HL Deb 10 February 1998 vol 585 cc1010-21
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement on Iraq which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows: At the end of last week I visited the Gulf and held meetings with leading figures in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. With your permission, Madam Speaker, I would like to share with the House the three key points they made. First, they have real fears about the threat Saddam Hussein poses to their region. Secondly, like ourselves, they would prefer a diplomatic solution. But lastly, if Saddam does not accept the diplomatic initiatives that have been offered to him, then, as Prince Saud said, it is the Iraqi regime that will bear responsibility for the consequences. I agree with them on all three counts. On the first point, there is no room for doubt over the scale of Saddam's chemical or biological capability, nor over his repeated attempts to conceal it. Last week I published a paper setting out the statistics of Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and documenting his persistent deception. Saddam claimed he had only 650 litres of anthrax. The figure turned out to be 8,400 litres. He continues to have the capability to manufacture enough extra anthrax to fill two more warheads every week. One such warhead could depopulate an entire city. Saddam has programmes to produce at least three other germ agents. Saddam claimed his VX nerve gas programme had ended in failure. The truth turned out to be that he has the capability to produce 200 tonnes of VX agent. One drop of it is enough to kill. Ten years ago next month, Saddam used chemical weapons to kill 5,000 Iraqi citizens at Halabja. He also used them against fellow Moslems in his war with Iran. He will not hesitate to use them again. As Richard Butler, the executive chairman of UNSCOM, has noted, Saddam, "avoids answering questions and prevents UNSCOM from finding the answers". In the past nine months he has delayed or denied access to four out of five sites where UNSCOM believed concealment was taking place. The UN inspectors are our only guarantee that Saddam will not fulfil his ambition to acquire the weapons that could wipe out whole cities. However, that guarantee is of little value if they are not allowed to carry out effective inspections into the sites where they suspect chemical or biological weapons, or vital information, are concealed. We also agree with our allies in the Gulf that it would be better if we could resolve this confrontation by diplomatic means. That is why Britain took the lead in proposing to its Security Council partners a new resolution condemning Saddam's repeated obstruction of UNSCOM's work. That approach has received widespread support among council members. Japan has offered to co-sponsor the resolution. "We are also in close touch with the attempts at diplomatic mediation by Russia, France and the Arab League. Saddam has a history of backing down under pressure, and we welcome the recent signs that Iraq is ready to consider a diplomatic solution. However, I have to say to the House that, as yet, the proposals coming out of Baghdad fall well short of our requirement that any agreement should be convincing and should enable UNSCOM to resume its work without restrictions, without deadlines and without any no-go sites. While we want a peaceful solution, an outcome which left him able to develop chemical and biological weapons would make it only too likely that the peace of the region would be broken again by Saddam himself.

"Our quarrel is with Saddam Hussein, not with the Iraqi people. We support the territorial integrity of Iraq and would like to see it rejoin the international community. Meanwhile, we are at the forefront of the diplomatic efforts to bring relief to the Iraqi people. We have led the negotiations at the UN to more than double the oil-for-food programme. We are the second largest donor of humanitarian aid to Iraq. There are no sanctions against food or medicine. It is Saddam, not the UN, who has decided to use his resources to construct presidential palaces for himself and to create weapons of mass destruction for his regional ambitions, rather than to purchase food and medicine for his people.

"Finally we agree with our major Gulf allies that if diplomacy fails, the responsibility for the consequences will rest solely on Saddam. The best prospect for a diplomatic solution is to leave Saddam in no doubt of our resolve if he persists in his ambition to develop chemical and biological arsenals. He would be making a major miscalculation if he mistook our reluctance to use force for a lack of determination to use it if necessary. I hope both sides of the House will support that clear and firm message to Saddam".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.52 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition I should like to thank the Minister for updating the House with the latest developments on the situation in Iraq. I should also like to take this opportunity to reiterate our ongoing support to the Government, while they, together with the United States, continue to take a firm stand on Iraq, to ensure that United Nations resolutions are enforced and the UNSCOM inspectors are able to remove and destroy horrific chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. We support the Government in their desire to pursue all diplomatic avenues to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies with the will of the international community. But if diplomacy fails, it is right to keep the military option open.

However, there have been developments since the Government's last Statement. I wish to ask the Minister for an absolute assurance that the clearest possible diplomatic, strategic and military objectives will be set for any action that we take and that these will be reported to the House at the appropriate times.

I particularly wish to ask the Minister for that assurance today, since over the last week certain statements have been made on our objectives. I believe that clarification from the Minister would be most helpful. For example, last Monday the Foreign Secretary in another place said that our objective was to secure Saddam Hussein's compliance with Security Council resolutions and ultimately for the Security Council to be assured that all Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related facilities have been destroyed. However, last Friday in Washington President Clinton said that the United States' objective was to prevent Saddam Hussein from threatening his neighbours and the world with weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, on Sunday the Secretary of State for Defence spoke of the possible objective of reducing the ability of Saddam Hussein and his regime to survive.

I appreciate that the Minister has at all times been clear in what she said to your Lordships' House. However, I am sure she will agree that differing statements of the objective we hope to achieve are leading to uncertainty, confusion and a growing level of concern in your Lordships' House. Could the Minister therefore today clarify the Government's objective to resolve this crisis? Should all diplomatic means be exhausted and it prove necessary to take the military option, can the Minister assure the House on behalf of the British servicemen and women whose lives may be put at risk that clear, unequivocal objectives will be set?

Could the Minister also clarify the legality of the steps the Government might take in the event of an armed conflict? Is the Government's position that Resolution 687 provides sufficient authority for military action?

We currently hold the important position of President of the European Union. I wish to ask the Minister what discussions are ongoing with our other partners in the Security Council and in Europe, given that the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine, has said: resorting to force is not desirable in the current situation and would not solve the problems we are confronted with". He has described the British and American position as "propaganda" to intimidate Saddam Hussein and there is also President Yeltsin's warning that an attack could lead to a third world war. What assessment have the Government made of the draft UN motion being drawn up by France, Russia and the Arab League, which aims to secure access to 68 possible locations of material for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Given the incursion of some 7,000 Turkish troops into northern Iraq yesterday, can the Minister tell the House what implications this will have for any military action they may be preparing to take?

There is no doubt across your Lordships' House that we stand upon the precipice of a grave crisis. On behalf of the Opposition, I offer the Government our continued strong support in their efforts to ensure that Saddam Hussein respects the will of the United Nations and the world community. For that we need to set clear and unequivocal objectives for the actions taken by the Government with the consequences fully thought through.

3.56 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I also wish to add my congratulations to the Minister on repeating the Statement made in another place. I wish to underline the extraordinary significance and concern that all in the House will feel about the information she has given to the House on the biological and chemical weapons availability in Iraq at present. It underlines more clearly than anything else could the extreme importance of ensuring that inspectors have access to all the sites in which such weapons may be developed or produced.

May I also ask the Minister, following the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, whether she could make clearer the objectives that the Government and their major ally, the United States, have in mind? As the noble Lord said—and he was correct to say it—there has been a certain ambivalence about the ultimate goals of the operation. Clearly, for the sake of our forces and of others, it needs to be made as clear as possible precisely what those objectives are.

I wish to ask the noble Baroness three questions. First, have there been consultations between the foreign ministers of the European Union countries with regard to the resolution that is to be tabled by the Arab League, Russia and France? In that context, is the United Kingdom circulating its own draft resolution in the hope of getting greater support from the European Union for that resolution?

Secondly, can the Minister tell us whether, if access is given to the weapons sites, including the presidential palaces, by Saddam Hussein, there would be a willingness on the part of Her Majesty's Government to consider some phased easing of sanctions?

Thirdly, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether there is any opportunity for reconsideration to be given to the composition of inspection teams, if that access is granted, given the earlier initiative taken by Russia with regard to Security Council members being represented on the teams.

Lastly, perhaps I may comment that one of the difficulties we encounter in the whole operation is that there is a perception, not least among those Arab countries that took part in the original Gulf Co-operation Council, that the treatment of the breaches by the Netanyahu government of some of the UN resolutions currently standing with regard to the peace negotiations with Israel is a real difficulty in bringing them on board, as it is crucial to attempt to do.

4 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for their support at this difficult time. The noble Lord asked for an assurance that all diplomatic avenues would be exhausted, first and foremost. I can reiterate what my right honourable friend said in another place; that is, that all such avenues are being pursued. My right honourable friend was in the Gulf last week. My honourable friend Mr. Fatchett will be going to the Gulf shortly, as will my noble friend Lord Gilbert; and my right honourable friend Dr. Reid has also been in the Gulf.

The United Kingdom Government are doing everything they can to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution to this problem. The noble Lord asked for assurances that the clearest possible targets—diplomatically, strategically and militarily—are set and that the objectives are clear. Again, I can give him that assurance.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was concerned that perhaps there were slightly conflicting messages emerging as regards objectives. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made it clear that our objective is the compliance with Security Council resolutions. I remind your Lordships that Security Council Resolution 687 sets out the ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire agreement compelled Saddam Hussein to destroy his weapons of mass destruction and to undertake not to create any more such weapons. The noble Lord said that that was somehow in conflict with the statement that Saddam had to be prevented from threatening the region and the world. In fact it is not. If Saddam Hussein complied with Resolution 687, he would be removing the threat that is perceived by the United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries which have made their position clear over the past week.

The noble Lord asked about discussions elsewhere. My right honourable friend's discussions with many countries over the past week or so indicate their agreement not only with the objectives set out by Her Majesty's Government, but also with the position of Her Majesty's Government that if those objectives cannot be secured through diplomatic channels, we should not rule out the use of military force. That has been agreed by Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany and New Zealand among others.

Others take the position at the moment that they wish to pursue diplomatic channels. However, in pursuing diplomatic channels they are also saying that it is essential that Saddam Hussein complies with Security Council Resolution 687 and that he must allow the unfettered access of UNSCOM to places where weapons may be stored or made. We must ask ourselves whether, if that is not achieved through diplomatic channels, Saddam Hussein will take any such measures if he does not believe that there is the threat of military action behind those diplomatic channels. Unfortunately, the history of dealing with Saddam Hussein tells us that he is more likely to discuss the issue if he believes that a military threat may be deployed.

The noble Lord also asked about the position of the Turks in northern Iraq. Her Majesty's Government have seen the reports about the Turks entering northern Iraq. At the moment those reports are denied by the Turks.

The leadership of the Turkish Democratic Party told us that the reports are untrue and the Foreign Office is checking out the situation. I asked an official in the Foreign Office this morning to check out the reports and unfortunately he was unable to confirm the position in northern Iraq. Of course, Ministers have asked officials to keep the matter under constant review. It is an important factor.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, raised questions in relation to consultation. Of course we are in consultation. In fact, the diplomatic effort at the moment is second to none—and rightly so, as I am sure all your Lordships would expect. The noble Baroness raised in particular the efforts of the Arab League, the French and the Russians over coming to an agreement and a possible Security Council resolution. Those discussions are ongoing at the moment. But we will have to see whether a Security Council resolution will enable UNSCOM to have free and unfettered access to the places that need to be visited in Iraq. Last week the Russians came forward with some suggestions, but those suggestions involved only one-off visits to those sites, after which there was no latitude for further visits. That is not acceptable. We must have unfettered, free access at times of UNSCOM's choosing.

Also, the noble Baroness asked whether, if access was given, there would be a phased easing of sanctions. We are not in a position to be able to agree that. Once we see full compliance—I emphasise, full compliance—with Resolution 687, then we shall be able to revisit the question of the issuing of sanctions. But I stress that at no point has the United Nations introduced sanctions against food or medicine. The vital humanitarian aid needed by the people of Iraq could go to the people of Iraq tomorrow if Saddam Hussein would allow it. Moreover, we have supported unconditionally the suggestions put forward by the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, to increase the oil for food provisions, as I was able to report to your Lordships' House last week.

The noble Baroness asked about the composition of inspection teams. There are 44 people on the inspection teams at the moment covering 17 nationalities. The inspectors are selected for their professionalism and expertise in a highly specialised field. It is not a United States selection; it is not a British selection; it is a selection made by Richard Butler, who happens to be an Australian. He makes his selection on behalf of the United Nations from the people who are most suitable and who have the best expertise to carry out their direction under Resolution 687.

Questions were also raised by the noble Baroness regarding the Gulf Co-operation Council and some of the difficulties in the region in relation to what is perceived to be a double standard concerning the Netanyahu government. We have discussed this matter in your Lordships' House before and I must reiterate to the noble Baroness what I said earlier this afternoon. The difference is that the Netanyahu Government—whether or not we agree with what they are doing—are a democratically elected government with whom we are discussing the Middle East peace process. Her Majesty's Government made clear that we do not accept their position over Jerusalem; that we do not accept their position over the settlements on the West Bank; and Her Majesty's Government have said that in our view those settlements are illegal. But that is a different position to the position of Saddam Hussein and his flouting of what is, in effect, a cease-fire agreement; his stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction and, I am afraid I must say to your Lordships, his entirely discredited record of the way he has treated his own people and his neighbours in the use of those weapons of mass destruction.

4.8 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness from these Benches that the prayers of Christian people throughout the country are with those involved with this situation. especially those who bear heavy responsibility at this time and who will be making crucial decisions in the days ahead. In the diocese of Oxford, for example, Thursday is being kept as a special day of prayer. Churches will be open and people have been invited to come to church to pray and light a candle for peace.

As I say, those prayers are for those who bear heavy responsibility and who will be making crucial decisions in the days ahead. It will be a prayer especially that the terrible threat posed by the presence of the weapons of mass destruction can be averted by peaceful means even at this late stage.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for those words and for his prayers. This is a matter which should be of concern not only to those who practise the Christian faith, but to British people of all faiths. I hope that there will not be any move to try to drive a wedge between different faiths in the inter-faith community in this country. I thank the right reverend Prelate for his comments.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, am I right in thinking that the destruction by violent means—for example, by aerial bombardment—of biological weapons is without precedent? It could result in the dissemination of those self-generating poisons and lead to the most appalling infection of the entire world. I hope that Her Majesty's Government and the American Government will bear these thoughts in mind.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, of course Her Majesty's Government and all governments—indeed all people of good will—must bear in mind what the noble Earl has said. However, I would say this to him. It is not the case that this is without precedent. My right honourable friend published a document last week. I have brought 100 copies of the document to the House and I shall be happy to distribute them. The document makes clear that the Al Hakam BW factory, which was 3 kilometres by 6 kilometres in size, was destroyed. The factory was producing 50,000 litres of anthrax and botulinum. The Iraqis claimed that the factory was producing animal feed. That was not so, as UNSCOM discovered. It was destroyed and I am happy to say that none of the appalling and horrible consequences that the noble Earl suggested might happen was visited on the people of Iraq as a result.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, does the Minister agree that whatever the misdeeds of the Netanyahu government, for whom I am not a spokesman, it is still a fact that Israel is not a threat to the lives of the inhabitants of the cities of its neighbours? It is in Tel Aviv that gas masks are being fitted on children, not in any of the Arab capitals. Is not this threat to the lives of people in a city in the Middle East a greater concern than the details of any ultimate settlement in the Middle East, for which we must all hope?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I hope I have already made it clear that the comparison between Israel and what is happening in Iraq is not an appropriate one, given the potential involving weapons of mass destruction which is under discussion here. However, I do believe—and Her Majesty's Government believe—that were Mr. Netanyahu able to be rather more constructive over the Middle East peace process, there might be less need to put gas masks on children in Tel Aviv.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, as I indicated last week, I warmly support the Government and congratulate them and my noble friend on the diplomatic efforts being made to solve this problem without resort to bombing? Will my noble friend accept that one of the obstacles in the way of diplomacy is that the people may not know? While it is true to say that the people of the United Kingdom, the people of the United States and the people of the free world know about the joint diplomatic efforts by the United States and the United Kingdom, it is almost certain that the people of Iraq do not know about the diplomatic efforts and the impact that those diplomatic efforts might have on the final outcome. May I enter a plea, simple though it may seem, that before we drop any bombs we might return to what is an old-fashioned idea and, as a final throw of the dice, drop a few leaflets on Iraq in the hope that someone will pick them up and the free world's message might well get through?

Baroness Symons of Vernham

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point. I expect he is right and that most of the people of Iraq are completely unaware of what is going on. He suggests that leaflets should be dropped on Iraq. Her Majesty's Government and the other governments who are contemplating this appalling situation at the moment are very aware of the dangers to the civilian population of Iraq. As we said in the Statement, our difficulty is with Saddam Hussein and not with the Iraqi people. I stress that point to your Lordships' House. We will do everything we can to minimise the threat to the civilian population.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, having visited Halabja and seen the site of the appalling massacre which she mentioned, I have every sympathy with the line that she takes on the destruction of all chemical and biological weapons? However, if the result of military action was only to destroy a fraction of these weapons while ensuring that the inspectors were permanently excluded from Iraq. would that count as a success? Will the noble Baroness kindly answer the question that was put to her by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, as to whether Resolution 687 gives legal authority for the military action we are contemplating? If not, does the draft resolution which is in the course of preparation give that authority; and if so, how will it ever get through the Security Council?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the noble Lord asks whether destroying only a fraction of the weapons while securing the exclusion of UNSCOM inspectors would be seen as securing our objective. The answer is unequivocal—no, of course it would not. The objective is to ensure that the UNSCOM inspectors go back into Iraq and that they are able to secure compliance with the Security Council resolution which was the price of the ceasefire at the end of the Gulf War.

The noble Lord asked about Security Council Resolution 687. The Security Council resolution sets out the terms of the ceasefire—the terms for ending the Gulf War. They include unequivocally the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction and the undertaking not to create any more. The fact is that Saddam Hussein has already broken what in effect was the ceasefire agreement for the Gulf War. We therefore do not believe that other Security Council resolutions are, strictly speaking, necessary, but that does not mean that they are not desirable. Of course it is desirable to get maximum unity of purpose in the United Nations to secure agreement that Saddam Hussein should cease from his creation of these dreadful weapons of mass destruction.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I may be wrong, but is not the short answer to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that the ceasefire resolution stands? It has never been rescinded. Until it is rescinded—and there is no prospect, as far as one can see, that it will be rescinded—it is full authority for the action that may have to be taken by Her Majesty's Government.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I believe I have made Her Majesty's Government's position clear. But I would say to the noble Lord that, while in effect what he says is true, that should in no way detract from the full commitment of Her Majesty's Government to seek a diplomatic solution to this question. I cannot stress that too much to your Lordships' House.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, while many of us appreciate the nature of the dilemma which faces the Government and the American Government in the situation in which they find themselves, it is a matter of doubt whether dropping bombs on Iraq without the support of other Arab countries is a way out of that dilemma?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I hope I have made it clear that no one is being trigger happy over this. We are in a desperately serious situation. But I am afraid that the history of Saddam Hussein in relation to his ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction has been that he mistakes reluctance to use force as weakness and as a lack of determination. He would be well advised not to make such a mistake.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there is a possibility that this most unpredictable of men could perhaps get rather bored at protracted negotiations on the diplomatic front the longer they go on? If he has such an enormous stockpile of chemical weapons, what is to prevent him loosing off some of them in a pre-emptive strike and jeopardising the lives of the very people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, referred? Is there any danger of that?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am unable to second guess the way in which Saddam Hussein may operate. What we are clear about is that we must have unity of purpose on our side and act as much as we can with that unity of purpose with our allies in the United Nations.

Lord Islwyn

My Lords, can the Minister say whether any timescale has been set for the inspections and the destruction of these evil weapons? It is now seven years since the end of the Gulf War. Is it to be 10 years, 20 years or even longer? As regards military action, is that likely to bring about a solution on the creation of an effective opposition in Iraq? It seems up to the present that this situation is having the opposite effect by increasing the grip that Saddam Hussein has on the Iraqi people.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the noble Lord asks about a timescale. The objective is to secure inspection at all the sites which UNSCOM believes should be inspected as soon as possible. There is no objective to do that within any particular timescale, but it must be done as soon as possible. The noble Lord also asked whether military action will not ensure that effective opposition in Iraq is further subverted. Her Majesty's Government believe that the objective is not whether there is an effective opposition in Iraq, but that Saddam Hussein complies with his obligation under the Security Council resolutions.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, the Minister will realise that under the UN Resolution the Kurds are not receiving the food and equipment needed and promised. She told us that with the diplomatic situation, which I thoroughly understand, that will be done as soon as possible. One will have to report back to the Kurds what that actually means. They feel that Saddam Hussein has absolutely no interest at all in resolutions from the United Nations and the Kurds will go on starving until some action is taken.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, if the Kurds are right in believing that Saddam Hussein has no interest in Security Council resolutions, that reinforces the view that Her Majesty's Government have taken that such resolutions need to be backed up by the threat of military action.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, can the Minister enlighten us as to whether, in the event of the military option having to be used, that will be a joint decision by the American and British Governments or will it be for the British Government at the time to decide independently whether to take part in any operations which the Americans might wish to mount?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I can tell your Lordships that any decisions taken will be reached in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time.

Lord Moyne

My Lords, is the Minister aware that General Norman Schwartzkopf, who commanded the allied forces in the Gulf War, has strongly expressed his opposition to any such action and feels that it would be counter-productive?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, a number of individuals have expressed strong feelings on this question. Sometimes when people move away from the centre and are unaware of the threat posed, it may be that they do not have all the knowledge which they might have on important points or which is available to those who have determined that Saddam Hussein is a threat not only in the region but also to the rest of the world.

It may help if I illustrate the point in relation to UNSCOM. On 2nd February I was able to give your Lordships a detailed list of what UNSCOM had found. What I did not give your Lordships was the list of weapons that are unaccounted for. We believe that Iraq may have operational Scud-type missiles with chemical and biological warheads. We do not have any knowledge where 17 tonnes of growth media for BW agents has gone. UNSCOM strongly suspects that the admitted Iraqi figures for the production of BW agents are still far too low.

Iraq's CW programme was on an enormous scale. We know that 4,000 tonnes of CW precursors are simply not accounted for. These could have produced several hundred tonnes of CW agents, which would be enough to fill several thousand munitions. Over 31,000 CW munitions are not accounted for. Over 600 tonnes of VX precursors are also not accounted for. These are not just figures for us to throw about, but real weapons of mass destruction. We do not know where they are. They are in the hands of a man who may well be prepared to use them. So my answer to General Schwartzkopf and others who have doubts is to ask them what they would do in relation to this appalling litany of unfound weapons. I believe that the determination shown by Her Majesty's Government on this matter is entirely right.

The Lord Bishop of Leicester

My Lords. I have been reflecting on what the Minister said earlier about opposition to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, and I visited Iraq some three years ago on a humanitarian visit to investigate the effect of sanctions. We were both shocked by their effect, particularly on children in hospitals and clinics. But I was equally shocked by the hostility of ordinary people in Iraq to the British and American Governments whom they blamed for sanctions and also for the great suffering incurred during the Gulf War. Lest it be thought that we were being misled by that impression, the noble Lord and I were quite skilful at slipping away from our official engagements and using our charitable links to meet ordinary Church people. I have no doubt that the use of force would push the ordinary people of Iraq, who are hostages in their own country, further into the grip of Saddam Hussein. I view the use of force with deep foreboding. I plead for a more patient approach until we are absolutely clear that the use of force will have the desired outcome.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has spoken about the effect of sanctions on children and other defenceless people and the hostility of ordinary Iraqi people to the British and those of other nationalities whom they believe are responsible. I do not find that surprising. Of course there will be that kind of a hostility because the people do not know that there is a £2 billion oil-for-food programme; they do not know that Saddam Hussein has built palace after palace rather than feed hungry people and give medicine to children; they do not know that he has spent money from the programme on weapons of mass destruction. But we know that is what he is doing. I say to the right reverend Prelate that much as he fears what may happen to people in Iraq in the appalling eventuality of military action, and much as we all fear that, the alternative is that many more innocent people will suffer eventually and be in Saddam Hussein's appalling grasp if we do not take determined action.