HL Deb 06 September 1990 vol 521 cc1795-894

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness) rose to move, That this House takes note of the developments in the Gulf and of Her Majesty's Government's response to them.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to give a full account of events and of the Government's actions. Iraq has illegally invaded, occupied and attempted to annex Kuwait; our armed forces have been deployed in response to requests for assistance to deter further aggression by Saddam Hussein and under Article 51 of the UN Charter in pursuance of decisions of the Security Council intended to bring about Iraq's unconditional withdrawal. British civilians together with others in Iraq and Kuwait are caught up in the crisis, and are being used as hostages. The Government welcome the full participation of your Lordships in this important debate.

Your Lordships will recall that in July Iraq and Kuwait became involved in a dispute over oil pricing and production levels, and over mutual obligations resulting from the production and sale of oil during the Iraq-Iran war. Saddam Hussein also introduced the question of Iraqi territorial claims on Kuwait. The claims by successive Iraqi governments that Kuwait, as part of the former Ottoman province of Basra, was an integral part of Iraq are without legal basis. Kuwait has enjoyed full and recognised independence since 1961 and is a full member of the United Nations.

As the dispute developed, Iraq deployed troops in forward positions near the border with Kuwait. Following active Arab diplomacy, notably by President Mubarak of Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait agreed to bilateral talks in Jedda on 1st August with the prospect of a further round in Baghdad. The Iraqi Government gave explicit assurances to Egypt and Saudi Arabia that they had no intention of invading Kuwait. Despite his assurances to other Arab governments and leaders, Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi forces to invade Kuwait in the early hours of 2nd August. They did so under the pretext of responding to a request for assistance from a non-existent revolutionary government, which they alleged had overthrown the government of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein then established a puppet regime consisting entirely of Iraqi officers. He later claimed to have annexed. Kuwait, which he now describes as a province of Iraq.

The invasion was a flagrant breach of faith. It shows that Saddam Hussein cannot be taken at his word. It is equally a flagrant and indefensible breach of international law. The invasion comes at a time when events in Eastern Europe and the ending of the Cold War had opened up new opportunities to establish a just system for the settlement of disputes and conduct of affairs between nations: for the government of world events by the rule of law. This peaceful and hopeful process has been challenged by Saddam Hussein. This is why claims that the invasion of Kuwait is purely an inter-Arab dispute are not sustainable. It is an international issue, affecting world security, world oil supplies, and world economic stability. Let me stress that it affects the security and confidence of all small states, not only those in the Middle East. If Iraqi action is unchecked none of them will be able to feel secure, and unwelcome ghosts of the 1930s will be raised.

The world has responded with speed, unanimity and resolve. On 2nd August, the very day of the invasion, the Security Council adopted Resolution SCR 660 condemning the invasion and calling for Iraq's unconditional withdrawal. On 4th August the European Community and its member states took measures to protect Kuwaiti assets, to freeze Iraqi assets, to embargo oil and to stop arms sales to Iraq. It also agreed to work for comprehensive economic sanctions in the Security Council. Two days later, when Iraq failed to comply, the Security Council adopted Resolution SCR 661 imposing comprehensive mandatory sanctions on Iraq.

The Security Council has since adopted three further resolutions, declaring Iraq's annexation of Kuwait null and void, condemning Iraq's actions against the foreign community in Kuwait and Iraq, and authorising UN member states to take necessary measures against shipping to ensure the strict implementation of sanctions. As was pointed out at the time, this includes the use of minimum force.

Let us not forget that not one single country voted against any of these resolutions. The United Nations has been truly united. A clear objective has been agreed: to bring about the unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and restoration of the legitimate Kuwaiti Government. The means the world has chosen are universally implemented, comprehensive, economic sanctions. And full UN authority has been given for their effective enforcement.

Iraq is vulnerable to sanctions. Its economy is based almost totally on the export of a single commodity, oil, through a limited number of identifiable outlets. These can be monitored and if necessary blockaded. Iraq is also heavily dependent on imports, not only of food, but also of other commodities. And it has limited currency reserves following the war with Iran. That means that co-ordinated, determined pressure can force President Saddam to think again. Rigorous implementation of sanctions by the whole world is vital to make the policy work.

We pay tribute to the governments of countries in the region. The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey have acted with wisdom and courage. Many members of the Arab League have shown great resolution, and we applaud the members of the Gulf Co-operation Council who have roundly confronted Iraq. They have backed the UN at great difficulty and risk to themselves. For a number of countries, supporting sanctions will bring serious economic hardship. We are already considering how the international community can help them—especially those not bearing the direct cost of military +deployment.

Britain has been in almost continual close consultation with the other permanent members and has played a full role in this remarkable international response. We have helped to steer those resolutions through the Security Council and we have helped to set up a United Nations Sanctions Committee to ensure that implementation is closely monitored.

We have also been active outside the United Nations. We have worked closely with the United States and with France and other partners in NATO, the Western European Union and other European Community countries to ensure that we have been working together for the same goals. The European Community countries, under the presidency of Italy, have co-operated particularly closely in protecting the safety of their nationals in Iraq and Kuwait.

But we must not forget the nationals of other countries. Some of the countries bordering Iraq are facing severe difficulties from the many thousands of refugees—Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis—fleeing from Saddam Hussein. Both they and the refugees themselves need help until passage home can be arranged. We have already made available £1.4 million for refugee relief and we shall also be providing further help through the European Community. I can announce that we are making an immediate further contribution of £2 million to the relevant international organisations. This brings our total humanitarian relief so far to £5.4 million.

Our other, equally urgent, objective has been to deter further Iraqi aggression against Saudi Arabia or other countries in the region. In this the United States has given a firm and rapid lead. American forces were sent very rapidly, and Britain's own forces followed soon thereafter. The Government have co-ordinated with our American allies in planning a collective defensive response to the military threat from Iraq in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and at the request of states in the region. We acted together. If we had not done so there is reason to believe that Saddam Hussein would have gone further.

The detail of the action we have taken will be familiar. We have deployed a squadron of Tornado F3 air defence aircraft, a squadron of Tornado GR1 aircraft to provide day and night anti-armour capacity and a squadron of Jaguar aircraft for ground support. We have also deployed a number of Nimrod air surveillance aircraft. One Royal Navy destroyer and two frigates are in the Gulf. A second destroyer is on its way, as are three mine clearance vessels. Those ships are accompanied by a number of support vessels. In all we have some 11 ships in the area, over 40 aircraft and 2,500 men. We expect to send additional forces. Their composition is under consideration.

So let there be no misunderstanding. That deployment, like that of the United States, is at the request of governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other states in the area. In the case of Bahrain, its government invoked our treaty of friendship. The deployment is for defensive and deterrent purposes.

Several of our European partners have since joined us, as well as a number of Arab and Commonwealth countries. We believe that the forces now on the ground in the region are sufficient to deter further aggression and that the threat to Saudi Arabia and to international oil supplies has been met. The costs of such a military operation are of course enormous. They must be shared by the community of nations, including those whose security we are safeguarding. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are already offering some support.

The Iraqis must now comply with the further international requirement for them to withdraw from Kuwait. How they do so is for them to decide. But comply they must. Sanctions are the means the world has chosen to press them. They are of course a peaceful means; but other means are available and it would be unwise and give Saddam Hussein unnecessary comfort to rule out their use.

We are all shocked by the Iraqi Government's action in rounding up foreign nationals for use as a human shield. It is abhorrent and a further breach of humanitarian law. We are all deeply concerned for their well-being. The Government are in constant contact with Iraqi representatives in London, New York and Baghdad and have made clear that if there are illegal actions against our people we shall hold Iraqi officials individually responsible. We have also been in contact with the International Red Cross, which shares our view that Iraq's action is in contravention of the Geneva conventions on treatment of civilians.

The recent release of some women and children is welcome. I am delighted that we have been able to arrange for transportation of so many women and children from Kuwait to Baghdad on their homeward journey. Let us not forget that these people should never have been detained. Their release does not make the detention of their sons, husbands and fathers any less reprehensible.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Caithness

Our ambassador in Baghdad is doing his utmost to protect British citizens. In Kuwait we and some 30 other countries have refused to comply with Iraq's illegal attempt to close embassies and to prevent them offering protection to their citizens. Despite encirclement by Iraqi troops and other harassment, our ambassador, Michael Weston, and his small staff of volunteers continue to offer what help they can to the beleaguered British community. The House, I am sure, will join me in paying tribute to them and to the courage of all British people who are caught up in the terrible events in Iraq and Kuwait.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Caithness

Our thoughts go also to their families. We cannot guarantee the safety of the hostages. In cases of hostage taking there can be no simple assurances. But their well-being would not be helped by our giving in to blackmail. Any concession leads to further demand.

I am sure the House will agree that we cannot give in to this sort of pressure. We cannot be deflected from the determined course of action on which we have agreed in order to prevent the aggressor benefiting from his crime. We may face a long task. Resolve and determination will be needed to make the sanctions work and to maintain international unanimity.

The Government will continue to play a full and constructive part. In the coming weeks we shall face distractions. People will say that the international effort is costing too much and is not worth it. People will forget the awfulness of what Iraq has done. There will be calls for compromise, attempts to fudge the issues and to blur the principles. Saddam Hussein will seek to undermine world unanimity.

Of course we are ready to seek a settlement. But there can be no negotiation until after the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, recognition by Iraq of Kuwait's sovereignty and independence, and restoration of the legitimate government. There is no question of any compromise on that

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Caithness

We must remember that if Saddam Hussein is allowed to benefit with impunity from this aggression the consequences will be enormous.

Real progress has been made towards a peaceful world order with effective international institutions underpinning national sovereignty and independence. Both East and West now see in co-operation and collaboration the prospect of a safer, better future. It is an historic opportunity. But it will not be realised if the world permits a clear act of aggression by a powerful state against a weak neighbour. That would in the long term only be an invitation to Saddam Hussein and other dictators of this kind to dare further deeds of aggression.

The world must maintain a clear resolve to prevent this happening. The Government have every intention of playing their part. We hope for, and are working for, a peaceful resolution of the crisis on the only acceptable basis—the reversal of aggression. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the developments in the Gulf and of Her Majesty's Government's response to them.—(The Earl of Caithness.)

2.53 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we warmly welcome the noble Earl to his new office and wish him every success in it. We are also grateful to him for his comprehensive speech in which he set the scene for this most important debate.

I also thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for his positive response to our request for this opportunity to discuss the crisis which faces the world following Saddam Hussein's illegal and indefensible action on 2nd August. He sent his forces into Kuwait, after informing President Mubarak and other Arab leaders that he had in mind no such intention, and the Iraqi Government still occupy that small independent state. There was no justification for that action. It was a calculated crime which, as the noble Earl has just said, will put at risk every small country in the world if not dealt with decisively by the international community.

Saddam Hussein launched his invasion because of his country's dire economic problems, because he wanted Kuwait's oil resources and for wilder reasons of ambition as well. We all know that the politics of the Middle East are complex and fraught with dangers. Arab nationalism, Moslem fundamentalism, the Palestinian problem and hostility towards Israel all contribute to the instability of the Middle East. Such factors are very much in our minds as we consider our responsibilities and the grim implications of an outbreak of war.

For all those reasons I most warmly welcome this opportunity for a debate in this House. It was necessary that the actions taken by the Government and described by the noble Earl were in response to, and in conformity with, the resolutions passed by the Security Council of the United Nations. We strongly support those resolutions and the part played by the Government in achieving them. Taken together they are a positive and constructive set of measures to deal with the crisis brought about by Saddam Hussein.

There was a moment when we appeared to be in danger of going along with the United States earlier than any other nation without United Nations authority. That may have been unavoidable in the circumstances. It was right that the United States should take a strong and firm stand at the outset but equally important that its actions should have upon them the stamp of the United Nations. That was also necessary if the United States was to secure the support of the international community as a whole.

In the event, an historic international agreement was reached. The United Nations achieved a greater degree of unity and a greater world significance than ever before in its history. Five successive resolutions designed to put pressure on Iraq to renounce its annexation of Kuwait have been passed by the Security Council. More than 20 nations, including Arab countries, have sent forces to the area to resist further Iraqi aggression. And, lastly, mandatory economic sanctions are in place.

What is the aim of this display of international co-operation? The objective is to enforce the rule of law, as the noble Earl said. Those of us who remember the well intentioned but timid efforts of the League of Nations in the thirties know how crucial this will be for mankind. On that occasion a dictator undermined and destroyed the League of Nations, misled and cheated democratic leaders, showed contempt for human life and plunged the world into a terrible war in which millions were killed. Incidentally, I remember seeing pictures of that dictator stroking the heads of small children.

Saddam Hussein does not have the resources or the power of that dictator of half a century ago, but he has many of the characteristics. He kills his own people—the Kurdish people—using chemical weapons, as his European predecessor killed Jewish people and all who opposed him. He calls for the support of the Arab people on the grounds of nationalism and on grounds of the Islamic religion—two years after the end of a war in which he played the major role and in which a million Moslems were killed. We in the West must look back at that war with some regret and possibly some embarrassment as well. But that is the menace which the United Nations has resolved to tackle and bring to an end.

There is one other major factor in this crisis for which we must all be profoundly thankful; that is the Soviet Union's condemnation of the invasion and the co-operative attitude of the Soviet Union in the Security Council.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

Even if they do not agree in every detail, to have the two great powers on the same wavelength at this critical time must be of profound importance. Over the past month I have often thought about what might have happened if this crisis had broken seven to 10 years ago when the Soviet Union had a very different leadership. This understanding must be preserved and increased. We therefore warmly welcome the meeting between President Bush and President Gorbachev in Helsinki this coming weekend.

There are those who believe that the outbreak of war is inevitable and there are others who think that it is desirable. President Mitterrand has said that, We are in a logic of war", and we must accept that the build-up of forces in the Gulf set against the erratic leader of Iraq makes the threat of war very real. Dr. Henry Kissinger has argued the case for a pre-emptive military strike on the ground that the long haul of waiting for economic sanctions to bite could cause problems—a point mentioned by the noble Earl—especially the effect upon the people of the United States with memories of Vietnam. What view do the Government take of that proposition? It will be interesting to hear the reactions of the noble Lord the Leader of the House.

I do not believe at this moment that war is inevitable but the more that people in positions of authority say that it is inevitable the more likely they are making it. After all, the Security Council has not thus far resolved upon military action. The policy of the United Nations, supported by all 15 members of the Security Council, including the Soviet Union, is to isolate Iraq through economic and diplomatic measures backed by force if necessary. Here again the objective is reasonable; namely, to secure Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait without the unpredictable damage and grim consequences which an all-out war in the Middle East would inevitably bring.

In any event, it is premature to talk about military action before economic sanctions have been given the chance to work—a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. Of course we know that it will not be an easy operation. The economic blockade will work only if all the nations involved co-operate to make it effective, no matter how long it takes. It is the side with the resources, the side which fights for principles, that has time on its side. Iraq's economy is vulnerable to a blockade but a leakage here or a seepage there could delay or even wreck its effectiveness.

United Nations sanctions intend that all trade—oil exports, financial settlements and virtually all imports—will be stopped. The reality is that because of low oil prices Iraq could not pay its massive foreign debt bill nor buy essential imports. Now there should be no more loans from foreign creditors as there have been over the years. The Iraqis know what it is to suffer shortages and austerity in time of war; they have had that experience. But during the war in the 1980s there was no alternative. Today there is an alternative. The people of Iraq have an alternative; and that is to withdraw from Kuwait. That lies at the very heart of the crisis. That is the substance of the crucial Security Council Resolution 661; namely, that Saddam Hussein's aggression cannot be permitted to stand and that at the end of the day he, or whoever succeeds him, must order the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

But sanctions must be given some time to work; and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say on Sunday that she fully recognised this. The Foreign Secretary repeated this during his tour of the Gulf. I believe that he said it in Saudi Arabia specifically to the Sheikh of Kuwait. Sanctions will work if the international community which supported the United Nations resolution persists in its determination. If it fails, one of two things will happen: either force will be used or the United Nations will collapse and go the way of the League of Nations. The latter is really not possible for the world at this time.

We have all noted with sympathy the efforts made by Perez de Cuellar and King Hussein of Jordan to find some basis for negotiation with Saddam Hussein. Thus far they have not succeeded. King Hussein has been a good friend of this country and we do not forget that at a time when he is placed in an acutely difficult position. It is prudent, in my view, to say no more than that at this moment.

The Secretary General was also right to talk to the Iraqi foreign minister to find out whether there was any hope at present that the Iraqi Government might yield to reason. That effort proved fruitless although the Secretary General has said that he will be available should Iraq show signs of change. However, it appears at the moment to be a bleak prospect.

I have sought to make it plain that we support the broad policies of the Government in this sad affair, but there are some questions that I must put to the noble Lord. I shall do so briefly.

First, I think that the House will wish to know the cost of the operation thus far and the estimated future cost between now and the end of the year. This is the biggest military operation since the Falklands campaign. My noble friend Lord Williams will go into greater detail on the military implications when he winds up. However, I hope that the noble Lord can give us some idea of the scale of expenditure involved because it has wide implications.

Secondly, I must refer to the whole question of the sale of arms to Iraq. I shall avoid detail, but the fact is that the West, including ourselves, has sustained and pampered Saddam Hussein for many years and all of us are reaping the harvest of our misjudgment. But more immediately and specifically, grave allegations are now being made that a London company, TDG, is the front for Saddam Hussein's arms network. I saw the BBC "Panorama" programme on Monday night, as no doubt did many other noble Lords. The charges made, as noble Lords will recall, were that the strategy of this firm is to buy into companies with weapon making capacity and that the company is used to procure nuclear and other advanced armaments technology. I must say that I found the evidence compelling. But a very serious allegation was also made; namely, that the Government have taken no steps to halt the operations of TDG. I have no doubt that since the programme and the articles which have appeared in the press Ministers have examined the charges carefully. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will clarify the position in detail when he replies to the debate.

Thirdly, the noble Earl has referred to the totally unsatisfactory treatment of British and other nationals in Kuwait and Iraq—treatment which, as he said, is grossly in breach of international law and of civilised practice. They are all very much in our minds in this debate. We also welcome the humanitarian aid which the Government have given to help those who are suffering as a result of Saddam Hussein's action. Will the noble Lord give some estimate of the number who will remain in Kuwait and in Iraq after the current outflow has concluded? The clear statement of the United Nations is to be found in Resolution 664. But the danger is that this entire matter will be at the whim of Saddam Hussein and his obsession for false propaganda. Perhaps the noble Lord will also give us a little guidance on that.

Finally, we have noted that there has been discussion about the steps which should be taken when the crisis is over. Mr. Baker, the United States Secretary of State, told the Congress Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that some security arrangements for the Middle East along the lines of NATO might be a solution, and other tentative proposals have been made by several people, including my right honourable friend Mr. Kaufman. No doubt the Government have this in mind. Perhaps the noble Lord will give us an indication of ministerial thinking upon it.

I think we can all agree that thus far the political parties in this country have since 2nd August been able in broad terms to agree with the policies pursued by the Government. In the face of a crisis with unpredictable consequences that is of the first importance. I hope that the leadership on all sides will make special efforts to make sure that this accord continues. Of course we need to know the Government's mind both in the short and in the longer term. We need to have a clear view of the Government's aims and relationships in the crisis. I assume that our aims are those embodied in the resolutions. I further assume that they are to persist strongly with sanctions; and both Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Douglas Hurd have underlined that in recent days. The economic squeeze appears to be tightening slowly but on no account can it be breached. We must hope fervently that it will succeed and that the people who have suffered much under him will unseat their wicked leader.

We do not want war. Even a limited war would be costly in terms of life, while an extended war would have unpredictable consequences in both human and political terms. But if Saddam Hussein persists in flouting the authority of the United Nations he is inviting the use of force under a Security Council resolution. It is only Saddam Hussein, with his vast ambition to challenge the West, to lead the whole Arab nation from the east to the west of Africa and not least to destroy Israel, who can turn war away. But the great tides of destiny and history are against Saddam Hussein. Let us hope and pray that they bring him down in peace and not in war.

3.11 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for the succinctness and dignity of his speech in opening the debate this afternoon. A redeeming feature of this long drawn out but menacing crisis is the remarkable degree of consensus which so far has been achieved and preserved in this country and in the United Nations. "Consensus" is not one of the Prime Minister's favourite words, but with a few exceptions she has done little to upset it. Mr. Hurd, in giving the Foreign Secretaryship a higher profile than we have been used to seeing under this Government, has played a notable role in maintaining it. So has Mr. Bush. We are lucky to have him in the White House—or even in Kennebunkport if he is not in the White House.

The main object of policy, compatible with not letting Saddam Hussein get away with it, must be to maintain that consensus both at home and abroad. Neither object may be easy to achieve but both are prizes of rare value. If we want a reverse precedent for the value of preserving substantial unity at home we have only to cast our minds back to the Suez adventure. Surely it must stand as the text-book example of how not to conduct a Middle Eastern adventure. It divided the nation perhaps even more than Munich. It also dangerously divided the Western Alliance, united the Arab states and most of the rest of the world against us and failed abysmally in its objectives. It can serve as a useful benchmark for what not to do. The case for preserving unity abroad is still more important.

The first is a British problem; the second is a global problem upon which will turn the outcome of these events. But of course to a substantial extent they are the reverse sides of the same coin. The best way to preserve the consensus at home is to maintain the consensus abroad. Therefore, it appears to me to be peculiarly foolish for some commentators to give the impression of looking almost hopefully for cracks both here and in the United Nations which will divide the sheep from the goats, the hawks from the doves, the men from the boys and generally enable those who like to denounce wets, wimps, liberals (with a small "l") and rational thinkers to feel better.

I read an article in last week's Sunday Telegraph—a paper which I greatly enjoy but which falls very much into that category—under the title, Time to trust the US and not the UN". The article was rather better than the title. But I want to trust both: to have the power and will of the United States acting as a spearhead of the United Nations and under its authority. That appears to me to be the only way in which we are likely to obtain a satisfactory outcome, whether more or less peacefully or after a conflict.

The United States has fought two bloody conflicts during the 40 years of the Cold War. One—that is Vietnam—was effectively lost and was a disaster in its effects upon American self-confidence, American society, American finances and world inflation. The other—that is Korea—was won. It achieved its limited but vital objective of preventing the Communist takeover of South Korea and it enhanced American prestige and leadership capacity in the difficult decades that lay ahead.

It is no accident that the war that was won was fought under United Nations auspices and the war that was lost was not. It is greatly to be hoped that events in the desert will not repeat those in Korea to the extent of involving half a million American casualties or the insubordination (and eventual incompetence) of a commander such as MacArthur. Nonetheless, it is the locus classicus, just as Suez is the reverse, of an effective action carried out mainly by one great power under the authority of the international peace-keeping organisation.

At that time that authority was by accident just as great and as near to unanimity as it was recently and with a similar pattern of voting in the Security Council. The first vote, demanding North Korean withdrawal, was carried by nine votes to nil, with one abstention, which was Yugoslavia. The second vote, held two days later and authorising military action, was carried by seven votes to one. Yugoslavia had moved to dissent and India and Egypt had moved from assent to abstention. Nevertheless, it was a strong majority.

There were no vetoes on either occasion. That was as a result of an extraordinary piece of luck; in protest at the continued presence of nationalist China, Russia had walked out of the Security Council in the previous January. It returned a month later, so why it did not do so for at least a second vote defies interpretation.

But this time we have an even greater and more securely based piece of luck. We do not have merely the chance absence of the Soviet Union; we have its only slightly tentative support. We hope that on Saturday in Helsinki Mr. Bush may be able to solidify that and make this not only the first post-Cold War crisis but also the first time in history that the United Nations has been able to show what it can do when no longer hobbled by an automatic superpower split.

In these circumstances, surely it would be more undesirable that we should in any way encourage the US to take unilateral action in a way that would certainly make a range of countries—China without question, Russia maybe, possibly France and probably all the Arab countries except Kuwait—drop off as apples dropping off a bough. That does not preclude military action when and if sanctions are failing to do the job. But it precludes military action taken unilaterally or prematurely in order to show that the United States can still flex its muscles as a superpower, even though now without its symbiotic partner. However, it must be said that the Washington Government, even though urged in that direction by some former Secretaries of State, show very little sign of so acting. The British Government would be remarkably foolish if they were tempted to become an almost solitary trumpeter for such action.

There is one other lesson to be drawn from the Korean parallel. Again, in contrast with Vietnam, at that time the United States received very widespread assistance. Land troops were sent by 13 different countries. Britain and Turkey—perhaps a surprising pair—contributed the most. Some of the other contributions were fairly nominal. India, Italy, and three Scandinavian countries sent only a few field admirals. However, I do not recollect either President Truman or Mr. Attlee, with his full brigade in the most exposed parts of the front, denouncing the parsimony or the pusillanimity of those who did much less. They were thankful for what they could get, recognising a certain difference in national traditions. More importance was attached to keeping countries on board than to lecturing them for their inadequacies. I believe that we could have done without Mrs. Thatcher's strictures at Helsinki—a city which is assuming a frequent role in these events. I hope that Mr. Bush will be more persuasive there this weekend.

Anything to do with Chancellor Kohl seems to have an unsettling effect on the Prime Minister. It is easy always to be looking for the mote in other countries' eyes. The Americans could complain that we have no land forces on the ground, and, indeed, some congressional voices have been raised to that effect. No doubt we shall hear more of that. However, the way to maintain a united front is not for everybody to be uncomprehending of the problems of other countries.

It seems to me to be extraordinarily insensitive not to recognise first that the Germans are, to say the least, somewhat preoccupied with their Eastern problems at present and that they feel inhibited by their Basic Law from deploying forces outside the NATO area. That was reaffirmed in 1954 (when German rearmament was a most controversial issue) to reassure ourselves and Germany's other NATO partners. It is rather harsh to accuse Germany both of being a potential juggernaut and of paying too much attention to the speed limit she has placed upon herself in order to reassure other road users.

I do not believe that we should be wise to become involved too deeply in legalistic disputes about exactly how much can be done under Article 51 and without further authorisation. An article in The Times this morning suggesting that statements by the Kuwaiti delegate to the UN may have undermined that case shows what a quagmire that can be. The reality of the matter is that whether or not we legally need it, there are immense practical as well as moral advantages in maintaining a position in which the necessary majority in the UN is still with us. Not to be able to win a vote is at least half the battle lost, whether or not one can claim that the vote is legally unnecessary.

The problems confronting this Government and the governments of other countries with which we are associated are delicate and difficult. There are at least three propositions to be reconciled: first, Saddam Hussein must withdraw from Kuwait and in no way profit from his aggression; secondly, without the Americans being prepared to take special responsibilities on their shoulders, the excellent resolutions of the UN could prove little more than a wringing of hands; the equally valid third proposition is that the Americans acting alone—or with us alone in their support—would shatter the world consensus and produce such a wave of Arab reaction that we should probably be worse off at the end than at the beginning.

Therefore, the feat of statesmanship which must be accomplished is the maintenance of the marriage of United States power and United Nations moral authority. Either alone is inadequate but if they can be kept together we might begin to forge a new post-Cold War world order. So long as Her Majesty's Government try to do that, they will have our resolute support.

3.25 p.m.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

My Lords, I say at once that. I believe that the actions of Her Majesty's Government in response to developments in the Gulf have been sound. I join with those who preceded me in thanking the noble Earl for his objective account of that. Iraq's naked aggression against the state of Kuwait had to be vigorously resisted. With commendable speed, and to the surprise of many people, the UN Security Council that same day condemned the invasion and called upon Iraq immediately and unconditionally to withdraw all its forces.

Since then, the UN Security Council has passed four further resolutions. For virtually the first time since its inception, the UN has acted as its founders intended. That is a triumph for international order which should not be allowed to crumble.

Above all, we must give time for the sanctions to work. The Prime Minister said on Sunday that they must be given "a few months" to work. That is surely right. The pipelines are cut, Iraqi ports are blockaded and there is no way in which their oil can be exported. That is a more powerful sanction than any I can think of in modern times. It is certainly far more powerful, for example, than the sanctions against the import of oil by Southern Rhodesia where there was a great deal of leakage by both land and sea.

The wording of Resolution 661 is clear about the extent of the sanctions. They cover the sale or supply to Kuwait and Iraq of "any commodities or products". But they expressly exclude: supplies intended strictly for medical purposes and, in humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs". That is surely the right balance. The more extensive the sanctions, the more effective they are likely to be. But there must be no wish to cause needless suffering by the deprivation of medical supplies or essential foodstuffs. In this matter we must be prepared to err on the side of humanity.

Many of us know from our experience of the Second World War that a nation under seige can show remarkable resilience. There will be pressures for a quick strike against Iraq. Those have already been heard. However, unless the Iraqis take further aggressive steps, such pressures must be firmly resisted, at least until the sanctions have had time to work.

I am no strategist, so I shall not burden the House with further thoughts about the way in which the continuing crisis should be handled from day to day. However, I would like to call attention to several underlying factors that seem to me to be important.

We must be quite clear in our minds that this crisis is not a clash between Christianity and Islam. Nor is it anything to do with Islamic fundamentalism. It is to do with old-fashioned naked aggression. Of course, President Saddam will seek to exploit Islamic fundamentalism—we have heard him do so—and we must take care not to increase his opportunities to do so.

Nor should we overlook the fact that Iraq in fact has a better record of accepting Christian Churches than some other states in the region. The Anglican communities in Kuwait and Iraq are almost entirely expatriate. But there are significant numbers of indigenous Christians, in particular the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox, together with the ancient Church of the East—the so-called Assyrian Church. In addition, derived from these communities, there are Churches which are now in communion with Rome. A Syrian Orthodox bishop and an Assyrian priest—both from Iraq—attended the Lambeth Conference two years ago. We should remember that these people are local, Iraqi citizens.

We should have in mind too the substantial Moslem minority in Britain. We must take special care to see that they do not become the victims of any backlash arising from careless confusion of the Government of Iraq with Islam or Islamic fundamentalism. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Moslems in Britain are of Pakistan or Bangladeshi origin, and that both those countries have sent armed forces to the defence of Saudi Arabia.

A majority of the states of the Arab League and of the Islamic Conference Organisation have condemned the Iraqi aggression. More importantly, at their meeting in Cairo on 10th August the majority of Arab states called for a positive response to the Saudi request for Arab troops. That is a remarkable situation, not least because some of those states are under considerable internal pressure from those who are understandably attracted by Saddam Hussein's beguiling appeal to Arab nationalism and to legitimate Palestinian grievances.

We cannot disregard history, though we must not let ourselves become paralysed by it. We cannot just set aside the role of the Western powers in the Middle East, especially the role of Britain and France, in fixing the boundaries of that part of the world after the First World War. It was a regrettable chapter of contradictory and therefore inevitably broken promises, not only for the Arabs but also for people like the wretched Kurds who found themselves spread over four states and who have suffered abominably, most recently from Iraqi chemical weapons. Of course, the Arabs were no angels in the process of constructing the modern boundaries of the Middle East; they were and are just as liable to the temptations of human greed as any other group of people. But, in looking at the map of the Middle East today, we cannot disregard the fact that we played a central role in constructing it. Nor can we disregard the suspicions in Arab minds that arise from our earlier role.

I must say a word about two groups of hostages. Two weeks ago we heard with great joy of the release of Brian Keenan after four and a half years of cruel captivity as a hostage in Lebanon. I doubt if there are any Members of this House who were not deeply moved by his grace, courage and humour. But there are other hostages in Lebanon, including John McCarthy, Terry Waite and Jack Mann and, of course, many hundreds of Lebanese of all persuasions. The turbulence in the Middle East causes extra distress for their families, though I am happy to say that there is also some cause for optimism that their anguish will be over before long.

There is also that large group of hostages held in Kuwait and Iraq in flagrant contravention of international law. Their detention plainly causes great distress to their relatives. Everyone in this House will share that distress and pray that their nightmare is quickly ended. It also poses another grave problem for the British and other governments. It must weigh heavily upon Ministers. But I am bound to say—in agreement with the noble Earl in his speech—that while their plight must obviously be a major factor in the Government's reckoning, in the last resort it cannot determine policy, for that would encourage any future aggressor to behave in the same barbarous way. Every possible step must be taken to ensure their safe return. That is another proper reason for making it plain, as the Prime Minister has done, that we are determined to give time for the sanctions to work.

We have a legitimate concern regarding these British subjects. But we cannot overlook the fact that many hundreds of thousands of other people of various nationalities have been displaced from Kuwait and Iraq. Jordan in particular has been faced with a massive influx of people fleeing across its border with Iraq. Many of the refugees are from the poorest countries which have little capacity to help them; for example, Egypt, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Most of the refugees are Moslem people. We must never forget that they are the most numerous victims of the aggression to date. Our reaction to their plight tests our claim to moral principles. I applaud the powerful presentation in today's Independent on this theme. The world needs not only policemen but prompt and effective Samaritans.

The co-ordination of disaster relief is seen once again to demand the most vigorous attention and a higher priority in the international community. Meanwhile we must hear more of what is being done. I am grateful for the figures given to us by the noble Earl in his speech. We must hear more of what we can support. We must never allow the plight of these people to be relegated to the sidelines. If ever there was a place for a religious leader to sound an unqualified moral imperative in a debate, it is here.

Finally, the Christian churchman who contributes to a debate of this grave character may be expected to give, albeit briefly, some wider religious justification for his words. The Christian has a built-in resistance to the use of force. We are given only one mandate. We are to be peacemakers. But the Bible insists that we live in a world in rebellion against its own best interests, a world which has rejected the order given to it by its creator. Christianity does not lack realism about the intransigence of conflict. The scriptures speak of our responsibility for seeking justice and the well-being of creation in the world as it exists. The hard fact is that the use of force is caused as much by human virtues—our sense of justice; our belief in the difference between right and wrong; our readiness for self-sacrifice on behalf of others—as it is by any of our failures.

A call for prayer will always be a call for peacemaking, and I issue a call for that spiritual weapon at this time of crisis for so many. No matter how turbulent the world or how painful the choices, it is through the grace of God that we are made instruments of peace in the ambiguities of a world made dangerous by human folly and wickedness.

3.39 p.m.

Lord Carrington

My Lords, the House will have particularly welcomed the robust and predictably sensible and humane speech of the most reverend Primate. The debate so far has been harmonious. I hope that I shall do nothing to disturb that.

I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government or the United States Government could have done other than they have. All experience in international affairs demonstrates that to show weakness in the face of aggression, such as President Saddam Hussein has committed against Kuwait, stores up much bigger trouble for the future and much greater danger. We have some unhappy memories of that kind of policy.

We can all see what the probable consequences of weakness would be. Those are the central issues which must guide our policies. If the United Nations resolution is flouted and President Saddam Hussein successfully resists world opinion, certain things will inevitably follow. He and Iraq will be the masters of the Middle East. Neither the Gulf states nor Saudi Arabia and Jordan could long survive the consequences of their present policy. Iraq would inevitably bring pressure on them. In the light of the leadership that Egypt has shown among those Arab states opposed to the Iraqi policy, its own regime would be seriously at risk. It would not be long before Iraq turned its attention to Israel via Jordan, bringing the probability of war and the near certain involvement of the United States and probably others too. President Saddam Hussein would be undisputed controller of Western oil supplies, with his hand on the windpipe of the world. I do not believe that that is a situation which we can conceivably contemplate let alone accept, however grave the measures we may have to take. There is no way in which the world can allow the Iraqi president to succeed.

But in this rather gloomy scenario there are certain encouraging features. As the Leader of the Opposition said, a year or two ago it would have been inconceivable that the United Nations Security Council could have unanimously passed a resolution in the terms that it did or countenanced the use of force to maintain the blockade. Nor, a short time ago, would we have witnessed the outright condemnation of this aggression by the Soviets and in particular by President Gorbachev himself. Having said that, at this juncture it is by no means certain that the United Nations measures will be successful. Will the sanctions be effective? Will there be widespread evasion? How long is it likely to take before the sanctions have sufficient bite seriously to compel President Saddam Hussein to accept the United Nations resolution for a total withdrawal from Kuwait? Does the free world have the patience and the stamina for a long haul?

Such experience as we have of sanctions shows that, on the whole, they take a long time to bite and that there are always those who, for money, are prepared to evade them, sometimes very successfully. There is some evidence that this is already beginning to happen. The longer it takes, the more likely it is that the immediate urgency and resolution which have been created over these past few weeks will disappear. There may well be a shrugging of the shoulders on the part of some countries in the United Nations and a tacit acceptance of what they will regard as a fait accompli. We can already see in some of the comments made recently by prominent people, notably Mr. Jesse Jackson, that there is talk of concessions, and a number of people have made it clear that in no circumstances would they support military action. The fact remains that, in spite of these difficulties, we have obviously to give time for sanctions to work and do everything in our power to make sure they are successful and that a peaceful solution is arrived at.

But what if, after a reasonable period, it is clear that sanctions are not succeeding and are not likely to be successful? Is President Saddam Hussein to be allowed to get away with it? If he does, the whole credibility of the West, and more particularly, of the United States, will crumble, with all the consequences that I have forecast. In those circumstances, is it likely that the United Nations Security Council would specifically authorise the use of force; and, if not, should the United States and other like-minded governments, if there be any, rely on the existing resolution as sufficient legal and moral authority?

In either of those events, and particularly in the second case, I suspect that a number of countries, at the present time prepared to support what has so far been done, would campaign vigorously against using force in any circumstances. It would be reasonable to assume, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, did, that a large part of the Arab world would unite against what they would be encouraged to see as American aggression. And we have to remember, if we are realistic, that American policy in the Middle East for the past 40 years has been perceived to be anti-Arab and pro-Israel. For all those reasons, if we can possibly do so the use of force should be avoided.

There is no doubt then that there are difficult decisions ahead. But in the short term there are a number of things that can be done. First of all, we must be as sure as possible that there are no loopholes or evasions to the sanctions or the blockade. We must deal firmly with those who are evading them. Secondly, it must be explained in the most stark terms to the governments of the United Nations what the consequences of a United Nations failure would be. That is the job of all responsible governments and should not just be left to the United States. Thirdly, we must in no circumstances, now or in the future, rule out the use of force. To do so, as some would seem to advocate, is to remove the strongest single pressure on Iraq. It would, in effect, be a clear sign to the Iraqis that the international community is in the end not prepared to face up to the logic of its moral and legal position on the total unacceptability of the conquest by arms of a sovereign country.

I very much hope that on Sunday President Bush and President Gorbachev can come out clearly and publicly in agreeing that the United Nations resolutions must be obeyed and that necessary steps, whatever they may be, will be taken to ensure that they are obeyed.

I should like to touch on one other matter which, although perhaps not immediately relevant, is something on which the European Community might usefully reflect. This crisis has shown up how far removed the 12 countries are from achieving a closer political association. If the Prime Minister or President Mitterrand had waited until the Community had decided what its policy was and what its actions should be, the United States would have found itself wholly alone, its chief allies unable to make up their minds quickly enough to have any influence on events.

This crisis is essentially a matter affecting the security of the Community as a whole—not, it is true, its security in terms of East-West relations, but certainly its security in the long term not only in terms of oil supplies but in terms of peace in the Middle East. For those of us who believe, as I do, that, if the Community is to have any influence in world affairs and that after 1992 there must inevitably be a closer political element to match the economic integration, there are urgent lessons to be learnt from the past month.

In the future, the Community must concern itself with its own security and, though this is not the moment to develop that theme, there are, it seems to me, ways in which that could be done in association with an evolution of NATO in a rather different form from what it is now.

In sum, therefore, I believe that the Government have acted absolutely correctly: that to allow the actions of President Saddam Hussein to prevail would be an unmitigated disaster leading to infinitely more serious trouble in the future. I believe that we should give sanctions a good chance but, if they do not succeed, we should not exclude the need to take military action. The responsibility for that and its consequences would lie wholly with the Iraqi Government and not with those seeking to uphold the recognised standards of civilised behaviour.

De Tocqueville once said: A democracy is unable to regulate the details of an important undertaking, to persevere in a design, and to work out its execution in the face of serious obstacles. It cannot combine its measures with secrecy and it will not await their consequences with patience". That will be the Iraqi hope. De Tocqueville's words should be a warning to us and an imperative to prove him wrong.

3.52 p.m.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

My Lords, I am sure that if de Tocqueville had continued the thought expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, he would have gone on to add that, in a democracy where people and Members of Parliament are free to speak their minds, a government can only be strengthened by the kind of debate which is taking place in this and another place this afternoon, and that the expression of our opinion here is bound to strengthen the Government in the policies which they are following. So much then for de Tocqueville.

I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who has now joined the Foreign Office. He has joined a very fine office which is often blamed for things which are not its responsibility. However, I am bound to say that so far as concerns this particular crisis, I feel that the Secretary of State for foreign relations and his team have done all that could be expected of them. They deserve our support. It seems to me that they have combined firmness with caution in the proper degrees. I hope that they will continue to do so.

The importance of this debate as I see it is that the Government should answer questions—the kind of questions put by my noble friend, whose sentiments I agree with, to the Government Front Bench this afternoon. I believe that we should also, without too much niggling, give the Government the backing which is needed in what is the most critical situation we have had to face for many years. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, that to some extent it resembles Korea. I have a personal recollection of that time as I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. There was hesitation for a day or two before the United Nations resolutions were passed.

At the time, my room was next to that of Lord Mountbatten. I well remember one morning when my door was thrown open and he strode in—Lord Mountbatten always strode, he never walked. He told us—and how our hearts rejoiced when we recognised this first great challenge of an armed aggression after World War II (which we had hoped was the war to end all wars)—that Harry Truman was going to respond in the way that President Bush has now responded under the aegis of the United Nations.

There are indeed many parallels, but I shall draw one more. I say this in all friendliness to the Government Front Bench. One of my worries in recent years has been the diminution in the consultation which takes place between government and opposition on matters which are of great international importance. One of the things which was certainly true of the days of Korea was that there was the closest consultation between government and opposition on the steps that the Government were taking. I fully remember that fact. On this particular issue I hope that the Government will take the Opposition into their confidence on the steps which they may feel it is necessary to take. They can only be strengthened if they do so.

In my view the next most important action we must take—indeed, we are already doing it—is to isolate Iraq as completely as we can. The first steps have been taken in that direction, but it is important that they should be strengthened. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, correctly asked the question, "Will sanctions work?". I am sure that the Prime Minister is right when she says that they must be given the time to work. As the noble Lord said, our experience is not always hopeful. However, on the other hand, we must remember that Rhodesia had in South Africa a giant friendly neighbour which was in no way assisting; but the nations which are now on the borders of Iraq have every reason in their own self-interest to assist in the maintenance of sanctions. I trust that they will do so. There is that difference in the situation.

I agree with what I think lay behind the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington; namely, that where a government, an administration or a regime has—as is apparently the case in respect of Saddam Hussein—the support of the great majority of its people for various reasons, either anti-colonialism, because the Americans are there, or for all the other reasons which have been given, then sanctions may cripple its industry. However, a country can stand a very great deal without buckling so long as public opinion is there. I have seen no signs as yet to suggest that public opinion in this respect is crumbling. Therefore, sanctions will have a value; but they will have only a limited value.

Therefore, we must consider what are the alternatives. The options are clear: we either concede and say that aggression can succeed in the long run if the aggressor is firm enough, or we must say that there is an alternative which we shall follow. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as to what the answer to that question will be. We cannot rely wholly upon sanctions; but we should not turn immediately to armed conflict.

It seems to me that we must now pursue a political initiative—the Foreign Office would call it a diplomatic initiative—to a very great extent and use our enemies as well as our friends. Was it not Winston Churchill who said when Stalin came into the war that he would sup with the Devil if it was necessary in order to beat Hitler? I am not comparing Saddam Hussein with Hitler; indeed, I could think of other comparisons. I believe that we should use his friends in order to convince him that we mean what we say and that we do not intend to go back. I am thinking of countries such as Algeria and Libya—and let us not be too hard on King Hussein of Jordan. We all know that he constantly has to walk a tightrope if he is to preserve his kingdom intact. I am sure that after he left Mrs. Thatcher he was in no doubt about the firmness with which we are pursuing the matter. He can convey that fact to Saddam Hussein.

Sanctions are not going to work within the next few weeks; if, indeed, they work at all. They must be given a long time in which to work. What is important is that Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, following the meeting between President Bush and Mr. Gorbachev, should be absolutely convinced of what the alternative is if Saddam Hussein does not withdraw. They can then give their impressions to Saddam Hussein. Whether that will influence him, I do not know; but I am certain that we should use those instruments, messengers and vehicles to convey to Saddam Hussein that there is no escape for him from that dilemma unless he withdraws from Kuwait, ceases to play cat and mouse with the hostages and allows Kuwait to determine its own future. A great political initiative is needed now to support the policy of sanctions which is necessary and which may deliver a blow at him but which I am not at all sure will bring him down.

I have little else to say. We have obviously to strain every effort to achieve our ends by peace under the United Nations. I hope that we shall not be faced with the dilemma as to what we do if support is withdrawn from the United Nations. I do not know that it is necessary to answer that question at present, because every effort must be made to ensure that what has happened so far is continued under the umbrella and the aegis of the United Nations. That is where the effort is required rather than contemplating what we do if we fail to obtain support. Many of us know what decision would have to be taken at the end of the day, but we must strain every effort to achieve our ends through the United Nations and by peaceful means.

There is no doubt that the long-term independence of those Middle East states depends upon the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. I do not know whether I am in order when I refer to this, but if there is a vote in another place I do not believe that it will reveal a basic difference. There are some people who are never happy unless they are in a small minority somewhere. I am sure that one day in the years to come a statue will be erected to my friend Mr. Tony Benn in that mausoleum which is reserved for those whose intellectual agility is only exceeded by their self-righteousness. Let us not think that the vote in another place will be of great significance, because I have no doubt of the overriding national unity of the country in the handling of the situation.

I agree with the concluding remarks of the noble Earl, which I thought had been drafted with great care and which will repay reading. If the Foreign Office follows that line there need be no doubt about the support that it can get. So far as Saddam Hussein is concerned, at the end of the day, sanctions having been fully applied, if our political initiative does not succeed in persuading him that he has no way out except the right way—namely, to withdraw from Kuwait—if all those matters fail to move him, then the peace cannot be kept, and he will have to yield to armed force what he will not yield to morality and to reason. But if we can maintain a firm, united front; if he is clear about our resolve in this matter and our determination to see it through to the end, that in itself is our best hope of ensuring that we can secure his withdrawal without an armed conflict.

4.14 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, after the magnificent speeches from such distinguished noble Lords, what hope is there for a simple soldier? Perhaps, to keep my end up, although I feel diffident about mentioining this, I should say that I reminded your Lordships' House during the debate on the defence estimates on 17th July that the Middle East might explode at any moment; that it was not difficult to imagine a scenario in which our armed forces might be needed in some capacity to counter or balance a pervading threat; and that if that happened, it would not be a question of meddling in affairs that did not concern us, because we would perceive that our interests were much affected and because the result of not becoming involved was likely to be more serious still.

First, I should like to add my congratulations to the Government, especially the right honourable gentleman the Foreign Secretary, on the handling to date of the Gulf crisis. Equally, I have not the slightest doubt that the Government will have been well advised on the military side by the United Kingdom chiefs of staff. It is a question of so far, so good, with some important achievements which should not be underestimated whatever the future holds.

Unhappily, in practice international law so often seems to be governed less by any binding set of rules, even the United Nations Charter, than by what is acceptable, particularly what one can get away with internationally. It was vital—I agree with the Minister—that someone as power hungry as Saddam Hussein should not be allowed to get away with annexing a sovereign state of 70 years' standing and pinching something which did not belong to him, a perception, it is important to remember, not just of the Americans and ourselves but of virtually the whole world (a unanimous Security Council having declared the action invalid and imposed mandatory sanctions, to which it has subsequently given teeth), the majority of the Arab League, the entire European Community and the Soviet Union, without whose co-operation our crisis management might have looked very different, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has reminded us.

After all, many of us remember all too clearly such sinister, high-handed behaviour in Europe in the '30s, each occasion with its own similarly trumped-up excuses and justifications, and how bitterly we came to regret that we had not been in a position to blow the whistle earlier. The important thing is that as a result of this remarkable and almost unique degree of unanimity—the incredibly rapid and powerful American response to the Saudi Arabian request for help, backed by valuable contributions from ourselves, the Arab world and the Soviet Union among many others—Saddam Hussein has not got away with it in the sense that he has been pulled up sharply in his tracks. The situation has been somewhat stabilised, apart from the appalling problem of the refugees. The territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia has been secured. The blockade of Iraq's ailing economy is being made increasingly effective. Iraq is balked from moving offensively in any direction without paying a terrible price which its dictator would be most unlikely to survive.

In short, Saddam Hussein is increasingly isolated: condemned by the United Nations; alienated from other Arab leaders: rejected by his one-time ally; and manifestly worried enough to want to bargain and negotiate to some degree. Hence his posturing on television and his despicable manipulation of the hostages. Any visions that he may have had of Middle Eastern and Arab domination, and of an inexorable march towards a war with Israel, have, if we continue to play our cards wisely, been thwarted, at least for the time being and perhaps for the foreseeable future. That gives a firm base, as has been said, for tough diplomacy and a chance to achieve a just and lasting solution. Saddam Hussein is weaker than when he started on his latest adventure, even though he has launched a well-conducted propaganda offensive designed to divert attention from the immediate issue and to whip up Arab nationalism against outside interference and towards the traditional Arab struggle against Israel. We would have predicted this, and it is something that we have got to learn to live with and counter as we can.

However, now we come to the difficult part because, of course, Iraq is still in Kuwait and shows no signs of handing it back unconditionally. Saddam Hussein still has numerous hostages and that is perhaps an even more worrying card in his pack because of the isolation of the males. The substance of this debate—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—is what we do now. Here I am sure that most noble Lords will advocate cool heads and considerable patience, for there is still much to do and some way to go to increase Iraq's isolation in the United Nations—it is still, after all, essentially their problem—in the Arab world, which has a major stake in cutting Saddam Hussein down to size, and through all possible means of diplomatic pressure, before having to decide whether any further offensive action (other than reacting to his attacking Saudi Arabia) would have to be threatened and, if necessary, taken.

I hope that we can discount the argument that because troops have been deployed they automatically have to do battle. We have grown up since the days when the younger von Moltke told the Kaiser that he had to go to war because the mobilisation plans were too far advanced to stop it. In fact, military force plays a major part in powerful diplomacy. As that great Chinese general and military theorist of over 2,000 years ago, Sum Tso, reminded us, the best general may be the one who achieves his political and strategic objectives without having to fight.

However, in the meantime—and here I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—it cannot be bad from the point of view of crisis management that Saddam Hussein has the possibility of such damaging action hanging over his head, as he is persuaded to ponder the folly of his ways. For he must realise, as General Galtieri had to learn the hard way, that in this world if something or some principle is important enough, it may have to be fought for.

If offensive action is to be considered in the light of the international scene at the time, may I as a former military man make a plea not to underestimate the scale of the task? The noble Lord, Lord Deedes, reminded us in the Daily Telegraph on Monday of Winston Churchill's heartfelt words about never, ever, ever believing that war will be smooth or easy or precisely controllable. The situation in the Gulf has some special problems of its own, both political—on which others are more qualified to judge—and military. The desert can be a harsh environment to the unwary and those not used to operating in it or over it. The Iraqis may not be the greatest army or air force in the world and their success against Iran, at least in offensive operations, was strictly limited.

Nevertheless, we cannot sweep aside, as we have heard some Americans do with macho sentiments and expressions of contempt, the battle experience accumulated in nine years of war. For in the training of a soldier there can be no substitute for actually being shot at by modern weapons and no greater spur than fighting with your back to your homeland. This would be in complete contrast to the Argentinians who have not had a war for a hundred years. The last people who ignored such experience were the Chinese when they failed to teach the North Vietnamese a lesson in the early 1980s.

America, of course, has all the latest technology at its command. With the cloudless skies and lack of cover in the Gulf area, the battle in the air, in which the Americans are immensely strong, could be decisive. But technology will only triumph if there is no complacency and if the tactical plan takes full account of the well tried principles of war and the other prerequisites which make all the difference between winning and losing battles.

I have particularly in mind, apart from the early winning of the air battle, the need for up-to-date and accurate intelligence, both comforting and disquieting; for selecting and maintaining a clear-cut political aim—so lacking in the Suez operation—within which the military can work and develop their own plans. For instance, would the aim be to re-occupy Kuwait or should the release of the hostages and the toppling of Saddam Hussein be just as important? Or would we merely confine ourselves, as Dr. Kissinger advocates, to the destruction of his military assets from long range, being ready to counter-punch when and if he reacted?

In an open debate like this it would be quite wrong to speculate, for an equally important principle of war is that the opposition must be kept constantly surprised and mystified, not only about future intentions but in the course of any offensive itself. None of this would be helped if the media persist in their determination to bare all possible military options to public scrutiny well in advance.

Then if a decision is made to strike, it would have to be made with sufficient concentrated force to put fear into the hearts of the enemy and induce confusion in its leadership. This will not be pleasant, but with such battle-experienced opponents it will be the only way if casualties are to be kept to a minimum and the business completed within an acceptable period of time. Because it will not be pleasant, there is a need not only for maximum international backing, vastly preferable under the United Nations' auspices—and many noble Lords have made this point—but also for a carefully considered programme of psychological operations to support and complement the tactical plan and to combat, where possible, the inevitable propaganda reaction of Iraq. If it were to be felt that in the process the international heat would become too great, it would be better to stay out of the kitchen in the first place. I think that Suez probably taught us that lesson.

Finally, there will have to be a proper chain of command with a good, experienced commander-in-chief to take charge of implementing the general strategy. We cannot win battles by committees, let alone by the military committee of the United Nations. Once the political guidelines and policy on the use of force have been established at governmental level and in the United Nations, the commander-in-chief, whoever he is—and he would have to be an American—and his subordinates must be allowed to fight their battle on land and sea and in the air with as little interference as possible, otherwise, there will be chaos.

All these matters seem obvious enough, but World War II, when they were perfected and commonly practised, is long past. More recent history has shown that they can be easily forgotten. I believe that our Chief of Defence Staff or one of the chiefs of staff should be sent to satisfy himself on how much these important principles have been taken into account in any future American planning, just as was done frequently in World War II. For if they are not diligently followed, an attacker could find himself enmeshed in a longer struggle with much wider ramifications than he bargained for.

So, while hoping above hope, as I know all noble Lords do, that time is on our side, that tough diplomacy on a broad basis backed by effective sanctions and the threat of force will do the trick, the use of force cannot be ruled out for a number of reasons, always provided that the international climate can be held sufficiently tolerant. But we should be under no illusions that we shall be playing for high stakes, particularly political. That makes it all the more necessary not only that we should weigh up the advantages and disadvantages carefully, dispassionately and objectively, but that we should do all we can and use all our influence to see that the Americans do so as well.

Offensive action authorised by the United Nations, with a much better political climate for success, is something to which we would be bound to subscribe with all the force we could muster. But we should not at this stage commit ourselves to further offensive action outside the United Nations unless and until we are convinced that the selective aim is worth the risks and economic costs; that the international climate is at least likely to be tolerant of such action; and that the plans—not taken on face value but vetted by our own chiefs of staff—were felt to be sound enough to ensure the achievement of the aim within a reasonable period of time. We cannot afford a repetition of the Suez fiasco, when the first two criteria at least were not present. Meanwhile I warmly support the actions of the Government.

4.20 p.m.

Lord Pym

My Lords, I am sure that the House appreciates the authoritative speech made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I thought that his reference to a quotation from Churchill's book, My Early Life, was particularly apt at this juncture.

It is difficult to exaggerate the gravity of events that have occurred in the past month and their long-term consequences. The annexation of Kuwait is an act of aggression that threatens the prosperity of the whole world. It is not any little local difficulty. It is a painful reminder that the habit of aggression has not yet been broken. I hope that those who enjoy spending a so-called peace dividend that has not yet been earned will take this lesson to heart.

One of the major issues for the future that has been brought to a head by this conflict is the stance of NATO and the extent to which it should become involved out of area, which is where the main threat to NATO countries always appears to exist. The experience of this crisis may help to solve that question.

It is difficult to exaggerate also the competence of Her Majesty's Government in dealing with the Gulf crisis, and I join with others in congratulating my noble friend and his colleagues, particularly the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, on the handling of the matter so far.

In recent days the plight of the hostages and refugees has understandably dominated the media. The fate of many of them still hangs in the balance. That is a grim condition and one which points out the sheer brutality of the action taken by Iraq. We are all concerned for the hostages, but that concern cannot disguise the profound implications of Iraq's aggression, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

The first implication is the threat to the world's principal oil supply. The idea that that supply should be in any way dependent upon a tyrant like Saddam Hussein is plainly intolerable. He is a proven aggressor who attacked Iran and, having failed there, went for a softer target. Without the resolute response of the United States, supported by Britain and later by others, who doubts that Saddam Hussein would have continued his assault into Saudi Arabia and beyond if nobody stopped him? The effect of that situation on the world economy would have been catastrophic and millions of ordinary people would have suffered. That danger has been prevented and credit for that should go where it is due.

However, Saddam Hussein is still in occupation in Iraq, and, like all aggressors, shows no signs of retreating voluntarily. But retreat he will have to, and through the United Nations the world has passed Resolution 660 to that effect. The international accord reached on this issue is unique and gives practical expression to the anger felt by virtually everyone at what Iraq has done. Its occupation of Kuwait must not be allowed to stand—and that can be described as a world decision.

One then asks how that objective is to be achieved. Despite the provocation and illegality of Iraq's action, it must be right to explore every peaceful alternative before force is used. Nobody wants to fight if it can be avoided. Unfortunately, bitter experience shows that in the end force is invariably required in order to dislodge an aggressor. Therefore, we all know the probability and we face it with equanimity.

The position in regard to the Falklands was local and not in any way comparable. It was my principal responsibility to try to find a peaceful way out of that situation and I took that process to its ultimate limit. However much I hoped it would be successful I never believed that it would be, because Galtieri and the Argentines had boxed themselves into a position that knew no alternative. Saddam Hussein can similarly be said to have boxed himself in, but in this case there is a real chance that force can be avoided by the rigid imposition of sanctions.

The key issue is whether sanctions can be made effective in practice. Unlike almost every other case where sanctions have been an option, it is possible to make them bite against Iraq. Iraq's economy is peculiarly vulnerable to sanctions and the surrounding countries and the international community have resolved to apply them thoroughly. I should like to mention Turkey in that connection because she has much to lose but is as robust as anyone, as is Egypt. If sanctions are maintained effectively for long enough they are bound to have their effect, but it will take time. That means that the maintaining of support of public opinion in all our countries takes on a new and special importance; indeed it will be crucial. Any taint of trigger-happiness would be inimical to the sanctions option and must be avoided.

In the age of the media, which always yearns for constant and continuous activity, public support for a long wait is difficult to achieve. Patience is not newsworthy, but in this instance it must be made more newsworthy. I am confident that public support for a long haul can be won in the United Kingdom if the Government, supported wholeheartedly by Parliament, set their minds to it. The degree of unanimity that has been expressed so far is an immensely encouraging sign for achieving that objective.

No one can predict how the crisis will develop whether sanctions succeed or not. All kinds of questions will arise in judging how effective sanctions are proving to be or what provocation would or would not justify military action, and so on. In my view those questions cannot be answered in advance. In the coming weeks we must watch how events unfold and take necessary decisions in the light of circumstances at the time. The vital need is for Ministers to keep the nation up to date on a daily basis. Like the Falklands, this is a television serial played for real, but this time we are dealing with a global crisis.

The international accord is very heartening. The scale of it is new and everything possible must be done to maintain it. However, to suggest that decision-making in future should literally be handed over to and rest with the Security Council is quite unrealistic. That would give a veto to some countries over the vital interests of other countries, which is an entirely different concept from reaching international accord. I have no doubt that the United States, Britain and virtually every other country will continue to strive with wholehearted and genuine endeavour to maintain the widest possible degree of international agreement, the central importance of which is self-evident.

There is another reason for playing this hand long and with great care. The Gulf will remain a key region in the world for decades to come. After this experience, however it works out, the West will want to ensure that its main source of energy is protected safely. That is bound to mean a military presence of some kind. There is no point in arguing over earlier decisions to leave the region: what matters is that its stability should be secured in the long-term future.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that divisions within the Arab world will continue and they may worsen. The tensions caused by this crisis are all too apparent. There are new and very deep ethnic problems. At the same time the running sore between the Arabs and the Israelis is permanent and in my view ineradicable in the near future. It has already been suggested that a new attempt to solve that problem should be made now. I do not think there is any harm in that course but I cannot see that it can succeed. I hope that I am wrong, naturally. This fundamentally destabilising factor in the Middle East is likely to continue. The West will need some military presence and of fundamental importance will be the basis upon which that presence is effected. I think that that basis, and the willingness of Arab countries to accept western military support on a semi-permanent footing, will be heavily affected by events in the coming months and the way in which they are handled. The overriding objective of policy is to secure energy supplies—under the rule of law, of course—and if that is to be done economically and effectively it has to be done in partnership with Arab countries. We would be wise to be aware of this factor as choices and decisions are made in the months ahead.

In the end military action may prove unavoidable to recover Kuwait, in which case we shall play our part, minor though it will be. In that event I am certain that our forces will acquit themselves with characteristic professionalism and effectiveness and with honour. But at this early stage in the crisis we must be certain that we have tried every alternative and tested it to the limit; and for the immediate future that means making sure that sanctions are fully, strictly and rigidly applied and then waiting patiently while taking the British people fully into our confidence.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, no one who has listened to this debate so far can fail to have been impressed at the seriousness with which the House is approaching what on any view of the matter is an extraordinarily grave situation. Nor can anyone fail to be impressed at the degree of agreement that there is between both sides of the House on how to approach this matter—at least at this stage; and no one certainly could underestimate the seriousness of what has happened in the Middle East since the beginning of August. The overt aggression by Iraq, the acquisition by force of a neighbouring country, the menace of further aggression into Saudi Arabia, the threatened use of chemical weapons and, finally, the taking of some thousands of hostages—all these make the actions of Saddam Hussein totally and utterly repugnant and unacceptable to world opinion.

Nor should we forget in the arguments now under way over the presence and possible use of the forces in Saudi Arabia that the starting point for this crisis was in Baghdad and not in Washington or Riyadh and that it is primarily in Baghdad that this crisis will have to be resolved. No doubt the calculation was that Iraq would get away with it after some ritual attempts at condemnation in the Security Council and in the Arab League and that after a decent interval it would be business as usual for everybody. I cannot believe for one moment that Saddam Hussein foresaw or took into account the depth of world outrage or the strength of world reaction.

It is indeed the nature of that collective reaction and its likely consequences that is perhaps the one promising feature of this whole sorry mess. Certainly so far as the UN is concerned it has rarely acted so decisively, so quickly or so unanimously. The five relevant texts in the five resolutions, 660, 661, 662, 664 and 665, are a clear indication of just how far the world has moved in the last five years. Possibilities for joint action, hitherto impossible to achieve, now may be practically attainable. The five permanent members meeting as they now do regularly, and what is much more important than just meeting, agreeing on joint courses of action, are beginning to perform the functions allotted to them under the charter. As yet the plant is still tender but with careful husbandry, I am reliably informed, it will grow. Certainly it would be foolish in the extreme to throw away this unprecedented degree of international consensus.

In assessing this international reaction it is crucial to distinguish the various elements of the crisis. First, there is the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq; secondly, there are the mandatory sanctions imposed by the UN and the possibility of using force as appropriate in order to support those sanctions; thirdly, there are the threats to Saudi Arabia and the international response to those threats; and, fourthly, there are the problems caused by the taking of the hostages. Of course these four to a certain extent inevitably overlap but in respect of each it is important to ensure that such action as is taken is taken in accordance with the charter of the UN.

So far as the annexation of Kuwait and the imposition of sanctions is concerned, may I join with others in this debate who have expressed the view that the Government have behaved sensibly and prudently, and I support them, save only in one respect which they have put right. It was necessary for there to be a further resolution authorising "some" force to be used in order to bolster sanctions. The Government and the United States finally recognised this and they got the appropriate resolution from the Security Council. It were better that they had done it a little earlier.

The sanctions imposed by Resolution 661 are unique and comprehensive and they must be given time to work. I am impressed by the way that the world community has so far applied those sanctions. The seepage of some goods through Jordan or the odd ship that escapes the blockade in the Gulf cannot replace the flows of trade which Iraq formerly enjoyed. The important factor is the cutting off of the oil, and this has been almost total.

We now seem to have ships aplenty to enforce the blockade. Indeed if the story in last week's press of two Italian frigates scattering a United States carrier task force is correct, it is perhaps high time that the ships playing around in the Gulf came under some joint command, if only for self-protection.

Nor is it valid to argue that the UN is incapable of providing that necessary structure. Of course it is capable. Different countries have co-operated effectively in UN peace-keeping forces. There is absolutely no reason why navies should not similarly co-operate, particularly since most of the ships come from NATO countries themselves.

So the sanctions policy is well launched. We all seem to be agreed that it must be given time to act. In my view, it is just not feasible at this stage to put a time limit on how long this policy should be given. I note from the resolutions that the Secretary General of the UN has to report to the Security Council within 30 days of the passage of the sanctions resolution. I think that the 30 days run out today, or they may have run out yesterday. The sanctions committee has to begin its operation. We are clearly in for what somebody has called a long haul, and it is better that we should recognise this earlier rather than that it should come upon us as a surprise later.

It seems now too that talk of a quick surgical strike by the US forces in Saudi Arabia has subsided. I am delighted at that. It would be neither quick nor surgical—and what of the aftermath? Who is supposed to run Iraq—a western viceroy or an Arab puppet backed by a permanent western occupying force, which the Wall Street Journal has apparently been advocating? In the long run I can think of nothing more destructive to western interests in the Middle East than such a scenario.

Moreover, such a unilateral strike at this stage would almost certainly be illegal under the charter. This is not the time—and I accept this—for a long or detailed legal argument about the minutiae of Article 51 or the rights of self-defence. Suffice it to say that the charter is clear as to the limits of the exercise of that right of self-defence. The whole tenor of Chapter 7 is that the Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security and member states have so agreed that by accepting the charter. So in my view further action by the multi-national force in Saudi Arabia to expel Iraq from Kuwait by military means would now require a further resolution of the Security Council itself.

As to the forces in Saudi Arabia, they are there at the invitation of the Saudi Government to help neutralise an external threat. As such, the presence of that force is perfectly legal. Moreover one should not forget that the United Nations has not yet even discussed this force. It is not there under any resolution of the Security Council. It is there in response to the request of the legitimate government of Saudi Arabia. Its use therefore at this stage would be limited to the defence of Saudi Arabia against any external aggression by Iraq and to deterring the possibility of any such aggression. May I say that so far it seems to have performed this function admirably. Iraq has not invaded Saudi Arabia and the more that the build up has proceeded the less likelihood there seems to be of overt Iraqi aggression. So may I make it clear that from my point of view I thoroughly approve of British participation in that multi-national force, the object of which, as the Government have made clear, is to deter possible Iraqi aggression on Saudi Arabia.

So where do we go to from here? There are times, I am afraid, when one just has to wait and allow a policy, which is perhaps undramatic and even painstaking, to continue. I see no practical alternative to the pursuit with all our vigour of the policy agreed to by the Security Council in Resolution 661, the policy of sanctions. Provided this policy is pursued comprehensively and with determination by all, there is no reason why it should not succeed. The aim is a relatively simple one and again I think that one should be clear about it. It is to get Iraq out of Kuwait and restore that country to its rightful government.

Until sanctions are effectively applied, it is impossible to know whether they will succeed. Certainly negotiations at this stage are unlikely to produce anything; nor is it clear precisely what it is that one could negotiate about. Eventually there will have to be discussions, but not yet. The time is not ripe for any negotiation. Unless therefore there is some new factor introduced into the situation, as, for example, an act of further aggression by Iraq, the present policy is the one that we have to pursue.

I should like to say one or two words about the possibility of unilateral action by the United States, possibly followed by Britain. Satisfying though the thought of that seems to be to some, it is going to be neither swift nor without cost. It could well alienate that Arab opinion which is at present supporting the UN resolutions. It would prove highly embarrassing to the Soviet Union and set back the recent favourable developments in superpower relationships. It would cast the West once again as the unwanted interloper in the Middle East, concerned more for our oil supplies than for international law, and it would jeopardise the emerging consensus at the United Nations. I find it hard to believe that these risks are worth running unless absolutely unavoidable.

After a reasonable period of time we must collectively assess the efficacy of the sanctions policy. If they seem to be working we should continue with them; if not, we should ask the Security Council to take further steps under Article 42 of the charter, which deals specifically with this type of situation and envisages the use of force.

I do not burke at the possibility of the use of force in this matter. It seems to be a possibility which in the long run, if sanctions do not work, may become inevitable. I hope it may never come to the use of such force, but if it does I merely say that it is essential that it is applied collectively by the world community as a whole. I suspect too that this may be one of the messages which President Gorbachev may be giving to Mr. Bush this weekend. I hope that our Government will be saying the same.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Walston

My Lords, I must start with an apology to your Lordships and to the noble Lord the Leader of the House. I have to be home early tomorrow morning and unfortunately British Rail does not run a late-night service to my part of Somerset. It is therefore unlikely that I shall be here at the end of the debate, for which I repeat my apology and my personal regret.

My main reason for intervening in this debate is in order to make it clear that my colleagues in the Social Democratic Party and myself are wholeheartedly behind the line that the Government have taken and are taking at the present time. In that we are not alone, as is quite clear from the speeches to which we have listened. All your Lordships who have so far taken part in this debate feel the same about this. The support is not only for Her Majesty's Government but for the United Nations. We must never lose sight of the fact that this is not simply an operation of the United States, backed up by the special relationship of the United Kingdom, but it is a United Nations initiative, and it is remarkable and encouraging that at this stage it has been possible to get a virtually unanimous consensus in that body.

I would remind your Lordships that these things do not just happen because of one or two convincing and fine speeches by people in the United Nations itself in New York but are the result of a great deal of spadework, persuasion and behind the scenes activities which have been most efficiently and effectively carried out so far as we are concerned by our frequently maligned officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and particularly by, if I may single him out, Sir Crispin Tickell in New York, who has clearly worked extremely hard and effectively. Of course one must also not forget our own Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who has played an important and valuable role in this sad business.

This consensus of the United Nations is something that we must maintain at all costs. There will be as time goes on a certain fissiparous inclination to move away from the centre and to start off on one's own if the results do not come as quickly as people hope they will and at one time misguidedly thought they would. Our efforts now must be concentrated to ensure, among other things, that the consensus of the United Nations is maintained throughout, no matter how long it may take to achieve the results which we all desire and which have been laid down by the United Nations itself.

As other noble Lords have said, I hope that the meeting of President Bush and President Gorbachev at the end of this week will fortify and reinforce the new relationship that is now developing between East and West. The Soviet Union has a vital part to play in the solution of this problem—the immediate solution and the long-term solution—and the more they can work together with the United States and other members of the United Nations the more likely it is that we are going to succeed in achieving a reasonable and permanent settlement of the problems of the United Nations.

Of course we must not forget either the importance of Arab participation. That has been achieved despite what President Saddam Hussein tries to say. It is remarkable that virtually all the Arab countries are united in working with us in the United Nations for the return of Kuwait to its legitimate rulers and for the preservation of the integrity of Saudi Arabia.

One should make special mention here of the dilemma in which Jordan finds itself in a very special geographic position and one which I think all of us will realise is a legitimate reason for the somewhat ambivalent attitude that the King of Jordan has been forced to adopt in his own country.

As your Lordships have said, the struggle will be a long one and it will require months of patience and months of stubbornness if fighting is to be avoided—and that is clearly the hope of all of us. However, it may come to fighting, and if it does come to that then the fighting will have to be supported to the full. Clearly, our efforts at this stage must be directed towards all activities which are going to make fighting less likely. The full implementation of sanctions is the only way in which this can be done. Sadly, sanctions, even without fighting, will entail suffering for millions in Iraq itself: innocent people whose leaders are drawing them into this appalling situation.

Then there are our own hostages, and—dare I say it?—those who are even more important because of the numbers who are not hostages. I refer to the foreign workers who are now destitute and to whose plight the most reverend Primate rightly referred. I cannot do more than underline what he said: that there are hundreds of thousands—possibly millions—of innocent people involved whose only error has been that they went from their own countries—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines, etc.—to Kuwait, and to a lesser extent to Iraq, in the hope of finding a better life there and of being able to send some money back to their dependants in their own countries.

Their plight, as the most reverend Primate reminded us, is devastating. The only comparison which comes to mind is the plight of the refugees at the end of the Second World War, who were struggling to escape from the horrors that lay behind them. It was good to hear from the noble Earl in his very fine speech that the British Government are giving aid to such people. But it is not only money: a question of organisation is involved. There is the bringing together of people who are used to dealing with refugees, to dealing with hunger and, in particular, to dealing with thirst in that terrifying heat of the desert in that area. We need people who know how to organise. The money is probably available. The aircraft, we are told, can be chartered with no difficulty. Landing rights in Jordan are no problem at all; but it is the organisation there which is at present lacking. No blame attaches to those who are valiantly attempting to deal with the task, but I believe that we can here play a very valuable part in relieving this terrifying human suffering and death.

I would also remind your Lordships of other sufferers who, as the weeks and months go by, will feel more and more the effects of the Gulf disturbances. Those are the countries of the third world, particularly in Africa, which are already swamped by their enormous debts on which they cannot afford to pay interest at the present time. With the rise in oil prices now, they will be sent still further into economic decline if at the same time, as is happening already to a certain extent, some of their trade will be cut off. Their plight will indeed be bad and, while not bearing comparison with the plight of the refugees at the present time, will be made much more difficult in the months and years ahead. I therefore ask Her Majesty's Government, even in the midst of this crisis, to give thought to the problems of the third world and to renew all their efforts with regard to the debts of these countries so that there will be some hope of minimising the increasing hardships which will inevitably otherwise strike those who are innocent bystanders in this matter.

I should like to make one minor final point. We had a concrete example of the efforts of the President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, with Saddam Hussein over the release of the British nurse some months ago. No mention has been made of President Kaunda during all the talks that have been going on or in the articles which have been written. I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether any approach has been made to President Kaunda, and whether there is any likelihood of his being able to play any part at all in Iraq in bringing sense into that sad and about-to-be-defeated country so that the suffering which is looming over the horizon can be mitigated in the weeks ahead.

4.56 p.m.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, it is eight years ago that Parliament was summoned back from the Recess because of military action involving our own forces. I never will forget the high sense of drama in another place, especially on the first day of the Falklands debates. The House was united; both sides called for actions, not words. The country was united, but that was an issue which concerned our country alone. Today we have been recalled because there is a watershed in world affairs. What happens to the United Nations is now at stake; and what happens to the United Nations will decide human rights across the world for generations yet unborn.

In listening to the restrained speeches from people holding high office in our land and from those who have held high office in our land, I have been deeply moved. I am conscious, as I am sure the House is conscious, that our words, not only in another place but spoken here, will be examined with care not only in these islands but especially in Iraq. The voices will be heard and they will be looking for signs that people seek to have an excuse to break away. I believe in my heart that it was a happy, fortuitous chance for humanity that the Prime Minister was due to meet President Bush just at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. The fact that the meeting took place at that time enabled speedy action to be taken. I am convinced that Saudi Arabia would have been lost within a few weeks if President Bush and Mrs. Thatcher had not been quick in getting the United Nations to realise the challenge that was before it.

As my noble friend Lord Callaghan said, we have to capture the minds of people not only here but outside. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was wise to remind us of those poor human creatures on the borders of Iraq and Jordan. God help the poor things in their misery. Who is holding out the hand of help to them? It is not Iraq but the western world and part of Arabia itself. The very fact that the majority of the Arab countries have had the moral courage to denounce the invasion of Kuwait, combined with the attitude which I hope we shall continue to adopt towards the refugees, will help to capture what is so vital for us—the opinion of the ordinary people in the Middle East as well as in the West.

I hope that the House will allow me to say a few words about the hostages, some of whom are our own people. I listened with tender feeling to the heartfelt cry of those who escaped and who have come home. I listened carefully to the words of the organisation that has set itself up to help the families of hostages. However, I should say to that organisation that no one has a monopoly of concern about our people who are still in Iraq and Kuwait. I am satisfied that Her Majesty's Government and the diplomatic service will stretch every nerve they can to see that our people are brought out.

The most reverend Primate recited some of the names of hostages. I know one of those names very well. It is the name of one who represented the most reverend Primate. We know that no effort is being spared. Some people may want dramatic action, but that could make the situation of the hostages worse. What is required is patience and more patience. There has been an attempt to try to involve little Israel for propaganda purposes. I am satisfied that the rest of the Arab world knows that that is just a propaganda ploy.

We have listened to experts. I am an ordinary Member of this House. I do not claim to be an expert. I heard the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, speak from his great experience of commanding our forces. He made a remark which had a great appeal for me. It concerned the question of the media and the sense of responsibility that is required not only from politicians but also from those who speak to the world in our name through the media. On Tuesday the Daily Telegraph referred to, The mindless neutrality of some television reporters who seek to advance a media cause contemptuous of any national or public interest". I believe there is an obligation on us all to maintain a rigorous self-discipline when our emotions are stirred by the hostages and by the threat to the Middle East. I hope that we shall guard our tongues carefully. That applies as much to the media as it does to us.

As I left this morning to come to your Lordships' House, I listened to the radio just after the eight o'clock news. Someone asked why Parliament was meeting today. The reply given was that Parliament was meeting to find out whether Mrs. Thatcher was a hawk. I felt angry when I heard that because even in the war years Mr. Churchill knew that Parliament was the guardian of our ultimate liberties and our rights. It is right for us to meet. It is equally right that we should meet to strengthen the hands of those who are acting on our behalf. I believe that there will be no entry into military activity without the House having its say. However, I should like Iraq to know that there are no Benches in the high court of Parliament where there will not be support for action if there is no response to sanctions.

As I take my seat I remind myself and the House that it is true that a nation will close ranks. There is a closing of ranks and those concerned will be made to suffer. They must be made to suffer until Iraq withdraws. Above all, it is our task to win the hearts and minds of the people involved in this affair. We must persuade them that we wish them no harm and that we seek only to protect the rights of the rest of the world that Saddam Hussein has threatened by the activity that he has undertaken. I hope that there will not be a vote in another place, but if there is let that not be misunderstood abroad. I believe that the British people are overwhelmingly united in a determination to see that aggression will not pay.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I have two propositions to put forward. The first is that war involving the West in the Gulf need not happen. The second is that it would be wrong to renounce the use of armed forces, in any particular circumstances, beforehand.

My first proposition supposes that Saddam Hussein will not precipitate hostilities himself by making a further attack. That is possible but less likely since the arrival of the armed forces of other nations in neighbouring countries. Here the Americans must be congratulated on the speed of their deployment in Saudi Arabia.

On the second proposition, that it would be wrong to renounce force, we should remember that the Charter of the United Nations positively prescribes action with armed forces in Chapter 7—Article 42—when peaceful means have been exhausted. I hope that it will not come to that. However, that remedy was built into the charter and must certainly have acted as a deterrent in the last 45 years.

The procedure in that part of Chapter 7, and therefore at that stage of United Nations supervision, is obscured by the fact that the role of the Military Staff Committee, and its special agreements on armed forces with member states, has never been allowed to develop as required by the charter. From the outset in 1946 the Soviet Union prevented that part from being carried out although the Soviet delegation had agreed upon those provisions in the negotiations on the draft of the charter. The Military Staff Committee has had its prescribed periodic meetings over the years but the Soviet representative has always made sure that nothing is done. I was glad to note the interest expressed recently by Mr. Gorbachev in reversing that policy and in exploring the Military Staff Committee's potential. However, that must be a matter for the future.

Perhaps the most important reason against publicly renouncing the use of force beforehand is that it would play into the hands of a dangerous dictator. He should be kept guessing. Saddam has played cat and mouse tricks with foreigners, whom he has made hostages, and is capable of every kind of ruse and deception. Nothing should be done which would unnecessarily relieve the pressures upon him.

The situation in the Middle East today has many similarities with the aggression in Korea in 1950. The United Nations' action then is the closest precedent. The United States acted immediately, having forces nearby in Japan, under a United Nations' umbrella of approval. Other countries sent armed forces to join them, in Britain's case as soon as we could.

The invasion of South Korea happened during three years which I spent, as a diplomatist, in our permanent mission to the United Nations in New York. I well remember the emergency meeting of the Security Council at Lake Success on a Sunday morning—26th June—40 years ago. Picture three of us in the small British delegation arriving in jeans or the weekend equivalent, clutching telephone messages and telegrams. Our chief, Sir Alexander Cadogan, was not with us. He was crossing the Atlantic on retirement leave. At that meeting, and those which immediately followed, resolutions were passed condemning the aggression and providing United Nations' approval for armed intervention.

Resolutions are not enough. The United Nations would have been powerless if the United States had not acted quickly and decisively. That is what happened again in the Middle East last month. Fortunately, the action was not to join in a continuing war, as in Korea, but to occupy defensive positions in a neighbouring country and so reduce temptations to commit further aggressions.

There had been no Soviet veto over Korea because the Soviet delegation absented itself for several weeks in an argument about Chinese representation. When it returned five weeks later the Soviet attitude was that the resolutions had been invalid in its absence. Nevertheless the rest of the world supported what became a United Nations force and its operations. Those operations were successful in ensuring that aggression did not pay.

The Security Council had acted under Chapter 7 of the charter. The United States led the way, with the blessing of the United Nations. In this country the Labour government of the day firmly supported what was done.

Those who harbour any doubts about how the Americans have acted since 2nd August should remember that. Forty years may seem a long time ago—though not to me. Korea is the precedent with the greatest similarity. The emergency meetings of the Security Council in 1950 have vividly been recalled to my memory. I attended them all as a member of the British delegation.

Now there has been another flagrant case of armed aggression and the world is even more united against it. It is especially significant that the Soviet Union, with a government encouragingly different from that of the 1950s, is part of that majority, which also includes most of the Arab and Islamic countries.

I followed with sympathy the emergency meetings in New York last month and I rejoiced in the results. In particular I congratulate those concerned in reaching the later resolution of 25th August calling for enforcement of the trade embargo which had already been agreed. I note that the only note of criticism in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, was that that should have been done much sooner. With respect, I put to him another consideration—the need to obtain and keep the wide support which had been gained for the earlier resolutions. I am sure that time was needed to enlighten and persuade those members of the Security Council who would not have been prepared to support the use of force on the earlier occasion when a resolution was necessary on a trade embargo.

There is unprecedented unanimity in the United Nations on action towards the aggressor. In my view the sequence of events in response to the unwelcome events in the Gulf has followed an exemplary course.

But what happens now? Time will be needed to enable the embargo to become effective. Patience will be called for. In Chapter 7 of the charter, dealing with acts of aggression, Articles 41 and 51 now apply. Article 41 provides for measures not involving the use of armed force—which must be given every chance to succeed—including the embargo.

As regards Article 51 on the right of individual and collective self-defence, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have invited friendly nations to help defend them. If the response had not been immediate, especially by the United States with its superior military aircraft, Saddam may well have been tempted to go further and invade the oilfields near the Gulf. The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia has made clear publicly that United States' forces are in his country to defend against an attack like that on Kuwait.

I detect that some smaller Gulf states would like to see more positive action in the not too distant future. Their governments will probably not feel safe until Saddam has been removed. Can one blame them? It must seem to them that there is a monster on their doorstep.

My noble friend Lord Carrington has cogently given the reasons why every effort must be made to enforce worldwide sanctions. I shall go on from there. The next stages in countering aggression prescribed in the charter are set out in Articles 42 to 47. However, one has to ignore the provisions concerning the inoperative Military Staff Committee, for reasons which I have explained.

Under Article 42, if peaceful measures under Article 41 have proved inadequate, armed forces can be used to the degree necessary to restore peace and security. It will not be easy to obtain agreement in the Security Council on when that stage has been reached or what action to take, while maintaining security on any military plans.

Article 41, with the embargo and similar measures, must therefore be fully applied in the coming weeks and months. Virtually the whole world is of one mind on this and that unanimity is worth preserving. This will be a test of stamina for the United States and others with armed forces holding present positions. It will be expensive for them and for other countries for whom the embargo is damaging. It will be infinitely tedious and uncomfortable for the armed forces concerned. In time there will be effects from all this on the media and public opinion in the countries bearing the brunt of the United Nations' effort. We must be ready for some disillusionment and impatience.

I applaud warmly the Government's actions in dealing with the Gulf situation in concert with other countries and through the United Nations. I have the greatest confidence in my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Douglas Hurd, and I am sure that his very recent tour of the Middle East countries will have done nothing but good. I wish our Government well in maintaining wide condemnation of the invasion and the illegal annexation of Kuwait and in seeking effective ways of penalising aggression and bringing peace to the area.

5.22 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, like every other speaker so far in this debate, I condemn the Iraqi invasion and subsequent annexation of Kuwait. I condemn the taking of Western hostages. That is a cruel, cynical and cowardly way of trying to manipulate events and distract those nations concerned from their determination to re-establish international order. But above all I condemn Saddam Hussein and his regime for a decade of the grossest violations of basic human rights within his own country, and for the dissipation of his country's oil wealth on a cruel and useless war which lasted eight years.

But as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos said, in making these condemnations should we not examine our own record and those of our allies in our past dealings with Saddam Hussein? Is it not the case that we were perfectly aware of the brutality of his regime and knew that he was the aggressor in the war with Iran? Contravening international conventions, he used chemical weapons in that war and gassed Kurdish women and children who were the innocent victims of his brutality.

What sanctions did we impose then? None, my Lords. We got no further than sponsoring a resolution in the United Nations sub-committee on human rights condemning those appalling actions. Meanwhile, along with many other countries, we participated in a grotesque arms sale bazaar in which we provided Saddam Hussein with the wherewithal to take aggressive military action against neighbouring countries.

I fully recognise the importance of our export trade. However, are there not cases where commercial interests should be subordinate to the interests of peace and stability in the world? And is this not just such a case? There are certainly lessons to be learnt from the excessive arms sales to Iraq which have undoubtedly contributed to this crisis.

As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to get away with it. But it must be the hope of everyone that the present impasse can be solved by the imposition of sanctions and by diplomatic means, and that military action will prove unnecessary. Those who are more expert than I on military matters have already referred to the terrible loss of life which would probably occur. It is hard to contemplate, quite apart from the huge financial costs involved.

Moreover, the outcome of war, even if successful in pushing Iraq out of Kuwait, could be very uncertain in its long-term effects in the Middle East. Therefore it is vital to ensure that economic sanctions are effectively enforced and that no way round them is possible.

The Iraqi economy is already weak and will become weaker as the effects of the blockade start to bite. As has already been said, there can be no predetermined time limit on the use of sanctions. Effective sanctions are the world's best hope in either forcing Saddam to climb down or—perhaps less likely—in leading to his removal by those within Iraq who become increasingly concerned about the costs of his intransigence if he refuses to climb down.

But adopting that approach will require calm and patience and the maintenance of the world-wide consensus that has emerged against the Iraqi invasion. Firm but skilful diplomatic action is needed too, particularly joint action by the USA and the Soviet Union, in order to maintain the consensus and, when the time is ripe, to negotiate without concessions with Saddam Hussein.

It is imperative that all such activities take place under the auspices of the United Nations. I shared the concern of many commentators when the United States and the United Kingdom seemed to rush into the blockade without returning to the UN for Security Council endorsement of that action. However, I greatly welcome the fact that the USA and all the countries involved are now operating under the terms of UN resolutions.

It is an unfortunate distraction, however, that may play into the hands of Iraq for the Prime Minister to refer to the United States as the world's policeman. There can be only one global policeman and that is the United Nations. There has never been a better time to use the UN as the mechanism for ensuring international order. The bad old days of the Soviet veto have gone. The UN's status has grown, for example, through its successful operations in Namibia and in helping to bring about peace between Iran and Iraq.

I recognise the concern of the US and UK Governments in making decisions in a crisis through United Nations committees because of the extra time and effort involved; but it is a price that is well worth paying. Most important of all, if it looks as though military action is needed, it must be endorsed by the UN. Chapter 7 of the Charter, and in particular Article 42, gives the Security Council sweeping powers to take such action. No doubt the United States, along with the United Kingdom and others, could achieve a military victory without the United Nations. But, as my noble friend Lord Richard so ably pointed out, it might also lead to serious instability in the longer term which could threaten people's livelihoods, and even people's lives, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

More immediately, only by operating through the United Nations will it be possible to maintain the broad consensus which currently exists and which includes massive third world support for the line which has been taken so far. It would be a great pity if failure to operate under the UN made it possible for Iraq successfully to portray the United States with, say, Britain and France as the aggressors.

Because it is important to maintain the consensus, like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, I regret the misconceived attack in Helsinki last week by the Prime Minister on our European allies. It is inevitable that in the democracies of Europe there will be some differences in the nature, style and timing of responses in a crisis of this kind. Publicly berating Chancellor Kohl for failing to adopt measures which would be contrary to the constitution of the Federal Republic is not the right approach. What is appropriate is a request for a substantial financial contribution from the Germans and from the Japanese towards compensating those poorer Middle East countries which are suffering economically as a result of the crisis. I very much endorse the Prime Minister's part in seeking that.

The final issue to which I should like to refer concerns the position of Jordan. Jordan's long frontier with Iraq and its great dependence on Iraqi oil make things difficult enough. In addition it has to contend with large numbers of Palestinians, making up 70 per cent. of the Jordanian population, and there is now a growing influx of refugees from Iraq and Kuwait. The position of King Hussein, as others have said, is precarious. Were he to be toppled it would probably make the situation much more unstable. King Hussein may have been reticent about strong criticism of Saddam Hussein, and he may have been somewhat equivocal about sanctions. The British Government apparently believe in putting the maximum possible pressure on him to distance himself completely from his neighbour and to demonstrate his commitment to sanctions. Only then will they contemplate aid. But, as my noble friend Lord Callaghan implied, if the king responds to such pressure, he could jeopardise his own position further. Surely the French Government, who are apparently in favour of immediate aid to Jordan and doing all that can be done to keep King Hussein in power, are right.

Of course for those of us who have long sympathised with the Palestinian cause, it is distressing to see demonstrations, sometimes violent, by Palestinians in Jordan in favour of Saddam Hussein. But perhaps we should search our consciences as to how it came to pass that the Palestinians have been reduced to such rage and despair, to such desperation, that they end up supporting a brutal dictator because he appears to have taken on the western world. The American record in dealing with the Palestinian issue has not been a good one and we have perhaps fallen in too readily behind the United States. A statement by the Americans that the Palestinian problem has not been forgotten, and that new steps to resolve it will be taken when the Gulf crisis is over and Iraq has withdrawn from Kuwait and adhered to the United Nations resolutions, might be helpful. Among other things, it could serve to diminish the threat to King Hussein.

However, more direct and immediate support should be given in the shape of economic aid to Jordan and in the form of an international relief operation to help the Asian refugees suffering in the Jordanian desert. Quite apart from King Hussein's problems of survival, there is now a real prospect of a human disaster on a massive scale. There are some 50,000 refugees waiting to be repatriated to their own countries within Jordan and another 50,000 to 60,000 in camps on the border waiting to get into the country. Those people are living in terrible conditions without enough food, drink or shelter, and disease is now spreading in the camps. For humanitarian reasons there must be a major international relief programme before the situation deteriorates any more. I welcome commitments made by the EC and our own Government.

Let me end by saying that the intended meeting at the weekend between the presidents of the United States of America and the Soviet Union is good news. I hope that the bipartisan stance that has been adopted by the superpowers will continue. I hope also that it will be possible to maintain a bipartisan position between the Government and the Opposition in the UK. Above all, I hope that everything will be done to avoid war. However, should future Iraqi actions make war inevitable, I hope that it will follow from a decision of the Security Council of the United Nations which alone can represent the views of the many and diverse nations of the world, as it has done so far in this crisis. Only by operating through the United Nations is it likely that real and lasting peace and stability can be achieved.

5.34 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, some of your Lordships may possibly recall that in our debate on 17th July on the Defence Estimates I said (at col. 832 of Hansard) that the end of the cold war would not only mean that war between the five permanent members of the Security Council was now unthinkable but, They will all have at least one major common interest … namely, to contain some Middle East explosion". My conclusion in substance was that it was quite possible that the United Nations would now at last function as we, the original drafters of the charter, imagined that it should function; namely, to decide whether a breach of the peace or act of aggression had occurred, and to see to it that the culprit was by one means or another duly brought to book.

I confess that I had no idea that the explosion would come within a fortnight. I had rather thought that it might in some way be connected with Israel, as of course it still may. But come it did, and the immediate action of the United Nations was splendid. All agreed—East and West, North and South—that the aggression must not be allowed to succeed, and eventually that force might be employed to impose what amounted to a blockade of Iraq if it continued to disregard the decisions of the Security Council. Further than that the United Nations has not as yet gone, and it is unfortunately questionable whether it ever will.

Faced with an evident threat to its ally, Saudi Arabia—had not Saddam Hussein declared his intention of waging a Holy War for the liberation of Mecca and Medina?—the United States immediately dispatched forces as it was entitled to do under Article 51 of the charter. These forces have now been reinforced by two squadrons of British Tornadoes, and by a small contingent of Arab troops from Egypt, Syria and I believe also Morocco. A number of allied warships have also joined the powerful American fleet now in the Gulf. This hastily assembled force, overwhelmingly American, has already evidently achieved its primary purpose of preventing an attack on Saudi Arabia by Iraq, and it is believed that in another month or six weeks at the rate of reinforcement already envisaged it will probably be strong enough at least to reoccupy Kuwait by force of arms involving the possible overthrow of Saddam Hussein by means of war.

Obviously it would be greatly preferable for the objectives of the United Nations to be achieved by means of the sanctions already agreed, and perhaps they could be further extended with United Nations approval by, for instance, the forcing down of any aircraft from Libya, Tunis, the Sudan, Yemen or elsewhere now engaged in running the blockade. But there are doubts about the length of time before sanctions can be effective.

I should have thought that it is also obvious that the United States, if only for financial reasons and pressure of public opinion, cannot be expected to keep 80,000 men and a very large number of the latest fighters, bombers, tanks, missiles and attendant services indefinitely in a waterless desert at a distance of some 6,000 miles. But it is further obvious that to withdraw these troops before the objectives of the United Nations have been achieved, or at least some acceptable solution has been arrived at, would in effect be a victory for Saddam Hussein. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made the point; I entirely agree with it.

On the other hand, going to war without the specific authority of the United Nations obviously has great dangers. Those have been recently outlined (in a rather exaggerated way) by Mr. Geoffrey Kemp of the Carnegie Endowment and a former member of President Reagan's National Security Council, as follows: As for this suggestion that the United States could fight some kind of four-hour air war and decapitate the Iraqi economy and military machine, I don't know of any genuinely informed person who now believes that is possible. What you would be talking about would be an aerial bombardment of several days' duration. Unless we had a clear provocation, such as an Iraqi attack, such bombardment would also destroy the international consensus Bush has painstakingly created. It would … cause untold political damage in the Arab world, to the point of toppling several regimes currently favourable to the US. These would, quite likely, be replaced by new regimes, just as hostile and just as keen on acquiring modern weapons as Saddam Hussein's". Whether we like it or not there is no doubt that a large section of Arab opinion—that is not only in Libya, the Sudan, Yemen, Jordan and some other states but also to a lesser extent in Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia—sees in Saddam Hussein a kind of modern Saladin destined to overthrow the stranglehold imposed by the infidel West during the past 200 years on an Islamic Middle East together with some vague thoughts of a possible Caliphate. Such is the doctrine preached by the Ikhwan-al-Muslimin, or moslem brotherhood, which is particularly powerful in Egypt and of course represents the American action as having nothing to do with treaty obligations and everything to do with the protection of its oil.

The dilemma facing the West in respect of the possible eventual use of military force is consequently acute, and I can offer only the following personal suggestions on which I should welcome some governmental comment. First, sanctions might perhaps be strengthened as suggested and at any rate should be given some time, possibly a few months, in which to work; in other words, to result in the evacuation of Kuwait by the Iraqi army. I believe that there is strong majority support for this in western public opinion.

Secondly, if the Americans nevertheless eventually feel that they can wait no longer and must therefore take military action, they should make every effort at least to ensure that the Russians and the Chinese do not veto but rather, if necessary, abstain on any decision of the Security Council authorising them to act, even if their Arab allies should be reluctant to go along. The council's decision would then, if passed by the requisite majority of nine, still be binding on all concerned.

Thirdly, the ensuing military action should, if possible, at any rate be declared to be limited to the re-occupation of Kuwait, which would no doubt in itself result in the disappearance of Saddam, and should not therefore involve the mass bombing of Iraqi military and industrial installations. That would have a deplorable effect on Arab opinion generally, and incidentally no doubt result in the killing of a number of the many thousands of western hostages still remaining in Iraq.

Fourthly—and more doubtfully—provided that the integrity of the re-occupied Sheikhdom is ensured, its administration might for a term be left in the hands of those Arab states which had participated in the re-occupation. Fifthly, the essential thing is for world peace to be assured by continual co-operation between the five permanent members of the Security Council. If that is not forthcoming, the future is rather sombre. Saddam Hussein might indeed be toppled but his fall in such circumstances could have far-reaching and unpleasant effects.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, concern for the hostages has been expressed by my noble friend the Minister, by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and by many other noble Lords. Indeed, it was expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his most interesting speech. Such concern is the sole burden of my speech.

One starts with common ground; that the response of the multi-national force to any legitimate request to remove the Iraqi armed forces from Kuwait may not be determined by the hostage situation. It is a situation in which, contrary to accepted tenets of public international law, our women and children are put to great hardship. Some are home but others remain in the anguish of the turmoil. What about them? What about the men—the husbands and the fathers—and the disruption of family life in breach of one of the universally accepted fundamental freedoms of mankind?

But the situation does not end there. These hostages are taken and kept contrary to Resolution 664 of the 18th August; items 1 to 3 of the Security Council. They are kept in breach of Article 3(1)C of the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war. That explicitly prevents the taking of hostages in extant circumstances in Iraq. Iraq was a signatory to that convention in 1949 and acceded in 1956.

The question is: should anything be done, and if so what, to alleviate the appalling situation? For your Lordships' consideration it is proposed that the United Nations by convention should formally condemn hostage taking as a crime against humanity and invest the International Court of Justice with plenary jurisdiction to adjudicate, convict and sentence, the enforcement of the orders of the court being available to any aggrieved state and without derogation from the right of any sovereign state to initiate its own proceedings if so advised. Under the 1949 convention to which reference has been made no judicial machinery or enforcement machinery has been set up to deal with the situation. Under the proposals which I am advancing, there would be in place permanent judicial machinery with means of enforcement.

I suggest that a convention should be drawn up along the lines of the Genocide Convention 1948 which took effect in 1961 to render hostage taking, keeping, or use for any purposes, a crime in public international law.

On the basis of the principle of jurisprudence, it was established in the International Court of Justice that, basic rights of the human person are owed to the international community as a whole", not as between one state and another.

If appropriate resolutions along those lines were tabled and carried in the United Nations as a matter of urgency, a clear signal would be made. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition referred to the whim of President Saddam Hussein. Is that not the present position put in a sentence? I think I remember the noble Lord's words accurately. Should we leave this at the whim of President Saddam Hussein or should we go back to the United Nations and try to tighten up this matter and try to set up, within the international community, an effective jurisdiction within the international court with some effective powers of enforcement and so produce some deterrence? Could that in any way operate to the detriment of the hostages? Assuredly it could not. It could only alleviate their position. It would assuredly not expose them to any greater danger than that in which they remain at the whim of the dictator.

The Genocide Convention prohibits acts committed to destroy in whole or in part national, ethnic, racial or religious groups. It does not touch upon hostage taking. However, the importance of the drafting of that convention is that it sets up an international court of justice as the means by which an adjudication should be made and by which enforcement can take place. I suggest that precedent should be carried into this new convention to, so to speak, tighten up the machinery. Prisoners of war have protection. They cannot be used as hostages under the convention. However, hostages have no protecting power. There is no convention; there is no judicial machinery in place; and there is no system of enforcement or deterrence.

It is a distressing and worrying situation which has aroused considerable anxiety among many of your Lordships. Any comment—adverse or benign—on the proposals which I put forward tentatively would indeed be welcome.

5.55 p.m.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, it is a pleasure for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. He will not be surprised to hear that I agree substantially with all that he has said.

It was my privilege to be a member of the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations in October 1946. The leader of the delegation was the Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, whom we heard earlier, was also present. He will recall the scenes of the opening of the General Assembly by President Truman. They were wildly enthusiastic. There was a procession of cars to the City Hall, New York, where a civic reception was held in beautiful weather outside in the square. That was followed by lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria. After lunch we were whisked to the assembly. Hundreds of cars were involved. Police and motor cycles surrounded the building. Thousands of people lined the route and paper streamers came floating down from the buildings.

It was my responsibility to watch British interests in the developing world. Our hopes were high and we felt that at long last we could live in a peaceful world. There has since been much criticism of the United Nations not doing enough to fulfil those hopes.

However, the United Nations, through the various agencies, has done much to improve peaceful relations between states. There are 15 specialised agencies, the best known being UNESCO, the World Meteorological Association, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the World Bank and Technical Assistance. There was an attempt to form a world trade organisation. I led the British delegation to the Havana conference, but regrettably the Soviet Union took no part and the agency was not formed. I believe that the time is now opportune for the United Nations to have another try, particularly now that the Soviet Union is being so co-operative. However, from that conference came the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The crisis in the Gulf has brought the United Nations into effective action. Four times in the past the United Nations has been called upon to take military action; that is, Korea in 1950, Egypt in 1966, the Congo in 1960 and Cyprus in 1964. We hope that war will not happen as a result of the present crisis, but it is very reassuring that the United Nations has taken most effective action on this occasion.

The United States is playing a leading part in trying to stop Iraq from keeping its ill-gotten gains. Britain too is playing its full part. The United Nations makes three demands: Iraq's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait; the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government; and the safety and freedom of foreign nationals held as hostages. The United Nations Security Council is united in supporting those demands. Twenty nations, most of them Arab, have sent forces to resist the Iraqi invasion.

The economic blockade is having its effect upon the Iraq economy. President Saddam is taking the only two forms of action possible to counter that. One is the keeping of foreign hostages, and the other is to divide the forces against him. President Bush recognises this, but regrettably our own Prime Minister does not. Her attack on our European partners for their slow and patchy response to the Gulf crisis was a mistake. Six out of nine members of the Western European Union are sending forces to the Gulf.

It is pleasing that the Commonwealth is playing its part. Australia has sent three warships to the Gulf; Canada is sending three ships and 800 sailors. New Zealand is sending two transport aircraft and a civilian medical team. Pakistan is to contribute 5,000 troops and Bangladesh 1,200 troops to the force in Saudia Arabia. Iraq is holding hostages from 10 Commonwealth countries.

The Gulf crisis is the first test of the ability of the United States and the Soviet Union to work in unison in the interests of peace and stability. It also offers the United Nations the opportunity of playing its rightful role of enforcing the international rule of law. These are vital issues which could set the pattern of international behaviour for the years ahead.

6.2 p.m.

Lord Alport

My Lords, our writs of summons enjoin us to be available to give our views on matters affecting the security of the realm. I welcome this opportunity to declare wholehearted support for the measures so far taken by the Government against Iraq's aggression. At the same time I should like to express appreciation, as other noble Lords have done, for the wise and balanced way in which the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State, Mr. Waldegrave, have set out our policies and conducted our relations with our allies and with the United Nations.

Perhaps I may add that I warmly admire the way in which the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Labour Party handled the difficult role as head of parliamentary Opposition at a time when the nation is faced with the issue of peace or war. A sense of national unity enabled Great Britain in the past to face and overcome great danger. It is perhaps a pity that it takes a major crisis to quell the factionalism of our party political system and to remind us that we are one nation.

The sense of unity created by the imminent threat of war is one thing. The problem is how long it will last if we face the economically and psychologically debilitating prospect of a long period of stalemate. That will affect all the countries of the alliance. The economic consequences of sanctions will become increasingly damaging. Even now, as other noble Lords said, there is urgent need to rescue Jordan from impending disaster. Popular resolution will be undermined by harrowing stories of the plight of hostages and refugees. Peace movements will become increasingly influential. Soon the significance to international order of Iraq's attack on Kuwait and the danger it presents to energy supplies, on which the industrial world depends for its stability and the living standards of its people, will be forgotten. That will be the time when the alliance against Saddam Hussein will begin to disintegrate. That is what he is banking on.

There may be some sudden incident which makes hostilities inevitable. Alternatively, when the build-up is complete, the Government of the United States may face irresistible pressure to bring the situation to a head by a pre-emptive strike. There are those who believe that force is the only solution; perhaps in the outcome they will prove to be right. But others in the United States and here see in the creation of a worldwide alliance, based on resolutions of the United Nations and determination to resist armed aggression, an event which would have immense significance for world peace if it could be successful without resort to war. President Bush's national security adviser is one of these.

I am sure that there is growing consensus within the alliance that this opportunity of creating a new world order in international affairs must not be lost by a failure of determination to take the long road of sanctions and diplomatic and psychological pressure. One observer said that talk of a new world order may be premature. It may be too soon to say whether the international alliance against Iraq will do its job. But it is certain that if President Bush ditches the consensus before the Arabs are convinced that it is necessary he will make the world a more dangerous place.

It may be that a policy that involves a protracted period of stalemate does not appeal to the more bellicose elements in the United States Congress or here. For my part I hope that Her Majesty's Government will use their considerable influence to prepare public opinion generally to take the long road. If war comes we shall play our part. But while there is a chance of turning the crisis in the Middle East into an opportunity to establish a more effective way of solving international problems and maintaining peace in the future, that opportunity must not be lost.

6.7 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asked for comments on his proposal for a convention against hostage taking but, like jesting Pilate, he did not stay for an answer. My comment is that, desirable though it may be, the length of time it would take to pass such a measure through the United Nations—which would require a meeting of the Assembly as well as the Security Council—with the various questions that one could imagine raised by particular countries with particular circumstances, would make it something hardly directed towards alleviating, still less solving, the present crisis.

When we embark upon a consideration of this matter we are in danger of a little too much unrealism. We are a little too content with phrases and aspirations. It is difficult to do more—I hope no one would wish to do more—than support the Government in the steps they have taken. One must assume in an international matter of complexity that the information that the Government have at their disposition is greater than that available to the ordinary Member of your Lordships' House or the other place. This particularly relates to sanctions. On the face of it, remembering the discussions that went on in the mid-1930s regarding sanctions against Italy, general consensus has always been that sanctions in themselves cannot function against a government who would prefer to use forcible methods rather than accept defeat.

It may be that Iraq is unusually susceptible to sanctions. It may be that it has a peculiar economy with its heavy dependence upon a single export and the importance of imports. But one has yet to see clear evidence that it could work on anything like the timescale which many of us hope will be sufficient. Therefore it becomes essential that diplomatic pressure and a display of diplomatic firmness should be allied to sanctions and that no possible loophole should be left for either President Saddam Hussein or his friends to have any illusions about the intentions of the international community.

We are facing something rather unusual. I have been very struck by the frequency with which Saddam Hussein has been compared with Adolf Hitler. For my mind, apart from the fact that, like Hitler in his time, Saddam Hussein cultivates a moustache, I see no resemblance between them. Hitler—a demonic figure and a figure with whom the House would not expect me to have much sympathy—was the leader of a great and powerful nation which prepared itself for war and went to war. It did not depend upon other people for its armaments and technology. It was self-supporting. As was pointed out in the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, a speech which we must all applaud, and also in the speech of his noble friend Lady Blackstone, that is not true of Iraq.

Iraq's military power is wholly the product of western folly, western assistance and western technologists. After all, what were some of the people now being detained working on in Iraq if they were not working in pursuit of Saddam Hussein's military objectives? Had it not been for the then condemned decision of the Government of Israel nine years ago to bomb the Iraqi reactor, we would now be facing not merely a government with chemical weapons but possibly a government with either nuclear weapons available to them at once or in the very, very near future.

What must puzzle us and cause us to think about our conduct not merely now in relation to the crisis but in the years to come is how it came to pass that with all the warnings we had we did not face up to what was going on in Iraq. Several noble Lords drew attention to the use of poison gas against Iraq's Kurds. It was pointed out that the Iraqi regime, with international co-operation, was devoting enormous resources to military development. If we in the West have been so unwilling to face facts of this kind—the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that we were arming someone who could be in a position to put his hand on the windpipe of the western and indeed of the world economy—what trust do we have in ourselves that we will know what to do when and if we bring this crisis to a successful conclusion? But we can at least make certain that we do not leave any illusions about our determination.

I should like to echo, because it should not merely be a party matter, the point made by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition about a company in London acting as a centre for the procurement of arms. I should like the noble Lord the Leader of the House to tell us either that the "Panorama" journalists, The Times newspaper and so on got it wrong or that this company has been closed and that its operations have ceased. It should have ceased operations on the very day that Iraq invaded Kuwait, not because by then it was impossible to get further arms supplies from this country or from elsewhere in Western Europe but simply as an illustration that we had woken up to the enormity of what was going on. Such actions are essential if we are to accept that things will be different in the future.

There is another way in which it is absurd to point to parallels between Iraq and Nazi Germany. Iraq is not a country. As the most reverend Primate pointed out, Iraq, like Jordan, is a creation of the external influences playing at the end of the Second World War upon what had been the Ottoman Empire. All kinds of other political boundaries were thought of, were feasible and could have come about. As it happened, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and other countries in the Middle East settled down with recognised boundaries and with an accepted status, ultimately as members of the United Nations. We have to treat them as though they are countries with, as it were, a long independent pedigree. But that does not mean that they see themselves in that way. That is one of the great differences between the position in Europe and the position in the Middle East at the time of the Second World War.

At that time we had in this country as honoured guests the Queen of Holland, the King of Norway and their governments. There was no question but that Hitler would be turned out and that the legitimate governments would be restored. People do not look at the governments of the Middle East—and perhaps quite rightly—in the same terms. Therefore, whatever happens, we shall not be able to put the clock back.

However, there is a way in which we may benefit from the shock and what I fear may be a long drawn out and far from pleasant experience. There will at last be some understanding of the major elements of interdependence in the world. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been criticised by more than one speaker for her remarks about our European allies. I understand why they made that criticism. I nevertheless point out that there are three countries—Germany and Italy, which were criticised, and Japan, which was not at that time mentioned since it was not relevant at that meeting—whose dependence on Middle East oil is very much greater than that of the United States or of the United Kingdom. While acknowledging the inhibitions, moral as well as constitutional, on German military action in the Gulf, it is nevertheless important that those countries should accept at least verbally that they have as much if not more interest in preventing the oil of the Gulf being controlled and manipulated for political purposes by regimes whose attitudes and conduct none of them would venture to palliate.

I think that perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made too much of the fact that we should have been opposed to Iraq because of its internal regime. It is not a question of an internal regime, however awful, otherwise the international scene would be even more difficult than it is. It is the fact that if you have a government which is really an army in power, which is a military machine and nothing else—in that sense, I suppose, Saddam Hussein, when he compares himself to Sennacherib or Nebuchadnezzar, is on the right track—and which is capable of being used with ruthless effectiveness to conquer countries and, as we see in the case of Kuwait, to plunder countries, then there is a challenge to the international community. Whether or not, as we all hope they will, economic sanctions can work against that kind of country is something which we shall learn. However, my conclusions would be the same as those expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington; namely, that we should not say in advance that that is the only course which we can follow.

6.21 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I should like to preface what I have to say about the Motion before us by expressing my very deep and personal regret for the tragic irony that, in the week in which we have been recalled to discuss the subject which very much revolves around the United Nations, we have heard with deep sorrow of the death of Lord Caradon. I was privileged to work with him in Cyprus, in West Africa, in the West Indies and at the United Nations. I know that if he had been here today he would have made a valuable contribution to our deliberations. I say that because, above all, Lord Caradon was a man who believed in the United Nations, who served our country to the utmost at the United Nations and who leaves behind sorrowing people in many parts of the world, including, in particular, the citizens of the third world.

Despite the unrepresentative character of our House, we have a tradition of looking beyond the parochial view as seen from this country. I believe that this has been shown this afternoon and it is a tradition which I should like to continue in what I have to say. Surely it is essential in these dangerous days for us to rise above the chauvinistic paranoia of much of the populist media of this country and see how the situation looks and how the actions of our Government and of our country look from outside Britain, especially when we claim to be leading what is basically a moral crusade.

Let there be no doubting the fact that Saddam Hussein is a cruel and barbarous dictator. His aggression in respect of Kuwait is a breach of international law and order. His treatment of British hostages and of many thousands more hostages from many parts of the world, especially those from Asia, has been of the utmost disgrace. Above all, he has flouted the authority of the United Nations and the United Nations' response to that flouting was essential.

However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has already pointed out, Saddam Hussein demonstrated his cruelty when he used poison gases on his own people, including the Kurds. When he turned his poison gases on to the Iranians, some of us protested, but in vain. At that time he was armed, financed and diplomatically supported by, among others, Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States, just as Hitler and Mussolini had been armed and supported in the 1930s when they were rising to power.

The Earl of Onslow


Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, what is different if we are looking at the validity of a moral crusade? What is different on moral grounds now? To many people in the world we appear to be hypocrites. Have there been any words of contrition that we and the West in general—including the French and the Germans—gave the arms, the financial power and the diplomatic support to Saddam Hussein when he was murdering his own people and when he was using these weapons of terror in Iran?

Has there been any help given to the opposition in Iraq which was the first target of Saddam's terror? Is there any help being given to that opposition today? Why this change in our moral standing and in our moral claims? One United States senator put it very succinctly when he said that if Kuwait had been growing carrots the Western world would not have been concerned with the takeover of that country by Iraq. Quite clearly there is a concern about the control of oil and surely this, on moral grounds, is the operation of double standards.

To those outside this country and outside the West and Europe—and to some inside—the claim that aggression should be met by sanctions, by force and by international action seems somewhat hypocritical when one recalls the invasion of Panama less than a year ago, the invasion of Grenada, the invasion of Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, the war in Vietnam and perhaps, above all, the fact that the State of Israel still occupies territories which she took 23 years ago. That action, as your Lordships may remember, was met by Resolution 242 of the United Nations which declared that the occupation of territory by force could not be tolerated.

What has been done since that resolution was passed? Again, unfortunately, to the Arab masses, the West is seen to be supporting autocratic, tyrannous and ostentatiously wealthy oligarchs, plus of course the oil companies. Saddam has been and is able to pose as the champion of the poor Arabs and of Arab nationalism against the attempts of the West to establish a new form of oil imperialism. Of course that claim is nonsense; but it is insidious propaganda. Above all, it tends to destroy the moral appeal upon which not our case but that of the United Nations rests. It debases the acceptance of United Nations authority. Saddam must be persuaded or compelled to leave Kuwait, but this must be achieved by United Nations authority and not by the military might of the United States.

We are living at a time when for the first time for 40 years an opportunity has arisen to see the United Nations as a world authority. We and our children depend greatly upon the way in which that authority is built up and accepted. Now that there are no longer superpower vetoes and tension between the two superpowers whenever international law is breached, it is from the third world—we have been given an early warning by recent events—that will come the conflicts that may threaten international peace and order. In the future it will be British civilians who will depend upon the strength of the authority of the United Nations. World peace will depend upon the same factor.

The sole objective of the United Nations is the keeping of the peace. That is why so many of us have argued for so many years that the main weapon of the United Nations should be sanctions, if necessary supported by a United Nations peace-keeping force. From the point of view of a second-class power such as Britain has now become and the safety of our citizens and international order, the opportunity exists to build up the United Nations as that world authority. That cannot be done so long as those who do not have clean hands, so far as, in the present instance, Iraq is concerned, take the law into their own hands.

War, however it comes, would mark the failure of the United Nations and probably its collapse. It would destroy the opportunities which are now open to us to achieve a new world order and authority. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will never be tempted to take any form of military action without the full authority of the United Nations, because if we do we shall be committing suicide and leaving the world in disorder and without authority. We should be undermining the international authority which now exists.

It is not enough merely to meet the present military challenge to world order. The future of the Middle East depends upon the United Nations being used actively by our Government, the United States Government, the Soviet Union, and all its members to achieve a genuine Middle Eastern settlement. That settlement must include human rights for the Arabs in all their territories where they so desire them. It must include the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories, as the United Nations laid down some 23 years ago, plus United Nations guarantees for the protection of the Israeli state as it was drawn by the United Nations and the establishment of a Palestinian state so that Palestinian citizens have the same rights as citizens of other states. It must be the United Nations, not the United States or the West, that controls that oil rich area and acts there as the guarantor of national sovereignty and the peaceful trade in oil.

I should like to suggest that we must think even more deeply; we must think about the use of that oil in the western world, especially in the United States, and its effect on the environment and the fixation with cheap oil of so many people in the West. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, will deal with that issue and I am sure that he can do so better than I.

I conclude by asking the noble Lord the Leader of the House three questions of which I have given him notice. First, if aggression demands international response, as I believe it should, what action did Her Majesty's Government take over the invasion of Panama, Grenada and Afghanistan and the bombing of Libya? Secondly, if the occupation of foreign territories by force should be met by international sanctions supported by military force, as I also believe, do Her Majesty's Government apply that principle to the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, to Indonesia's seizure of East Timor or to Israel's conquest and annexation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights? Thirdly, as the Prime Minister and her Government have so vigorously repudiated sanctions as a method of international action against apartheid in South Africa when so many of us have proposed that that is the only peaceful means of securing change, what has caused their volte face in the case of Iraq? Perhaps I might ask a fourth question of which I did not give notice: can the noble Lord the Leader of the House assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will not participate unilaterally in any military offensive without a specific request from the United Nations?

6.37 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I have listened with interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. Some of what he says is right, but we do not live in a pure world. The world is complex. All sorts of things occur, and none of us is blameless. One thing is certain: Saddam Hussein does not give a damn for the ideals of justice, the United Nations or anything else. The only thing that he respects is power. The United States, mixed up though she might be, provided that power and has given us the chance to do something about the situation.

I should like to talk for a little about the role of Europe in the present crisis. I am my party's representative to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union. I greatly admire the work done by the Council of Europe. For example, it has long been greatly concerned with the enormous increase in the population of the Maghreb on the North African coast which will double within 20 years. Those people on the south coast of the Mediterranean are poor and becoming poorer. Without a doubt, they provide wonderful ammunition for a dictator such as Saddam Hussein, posing as a great religious leader. Of course poverty is a splendid thing for him to work on.

Many good things spring from the Council of Europe. For example, there is the desire of the newly emerging democracies of the East to belong to it. It will be an influential body.

I am also a member of the Western European Union, the first attempt to set up a defence system within Europe, superseded by the very effective NATO but now—as it has been for many years—more or less set aside. It had a small success recently during the previous conflict when minesweepers went to the Gulf. However, I believe that our efforts in Europe are worthy of criticism. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who has been frequently referred to in this debate, with his usual rather brutal common sense, which I greatly admire, put his finger on the spot. He said that if we had to wait for Europe to make up its mind in its present state of organisation, Saddam Hussein would have been through Saudi Arabia by this time.

We depend entirely on the monolithic power expressed by the United States in its willingness to take a risk to put the essential military stop to the ambitions of Iraq under its present leader. I believe that in Europe we must do a great deal in order to have a proper European pillar of the Atlantic alliance. We must have an organisation like NATO where action can be taken, where the objectives are set out and there is some form of command or action structure which can act, as the United States was able to act, at once in the Gulf. It used its immense power—its considerable air power allied to its sea power in the aircraft carrier groups.

Thus we are now in a position where perhaps the Prime Minister's strictures on Europe might be justified even for ourselves. I know that we have done more than others, but the evidence now coming out of America, expressed by Congressmen and others is that they feel that the American boys, sweltering in the heat of the Gulf and in danger, need more support from us. I believe that that is true. I support everything that has been said in this House. It is a personal opinion, probably backed by other members of my Party, that we and the rest of Europe should send ground forces, infantry and tanks on the ground into Saudi Arabia, wherever they are wanted, in order to support public opinion in America for the long haul. The more we are seen to be backing them, the more we are seen to be an international, United Nations force, the more America will sustain its major part in the objective which we have set ourselves. That could lead to the first real sign of a United Nations which can keep the peace. It will be a long, difficult, dangerous and perhaps even a bloody struggle. But if the United Nations holds together and succeeds in this enterprise, we can succeed in the future in keeping the peace.

We are not perfect nor has the conduct of the West been perfect towards Iraq. When Mr. Wilson, as Prime Minister, appointed an arms salesman for the British Government I, as one who was brought up in the 1930s to be politically interested, was shocked to the core. People like Basil Zaharoff are known as the merchants of death. That we should enter into this I thought was appalling. I still think that we must control this trade; we can see where it is leading us.

I support everything that the Government have done so far. I believe that we are on the right lines. If we stick with them, out of this trial great good can come.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Elibank

My Lords, while the attention of this House and of the public outside has been focused on the military and political aspects of the immediate crisis, it might be worth spending a little time looking at the general background and longer-term considerations of the position in the Gulf.

I had the pleasure of spending three years in one of the Gulf states working there, though not, as it happens, in Kuwait, to which I was an infrequent visitor. The recent crisis has brought vividly to my mind some of the opinions, observations and recollections that I formed at that time. They may be of interest to your Lordships.

The principal impression that any visitor to the Gulf receives immediately on arrival is of the strong, all pervading force of the Moslem religion. I think less of the splendid mosques which are dotted around the coast of the Gulf and more of the sight of a common labourer putting down his trowel or spade or descending from his lorry, unrolling his prayer mat, turning towards Mecca and saying the relevant prayers in the heat. This is often in a temperature of 100 to 120 degrees and he does it with a total lack of self-consciousness or ostentation. Then he resumes his task and carries on. I found this in a quiet way an impressive demonstration of the fundamental strength of Islam in the area.

Another impression I received from talking to the Arabs in that country was that men of my own age or younger could well remember when the Gulf was no more than a desert with wandering groups of Bedouin moving from site to site concentrating almost exclusively on survival. Around the coast were dotted a few isolated fishing villages. As your Lordships will know, the Gulf now has a number of modern, clean, well run cities, small in size but offering most of the amenities we have come to expect in the West.

The other curious feature of the Gulf states which they all share to a greater or lesser degree is what I can only describe as a series of racial planes gyrating around a common axis. These planes gyrate perfectly freely and in harmony, but they rarely touch except on strictly business matters. At the top is the ruler with his family—the ruling family, the recipients of the oil revenues. One plane lower are the Arab nationals of the country. It is interesting to contemplate that those two groups together will generally make up substantially less than 50 per cent. of the residents of that state. In the country in which I worked, they made up only 20 per cent.

Below that plane comes another layer of Arabs from outside the Gulf, often Egyptians and Lebanese, men of considerable education and administrative experience who, in many ways, serve to run the administration on behalf of the ruling family. Below them are the Western expatriates who are out there on contracts, making good money and having a good time but who are there for a strictly limited period. Below them in the hierarchy are the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, who for the most part run the shops and minor services. At the bottom, the men who do the manual work, who labour in the sun, are nearly all Iranians.

That is the structure, lubricated by the oil wealth from the top, filtering down to the bottom planes. In times of prosperity all are happy, all derive benefit to a greater or lesser extent from the oil revenues. In times of recession, the numbers of foreigners shrink and the state absorbs this. They return promptly enough when the money also returns.

There is a subsidiary aspect of the administration which is relevant to the present situation. The security forces, the army and the police are almost exclusively manned by foreigners. A member of the Royal Family will be the titular head, but the officers and rank and file are what we would know as mercenaries. They are disciplined and well organised, but they are mercenaries none the less. They could adequately control a situation within the state in normal circumstances, but one asks whether they would fight if presented with a determined aggressor. The answer is that they probably would not.

Sooner or later the Government of Kuwait will have to be re-established in one form or another. That may not be simple to achieve. If the United Nations is in a position to do so within the next six months, there will be no problem: the ruler and his family will return and they will resume their various offices of state. However, if that process is delayed, it is likely that usurpers, pretenders to the throne, will secure the backing to a greater or lesser degree of other Arab states. The international community and our Government in particular may be faced with making difficult empirical choices as to whom to back.

It has been suggested that some form of western democracy should be imposed upon Kuwait. An experiment with democracy has been tried and withdrawn and I do not think that that is a productive line of thought in 1990. As I understand the situation, the Arabs are well versed in and very happy with the process of consultation, which they employ in great measure. However, the formal voting democratic process is alien to them and any attempt to enforce it, given the racial background that I have described, would be very likely to lead to chaos. If it is proposed to establish some form of western democracy in Kuwait or to force it upon the ruling family, I humbly recommend to Her Majesty's Government that such a proposal should be treated with the greatest of care.

I have endeavoured to show that, although we can handle the current crisis, it will not be the end of matters in Kuwait and probably not in the other Gulf states. We should be aware of the basic problems and racial tensions which may arise in those countries and we should be prepared to act wisely when another crisis arises, as is very likely.

6.55 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, as a relatively new Member of this House I could not fail to be other than enormously impressed by the quality of the debate, its dignity, its calm, its moderation and its continuing interest, not least the very thoughtful and interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. It is interesting to note that the debate has been graced by a former Prime Minister, three former Foreign Secretaries (although one of those was also Prime Minister), a former president of the European Commission and two former ambassadors to the United Nations. That is a formidable list of participants.

It is not unexpected that this House should have shown a united resolve in regard to the fundamental issues, a unity in its abhorrence of Iraq's naked aggression and a resolve to uphold the international consensus which is reflected in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, sustained by economic mandatory sanctions. In accordance with those resolutions, we should continue to demand the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, the release of foreign nationals who continue to be held hostage in complete denial of international law and the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government. Whether one goes along entirely with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, the future shape of that country must remain a matter for conjecture. It is, however, right that he alluded to it, but that is not something which, I suggest, we need concentrate upon now.

Despite the consensual approach, it would be wrong to lose sight of the fact that over a very long period Saddam Hussein was given numerous wrong signals. We in the West displayed a relative indifference to the appalling plight of the Kurds, subjected as they were to the most inhumane treatment at the hands of Saddam Hussein. That situation helped to convey the view that if he could get away with that, if he could get away with chemical warfare against the Iranians, he could get away with anything.

The connivance of the West—and this country was not the only one responsible by any manner of means—in the build up of Iraq's deadly weaponry is something that we should learn from and remember. The matter has been put very well in the editorial in the Guardian today. But if, as James Baker has said, an aggressor needs stopping in his tracks, why did the Western allies covertly favour this one for so long? The persistent British failure to clamp down on Iraq's shopping expeditions for arms-related technology is baffling. British firms were encouraged to attend last year's Baghdad arms fair. Export licences were granted for dubious items. Export credits were not withdrawn. The Iraqi-backed Technology and Development Group in London functioned without visible hindrance or scrutiny". Those are important matters of the past and we must learn the lessons of history.

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, referred to the almost universal condemnation nine years ago of the Israeli attack on Iraq's nuclear capacity. I believe that if that had not taken place despite the opinion of the world at the time, the prospects of this Gulf crisis would have been immeasurably more depressing than they are—and they are pretty depressing at the moment.

I hope that we shall not have here any more purposeless attacks by the Prime Minister or anyone else—although as far as the Government are concerned it appears to be confined to the Prime Minister—on our allies in the European Community just at the moment when a consensus had been patiently worked for and obtained.

Whatever the mistakes of the past were, I believe that the United States was absolutely right to act in the way that it did when Iraq was poised to attack Saudi Arabia. Time was of the essence. It was not possible to wait for a resolution of the Security Council in those circumstances. It was equally right, albeit a little belated, to seek the support of the United Nations subsequently for the action that had been taken to protect Saudi Arabia and to mount and enforce an effective blockade. I believe it remains right that we should strive might and main to maintain that international consensus, and indeed to broaden it, because there are still laggards in that respect; and indeed to seek to procure the approval of the United Nations for any further steps that might need to be taken. I do not believe that it is sufficient simply to assert that Article 51 should suffice to confer on us the right to engage in further action should it be established to be necessary in the light of the possibility that sanctions are not working.

Like my noble friend Lord Richard, I would say that this is not a question of legal quibbling. The Government's position may be right in law but this is not just a matter of law. It is the political approach that also matters. Therefore, I would argue that the authority of the United Nations must be sought if it is deemed necessary to move further. But that is not to say that if there is an overwhelming view that sanctions are not working and that further action is required we should simply say that the United Nations has not sanctioned further action and consequently that nothing further can be done, due perhaps to the unprincipled exercise of a veto by one member of the Security Council, for that would be to convey all the wrong messages, not least for the future of the United Nation; itself.

It is difficult if not impossible to consider all the possible scenarios that might develop, but I should like to underline a number of issues. First, I believe that we must continually endeavour to make sanctions work. They must be given a reasonable amount of time, as my noble friend Lord Callaghan argued, and it is wrong to accept, as seemed to be the situation a week of two ago, that war is absolutely inevitable. I believe that we must try, as my noble friend Lord Callaghan also argued, to widen support particularly among those who are at present opposed to the United Nations Security Council resolutions. We must strenuously resist any weakening of the consensus that has been so worthily negotiated—and that will become increasingly difficult to achieve over the course of the next weeks or months. I think too we must hope that in the due course of time it will be the Iraqi people who will exact their judgment on their present leader.

But, most important of all, we have to avoid at all costs sham solutions, easy compromises which fall short of the objectives that have been currently set by the international community, for that would simply give Saddam Hussein time to build up his capacity to menace peace once again and perhaps much more formidably than even at the present time. In his guise as the new Saladin he would assert that he was seeking to unite the Arab world in his quest to get rid of all western and other infidels as he would put it—a really bogus claim from someone who has engaged in the mass slaughter of his fellow Moslems. It would be infinitely dangerous if we were to try to paper over cracks in search of some easy solution, because all that would do would be to erode the authority of the United Nations quite as conclusively as that of the League of Nations was stripped bare in the 1930s.

I believe that the current crisis does not diminish but enhances the need in due course for international action to deal with the whole continuing crisis in the Middle East. These problems will persist but I believe, contrary to the impression that was given by, I think, my noble friend Lord Hatch, that these are secondary at present to the aggression of Iraq. For surely one thing which this aggression has revealed is that the Israeli-Arab conflict is not even the main conflict in this region. The Gulf crisis is about a dictator's threat to exercise a stranglehold over 40 per cent. of the world's oil reservoirs; it is about a grave threat to all moderate opinion in the Middle East; it is about the impossibility of seeking to pacify the lust of a dictator. The Gulf crisis has also had incalculable consequences for the position of the PLO. It is indeed difficult to conceive that the PLO can today be an active participant in a future Middle East peace process. It has given unequivocal support to Saddam Hussein and I believe that that extraordinarily unwise action from its point of view has cost the PLO and indeed others a great deal. It has squandered its credibility. It has undermined gravely (let us hope only temporarily) the doves in Israel who have constantly called for dialogue with the PLO—a PLO now revealed as totally perfidious, totally untrustworthy.

The PLO's actions have given comfort only to the extremists and it is inconceivable today that Arafat would be as warmly welcomed as he was in the past in any European capital, in Washington or even in Cairo. Who today will support the PLO financially and militarily? But ultimately there is no substitute for a peaceful solution to the historic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and for that purpose principled partners will have to be found.

Amidst the current crisis we must become increasingly conscious of the horrendous plight of the refugees, notably those flooding into Jordan, and we have to respond generously. If we are to confront yet another refugee problem on a scale which might well dwarf those of the past, and if this situation were not to elicit an adequate response on the part of the wealthier nations, we should surely be facing an utterly calamitous situation in the future, whatever may be the outcome of the present difficulties in the Gulf.

The European Commission has today announced the allocation of £15 million (or is it 15 million ecu?) of aid. That can only be a start and we have to be prepared jointly or severally to add to that figure. So far the United Kingdom has announced the payment of a donation of some £500,000, which is almost derisory. I hope that that is only a first instalment. It is no less important to respond to that call for justice and help than to respond to the call which has been made by the United States to its partners to help financially in the military operations that it has justifiably undertaken.

7.9 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld

My Lords, the Government's firm handling of the Gulf crisis and the consensus in your Lordships' House on our common objectives are of course very reassuring, but this objective to restore the status quo ante in Kuwait is, and must remain, our unqualified priority. I say that because any exiguous concession would help Saddam Hussein to see himself, as well as to be seen by his supporters and even some of his more volatile opponents, as the triumphant victor in a holy war. If Gamal Nasser could emerge after his defeat in the Six Day War as a hero, Saddam Hussein would certainly be hailed as a saviour if he kept but the tiniest fraction of his loot. Worse still, we could then face in quick succession the subversion or overthrow, most probably from within, of Arab regimes from Morocco and Egypt to the Gulf Emirates and indeed the Saudi kingdom. No amount of American or worldwide readiness to help those regimes could staunch internal change, a change that could be plausibly masked by the rise of populist governments or even feudal figureheads picked from among disgruntled scions of junior beds of various princely families.

Moreover, any compromise that would reinforce Saddam Hussein's hold over his or any other Arab nation would only accelerate his lethal weapon-forging drive so that in two, or three years, or even earlier, the world would have to face not just a few thousand hostages and temporary energy dislocation but the spectre of fully fledged chemical, bacteriological and atomic war. Those who understandably wish to avoid a military end to this crisis must realise that only credible strength and unshakeable resolve will force Saddam Hussein to quit Kuwait. The slightest doubt, the subtlest semantic encouragement, will not only harden his stance but endanger and erode the so far astonishingly strong international consensus.

We should not be side-tracked into a wider discussion, attempting to fuse and confuse the issue of Kuwait with the broader agenda of the disastrously unsettled Middle East. Saddam Hussein has talked, and will talk again, of the inequitable distribution of Arab wealth, the corrupt feudal regimes and the suffering disenfranchised branches of the Arab nation, in order to justify his wanton raid on Kuwait and lump it all into his agenda. There is only one immediate issue on our agenda, and that is the unconditional Iraqi retreat from Kuwait. When your neighbour's house is occupied by gangsters and its occupants held hostage at knifepoint, you do not engage in Hegelian disputes about the ills of humanity or the double standards of public morality. Your sole task is to dislodge the felons and bring them to justice.

Whatever the outcome of this crisis and Operation Desert Shield, the Middle East will never be the same. There are terrible problems from the threat of fundamentalism and terrorism to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the plight of the Kurds, the tragedy of Lebanon, and they must one day, the sooner the better, have to be addressed by the world community. But if we address ourselves to that agenda now there is no one less qualified to pose as guardian of justice and equity in the region than Saddam Hussein. He is the worst offender against all the values of a civil society.

As the ruler of an oil-rich country, he can hardly speak for his oil-poor and population-rich Arab brethren. He squandered Iraq's wealth on lethal arms and reckless war adventures. He practised torture; he helped and hid terrorists. He is solely responsible for the suffering and the mounting danger to wretched refugees and innocent families whose breadwinners went out to help his country with their skills.

Some noble Lords have chosen to refer to one issue, the Palestinian issue, from the welter of many other Middle East problems. This tragic problem, which remains unsolved, has now acquired a new dimension posed by the worsening instability of the Hashemite throne. The large and probably permanent influx or reflux of Palestinians from the Gulf has now turned Jordan quite unmistakably into a Palestinian country. In the long run that is a factor that might eventually help rather than hinder a regional solution embracing all that was once the British Mandate of Palestine.

I have just returned from Jerusalem and have spoken to leaders of government and opposition, and I can assure your Lordships that the Israeli Government and people are calm but watchful, determined not to aggravate the crisis. When the dust settles, I think there is a firm resolve in Israel to regenerate the peace process. If the world community succeeds in redressing the evil aggression in Kuwait, Israel's readiness to take major risks for peace will be commensurate with a growing sense of restored confidence that will result through a proper vindication of international law and a thorough defeat of the current aggressor.

At the same time I hope that some noble Lords here who have spoken on the subject will realise the great problem of finding now valid interlocutors on the Palestinian-Arab side whose intentions are peaceful and whose record is reassuring. Yasser Arafat's unequivocal stand, shoulder to shoulder with Saddam Hussein, and his break—dare I say treacherous break?—with his Gulf and Saudi sponsors, the now united front of pro-Iraqi PLO notables, from Bassam Sharif to Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal, all this should give pause to all those who are well intentioned peacemakers, observers, opinion formers or even Foreign Office Ministers, who have tried time and again to induce Israel to sit down trustingly with the allies of the guilty man of Baghdad.

Our support should be extended to those Arab leaders who, at the recent Cairo meeting of the Arab League, reaffirmed their stand against Saddam Hussein. Some indeed have registered their claims for future compensation and squarely faced up to their responsibility. And of course our backing must be given to the Prime Minister whose forceful voice rang out for justice not only for the people of Kuwait but also against those who have committed crimes against humanity.

The sacrifices that may well lie ahead of us pale before the horrid prospect of another round later, begotten by appeasement. Only a firm stand now will ultimately pacify the region and allow us in Britain, Europe and the world at large to reap the benefits of the momentous happenings of the past 12 months: that year which saw truce turned into peace between the superpowers and the effective end of the great European civil war which darkened and dominated three-quarters of the 20th century.

7.17 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, in his speech—I am sorry that he is not here to correct me, but I believe that I interpret something of what he said—suggested that this country in particular, and maybe the United States, were in danger of acting in a manner that could be described as humbug, at one moment seeming to be supportive of the Iraqi nation and helping it with weaponry, assistance and so on, in its war against Iran, and on the other hand, when it appears to suit us, not seeming to think it behaved very well towards the nation of Kuwait.

It is important that one gives the lie to that interpretation, because that is not so. It all stems from what is known as the balance of power, in which we have had since 1815 a considerable amount of interest, particularly in that part of the world. I am sure that your Lordships will remember the prolonged issue of what was called the Eastern question, and all that sort of thing. I believe that all we were doing in so far as Iraq was concerned in the war against Iran was trying to ensure that neither country defeated the other. As long as they wanted to go on battling against each other that was their prerogative.

It would not have been in the interests of the balance of power in that part of the world if either one or the other country had succeeded in its quest. Therefore, it is not correct to suggest that we are behaving in a manner that could be described as humbug by now insisting upon Iraq's total withdrawal from Kuwait and the restoration of the democratic government there, which has been manifested by the United Nations' resolution.

There can be no turning back on that. The United Nations cannot turn back on that. It cannot agree to even parts being taken away by saying to the Iraqi nation, "You can have that island, and that will be fine, so long as you let the government come back to the remainder of their country." That in itself would be giving in, and that is what I think President Saddam Hussein is playing for.

What is the object? The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, referred to the fact that when all this unhappy affair is finally settled—and we hope it will be soon—that part of the world will never be the same again. There may be further crises, and so on. I have no doubt the noble Lord is absolutely right. We must show—and by "we" I embrace the United States and the major Western powers—that we are determined not to permit such a violation of sovereign nations and their territories and the people who propose to act in such a fashion must realise that the full force of international law will come down upon them. In that case I would agree with the noble Lord, but I think that if we can take firm action, should that prove to be absolutely necessary, the danger to which he referred might be somewhat less.

The noble Lord may think I am suggesting that perhaps there is no alternative to the use of force, but I do not believe that at this stage. The most reverend Primate rightly referred to the question of sanctions and expressed the feeling, with which I am sure many of your Lordships agree, that a more peaceful and humane method such as the utilisation of sanctions would work. On the other hand, my noble friend Lord Carrington said that that was all very well but asked how long we were prepared to wait and how long sanctions would take to be effective.

I am sure we all know the old song "There's a hole in my bucket". It seems to me that Resolution No. 665—the last one, I believe, made by the United Nations—also has a hole in it. The resolution was a most remarkable one because it showed that for the first time all the members of the United Nations were in agreement. That is the first time such a thing has happened since the end of the last world war, and it is a major achievement. However, there is a glaring and gaping hole. The resolution basically calls upon member states to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping. So far so good; but there are other means of getting supplies through by land or by air. That is the hole in this sanction. If we are going to rely on sanctions being effective, as I hope very much they will be—and quickly—then surely the United Nations must be asked to go further. It must be asked to ensure that all methods of shipment, whether by land, air or sea, of any goods, food and equipment into Iran are effectively blocked by whatever methods are suitable.

Failing sanctions, I am afraid that one has to revert to the use of force. I was very gratified to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, indicate that the action taken by the United States, and also ourselves, in the initial stages of this crisis was correct and that it received the full support of the United Nations afterwards. If force has to be used there is no way that the United Nations could get together and make a resolution which says, "This is the end of the line: we are now going to use force." We cannot even say in Parliament here that we are going to use force or to join with those who wish to use force. That cannot be done. Surprise is the element of success in any of these unhappy matters. Her Majesty's Government must be able to feel absolutely satisfied that Parliament will give them the necessary authority so that if, and only if, it becomes necessary to use force in their view, such force will be used and will have the backing of both Houses of Parliament and therefore of the British nation.

That is absolutely essential. We can try sanctions for a while. However, if that period goes on too long, an element of morale will be missing. The troops can be rotated no doubt but their morale will be sapped. And even if morale is not sapped, because the troops can be taken home again for a rest, rather as is done in Northern Ireland, the people of the principal nation concerned, the United States, will also lose the spirit and the fire in their bellies needed to deal with this man if necessary. I feel that a time limit should be placed on the period during which the sanctions route can be followed.

Finally, I should like to echo something said by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. If, by good fortune, we can get the agreement of the United Nations that whatever action is taken meets with its full approval, I feel that all members of the United Nations have a responsibility to contribute to the cost of the whole exercise. It seems to me very unfair for the world to look to that large country, the United States of America, to pick up the bill for the whole exercise off its own bat. If it is to be a United Nations exercise, then all the nations should assist financially. Otherwise, if one day another crisis should occur, that great country might not feel prepared to put its head in the noose of acting as the world's policeman. I plead for someone within the United Nations to put forward that point.

If we have to use force, then the circumstances of the unfortunate hostages must be borne very much in mind. It is wrong that they should be so used. It is wrong that civilians should be used, as seems likely, to defend sensitive military targets on the ground. But there is no excuse for those who may feel it necessary to implement the use of force ignoring that fact. If possible, should such action become necessary, ways ought to be thought of whereby damage could be inflicted upon the perpetrators of this violation other than initially in sensitive areas where civilian lives may be lost.

In that event more military lives could be lost. I can only say that if that were to be the case, however regrettable, it has to be remembered that those who gallantly decide to join the forces of their country are effectively putting their lives at risk if and when that should be necessary. Therefore, it is slightly more acceptable that those lives may be sacrificed than those of innocent civilians who should never be in this position in the first place. I just ask that perhaps that might be borne in mind.

7.30 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I rise to offer strong support for the general line taken by the leader of my own party here. Indeed, it was a line taken by all the leading speakers. After all these years I cannot remember a more impressive set of speeches than those that opened this debate.

I may be asked whether I have anything useful to contribute to this debate. I may be asked whether I know the Middle East, for example. However, I shall not answer that. I shall treat that as an irrelevant question. I wish to discuss public opinion which may be important when crucial decisions have to be taken a little later on. All the leading speakers are agreed that we must not give way to this awful dictator and that he must be compelled to leave Kuwait. We are all agreed that we must try to avoid war and to use sanctions to the uttermost. I believe we all accept the possibility that the sanctions may not work. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, seemed to take a particularly pessimistic view about that. However, we all appeared to agree that sanctions will not work very quickly and therefore that support may fall away. We all agree therefore that there may be a situation where we have to use force against this dictator. I believe that is accepted by all the leading speakers.

However, at that point the speakers become statesmanlike. They refuse to discuss what should be done in a situation where the United Nations was perhaps not ready to give support. There may be majority support, but that may be vetoed in some way. What would happen then? There seems to be general agreement that we should not let Saddam Hussein get away with this. But how do we propose to act? Do we propose to act without the United Nations?

I wish to offer a personal general reflection. I hope I can do this as a mere groundling in the sense that I have no responsibility in this matter, and my words will not be followed widely all over the world. It would be an appalling situation if a victim nation called for rescue from the great powers that were in a position to rescue it but those powers were unable to do so because of the existence of the United Nations. That would be like saying in 1914 when Belgium called for our support—let us suppose that there had been a United Nations then—that we could not obtain a verdict from the United Nations in time and therefore we could not do anything. I conclude that in such a situation one must go ahead. I refer to "one", but I leave that matter open. If one or more great powers decided that force had to be used to evict this dictator from Kuwait although there was not support from the United Nations, I would not find it in my heart to blame them. That, however, is just my personal attitude.

I am not one of those who automatically supports this country—perhaps that is because I am Irish—when it becomes involved in wars. I was very unsympathetic to the Falklands war, for example. Looking back, that war may have been inevitable at the finish, but I felt it was an unfortunate happening. I derive no satisfaction from thinking about the Falklands war. Looking back, I regret that I did not say that at the time. All I did was to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, on his lone stand. That seems rather a feeble response although I hope he appreciated it. I believe I was the only person to pay him that tribute.

I can look back further than most people, although not as far as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I can look back to 1935 to a situation that was not dissimilar to the situation of the present day. A dictator had invaded a country whose regime was not attractive. I refer to Abyssinia. At the time the great powers made sympathetic noises. They talked about sanctions and began to play with sanctions. But then nothing happened and everything fizzled out. The dictator got away with it. We do not want that to happen again. I feel that in the last resort we must impose sanctions and, if necessary, use force.

My mind also goes back to the Labour Party conference of 1935. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, may have been present. I had not even joined the party; but I joined it the following year as I was somewhat influenced by the conference. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, was a boy member of the party at that time. At any rate, I remember that debate very well.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, I joined the party in 1931.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I remember George Lansbury speaking as the great pacifist leader of the party at that time. He recalled that Jesus Christ said in the garden that those who take the sword will perish by the sword. I am sure that if the noble Lord, Lord Soper, were with us he would use the same words today. However, Mr. Bevin said that he was not going to stand for George Lansbury hawking his conscience all around Europe. Therefore the pacifist line was defeated. I make my following remarks by way of an appeal to any pacifists or people who are not complete pacifists but detest the thought of war in any circumstances, even if they thought it was justified in theory. I can only speak for my own party and not for others. I welcome the existence of the pacifist tradition. It would be a bad day if that died out altogether and if the horror of war were ever muffled or snuffed out.

However, war was necessary against Mussolini and Hitler and it could be necessary now. We must of course work overtime to try to prevent it occurring. I feel that in the last resort this man must be defeated one way or another; but it is to be hoped without war. If it came to war, I hope he would be defeated with the support of the United Nations. I share the hope expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, at the end of his speech. I believe he said that we are now on the edge of great events. If we fail here the idea of a peaceful world will be put back for many years. If we succeed, it may advance at a very rapid pace.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, I speak very much as an independent and I base my views on the fact that I have lived a rather long life that has taken me through the late 1920s, the whole of the 1930s, the Second World War and 37 years in another place. That experience gives me the right at least to express a view. I do not take any party line, and I have not done so for a long time. I speak as a man who has lived through the past 60 to 70 years.

I lived through the period when the League of Nations was an all-important factor. We hoped and prayed that it would result in the coming together of the nations of the world and that it would solve a lot of problems. What a farce that idea was! The League of Nations was utterly and completely smashed by Hitler. It was completely destroyed. Many countries talk about peace now, but no country helped to resuscitate and restore the League of Nations. It was completely destroyed by Hitler. I lived through that period.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Lord appears to think that the League of Nations was destroyed by Hitler. However, it was destroyed through the failure of the great powers to stand up to Mussolini.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, Mussolini and Hitler were both hooligans anyway. All I know is that the League of Nations was destroyed through the inactivity of the great powers as regards any collective action against a bully. That is the point I am making.

Then there was the Second World War, in which I played a very small part. There is one point which arose during that war which should be remembered, certainly by the noble Lord the Leader of the House and others in the Government when talking about future action against Saddam Hussein. When I was an officer we used to consider an appreciation of the facts—what was the enemy like? We tried to get inside him, to find out what he was aiming for and what his attitude was. I have tried to do that with that wretched man Saddam Hussein.

What an extraordinary man he is. He is an Arab. So far as I know he has never been outside his own country. He knows nothing of democracy and western values. They are nonsense to him. He is an Arab, a fanatic and a nationalist.

I thought that the speech made by the Prime Minister the other day was rather sad. Understandably—she was talking to a television audience—she said that if we win the argument, as we shall, we shall take Saddam Hussein before a tribunal and he will be dealt with in the manner of Nuremberg. I understand why she said that, but why in heaven's name did she say it now? We are dealing with a madman. We are not dealing with an ordinary man who balances arguments. He is a tyrant and a nationalist who believes in a so-called Holy War. He places no value on life as we in this House know it. Life is unimportant to him. To him Christianity is a farce. He sees life from an Arab point of view. That is why I beg the Government to recognise who and what we are dealing with. We are not dealing with a sane man.

We in the West should recognise what good has come out of this terrifying situation. First, unlike the League of Nations, we have seen the United Nations come to life. It worked.

Right from the word go, since 1945, I have been a believer in friendship with the United States. I shall put on record why. I want the strongest nation in the world to be my friend because I am British. Anybody who objects to that is a fool. It is essential that we have the United States as an ally. We should not ignore them, as some people in this House and in another place would like. I believe that we have a restraining influence on America. The United States certainly has a restraining influence on us. The Americans have committed their blunders. Vietnam was a disaster; so was Suez. These things happen. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, is not here. The whole of the history of the British in the Middle East is very murky indeed.

Having said that, there is no point in going back. We have to face the present, and tomorrow. That is why I want to say, first, that I understand that one good thing that has come out of the argument is that the United Nations has come to life. The United States and Britain are allies and friends. We are both in the field. Does anybody deny that we stopped Saddam Hussein from invading Saudi Arabia? Is there anybody in this House who has the temerity to argue that Saddam Hussein would not have gone into Saudi Arabia and the Americans there with their ground forces and the British with their aircraft are unnecessary? Of course he would have gone in. He would have destroyed Saudi Arabia and smashed it into the ground, just as he did with Kuwait.

That is the sort of man we are dealing with. We are not dealing with a rational person. I impress upon the House that the only thing that that man understands—because he is an Arab and a nationalist and does not understand democracy—is force of arms. That is his world.

I was asked recently how I define democracy. I define democracy as giving the opposition the right to oppose. Let us relate that to the Middle East. Has Saddam Hussein ever allowed an opposition to oppose him? He would destroy it overnight. He destroyed the Kurds and has destroyed everybody who opposed him. He destroyed Kuwait. Why? Because it was a threat to his oil income. That was why the Americans and the British went in to stop him going further.

You can make any argument you like about not upsetting our allies. I have to say that we have learnt that some of our allies are not worth much. They can pass resolutions in the United Nations and put their hands up, but when it comes to action that is a different matter. I shall not mention names because I recognise that although I carry no authority it would not do any good. However, I believe that Members of this House know who I am talking about. But the Americans, with all their faults, are the best allies to have in a crisis of this kind, and I am very glad that we have joined them.

Next weekend President Bush is meeting Mr. Gorbachev. I hope and pray that the one thing that Mr. Bush will say to him is "Sanctions will not work. We have to go to war. We want your support". I hope that Mr. Gorbachev says in reply, "Yes, I accept and understand that. Not only do I understand it but I support you". That is what I hope will come out of next week's conference, not a lot of argy-bargy, waffle and moonshine. We want definite action from them.

I can say to the Americans, because they are our friends and allies, that we need them to understand the situation. In dealing with Saddam Hussein we are not dealing with a normal man. We are dealing with someone who will destroy the whole of the Middle East and if he could eventually he would take over the whole of the rest of the world. That is how stupid he is. People may laugh at him and sneer and jeer at him, but a million men have already lost their lives in his war against Iran. We are dealing with an extraordinary character.

To those in this House and the other place who say that Britain should be defenceless I say how stupid they are. If ever it reaches the stage when pacifism is the order of the day and we have no armaments, they are dafter than I think it possible for them to be. However, there are some people who say that. They bandy the word "peace" about as if they were the only ones who believed in peace.

One point that has come out of all of this is that the defence of the realm is imperative for this country more than ever before. The situation in Russia has changed and the Russians are no longer our enemies. But what about the Middle East? What if we had sent no aircraft and had taken notice of the so-called pacifists in this House and elsewhere? What a state we should be in. That is one point; it has destroyed the pacifist argument.

Secondly, above all else, the United Nations has now been given a strength that it must not lose. However, we must remember, having unanimously agreed that Saddam Hussein is a rotter, that we must deal with him in a way that he understands. Sanctions are right to start with, but it will not end there. It cannot end there with him. He knows that if he is defeated there will be a Nuremberg-style trial. As a result, so far as he is concerned he will be determined to fight it out. Any idea that we can turn away from that is madness in itself.

I end on this note. I believe that the time is well overdue and we should recognise that sanctions have only a limited purpose. Saddam Hussein is now using the hostages to bolster his illegitimate regime. The one thing that he understands and dreads—and I speak as one who knows a little about the Middle East—is force. He understands it because he has lived by it, traded on it and won on it. This time he will not win.

7.50 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, spoke about Saddam Hussein's outlook. I should like to develop that theme a little. To illustrate the noble Lord's point perhaps I may tell the House that it is reputed that, at an Iraqi cabinet meeting to discuss the Baghdad by-pass, the Minister of Transport suggested to Saddam Hussein that it should take a different route. Saddam Hussein said, "Come outside and let us discuss it; I have some maps". They went out. There was a bang and the Minister of Transport has never been heard of again. Mrs. Thatcher certainly did not treat Cecil Parkinson like that when he was Minister of Transport. I am trying to suggest to your Lordships that it is essential to understand the danger of this sort of regime.

In the Mohammedan religion there is no sentence such as, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and render unto God the things that are God's". That failing has meant that all Moslem regimes from the death of Mohammed until now lack an authority—I use the word "authority" in its Chalcedonian sense. When the Prophet died people did not know what to do. They chose a caliph. Of the first three caliphs who lived in Mecca one or probably two were certainly assassinated. There was an argument and there was no legitimacy. The caliphate was then hijacked to Damascus—again with no legitimacy. That Umayyad caliphate was hijacked to Baghdad—again with no legitimacy. Because there was no legitimacy in Moslem regimes and because they could not make that difference between "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" and "Render unto God that which is God's", there has always been a deep instability in all Moslem regimes.

For instance, consider the Ottoman sultans. Let us assume that Suleiman the Magnificent had around 120 sons, which I think he did. One of them was chosen and the rest had a bowstring put round their neck because the remaining sultan was frightened about what his brothers might get up to.

We have now established at least I have established to my own satisfaction—that this regime is deeply unstable. We are now applying pressure on it because our peace aims should be: unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, the re-establishment of the ruling family and the disarmament of Iraq in chemical, conventional, gas and nuclear capability. If that were to come about it would enable us to address ourselves more directly to the Palestinian question. That must be our aim.

That will not come about without very considerable resistance. If sanctions work, the internal regime in Iraq will collapse. When a hundred years ago an Indian state collapsed—the raja-ate collapsed and the doctrine of lapse applied—the solution was very simple. A squadron of Sindhi regular cavalry and a young man who could speak classical Greek and Latin were sent there and, lo and behold, the place was governed.

What we shall be left with if we are not careful is simply a bubbling cauldron of inchoate hate between the Tigris and the Euphrates. I suggest therefore to your Lordships that we have to think beyond what our absolutely correct aims should be. If we do not do so, we shall end up with an American or Western presence in the Arab world for a very long time. If that presence is there it will be dangerous.

Again, on an historical note, Gladstone, who was by no means a warmonger, said when we went into Egypt to stop rioting in Port Said to support Baring's Bank order (which was what we went into Egypt for) that we should be out of there in six months. The Life Guards went in in 1882. They took part in the moonlight charge at Kassasin and were the last squadron to be withdrawn in 1956. That is how long Gladstone's "six months" was.

So we have to be extremely careful about what happens when our aims have been secured. If we are not careful we shall not know what we are doing. That is all I want to say and I hope that it will be borne in mind.

7.55 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I am sure that the Government must feel very satisfied indeed with the degree of satisfaction and approval that has been expressed so far in the debate over the Government's handling of this crisis. I wonder, however, whether the nation is fully braced or is even briefed on the test of faith and courage which may yet come upon us.

In all the government speeches that have been made since this crisis opened—and I have listened to most of them—for me the most notable moment was when the Prime Minister last Sunday had to introduce a diversion about war criminals into an otherwise admirable statement in the David Frost programme. Why did she have to bring in that subject? We are still messing about with the tag end of war criminals of 50 years ago. Why then threaten evil-doers in a war that is yet to come that they may be brought to trial and judgment may be passed upon them? We do not want another Nuremberg at the end of this crisis.

After all, war criminals are brought to book only if they have been conquered. The victors are never war criminals. War criminals may be pursued by victors to the end of the earth and the end of time but there is no justice in it. It is a matter of what victorious parties in war can inflict on the other side. Let us forget evil-doers in this situation. A war has not yet come. I believe, however, that we have to be braced for it.

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and my noble friend Lord Hatch opened the cupboards of history. They did not have to probe very far before they came upon a few skeletons, some of which were recognised as British and others as American. Of course there are plenty of others. The cupboards of history are absolutely stacked with skeletons. We must never underestimate the extent and indestructibility of original sin. We must also regard hypocrisy as endemic in the human race. We live in an imperfect world today and history is the story of the imperfect world of yesterday. We must leave the past to bury its dead.

We cannot be deflected now because of feelings of guilt or shame for our actions in the past. If that were true, how could Germany ever have lifted its head again? Germany is taking its place in the nations of the world. We look upon Germany as the most prosperous nation in Europe today. We are trying to build a new Europe with German participation, being fully reconciled with today and overlooking the past.

A word about sanctions will be worth while. The matter of sanctions was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret. Sanctions do not have an impressive history. The first sanctions that I remember were placed on Italy for its invasion of Ethiopia before war broke out in 1939.

There was then a time when we thought that we were going to put an impediment in the aggressive activities of Mussolini by sanctions. But because oil was excluded from sanctions, they were no good. We have to consider what the likely outcome of sanctions will be. We have had sanctions in South Africa against the export of arms. We have had sanctions against Rhodesia which were intended to bring Ian Smith and the white people of Rhodesia to their knees in weeks rather than months. But in South Africa and Rhodesia it was internal insurrection that brought about the end of the regime that we felt should be replaced. I believe that sanctions will give time for an internal uprising in Iraq to change the course of its Government by finding a fresh one.

However, we are told that we must leave sanctions in force long enough to bite. To bite what, my Lords? To bite whom? Who will suffer; and what are they going to suffer? We say that we must not apply sanctions to medical supplies and to other aids to curing illness. The Yemen says, "You cannot apply sanctions to food. You must provide the lifeline of people even though you have imposed sanctions." What are sanctions to be then? Are they to be economic sanctions? The only time we starved people into submission was when we maintained the embargo, the blockade, of Germany long after she had capitulated. Then children and women—and pregnant women—suffered grievously from the maintainance of the embargo on German consumption of food while we began to sort out the future. Why do we exclude medical supplies? If sanctions are a failure, we are told that we must then consider the military option. In other words, if sanctions do not succeed, then we shall start to kill. If we kill people if sanctions fail, are we to exclude medical supplies from sanctions when they are imposed? Where is the logic in that? Are we using sanctions to bring people to their knees, or are they merely an economic irritant?

I do not suggest that we should be excessively rigorous in our application of sanctions. We do not want to hurt people after all. What are we after? I have a very sceptical approach to the idea of the success of sanctions. I believe that they will not of themselves succeed. However, they may bring about sufficient discontent with the regime in Iraq to give rise to internal movement for replacement.

I refer to the military option. It irritates me a little even to hear the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs refer to the military option. We have a mandatory summons from the United Nations to a country to vacate territory that it has taken possession of unlawfully. If the mandated direction of that nation to quit is not obeyed, then we have presumably to consider the military option. If there were to be much haggling about whether there shall be enforcement of the mandatory direction of the United Nations, it brings a new approach to the authority of the United Nations.

I believe that this issue will develop into the promotion of the United Nations as a pinnacle of a new world order or it will destroy it altogether. We may have to fight on that issue for a long time. The nation must be well braced for the ordeal.

The aim of sanctions, and therefore our war aim—or is it?—must be to achieve unconditional withdrawal from this illegally possessed territory. Does that mean eventual unconditional surrender? Does unconditional withdrawal defied become a war for unconditional surrender? That means war on a national scale. It means the destruction of a nation. It means the subjugation of its leadership and its government. That is conquest. If that is to be undertaken in order to secure compliance by Iraq of the direction of the United Nations, it must be undertaken under the authority of the United Nations. I do not believe that any country or any combination of countries can assume the mantle of the United Nations for a war which might lead to quite unpredictable consequences.

Where Russia will be in all this is an open question at the moment. We may see a conflict on an almost global scale in which Russia is neutralised—that is, unable to take the side of the United States and fearful of upsetting the United States if it takes the side of its erstwhile friends and has regard to the very substantial population of Moslems within the boundaries of the Soviet empire. All of Russia's armoury—its submarines, nuclear weapons, tanks and the rest—may be put in wraps because they cannot be used. However, if Russia were to say, "These weapons are available to the United Nations as may be needed," as with the United States, Britain, France and others, and if we are to join in a United Nations attack upon this evil act of the Iraqis, then I believe that the war would end before any shot was fired. But shall we achieve that? It is a very crucial meeting indeed that will take place this weekend.

If it is left to the United States and Britain, with few others playing any active part, then I am afraid that the propaganda against this unity for war purposes may lose a good deal of its authority and it may not receive the blessing of the United Nations. It is not easy to fight a grievous war for the high moral line and that indeed is what we shall end up doing if we are to achieve the real purpose behind the stand that we now take.

In conclusion I ask this. What about our lines of communication to the Arab world and in particular to Iraq on this issue? They are very important. I agree with my noble friend Lord Callaghan that it will not be the effect of sanctions which influence the situation. I do not think that people change their minds under such a threat; they will endure rather than do so.

However, their minds may be changed by the pressure, inducement and encouragement of friends and others alike to submit to the authority of the United Nations. Often people will submit to what they recognise to be a higher authority. If only we can secure that as our aim, we may come to the threshold of a new epoch when disarmament as a term is irrelevant because the armaments that countries will need will go no further than those for the maintenance of internal order and a safeguard against surprise attack.

For the rest, it will be the combined mobilisation by the United Nations of all those not involved in the original misdeed in order to persuade the evil doer to change his mind or to have it changed for him by the combined enforcement of the rest of the world. That is how I see the situation. Anything less than that will not be worth fighting for.

8.11 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for supplying the background notes which I am sure all noble Lords found most useful. During the Falklands conflict the Social Democratic Party was in the vanguard of those supporting Her Majesty's Government. I am happy to say that during the present trouble in the Gulf we fully support Her Majesty's Government. I have visited the Falklands and various army units. There it was said, "The Falklands situation was wonderful because we knew that the Prime Minister was backing us. We knew that she would not turn and we knew that she would not let us down. Through her came the support of the Cabinet, both Houses of Parliament and the whole of the country". That support was important to our services in the Falklands and it will be important to our troops in the Gulf.

In the Falklands there were as many merchant ships as there were Royal Navy ships. It was only by chance that we had an aircraft carrier. At that time we were talking about defence cuts and today we are talking about them once again. The United States is appealing to its allies to supply merchant ships. However, the trouble is that our merchant fleet is being vastly depleted year by year. Too many of our ships, such as the roll on, roll-off ferries, do not ply under the Union flag. Without that we could be in dire straits. I urge the Government not merely to say that they will not make cuts in defence now and will wait. We must not have defence cuts at all; we must keep our deterrents in both nuclear and conventional arms.

The Butcher of Baghdad is well named. I do not believe that Adolf Hitler had such a name. He was known as the Paper Hanger and by other names but he did not have a name similar to the Butcher of Baghdad. Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, was right in saying that there is no comparison between Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. It appears that Saddam Hussein believes that God is on his side. But that is his God and all that he has. I believe that we have God on our side—the Christian God, the Jewish God and, as regards many countries, the Moslem God. In addition I believe that we have right and might on our side. We must show that we—that is, the Americans, the United Nations and our allies—are willing to fight if we must. We must let the Iraqis know that we are willing to fight.

We have heard a great deal about sanctions and whether they will work. At least we must go through the motions. However, I do not understand how we can negotiate with a man whom people claim is mad, whom we cannot trust and who breaks his word. He is a man who on one day says, "I have no intention of invading Kuwait", and two or three days later does just that. How can we trust and believe a man who takes innocent women and children as hostages? The answer is simple; we cannot.

As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, I was reminded of a Bateman cartoon published at the beginning of the war. It was of troops on the march and an old fuddy-duddy saying, "Look, everyone is out of step but our Johnny". The noble Lord referred to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. He was wrong. In Cyprus there was extant the Greek army. The Turkish army went there to protect Turkish Cypriots from being murdered and massacred. Today there is a United Nations force in Cyprus. From what I could see when I was there I understood that its job was to ensure that Greek Cypriots did not cross the line to murder their fellow citizens in the north.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, is not present to hear my comments. He said that we must not do anything militarily without United Nations sanctions. As everyone who has read anything knows, we already have those sanctions. Under United Nations rulings we are entitled to use force if we must. I hope that it will not come to that but in my view it will.

I understand that in another place there will be a Division on the issue. I believe that to be good because it will show massive support of the action taken by Her Majesty's Government. In one way I am sorry that there will not be a Division in this House. If there were I doubt that there would be sufficient noble Lords to produce Tellers in the vote against Her Majesty's Government.

8.19 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, when I saw the clans gathering at Balmoral last week I guessed that the fiery cross was to be raised and that we should be meeting here soon. One of the most amazing things about this House and quite one of the nicest is to find that even on great occasions of moment, when all the wisest and grandest people in our land give us the benefit of their wisdom and make splendid speeches, they can find time and patience in their hearts to listen to simple soldiers or gallant and fearless field marshals and poetical peeresses.

When I first came to your Lordships' House people asked me what I was going to talk about and what I could possibly contribute. I said that I was going to talk about goodness and about ordinary people carrying on the business of their daily lives. That is not much of a contribution, particularly from someone who is still trying to find her own goodness, but it was the best I could do.

When we were young we sometimes came in contact with infectious diseases. When we did that we were put in quarantine because the disease spread. Evil is like an infectious disease. It is pervading, pernicious and once given into it grows. That is why we must not allow ourselves to be browbeaten by Saddam Hussein's manipulation of human lives as a bargaining power.

We have all been stirred by the courage of that poor little boy Stewart standing firm and brave with his arms crossed on television. "What great big teeth you have, grandmama. What a great big moustache you have, grandmama". We all know—and grandmama wolf knows too—that outside the good woodcutter is waiting with his sharp steel axe. We all hope and pray that the wolf will let the little Red Riding Hoods of this world—every single one of the foreign nationals whom he is holding hostage—go home happily and well and that he will then disgorge poor grandmama (or rather Kuwait), which he gobbled up to begin with and against whose continued occupation all our forces, the United Nations and, indeed, most of the Arab countries who are on the side of goodness and right are standing firm. In that case perhaps the woodcutter will not need to use his axe and the wolf can go safely back to his own part of the wood.

That is what we are all praying for. I believe that there are two hopeful signs. The first is the solidarity of the United Nations behind the United States, Britain and Egypt and all the other nations which are sending out troops to stand firm on the side of right. Indeed, if they had not moved as swiftly as they did, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states around the Gulf would also have been invaded.

The second hopeful sign is the meeting this weekend in Helsinki between President Bush and Mr. Gorbachev. To find two great military powers which have been eyeing each other through chinks in the Iron Curtain for so long combining to keep the peace is heartening and encouraging. As long as we have right on our side, keep no truck with evil and all hold together we may yet in the eleventh hour prevail in peace.

I have been fortunate enough to meet many of our armed forces. It is all very well for us here to say what should or should not be done. Those forces are at the sharp end and will bear the brunt of it. Many of your Lordships will know from personal experience what that means. We are all proud of them and our hearts and prayers are with them that they will not be needed.

Two days ago I spoke to the station commander at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. He said, "Everybody is aware of what we are doing. We are acting according to a set pattern. If I say that we are enjoying the challenge, do not get me wrong. We are just trying to face up to things and get on with the ordinary business of our lives and do what has to be done". That is courage and that is goodness.

I hope that the right reverend Primate will excuse me if I quote from the 37th Psalm: I myself have seen the ungodly in great power, and flourishing like the green bay tree. I went by, and lo, he was gone; I sought him, but his place could nowhere be found. Keep innocency, and take heed unto the thing that is right; for that shall bring a man peace at the last".

8.24 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I have thrown away the first part of what I was going to say, partly because other people who are much more qualified than I have already said it and partly because I want to refer to one or two cuttings in the newspapers. Your Lordships may hope that because I have thrown away the first part and shall be referring only to cuttings my speech will be shorter. I hope that that will be the case but I cannot guarantee it although I shall not speak longer than my allotted 15 minutes.

Some harsh words have been said about the right honourable Tony Benn this evening. He might perhaps be called the intelligent man's Arthur Scargill. Mr. Benn seems to me to have hit the nail thoroughly on the head in an article written by him in today's Guardian. The issue which is not perhaps dividing us but which we are distinguishing here this evening is what will happen should we be unable to carry the United Nations with us. In other words, do we stand with the United Nations or do we go ahead regardless?

There have been differences of view on that issue. The majority view seems to be that we must face the problem when we reach it. That is comfortable because it means that we do not have to make difficult decisions or discuss difficult problems this evening. However, it is a matter which we should face and it is a matter of the utmost importance. The view I hold is that we should not go ahead or beyond the point at which the United Nations will come with us.

That is an entirely different view from those who say that we should go ahead under any circumstances. We have had differences of view upon that. My noble friend Lord Longford, who was kind enough to pay tribute to my somewhat solitary stand at an earlier stage in these proceedings, came to a different conclusion to that reached by my noble friend Lord Houghton. He takes the view that in all circumstances the United Nations decision is the important one. That point was made with great clarity by my noble friend Lord Hatch.

Why do we come to that view? First, I quote from the article by Tony Benn in this morning's Guardian: Are British forces to be used to take offensive military action without the authority of a specific Security Council resolution?". He refers to a specific resolution and not a generality from the constitution. He refers to a specific decision by the Security Council on this dispute. The view that I take is that on this issue Mr. Benn has put his finger on the point and it would be fatal for us to get into that situation.

I take that view because in my experience wars take different directions in the course of their formation. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, with much greater authority than I, said that. If the United States and Britain continue to take the lead, as they are now, and worse, if they launch an attack without specific United Nations support, they will be seen by other Arab states to be imperialist. The nature of the conflict will change as the nature of conflicts so often does. The casus belli would be forgotten, as Saddam Hussein hopes. What began as a militant implementation of United Nations decisions will be seen by most Arabs as no more than two Anglo-Saxon powers reasserting oil-inspired colonialist economic imperialism of the West. The view that the United States assault is ipso facto benign is not widely shared outside that country.

Therefore, the message that I have, for what it is worth—and it has already been uttered by one or two of my noble friends on this side and I believe I detected it also in a note of caution uttered by none other than the noble Lord, Lord Beloff—is, easy does it. The time for irrationality is long past. Let us have sanctions by all means, but calls for the toppling of Saddam Hussein may well come from anywhere. Ideally they should come from Iraq itself, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, suggested, but they should certainly not come from us.

Wars have their own momentum. In 1990 an Americo-British reinvasion of Kuwait could end in our civilisation being in a weak and difficult situation. It may even have the effect of breaking up the detente currently existing between the two great powers. That is the most precious thing we must hang on to in all circumstances. I therefore share the view taken by the two presidents at the weekend; it is vital that that detente shall remain.

The weaponry available today and within reach has become too dangerous. As some noble Lords asked: who is responsible for that? Certainly Saddam has displayed murderous ruthlessness. But even if, as is suggested, there are resemblances with Hitler, Kuwait is certainly not Czechoslovakia, and this is not even 1956 let alone 1938.

At that time I carried a banner which said, "Chamberlain must go". With considerable reluctance I had decided that the time had come to fight. Now is not that time, and I question whether, for the great powers, it can ever come again. World policemen in the circumstances of today must hold the ring. Their job is not to retaliate in strength, except on behalf of and with the United Nations. Still less is it to go in with the purpose of teaching the natives a lesson, as we used to. Those days are long past. In the circumstances which exist today, the great powers have a special responsibility: to see that our world remains inhabited and inhabitable. That will not be easy.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne

My Lords, it is getting late and I intend to be extremely brief. Your Lordships may regard it as something of a bonus because I intend to be back in my seat within 120 seconds.

I have a question to ask the noble Lord who will be winding up the debate for the Government. It is this. In view of President Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, do the Government still intend to proceed with the far-reaching defence cuts announced by the Defence Secretary on 25th July? That is a subject which clearly worried the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, earlier in the debate. If the Leader of the House can answer my question, I shall be very much in his debt.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, in the course of this important debate, noble Lords have dealt with the political, military, economic and social issues connected with the crisis in the Gulf. Closely intertwined with all those issues is the question of oil supplies and energy policy. As the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, indicated, that is the aspect on which I should like briefly to concentrate.

This is the third oil shock from which the world has suffered in the past 20 years. The previous oil shocks—1973–74 and 1978–79—created serious economic, financial and political repercussions. Indeed, the 1979 oil shock led to the world's worst economic recession since the end of the war. It is therefore relevant to consider what impact the present oil shock will have. So far the indications are that it may not be as bad as previous ones. Although the price of oil has doubled compared with roughly where it stood early in July—then 16 dollars a barrel and now 30 dollars a barrel—nevertheless in real terms it has not yet reached the levels of the previous oil crisis.

In terms of supply, we have a situation in which there will be no movement of oil from either Iraq or Kuwait. That amounts to about 4 million barrels of oil a day, which represents around 9 per cent. of the total world oil requirement of 52 million barrels of oil a day. In substantial part that will be met by increased supplies from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. There also happen to be fairly large consumer stocks. It may be felt that from the supply side the situation is manageable. However, the International Energy Agency of Paris, which represents all the major consuming countries, recently issued warnings that while the situation may look a little better at present, with the onset of winter matters could become very tight. Furthermore, if there were any untoward developments in the Gulf—if the situation developed into military action, for example, which most would deplore—that could lead to a much greater increase in oil prices and much more serious repercussions.

The point I wish to lead to is this. We have had a period of almost 20 years in which to consider the impact of what we call oil shocks from the Middle East. Yet here we are in 1990 with another oil shock and still liable to suffer considerably as a result. In the virtual certainty that this will not be the last of these perturbations in that area, is it not time to devise with our allies and friends an energy policy which will minimise the impact of these shocks?

There are a large number of reasons why we should be embarking upon such a policy. Environmental considerations are such that we should also be increasing our efforts to improve the efficiency with which we use energy. It is quite clear from the problems we face over oil supplies that we should also be increasing our efforts to diversify sources of energy. The fact is that while during periods of crisis such as the present one there is a great deal of interest in the subject—I have been involved in this business for many years and remember the immediate post-war situation when great attention was paid to energy efficiency; it was then known as "fuel efficiency"—after those crises, when we have a period of relative stability or weakness in prices, the interest diminishes.

It is certain that when—as we hope not before too long—the present crisis is resolved and the oil starts flowing again from Iraq and Kuwait, we shall enter a quieter period when interest will again diminish until the next oil shock. I therefore recommend that among the various measures we should be taking in the light of the present crisis is one that should seriously address itself to the question of energy policy, bearing in mind the need to diminish the impact of these regular shocks arising from the perturbations in the Middle East.

In today's Financial Times there is a report that the French Government intend to introduce substantial measures of fiscal incentives to those undertaking energy efficient operations, both in the industrial and domestic sectors. They are also looking at other ways in which the impact of the present situation could be diminished. I suggest that that should not only be done on a national basis, but that we, who are in a strong position in energy terms having access to a whole variety of sources of energy, should initiate immediate discussions in the EC and within the International Energy Agency to examine this aspect of the problem; not only with a view to mitigating the impact of the present oil shock, but of making sure that we diminish the impact of any future shocks.

8.39 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, I was in two minds about whether to speak today until my former colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who is at present in Europe, got in touch with me. I decided then to speak. Much of what I shall say also reflects the noble Lord's views.

Several speakers have paid tribute to the excellence of today's debate. I agree with them. I hope very much that when the time comes to show on television the debates in both Houses a fair period of time will be given to the speeches that were made during the first two hours this afternoon.

There has not been a more complex or more dangerous situation in the past 40 years than the one which faces us today. The successful passage of the resolutions through the Security Council may well be a milestone on the road to genuine collective security. The permanent members deserve much credit for the action which was rapidly taken but there are other countries, both strong and weak, which have a responsibility to follow the permanent members' lead. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, drew attention to that point. Like several other speakers, I agree with the noble Lord.

We must recognise that the action in the Security Council has been made possible by the great change in the relationship between the two superpowers. This change has virtually removed, without significant bloodshed, the danger of war arising from European conflicts. We are now faced with a crisis of comparable danger which has been on the horizon for many years but has been ignored. I am a little doubtful of building too many hopes on the Helsinki conference at the weekend. We would be wise to see what really happens and to await the statements which are made thereafter. They may well fall short of what we would hope.

The main issue for us in this new crisis is whether collective security can at last be established. It eluded our predecessors in the 1930s and in our own time we have striven in vain to create it. The Prime Minister's insistence on this issue is entirely correct. A world in which an independent state, recognised by all of us as such, can be swallowed up by one aggressive and envious neighbour is fundamentally insecure. When the aggressor has at his disposal weapons of mass destruction, the situation is indeed dangerous for all members of the United Nations, especially the weak. Saddam has shown himself to be a thoroughly evil man. It is not idle to assume that if he succeeds in outmanoeuvring the United Nations by negotiation or even by force of arms, the peace of the world will remain at risk for generations.

But we must recognise that some states involved in this crisis may find different issues which they consider of comparable importance. They are entitled to ask for some indication that those issues will be the subject of negotiation within a stronger United Nations in the future. I would summarise these issues in the Middle East as follows: first, the age long struggle for control of the Persian Gulf; secondly, the desire to control their gigantic oil resources or at least an equitable share of them; thirdly, the aim to destabilise and remove traditional regimes derived from past Arab society which, with notable exceptions, have given examples of outrageous extravagance; fourthly, the objective of replacing those regimes with other forms of political control not necessarily more democratic; fifthly, the widely felt ambition of welding the "Arab nation" into a more cohesive political unit; sixthly, rivalries between the principal actors in the area who for religious or national ambitions wish to emerge on top. Above all, there is the Palestinian issue—and who can deny the crimes committed by all involved? The less said about this at the moment the better, but the potential political turmoil could be horrific.

It follows from all this that the extension of the present crisis into a military conflict will bring these issues to the fore in an unforeseeable way and before we are in a position to resolve them. We are right to go for collective security and are more likely to achieve it by political solidarity in the United Nations together with a system of watertight economic sanctions. But we know the fallibility of mandatory sanctions. Rhodesia has been mentioned. It was not only the South African territories which enabled the Rhodesians to evade sanctions. Sanctions were evaded by members of the Security Council.

Successful sanctions carry one very great danger. A powerful and desperate man like Saddam, if he finds himself cornered, may suddenly lash out. We must be ready for anything. That is when the little resolutions of the Security Council, to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, referred, which would be necessary before there was any reaction, would be hopelessly inadequate to meet the situation. Those who are seeking diplomatic solutions must think not only of the immediate situation but of the consequences of accepting that a well armed bully must always win.

When I realised yesterday that sad reasons would prevent the noble Lord, Lord Home, from being present this afternoon, I looked back at a speech on the United Nations which he made in Berwick in 1970. It dealt, inter alia, with the seizure of Goa by India. The seizure was condoned by several members of the United Nations Security Council. The noble Lord said: Whatever the provocations suffered by India, or the excuses made by her, or for her, there is no doubt that her actions were a direct breach of the charter and of international law. When the United Nations approves that, as Adlai Stevenson said, 'It could be the beginning of the end"'. The United Nations is unlikely to approve of what Saddam has done but if, by feebleness, it does so, the effect will be as Adlai Stevenson and the noble Lord, Lord Home, predicted; namely, the beginning of the end.

8.50 p.m.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, this has been an encouraging and constructive debate, with very few discordant notes, on a most difficult and dangerous situation. It has been encouraging because of the wide measure of consensus throughout the House. I believe that the Chamber welcomed and supported the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition just as much as it did the speech of my noble friend Lord Caithness who described the Government's policy so well and succinctly.

The consensus has been particularly notable on the need to give sanctions time to bite. But if sanctions are to be effective, they must be vigorously enforced—by force if necessary. It is worth remembering that previous attempts at making sanctions work failed because we could not or were not prepared to use the necessary force to enforce them. Whether sanctions in this case are successful or not is literally a matter of life and death. If they fail, as my noble friend Lord Carrington made clear, there are only two alternatives: the use of force, probably within six months, or allowing President Saddam Hussein to get away with aggression and the high probability of armed conflict within two to three years at a time of his choosing. Either will lead to the deaths of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. Therefore the effective enforcement of sanctions is truly vital.

I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House whether in his reply he can give us the assurance—I hope that he can do so—that Her Majesty's Government have fully adequate powers to apply and enforce effective sanctions both within the United Kingdom and in support of our allies. If there is any doubt about the adequacy of the Government's powers, I am confident that the whole House would give united support to any action, legislative or otherwise, which the Government feel is necessary to provide those powers.

Some months must inevitably elapse before we know whether the sanctions are effective. I hope that this time will be well used to make any modifications which are needed to the equipment that our armed forces would have to use if sanctions fail so as to make them suitable, fully effective and efficient in operation in the exceptionally harsh desert environment. Much was achieved in that way to meet the requirements of the Falkland Islands campaign. Modifications were very quickly made to aircraft and other equipment which in peacetime would have taken years to accomplish. I hope that that example will be followed in this case. Everything possible must be done to provide the best possible support for our armed forces, if sanctions are found not to be effective. I hope that my noble friend who will reply to the debate will be able to give us that assurance. The money may be wasted, but it is a small price to pay for a good insurance policy. The old motto of the Royal Naval Gunnery School is still true: If you want peace, prepare for war". Finally, I should like to pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government, and especially to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, for their firm and dignified response to the Iraqis' unacceptable aggression. I know that all of us wish the Prime Minister and the Cabinet very well in discharging their extremely heavy responsibilities at this time.

8.54 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, as we near the end of this long and extremely interesting debate, it is difficult to try to pay tribute to the many interesting speeches which have been made in an extremely constructive fashion. However, looking at the debate overall, it seems to me that there have been three themes which have run through the discussions in which we have engaged. They can be named as the importance in this very difficult and complex situation of legality, unity and patience. I believe that it is on the basis of those three themes, all of which support each other, that there is a possibility that the conflict in which we are engaged may be resolved.

The dispute between the United Nations and Iraq is, as was impressively expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, a matter of the utmost importance. It is also true, in my view, that it has an importance which goes beyond itself. I say that because, as many noble Lords have pointed out, it is the first major international dispute which has taken place since the end of the cold war. That fact has transformed the way in which disputes of this kind can be handled.

As many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, pointed out, had Kuwait been invaded by Iraq in the days of the cold war we know only too well what would have happened. The matter would have been brought before the Security Council. The two blocs would have split. There would have been a Russian veto and the United Nations would have been rendered impotent. However, that is no longer the case. The scenario which we are facing is in that sense new, different and encouraging. The Security Council met, decisions were taken and the necessary resolutions were passed. Those involved in reaching those decisions and in passing those resolutions deserve our thanks and our congratulations. There can be no going back on those resolutions. There can be no going back on the demand for unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, and on the demand for the freeing of hostages by Iraq. There can be no going back on the imposition of sanctions enforced by blockade until those two actions have been taken, and there can be no going back on the build up of military forces.

I believe that we should acknowledge with gratitude and respect the speed and the determination with which President Bush reacted to a flagrant breach of international law and to the illegality with which we are confronted, perpetrated by Saddam Hussein. In addition—and, so far as I know, this has not yet been mentioned in the debate—we should welcome the particularly constructive testimony which Mr. Baker made before Congress which was reported in yesterday's press.

As the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Beloff, said, we cannot honestly congratulate ourselves on having been among those who profited by supplying Saddam Hussein with the formidable array of arms and technology with which he threatens, and has threatened, the safety of the states of the Gulf, the oil supplies of Europe and, to a lesser extent, the oil supplies of the United States. I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will touch upon that aspect in his reply.

We have here an opportunity. It is crucial to the future peace of the world that the measures which we have taken should succeed. As I have said, there is more to the invasion of Kuwait than appears to be the case at first sight. Now that the cold war is over, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn, we have the opportunity to make the United Nations work as it was originally intended; namely, to establish its credibility as an agency which is able to deal with unlawful aggression and able to enforce and maintain peace. If in the Gulf, through the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq, the United Nations can achieve that end, we will have secured a major advance in establishing a more peaceful international order.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that the analogy drawn between Saddam Hussein and Hitler is misplaced. If one must draw analogies, which in international affairs is dangerous, the analogy is much closer to Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia where, had sanctions been pursued—oil sanctions in particular—and had we in this country been prepared to close the Suez Canal, there is little doubt that that act of aggression would have been stopped, and had that been so the first domino which fell, and which led to World War II, would not have done so.

Another danger which confronts us in addition to those that I have mentioned, and the chief threat to our success, is disunity—the disintegration of the coalition, which is a fragile coalition, which has been so carefully constructed by diplomacy. Much will depend upon the ability of the Arab states to withstand populist pressure, claiming a direct relationship between the invasion of Kuwait and the Palestinian problem; a direct relationship between the invasion of Kuwait and Israel, and hence representing the whole affair as a kind of American/Israeli conspiracy.

In that battle for men's minds, which is as important as any battle in the whole matter, Mr. Baker's testimony is important. But it is crucial that the operation is described as a United Nations operation, following a United Nations resolution that has nothing directly to do with Israel, the moslem faith or any American/Israeli connection but everything to do with preventing illegality and aggression. It is about legality and enforcing international law. Hence the importance of having attained United Nations backing for the blockade; hence, whatever the precise interpretation of Articles 51 and 42, about which there is legitimate controversy in the highest quarters, if in the end force has to be used—we must all face the fact that in the end force may have to be used if we are to hope to maintain unity, which we have so carefully brought together, we must be meticulous in maintaining legality in accordance with the advice of my noble friend Lord Gladwyn. Perhaps I may add that that unity is not confined to the unity of Arab states; it extends to the unity of the European response to the invasion of Kuwait.

Of course the Prime Minister was right to say that the European reaction to the invasion of Kuwait was sluggish and fragmentary. But what was the reason for that sluggish and fragmentary response? It was that the institutions of Europe, including NATO and the WEU, proved inadequate to provide a quick or unanimous response. The Prime Minister can hardly complain about that. What, for example, has been her response to the French Prime Minister's call on 2nd September for the development of a common European foreign and defence policy? It is only by the development of some such common European foreign and defence policy and by the establishment of some machinery by which that can be achieved that Europe will be able to respond to such events quickly and unanimously and the United States will not have to remain for ever the world's policeman.

There is no point in present circumstances therefore in our making invidious comparisons about which of the European powers has or has not contributed most and which has or has not been most staunch in support of the United Nations. Still less is there any point in casting oblique criticisms against Germany, which is after all prevented by its basic law, in which we played a considerable part, from military activity outside the NATO area. Nor does European unity end with the members of the European Community.

We should not forget—as far as I know this point has not been mentioned during the debate—the serious impact the Gulf crisis will have on the countries of central and eastern Europe. It will have a major adverse effect upon their economic problems, which are already acute, and make them more intractable. Hence it may also endanger the political reforms upon which they are engaged.

For example, Poland will have to import large quantities of oil at a much higher price than heretofore. There are several thousand Poles in Iraq and Poland has an important export trade with Iraq. I give that as one example, because so much depends upon the successful evolution of central and eastern Europe that when we consider the problems of the Gulf we should not forget that aspect.

Nor should we forget our obligations to the refugees to whom the most reverend Primate referred and whose conditions were portrayed in such alarming and moving terms in the Independent this morning. I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will be able to tell us of some steps that we are taking to deal with that potential tragedy.

Finally, if success depends upon unity and unity is buttressed by legality it will also demand patience on our part, whatever de Tocqueville may say about the capacity of democracies to exercise that virtue. The temptation to engage in a quick surgical strike, particularly in the light of the history of surgical strikes which have been neither surgical nor swift, should be avoided. However I guess that there would be no quicker way of destroying the coalition, consensus and unity that have been achieved than by engaging in such an operation.

As Sir Michael Howard in an article in The Times argued most powerfully this morning: the dangers of initiating war—initiating rather than accepting it if forced upon us—are thus much greater than those of remaining at peace". As I interpret the remarks of the Foreign Secretary, that is the view which he holds. I believe that it has the overwhelming support of the country.

No one listening to the debate in this House today could doubt the determination of your Lordships to see that the UN resolutions are enforced. When they are, and when and if success is achieved, that will be the time to look once more at the situation in the Middle East, which has continued unsolved and unaddressed seriously for far too long. The opportunity that will then be available must be taken to examine the continuing problems that have plagued this continent ever since the end of World War II.

9.9 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, we have come to the end of a long debate and I shall take as little time as possible. However, we have covered a great deal of ground and I wish to go over some of it. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who knows better than any of us, is right that we have met today in an opportunity to discuss the issues. I echo the thanks of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn to the Government for making sure that we met today. I also echo the remarks of many noble Lords such as my noble friend Lord Longford and the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, in saying that we have had some distinguished speeches and contributions in the course of the debate. Although there has been general unanimity, nevertheless in my view—and I hope I am not transgressing—the quality of the speeches has been high. I welcomed the intervention of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury who gave what I would describe as the speech that a proper Christian leader should give to encourage us in the moral values of which we should be reminded. The whole debate has been excellent and worth while.

That leads to my first point. The debate has indicated to the Government the almost unanimity of the House in supporting their actions in the present crisis. I wish again to echo what my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said when opening from the Dispatch Box, that we support the Government in their actions so far in the crisis. I wish that to be made crystal clear and for the message to go out from this House to whomever wishes to hear it.

We have a cross-party consensus that is welcome. I only add one small thought which the noble Lord the Leader of the House might like to take on board. My noble friend Lord Callaghan made the point that it would be useful if there were consultations between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as well as leaders of the major parties on a Privy Council basis in conditions of this nature. When we have such problems we should make sure that we all understand the ground rules and those matters that the Government cannot mention in Parliament but wish to have brought to the attention of parliamentarians. Then the Opposition can play their proper role without transgressing any frontiers. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will convey my noble friend's message to the Prime Minister. It is extremely important for that to happen.

We then have to ask why there is so much support for the Government's view. It is clearly right. We start with what the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Mellish, as well as others, were absolutely right in saying: that aggression of this nature cannot be tolerated. It is not just a question of whether we negotiate this or that. It is not just a matter of Czechoslovakia, then Poland. There is a point at which we must say, "We cannot tolerate this type of aggression". That point has come. Clearly we all support that position. I believe that nobody in this House has in any way criticised it.

Secondly, we all agree that the treatment of expatriates, hostages, guests—call them what you will—is in breach of any form of international law. The 1949 Vienna Convention relates to diplomats and the Geneva Convention relates to persons who are held against their will who have no diplomatic immunity. Those categories do not necessarily include people whose skins are white. The most reverend Primate was correct in drawing our attention to the refugees who are subsisting in conditions of absolute horror in the neutral zone between Iraq and Jordan, and for whom we as a civilised country have a moral responsibility. I echo the words of other noble Lords in asking the Leader of the House whether he will be able to say something about the government attitude towards that problem.

The support that this House gives to the Government is based upon our collective belief that the United Nations is for the first time since Korea acting as an effective body in the post-cold war period. We wish the United Nations presence to continue and be effective. My noble friend Lord Richard was very eloquent on that point. The noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and Lord Campbell of Croy, mentioned Korea. It is an interesting parallel. Both noble Lords made the point that any action that we, the United States or anybody else may take gains credibility and strength from the fact that it is under an umbrella of that nature, and unilateral action loses credibility if it is not under such an umbrella. That is a point that we should like to stress to the Government.

Our support for the Government will continue, but there are two provisos. The first is that what is proposed and what the Government do have the continued support of what I regard as the world community. That is a broad phrase which requires definition. We all know that the policy of sanctions is in place. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pym, and my noble friends Lord Richard and Lord Clinton-Davis that sanctions can and should work. My noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby cast some doubt upon whether they have worked in the past or would work in the future. Financial sanctions—for example, stopping Iraqi trade by cancelling letters of credit in private banks—could work more effectively than the physical blockade, but nevertheless I believe that the sanctions, the blockade, can work.

As many noble Lords have stated, we must envisage the possibility that sanctions do not work. Somebody has to say that sanctions are not working. I ask the Government who that somebody is. It is no good for myself, my noble friends or any noble Lord opposite to say that we do not believe that sanctions have worked and therefore we are going to do this, that and the other. The United Nations Security Council has imposed the sanctions. It would be very odd if unilateral decisions were taken that sanctions had not worked without taking the view of the Security Council.

It would be quite impossible. Arguments would arise such as that the United Nations Security Council had passed a resolution and it had not been given enough time, and so on. What happens when we ask those questions of the United Nations? The answer is that the matter should be discussed by the Security Council. Therefore, whether or not we are legally entitled to take military action under Article 51 or whether or not we have to wait for resolution under Article 42 seems to be a question of theology. In practice, if a resolution exists which imposes sanctions, the people who have to decide whether those sanctions have succeeded will be the people who imposed the sanctions in the first place, namely the United Nations Security Council.

The discussion which took place in another place this afternoon about whether Article 51 was justification for force or whether Article 42 needed to be called upon was perhaps less relevant than it might be. Furthermore, I agree with my noble friends Lord Richard and Lord Clinton-Davis that politically you have to have the support, in one form or another, of the international community. Whether it is by one resolution or another, it has to happen. Otherwise, we lose all our credibility in the Arab community in the Middle East and that, as everybody in this House recognises, would be fatal.

The second condition—I said that there were two conditions on which support from this side will continue—is that the Government be steadfast in restraint and keep going with sanctions. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, referred to the difficulty of war. Once you engage in war the problem is that you never know quite what the outcome will be. Quick talk about surgical strikes and all the rest of it simply does not recognise the dangers that any power gets into when it puts its tanks across somebody else's frontier. That is a point that we must bear in mind.

I am not saying that we do not have to do it at the end of the day, but we must be very careful before engaging in that procedure. We recognise that while sanctions are operating there will be, as many noble Lords have pointed out, a period of difficulty when we have to keep morale going. As the most reverend Primate pointed out, countries under siege have an extraordinary ability to resist, and there is no doubt that President Saddam Hussein does not care whether his population starves. He does not care whether a million Egyptians who are at present in Iraq starve. He does not care whether the hostages starve as a result of what is happening. As one noble Lord put it, he may lash out.

We know that Iraqi grain supplies are sufficient till next spring, so we are, as has been said in the United States, in for a long haul. But it is up to the Government—and we will support the Government—to keep British public opinion going in that long haul, because nothing could be worse than being pushed by an impatient media, an impatient government or impatient public opinion into action that we would subsequently regret.

While we wait, there are some defence matters. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn intimated that I would be touching on these and perhaps I may put them to the noble Lord the Leader of the House. First, I should like to congratulate, as no other noble Lord has done, the British armed forces on making themselves ready very quickly, at very short notice, to go out to the Gulf. It was operationally a very extraordinary logistical achievement. There was one unit which had four hours' notice to go out and it was able to achieve an orderly transition from its base in the United Kingdom to a completely different environment.

We ought also to congratulate the United States, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, did, on its ability and its achievement in transporting large quantities of troops and material into the Gulf in a logistical exercise which so far as I know is quite unparalleled in modern times.

But then the questions start. What, for instance, is the command structure in the Gulf? We know that at the moment the national forces are under national command but, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, asked—and if I quote him too much it is only because I was a subaltern under his command as company commander when I was doing my National Service, so we have a long friendship and I have had a long tuition under his authority; if I quote him too much, I beg your Lordships' pardon—what is the command structure when we come to force? You cannot fight a war by committee. You cannot fight a war by a bunch of people of different nationalities sitting around a table and casting lots or votes. What will happen?

Secondly, what troops are going to he provided when the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, says that further forces are being considered? Are those going to be troops on the ground? Are they going to be tanks? What is the Government's intention there? If the Government's intention is to put troops on the ground with tanks and all the support services that they require, how are these people going to be trained? So far as I know, apart from some joint exercises with the Oman Government our troops do not have any desert training, and fighting in the desert is quite different from fighting on Luneburg Heath in Northern Germany.

Then I reiterate the question that my noble friend Lord Cledwyn put: are we still by one method or another selling arms, or near arms, to Iraq? What is happening to Technology and Development Group—this dreadful, fraudulent company that a regime that we all deplore has set up?

Lastly I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House what happens if the funding of our Gulf operation is borne, and has to be borne as it is at the moment, by the Ministry of Defence without resort to the Contingency Fund which paid for the Falklands expedition? Does that mean that the procurement of weapons under our options for change arrangement is cut back even further than it was when the Defence Estimates were debated in this House?

I just wish to conclude by joining with a number of noble Lords—the noble Lords, Lord Elibank, Lord Weidenfeld, Lord Beloff, my noble friend Lord Hatch, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, who I thought made a very interesting contribution—in believing that whatever the outcome of this crisis, we cannot go back to where we were before it. There is the presence of chemical and possibly nuclear installations in Iraq. There is the Palestinian problem. There are all sorts of problems of Arab nationalism that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, described.

Perhaps even in these rather dark days when the crisis is with us we should look beyond that and join with the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, in talking a bit about Secretary Baker's ideas of general settlement in the Middle East. If that can be achieved—and I accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Pym, made that that is a big "if"—it would be an enormous result from this grave crisis.

For those of your Lordships who are historically minded—the most reverend Primate brought us into this—it would remove the last legacy of the Ottoman Empire, whose demise not only sparked off the First World War but left a series of colonial and post-colonial states in the Middle East with disputed boundaries which continued to cause problems even when those states became sovereign in their own right. Even after death the Ottoman Empire seems to have a scorpion sting in it because of course that part of the world now controls 60 per cent. of our global oil reserves.

We hope for the best, we fear the worst, and this is all we can do. From these Benches we wish the Government well in their endeavours and we continue to support them. I hope that they will take encouragement and comfort from this message since it is not only the message of the Opposition but I think the overwhelming message from your Lordships' House this evening. We wish them success because so much of our future depends on it.

9.29 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, the crisis in the Gulf since Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2nd August is a matter of the utmost gravity. The opportunity to hear the views of so many of your Lordships with great experience of international affairs is of great value to the Government. I have taken on board the point that was put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and I shall indeed draw the attention of my colleagues in the Government to what the noble Lord said. I welcome also the degree of support expressed for the actions that the United Kingdom has taken. It was expressed in the first speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and again by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, in winding up for the Opposition. It has also been expressed by others of your Lordships. I am grateful for the degree of support which has been expressed throughout the entire House.

Very briefly, because this is ground we have been over before, in the early hours of 2nd August Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait, a peaceful, independent country and a member of the United Nations: a blatant case of unwarranted aggression. The United Nations Security Council has demanded Iraq's immediate and unconditional withdrawal and subsequently the restoration of the legitimate Government of Kuwait. When Iraq failed to respond, the Security Council imposed comprehensive sanctions and later authorised the use of force to implement them.

Following requests from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf rulers, the United States, closely followed by Britain, deployed ground, air and naval forces in a number of Gulf countries to deter further aggression by Saddam Hussein and in support of the Security Council's decisions. Many other countries, including several Arab countries, have followed suit.

British and other foreign citizens in Iraq and Kuwait have been caught up in the crisis and are illegally held by Iraq as hostages. Embassies in Kuwait have been forcibly prevented from carrying out their duties of looking after their citizens. It is a stunning series of events. A powerful country, with a large and battle-hardened army, has quite literally sought to abolish another sovereign state and member of the United Nations, laying claim to that country's enormous assets. It was a deed of lawlessness and brute force, thinly disguised in deceit and previous false assurances.

It was impossible to allow this act to go unchallenged, and once again I express the Government's appreciation of the support of your Lordships on that fundamental point. It was clearly a threat to other states in the region. With units of the Iraqi army deployed very rapidly to the Saudi border, it is not unreasonable to believe that, as my noble friends Lord Pym and Lord Campbell of Croy pointed out, Saddam Hussein had designs on the oil-producing facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia and possibly some of the other small Gulf countries. The attack on Kuwait was therefore also a threat to international stability, oil supplies and the international economy.

It was also a breach of international law and essential principles in the conduct of peaceful relations between states. If unchallenged, it would have threatened the security and confidence of small states everywhere. I think I am right in saying that this was a point on which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, put his finger and indeed the point has been echoed again and again from all sides. A very large number of your Lordships have made clear your agreement with the analysis that I have submitted. So, too, has the overwhelming majority of the international community.

I believe that the rigorous action of the Government, in close co-operation particularly with the United States, has been influential in shaping the international response. As well as the United States, we have been in close contact with France and our other European allies in NATO and in the Western European Union, together with our European Community partners. We have all been working together for the same ends.

With the co-operation of the Soviet Union, the five permanent members have been able to give a clear lead to the United Nations. It is worth repeating the point made by my noble friend Lord Caithness in opening the debate when he said that five very important resolutions have been passed without a vote cast against. That is a truly remarkable achievement.

Many of your Lordships have referred to the new authority that the United Nations has assumed. The noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, said this had been assumed in view of the new Soviet attitude. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, this seems to confirm that at long last the United Nations and the Security Council are able to play the role originally intended for them.

The noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, spoke movingly of the crucial importance of the crisis for the authority of the United Nations. I believe that Saddam Hussein's act of lawlessness has strengthened the determination of the rest of the world, born of recent events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, to live by the rule of law.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, asked about the Government's intentions for the future. The United Nations has set a clear objective which is unconditional Iraqi withdrawal and the restoration of the independence of Kuwait and of the legitimate government there. We have agreed also on a method of bringing this about peacefully by means of comprehensive economic sanctions universally applied. We have United Nations authority for the use of force, if necessary, to achieve those objectives.

Your Lordships have also expressed support for the Government's action in deploying forces as part of the collective defence of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other states in the region under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Some 20 states have now committed themselves to joining this effort. I repeat that these are defensive deployments. Their purpose is to deter further aggression. Military deterrence must now be maintained. It is complementary to the economic pressure of sanctions and it would surely be wrong to rule out the option of another means of bringing about Iraqi withdrawal if sanctions do not work. British forces will remain available as long as they are required.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, said that the power of the United States and the authority of the United Nations must keep in step and warned against what he called unilateral military action. That is a matter which other noble Lords have spoken about and which the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, followed up in his speech from the Liberal Benches towards the end of the debate. May I say to all your Lordships who have spoken about the difficult matter of the need to make sanctions work—the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, devoted part of his speech to the difficulty of sustaining long-term sanctions—that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Bush have stressed that we must give sanctions time to work. As I have said, we are aiming, along with our United Nations colleagues, for Iraqi withdrawal peacefully through the effect of comprehensive sanctions. We have acted throughout in accordance with international law and we shall continue to do so.

Resolution 661 calling for comprehensive economic sanctions expressly affirms the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence in response to the armed attack by Iraq against Kuwait in accordance with Article 51 of the charter. We hope that economic sanctions will prove sufficient. That is why they must be strictly enforced. But we are not precluded by reason of any of the Security Council resolutions from exercising the inherent right of collective self-defence in accordance with the rules of international law. I simply say to your Lordships that to undertake now to use no military force without yet further authority of the Security Council would be quite simply to deprive ourselves of a right in international law already expressly affirmed by Security Council Resolution 661. It would, incidentally, hand a gift to Saddam Hussein with the possible grim consequences outlined early in his speech by my noble friend Lord Carrington.

My noble friend called for us to explain clearly to all other nations the consequences of allowing Saddam Hussein to get away with his aggression. In that case, my noble friend said, Saddam Hussein would be master of the Middle East with his hand on the windpipe of the world. Those are words which in the coming weeks, and possibly months, we should not forget.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, asked me a series of questions. The first concerned the cost of the operations on which forces are now deployed. The noble Lord will perhaps forgive me if in a constantly developing situation I cannot give him a figure this evening. The costs will be substantial. There is the question of whether they should be shared. However, I give an undertaking that we shall not be deterred from bearing our share of the international burden.

The noble Lord then asked me a question about arms sales to Iraq in the past, a matter which was picked up again by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and other noble Lords in the context of the "Panorama" programme of a few days ago. Our stand on arms sales to Iraq has been among the toughest in the world. Our policy has been to refuse all exports of military equipment and associated technology which breach our published guidelines. We have had guidelines on this matter along those lines since 1980 although the guidelines were reflected in a publication in 1985.

Several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Beloff, asked about the company called TDG. I should like to give an assurance to the House this evening that we shall act swiftly and vigorously to deal with any evidence that TDG has broken the United Kingdom law. We have been refusing export licences for any lethal weapons with a war-making capacity. We are aware of TDG's activities. I would only add this evening that, as your Lordships will be aware, the Government have not been afraid to act in the past to counter any evidence of illegal Iraqi arms procurement in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps I may add one further point associated with that area before I continue. I attach importance to emphasising that Britain can claim to have taken a lead in drawing attention to Iraq's human rights abuses, including the use of chemical weapons. We were active in securing the adoption of Security Council Resolutions 612 and 621 which condemned the attack in Halabja, and we were the only country to name Iraq at the Paris conference on chemical weapons in January of last year. Strict guidelines have been in place to prevent the sale of chemical weapon precursors to Iraq.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury made the point that we should not confuse the moslem community in the United Kingdom with the activities of Saddam Hussein. I should like to endorse the most reverend Primate's words on that subject. Saddam Hussein has broken many of the principles of Islam and has persecuted Shia leaders in Iraq.

The most reverend Primate also pointed out that Britain and France have a historical responsibility in the area. The historical legacy is to be acknowledged. However, the crisis is the result of naked Iraqi aggression. Iraq acknowledged Kuwait's sovereign independence as long ago as 1963.

The most reverend Primate also mentioned the question of disaster relief, a matter which was picked up by several of your Lordships and by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, at the end of the debate. Perhaps I may just say to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that although normally the noble Lord is meticulous with statistics perhaps for once on this occasion the statistic that he gave of £½ million was not quite right. At the beginning of the debate my noble friend Lord Caithness announced that we are giving a further £2 million to assist with disaster relief, that the total we are giving now comes to £5.4 million, and we are certainly going to be ready to consider our further assistance when it becomes clear what are the proposals of the European Community for further help.

The other point mentioned by the most reverend Primate concerned the question of hostages. There can be no defence for the taking of civilian hostages and using them as a human shield. I think that in this House we are all united on that point. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams said, it is a breach of basic human rights and indeed of international law and a contravention of conventions on the treatment of civilians.

In that context, I should very much like to read the speech of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway who made interesting suggestions for a new law on hostage taking. We cannot allow such blackmail to deflect us from the peaceful course that we have chosen. Making a concession to a blackmailer only invites a further demand. The most reverend Primate, who I know speaks poignantly on this subject, earned all our respect when he said that in the last resort the plight of hostages, however heart-rending, cannot determine policy.

I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, for his generous words concerning my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and the very difficult work which posts abroad are doing so far as concerns the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The noble Lord made the point that a country which is subject to sanctions can be unexpectedly resilient. The noble Lord called for what he described as a political offensive. I should like to assure him that our diplomatic efforts will continue, regular and high level exchanges of views with partners and allies will go on and the need to do all we can to ensure the effectiveness of economic sanctions will continue to be pursued.

During his speech the noble Lord mentioned in particular the problems facing Jordan. King Hussein of Jordan is a long-standing friend of Britain. We have made clear our readiness to assist him with the consequences if Jordan fully implements United Nations sanctions.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, spoke about military operations needing to be set within a clear political framework. He said that it was essential that close military links should be maintained both in the Gulf and between nations contributing forces to the multinational force. That was a point which was picked up again by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, in his closing speech. I should like to thank the noble and gallant Lord for giving us his military perspective and identifying the important questions in the way that he did.

We are closely coordinating our activities with the host countries and other contributors to the multinational force. Chiefs of staff of the Western European Union countries have already met to discuss the practical aspects of co-operation. In that context the noble and gallant Lord's speech will be read with considerable interest and I hope also with considerable urgency.

I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Pym in his comments on the effects of carrying out sanctions, which are costing Egypt and Turkey—and indeed other countries—clear. We are now looking with our friends and allies at what we can do to assist those countries with the consequences of their decision to apply sanctions.

My noble friend also pointed out that a continuing Western presence on possibly a semi-permanent basis may well be necessary for the future. Without embarking on the future this evening, I shall just say that we have made clear that our forces will remain in the region while they have a job to do and while the host governments wish them to be there.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked three questions of which he was good enough to give me notice. The essence of them was: why are we supporting sanctions and international action against Iraq when, so the noble Lord asserted, we had not done so in a list of countries which the noble Lord gave to the House? I hope that the noble Lord will not think that I am being unreasonably unhelpful when I say that to draw such comparisons is not profitable at the present time. No two situations are alike. However, in this case the United Nations Security Council has unanimously taken the view that we must respond to an unprecedented attempt to occupy, annex and remove from existence a sovereign state and a full United Nations member.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret said roundly that he thought there was a hole in the sanctions and called for all methods of movement, including land and air, to be blocked. All countries bordering Iraq, with the exception of Jordan, have stated that they will not allow land shipments across their borders. I agree with my noble friend: we are and should be aware of the ways in which aircraft may be used in order to break sanctions. I should like to give my noble friend an assurance that we are studying ways in which an air embargo might be enforced.

My noble friend Lord Caldecote asked a similar question as to whether the Government had adequate powers to apply and enforce sanctions. Following the assets freeze, sanctions measures were introduced by us on 8th August. We believe that the Iraq and Kuwait United Nations sanctions order of 1990 and our export of goods control order of 1990 provide adequate powers to enforce sanctions. We have also taken necessary steps to ensure that so far as we are able our controls are not circumvented.

I believe that we shall need to keep a very firm grip on the issues in this crisis. Iraq is the aggressor and under the first Security Council resolution, SCR 660, must withdraw unconditionally. The time for any negotiations is after that. But to achieve this we shall need a sustained effort which will involve crucial decisions. For instance, Saddam Hussein must not be able to use hostages to secure concessions which would be to reward further criminal action by the aggressor.

This is a major challenge to peace and the ability of the international community to deal with it. Since 1980, Saddam Hussein has attacked two neighbouring countries. Although he claims to want to develop his own country, he has squandered its financial and human resources.

I believe that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right to remind the House that Saddam Hussein also rules Iraq by ruthless oppression. That country's record of human rights is among the worst of any country in the world. Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians, who are his fellow Moslems. His expansionist ambitions must be checked. However, as my noble friend Lord Carrington said, let us remember how much more dangerous such a crisis would have been until a year or two ago, entailing possibly the risk of superpower confrontation. The strength of the international response means that Saddam Hussein's aggression can be reversed; and it must and it will be, for if not, the world will become a far more dangerous place.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente.

House adjourned at six minutes before ten o'clock.

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