If there was a growing economy, the people could begin to build a democratic infrastructure. We should associate ourselves with the people who have those interests, and ensure that their circumstances are such that they can tackle the problem.

If the Iraqi people are bombed and bombed, what will happen? They will seek protection from the only source that seems to offer it, even though they are liable to be slaughtered by that protector. They will not be able to look for other possibilities and come together through different networks to build for the future.

We must not become involved in a programme that consists only of open-ended bombing. We should not rely on sanctions that build on the years of deprivation caused by Saddam Hussein's actions, or on the climate in which Saddam Hussein has been operating. We are in a desperate situation, but there is a road down which we should not go. When we have adopted that view, we should consider some of the ideas that have been suggested tonight about the alternatives in assisting—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.

8.36 pm
Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

I hope that the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) will excuse me if I do not respond to all the points he made, although I shall try to cover some of them.

Despite the length of supply lines, the lack of airborne early warning and the mistakes that were made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, few doubted the justice of our decision to retake the Falklands. Similarly, there was little doubt in the international community that it was right to expel Iraq from Kuwait.

This time, however, much is different: no sovereign territory has been invaded; our immediate economic interests are not in peril; international support is, at the very best, muted; and, under Britain's uninspired presidency, the European Union is divided. Moreover, the political and military aims are unclear—President Clinton, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary or the Defence Secretary each seem to have a different view.

Consequently, the doubts over the wisdom of going to war are much greater now than they were at the time of the Falklands or in 1990–91. There is considerable alarm at the possible scale of Iraqi casualties, and great fear at the prospect of Iraqi-inspired terrorism in the United Kingdom. Many suspect that President Clinton wants a little foreign adventure.

The result of this considerable unease is that many are saying, "We must stop and we must wait." However, such people do not explain why we must stop and for how long we must wait. Does anyone believe that Saddam Hussein would allow an unemasculated UNSCOM back into Iraq? The very reason that he expelled it was because it was being effective despite the difficulties under which it was working.

For those who tell us that we must wait, I would ask: for how long—a week, a month, a year? Should we wait until our forces lose their operational efficiency and are therefore endangered themselves? Should we wait until the allies lose their collective nerve? Should we wait so long that Saddam Hussein perfects his ability to wage a worldwide war? That is what he has been determined to do for decades.

In 1981, the Israelis bombed the nuclear facility at Osirak in Iraq just before it went critical. There was worldwide condemnation, particularly from the French and Germans—the French, who supplied the plant and the Germans, who supplied much of the technology via Brazil. What they conveniently forgot to tell people was, first, that the plant was not designed to produce electricity, secondly, that Iraq had much cheaper ways to produce electricity with its indigenous oil supplies, and thirdly, that the chemical composition of the uranium supplied was designed for producing weapons-grade plutonium.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is determined to use weapons of mass destruction if he needs to do so. I have long held the belief that Saddam Hussein poses a clear threat to world peace. In 1985, I said of Iraq and others: I am convinced that if nuclear war ever broke out it would be initiated not by the super powers but by a nation without any sense of responsibility, where power is concentrated in the hands of the evil, the insane, or the bigoted dictator."—[Official Report, 6 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 537.] The Gulf war lifted the immediate threat of atomic or nuclear weapons being used by Saddam Hussein in the near future. The decision to end the ground war after only 100 hours left Saddam Hussein in possession of the weapons of mass terror and in command of his power base. I said at the time that the terms and the timing of the ceasefire left us with unfinished business that would return to haunt us and it has. We must not make the same mistake again. In every action that Saddam Hussein has perpetrated in the past 20 to 25 years, he has shown that he is determined to dominate by terror. If the threat is insufficient, the means will be used.

So, in answer to the question, "Why go to war?", I have to say that we may well have to. Unless the Secretary-General is successful—I pray that he is, but I am sorry to say that I doubt that he will be—our task will be difficult to do, but easy to say. It will be to destroy the works of Saddam Hussein and to destroy his power base, so that he can be brought down and brought to trial. There is no safety in silence, and, if we are passive, there will be no peace.

8.43 pm
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Once again, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was clear and specific about what we expected of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime, and consistent in his approach not only to this problem but to international law.

Like the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), when preparing for this debate, I looked back at the debate held during the last major crisis with Iraq in 1990. At that time, the international community was absolutely clear about its objectives and the basis on which it had to act to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty. At that time, I pointed out that the key to the success of western policy had to be the non-selective implementation of Security Council resolutions and the principles of international law by the international community. Today, that message needs to be restated with more urgency than ever before.

In 1998, we are facing a very different situation. The situation is as clear, but action against Iraq is being considered against a backdrop of extreme anger and frustration in the middle east over United States policy vis-a-vis the middle east peace process. I want to make it clear from the outset that I support the threat of military action to enforce the rule of law with regard to Saddam Hussein's defiance of the UN. However, we should not be asked to support such action unless it is taken alongside a renewed and serious commitment to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions as they apply to the Israeli occupation of occupied Arab lands in the west bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

In 1991, after the first Gulf war, the then US Administration, under the guidance of Secretary of State James Baker, initiated a peace strategy based on international law and backed up with real measures designed to disabuse Israel of the notion that it could continue to act outside international law. In the seven years since that time, the United States and the international community have gradually moved away from that insistence on the applicability of UN Security Council resolutions to Israel; as a result, the peace process has all but disintegrated.

The results are the situation that we face today. No sane person in the middle east disagrees with the need to deal with Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons capability, or underestimates the brutality of his regime. However, we cannot afford to ignore the strength of feeling that has been generated by years of refusal to insist with the same rigour on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions vis-a-vis the Israeli occupation. Saddam Hussein watched, and learned that, by hanging on and obfuscation, he might just escape. We have to make it clear to him that he is not going to escape, and nor will anyone else.

Arab newspaper editorials, both here in London and throughout the Arab world, point to the danger of ignoring the strength of feeling on the issue in the middle east. We cannot afford to ignore it in this debate. Arab opinion sees western powers determined to crush the military capability of one power in the middle east, while protecting the military dominance of another—Israel—which is still occupying sovereign Arab territory.

People ask me why so many Palestinians seem to support the Iraqi regime in times of crisis. The answer is that rallies in support of Iraq are an expression of the extreme frustration at policies backed by the United States and designed to protect Israel from the exacting standards of international law—laws that we are demanding Saddam Hussein should abide by—and therefore to frustrate the legitimate goals of Palestinian self-determination and the return of occupied Arab lands.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

Does my hon. Friend agree that to attempt continually to scapegoat Israel simply diverts attention from the gross actions of Saddam Hussein, and ignores both attempts that are being made to find a peaceful solution to the middle east conflict and the violations of the Oslo accord by the Palestinians as well as by Israel?

Mr. Ross

We are not talking merely about Israel or Saddam Hussein, but about international law. We were first allowed to act against Saddam Hussein because of international law and Security Council resolutions, and we have to insist on that law. We cannot be selective. It is because we have been selective that we have been called into question time and again. When my hon. Friend has been here longer, she will realise how Israel has been allowed to flout international law time and again.

I welcome the comments of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister linking the situation in Iraq with the need to make progress in the peace process. That is what Arab Governments have repeatedly told us they want. Progress will result only from determined effort by the international community to enforce Security Council resolutions on all parties in the middle east, but most specifically on Israel.

For Arab public opinion, confidence will be restored only if, alongside its determination to enforce international law in Iraq, the west takes meaningful, tangible steps to enforce it in respect of Israeli occupation. In this renewed crisis of United States and European foreign policy in the middle east, the two issues are inextricably linked—that explains why so few Arab leaders can give unqualified support for an attack on a regime that threatens them so directly.

Political instability is not an idle threat in the middle east. A few days ago, a man was caught as he tried to attack the British embassy in Amman with a petrol bomb. On a recent visit to Jordan, as part of a delegation organised by the Labour Middle East Council, the Jordanian Government told us in no uncertain terms about the anger that has been fermented there in respect of the economic downturn caused by its inability to trade with Iraq. Arab Governments look to the United States and the European Union to deploy even-handedness in the middle east so that such feelings can be assuaged, and so that Arab and Israeli public opinion can be offered some hope of real peace and stability in the region.

Progress in the wake of any action taken against Iraq must reflect the determination of Britain and Europe to ensure a return to the peace process and its basis in international law. It will no longer be acceptable merely to condemn the illegality of settlement building on the west bank, as we have done on several occasions. The European Union can and must take action based on its obligations under international humanitarian law to insist that settlement building ceases.

I have tried to suggest that more than Iraq is at stake tonight. We are dealing with international law. The forum in which to deal with that is the United Nations. If we are going to rebuild the United Nations as the forum in which to act without having to resort to the use of force, we must ensure that we all abide by international law.

In 1993, in a debate on the Gulf and the RAF, I said: If we cannot demonstrate that we are going to be even-handed, in the longer term the comparison between Britain's standing and resolve in different cases in the same region will damage perceptions of British intentions and credibility. It will also damage the credibility of the Security Council and the belief that it will carry out its functions, as set down in the United Nations charter. International law will be brought into disrepute. Such damage risks setting the scene for future consequences and additional costs and burdens, which the politicians of the future—including ourselves—will have to deal with."—[Official Report, 21 January 1993; Vol. 217, c. 555.] Once again, we are having to deal with our failure to ensure that people abide by international law. What is different? Why do I disagree with some of my hon. Friends and urge them to consider voting with the Government tonight? We can legitimately charge the previous Government with failing to live up to their responsibilities under international law—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must conclude his speech.

8.53 pm
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

I am aware of the long-standing expertise and interest of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) and share much of his analysis about the corrosive effects of the Arab-Israeli dispute on the formulation of western policy in the region.

No one can envy the Government the challenges that they face in trying to manage the Iraq issue. They have all the problems of a democracy operating within the bounds of international law faced by a gangster who is sustained in power by terror and has no compunction about shedding the blood of his people, let alone that of others. That this man is still in power is an obscenity to us, but a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. There is also the threat posed to us all by this man without compunction, who has led the United Nations a merry dance of deceit over his possession of the most awful weapons available to man. The Government were right to catalogue the extent of the arsenal that he has tried to conceal. His record of murder and genocide is so appalling that we are led easily to the conclusion that something must be done. He surely cannot be allowed to get away it. We must be careful. That would be a policy judgment based on emotion, not rationality, if it could not be delivered.

The only way that we can be sure of imposing our will on this tyrant is to remove him from power. At the same time, the Takriti Baath party apparatus, steeped in the blood of ordinary Iraqis, must be dismantled and the Iraqi people given a chance to recreate the pillars of civic society so corrupted under the dictatorship. The truth is that we do not have the stomach for that exercise, which can be achieved only with ground troops—hundreds of thousands of them, supported by an international coalition. Such a coalition might be easier to put together if the political fate of Saddam was certain. The expedition would involve enormous cost, and this time there is no Kuwaiti treasury in exile with £100 billion to underwrite it.

I suspect that if Iraq was our neighbour, our perception of the threat would be different, but for us, the uncertainty of the intelligence picture of his present or near future weapons capability, at least to those of us outside government, makes the threat seem one that we could be prepared to tolerate. It is, however, worth remembering that Tel Aviv is closer to Iraq than is London, and perceptions there will be very different from ours. That is a complicating factor made worse by the acquiescence of the United States in an Israeli policy towards its Palestinian population in violation of its commitments under the middle east peace process and the United Nations.

We cannot escape the conclusion that there does not exist in our country or in the United States the will to commit troops to achieve the most desirable objective of ejecting Saddam from power. Certainly, no one else possesses the will and the capability. That is understandably frustrating. In our frustration, we must recognise that our objectives must be limited, as our weapons of sanctions and diplomacy backed up by air power are limited. None of them is sufficient to end the regime or ensure its compliance with existing United Nations Security Council resolutions. Therefore, our rhetoric must also be limited. In this difficult situation, the Government must use their influence to guide the United States away from any policy that is born of frustration that will end in perceived defeat.

The Government have real influence. It is likely that the military assessment of the Pentagon will be shared by the Ministry of Defence. The strength of our much more collegiate system of government is that that assessment is likely to be shared across Whitehall. That is not so in the United States, where the Pentagon is but one actor in the drama. Congress, the State Department, the national security adviser and the President are all likely to have different perspectives. The influence of the British Prime Minister in shaping alliance policy to political objectives that accord with the realities of the limitations of our military power is considerable. He does not need and indeed he must not tie himself to a policy that our military and their military believe is flawed and unachievable.

We must make sure that if military force is used, such uncertainty is removed from its use as much as possible, and that political control is sustained. That means that the objectives of military action must be achievable and clearly understood. I do not envy the Government their difficulties with that.

We cannot achieve implementation of current UN Security Council resolutions through military objectives because we cannot force Saddam to comply with the forces that we are prepared to deploy. Therefore, of necessity, the military objectives must be different from those of diplomacy. The closest linkage that can be achieved is the destruction of the sites to which the inspectors have been denied access.

Other targets will be of more questionable legality. Saddam is one, but no one would be terribly concerned if we killed him. The Republican Guard and the rest of the security force infrastructure that holds him in power is another. It would be extraordinary, however, if they were not now widely dispersed. If I were commanding a squadron of tanks in that situation, I would have already dispersed them from barracks, preferably to garages and anywhere else affording overhead cover among the civilian population. Notwithstanding the convenience of locally available human shields, such locations would be by far the best places to hide.

We could attack what is left of the civil infrastructure of Iraq, and what has been replaced, after the first Gulf war, but that certainly goes beyond the scope of current UN authority and would be of highly questionable military and political merit.

I do not expect the Secretary of State for Defence to comment on targeting when he replies to the debate. He has my support in trying to address those difficult issues, not least at one remove from the real centre of power. He and the Prime Minister, however, possess real influence if they feel themselves being dragged towards a course of action with which they are unhappy. They must use all that influence to stay on top of events, which means that the military option must be limited and controllable, if it has to be used at all.

Labour Members who are at odds with their Government have made much of the military difficulties. They have addressed the potential drawbacks of backing up diplomatic rhetoric and sanctions with force. They have argued that military attack could reinforce Saddam' s internal position and in the Arab world. They have discussed the possibility of a split in the coalition against him. They have also discussed the consequences of successfully bombing an anthrax store. They have argued that, at the end of the process on which we are currently embarked, he is still likely to be in power.

Those right hon. and hon. Members have failed to answer the question: what if we do nothing? Are we to be impotent in the face of tyranny? Are we to gamble on the hope that Saddam receives an assassin's bullet before he acquires a deliverable biological capability? With all the wretched compromises that accompany any coalition of democracies seeking to take military action, we will allow him to flout the will of the world at the peril of the population of his neighbours and beyond.

If UN resolutions are ever to mean anything, then, when faced with a regime such as Saddam's, which is in violation of resolutions on weapons of mass destruction, those resolutions must be backed by force. As the vehicle by which that force will be delivered, our armed forces deserve clear tasking and leadership. Equally, the Government and our armed forces, in seeking to address those difficult issues, deserve our support tonight.

9.2 pm

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet)

I strongly deplore some of the comments made in the House tonight, which seem to imply that it is inappropriate for some of my right hon. and hon. Friends freely to express their opinions. It has been suggested that somehow they give succour to the enemy if they say that perhaps we need to think more seriously about some of the issues. I deplore such an attitude, and the day that we accept it, wherever the suggestion comes from in the House, is the day our democracy is no better than that in Baghdad.

I do not dissent from my right hon. and hon. Friends on many of the details, but I have come to a different conclusion from them—ultimately, when there is no other option available to us, we may indeed have to use military force. I have reached that different conclusion for a number of reasons that I shall try to elucidate.

Let us consider how Saddam Hussein came to possess bacterial weapons. He set up a bio-warfare establishment at Muthanna in 1985, and we know for a fact that studies were made of anthrax, botulinum toxin, aflotoxin, mycotoxin and ricin. He adopted the Daura foot-and-mouth facility in 1990 and we know that studies were made there of camelpox, haemorrhagic conjunctivitis and human rotavirus. No matter how much the UNSCOM inspections may have found, it is not possible that what was learnt in those establishments has been unlearnt. The ability to make those weapons is available to Saddam Hussein. What we do not know is how many he has made and what he has done with them.

I am no military expert: I have never had to serve in the armed forces, nor have I any great military expertise; but once upon a time, before my career took a different line, I was a biologist and I can tell the House that most of the bacteria and toxins that I have listed need to be delivered fresh. Anthrax, by contrast, can be stored for decades. The likelihood is that Saddam had large amounts of anthrax stored away even before the first Gulf war. He has certainly been able to build up his stocks, despite the UNSCOM inspections. In recent weeks, hon. Members have been saying how effective the UNSCOM inspections have been, but they have not been completely effective and Saddam still has a massive store of anthrax.

Anthrax, if it is to be toxic, must be delivered in particle form, and about 10,000 spores have to be inhaled. It is not easy to nebulise and distribute it and, if it was likely to be used on a battlefield, one's enemy would probably be prepared for it and would have immunised its soldiers. We know that anthrax is not a battlefield weapon, nor is it a tactical weapon; and we know that the UNSCOM inspections have probably destroyed most of Saddam' s missile capability for delivering it, so what conclusion can we reach? We have to conclude that he possesses anthrax not as a tactical weapon, but as a terrorist weapon.

I was once fortunate to be on the same platform as Lord Soper, who used a phrase that I have always remembered: The possession of a weapon conditions the possessor to accept the possibility of its use. We already know that Saddam Hussein is prepared to use nerve gas and chemical weapons and has stooped to the most incredible depths of depravity. The possession of terrorist weapons must condition him ultimately to accept the possibility that his response to military action will be a terrorist response.

Anthrax is no discriminator between people of different races or different religions. It is relatively easy to distribute in a terrorist scenario. In a briefing, a US defence expert admitted that anthrax was more likely to be used as a terrorist weapon and that it could be distributed by using a glass jar and a hand grenade. That would be all that was necessary to launch a terrorist attack using anthrax. I conclude that Saddam Hussein has to be made to give up those weapons. If all else fails and if all diplomatic avenues fail, we must be prepared to take that final step to make him give up those weapons. If we do not, sooner or later, he will use them as terrorist weapons.

I shall go further and say that one of the most worrying aspects of this debate is that we have not touched upon the possible consequences of our attacks. The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) spoke about the need for ground troops, and 1 accept what he said. Once military action starts, I cannot envisage this matter being resolved without ground troops becoming involved. Once ground troops are involved, there will be a temptation for Saddam Hussein to use nerve gas against them. I have seen a published Central Intelligence Agency memorandum that shows that, by the end of the Iran-Iraq war, he had become very skilled in deploying nerve gas. The Americans have always reserved the right to respond with nuclear weapons to a nerve gas or bacterial attack on them. We should all be deeply worried about that.

The other way in which I differ from some of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Chamber tonight is that I have decided that it is appropriate to support the Government's motion because, although it gives them the power ultimately to use a military threat, it also gives them the choice not to, and it requires them to explore every possible avenue towards a diplomatic solution to the problem. I believe that we shall avoid massive loss of life only if we avoid the need for military action, but, sooner or later, if the diplomatic solution does not work, I am prepared to take the consequences of having voted tonight for military action.

9.10 pm
Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk)

Tonight's debate has ended where it began, with all hon. Members on both sides of the House discussing the crucial issue. I suspect that, if they can listen to it, that discussion will be listened to with interest by our military personnel serving in the Gulf. The crucial issue is the prospect that they may have to go into action, as a consequence of a decision by our Government and by the Government of the United States of America, acting under United Nations authority. That is an awesome prospect.

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), who donned uniform in 1990, I was merely a Whitehall warrior, working alongside my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), and I understand and appreciate the pressures on Ministers. I appreciate that, in the words of General James Wolfe, later killed at Quebec, war is "an option of difficulties". There is no easy option.

For Conservative Members, there is a dichotomy, in that we have decided that we shall broadly support the Government's position but, like the Government when they were in opposition eight years ago, we wish to retain the freedom to comment and to question them very heavily on the actions that they take.

Briefly, I want to home in on the military action. Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), have mentioned a fact that worries many hon. Members on both sides of the House—even those of us who broadly support the Government's position. That is the fact that, so far, there seems to be a lack of clarity by the Government about what might happen if we need to use military force. I understand that Ministers may very well reply that they cannot give us such information—that we should not expect them to, on the ground that that is sensitive military information. That is what the Ministers I worked with said in 1990.

However, I have to say to Ministers that I believe that the world has moved on in eight years. Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister, rightly, called for a policy of educating the public about the crisis, and I believe that that meant more than educating the public by telling them what the threat was from Iraq. We must also think in terms of educating the public about the possible consequences of military action. It is no longer a narrow state secret. For heaven' s sake, the newspapers and CNN are often better informed, and earlier informed, than the Chamber of the House of Commons, and if we are to have an educated debate on this question, we must understand the military action.

My right hon. Friends have tabled a short amendment to the Government motion, in which they have tried to make it clear that Conservative Members—and I think many Labour Members—want a very clear link, establishing the political objectives of the military action. This is not an academic debating point for the military professionals who have advised the Government, and the military commanders and their subordinates in the Gulf. It is quoted in, ironically, the Royal Air Force's air power doctrine. I remind the House of that, to show the strictures under which the armed forces operate.

The doctrine says: Selection and Maintenance of the Aim is vital, and: In the conduct of war, and therefore in all military activity, it is essential to select and define the aims with absolute clarity before operations start". I am not 100 per cent. sure that we have achieved that yet. That is not a nit-picking academic point; we had the problem in 1990 when we were trying to make certain that the political aim was clear and we had unity of purpose. I do not think that we have that yet.

Deriving from that principle are two further points, which the services themselves lay down. The first is that Governments must be quite clear about their military objectives". Secondly—the commanders on the spot will be bearing this in mind— Commanders at all levels must know exactly what they are required to achieve". As yet, we do not know what the commanders have been directed to achieve.

Genuine doubts are raised about the application of air power, and whether we can achieve what we want without putting in ground forces. When my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) asked a legitimate question about the nature of the command relationship between ourselves and the Americans, the response from the Secretary of State for Defence was not sufficient. We are the junior partner, but we have some say over the strategy. We need to make it clear publicly now what that relationship is.

War is an option of difficulties. It is not easy for the Government. Many Labour Members have criticised them, and I fully supported the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) when he said that we had the right to debate and put forward all points of view in the House.

None the less, in this particular case, in terms of the option of difficulties, it is up to all hon. Members to support the Government' policy, which is to require Saddam Hussein to abide by United Nations resolutions and to let the inspectors—not American inspectors, but UN inspectors—back in to pin him down. If we do not do that, Saddam will see it as a defeat for the United Nations.

As both Ministers and my right hon. Friends have said, let us be in no doubt that Saddam plays a game of bluff, and that some of things that he understands are resolution, unity, cohesion and the fact that at the end of the day, we might be prepared to put our armed forces in harm's way. I know that that is easy for me to say, but we do not do it lightly. That is why people join the armed forces; they understand the requirement, and they fulfil it bravely in a way that we must admire. However, the least that the armed forces expect from us is to have a clear objective to achieve, and for the Government to provide them with the resources to achieve it.

I hope that when he sums up, the Secretary of State for Defence will address some of those issues, especially in terms of the need to educate the public about the political objectives and the military means. In that way, we shall bring greater pressure to bear on Saddam Hussein and achieve our objectives.

9.17 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

I begin by saying how delighted we are to see the Minister for the Armed Forces back in his place ready to be deployed. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery from his recent illness.

In common with a number of hon. Members, I have listened to nearly every word that has been spoken in the debate over the past six hours. It has been a sober and balanced debate in which a clear consensus has emerged for the Government motion—sharpened, it is to be hoped, by the Opposition amendment. However, equally clear has been the recognition of the risks involved and of the fact that although one option is preferable, none of the options is attractive.

It has been a debate devoid of jingoism. Indeed, there has been some resentment on the part of those who have defended the Government—some of the more peaceful Members of this House—that they have been accused by some of their colleagues of being bloodthirsty and full of war lust. Those of us who know the hon. Members who have defended the Government's position know that those accusations are untrue.

What has emerged is broad agreement that appeasement would be wrong. It would be wrong today, and even more wrong for tomorrow. Another feature of the debate has been the sincerity of views. Hon. Members have defended their views in their own words and for their own reasons. It has been a debate far removed from hon. Members paraphrasing briefing from the Whips Office. I think that it is right to conclude from the debate, although, of course, we must await the vote, that the Government have broad support for the strategy that they have tabled.

One of the themes of the debate has been the similarities and the differences between the 1991 crisis and the present one. That was one of the themes of the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell). He rightly said that the same broad principles were at stake.

In both cases, a new Prime Minister has been confronted by the need to build with US allies a coherent political and military response to unlawful action by Saddam Hussein which has threatened to destabilise the middle east. In both cases, the Government's robust response was supported by the Opposition. In both cases, the UK has been militarily prepared for its role.

The Secretary of State was good enough to write in The Parliamentarian that our armed forces are the best in Europe, if not the world". Only with an effective and well-trained, well-equipped fighting force can the UK's contribution and our debate this evening be meaningful.

There have also been key differences between this crisis and that in 1991, which were touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) and many others. The alliance is smaller and the French are not on side. This time, there has been no invasion. That leads to a crucial point which has been mentioned throughout the debate, and it concerns objectives. In 1991, the political and the military objectives were clearly linked. The political objective of liberating Kuwait linked naturally to the military objective of ejecting the invading army. The two objectives coincided.

This time, the political and the military objectives do not have the same neat relationship. The political objective is the readmission of the UNSCOM inspectors, but the link between that and such military action as may be contemplated is less direct and more tenuous. That lies behind the calls for clarity that we have heard throughout the debate—for clarity of political objective from the politicians, and for our troops, if the time comes, clarity of military objective.

Those who have followed the crisis from the beginning will have been concerned by the absence of answers from Iraq to some basic questions. If, as he claims, Saddam Hussein is not in the business of producing weapons of mass destruction, why the resistance to the work of UNSCOM, to which he originally agreed? What does he seek to hide from the inspectors? What does the leader of an impoverished people think he is doing with 14 presidential palaces? If, as we now know, he has developed and used weapons of mass destruction, what are his motives in storing those poisonous cocktails in such large quantities? Is it not better to confront him today, rather than wait until tomorrow?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) quoted from an article in The Sunday Times which many hon. Members will have read. It was an article written by a British UN arms inspector outlining the obstruction and hazards that he faced, with bugged hotel rooms, waiting four days outside one building for access and, in his own words, coming within a hair's breadth of being shot by over-zealous, trigger-happy 17-year-olds. I agree with the concluding sentence of that article: Our mandate is to have immediate, unrestricted access to any site in Iraq, and our mission will not be accomplished until this is permitted. Yes, there are risks in military action. We have heard about them from hon. Members today. In one respect, however, I think that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) was wrong. He argued that a criticism that could be made of the Government's strategy was that it would strengthen Saddam Hussein. I do not happen to agree, but the argument was turned neatly against the right hon. Gentleman by one of his hon. Friends, who said that it applied even more strongly to an alternative strategy that removed the underpinning of the threat of force from the sanctions now working on Saddam Hussein. For many of us, however, the highlight of the debate was listening to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) lashing with his tongue not Opposition Members, but some of his right hon. and hon. Friends.

If there are risks involved in military action—and there are—I believe that more risks are involved in no action. But there is another risk that has not really been touched on today: the risk of a diplomatic fudge that would leave Saddam in control, possibly claiming victory—that would leave him able to continue to develop his literally poisonous regime, and that would damage the credibility of the collective action on which the freedoms that we all value now depend. That is why the diplomatic endgame on which we are now embarked is crucial, and why it is vital that, if Kofi Annan goes to Baghdad, he goes with a clear remit. What we cannot have is UNSCOM left in Iraq, but operating under conditions that would make its work ineffective. I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary rule out that option in his opening speech.

The debate has achieved something else. It has not just been about the similarities and the contrasts since 1991; it has shown how the whole crisis has moved on since the cold war. At that time, the concern was the deployment of nuclear weapons by a strong and stable country. Today, we are concerned about the deployment of chemical, bacteriological weapons by a poor country with an unstable leadership. That, surely, is the nature of the military threats in the 21st century: they are very different from those in the second half of the 20th century, and they are threats to which the United Kingdom's defence must adapt in the years ahead.

Another issue has not been mentioned, but is worth a paragraph. That is the importance of our reserves, which are now much more usable as a result of the Reserve Forces Act 1996. Members of the Royal Naval and Royal Air Force Reserves are in the middle east now, but, if the scenario were to take a turn for the worse, our regular forces would need to be supported by volunteers from the Territorial Army, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Naval Reserve.

We have heard first-class speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House. Let me touch on some of the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, who was Prime Minister at the time of the earlier crisis, and from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater, who was Secretary of State for Defence at the time. We also heard from a number of my hon. Friends who have served in the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby, who fought in the 1991 Gulf war; and, at the end of the debate, we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson), who, I think, outlined the role of the Opposition—to give broad support, but also, as is their right, to question and criticise if necessary as the situation unfolds.

A subject that has hardly been touched on is the question of resources. The only speaker to mention that was the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who fired a warning shot across the Treasury bows. Can the Secretary of State confirm that the costs of our response to the Gulf crisis will be met from the reserves and will not represent a further squeeze on his Department or on other spending programmes? At the beginning of the financial year, the Chancellor pre-allocated quite a lot of this year's reserves. Some of us pointed out that that was possibly a rash thing to do. I hope that there is enough in the reserves to meet the costs of this unforeseen crisis.

I also ask the Secretary of State about the interrelationship of the strategic defence review and the hostilities that may lie ahead. I hope that he will agree that if there is a war in which our troops are engaged, all the energies of his Department will be focused on a successful outcome and that any war with the Treasury will have to wait.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

In view of what my right hon. Friend said a moment ago about the Territorial Army, does he agree that the preservation of the TA at its current strength will be necessary if there is to be a war in the Gulf?

Sir George Young

Indeed. As I mentioned, a number of reserves are already out in the middle east. They will have to backfill some of the posts that will be vacated if the more pessimistic scenario develops.

On the strategic defence review, we cannot risk the high morale of our troops being undermined by more leaks about where the cuts might fall. We had the story in The Observer a fortnight ago, and there was further speculation last weekend, about the command structure of the paras. We cannot have the energies of Ministers and senior officials diverted from the urgent task in hand.

When he replies, will the Secretary of State also clarify exactly where we are with the further Security Council resolution, which the Government felt was desirable and were brokering last week, which declares Iraq to be in material breach?

I understand that the Government plan to accept the Opposition's amendment. If that is the case, it is welcome news and shows unanimity on this crucial subject.

It is often said that the House of Commons no longer matters—it has been said more often since 1 May. Tonight, the House of Commons does matter, for two reasons: first, the vote at 10 o'clock is a democratic barometer of how Members of Parliament in a free country wish to confront the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. The vote will be watched not just by him to see how strong is our resolve, but by others, who want to know that the principle of collective security, made credible by the potential use of force, is one in which they can have confidence. Every vote at 10 o'clock will influence the position on the scale.

There is another reason why the vote is important. I have constituents in the Gulf, as has nearly every hon. Member. I want the constituents of North-West Hampshire who are prepared to risk their lives to know that their Member of Parliament backs the cause for which they are prepared to fight. Not only does their Member of Parliament as an individual support that cause, but their Member of Parliament, as a representative of the broad communities from which our armed forces come, also supports them.

I urge all hon. Members to support both the amendment and the Government's motion. Of course we must pursue to the full the diplomatic solutions. We must also express common purpose with those who are prepared to fight, but, crucially, we must reassert that the House of Commons believes that the threat and the use of force if all else fails is a legitimate and essential response to the threat to collective security posed by Saddam Hussein.

9.33 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson)

The subject of today's debate is important and serious, and the House of Commons has risen to the occasion. As the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) said, a broad consensus behind the words and spirit of the motion has clearly emerged. I am glad that the Government will be able to accept the Opposition amendment, which will unite that consensus across the parties.

There have been a few dissident voices, some of which I disagree with strongly, but we are a free Parliament of free voices, and no one is penalised or punished as a result of the views that they express.

There have been a number of outstanding speeches, such as that of the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), who will join us in a moment. He apologised to me, because he has been delayed. The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), who once held the onerous position that I now hold, also made an important speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, made serious contributions to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), who has considerable knowledge of the Arab world and whose authority on this subject is unquestioned, made a good and serious contribution. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), for whom I served as a deputy and from whom I learned the gentle art of confronting those with whom I disagree, made a speech that all of us will remember for a long time. Hon. Members on both sides of the House made serious contributions to a serious debate.

The need for this debate and the crisis that the world faces this week are the direct result of the actions of one man who has brought misery to his own people and recklessly threatened the security of the whole region. Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, is that man. Over the past decade, he has conducted chemical attacks against one of his neighbours; he has invaded and annexed another; he has bombarded others with ballistic missiles; he has poison-gassed 5,000 of his own country's citizens with chemical weapons; and he has started and lost two wars.

Saddam Hussein is without question a profoundly dangerous neighbour, who threatens the stability and safety of what is still one of the most volatile regions of the world. Our debate has rightly focused on the threat that he poses with weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and even nuclear. Some may doubt his intentions and his ambitions, perhaps even believing his propaganda that he has nothing to hide and that he never had anything to hide. Fortunately, there is a very simple test. If he had nothing to hide, he could let weapons inspectors in to prove it. If he had done so, their job might by now be complete.

Instead, Saddam has chosen to forfeit more than $100 billion-worth of oil revenues as he relentlessly defies the post-war United Nations resolutions. His children starve, his hospitals lack drugs and his economy is in shreds, but his regime still floats on a lake of lavish luxury for the elite, his armed forces soak up the resources that could feed the hungry, and his people's misery is manipulated as a human propaganda tool. What sort of mentality defines a regime that has spent $1 billion on palaces and presidential complexes since the end of the Gulf war in 1991, while almost a million Iraqi children under five years of age are chronically malnourished? It is probably the same twisted mentality that has caused him to be at war or subject to international sanctions for 16 of the 18 years since he seized power.

The House should be in no doubt that the present crisis has been deliberately engineered by Saddam Hussein, and that it was a calculated move. It came as no surprise. It was all of a piece with his past attempts to flout the will of the international community: the attempted assassination of President Bush in 1993; the massing of Republican Guards to threaten Kuwait in 1994; the invasion of Kurdish Irbil in 1996; and the threat to exterminate the marsh Arabs in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf war. Such violations have become almost routine.

Mr. Galloway

As my right hon. Friend mentioned the utterly bogus Bush assassination attempt, I should mention that a dear friend of mine, the finest woman painter in the Arab world, Leila al Attar, was killed by a cruise missile fired by President Clinton in retaliation for that so-called assassination attempt. Would my right hon. Friend say that her death served any purpose and that hers and other deaths in that cruise missile attack in any way affected Saddam Hussein's venality and made him change his course of action? What makes my right hon. Friend think that 1,000 cruise missiles will make any more difference?

Mr. Robertson

I shall tell my hon. Friend that, when the coalition forces massed in 1991—my hon. Friend opposed that military action—Saddam Hussein was driven out of Kuwait, a land that he had invaded and crushed and whose people he had tortured and imprisoned. Had I heard in my hon. Friend's speech tonight—powerful as it was in a cause with which I do not agree—a word about the 600 Kuwaitis who were captured at the end of the war and have never been seen since, I might have thought it slightly more balanced.

The House is in no doubt that the crisis was engineered, as many hon. Members have said. However, the UNSCOM inspections are at the very heart of the international community's need to rid itself of the specific threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and the events of the past few months hold a specific significance. What is at stake here is more than just access to a host of sites blocked off to UN weapons inspectors. What is at risk, and on the line now, is the very authority and the credibility of the United Nations and its ability ever again to tackle the proliferation menace, which may be the biggest threat to mankind over the next century. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), whose distinguished and powerful speech I omitted to mention at the beginning of my remarks, also made that point.

Saddam has chemical and biological weapons—some so awful and horrific that they beggar ordinary comprehension. We know, because the UN inspectors found some but not all of them.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

Concern has been expressed during the debate about the possible dispersal of chemical and bacteriological elements. I am not of the view that there will be a conflict. I believe that the issue will be settled by diplomatic means and that Saddam will make capital out of that anyway. However, as a means of containing the possible dispersal of chemical and biological agents, has any consideration been given to the use of low-yield tactical thermo-nuclear devices?

Mr. Robertson

No. I shall deal with my hon. Friend's question about the possible dispersal of chemical and biological weapons later in my speech.

The UN inspectors, who were lied to, obstructed, deceived, and harassed but who persisted in their efforts, uncovered huge stocks of weapons and destroyed what they found. I have a list which comprises only part of what was found: 38,000 filled and unfilled warheads, 48 long-range Scud missiles, 690 tonnes of chemical agent and an even deadlier cocktail of toxins, poison gases and germ mixes—all designed to terrify and subjugate Saddam's neighbours and the wider region. There is bound to be more.

In the last few weeks, we found out that, in the past, Saddam had yet another chemical weapon that we had not known about—agent 15, one more filthy uncivilised weapon of war in his armoury.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)

My right hon. Friend mentioned agent 15—which might just have been the cause of Gulf war syndrome. No veteran who has been disabled by Gulf war syndrome and no hon. Member who has met veterans who have been disabled by it can but feel anger that Iraq might have possessed and used agent 15. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how Saddam Hussein got hold of agent 15 in the first place?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend asks a very good question. Last week, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I told the House that I did not know who sold agent 15 to the Iraqi regime. I do have information on how the Iraqi regime may have obtained agent 15, although—for reasons that I am sure that all hon. Members will understand—I am not prepared to divulge those details. However, I can assure the House that Saddam did not acquire agent 15 from Britain.

Saddam himself admits to using 3,000 tonnes of chemical gas in his war with Iran. In Halabja-10 years ago this year—he used poison gas against his own people. That year, I personally spoke to some of those whom he brutalised with what they called the "bombs with no voices". I will remember for ever those people's tales, their faces and their families.

We have the evidence, and we have the facts. We have seen what Saddam had, and we know what he used. We know that he still hides some of the mass-murdering weapons or the means of putting them together. We know beyond doubt, question or contradiction that he wants to keep them, and to develop them and the means of delivering them. We do not have to guess about his ambitions to use them. That is why the terms of the Gulf war ceasefire were so specific. His armoury of chemical and biological weapons had to be discovered and destroyed.

United Nations Security Council resolution 687, which has been mentioned many times in this debate, was crystal clear. It stated: Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of all chemical and biological weapons … and all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres". Inspections were to be unfettered and immediate. Seven years on, after a concerted campaign of obstruction, Saddam's regime still refuses to honour its undertakings.

If the efforts of diplomacy fail and Saddam will not listen to the widespread view that he must let the inspectors return with full access—which is the view taken not only by every Arab state but by so many others—we shall have to act. The object of military action—which has been mentioned by so many hon. Members—if it must be used, will be clear: to diminish significantly Saddam's military capabilities, including his ability to deploy, conceal and recreate his weapons of mass destruction to threaten his neighbours.

The political objective of any military action is also clear. It is not to remove Saddam—as some hon. Members have suggested—or to humiliate or punish him or his regime, but only to secure full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, including restoration of a fully effective United Nations Special Commission.

Mr. Robathan

I have been agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman until the last minute. He has provided a litany of what Saddam Hussein has done wrong. Although I agree with the right hon. Gentleman entirely, he must realise that what we are about to do—although I support its limited military objectives—is to punish the people of Iraq. Next year, Saddam Hussein will be back. Will the right hon. Gentleman and his Cabinet colleagues consider further personalising the conflict—taking action against Saddam Hussein as an individual, and trying to drive a wedge between him and the people of Iraq?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman served in the Gulf war, and we pay tribute to the service he gave to this country, but his suggestion is not practical, sensible or in line with international law—unlike what we are doing.

Mr. Salmond

Is there nothing in the agenda proposed by the hon. Members for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and myself for a political strategy accompanying military action which commends itself to the Secretary of State?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friends the Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) have campaigned about Saddam for many more years than a lot of people in the House, as has the hon. Gentleman himself. They have asked for the release of frozen Iraqi assets to the Iraqi opposition, with whom my hon. Friends in the Foreign Office have been in regular discussions. I am advised that, under UN Security Council resolution 661, we could not release frozen assets to individuals. The hon. Gentleman and others asked us to impose no-drive zones in certain parts of Iraq, but the military advice I have is that that would be dangerous and difficult and would ultimately involve the same kind of problems we are talking about.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley mentioned the possibility of indicting Saddam Hussein for war crimes. The Government are strong supporters of the concept of an international court where we could make sure that international law was upheld and where those who were in breach of it could be brought to justice. Those were some of the agendas proposed during the debate, and by members of the Iraqi opposition. My response is that they have been carefully considered.

Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

My right hon. Friend listed the ways in which Saddam Hussein has obstructed the UNSCOM team. Does he accept that, as things stand, we do not know in detail what stocks of chemical and biological weapons Saddam may have or where they may be located? In planning the military strategy of any bombing, what calculation has been made of the worst case in terms of civilian casualties that we are willing to contemplate?

Mr. Robertson

The whole objective of any action we take will be to minimise civilian casualties and to maximise the damage to Saddam's military capability. I am sure that that answer comes as no surprise to my hon. Friend, but it is the basis of all our planning.

I want to make it clear to those hon. Members who, quite properly, asked under what authority action would be taken, that any action involving UK forces would be based purely on international law, and on the authority that comes from the ceasefire agreement and other UN Security Council resolutions.

On 14 January this year—only four weeks ago—in a statement, the President of the Security Council determined that Iraq's failure to give access to UNSCOM was unacceptable and a clear violation of the relevant resolution. Let us make no mistake—this is all about a challenge to the authority of the UN. If Saddam' s challenge to the Security Council succeeds, what happens the next time? What happens when the next belligerent—the next proliferators—threatens a neighbour or a region? Will the UN have any authority to act?

Letting Saddam off, doing nothing, backing off, settling for some convenient fudge in the face of Saddam's defiance—those are options too dangerous to contemplate. The confrontation started by Saddam can be ended by Saddam. If he lets the inspectors in to test his word, order will be restored.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has outlined the Herculean efforts being made to get a diplomatic outcome—based on unconditional, unrestricted access to all sites—and those efforts will go on. Time is running out. Saddam Hussein has to know that, because every day that passes without inspections of the so-called palaces and sensitive sites increases the risk that his deadly arsenal will be back in production.

We are not talking about palaces like Lambeth palace or Buckingham palace. They are not sensitive sites like Chelsea barracks in London. They are vast building complexes. Earlier today, the Ministry of Defence released a photograph with maps to illustrate the size of one such site. Superimposed on a map of central London, it stretches from Wandsworth bridge to Tower bridge and from Hyde park to the Oval cricket ground. That site contains hundreds of buildings and two palaces. Those are the sensitive sites that we are talking about.

For the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway), I have done the same for Glasgow. The site would stretch from Hyndland, close to his constituency, to Celtic football club's ground and from Drumbreck up to the rhubarb fields of Robroyston. That is the scale of the sites to which Saddam denies access to the UNSCOM inspectors, who are backed by the authority of the United Nations.

Mr. Dalyell

My right hon. Friend promised to answer the questions that I asked, along with the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) and several others, about how to contain biological and chemical weapons from the civilian population and perhaps even other friendly states.

Mr. Robertson

That question presumes that Saddam has the weapons that my hon. Friend and others suggest that he does not have. I shall not be drawn on our targeting plans, which will affect Saddam if diplomacy fails. However, we shall properly take account of the information that we have, the sensitivity of the issue and the need to minimise civilian casualties.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Robertson

No. I apologise to my hon. Friend, but I am short of time.

Military action is not our best option or our preferred option. However, without the option of force, we know from Saddam's track record that he will not move. Some people ask whether a military strike from the assembled forces in the Gulf can change Saddam's mind. I assure the House that it can and that we firmly believe that it will. If military action is necessary, it will significantly set back Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programme even if UNSCOM is not immediately reinstated. That would be better than a gutted UNSCOM.

I appreciate that genuine concerns have been expressed about the possible targeting of various locations. We could not go into action without bearing in mind the risks to our troops, to civilians and to those who might be affected if particular weapons were hit.

Our troops are in the Gulf because we believe that it is right for them to be there. It is important to demonstrate to Saddam the determination of the international community. In the early days of the crisis, there was an assertion that the United States and the United Kingdom stood alone in response to Saddam's mischief-making. Events have shown that those critics were wrong. There was widespread international condemnation of Saddam' s challenge from the outset. Support grows every day. That support is now taking material form, as Australia, Canada, Poland, Denmark and many other allies come forward to provide forces, facilities or political support to the coalition. New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman also fall into that category. The confrontation is between not the United States and Iraq, but the Iraqi regime and the authority of the United Nations.

As Secretary of State for Defence, I carry the burden of deploying into the theatre of possible war many young men and women of Britain's armed forces. They are among the finest troops in the world—as professionally excellent in fighting as they are, and have been proved to be, in peacekeeping. I carry the burden with great seriousness, and I salute their bravery, their sense of service and their dedication to their country and to international order. I do not want to send them into battle. I take no pleasure in asking them to risk their lives; I detest the prospect. Their very existence is to ensure that international order is secure. They go, if they have to go, with our support, our blessing and our prayers.

Amendment agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put:

The House divided: Ayes 493, Noes 25.

Division No. 173] [10 pm
Ainger, Nick Caborn, Richard
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Alexander, Douglas Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Allan, Richard Campbell-Savours, Dale
Allen, Graham Cann, Jamie
Amess, David Casale, Roger
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Cash, William
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cawsey, Ian
Arbuthnot, James Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Chapman, Sir Sydney
Ashton, Joe (Chipping Barnet)
Atkins, Charlotte Chidgey, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Chisholm, Malcolm
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Chope, Christopher
Baldry, Tony Clappison, James
Ballard, Mrs Jackie Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Barron, Kevin Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Battle, John Clark, Dr Lynda
Bayley, Hugh (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Beard, Nigel Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Beggs, Roy Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Beith, Rt Hon A J Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Benton, Joe Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Bercow, John Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Beresford, Sir Paul Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Bermingham, Gerald Clelland, David
Betts, Clive Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Clwyd, Ann
Blears, Ms Hazel Coaker, Vernon
Blizzard, Bob Coffey, Ms Ann
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Collins, Tim
Blunt, Crispin Colman, Tony
Boateng, Paul Colvin, Michael
Borrow, David Connarty, Michael
Boswell, Tim Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Bottmley, Peter (Worthing W) Corbett, Robin
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Corston, Ms Jean
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Cotter, Brian
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Cousins, Jim
Brake, Tom Cox, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter Cran, James
Breed, Colin Cranston, Ross
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Cummings, John
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
(Dunfermline E) (Copeland)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Browne, Desmond Darvill, Keith
Browning, Mrs Angela Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Davidson, Ian
Buck, Ms Karen Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Burden, Richard Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Burnett, John Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Burns, Simon Dawson, Hilton
Butler, Mrs Christine Day, Stephen
Byers, Stephen Dean, Mrs Janet
Cable, Dr Vincent Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald Hanson, David
Dismore, Andrew Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Dobbin, Jim Harris, Dr Evan
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Harvey, Nick
Donaldson, Jeffrey Hawkins, Nick
Donohoe, Brian H Hayes, John
Doran, Frank Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Healey, John
Drown, Ms Julia Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Duncan, Alan Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Duncan Smith, Iain Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Hepburn, Stephen
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Hesford, Stephen
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Edwards, Huw Hill, Keith
Ellman, Mrs Louise Hodge, Ms Margaret
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hoey, Kate
Ennis, Jeff Home Robertson, John
Evans, Nigel Hoon, Geoffrey
Faber, David Horam, John
Fabricant, Michael Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Fallon, Michael Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Fatchett, Derek Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Fearn, Ronnie Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Field, Rt Hon Frank Howells, Dr Kim
Fisher, Mark Hoyle, Lindsay
Fitzsimons, Lorna Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Flight, Howard Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Flint, Caroline Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Flynn, Paul Humble, Mrs Joan
Follett, Barbara Hunter, Andrew
Forsythe, Clifford Hurst, Alan
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Hutton, John
Foster, Don (Bath) Iddon, Dr Brian
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Illsley, Eric
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Foulkes, George Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Fox, Dr Liam Jamieson, David
Fraser, Christopher Jenkin, Bernard
Fyfe, Maria Jenkins, Brian
Galbraith, Sam Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Gale, Roger Johnson, Miss Melanie
Gapes, Mike (Welwyn Hatfield)
Gardiner, Barry Johnson Smith,
Garnier, Edward Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Gibb, Nick Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Gill, Christopher Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Godman, Norman A Jowell, Ms Tessa
Goggins, Paul Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Golding, Mrs Llin Keeble, Ms Sally
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Keetch, Paul
Gorrie, Donald Kemp, Fraser
Gray, James Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Green, Damian Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Greenway, John Key, Robert
Grieve, Dominic Khabra, Piara S
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Kidney, David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Kilfoyle, Peter
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Grocott, Bruce Kingham, Ms Tess
Grogan, John Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Gummer, Rt Hon John Kirkwood, Archy
Gunnell, John Kumar, Dr Ashok
Hague, Rt Hon William Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Hain, Peter Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Lansley, Andrew
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Leigh, Edward
Hammond, Philip Leslie, Christopher
Hancock, Mike Letwin, Oliver
Levitt, Tom Olner, Bill
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Öpik, Lembit
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Osborne, Ms Sandra
Liddell, Mrs Helen Ottaway, Richard
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Page, Richard
Livsey, Richard Paice, James
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Palmer, Dr Nick
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Paterson, Owen
Lock, David Pearson, Ian
Loughton, Tim Pendry, Tom
Love, Andrew Perham, Ms Linda
Luff, Peter Pickles, Eric
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Pickthall, Colin
McAvoy, Thomas Pike, Peter L
McCafferty, Ms Chris Pond, Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield) Pope, Greg
McDonagh, Siobhain Pound, Stephen
Macdonald, Calum Powell, Sir Raymond
McFall, John Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Prescott, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew Primarolo, Dawn
Mackinlay, Andrew Prior, David
Maclean, Rt Hon David Purchase, Ken
McLeish, Henry Radice, Giles
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert Rammell, Bill
McLoughlin, Patrick Randall, John
McNamara, Kevin Rapson, Syd
McNulty, Tony Raynsford, Nick
MacShane, Denis Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Mactaggart, Fiona Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
McWalter, Tony Rendel, David
McWilliam, John Robathan, Andrew
Madel, Sir David Robertson, Rt Hon George
Major, Rt Hon John (Hamilton S)
Malins, Humfrey Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Mallaber, Judy Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Mandelson, Peter Roche, Mrs Barbara
Maples, John Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Marek, Dr John Rogers, Allan
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Rooker, Jeff
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Martlew, Eric Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Mates, Michael Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Rowlands, Ted
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Roy, Frank
Maxton, John Ruane, Chris
May, Mrs Theresa Ruddock, Ms Joan
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Ruffley, David
Meale, Alan Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Merron, Gillian Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Michael, Alun St Aubyn, Nick
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Sanders, Adrian
Milburn, Alan Savidge, Malcolm
Miller, Andrew Sawford, Phil
Mitchell, Austin Sayeed, Jonathan
Moffatt, Laura Shaw, Jonathan
Moonie, Dr Lewis Sheerman, Barry
Moore, Michael Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Moran, Ms Margaret Shipley, Ms Debra
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Short, Rt Hon Clare
Moriey, Elliot Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Moss, Malcolm Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Mountford, Kali Smith, Miss Geraldine
Mudie, George (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Nicholls, Patrick Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Norman, Archie Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Norris, Dan Snape, Peter
Oaten, Mark Soames, Nicholas
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Soley, Clive
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Spellar, John
O'Hara, Eddie Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Spring, Richard Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Squire, Ms Rachel Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Tyler, Paul
Steen, Anthony Vaz, Keith
Steinberg, Gerry Wallace, James
Stevenson, George Walley, Ms Joan
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Walter, Robert
Stoate, Dr Howard Ward, Ms Claire
Stott, Roger Wardle, Charles
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin Waterson, Nigel
Straw, Rt Hon Jack Watts, David
Stringer, Graham Webb, Steve
Stuart, Ms Gisela Wells, Bowen
Stunell, Andrew White, Brian
Sutcliffe, Gerry Whitehead, Dr Alan
Swayne, Desmond Whitney, Sir Raymond
Syms, Robert Whittingdale, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wicks, Malcolm
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
(Dewsbury) Wilkinson, John
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S) Willetts, David
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Wlliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Willis, Phil
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Wills, Michael
Taylor, Sir Teddy Wilson, Brian
Temple—Morris, Peter Winnick, David
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Timms, Stephen Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Tipping, Paddy Woodward, Shaun
Todd, Mark Woolas, Phil
Tonge, Dr Jenny Worthington, Tony
Touhig, Don Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Townend, John Wyatt, Derek
Tredinnick, David Yeo, Tim
Trend, Michael Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul Tellers for the Ayes:
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Janet Anderson and
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown) Mr. Jim Dowd.
Abbott, Ms Diane McDonnell, John
Barnes, Harry Mahon, Mrs Alice
Bennett, Andrew F Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Canavan, Dennis Sarwar, Mohammad
Clapham, Michael Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Cohen, Harry Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Corbyn, Jeremy Wareing, Robert N
Dafis, Cynog Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Galloway, George Wse, Audrey
Gerrard, Neil Wray, James
Grant, Bernie
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Tellers for the Noes:
Livingstone, Ken Mr. Tam Dalyell and
Llwyd, Elfyn Mr. Tony Benn.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House condemns the continuing refusal of Iraq to comply with its obligations under the relevant post-ceasefire UN Security Council Resolutions, by allowing UNSCOM to carry out without restrictions the required inspections of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes; believes that these programmes represent a continuing threat to international peace and stability; fully supports the efforts of the Government to reach a diplomatic solution to the present confrontation with Iraq within the framework of these Security Council Resolutions; fully supports the resolve of the Government to use all necessary means to achieve an outcome consistent with these Resolutions; and emphasises the importance of setting the clearest possible objectives linked to any action that might be taken.