HL Deb 24 September 2002 vol 638 cc870-1026

12.38 p.m.

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean) rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation with regard to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the central issue before the House today is straightforward, solemn and serious. It is how the international community can make Iraq comply with its clear obligation to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein has those weapons. He can use them, and we believe that in time he will do so.

His obligations were set out, as my noble friend the Leader of the House has said, in UNSCR 687 of 1991. That was the resolution that suspended the military action endorsed by the United Nations after Iraq's unprovoked invasion of its neighbour Kuwait. UNSCR 687 required Iraq unconditionally to engage in, the destruction, removal or rendering harmless, under international supervision", of its chemical and biological weapons and to abandon its nuclear programme. The UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) was tasked with chemical and biological weapons inspection, while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was charged with ending Iraq's nuclear weapons programme.

The briefing paper that we have placed in the Library of the House today shows that Iraq has continued to develop terrible weapons of mass destruction. It shows that Iraq has the means to deliver those weapons in armed conflict. It illustrates Saddam Hussein's record of unprovoked aggression in invading two sovereign states and his brutal suppression of internal and minority groups. All that adds up to compelling evidence that he would not hesitate to use the weapons if he saw the need.

As the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister makes clear, our briefing paper cites example upon example of Iraqi efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. To an unprecedented extent, the paper draws on intelligence material and leaves no doubt that Iraq's growing arsenal of such weapons can no longer be tolerated. It demonstrates that the Iraqi regime is increasing its capacity to terrorise and intimidate through the amassing of chemical and biological weapons. 'The regime has developed command and control systems to use those weapons, and we know that, under those systems, authority rests with Saddam Hussein and, perhaps, with his equally unsavoury son, Qusai.

The dossier goes on to show that Iraq is seeking components and uranium to take forward its already advanced nuclear programme. The dossier highlights the fact that the regime has developed mobile laboratories for military use, corroborating earlier reports about the mobile production of biological warfare agents. It shows that Iraq is developing longer-range ballistic missiles to deliver such weapons further afield. Moreover, it reveals that Iraq continues to use revenue from illicit oil sales to support those horrific programmes, in defiance of explicit UN resolutions, rather than buying food, medicine and other civilian goods for the long-suffering men, women and children of Iraq.

The dossier brings out clearly the assessment of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which brings together the heads of the three intelligence and security agencies. That assessment is that the Iraqi regime could, in certain circumstances, produce a nuclear weapon in a period of between one and two years. To the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, I say that that is a short time in international relations. The same committee has evidence that Iraq has sought to buy the significant quantities of uranium that it needs from Africa, at a time when Iraq has no civil nuclear power programme and, therefore, no legitimate reason to acquire uranium. Appallingly, the report shows that intelligence indicates that the Iraqi military is already able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

The evidence from the Joint Intelligence Committee adds up to a terrible catalogue of actual and potential weaponry. We have a duty to face up to the responsibilities created by that evidence. How do we force compliance—not for its own sake, but in the knowledge that the weapons are being built for a purpose? That purpose is the domination of the Gulf, to achieve which Saddam Hussein will not hesitate to use the weapons, if he sees fit. We know that because he has already done so.

Lord Waldegrave of North Hill

My Lords, will the Minister confirm the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that the impressive dossier that the Government have put before us does not show evidence of the distribution of the weapons to terrorist organisations or to Al'Qaeda? That is an important point. We would be here debating the problem of Iraq whether or not the atrocities of 11th September last year had taken place. It is extremely important that we keep the issues separate.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I can confirm that the dossier does not show a link with the events of 11th September; nor does it show any direct link with Al'Qaeda. There is a view that some members of Al'Qaeda have escaped to Iraq and have been harboured by the Iraqi regime. However, I agree with the noble Lord that the issue of Iraq stands by itself: we would be debating it irrespective of what happened last year. None the less, the events of last year taught us many dreadful lessons about the failure to deal with threats staring us in the face.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard several commentators remark that we cannot prove that Saddam Hussein would use the weapons. I heard that view expressed again this morning on the radio. It is said that, even if the weapons exist and the means to use them are growing greater, the essential factor—the intention to use them—cannot be proved. That is true, of course. However, we can consider Iraq's record on the issue. Iraq is the only country to be condemned by the United Nations for breaching the Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime has fought wars of aggression, in which millions have died, against two neighbours and has launched missile attacks against five of its neighbours.

Saddam Hussein's brutal disregard for human life is directed not just at those outside Iraq. He has used poison gas against ordinary Iraqis, deliberately murdering unarmed civilians. Halabja has become a terrible by-word throughout the world for the horror perpetrated there. Elsewhere in Iraq, the fate of 100,000 Kurds and 200,000 Shia Muslims is evidence enough of Saddam Hussein's callous disregard for innocent life. In all that, Iraq has not just persistently mocked the authority of the United Nations but has done more than any other country to undermine the global consensus against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As the dossier makes clear, the brutality continues. There is routine murder, rape and torture, some of it personally supervised by Saddam Hussein and his sons.

Of those who say, "Prove that Saddam will use the weapons", we ask, "What more proof do we need than his record?". I will ask another question: how would we—any of us—justify doing nothing while such a man ran such a regime, in defiance of the United Nations, until it was too late? Edmund Burke famously said: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". We have all heard it argued that, once Saddam used the weapons, the full force of international community would be used against him. But how many innocent lives would be lost in his first strike? How, in the days after those lives were lost, would we justify having done nothing to prevent him?

Our objective is the UN's objective. It is clear: it is to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. We have tried to do it peacefully and methodically under UN auspices. After the liberation of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein had no alternative but to admit UN weapons inspectors. Then, over a period of seven years, he systematically deceived, obstructed and intimidated those inspectors. Since the end of the Gulf War, Iraq has ignored 23 out of 27 separate UN obligations. Even more tellingly, Iraq has not, in that entire period, complied with any of the 14 separate obligations relating to weapons of mass destruction.

In refusing to comply over and over again, Saddam took a calculated gamble. He calculated that divisions in the Security Council would render the UN unable to enforce its own resolutions. We are now at a crossroads: the UN must deal with the growing, flagrant threats to international peace and security. Otherwise, its ability to protect our security against present and future threats from any source will be undermined and irreparably damaged by the will of one regime. Dictatorship and force will override the work of the international community and the rule of law.

Last week's tactics were of course to be expected. First, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister declared that inspectors would not be readmitted—then, two days later, the Foreign Minister said that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. That was a blatant lie. He went on to say that inspectors might return to Iraq. We are all too familiar with those distraction techniques. The same promises were made by the Iraqi regime in November 1998—and Iraq did not deliver on that promise. Indeed, the inspectors were forced to leave only one month later. So the latest offer must be treated with deep scepticism.

We must not let Iraq sidetrack the United Nations. Now is not the time to let up on any pressure on the Iraqi regime. In light of experience, we need a tough, uncompromising, all-encompassing inspect ion regime. It should be embodied in a United Nations resolution—and that resolution should carry the implicit determination to use force if there is further non-compliance.

Some of your Lordships may ask why this is so pressing now. After four years without inspections, all the indications are that the weapons programmes are growing again. As many of your Lordships will have read in the paper in the Library, the intelligence assessment published today shows that Saddam Hussein regards his chemical and biological weaponry as more than weapons of last resort. In the four years since we last had an inspectors' report, all the evidence is that Saddam Hussein is continuing to add to his biological and chemical arsenals and is once again at work on his nuclear programme.

Some of your Lordships may ask why this regime is uniquely dangerous. There are other countries developing terrible weapons too. Are they as bad or worse proliferators? What are we doing about them? Yes, there are others. There are other threats to the international consensus on non-proliferation. The difference is that with the other countries involved, we have a working relationship through which we can effectively urge restraint. In each case, we are endeavouring through active diplomacy to encourage the governments concerned to come fully within the ambit of the international regulatory systems, and meanwhile to ensure that those systems are kept safely and not used.

There has been intensive diplomatic effort in that regard with India and Pakistan. It is raised regularly with Israel, which can be in no doubt of our very clear views. In respect of North Korea, the Foreign Secretary has authorised an upgrading of our diplomatic representation; similarly with Libya. My honourable friend Mike O'Brien visited in August—the first British Minister to do so in 23 years. Iran potentially has a key strategic role in the region and beyond. We aim at deepening our relationship with that country and to encourage the forces of democracy within it. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has visited Iran twice in the last 12 months and hopes to do so again in the near future.

Of course we should always try the path of diplomacy to resolve potential threats and conflicts for international security—but that requires reciprocity, an acceptance of norms and standards of behaviour. Those norms, those standards and that reciprocity are wholly absent in the Iraqi regime.

When we have discussed the issue in the past, some of your Lordships have suggested that by threatening to enforce international law in the case of Iraq, we are guilty of double standards with regard to Israel and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Those resolutions did indeed place certain obligations upon Israel, which have not been met. The resolutions also imposed on all Israel's Arab neighbours the obligation fully to recognise and make peace with Israel. Those obligations have not been met either. The critics who say that we cannot deal forcefully with Iraq because we are not equally dealing with Israel fail to address how we can deliver freedom and statehood to Palestinians and lasting security to Israel.

There is progress. It is slow and painful—and it is halting—but progress now is seen in the growing consensus that peace and security in the Middle East will come with the creation of a viable Palestinian state and an Israel within its borders and at peace with its neighbours. In the past few months, that shared recognition has been set out by the President of the United States and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. We remain committed to that policy and to pursuing it through the early resumption of negotiations in the United Nations Security Council.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will take that message with him when he visits the Middle East in a few weeks. Of course we recognise that the Middle East conflict is not an integral part of the problem with Iraq but, like many of your Lordships, we cannot ignore the importance of the issue itself and in the context of the politics and international relationships of the region. The truth is that there is widespread scepticism among many of our Arab friends about the willingness of the West to address those issues. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have done so consistently, patiently and diligently. They will continue to do so—as the Prime Minister's statement made clear.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will also leave no doubt in the minds of all his hosts in the region, when he visits them, about the threat posed by Iraq's weapons. We shall continue to deny Saddam Hussein's attempts to portray our confronting that issue as an attack on Islam. We shall continue to make it clear to our own Islamic communities in the United Kingdom that our argument is not with Islam and not with the people of Iraq but with a pernicious and brutal regime.

Our objective must be to force that regime to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. If Saddam Hussein is toppled from power in that endeavour, so be it—we would welcome his departure. Neighbouring countries would welcome his departure. The world would welcome his departure.

But our objective is to disarm Iraq through rigorous and determined United Nations inspections. To achieve that, we need to be ready to use force if necessary. The experience of the past decade demonstrates that Saddam Hussein shows no respect for negotiation, no respect for UN resolutions and no respect for international law. He responds only to force or the intention to use force. Any United Nations resolutions need to be backed up by that intention—an intention upon which we must be ready and willing to act.

That is a terrible eventuality to contemplate. The prospect of armed conflict, inevitable loss of human life and the individual suffering of innocent people caught up in events that they can neither influence nor understand is an awesome responsibility. But awesome too is the responsibility of failing to deal with the threat that is now so clear. If the Security Council does not press for unconditional and unrestricted access for UN inspectors, we must prepare for the eventuality that a uniquely aggressive dictator will ultimately use the monstrous weapons that he is developing. The threat would then be beyond our control and beyond that of the United Nations.

Many will ask what will happen next if there is armed intervention. How will it be done? When and how would those undertaking such action withdraw from Iraq? What is the exit strategy? The truth is that discussion of those questions in detail is not for today. If it comes to armed conflict, we shall need our forces to be as secure as possible. As always, the security and safety of our Armed Forces is paramount. As my right honourable friend's Statement made clear, the Government will keep Parliament in touch with all developments—particularly any that would lead us to military action, as we did over Kosovo and Afghanistan.

I can say that the government of Iraq is a matter for the Iraqi people. They deserve a better government—one based on the rule of law and respect for human rights; economic freedom; and a return to full membership of the international community. For its part, the international community has the right to look forward to an Iraqi regime that co-operates with the United Nations and plays a normal and peaceful role in the region and the world.

Hoping that things will get better is no answer. Delay will only worsen matters. Delay will allow Saddam Hussein to amass more anthrax, more VX, more sarin. It will allow him to develop the range of his missile systems. It will allow him to acquire fissile material to incorporate into his nuclear weapons and to integrate into his programmes. It will allow him to manipulate the UN, the very organisation on which we all depend to uphold the peace, security and international rule of law. That cannot be allowed to happen, for the sake of this generation and for our descendants. We have to be able to rely on the United Nations to uphold its ideals in principle and in practice.

The Government fully accept the gravity of the present moment. Today's recall of both Houses of Parliament is a clear testament to the seriousness of the threat facing us. But let us be equally clear that the message of the document the Government published today is a compelling and dreadful one: that in Saddam Hussein and his development of weapons of mass destruction, the man and means form a unique and terrible combination. It is a combination which is a threat to his own country, to his region and to the world. We now all look to the United Nations to have the determination to dismantle that threat.

As my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary made clear—unflinchingly, to all our friends as much as to others—the United Nations is the right place to pursue our determination. We believe that the time may be coming when we all have to turn that determination into action.

We do not seek this conflict. But we shall not turn our faces away. We shall confront this threat; and we shall continue in our determination to secure peace and stability for all countries of the region and the world. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the situation with regard to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.—(Baroness Symons of Vernon Dean.)

1.2 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I am sure all noble Lords will be grateful for the full way in which the noble Baroness set out the Government's approach to this crisis. We all look forward to the debate to come and I shall do my best not to stand in the way of that debate moving ahead given the huge expertise and experience upon this matter that will be mobilised this afternoon and evening—expertise and experience unequalled in any other forum.

We on these Benches, as we have already made clear, are not opposed—indeed we support it fully—to the Prime Minister's approach to a complex, fast-changing and extremely dangerous situation. But we reserve the right to ask a number of questions—indeed, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has already put a number of them—and to be kept fully informed as the situation unfolds. In that I echo my noble friend; that it is difficult to be kept informed when we are presented with the dossier only a few hours before the debate on it.

I have read the dossier from cover to cover. But I cannot understand why it could not be published earlier. Though it brings together a good deal of fascinating detail—the intelligence people have done an excellent job—much of it already appears in a whole range of technical journals, on websites or in other intelligence reports. I cannot understand why it was not published last Friday. It would have made matters much easier for us.

In relation to the Prime Minister's and the Government's policy, the decision to take the UN route is the right one. That is not to say that we regard all the members of the UN, not even of the permanent members, as having impeccable records on human rights. Some of the component members in fact are far from that position. But taking the matter to the United Nations has brought the Arab countries and many others on side. That is a good thing. It is strongly to the Prime Minister's credit that, through his efforts at Camp David, that is the way the American administration is now going when a number of voices were being raised in Washington—they still are—saying that it was the wrong way to go.

Taking the issue to the United Nations raises a crop of new questions. How tough is the resolution we are now seeking? Is it the same as that put forward by President Bush or are we elaborating on that? Is the aim to help the inspectors identify in this enormous country—Iraq is huge—the weapons of mass destruction or to insist on the total, visible and verifiable destruction of those weapons? Or are we supporting the doctrine of coercive inspections which is now being vigorously developed by our opposite numbers in America and a number of other countries? Where do we stand in the end on the call for regime change and the rebuilding of a different kind of Iraq, which is the declared policy of a whole range of senior government officials in America? It is not just the talk of academics; regime change is their demand and their policy.

What will happen if no resolution is agreed? That is possible. Is it the Government's policy for us to go along with force anyway on the grounds that the resolutions have been flouted in the past, that the case stands and needs no legal reinforcement? I have no doubts that America can win on the battlefield. I do not share the view of those who say the whole military exercise will become bogged down in the sand. They said that at the time of the Gulf War when Kuwait was invaded. They were wrong then and will be wrong again. But can America win the politics and exactly what help do they want from us in winning the politics that will inevitably be thrown open in the new landscape that will emerge if force is used?

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, had some nice comments to make on the dossier. She urged us to read it and I did so. It contains a number of interesting matters. But it does not mention, as the noble Baroness pointed out, terrorism and September 11 last year. That is rather strange because our American friends do not make that distinction. American policy-makers, from the topmost level down, refer to the issues of the new war on global terrorism in the same breath as they refer to the need to deal with weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein. The fact is that where weapons of mass destruction meet global terrorism paves the way for unimaginable catastrophe. When the new kind of terrorist mentality combines with new weapons technologies, we are presented with a threat unprecedented in the history of mankind. That must be part of the case for the action now proposed.

Secretary Powell put it extremely well when he appeared in front of Congress the other day. He said, [at 9/11] the potential connection between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction moved terrorism to a new level of threat, a threat that could not be deterred…a threat that we could not allow to grow because of this connection between states developing weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organisations willing to use them without any compunction and in an undeterrable fashion. In fact, that nexus became the overriding security concern of our nation. It still is and will continue to be so for years to come". That states the broader case rather better than anything I have heard so far from the Government. If that is what is happening in Iraq, if there is a potential if not proven nexus between weapons of mass destruction and irresponsible hands that might use them, it makes the case for intervention even more overwhelming than it clearly is anyway.

We know that Saddam has biological and chemical weapons: botulinum and anthrax, gases, sarin and tabun—I believe he used tabun at Panjwin and at Halabja. I believe he used chlorine against the Iranians in the war and killed many thousands of Iranian troops in doing so. We know that he has been seeking nuclear weapons and trying to develop the infrastructure to complete and manufacture them. We know that Saddam Hussein is a homicidal and brutal individual who is ready to and has killed large numbers of Iraqi women and children. We know that he has a penchant for enormous palaces, which apparently contain not only domestic facilities but also all sorts of sinister weapons and other things.

We know that weapons of mass destruction are proliferating. The dossier does not provide an estimate, but it does not cover everything. However, it is estimated that 30 countries have the capacity to develop biological and chemical weapons and up to a dozen countries are seeking or trying to manufacture or already have nuclear weapons. If the BBC is to be believed—which is becoming difficult nowadays at times—this country is exporting to Iran parts of the component equipment necessary to develop its nuclear capacity.

A key question remains, even after reading the dossier: how does all this fit in with the dangerous new world of which we were given evidence on September 11th last year? And, if the case is to be well made from the proper moral high ground, how can we ensure that people understand that all these things are linked and that Saddam is part of a patchwork of enormous danger to us of a kind we have never faced before? That is the moral case for war and for putting a decisive stop to it all, by force if necessary, before it puts a stop to us. That is the case for the new doctrine of pre-emptive action; moving before and not after there are mass killings and mushroom clouds hanging over our cities.

I have some further questions for the Minister. What will happen later? Do we have a vision—I do—of a federal, democratic Iraq? The Kurds have said that they would like to go along with that; they do not want to break away from Iraq. Is there a possibility of a benign Iraq; a force for stability in the Middle East, instead of a force for evil and the culture of death? Is that wider vision in the Government's mind? We have not heard much about that, but it is important we should have such a wider vision. If we do, how is it to be secured? Should US troops, thousands of whom are already in the region, stay there for a long time and occupy the whole area? Are they ready to go into of her areas that might be at risk?

Those questions hang in the air. We must have from the Government some indication of where we are going. As Clausewitz said, you should not take the first step in military action or towards war unless you have thought carefully about the last step as well.

I turn to the British role. Can we be more precise about our purposes and interests? I do not believe that the Americans can go it alone. Many senior American officials and academics believe that they can go it alone and that if the UN and the Europeans do not come along, they will have to do the business themselves. That is a mistaken view. Condoleezza Rice may have her thesis about the great powers, but in this modern globalised world the smaller nations are a vital part of the jigsaw.

Although I have not heard it from the Government, I believe that our Armed Forces and intelligence are crucial to the success of such a project, if force has to be used in the end. What about NATO? Do the Americans want NATO to play a part? We have conflicting views and reports from the United States. Do they want a rapid reaction force based on NATO as opposed to a European rapid reaction force? If so, who will go along with it? The French seem to be doubtful allies; the Germans are rudderless and have been stirring up anti-Americanism and vandalising the Atlantic alliance. They are now dependent on the Green Party, whose policy is to abandon nuclear power, encourage homosexual marriages and promote wind farms.

In my view all that makes nonsense of the common foreign and security policy, which I have always felt was a slightly dangerous illusion. Javier Solana has been trying to do noble work speaking for Europe on the Iraq crisis, but he cannot do so because there is no common basis. When he speaks, it is obviously not for the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister and for us.

There are questions about Saudi Arabia: is its support secure? If Saudi Arabia gets into difficulties, that will raise new crises and worries, many of which are currently in the minds of the oil and financial markets. What role will the Russians play? To begin with they sounded co-operative, then they began to be hostile about a new resolution. Now I am not sure where they stand, but their support is clearly necessary if the UN route is to be followed successfully. I presume they have some kind of price but we have not established what it is.

Field Marshal Montgomery once said that the first two principles of warfare are to identify the enemy and maintain your aim. President Bush, by being steadfast—as I believe he has been—has already moved Saddam a long way. We cannot trust Saddam; he has flouted every resolution, but there has been movement of some kind, which is good. But Monty also said—I use his phraseology—that "chaps must be kept in the picture". We and the public are the chaps in this case; the picture is fast changing and confusing. The Government direction is right and we are right to support it, but the Government and their allies must work much harder to keep the rest of us in the centre of the frame. That is where we all need to be as and when this perilous but necessary venture goes forward.

1.18 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, in her detailed speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, referred at some length and with great power to the vicious behaviour of Saddam Hussein. No one on these Benches would disagree with that. But we have to be careful about an element of hypocrisy that is creeping into the debate. It is worth remembering that the United Kingdom and the United States never condemned the use of chemical weapons against Iran and against Iraq's own civilians. The United States voted against a UN resolution intended to condemn those actions and the United Kingdom—not, if I may say so, very impressively—abstained.

If we are serious about the possibility of going to war, we cannot pretend that the United Kingdom and the United States and other western countries have not been profoundly involved in bringing about this situation. As many noble Lords will know, the United Kingdom, the United States and other European countries continued to sell conventional arms to Iraq for years after it was clear that she was using unacceptable weapons. We must not try to wrap ourselves in a totally white sheet, as if we had nothing to do with the terrible crisis that now confronts us.

Secondly, nobody is suggesting for a moment that we do nothing. With great respect to the noble Baroness, who repeated several times that this was not an alternative, let me make it as clear as I can that we on these Benches are not suggesting that we do nothing. Rather, we are suggesting that the possibility of inspection be given a real opportunity to work and we are saying as loudly as we can that this is the best alternative for us.

The noble Baroness quoted substantially from the Prime Minster's Statement and from the dossier. Let me quote two passages from the dossier that are important in establishing that inspection could well be a successful and viable alternative to military action. I draw the attention of the House to page 27 of the dossier. I shall limit myself to two quotations. Paragraph 23 says: while sanctions remain effective Iraq would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon". Paragraph 25 says: The JIC"— the Joint Intelligence Committee— assessed that if sanctions remained effective the Iraqis would not be able to produce such a missile"— one capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction— before 2007. Sanctions and the earlier work of the inspectors had caused significant problems for Iraqi missile development". I provide a third quotation from the distinguished head of UNSCOM, Dr Rolf Ekeus, in an article called, "Yes, let's go into Iraq with an army of inspectors", published in the Washington Post on Sunday 15th September. He said: If we believe that Iraq would be much less of a threat without such weapons"— weapons of mass destruction— the obvious thing is to focus on getting rid of the weapons. Doing that through an inspection team is not only the most effective way, but would cost less in lives and destruction than an invasion". He went on to point out that President Bush, in what I felt was his otherwise striking and excellent speech to the United Nations, had drawn attention to his view that it was only an Iraqi defector—the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein—who gave evidence of the development of biological weapons in Iraq. Dr Ekeus, the head of the inspection team points out: the president does not appear to have been well briefed. In fact, in April 1995, four months before the Iraqi official defected, UN inspectors disclosed to the Security Council that Iraq had a major biological weapons program". We need to be extremely careful about what we say. Some of the suggestions that the inspection regime was ineffective and slow and failed to detect important matters that were happening are largely not corroborated by the facts. We should be very careful about throwing cold water on the inspection regime.

One of the things that troubles us on these Benches is that there has been a deliberate attempt to throw cold water on the possibility of inspection. In that context, I was extremely disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, did not refer at any point in his very well informed speech to the possibility of inspection as an alternative to war.

I have to say again that we have a moral obligation to consider whether inspection might work as an alternative to war. The one thing we have to be clear about is that, as I have said before, any war will bring with it huge destruction and many deaths among innocents. None of us in this House can possibly say what may be the repercussions on the profoundly sensitive situation in the Middle East, deeply troubled as it is by the continuation of the dreadful low-level war between Israel and the Palestinians, which every day brings a new toll of unacceptable and vicious deaths on both sides and which continually infuses the anger and sense of injustice of many of the Arab governments, who believe that we have not adequately addressed the issue, nor seriously attempted to do so.

All of us on these Benches are deeply grateful to the Prime Minister for the efforts that he has made to persuade the United States to take the United Nations road, at least at this stage. He deserves great credit for that, as he deserves it for his earlier interventions, which we have reason to believe led to Iran not being included among those countries that might be seen as an immediate target of force. We owe him a great deal and I am sure that he has put in immense effort. It is important that President Bush came before the United Nations and, in doing so, effectively defied some of his louder and, if I may say so, more extreme voices, including Vice-President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who indicated that they regarded the UN as effectively a waste of time.

We cannot pretend that many of us are not deeply troubled by the consistently anti-UN tone of American opinion on the Right wing of the administration. That is one reason why we on these Benches continually reiterate the need to go through the United Nations and to do nothing to undermine the sole international body that we still have that is capable of building peace.

I have already said a few words about the lack of an exit strategy. I now quote from another source. I n leader, the International Herald Tribune commented on the statement of Secretary of State Colin Powell before Congress last week. It said: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld each delivered lengthy statements to Congress last week arguing the case for action; strikingly, neither so much as mentioned the reconstruction problem". That is another of our great concerns. I asked about it earlier. There is still no adequate indication that the United States Administration or—dare I say?—our own, have fully addressed this very difficult question.

I have two final points. One of our great worries is that unless we handle the whole issue with great sensitivity and handle the issue of inspection with a real commitment to making it work if it possibly can, we will profoundly offend opinion in many moderate Arab states—and not only in Arab states, but far beyond, in states such as Malaysia and Singapore, which have always been good allies of the West., in south-east Asia and beyond, in Pakistan and among Muslims in India. We will see a great multiplication of terrorism if we cannot show that we are treating the issue in the most cautious, careful and responsible way.

I conclude with a final question to the Government. I have all my life been a strong believer in the United States. It is, in my view, the world's greatest democracy, although I hope that India will one day be able to say that it is the other great democracy. However, having spent the past two months in a deeply divided United States in which respected voices such as former Vice-President Mondale, Senator Kerry, Senator Hagel of Nebraska, Senator Biden and many more, have cast grave doubts over the rhetoric of their own Right wing, I cannot pretend that we in this House cannot mention it. The issue is deeply troubling.

All too often that rhetoric has taken the form of destroying the fragile structures of multilateral international co-operation—from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to the Biological Weapons Convention. Many of us hoped and believed that those were part of the construction of a new international order of peace, democracy and mutual respect. We cannot pretend that in many ways the present Government have not been a critic of and have even undermined the multilateral structures of the UN and others.

I turn to my final remark. I believe that we need to say to the Government that the doctrine of regime change is a terrifying one. If it were to be defined outside the structures of the United Nations—there is no question that the United Nations does and should deal with criminal acts against humanity; that is already its strength—let us consider what regime change might mean in India vis-à-vis Pakistan, in Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinian territory and in China vis-à-vis Taiwan. It is a doctrine that we should not play with—a doctrine of anarchy in international affairs.

I believe that in our support for the United States—I accept that support so far as concerns the Iraqi programme of mass destruction—we have a duty to be candid friends and, as such, to say to the US Administration: please be very careful about undermining multilateral structures and about using language which suggests that we are returning to the system of Westphalian nation states, which offers no answers to the terrible problems of terrorism that now confront our world.

1.31 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, I agree that there is nothing good about Saddam Hussein and the ruling clique that he controls so tightly in Iraq. The world could be a safer place if he were no longer in power. I say "could" because there can be no absolute about that judgment. What replaces the present odious regime should, first, be compared with it.

We have heard on both sides of the Atlantic that regime change is the political and strategic goal. Regime change is a shorthand phrase that encapsulates at least some of the current thinking and mood. Some might express it slightly differently and say merely that Saddam must go. Others might say that Iraq must give up its weapons of mass destruction.

But there must be more—much more—to these policy goals than just Saddam's removal or the verified elimination of his weapons of mass destruction. Change or removal of the Saddam regime is not a complete goal. Change or removal implies replacement. What, then, is to be the replacement regime? From whom and from where will the new regime spring? Can it be engineered overnight? A period of relative calm and stability within Iraq is surely necessary before such a successor regime can be up and running. Are we presuming that there will be elections? Elections in a country ruled as Iraq has been for so many years are not, for the Iraqi people, a tried and tested method of finding a new administration.

While there are, of course, many differences between the recent problems with Afghanistan and those in Iraq, there are some parallels, too. The Taliban were ousted. We wish to see Saddam's regime ousted. But, in spite of our best efforts, there is scarcely a stable and secure regime in Afghanistan nearly a year after the Taliban's removal. Tribal and ethnic differences in Afghanistan are causing difficulty. There will be difficulties between the different Arab groupings and the Kurds within Iraq following any removal of Saddam's regime.

Western support and policing within Afghanistan are still essential. They could be no less essential in a new Iraq. How else could that country enjoy the stability and security so vital to any democratic process? How welcome in the region would be the necessary western forces required to ensure stability following the removal of Saddam? Indeed, can this task be left to regional countries alone? Have any of them yet made it clear that they would shoulder that demanding and critical role? We have had a good deal of difficulty persuading the Turkish Government to head up ISAF in Afghanistan.

Herein lies another uncertainty which must be resolved before we embark on any military onslaught. We need to be clear—and the neighbour countries in the Middle East that must be supportive of our operations if we are to succeed need to be clear—what the next stages of this campaign are going to be. I look forward to hearing from the Minister about the stages following any ousting of Saddam by a military operation. I am sure that there are such plans, but public support for any operation will much depend on understanding what is to happen once Saddam is gone. Let there be greater clarity and openness about that now so far as is possible.

There is another scenario which should have been foreseen and is now unfolding. If Saddam agrees to weapons inspections in a way that is acceptable to the United Nations, what then? Grounds for his immediate removal have gone. The rest of the world is left accepting his continuation in power. That is not regime change by any stretch of the imagination. Do those who speak of regime change dismiss all possibility that Saddam will comply, or at least appear to' wish to comply, with the United Nations demands in an acceptable way? What is it that makes them so certain that this time he is not sincere?

Many leaderships in the world—not all of them so despised as that in Iraq—have concerns about what to them seem to be dictatorial demands and restrictive conditions expressed by the United States and sometimes our own Government and which to them appear to challenge their legitimate authority and that of others. There is an important dividing line between the clear and wholly justifiable defence of our national interests and a wider wish to coerce renegade states to adopt the image favoured in western mature democracies.

At a recent gathering of a dozen heads of state and government of developing nations, which I attended in Malaysia last month, I witnessed at first hand the irritation and shared concern about what they perceived to be unwarranted and unsolicited interference in their affairs and conduct by Her Majesty's Government. Some of that anger had not dissipated weeks later in Johannesburg, when we heard some deplorable personal attacks on our Prime Minister. So often such differences arise because there is insufficient opportunity to talk through the issues and seek a way forward.

Who of status in the West has talked recently with Saddam Hussein? Megaphone diplomacy has a place in world affairs but it should not be the only means of communication. I hope that there are wise heads working behind the scenes to ensure that the reasons for disagreement are being discussed and, it is to be hoped, can be resolved. The use of force to pre-empt a perceived problem is, indeed, a drastic step to take. It must be the last option for the Government to approve and only when they are able to demonstrate that all others have failed or will not work.

One wonders what has happened to the once fashionable and effective policy of deterrence. In the Gulf conflict we deterred Saddam from using his weapons of mass destruction. We knew that he had chemical and biological capabilities. We were very concerned that he might employ them, particularly as we were going to invade Iraq to ensure the overwhelming defeat of the Iraqi Republican Guard forces. We took a number of steps to help to protect our forces from that chemical and biological threat.

In the event—there is reliable intelligence to support this view—he was deterred by a threat not to rule out the use of nuclear force. Why is such a deterrent policy no longer considered effective? What has changed since 1991 that now makes it an unreasonable alternative to pre-emptive attack on Iraq? Indeed, why is it inconceivable that Saddam sees possession of his weapons of mass destruction as his safeguard against invasion?

Finally, if force is to be the chosen method, I hope that the Government will heed the advice that they will receive from the chiefs of staff about the scale of commitments that our forces should undertake. There is still great concern about the level of manning in frontline and ancillary units. The Defence Medical Services, so essential if we suffer casualties, are in a parlous state. Shortfalls exist in logistic support and weapon stocks. The less the immediate threat to our national interests, the more important it is that we do not throw all we have into a less than critical adventure.

It takes no great effort of lateral thinking to say that we cannot rule out that Saddam would be provoked to use his weapons of mass destruction if Iraq were to be invaded. Our forces must be fully protected against such an eventuality.

I look forward to being reassured by the Minister that the concerns that I have expressed are appreciated and that solutions to them have been developed.

1.41 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am particularly grateful for the sober and judicious tone of the dossier and for the way it focuses so strictly upon one issue: the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Over the last few weeks, the whole debate has been somewhat confused by lumping together a number of themes best disentangled. These themes might be headlined as terror, threat and tyranny.

First, terror there have been suggestions that Iraq, like former Afghanistan, is a rogue state sponsoring international terrorism and implicated in the Al'Qaeda network. There are, of course, a number of other much more plausible suspects. Having heard the introductory statements, particularly that of the noble Baroness, I welcome the fact that no one in your Lordships' House is arguing this connection as a reason for immediate intervention. It is extraordinarily important in the context of inter-faith relations to underline the fact that the present Iraqi regime is not notably Islamic. It embraces a great variety of believers of various religions and its ideological base is fairly hostile to an Islamic regime.

Secondly, threat—the dossier proves that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction and that he has re-animated this programme in recent years. As the noble Baroness underlined, he probably does not as yet possess a nuclear capability. However, memory of Scud missile attacks confirms that, if the chance arises, lie is prepared to use his weapons. The threat is real but the policy of containment with the use of overwhelming force if the Iraqi regime were again to attack any of its neighbours seems to have had, to date, a limited effectiveness. It is still very difficult to see what precisely has changed in the last few months to provoke immediate and urgent action. The dossier underlines the vital importance of the return of the weapons inspection regime, leading to disarmament. But faced with the threat clearly delineated in the dossier, merely stating a preference for peace hardly seems adequate in the circumstances.

Some religious talk about peace seems to be conducted at such an altitude that it can have no impact on the decisions that actually have to be made on the ground. Such hyper-moralism lacks practical wisdom. We are in a situation in which the old doctrines of deterrence have been undermined by the character of modern terrorism, revealed on 9/11. War is always a failure and many components of classical moral reflections on the conduct of war remain relevant, notably the imperative to avoid as much innocent suffering as possible. This is an imperative in Iraq, a country with a rich and ancient culture whose people have suffered grievously over the past decade.

Nevertheless, in view of the destructiveness of the tools available to modern terrorists and states, the use of pre-emptive strikes where a well-proven threat exists should not, a priori, be ruled out. There are situations in which the rapid and limited deployment of force can avert even more serious conflict. A example would be the Rhineland in 1936. The people who created the climate in which appeasement became practical politics never had to share the obloquy which fell on Chamberlain and his colleagues.

After terror and threat, we come to an especially difficult aspect of the situation facing us now: tyranny. There is no doubt that the regime is tyrannical. It is widely hated among the mosaic of people who compose modern Iraq. The exposure of violence and injustice inflicted by regimes on their own people has led to demands which governments find it very difficult to resist: that "something should be done". These demands are often fitful and fuelled by media focus and attention. But one of the conditions of stability in the modern world is predictability. If perceived tyranny, often one-sidedly depicted by the media, justified intervention by western powers at a time when our technical military superiority is approaching 19th century proportions, then the fears of many states throughout the world would be dramatically increased. I remember Russian friends at the time of the attack on Serbia, saying, "Are we next?" There are huge dangers in this unpredictability.

We need an international process to judge which instances of internal state conflict really demand the intervention of outside powers. No state, however powerful, should be left as judge and jury. There is only one institution remotely capable of helping to form such judgments and that is the United Nations. It is encouraging that President Bush has resisted the unilateralist faction that wanted to exclude the UN from the equation. As other noble Lords have said, there is some danger of setting the UN up for a failure. The UN is indispensable but urgently needs reform, support and endorsement if it is to do the work that our dangerous world demands.

To be specific, we need support and a development of the peace prevention capacity of the UN. We need reform of the Security Council to reflect the realities of power in today's world and to reflect the change in the pattern of conflict which we face. We need an end to the politicisation of appointments in the UN, which sometimes makes it a somewhat cynical environment. Above all, the nation-building capacity of the UN needs to be properly funded and supported by adequate police forces and judicial services. We need an enthusiasm for nation-building equal to the fervour which often accompanies a call to arms.

The Americans have made it clear that they do not regard nation-building as their remit. However, rebuilding Afghanistan after decades of civil war is going to take immense international commitment. Otherwise that country will unravel once again and return to the kind of anarchy which favours terrorists. The Prime Minister's own undertaking, given in the Statement delivered by the noble and learned Lord, is in this context particularly welcome.

I remember visiting Kosovo soon after the arrival of KFOR to meet the admirable sergeant major from the detention centre in Colchester who was in charge of the central gaol, housing the UCK downstairs and Serbs upstairs. They had to rely on such expertise. It is in all our interests that a reformed UN should have the capacity to tackle the longer-term problems of prevention and transformation.

President Bush has served notice on the UN and demanded action. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will encourage our American allies to follow up that re-engagement with the UN and their settling of the arrears question with a real determination to increase the effectiveness of the organisation.

If we miss the present opportunity of unchallenged and relatively benign American hegemony to strengthen the international institutional and legal framework, we shall enter the next historical period—when most probably Asia has re-asserted herself—in a paranoid frame of mind. In consequence, we shall be exposed to yet more waste of precious resources and brainpower as we devise ever more devastating ways of killing one another.

It seems to me that the shadow of the League of Nations hangs over this debate. Just as with the League in its own day, the influence of the UN depends on members' willingness to work through it. That means that the rule of international law, embodied first in the League and now in the UN, depends on the political will of the members. Last time, the strength of pacifism in Britain and France made public sentiment studiously passive in international affairs. If we fail to have a clear vision of international order and of how to secure it, recent experience suggests that there are extremist groups in the world determined to fill that vacuum.

1.52 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, I should begin with a declaration of interest. I am privileged to be president of the World Disarmament Campaign and of the One World Trust, although they should not be blamed for any of my shortcomings. It is always a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, whose friendship I greatly value. If those movements fall into the category that had the misfortune of attracting his strictures, that is, I fear, something that I must bear with fortitude.

I echo the right reverend Prelate's commendation of the tone of the Government's assessment and of the very fair way in which my noble friend introduced this debate. It is an emotive subject and it is good that we can discuss it in the relative tranquillity of your Lordships' Chamber.

It is no part of my intention to defend Saddam Hussein. Some of us were denouncing his activities long years ago, before Desert Storm. For my part, I should welcome a resolution of the Security Council or the General Assembly or some other indication of international opinion as to the next steps, although I should certainly hope that that would refer to the question of inspection.

The question to be answered is: in the absence of such a resolution or indication, by what authority could President Bush appoint himself judge of when the situation requires military intervention, with all its tragic consequences? Some have pointed to the right to self-defence enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. My Lords, Article 51 protects, the right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs". The immediate difficulty with that argument is that Iraq has not launched an armed attack on the United States or, at the moment, on anyone else. It is arguable that, although Article 51 does not say so, it includes a right to launch a pre-emptive strike if a state is threatened with armed attack. But that does not assist the argument, because it has not been suggested that Iraq is contemplating an armed attack on the United States.

Those who seek to justify that line of reasoning are led to say that "armed attack" may now include harbouring or assisting terrorists. I should not seek to deny that there may be situations in which that is so. That was the justification used for intervention in Afghanistan, and in that instance the case was pretty clear. I am certainly not arguing against international accountability for horrendous crimes. That is why the American opposition to the International Criminal Court is so regrettable.

What is worrying is that there appears to be no greater evidence that Iraq is harbouring terrorists than that Iran, Libya or a number of other countries are doing so. There is a widespread anxiety, which we should take seriously, that if President Bush reserves for himself the right to decide, no one can be sure whose turn it will be next. Has he a shopping list?

Perhaps it would help to turn to the other justifications that have been offered for military intervention. In what respect is the argument unique to Iraq? One reason that is offered is that Iraq is either now in a position, or is likely soon to be in a position, to launch weapons of mass destruction. That seems to have been the burden of most of the debate. I do not venture a judgment because I have not had an opportunity to read fully and carefully the assessment. However, if it transpires to be so, it would not surprise me. For the present, I am prepared to assume that it is so. Of course, that is extremely worrying. If I may, I shall return in a moment to what we could be doing about it. But a growing number of other countries, some of which also have pretty ugly records, are in the same position. That cannot of itself justify an attack on Iraq unless we concede a right for America to attack India, Pakistan, North Korea or, for that matter, the United Kingdom.

The argument can be sustained only if one divides the world into the good guys and the bad guys. Only the good guys are allowed to have weapons of mass destruction, and to have them one requires a licence from the American Government. Iraq may well be in breach of a number of Security Council resolutions but that strengthens the case, surely, for seeking a United Nations decision before intervening.

The way in which to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction is to press on with making more effective international agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. That imposes obligations not only on the non-nuclear states but also on the nuclear powers to negotiate in good faith for total nuclear disarmament. They have not. The noble Baroness suggested that there was an element of hypocrisy. I am not sure whether hypocrisy may not be better than shamelessness, but the fact remains that they have not done so. There will be an opportunity for that in Geneva next year at the preparatory talks for the next review of the treaty. Perhaps when my noble friend replies he will indicate the Government's intentions about that. Unhappily, it is now the declared policy of America to do the reverse: to escalate the development of nuclear weapons.

We have heard a further justification for American intervention. The new policy blueprint, launched by President Bush on Friday, contains the following paragraph: The US National Security Strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better". What is questionable is whether other states accept that as the criterion for establishing who is to be labelled the good guys or the bad guys. Certainly America is entitled to defend its own values but it does not follow that everyone has to share that. The American Government are realistic enough to know that security does not consist in weapons alone. Like the Roman empire—and, later, the British empire—they recognise the importance of establishing a hegemony over the values and cultures of the rest of the world. To earn the label of "good guys", we need to be good honorary Americans.

I echo what the noble Baroness said. Far be it from me to denounce the American way of life. It includes some highly commendable elements. However, it is understandable if other nations do not necessarily accept that criterion for admission to the international community.

We can debate whether all that is capable of falling within Article 51. The problem is that these days events move quickly. International law is a living and evolving body of principles, not something set in stone. But that serves only to emphasise the danger of leaving individual governments to their own interpretation of international law.

Perhaps it is more sensible to speak not of what is lawful but of what is legitimate. Legitimacy is a less precise concept but I suggest that it is a recognition among a wide section of the international community that in the circumstances a particular course of action would be just, proportionate and best calculated to limit the total damage. Commendably, it was that for which President Bush appeared to be arguing at the General Assembly. But he rather spoiled the effect by adding that, even if the international community disagreed with him, he would proceed undeterred. "I would like you to agree with me, but it won't make any difference whether you do or don't.

I do not doubt that he believes he is right; and that is just the problem. Anarchy is rarely about everyone doing what they know to be wrong. It is more usually everyone doing what they individually believe to be right. I greatly commend the efforts of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for attempts to persuade the international community. I believe that that is the way forward".

Sometimes, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said, the United Nations Charter seems designed to protect inertia rather than to encourage positive, collective action. But there is no better barometer of legitimacy. Those who cannot persuade the international community that they are right are probably wrong, and they certainly lack legitimacy. Our own Government have a good record and a good reputation. It would be a pity to lose that by proceeding in the absence of substantive international support.

Perhaps I may make one final plea. For years some of us have been calling for the long-awaited fourth special session on disarmament where the world can discuss the next steps to limit access to weapons of mass destruction. We have been repeatedly told that the time was not right. If that meant that the world did not see a need for further steps, surely it sees them now. Perhaps when the Minister replies, she can tell us something of the Government's thinking on that. But surely the time has come to accept that in future it will not do to wait until a crisis is upon us before we consider how it might have been avoided.

2.2 p.m.

Lord Carrington

My Lords, there are another 60 speakers. I shall be brief. In common with most of your Lordships, I greatly welcome the Prime Minister's decision to recall Parliament to discuss the Iraqi situation. I regret the fact that the dossier for which we have all been waiting was not ready until early this morning. Despite what the Leader of the House said, I think that it would have been better for your Lordships to have been able to see the evidence on which the Government's policy is based at a reasonable time before this debate.

However, there are a number of issues upon which I think that we are all agreed. There is no doubt that Iraq possesses biological and chemical weapons. It may well be that it is on the road to possessing nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. If it is not at present, I am quite sure that Saddam Hussein will go on trying to do so. There is no question that the regime is thoroughly unpleasant, has been aggressive on two occasions against its neighbours, is brutally oppressive to its own people and, as long as it has these weapons of mass destruction, can in no sense be relied upon not to use them.

We are all equally agreed that Saddam Hussein is a thoroughly unpleasant character, unscrupulous and cruel and, at the same time, a cunning and devious politician. I have met him on two occasions and, to say the least of it, did not come away with a very favourable impression. It is equally true that Iraq is in breach of a number of Security Council resolutions, not least the obligation to accept weapons inspectors and disarmament, although it must be said—it is not in mitigation—that it is not alone in ignoring UN resolutions. That I would say is common ground.

The question is this: what should we do about it? I am sure that it was right for the United States to go to the United Nations Security Council. I am equally sure that the Prime Minister played a part in achieving that result and I applaud him for it.

Unilateral action by the United States would have caused the greatest possible division, not just in the Arab world but also in Europe and elsewhere. The consequences would have been far reaching. The fact that Iraq has now said that the UN weapons inspectors can now return is not in itself enough. We have seen the impediments, prevarications, and obstacles which the Iraqis have put previously in the way of the inspectors. It is fair to assume that Saddam Hussein will use exactly the same delaying tactics again. Indeed, there are already indications of qualifications about what the weapons inspectors can or cannot see.

I believe, therefore, that the United States is right in insisting upon a new resolution which will place an obligation on the Iraqis not just to facilitate the work of the inspectors but also to disarm and to put a time limit and provisions for taking action if they do not comply. We have seen too much delay and obstruction. I hope and believe that such a resolution will gain the support of members of the Security Council.

It may well be that as a result there will be a change of regime in Iraq which, of course, is much to be hoped for. But if that does not happen, I am not clear what the United States' position is. It speaks of the imperative of a change of regime. But how will it bring that about, and on what basis? If the weapons inspectors have done their job properly and the weapons of mass destruction currently in the hands of the Iraqis have disappeared, Saddam Hussein does not cease to be a threat to the people of Iraq but he ceases to be a threat to his neighbours. It is on the basis of his possession of these weapons that we are now concerned. On what basis should be be removed? If he were to be removed, who would take his place? Would it be a government appointed by the United States? It is almost impossible to see how a fair, democratic election could take place in Iraq at present. The country is split religiously and racially. There are no obvious opposition leaders.

Those questions need to be asked and answered. One might go further. If Saddam Hussein has no weapons of mass destruction, he is no more dangerous to the rest of the world than other dictators and despots who oppress their citizens. Mugabe immediately comes to mind. He is no threat to our security but he is inflicting on his fellow citizens cruelties, discrimination and hardship. So far as I know, no one has yet suggested a compulsory change of his regime by force or otherwise. Would not such an action on the part of the United States set a precedent which it would be very difficult to accept in other cases? It seems to me that these are very important issues and I hope that the Government will think very carefully before accepting proposals for a change of regime of that kind. But on the issue of the inspectors and a new Security Council resolution, I am wholly on the side of the United States, and I hope that the House will show its support.

2.10 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, I agree with all of the clearly stated premises of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and with nearly all of his conclusions.

I have found this issue more perplexing than almost any that I can remember in my now excessively long political life. I have a high regard for the Prime Minister. I have been repelled by attempts to portray him as a vacuous man with an artificial smile and no convictions. I am reminded of similar attempts by a frustrated Right to suggest that Gladstone was mad, Asquith was corrupt and Attlee was negligible. My view is that the Prime Minister, far from lacking conviction, has almost too much, particularly when dealing with the world beyond Britain. He is a little too Manichaean for my perhaps now jaded taste, seeing matters in stark terms of good and evil, black and white, contending with each other, and with a consequent belief that if evil is cast down good will inevitably follow. I am more inclined to see the world and the regimes within it in varying shades of grey. The experience of the past year, not least in Afghanistan, has given more support to that view than to the more Utopian one that a quick "change of regime" can make us all live happily ever after.

I can understand the desire of the Prime Minister to maintain close relations with America, and to keep open the relatively narrow window through which the present United States Administration looks out to international opinion, as opposed to contemplating its own vast preponderance of power and feeling that this gives it a right and a duty to arbitrate the world.

That preponderance is almost without precedent in world history. Whether it is healthy for the world or comfortable for America's allies, let alone its proclaimed enemies, is open to argument. In the strenuous and sometimes frightening days of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, I would never have believed that one might, 20 years later, feel a twinge of nostalgia for the balances of the Cold War, for the nearly equal strain on the tug-of-war and for America's careful cultivation of its European allies that that involved.

I have long been a natural pro-American. Ever since I first went to America in 1953, I have remained half-captivated by the vitality of its life, the quality of at least some of its leaders and the fascinating complications of its political institutions. I have never seen a conflict between my European commitment and a desire to maintain a strong transatlantic link. Indeed, I think that one of the major recurring mistakes of British foreign policy since the war has been to believe that we should get on better with the Americans if we avoided too much entanglement in Europe. In fact, for a 40-year period, our unwillingness to play a full part in Europe was an exacerbating rather than a helpful factor in our relations with the United States. They were impatient with our exclusiveness.

By the same token, I have always been loath to use the term "special relationship". It is too unequal a relationship—the reality being that it is more special on one side than on the other—for that to be a wise label.

It is, of course, right—as my noble friend Lady Williams so eloquently set out in her brilliant speech earlier—fully to involve the UN in any action that may be taken against Iraq. Mr Blair deserves full credit for the persuasiveness with which he evidently spoke to President Bush on this issue. But involving the UN does not in itself absolve us from the responsibility of exercising cool judgment about what requests we put before the UN. Here I find considerable logical inconsistencies in what appears to be the policy of the American Government, and to some extent of the British Government too.

The reason why the international agenda has greatly changed in the past twelve and a half months is that individual acts of terrorism far exceeding anything hitherto known were then inflicted on New York. But they were not acts of governmental aggression, even though a number of states, with greatly varying degrees of complicity, bear some responsibility for having harboured and even trained, knowingly or unknowingly, those who committed the atrocity. What is wholly understandable is the overwhelming desire of the US Government to reduce the likelihood of any repetition of such attacks, either on themselves or on others.

But that is different from and does not appear to me to be very closely linked with the undesirable possession—or the desire for possession—by a number of states and by one obnoxious regime in particular of what are now commonly called. "weapons of mass destruction".

The problems are not the same, and the remedies are not necessarily the same. Indeed, it can be argued that an armed attack to take out this contingent future threat could increase the danger of scattered groups of terrorists attempting a repeat of 9/11.

Furthermore, when we have embarked on a policy of taking out undesirable regimes by external armed force, where do we stop? There are a number of regimes which either have or would like to have nuclear weapons. I, and, I guess, the majority of your Lordships, would much rather they did not have them. But it would be difficult to justify a policy of taking them out seriatim with either common sense or international law.

I raise these issues not with a desire to be negative—I recognise the immensely difficult problem facing Her Majesty's Government—but because I believe that there is an urgent need for clarity on them both from our own Government and from that of the United States. It is no answer just to brand anyone who raises them as a lily-livered appeaser who refuses to learn the lessons of history—particularly when that history is presented so crudely as to line up Winston Churchill with the gung-ho battalions, which shows a great ignorance of his words at the time of Suez as well as his caution about pre-emptive strikes at the time of the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936.

I am in favour of courage—who is ever not in the abstract?—but not of treating it as a substitute for wisdom, as I fear we are currently in danger of doing.

2.19 p.m.

Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank

My Lords, if possible, like, I imagine, the whole House, I wish to see this matter solved without conflict. We are under no illusion that there are both political and military difficulties with operations against Saddam Hussein. If successful action is not taken by the United Nations, the threat that Saddam Hussein poses will continue to increase. It is a serious threat now, and the longer action is avoided the greater it will become with regional and international security being put at risk. That includes the security of our own citizens.

One hears political and military arguments that are against action at all costs. It is easy to take counsel of one's own fears. Iraq is a functioning and a cruel dictatorship. It will not be like Afghanistan, which is a failed country with warring tribes. The European allies of the United States are nervous and, in some cases, hostile to its aims. Many of Iraq's neighbours are unreliable, suffering in the region will increase, and international economies and the oil supply will be affected. What happens when Saddam Hussein falls? Will he retaliate with weapons of mass destruction if attacked? All those questions need to be addressed and considered very carefully. However, I do not believe that any of them should deflect us if, in the end, we need to take action.

Most of those who cry for what they call "incontrovertible evidence" do not, I believe, really understand what they are asking for. One can never be absolutely certain what Saddam Hussein will do and what his intentions, which change very quickly, are. But we know his record very well—the atrocities he has committed against his own people, his invasion of other countries, and his use of weapons of mass destruction against the Iranians and the Kurds. We know what he has said about Israel and its destruction. We also have evidence of his constant efforts to acquire weapons and their delivery means. He has sought to conceal or disguise his production capabilities in clear violation of his cease-fire obligations. Today, after nearly four years without inspectors, we should be most concerned.

I find the dossier on Saddam's activities produced today both compelling and chilling. I believe that it is very well supported by an excellent document produced at the beginning of this month by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said, it was only last week in the United Nations that the Iraqi Foreign Minister was lying about weapons of mass destruction and the holdings that they have. How can Saddam be trusted?

I applaud. It is quite right for the Prime Minister to ensure that the United Nations search for a solution. However, even though I am a strong supporter of the United Nations, I remain rather sceptical that this route will work. The United Nations' record of enforcing resolutions as far as concerns Iraq has, at best, been patchy. I believe I know what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, meant in her remarks, but I am rather of the view that the inspectors were not awfully successful. It was not their shortcomings; it was the way they were treated and handled by Saddam Hussein and his regime.

If any resolution is passed in the United Nations, I agree that it must be unequivocal as to what is expected of Saddam Hussein. It must be enforced, with a strict timetable being set to which he must adhere. I also agree with all that has been said about its importance. It must be supported. However, I have some sympathy with President Bush when he questions whether the UN will remain little more than a debating society: it does need reforming.

If asked, can the military eliminate Saddam's arsenal? I am not privy to intelligence and planning, but, from my own experience, I believe that although there are risks success can certainly be achieved, and achieved quickly. The Iraqi army is demoralised. It is much smaller than it was at the time of the Gulf War, and it is poorly equipped and supplied as a result of sanctions. The Iraqi army does not have a reputation of standing and fighting for Saddam Hussein. If, unfortunately, it comes to it and the United States conducts an operation both from the ground and in the air—supported, it is to be hoped, by the British and other allies—it is my view that the regime would fall and our aim very quickly achieved.

Of course we wish to avoid conflict. We want the United Nations to succeed. But the time is approaching when we may have to join the United States in operations against Iraq. If we take counsel of our fears, we will find the problem far, far greater in the years to come. Wait, and the threat grows. Strike soon, and the threat will be less and easier to handle. If the United Nations route fails, I support the second option.

2.27 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, I believe that the United States of America, as the one super power, does have a grave responsibility to use its power in the interest of international order. It is not just a question of their own national interest, influential though that obviously is. I therefore welcome their continuing role in relation to Iraq. I also welcome the fact that our own Prime Minister has kept close to the Government of the United States and has, I believe, influenced them in approaching the United Nations for a fresh mandate. I also admire the way that the Prime Minister has, in the past, urged armed military intervention in the face of many sceptics, as he did over Kosovo, and the way that he takes the Iraqi threat seriously. For it is serious.

Nevertheless, military action is no less serious and fraught with unpredictable consequences. The long tradition of Christian thinking on the morality of war urges that a number of key criteria have to be met before it can be regarded as morally legitimate. First, there must be lawful authority. Although there can be extreme situations when a nation might have to act without the consent of the United Nations, in the modern world where we are trying to build a greater sense of an international authority the UN must be regarded as that highest authority which, under normal circumstances, alone has the legal authority to initiate military action. So I welcome the attempt to obtain a new UN resolution. But without such explicit authorisation, whether in terms of a reaffirmation of earlier resolutions or a fresh one, the present basis for military action is dubious; and, if the war aims include a regime change, worse than dubious.

The second condition that must be met is that there must be a just cause. The Christian tradition has never confined this purely to self-defence. If a threat is real, serious and immediate, there might indeed be a proper moral reason for pre-emptive action. This is obviously a crucial area for looking very carefully at the evidence. Like other noble Lords, I am grateful to the dossier provided by the Government for its objective tone. But I do not believe that the Government's assessment, any more than that in the report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, reveals much more than what we already knew—namely, that by the time the UN inspectors left in 1998 the Iraq nuclear capability had been incapacitated as had most of its chemical warfare stocks, but that a very significant biological weapon capacity remained. Furthermore, we knew that, since the inspectors left Iraq, it has taken steps to rebuild its nuclear weapons programme.

Nevertheless, while Saddam Hussein is certainly taking all steps to rebuild his programme, he has not yet done so. As paragraph 23 of Chapter 3 of the report states, the JIC judged earlier this year that, while sanctions remain effective Iraq would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon". Sanctions have been reasonably successful. They could continue to be so.

A policy of containment and deterrence has worked for more than 10 years now. Although the situation has obviously changed somewhat since the UN inspectors left, it has not, despite Saddam Hussein's efforts, dramatically changed. It has not changed enough to justify the hugely dangerous critical threshold of military action.

The third condition which must be met is that war must be a last resort. Every attempt to resolve the dispute by peaceful means must first have been tried and found to have failed. Iraq has said that it will have the UN inspectors back again. There is every reason to accept that offer and to continue to press both for UN inspectors being there and their having unfettered access. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said: The possibility of inspection must be given a real chance to work". The fourth criterion that must be met is that the evil unleashed by war must not be greater than the evil which would ensue if military action was not taken. That is, of course, a very difficult area of political and military judgment. I shall simply quote the position taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States in June of this year, a view reiterated by its presiding bishop on 6th September. He stated: Military action would surely inflame the passions of millions, particularly in the Arab world, setting in motion cycles of violence and retaliation, further straining tenuous relationships that exist between the United States and other nations". Fifthly, as a consequence of that fourth condition, there must be a reasonable prospect of success. I defer to the judgment of noble and gallant Lords in the House on that issue. I simply note that none of' the factors which made military success possible in Afghanistan seem to be present in Iraq.

I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I stress that not only am I not a pacifist but I am a long-standing opponent of the crypto-pacifism which has infiltrated too many Church statements. I do not think we can talk about peace without reckoning seriously with the need for military force in order to maintain international order.

I found that with much moral fear and spiritual trembling I supported a policy of nuclear deterrence in the bad days of the Cold War. I supported military action in the Falklands, against Iraq in 1990 and in Afghanistan last year. I believe that we should have intervened much earlier than we did in the aftermath of the break up of Yugoslavia. I took such positions because I believed that the conditions for force to be used in a morally licit way were met. I do not believe that on present evidence the criteria are met for military action against Iraq.

The Iraqi threat is serious. Saddam Hussein has, as we know, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He is trying to build up his capacity and would use such weapons if it were to his advantage to do so, or, if he felt threatened, that he had nothing to lose by using them. He is not to be trusted. But a policy of containment and deterrence has worked so far. Saddam Hussein has had such weapons for 20 years. He has not used them since 1988, not even amid the 1991 Gulf War. The most likely way for Saddam Hussein to think seriously of using his weapons would be if his very survival were threatened. So, as Sir Michael Quinlan stated in an important article in the Financial Times on 7th August: To pre-empt the use of biological or chemical weapons by adopting the one course of action most apt to provoke it seems bizarre". As he also said: If further strengthening of containment be thought necessary, there are ways to achieve that: the international community could declare that Iraqi use of biological or chemical weapons would be treated unequivocally as a crime against humanity". The Prime Minister's Statement referred to the need to back diplomacy by the threat of force. For the threat to be credible Saddam Hussein has to believe that force might be used. But if it came to using that force it would almost certainly precipitate the use of those very chemical and biological weapons which the threat was designed to avert.

I believe that, tragically, military force does sometimes have to be used in this world to maintain some kind of rough and ready order. I admire the Prime Minister's moral courage and willingness to use such force where necessary. I believe that it is essential to continue to press for the implementation of UN Resolution 687. But although Saddam Hussein remains a threat—and he will continue to remain a threat—the evidence that would necessitate military action overriding all other considerations is not in my judgment yet there.

2.35 p.m.

Baroness Uddin

My Lords, I rise with great trepidation in your Lordship's House, more so than ever before, not least because I lack the expertise of conflict and war which has been referred to today, but also because dissent is often deemed unwise. I was tremendously humbled by the knowledge of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. I echo many of the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams.

I start as a Muslim. The majority of my community in this country and Muslims of the world do not need to be reminded that Saddam Hussein is not held in any great esteem. There is no tolerance for his continuous existence. Long before the West made him its favourite public enemy number one, he was the nightmare of most of the Muslim world. Mr Hussein, armed to the teeth by the West and funded by some Arab countries, is perhaps responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than any other person in history. We know that. It has been stated over and over again.

Sadly, when he served western interests no one cared what he did. When he gassed over 5,000 of his own people in Halabja in 1988 I remember no condemnation, no sanctioning of Iraq and no bombing of Baghdad. So I am glad that, for current convenience at least, there is official condemnation of those imperilled in Halabja in 1988.

Many of us are in total bewilderment at the present situation. We know that the Saddam Hussein of the 1980s is the exact Saddam Hussein—a little older—that we see today. So what has changed? It is believed in the Muslim and Arab worlds that this is a fight against Islam by the West, no matter how much reassurance we give—my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has stated again and again that that is not the view of ordinary people in the streets of the Muslim world—and that it is the next phase of destroying innocent Muslim lives and their countries, and that it is about the politics of oil and of revenge. These are the assumptions and conclusions of the ordinary folk of the Muslim world.

So it is perceived that nothing has changed except our backbone, and that we in Britain are betraying our morality, our integrity. Our stance on the matter of war against Iraq is perhaps said to be exposing our hypocrisy and our lack of honour. It is alleged that it displays the kind of abandonment of Palestine for which we were responsible well over 50 years ago. All these feelings are evident again in the Muslim world.

I feel that it is my responsibility to share with your Lordships a few observations that I noted during my recent travels in the Middle East.

I returned a couple of days ago from Egypt. During my visit I met hundreds of women from all over the Arab world, intelligent women who appear totally confused particularly about Britain's antics and role in the current Middle East conflict. America's belligerence and injustice hurt and sadden them, but Britain's lost sense of justice and honour traumatise them. Those are words used by women who represent the very highest offices in much of the moderate Muslim world.

They ask why we are so keen to ensure that Saddam Hussein sticks to UN resolutions but let Israel, literally, get away with murder. Why are we so worried about the alleged weapons of destruction in Iraq but turn a blind eye to Israel's massive arsenal which is causing death and mayhem to the Palestinian people today? Why make a difference between the evil that is Sharon and that which is Saddam Hussein?

The ordinary man in the street in the Arab and Muslim world does not make a distinction between the bellicose American regime and the current regime of Saddam Hussein. We may not like it, but that is the truth. America is seen to be turning a blind eye to state terrorism perpetrated by Israel against the innocent of Palestine and doing nothing. I believe that in Britain we do not have to be associated with such divisive death and destruction.

Any decision we make now will have a massive impact on our image and, more importantly, our role in the future of the Middle East—a crucial part of the world, whether we like it or not. I do not believe that it is necessary for us to lose our moral and ethical direction for short-term temporary gain. I do not know what those gains are, but I assume there are some gains. We must not only have the courage to base our decisions on justice and fair play; we must also be prepared to lead others. That is what the moderate Muslim world expects of us.

Much of the moderate Muslim world hopes that we shall set a higher moral standard than America. A war against Iraq is not acceptable. The King of Jordan and the President of Egypt say that. I believe that we owe them some attention. Left to the fanatics of the countries that we are now attacking, or wish to attack, then the future holds out very little hope. In addition, it will do the innocent people in the region no good. Only the warmongers among us will benefit. Believe me, it will only whet their appetite. Appeasing the traders of death will only lead to more death, sadly, and destruction and tragedy.

Policies that the West is supporting in the Middle East are the source of all difficulties likely to come from that place. The brutalisation and humiliation of the Palestinian people must stop. The real just war is to fight for peace in the region.

Whether we like it or not, our behaviour in the Middle East for half a century is what we are being judged on now. Therefore, anything else is a distraction and a recipe for disaster. So far Israeli policies have turned the entire West Bank into a nest of suicide bombers. I was horrified—and if the ground could have moved I would have turned into it and died—when I heard that Wafa Idris, a woman, the first suicide bomber, was an ambulance worker. Having worked as a carer for years, she was converted into a destroyer by the insane events around her.

Last weekend I heard the delegation from Palestine. They explained the reason and the rationale. I have never visited Palestine. I do not know about the destruction. But it seems to me to make sense that someone from the streets, educated to such an extent, should have become a terrorist and turned her life, and the lives of her family, upside down, by becoming a suicide bomber. I fear such a trend in Britain if we enter Iraq.

American policy is slowly but surely turning the entire Muslim world into some kind of West Bank, or it has the potential to do so. We in Britain cannot possibly add our name to this unjust stand. The consequences are desperately frightening, especially in our role now as Washington's partner in playing world police.

It is our duty to ensure that sanity is resumed; that cries of peace, not war, dominate all our discourses and actions. Otherwise, we would be committing moral suicide, and losing all the respect that we have managed to secure as a result of centuries of contact, conflict and trade. Based on somewhat old evidence and without the full sanction of UN backing and the inspectors' report, I say no intervention in Iraq in my name.

2.48 p.m.

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, I cannot pretend that it is easy to follow a speech of such passionate sincerity. In addition, one listens to it alongside the prudent wisdom of my noble friend Lord Carrington and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, on the Liberal Democrat Benches.

I believe that the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, demonstrates just how grave and how complicated the issues are which lie beneath the apparent simplicities of the present problem. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave asked the noble Baroness what factors had changed between the debate of 14th September 2001 and the debate today. In particular, he asked if there is any stronger evidence against Saddam Hussein now than there was then of a connection with terrorism, to which she answered. "No".

However, something of crucial importance has changed. It is to be found in a sentence or two spoken by President Bush last week at the Pentagon—an intensely emotional scene for him—when he said this: We renew our commitment to win the war that began here… What our enemies have begun, we will finish". Understandably perhaps, that linkage has developed with the passage of time. Bin Laden, as a figure of hostility, has proved too elusive and too evanescent to provide the kind of catharsis which the American people felt that they needed after the horrors of 11th September. Slowly the focus has shifted more, certainly, on to this most powerful and dangerous figure, a die-hard enemy of the United States, Saddam Hussein. That is the transition that has taken place.

What follows from that, I believe, is the need for immense care in balancing the hazards potentially set against each other; and immense care, too, in the language that we use in trying to deploy our case. That is the significance of what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said about the language used by some American Government spokesmen.

Let there be no doubt in your Lordships' House, I share the analysis offered by almost everybody else, that it is most important for us to tackle the problems of the weapons of mass destruction held by Saddam Hussein. I do not relent from that despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, said. The renunciation and destruction of those weapons and the compliance with the duty of inspection and surveillance laid upon him 11 or 12 years ago, is something which must be fulfilled. His whole course of conduct points to the conclusion that he is committed to exactly the opposite course.

In those circumstances, not just for the sake of the peace and stability of the region, but for the sake of the United States and all of us involved in the problem, the authority of the United Nations has to be invoked, has to be upheld, and has to be supported, in the last resort, by a credible threat of force. I believe that the resolution is essential and I say that not in any sense as a lawyer. It is 30 years since I last wore a wig in anger. I say it as someone concerned with the complex political issues here.

The entire framework of international relations requires us to secure a resolution with the right authority, on the right course, and the right conviction. As my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford, said, it requires more than that. It will not be enough to secure the resolution reluctantly, furtively, with a number of would-be allies and friends sitting silently on the sidelines. It requires sufficient understanding of the case that is being made to secure, as far as possible, committed support from as wide a range of the world as possible. I say that understanding the difficulties implicit in what was said by the noble Baroness.

That is why it is important for the presentation of the case that is being made by the United States to be made with such care. It is why the concept of a war against terrorism, put in that simple form, can so often be so misleading. The implication is that there is a simple battle which can and must be fought to a comprehensive, unconditional surrender world-wide and in which, to put it perhaps unsympathetically, one categorises the problem by saying that "those who are not for us are against us".

There are infinite shades of grey in this area, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, pointed out. There is a danger that absolutism in presenting the case we seek to make, absolutism in seeking loyalty on that side of the argument, could lead to the creation of an axis of antagonism. There are dangers, too, in believing that the war against terror can be won quickly, dramatically or decisively.

I was struck by a passage in the marvellous book about Churchill, written by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, in which he reminds us of the position of the British Government in Ireland in the early 1920s. We were then deploying the Black and Tans, martial law had been imposed throughout large areas of Ireland and our fellow countryman, David Lloyd-George, claimed in the London Guildhall that, We have murder by the throat". It was then perceived that triumph over terrorism in that part of our kingdom was close. Yet two years later it was necessary to come to terms with the Irish Free State; and 80 years later we are still grappling with the consequences.

That is why it is so important to have a proper understanding about the importance of what is happening in Israel and Palestine, and here I agree with the noble Baroness. For that, we in this country must accept a higher degree of responsibility than many others. The Balfour Declaration came from this country and we were responsible for Palestine when the state of Israel was itself being born by terror. It will be at our great peril if we do not concentrate a far more tenacious comprehensive effort on tackling the problems there. There would be much unwisdom if we allowed that to be overlooked. That is the first danger I perceive if we do not think about the matter carefully.

The second danger—and I mean no disrespect to our American friends when I say this, particularly provoked and angry as they are and, God knows, they have our sympathy—is that of some form of superpower overreach. The United States is now a super superpower of immense and unique authority and the temptation to overdeploy that or to deploy it too quickly and too unsympathetically must be great.

We take our minds back to about 100 years ago when the Pax Britannica preceded the existence of today's uneasy Pax Americana. We remind ourselves of that (in perhaps a rather childish way) when we notice that around the world, even today, alongside the Stars and Stripes Union Jacks are also occasionally set on fire. That symbolises, perhaps, a memory of our superpower status, for which people still tend to hold us responsible.

So far, in the years since the ending of the Second World War, the United States has conducted itself in relation to those matters with great wisdom and often great generosity, for which we have need to be very grateful. As my noble friend Lady Thatcher has said many times, we have been very lucky in our superpower. That is true: we have been lucky and blessed that a country under wise leadership has often been willing not just to lead the world in the creation of the multi-national institutions which are so important but also to be led by that world. Now that it is the world's only superpower, that relationship is all the more important. And we had similar experience years ago during the time of Pax Britannica.

My present worry is that the strand of wisdom is in danger of being overlooked. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, put it courageously, too. Yet, if one looks not just at one speech made by President Bush but at another he made earlier this summer (1st June) to the graduates at West Point Military Academy, one sees that he there well and correctly deployed the argument that American power, which he certainly did not understate, can help to bring and sustain peace to the world.

We must recognise that it will be hard to bring peace to the world without it. However, it is most important for that power, when it is deployed, to be based and seen to be based not on anything resembling national ambition or even national anguish—and again one understands that in the United States—but upon a wider judgment, which reflects the interest of the wider world in seeking peace.

We therefore have much to be grateful for in the fact that President Bush has presented his case so clearly to the United Nations. We have much to be grateful for in our own Prime Minister for such influence that he has been able to bear in bringing about that conclusion. And we have much to be grateful for to both of them in their restoration of the United Nations to the centre stage.

I can well understand why the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, and others retain reservations about the effectiveness of that institution. For decades during the Cold War it was paralysed. We played some part in bringing it together into a state of activity, as we worked towards the end of the Iraq/Iran conflict. And it needs to be nurtured. We may have to face the situation in which, God forbid, the United States (with us alongside) feel obliged to tackle those problems on our own. But I pray not. We need to lead the United Nations with courage and wisdom to reach those robust conclusions.

I make no apology for closing my remarks by reciting the crucial sentence from Thucydides with which Colin Powell quit the Pentagon some years ago: Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most". There has never been a moment when that lesson needs to be more clearly understood than today: that restraint and power have to go together.

2.57 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, we have listened to a most impressive contribution from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. I warmly agree with his comment about the risk of the United States indulging in superpower overreach: that at this point in history when there is only one great power, that power will be used in a manner inconsistent with international law. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, pleaded that it should not.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, agreed that nothing in international law allows us to demand regime change, much as we dislike the odious dictator, Saddam Hussein. There is no argument that he is utterly ruthless and maintains himself in power by executions, ethnic cleansing, torture, detention and censorship. Much as we may agree that Iraq would do better under almost any other leadership, changing a regime, however ghastly it may be, is not a legitimate use for armed force under international law. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the people of Iraq want to be invaded, with the loss of many lives, to that purpose.

The leaders of the two Kurdish parties in the north have not been consulted and are apprehensive that their territory may be used as a main battlefield. They see the Turks already massing tens of thousands of armed men on the border, some of whom have already crossed in anticipation of the conflict. It may well suit the Turks to occupy northern Iraq as a preliminary to reversing the 1926 Treaty of Baghdad by asserting claims to the region, including the oil supplies of Kirkup and Mosul, made originally by Ataturk in 1923. It might suit the Americans also to agree to such a strategy by Turkey. It would relieve the rest of the allied armed forces engaged in an invasion of the responsibility for looking after a substantial tranche of Iraqi territory. There is an enormous difference between occupying Iraq with a view to changing the regime and enforcing the previous resolutions of the Security Council, which is a matter coming squarely within the boundaries of international law.

President Bush recited a litany of Security Council resolutions that Iraq has ignored since 1991, not only requiring inspection but also the destruction of chemical and biological weapons. In repeating the Prime Minister's Statement the noble and learned Lord referred to the fact that destruction is a necessary concomitant of the inspection and is part of Resolution 687 going back to 1991. The inspectors not only have to identify these sites and verify the inactivation of the chemical and biological weapons agents, related subsystems and components as well as missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometres together with their parts and repair facilities, but they have to destroy those components, missiles and weapons so that they cannot be used in the future.

The question of whether Saddam is now prepared to comply with all those resolutions can only be tested by allowing UNMOVIC personnel to return to Iraq and see whether or not they are able to carry out the mandate and whether that is rapidly followed, as it has to be under the resolutions, by the destruction of the weapons concerned. We could begin now by collecting close-up aerial images of the 700 suspect sites and visiting some of the largest and most important as Saddam has said that he is prepared to co-operate fully with the United Nations. I ask the Government whether there is any reason why the U2 flights, suspended in December 1998 when UNSCOM pulled out, should not now be resumed with the agreement of the Iraqi authorities. The sooner we start this work the sooner it will become apparent whether the inspectors are to be allowed to do their job. If they acquire any information at all, that would be useful if military operations turned out to be inevitable.

In their very helpful briefing published this morning, the Government say that chemical weapons are being produced at a number of sites. They give their locations and even photographs in some cases. The Government say that there is a theoretical possibility that the plants which have been identified might be used for illicit purposes. An example is the castor oil factory at Fallujah, where it is said that the residue from its manufacture could be used to make ricin, which is a particularly nasty toxin that has been known to be manufactured by Saddam in the past.

The evidence on nuclear weapons is that attempts have been made only to buy components for a centrifuge enrichment plant, but there is no suggestion that such a plant, which would be large enough to be visible from satellites, is anywhere near completion. Let us assume for the sake of argument that since 1998 Saddam has built up a fairly large arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. The question is still whether they would be capable of delivery. Saddam has a missile with a range of 650 kilometres, which would allow weapons to be delivered to targets in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Eastern Turkey, Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Gulf States and parts of Egypt. The briefing includes a map which shows the range of the missiles. There is said to be no shortage of funds to pay for the development programmes to increase the range of these missiles to 1,000 kilometres.

The claim is made that the past two years Saddam has generated 3 billion dollars a year from illicit transactions which are not policed by the United Nations. If that figure can be substantiated it would indeed convince many people that there was deliberate concealment of large programmes from the international public. I wonder whether the Government, through the anti-terrorism measures which have been taken in this country and in other parts of the world allowing us to investigate the use of illicit funds and their transfer between one banking system and another, could not identify the movement of sums as large as 3 billion dollars a year and give us a little more information about that particular tranche of the evidence.

As regards the known whereabouts of the missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometres as well as the associated manufacturing and maintenance facilities, if the Iraqis do not destroy them voluntarily in accordance with Resolution 687, the UN could authorise their destruction under Article 42 of the Charter without approving more extensive military operations. Presumably, it would be necessary to eradicate delivery vehicles in the first stage of any wider conflict. If the United Nations decided to do it as a self-contained exercise, with a warning of further action in the event of continued failure to comply with Security Council demands, that would be a possible option short of an invasion and might be more acceptable to many of those who object to the occupation of Iraq itself.

In Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, we destroyed industrial facilities related to the missile programme and one suspected biological warfare site. The briefing claims that we were able significantly to degrade those facilities My noble friend Lady Williams quoted Rolf Ekeus as saying that we should now focus on getting rid of the weapons themselves because they constitute the real threat. I suggest that the Government should take into account that it is conceivable that the United Nations would be more disposed to pass a resolution authorising the destruction of the weapons than going further and mounting a full-scale invasion of Iraq.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, has told us of the overwhelming opposition to full-scale military assault on Iraq which exists throughout the whole of the Arab and Islamic world. I believe that the Arab and Muslim leaders, not just the King of Jordan or the President of Egypt, whom the noble Baroness quoted, but others, are conscious of the feelings of their people about the destabilising effect of the conflict on their societies. Muslims everywhere are saying that US-led military action is not going to stop at Iraq, but one by one it will target other Islamic states. I am only repeating what many people are saying in the Islamic world. It believes that Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen and Syria would be in the sights of the hawks in the Pentagon. The US is seen as implementing Israeli policy throughout the region, as the noble Baroness explained, and imposing a double standard on the UN whereby resolutions on Palestine or Kashmir, for instance, are set aside and only those relating to Iraq are implemented.

So there is a risk that a conflict would not only polarise the world between Islamic states and the rest, but also, as the noble Baroness suggested, it would act as a recruiting agent for suicide terrorists around the globe. I believe that already we have almost lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of the Ummah. We cannot begin to address that problem unless we deal firmly with Israel over the question of Palestine.

I have no reason to doubt the allegation made by President Bush that some Al'Qaeda terrorists have gained sanctuary in Iraq as they have in Pakistan, Iran and many other countries. The war against Saddam could disseminate the spores of terrorism further, as the noble Baroness suggested, and some could begin to germinate in the United Kingdom, which has already hosted men like Zacarias Moussaoui, a neighbour of mine in South London, and Robert Reid, the would-be "shoe bomber".

The elimination of Al'Qaeda bases in Afghanistan did not cripple the organisation, according to US defense officials. It dealt a heavy blow to its logistics and financing, but it is still functional as we see from the recent arrests in places such as Karachi and Morocco.

Is there any evidence of a partnership between Saddam Hussein and Al'Qaeda or do we have to rely on the hints given by President Bush in his speech to the General Assembly? The Security Council condemns the Taliban for allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base for the export of terrorism by the Al'Qaeda network, admittedly after the event, but it had already decided in Security Council Resolution 1373, that all states should take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts, including by the provision of early warning to other states by exchange of information.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind about the association between the Taliban and Mr bin Laden, whereas in the case of Iraq there has been only sporadic and unconfirmed rumours of such a link. Saddam was alleged to have funded training camps in Somalia and to have assisted in the formation of an Al'Qaeda group in northern Iraq by al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a group headed by ex-Afghan Arabs in the PUK area to the north. If there is hard evidence of those or other threats arising from Saddam's collaboration in terrorism, why does President Bush not lay a dossier before the General Assembly and why has the Prime Minister not come forward with that evidence in the paper that was published this morning?

The Prime Minister has not allowed for consultation with the public on such matters because the document is limited solely to the existence of the chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. By focusing on the narrow question of the existence of those weapons, and their means of delivery, he has avoided the wider discussion of the effects of a full-scale war on Iraq. The case has been made out for the destruction of the weapons as provided for by Resolution 687, but Parliament and the public are still in the dark about the Government's assessment of the fall-out that would arise from an invasion and occupation of the country. The people are uneasy, knowing that much of the Government's thinking is being withheld from them, but they sense the wider risks which I maintain are involved.

On the No. 10 website there is an intriguing quotation from one of the Prime Minister's predecessors, the Duke of Newcastle of the 18th century. He said, I shall not…think the demands of the people a rule of conduct, nor shall I ever fear to incur their resentment in the prosecution of their interest". I hope that the right honourable gentleman, the Prime Minister, by endorsing that remark on his website, is not intending to follow the advice.

3.12 p.m.

Lord Vincent of Coleshill

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to hold this special debate on Iraq because it gives the House a timely opportunity to address some important issues.

Inevitably, my professional interest centres on the possibility of a military operation, although I believe very strongly indeed that non-military options for dealing with the so-called dossier threats should be pursued thoroughly and vigorously in the first instance. That said, it may be that all such political, legal and economic measures, together with renewed UN inspections, will fail to achieve the necessary effects. If then there is still clear evidence of a growing lethal threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then military action may in the end be the only course open to us if we are to avoid the risk of a far worse outcome later.

But effective military action will require sound preparations beforehand, based on clear and agreed political guidance. I realise that in a public debate such as this, we must be careful, when probing the Government's thinking on a possible military operation, not to prejudice inadvertently its security and place additional risks on those who will take part in it. We should not forget what Clauswitz told us; namely, that surprise and security are key elements of effective military operations.

Clauswitz also told us that the first prerequisite in planning and conducting a successful military campaign is a clear statement of its objectives. Without such an understanding of the political and military goals, it is impossible to ensure that the size and capability of the forces concerned are adequate for the task; nor is it possible to formulate effective concepts of operation and the associated plans to meet vague or unspecified objectives. In that respect general statements, like "forcing a regime change", cannot provide adequate direction for those responsible for planning, mounting and conducting such an operation. Nor, I believe, can the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction be a purely military task.

From my knowledge of the Gulf War and, later, my direct involvement in the preparation and political approval of plans for NATO to replace UNPROFOR in Bosnia at the end of 1995, I know that that need for clear strategic guidance for prospective military operations can raise some sensitive political issues. If they are not addressed adequately at the outset, the consequences can be very serious indeed, even to the extent of undermining the whole operation as, I believe, the eventual failure of UNPROFOR by the middle of 1995 proved so tragically.

Against that background I should like to ask whether that strategically sound approach is now agreed in principle with the United States. More specifically, as the impetus for such an operation increases and we prepare to commit our own Armed Forces, could we hear, for example, whether we have considered its possible political and military objectives and whether the United states shares the same approach and the same goals?

Such guidance, in addition to defining these objectives as clearly as possible, needs to identify those matters that may well constrain our operations in order to avoid highly damaging and unwanted side-effects. Have those been considered with the United States? Further, have we agreed in principle with the United States that, if the need arises, under an appropriate international authority, we shall seek to achieve those objectives through a common joint operational plan and that we shall all be singing from the same military hymn sheet? If so, how is overall political direction to be provided for the approval of that plan and the daily conduct of the operation itself?

There are also some other difficult issues to be addressed in a timely manner, if our forces are to be ready to conduct such operations at what I believe would be acceptable risk. Faced with the assessment of Saddam Hussein's biological warfare capability in the Gulf War, for example, a decision was taken at the highest level to immunise our forces most at risk to provide adequate protection in case they were so attacked. That required substantial preparations, in the development, in the clinical trials, in the approval of the vaccines and in the programme to administer them in the field, which took several weeks and subsequently raised much wider concerns.

I realise that since the Gulf War we now have much more effective equipment for detecting biological agents on operations, but have we set in train the necessary preparations to protect our forces adequately from what is now perceived in the United States and elsewhere, and is indicated in the dossier, to be an even more serious BW threat from Iraq than it was 12 years ago?

As I said at the outset, I realise that those questions, which, on the whole, were addressed very substantially in the much clearer strategic context of the Gulf War, raise difficult and issues. However, if we do not deal with them again now, in concert with the United States, in a timely and effective manner, our forces could pay a high price later, to the possible detriment of the campaign as a whole. Nor should we forget that military operations are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Arrangements for the rebuilding of Iraq, with all its complexity, will need similar early consideration.

3.20 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

My Lords, your Lordships may recall the incident in The Life of Samuel Johnson where Boswell says: After we came out of church, we stood talking together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter… I observed that, though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it". Boswell goes on to record: I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with a mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it. 'I refute it thus', he cried". The existence—or non-existence—of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction has been equally difficult to prove or disprove. The dossier that has been made available today is, for me, Johnson's foot, kicking against a stone that proves to be all too real.

It would be foolish to come to any firm conclusions after a first reading of the dossier, but I am mostly persuaded that, whether or not Saddam Hussein is anywhere near to having a nuclear capability, he has biological and chemical weaponry and a modest number of missiles capable of delivering a lethal payload to neighbouring countries or to minorities in Iraq itself. That should not surprise us. In the mid-1990s, I was part of a delegation that visited Iraq. We met several Ministers there, and it was clear that Saddam's Government were interested in two things: the ending of sanctions and the rebuilding of their arsenal. The well-being of the Iraqi people has been sacrificed to those ends.

Over 11 years, the Iraqi regime has sought to evade the terms, laid down by the United Nations, that brought a conditional end to the Gulf War. The regime has worked consistently to undermine support for the sanctions and inspections regime that was meant to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. To that end, the pressure from the Iraqi regime has been consistent and relentless. The regime exploits any opportunity of a relaxation of sanctions or any sign of a reduction in support for the containment policy. The grim conclusion to be drawn is that, unless that pressure is resisted, the regime will, sooner or later, achieve its objectives. That is no imaginary threat: the stone is all too real.

If the stone is kicked too clumsily, however, we might limp for some time. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has sought to interpret ethical theories such as that relating to a just war in this complex situation. I want simply to acknowledge the relentless pressure applied by the Iraqi regime in its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction. That process must be resisted, but I maintain that containment, rather than military action, is, at this stage, the wiser course.

The policy of containment—sanctions, no-fly zones and so on—has worked well enough for 11 years. As has been said, paragraph 23 of the dossier shows that that policy is, certainly, still effective in preventing the development of a nuclear capability. It is too soon to judge that that policy might not continue to work. It will require firm support from the UN Security Council. It will also require Iraq to allow the inspectors unhampered access, prompted by the stick of possible armed back-up and the carrot of relaxed sanctions. The Iraqi regime may well resist, as it has done in the past, but the attempt must be made.

I was pleased that the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House and the Minister dissociated an attack on Iraq from any attack on Islam. However, I listened with immense interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin. As well as being bishop of a diocese that includes large numbers of Muslim people, I am co-chair of the Inter-Faith Network of Britain and Ireland, which gives me the opportunity to speak to people of all faith traditions. My experience echoes that of the noble Baroness: almost universally, British Muslims are hostile to the prospect of military action against Iraq.

As the noble Baroness said, most Muslims have little enthusiasm for Saddam Hussein and are well aware of the un-Islamic, secular, tyrannical nature of his regime. Their objections to President Bush's policy rest on three points, of which we must be aware. First, they are worried that the war on terror is becoming aligned with hostility to the Islamic world as such. Secondly, they complain that UN resolutions are applied selectively, outlawing Saddam Hussein while leaving other transgressors—notably Israel and Palestine—untouched. Thirdly, they are angry that little mention is made of the suffering of the Iraqi people as a consequence of the sanctions policy. I am sure that other noble Lords with greater knowledge will speak about that.

The opposition of most British Muslims to military action would not be greatly affected by the securing of some kind of UN authorisation. In such a scenario, the UN would be widely seen as having bowed to US pressure. Active support from other Arab states for an attack might be more significant in affecting opinion. We should continue to make every effort to mobilise the support of such states.

Following 11th September last year, there was, in most parts of Britain, a revitalised sense of the importance of inter-faith relationships—particularly those between Christians and Muslims—as well as a severe challenge to the survival of such relationships. In the past few months, the general direction has been towards positive consolidation. However, channels of communication remain tenuous, and mutual trust and understanding are fragile. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, that the effect of any military action in Iraq on international relations with Muslim states and on relations with Islamic communities at home would be problematic and unpredictable.

There are, of course, equal risks associated with doing nothing in the face of the mounting evidence, if the UN Security Council refuses to adopt clear and robust resolutions or if Saddam Hussein refuses to allow the inspectors back in to do their job properly. In such circumstances, the use of military force might prove to be the least worst option. However, the world is not yet at that point. Please God, may we not get there.

3.29 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, as someone who spent the last 12 months in government service immersed in the Gulf War crisis, I have had, in the past few months, an enormous sense of déjà vu.

In 1991, I knew more about the Saddam regime than I would ever have wanted to. The main players are the same now as they were then, and their behaviour has not changed. The regime is unparalled in the efficiency of the terror by which it rules, as part 3 of the dossier details. Unless the regime is pinned down with a precision and determination which have been lacking on the part of the UN for the past 11 years, it will squirm and twist its way out of any undertaking to reveal what it is doing. The dossier makes it clear that it is essential to discover in detail what the regime is doing now—taking nothing on trust. I agree with the current issue of The Economist that in the case of Saddam, there is no reason to trust a serial liar and murderer.

The evidence of Iraqi secret attempts to acquire material for weapons of mass destruction has been accumulating since the early 1990s and is impressively documented in the dossier, which I find chilling—as did the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank. Proliferation is one of the most difficult targets for the intelligence and security services. The Iraqis are past masters at that deadly game. They were at it before the Gulf War. Your Lordships will remember some of the well-publicised cases at the time.

One difficulty in detecting proliferation attempts is that much of the material involved can be dual purpose, with an innocent commercial, pharmaceutical or engineering use—as well as being a component for a more sinister end. Orders are spread across different countries, placed by middlemen or cover companies, and often taken through many different countries before reaching their real, well-disguised destination.

Companies supplying components range from those that are fully complicit, through those turning a blind eye and choosing not to be suspicious in order to land a lucrative order, to genuinely innocent firms that believe the cover story. In none of those cases will the companies alert the authorities. Such intelligence on proliferation that is produced is often from extremely sensitive sources—sanitised intelligence is often unfortunately so bland as to be unconvincing.

The dossier is all the more striking for giving a compelling account of conclusions reached from intelligence. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, rightly said, there has clearly been an impressive range of intelligence achievements. Reading about the elaborate machinations, cover companies and suspicious activities in the former Soviet Union, Africa and other places, it is absolutely clear that Iraq's procurement efforts have continued since 1991 and are continuing—despite Iraq's agreements, undertakings and protestations.

The question is not whether Iraq has succeeded yet or how long it takes before it does but why should such an enormously costly and difficult effort be made unless Iraq plans to use weapons of mass destruction. Will we just wait until that happens, then deal with it?

We have made two particularly bad mistakes in the past in dealing with Saddam Hussein. The first was in 1991, when we ceased hostilities before ensuring the safety of the Shia who had risen in Basra at our urging—and who had overthrown Saddam's hated henchmen. The Shia were holding on, waiting for our help—but it never arrived because the allies concluded a ceasefire in my view at least 24 hours too early. The Shia in Basra all suffered terrible ends.

I am not the only person to say—not with hindsight—that the terms of the ceasefire were less than perfect. Let us not forget that two no-fly zones had to be instigated soon after the ceasefire because Saddam was attacking the Shia, marsh Arabs in the south and Kurds in the north.

The second mistake was in 1998 when UN inspectors, after a saga of harassment, had finally to give up and left Iraq. As the Statement said, military action by the United States and United Kingdom set the Iraqi programme back but did not end it. The UN response should have been much more robust and decisive—as should have been our assistance to the inspectors over the years, as they struggled to enforce their UN mandate.

It is important to keep in mind the special nature of the UN resolutions on Iraq. They are different from those applying to conflicts such as Kashmir or Israel, which is the most quoted comparison. I do not want to enter into debate about the Israel-Palestinian crisis but the Iraq resolutions embody and arise out of the terms agreed for a ceasefire in a war waged against Iraq on a UN mandate. Iraq agreed those ceasefire terms but in the 11 years since, it has evaded most if not all of them. If I may be unparliamentary, Iraq has driven a coach and horses through all the UN resolutions and ceasefire terms.

Much is said about fears for the stability of the region if the Saddam regime falls. There is not time today to expand on why believe that a federal, more democratic Iraq—giving rights to Kurds and Shia, as well as to Sunni—could add to the region's stability, even if some of its neighbours at the moment would not like such a development. That debate is for a later date.

My right honourable friend's powerful Statement makes clear why we should act. He was right about acting in Kosovo and taking action in Afghanistan—and he is right about action now. We made two damaging mistakes with Saddam in 1991 and 1998. We must not make a third, possibly fatal mistake now.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Hurd of Westwell

My Lords, I will follow the noble Baroness in her comments about events inside Iraq but first wish to say that this debate and the Government's document are important for our democracy. I cannot remember a time when so many people have been interested but uncertain about a great matter of policy. Complete strangers come up to me in the street or on the train and ask, "What's going to happen about Iraq?" They do not blame or enthuse about the Government or President Bush. They are in neither state. They are just uncertain, anxious and unsure. More is needed these days if a British Government are to send British troops to kill and be killed. To do that now—it was not always so—a government need general support for a war.

I scribbled those thoughts before I heard Patrick Cordingley on BBC radio yesterday. He commanded the 7th Armoured brigade in the Gulf war. I did not agree with everything that he said but he made the point strongly—and was, entirely right—that in a democracy, one cannot expect and will never achieve unanimity about a war. But one can get general support and that is needed. The Government can secure general support but have not yet reached that point. In a parliamentary democracy, there is a natural sequence. The Government publish their evidence and views. Time is allowed to digest them, then Parliament debates and reaches conclusions. That sequence is not the one that the Government have followed, which is not a crucial point but one to remember for the future. The process of illumination and persuasion in which we are all, in a small way, engaged today is crucial for the future; it is not a luxury.

Having said that, the Government are right in their general analysis of Saddam Hussein—as is almost everyone who has spoken—whom I too have experience of. He is a deceitful, destructive and dangerous man. They were right to go down the UN route. That probably was not entirely easy. We had this argument in November 1990. It was a rare occasion when the State Department and the Foreign Office managed to prevail over the White House and No. 10. We went down the Security Council route. It turned out to be right, not just for legal reasons, but also for political reasons; gathering together support for Britain in the world.

The present Government are right to work for a new up-dated resolution, provided it concentrates on weapons of mass destruction. It has not yet been mentioned, but we are fortunate in having Mr Blix as the international servant who is mainly engaged in these kind of preparations. I remember him as someone of firm and sober judgment. He will need both those qualities in his position at the present time.

The Government are right too to be tough, in such a resolution, on the consequences on Saddam Hussein and Iraq if the resolution is defied. All that is accepted. But I should like to make two points which are relevant and which could be crucial if we become engaged in a sustained war which lasts for a long time. We cannot be sure, one way or the other, whether that will be so.

My first point has already been mentioned but I shall embroider it a little; it concerns the connection between the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict. We are talking about a possible war against a major Arab nation—Iraq. To succeed, in the long run, that effort requires at least tacit Arab support. I do not despair of that. I do not know anyone in the region who trusts or likes Saddam Hussein. I suspect the same is true in Iraq itself; that most of those who now cheer what he says would dance quite happily around his coffin. If we had any doubts about that, listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, will have dispelled them.

But Arab public opinion is not focused on the danger from Iraq which we are discussing today; it is focused, night by night, on the sufferings of the Palestinian people conveyed through Arab media which are much freer than they used to be. Israel is entitled to our sympathy at her agony every time there is a suicide bomber. She is entitled to security. But she is not entitled to secure it in the way being attempted by Mr Sharon's government. We need, in whatever way is best, to make clear to the United States in that context—it is the superpower with particular leverage on the situation—that they have a choice. They can, as the White House Security Adviser said yesterday, help to forward the march of freedom in Muslim countries; or they can continue as the main prop of an Israeli Government who unsuccessfully seek to achieve their security through settlement, occupation and oppression. Either is a possible route. What the United States cannot do is play both roles at the same time.

I should like to ask the Minister a specific question arising out of that. The Palestinian people and their representatives are beginning, not before time, to show signs of discontent with President Arafat and his ineffective leadership. There are plans to hold an election in the West Bank and Gaza in January. That is a flicker of light in a dark sea. How can we prevent that flicker of light being snuffed out, as it would be by the present weight of the Israeli occupation in those areas in which elections could hardly be held?

I turn to my second and last point, which concerns Iraq itself. I listened with great care to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank. His knowledge is much greater than mine and he is probably right. The military strength of Iraq is now so enfeebled compared with 11 years ago that allied forces, or indeed the United States forces alone, could overcome it. It may be, if we were skilful and lucky, or if the Americans were skilful and lucky with our help, we do that with a relatively quick assault, or if we ran out of luck, in a sustained war with a good many casualties. But one way or another the outcome would be military success.

However, it would not be responsible to launch on such an effort, either quick or slow, without some idea about what would follow; about who would run Iraq thereafter. It cannot be done by the Kurds from the north. It cannot be done by the Shias in the south; it cannot be done by a combination of the two. Civil war is a perfect though disastrous possibility. Effective political control of Iraq, whatever the constitutional structure, would come from the centre and from Baghdad. That is where we need to look for legitimate authority.

It would be silly to ask the Minster for details. If we were told names or organisations then their lives would be relatively short because of the reach of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. But we need to be confident that the Americans and ourselves are looking to the future in that kind of way. There is an old Latin tag much loved by school debating societies: if you wish for peace prepare for war. That is relevant to the Security Council discussions at the moment. But we now live in a world where there is a second tag: if you are preparing for war you have to prepare for peace as well. That is also true in this case. It is not enough to say, as some Americans did in the beginning, "We will just go into Iraq, get rid of Saddam Hussein and get out". Nor, in my view, is it particularly realistic to talk in an airy way about holding immediate democratic elections out of which would emerge a pro-western democratic federal Iraq keen to make peace with Israel.

We must not delude ourselves. The process of nation rebuilding in Iraq will be a slow and strenuous one. We have to consider—it will be difficult; it will be the problems of Afghanistan on a much bigger scale—whether we and the Americans are prepared to keep troops after an immediate military victory to support and prop up whatever government emerges until it establishes its own authority against a background where such occupation would inevitably soon become unpopular.

Those are unpalatable points, but we cannot discuss these matters without looking that far ahead. My worry is that, unless these things are considered, unless we in Parliament can feel that they are being considered albeit we do not ask for the details, we may reach the stage where we worry about having won a war in six days and lost it in the six months which followed.

So I believe that Parliament, all of us, should accept the main analysis of the Government. We should not in any way belittle the dangers to us all, but particularly to the region described in the document the Government published today. We are entitled—no Minister will resent this—to ask questions to which full answers have not yet been forthcoming. But we need more answers. We need more illumination if the country is to give this enterprise the general support it needs to be successful.

3.49 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, in response to a question on the Statement, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that the Government were acting in accordance with the norms of international law. His words were echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, who said that we would take action to enforce international law.

It is vitally important that at the end of the crisis it is manifest that the norms of international law have been strengthened and not undermined by any action taken by this country and its allies. Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter states that, All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations". Those words do not support a claim of right to overthrow a repressive or tyrannical government, however desirable that may be. There is no doctrine in international law of intervention to bring about regime change, nor even a doctrine of humanitarian intervention with the use of force.

The dossier refers to human rights violations in Iraq, but that is no justification for military intervention. Essentially there are only two exceptions to the prohibitions in Article 2.4 of the Charter against the threat or use of force; namely, the right to self-defence and the enforcement of Security Council resolutions. The second exception has not been employed for many decades.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, referred your Lordships to Article 51 of the Charter: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security". The test for judging whether the use of force was justified as an act of self-defence is in customary international law accepted to be immediacy, proportionality and necessity. It was defined by the US Secretary of State Daniel Webster in the Caroline case as long ago as 1837 as being whether the necessity of that self-defence is instant, overwhelming and leaves no choice of means and no moment for deliberation. An act justified by the necessity of self-defence must be limited by that necessity and kept clearly within it. It must be proportionate. The use of armed force should be for the purpose of defence and not for punishment.

Hence military action was lawful in international law as a response to the invasion of the Falklands by the Argentine. Article 51 was also employed to justify the invasion of a regime harbouring terrorists—Afghanistan—in response to the attack on the United States in September last year. That justification was confirmed by the Security Council.

But no hard evidence has been produced in the dossier or anywhere else that Iraq currently harbours terrorists, so there is not a justification for unilateral action by way of self-defence at this time. For example, your Lordships may recall that in 1981 Israel bombed a nuclear reactor at Osiraq in Iraq and claimed to be acting in pre-emptive self-defence. That claim was fully examined by the Security Council and rejected because the threat posed to Israel's security was not immediate; the response was held by the Security Council to be neither proportionate nor necessary.

The dossier we have seen today demonstrates that Iraq has the capability—and it may be growing—but there is no evidence that it has the immediate intention to attack either the United States or this country. There is no imminent threat to our security nor to any ally of ours. Intervention in Kuwait was justified by the doctrine of self-defence; Kuwait called us in and sought assistance. It is certainly no justification in international law of military intervention that possession of weapons of mass destruction threaten economic interests in the region. The United States, nor indeed any country, cannot claim that a threat to oil is a justification for invasion.

Hence, if we are to stay within the norms of international law to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams, referred, it is essential to work through the United Nations. Pre-emptive self-defence without its sanction by the United States and ourselves would be illegal in international law. It follows that a new resolution must be sought at the United Nations which sets out a firm timetable for inspection and report. A failure to comply with such a resolution is in my view a judgment for the United Nations, not the United States—so are the means to coerce Saddam into compliance, if necessary by military intervention.

That is the way forward. I commend the direction set by our Prime Minister, followed by President Bush, in taking the United Nations route. That is the way to strengthen the authority of the United Nations and to confirm the rule of law to which we hope this country will always adhere. That is also the way to gain the general support of the people of this country to which the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, referred.

3.57 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, the paradox we face in dealing with Saddam Hussein's Iraq—many of the contributions to the debate have underlined this—is that only by threatening the use of force if he continues to defy the will of the international community expressed in any number of Security Council legally binding resolutions, and only by being prepared to back that threat by action, do we stand the slightest chance of achieving a peaceful outcome.

To believe that Saddam Hussein will comply with his obligations faced merely by exhortation and diplomatic advocacy is a triumph of hope over experience. It flies in the face of all that has happened over the 20-plus years since he began his career of murder and aggression as head of the Iraqi state. Nor is the Micawberish option of waiting for something to turn up at all appealing. For four years, Saddam's teams of scientists and engineers have been able to work, unhindered by international inspection, on programmes for developing weapons of mass destruction. The dossier we have seen today shows that.

We know that these programmes and those on the ballistic missiles for their delivery are the highest priority of Saddam Hussein's regime. When the inspectors first went to Iraq in 1991, they found nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programmes at a far more advanced stage than anything our intelligence efforts had led us to believe was the case. Their estimate was that if Saddam had not been foolish enough to invade Kuwait the year before and thus bring down on his head the international inspection regime, he would have had a usable nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it to a range of his neighbours by 1993.

Why on earth do we believe—as some well-meaning people do—that our lack of certainty about the present state of his weapons programme should be a source of doubt or comfort, or a reason not to take action? On past experience, the contrary conclusion is surely more compelling.

Reliance on deterrence and containment looks equally flawed. We are dealing with a man who, at the time of the Gulf War, believed that the coalition was bluffing in its determination to reverse his aggression against Kuwait. He was wrong. If we procrastinate and if he achieves his aim of developing this horrendous arsenal, what are we going to do then should he—as is all too likely—threaten to use or actually use weapons of mass destruction against his neighbours? The prospect of having to take massive action against sites that have been carefully placed among centres of civilian population is hardly attractive. The risk that, faced with such retaliation, he will use everything he has will surely be even greater than it is now when his capabilities to wreak such havoc—which have been outlined by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and in the government dossier—are by definition less than they will be if we leave these programmes to move ahead for longer.

All these considerations point towards the need to address the problem now and to make a serious and determined effort to scotch these weapons programmes, if possible through international inspections and disarmament, if not, by other means.

How sure can we be that getting the inspectors back in will do the trick? The only honest answer is that we cannot be sure. Saddam's track record of playing cat and mouse with the inspectors is proven. What can be said is that if the inspectors are given unfettered access, as they must be, that will hugely complicate the task and the risk of continuing to develop the programmes of weapons of mass destruction. The main Iraqi effort will then switch, as it did between 1991 and 1998, from development to concealment. The chances of their getting to the stage of actual deployment, let alone use, without prior discovery will be greatly reduced.

It is surely worth giving the inspection route a real try, not damning it with faint praise from the outset, as some on the other side of the Atlantic are prone to do. However, the hand of the inspectors must be strengthened so that they are not again left, as they sometimes were in the past, in an unequal struggle against the forces of a totalitarian dictatorship. They should be required to report frequently and unambiguously to the Security Council, not only on what they find, but on the degree of co-operation that they get from the Iraqis. It needs to be clear that if full co-operation is lacking or if access is denied, more than just a slap on the wrist or a verbal admonition will follow. In that sense, the louder the noises off of preparation for military action, the more likely it will be that the inspectors are able to complete their task successfully.

I do not wish to weary the House with too much detailed analysis of what a future Security Council resolution—there certainly needs to be one—should contain, or how precisely the United Nations should handle Saddam Hussein's latest missive, appearing to offer unconditional access to the inspectors. That will be thrashed out in New York in the days and weeks ahead. If the letter means what it says—and there have been an awful lot of letters in the past that did not mean what they said—it is a step forward, but only the first of many steps that have to be taken and not the most difficult or the most important one to take.

Of far greater importance is the co-operation on the ground of the Iraqis—their willingness to have destroyed, removed or rendered harmless everything to do with their weapons programmes and their acceptance of an intrusive long-term monitoring programme to ensure that the whole business does not just begin over again. Those in the media and elsewhere who welcomed the arrival of the letter from Saddam Hussein with comments that I found too close for comfort to claims of peace in our time will have to wait a considerable time before it is clear whether a peaceful exit from this crisis really exists.

I warmly welcome the decision to go to the Security Council, which I believe owed much to the advocacy of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I am convinced that it was the right decision. It was right in particular on political and diplomatic grounds, not on technical or legal grounds. In my analysis, Saddam Hussein's defiance of a large number of mandatory Security Council resolutions, which were an integral part of the cessation of hostilities at the end of the Gulf War and which were accepted as such by Iraq at the time, already leaves him open to the legitimate use of force. Above all, his failure to permit the, destruction, removal, or rendering harmless of all his weapons of mass destruction—the mere recital of those words of Resolution 687 underlines how far he has strayed from compliance—puts him at risk. Do not let us tie ourselves in knots over those legal complexities. If we are to have any chance of proceeding without the use of force, the key is that a single, unambiguous message goes from the Security Council to Saddam Hussein telling him what is required of him if he is to avoid the use of force.

The message of the international community would gain greatly in strength if it were set in a wider framework, which could contain two additional elements. The first would be to set out clearly how those countries that are leading this debate—the United States in particular, but ourselves included—would work with a post-Saddam Iraq; how we would move rapidly to bind up the wounds of the past decade or more and how Iraq would be welcomed back as a key regional player with a substantial political, economic and security role in assuring the stability of the region. This approach was followed with considerable success in the case of Serbia post-Milosevic at the time of the hostilities over Kosovo. Our failure to do this so far in the case of Iraq has enabled Saddam Hussein to misrepresent the outside world's policy towards Iraq as one of humiliation and dismemberment and to persuade many ordinary Iraqis that our quarrel is with them and not with the regime under which they suffer.

The second element would be to reinvigorate the search for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Many noble Lords have referred to the importance of that. Clearly, we must avoid the trap of enabling Saddam Hussein to claim that it is thanks to him that we are taking such action. We faced that same trap in 1990 and we successfully avoided it, but it did not prevent the first President Bush bringing the parties to the negotiating table in Madrid soon after the reversal of Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait. We have to face the fact that this question and the need to end the continuing bloodshed in Israel and Palestine are the priority of priorities to most Arabs. One ignores the priorities of one's friends and allies in the war against terrorism at one's peril. I hope that the United States will not do so and that we and other European nations will help them to rescue the peace process from the dead end in which it is stuck at the moment.

4.5 p.m.

Lord Janner of Braunstone

My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for his clear and pungent explanation of why we should seek international inspection in Iraq, to avoid war if possible and otherwise why swift steps should be taken. He referred to "peace in our time". I am glad that I brought with me a document that I have treasured for many years. It is a letter written by Neville Chamberlain to Herbert Samuel—Lord Samuel—in October 1940. It is brief. It reads: My dear Samuel, It was very kind of you to write to me and I appreciate very highly the fact that I retain your approval of my efforts to maintain peace. Though that proved to be impossible, it did give us breathing time and that may in the end make all the difference". That was appeasement. That was allowing Hitler to invade Czechoslovakia. That was giving Hitler time to prepare the bombing, the Blitz, the invasions and the murders. While the situation in Iraq is totally different, we must still look with care on anything that may appear to be "peace in our time" when it is not and which may give time to a ruthless dictator that he does not deserve. The dossier prepared today makes chilling reading. It makes clear the huge danger in which we and the world stand. That danger will inevitably grow greater day by day if not dealt with. That is the first issue.

Is there to be a strike against Iraq and, if so, when? I share the Government's view—indeed, it is the same view expressed by Opposition leaders in this House and in the other place—that we must take swift action one way or the other and not again have "peace in our time", which is simply a prelude to war.

The second issue, with which many noble Lords have dealt, is the spill-over of the ill will into relations between countries in the Middle East. I have been involved with this matter for very many years. I have visited most of the Arab countries—indeed, all that were prepared to have me, which does leave some exceptions. I have even tried to learn the Arabic language, which I do not recommend to anyone who wishes to maintain his sanity. It is very difficult but it is necessary.

Recently I asked the leader of a certain Arab nation: "When relations between your country and Israel were more or less normal and of great advantage to both countries, why have you now stopped them?" He replied, "The street". When I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, I thought, "Yes, that is the street, which, sadly, is true". That is not necessarily the view of Arab governments but it is the view which is being stoked up in the street.

People such as myself believe firmly that we must live together or die together and that the people in Israel and Palestine, too, must live together or they will die together. They must live together in two states but must do so in mutual respect and with the desire for peace for both peoples; otherwise it will not work. They should say "yes" to peace and "no" to terror, but it is very sad that that is no longer working.

I do not agree at all with the extraordinary comparison between Sharon and Saddam Hussein made by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin. I believe it to be ludicrous and unreasonable, unfair and disgraceful. Whatever I may think of Sharon's policies and however unlikely it is that I would have voted for the man, we must all recognise that he was elected by his people in one of six elections since the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein has been there since the Gulf War and before and there have been no elections. Whatever the faults and imperfections of the democracy in Israel or, indeed, here, Israel's Government, like ours, have been elected by their people. The top job of a government is to defend their people.

Not long ago, I asked my friend Shimon Peres, whom no one has ever accused of being a warrior: "Why the incursions? Why are your Government behaving in this way?" He replied with two answers. First, he said, "We have tried everything else. We do not like the incursions but we have to protect our people. Nothing else has worked". His second answer was, "What would your Government do to defend their people?"

Then I spoke to my brother-in-law, who lives in Jerusalem with his family. He said, "It is all very well for you lot to criticise, but it is not your children and grand-children who are in danger of being killed by suicide bombers; it is ours. Our Government have been elected to try to protect us". They have not succeeded but that does not mean that a comparison between Israel and Iraq is anything more than lunacy. Israel is entitled to its security and entitled to protect its people. My noble friend—my friend of long-standing—Lord Hurd said that it is not entitled to do so in the way that it is. That is perhaps the case, but I hope that he will discuss that with the leaders there rather than making statements here when it is not, as my brother-in-law said, his family that is liable to be blown up by the suicide bombers. It is a very difficult decision and I would not like to be in their shoes.

There are many Arabs in Israel and, in my desperate attempt to learn Arabic, I went to a town called Sakhnin—an Arab town in lower Galilee. I lived with an Arab family and we are still friends. I shall see them when I go to Israel again for a conference next week. The members of that family have just as great a desire for peace as the Jewish people who live around them. They recognise as much as do my family that we must all work for peace. At present, the situation is awful for the Palestinians and for the Israelis and, together, they must work for peace. I believe that, instead of making statements attacking one or the other, we should be doing what we can to bring them together to the peace that they both want and need.

I turn to the subject of the spill-over into our own communities. We are the United Kingdom and we do not want to become the "Divided Kingdom". I listened carefully to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. He is absolutely correct. There is a new fragility in those relations. He referred to relations between Muslims and Christians. I refer to relations between Muslims and Jewish people—an area in which, again, I have worked for many years.

Those relations have become extremely fragile. We know that the vast majority of Muslims in this country are not extremists. Those who receive the publicity—the extremists from the Finsbury Park Mosque, where they held their rally—do not represent the Muslim communities in this country. Those who took part in the Trafalgar Square Islamist rally do not represent the majority of their people. But others know how to take advantage of such situations. So it was no surprise when the National Front and the British National Party turned up at Trafalgar Square. And in my old city of Leicester the National Front is to hold a rally this Saturday. It is an anti-Islamist rally, as they have proclaimed.

I know that my Jewish community understands full well that if the right-wing extremists grow fat because of their attacks on Muslims and because of the blame they direct at Muslims for the current situation, others will be next. It will be the Jews, then the Catholics and then anyone else who is in a minority, whether they are black or white or gay or wherever they come from in the world. I only ask the Muslim community to recognise that the contrary also applies. If such people wax fat through attacking and blaming the Jews, they will be next. The overflow is from Palestine, Israel, the Jewish state, the Jews. Believe it or not, many Muslims blame the Jews for the September 11th attack. How sad.

Finally, what hope is there? I offer an example of one small ray of hope, arising out of deep tragedy. I wonder whether two or three days ago noble Lords heard of the murder of a British lad in Israel by a suicide bomber. The victim's name was Yoni Jesner. He was aged 19 and came from Glasgow. Together with his cousin, Gideon Black, he studied in London in a Jewish school. Many young people whom I know knew them. Yoni Jesner was murdered and Gideon Black was wounded. Immediately afterwards, Yoni's parents donated their son's kidney to a seven year-old Palestinian girl, who was operated on in an Israeli hospital and who is alive today thanks to that extraordinary, decent, kind and sensible act. It is a rough world in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East and, indeed, sometimes here. But where there are acts like that, there is hope for reconciliation, hope for decency and hope for peace.

4.20 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chester

My Lords, the issues before us today raise the acute dilemma of how to approach moral questions in the new circumstances of the 21st century. There are always lessons to be drawn from the past, but they are more limited than we sometimes acknowledge. I recall a historian saying to me some years ago that one of the few lessons of history is that there are relatively few lessons of history. History moves on and new circumstances emerge which are sometimes unprecedented in the dangerous world by which we are confronted. The speed with which the world moves on means these new circumstances will increase more and more as the sheer power of modern civilisation expresses itself.

This is at one with the whole history of the universe. For most of the time the universe has existed, there was no death. It was only when life evolved that death became possible. It was only when life evolved to form complex organisms that the possibility of disease and deformation arose. It was only when animals emerged, able to move around their environment, that creatures hunted and killed. Human beings represent a wholly new emergence on our planet bringing self-consciousness, an understanding of truth, beauty and justice and an ability to relate to our Creator. The shadow side is the possibility of moral evil. Nature may be red in tooth and claw, but nowhere there do you find the equivalent of the Holocaust or the Gulag, a Stalin or a Hitler.

This can be seen in modern times. The 20th century was an immensely bloodstained century. Historians estimate that probably more people died a violent death in the 20th century than in all the other centuries put together. The killing was on the grand stage. Idealism in the 20th century could pervert itself in the hands of despotism and totalitarian regimes, often hijacking religious ideas and images. However, in the 20th century, weapons of mass destruction only surfaced on the margins. The early years of the 21st century have had the ideals of the last century thrust forward and intensified, the ideals, indeed, of those 19 misguided gentlemen who crashed the planes. Even without weapons of mass destruction, the potential dangers are that much greater. Many more people died on September 11th than at Pearl Harbour, despite the might of the Japanese forces thrown against the Americans.

It seems to me that the 21st century will have its own unique, greater and probably unpredictable dangers, like those planes flying into the twin towers. These new circumstances place considerable strain upon the traditional calculus of the just war. War is now potentially too dangerous and the threat of war too imprecise for countries simply to sit back and wait to be attacked. I understand why the American Government are taking the current line, however overstated and gung-ho it may be.

I support the broad stance which Her Majesty's Government are taking. A pre-emptive strike against a rogue state like Iraq, with its track record of striving to possess weapons of mass destruction, can be defended on the grounds of self-defence. That does not mean that military action against Iraq is necessarily justifiable at present. Many military, political and moral factors need to be considered with great care. A diplomatic or political solution would be far more preferable. The offer to allow the inspectors to return should be pursued with great seriousness and urgency.

Action by the United States independent of the United Nations would be most unfortunate, though it could not be ruled out on moral grounds. The UN is not infallible. However, the case for a stronger UN in the 21st century seems overwhelming. I would associate myself entirely with the remarks made by the right reverend prelate the Bishop of London. Whether this is achievable in today's global politics seems less certain. I support the position of the Government. However, the military and political calculations are fraught with great dangers. Much potentially could go badly wrong, although the same applies if we do nothing.

I conclude with a comment on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Janner of Braunstone. The log-jam in Israel and Palestine needs to be moved on. A particular matter which we often skate over is central to this—the settlements. The policy of placing settlements in the occupied territories is a Class A political error. It is an error comparable with that of the South African Government which in the late 1940s embraced apartheid. It took a very long time for international and internal pressure to persuade them of a bad mistake. The settlement programme in the occupied territories has to be reversed. Without it, I do not believe there can be two viable states living together. There are about a quarter of a million people living in the settlements. International aid will be needed to help Israel realise its mistake. If each settler were paid £20,000 to settle back in Israel, the cost would be £5 billion. A lot of money. But there has to be a will to will the means as well as the end. Unless we can make real progress in that part of the Middle East, all that is quite properly intended in Iraq will fall to nothing.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I make no apology for being one of the "usual suspects club" when Iraq is discussed in your Lordships' House. I have twice visited Iraq with the leader of that club, the redoubtable George Galloway, MP. But over the years I have visited a number of other countries on parliamentary visits, paid for by their governments or sources sympathetic to them. In each case I have returned more critical of that government than before I went. In every case, though, I have been impressed by the generosity and friendliness of the ordinary people in whichever country I have visited. In Iraq there is still remarkable goodwill towards the United Kingdom but bewilderment and sadness that we can support the warlike stance of President Bush and his close associates.

My noble friend Lady Symons once said to me that she thought I was a good man but that I was being misled. I thought that it was extremely kind of her to warn me. My interest in the Iraqi problem is and always has been humanitarian, in particular the effect of sanctions on the health of children. I am perfectly aware that the harmful effect of these on the nutritional state of the population was greatly exacerbated by Saddam's cruelly mistaken decision to reject the oil for food programme from 1991 to 1995 and try to go it alone by increasing food production, a policy which was unrealistic and failed. According to Tun Myat, the United Nations Co-ordinator for the humanitarian programme in Iraq, there is sufficient food coming in through the oil for food programme to just feed the population who now receive an equitably distributed ration at very low cost. But the interruption of that programme that would occur if war came would have extremely serious consequences.

I believe that all noble Lords would like to see the back of Saddam Hussein. He has committed crimes against humanity in the past, which were vividly described in the dossier and for which he could justifiably face an international criminal court—even one that is not ratified by the United States. That is very different from effecting a regime change through "tyrannocide" or external military force, particularly if that is applied through the diktat of one nation, however powerful.

With calls for "regime change" in the air, there is surely a problem with "no holds barred" intrusive inspections, when one of the inspecting nations has the openly declared intent of overthrowing the government of the nation being inspected. The results of inspections would inevitably provide useful intelligence for any future attack. Hence Iraq's request to the United Nations that its territorial integrity be respected while the inspections proceed.

However, Iraq has now decided to take the risk—it really had no choice—and has agreed to allow UNMOVIC inspectors to return. The mechanism now exists for UNMOVIC to see on the ground whether the suspected sites that are mentioned or hinted at in the dossier which we now have before us are in operational condition. I gather from noble Lords that a bevy of journalists has been waiting in Baghdad at Iraq's invitation to visit the named sites. They are visiting the sites as we speak. Perhaps they have returned by now because it is later in Iraq than it is here. If, as a result of inspections, Iraq is found to have been lying and significant numbers of weapons of mass destruction are detected, they must be destroyed. If access to sensitive sites is barred, there is no need for an instant military ultimatum. There is a place for hard diplomatic bargaining under existing or—as has been suggested—new and tougher Security Council resolutions before launching missiles or a full-scale attack. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, the existence of inspectors on the ground will disable Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction, even if Iraq attempts concealment.

However, supposing that Iraq were within reach of developing a dangerous level of operational weapons of mass destruction, as the dossier suggests, how would it be likely to deploy them? The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, touched on that. It is far fetched in the extreme to think that they could threaten the United States or any European country directly. That is portrayed in the diagram in the dossier. There is currently a strong and quite effective Iraqi charm offensive directed at the Arab world, five countries of which surround Iraq. Saddam came unstuck when he attacked two of them in the past and he is extremely unlikely to try that again.

The hypothetical target for weapons of mass destruction is of course Israel, which itself possesses the nuclear weapon. Israel is surely the country that President Bush means when he says that Saddam "threatens his neighbours". While Saddam has made serious errors of judgment in the past—as I said, when he attacked Iran and Kuwait—it is hard to imagine that he would make the mistake of launching an attack on Israel. That would mean political and military suicide for himself and his regime.

So why the enormous hurry and the huffing and puffing? We are not directly or indirectly threatened by Saddam's Iraq, however cruelly he tyrannises his own people. Nor would the world's oil supplies be threatened if his regime survives; he depends on his oil exports more than we do on importing his oil. And, like Stalin, whom he resembles in more ways than just the moustache, he will not survive for ever. Regime change to a more democratic state will eventually occur, as it will in the rest of the Arab world. However, that will be more stable and durable if it comes from within than through a military attack from without.

In the meantime, the best way for us to encourage a more liberal regime will be to engage with Iraq commercially and culturally. There is a long tradition of friendly association between the two countries, which most Iraqis are impatient to renew. Doing that presupposes an end to sanctions as we know them. It is highly likely—Tariq Aziz has said as much—that Iraq would, in exchange for the virtual lifting of sanctions, allow continued international monitoring of its armed forces. If a threat should be suspected or detected, appropriate Security Council action could be taken, including the re-imposition of sanctions. The lifting of sanctions would allow the rapid restoration of Iraq's damaged infrastructure, and that would provide many opportunities for investment and commerce for United Kingdom firms. Even now, under the crumbling sanctions regime, those opportunities are being quietly snapped up by Russia and certain EU countries. There would be an opportunity to renew the strong cultural and economic links between the UK and Iraq, which have been severed since the Gulf War. In exchange for the carrot of lifting sanctions rather than the stick of military coercion, which is all that is offered at the moment, it is also likely that autonomy for the Kurdish provinces could be agreed as well as the settlement of outstanding issues with Kuwait.

I have not mentioned the Palestine/Israel dispute or terrorism. Iraq has the most bellicose rhetoric against Israel of any of the Arab nations. If a settlement of that dispute could be reached that was felt to be just by the Palestinians, I do not believe that Iraq would persist in calling for the abolition of Israel, as it currently does. Like many others, I believe that that would be the best, and probably the only, way to lower tension and achieve disarmament in the Middle East, including Iraq. Israel's refusal for 35 years to evacuate the West Bank in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 and, on the contrary, to build settlements there, as the right reverend Prelate mentioned, is held to be an outrage throughout the Arab world. To insist on Iraq's disarmament according to Security Council resolutions in the face of that is regarded in the Arab world as hypocrisy by the United States and the United Kingdom.

Finally, as other noble Lords have pointed out, there is no credible evidence for the involvement of Iraq in international terrorism. Far from helping to win the war against terrorism, it is highly likely that an American attack on Iraq would unleash more events like those of 9/11 because of the anger that would be generated throughout the Arab world. That was pointed out passionately by my noble friend Lady Uddin.

Terrorism can be defeated in the long run only by engaging with the underlying perceived injustices. In the case of Al'Qaeda, two of the injustices mentioned by Bin Laden in his video were the continued American air attacks on Iraq and the Palestinian conflict. The best way to counteract Al'Qaeda is not to attack Iraq but to bring her gradually back into the family of nations while at the same time working to create a viable Palestinian state. That aim has been repeated many times on both sides of the Atlantic. It is time for us to get on with it.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar

My Lords, when or if the United States attacks Iraq and Britain takes part, it may well be one of the least compelling wars that Britain has ever fought: uncompelling because the given reasons that war against Saddam is a necessary part of the war against terror, and that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction present an immediate and appalling threat to the United States, Britain and everyone else, are not altogether convincing.

The first reason is surely specious because there is no evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden or Al'Qaeda. Such evidence would be extremely unlikely. Although the Iraqi regime is as abominable as one could find, both at home and abroad, it is almost the most secular of Muslim states in the Middle East or anywhere else.

The second reason seems extremely improbable. When, shortly after the end of the Second World War, it was discovered that Soviet Russia was out to build nuclear weapons, a number of people including, surprisingly enough, Bertrand Russell, advocated dropping an atomic bomb on Russia to stop it from doing so. Luckily, their counsels were disregarded. Russia became a nuclear power and theories of deterrence were evolved which worked. At that time the Soviet Union was ruled by a tyrant, Stalin, every bit as unspeakable as Saddam Hussein is today in Iraq. Deterrence has suddenly been forgotten or abandoned. It has to be; otherwise the threat would be shown to be far less real than people make out. If Saddam used any weapons of mass destruction against the West or Israel, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, he would be pulverised within hours. It is, therefore, unthinkable that he could use them.

If the given reasons for war against Iraq are insufficient, why are Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld—but not, significantly, Colin Powell, or, according to General Zinni, virtually every general in the United States Army—itching for a war against Iraq? From the New York Times last week we know that on that very day, September 11th, Rumsfeld said, "Now we can go after Saddam". In other words, he was looking for an excuse.

I think that there are four additional reasons, none creditable and none attractive to most people in this country, why the hawks in the United States are out for war. Not necessarily in order of importance, the first is electoral. It has been pointed to by many in the United States. With the American economy languishing, medical costs rising and other problems, it is important for the Republican party to have a war atmosphere and to have the electorate focus on the probability of war rather than domestic considerations which favour the Democratic Party.

The second reason is oil. With its vast oil reserves, Iraq is obviously a tempting target to the United States, in particular to this administration with its close connections with the oil industry.

The third is historic or dynastic. Although Iraq suffered enormous damage, the mere survival of Saddam after the Gulf War has made a number of Americans think that in some way he won and they intend to remedy that.

The fourth reason is the American desire for control of the Middle East. As the distinguished American columnist, William Pfaff, put it a few days ago, a part of the neoconservative and pro Israeli community influencing Bush administration policy argues that a war against Saddam Hussein should be seen in the context of a long-term American policy for transforming the Muslim Middle East". As well as "regime change" in Iraq, that policy envisages American domination of, the entire Middle East", and, above all, an Arab-Israeli settlement on terms acceptable to Israel". The first and fourth reasons are the most important. Of course now the given cause of the war is the observance of UN resolutions. That is an extremely good cause in itself but, as has been asked, why are we being so selective about abiding by UN resolutions? Leaving aside Turkey, as has been said, Israel is in breach of many UN resolutions. If President Bush had said in his recent very able speech at the United Nations that both Iraq and Israel would have to abide by and obey United Nations resolutions so that Iraq would be disarmed and Israel would end its occupation of Palestinian land, his speech would have been almost unanimously welcomed and applauded. But, of course, he did not say that because of American double standards.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, mentioned the double standards and pointed out that Israelis were not the only people affected by Resolution 242; the Arabs had to make peace at the same time. But she did not add that when the Saudi initiative was accepted at the Beirut Summit by all Arab states, Sharon's response was a deafening silence in words but not in gunfire: he merely intensified the war in Palestine. The American Administration are hated in most of the Middle East because of their policies on Arab-Israel which are regarded as corrupt and hypocritical: corrupt because they are not determined by decency or justice but by American domestic considerations, votes and money; and hypocritical because, while pretending to be even handed, they are entirely on one side. As Israel's leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, wrote recently, the administration have, let Israel wage its war against the Palestinians without restrictions". And as one of Israel's most eminent historians, Avi Shlaim, has written, It is not peace that Sharon seeks with the Palestinians but their surrender and expulsion". The Bush Administration will be even more detested if they attack Iraq, as will Britain, even though Saddam Hussein's regime is very unpopular in the Middle East. We must hope that war when it comes will be short and victorious. If it is longer, the only effect will be to create more terrorists in the Middle East.

4.48 p.m.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

My Lords, today the Government have published the dossier, Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction and I welcome that. But surely examination of weapons of mass destruction is only one major element of our concern about Iraq. Are there not other areas of equal importance which we should discuss in order to bring into balance our overall foreign policy objectives? These should be, first, security for the region—by "the region" we do not mean just the Palestine-Israeli conflict which has been referred to a number of times by noble Lords—but also the oppression of the Syrians, the lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia and the various ways in which we seek security for a deeply troubled region mainly ruled by different variants of dictatorship. That security is a critically important factor.

Secondly, our task should be to implement the rights of the Iraqi people: first and foremost, their right to life. The UN declaration of human rights has been violated many hundreds, thousands and millions of times by Saddam Hussein. Should we not today be discussing in far greater depth and with much greater concern than we have shown in our debates in recent weeks the rights of the Iraqi people?

Then there is the question of the rule of international law. This is still a fragmentary mechanism. We have, against considerable opposition, established the International Criminal Court, but even that cannot be used retrospectively for the many crimes against humanity committed by Saddam Hussein, and against the Iraqi people in particular. In terms of international law, the question arises of the integrity of the United Nations no less; but beyond that, the rights of the Iraqi people have been cut across consistently, ranging from the depths of the conflicts created by Saddam Hussein's destruction of the Iraqi marshland to the bombing with chemical weapons of the northern Kurdish people. In those instances the United Nations convention on genocide has been breached.

All would agree that in our foreign policy we have a great responsibility for the maintenance in good repair of the transatlantic alliance. Here, we have a responsibility not only for the bilateral transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and the UK, important though that is, but surely for the maintenance and good repair of what is perhaps the most important force for peace and good in the world today. I refer to the transatlantic alliance between the European Union and the USA. Let us make no mistake: the 15 member states of the European Union and the further 13 potential entrants to the EU are the largest single bloc of people in the world brought together for peaceful reasons. When we link up with another great democracy, the USA, together we should be an unbeatable force for good, provided always that we are working for the right ends.

I am concerned that, in our deep intensive discussions on weapons of mass destruction, we may forget that they are a means and not an end in themselves, and that essentially it is not so much a question of who owns the weapons of mass destruction but of how those owners choose to use them.

I have a small piece of first-hand evidence to offer. I recall, in the late 1990s when the inspectors were still in Iraq, interviewing some deeply traumatised people who could barely breathe. They had crept across the border between Iraq and Iran, having been bombed, as they told me, by a weapon of mass destruction. A small aeroplane had come over the horizon into the southern Iraqi marshlands, too low, I suppose, for our Vulcan jets overflying the area to see. The plane dropped something which turned into a huge yellow cloud. I was told that a number of people had fallen dead on the spot, in a village near to the border with Iran. This small handful of people, choking and barely able to breathe, crept across. I took their testimony.

It is worth remembering that Iraq is an enormous country. Even were the weapons inspectors to crawl all over every millimetre of every so-called presidential site and dig down to eternity, how could they possibly find every trace of such weapons? That is not to say that we should not try, but the inspectors' report cannot be the only determinant.

I suggest that the genocide convention—our commitment to the right to life of the Iraqi people—and our deep concern for the security of region must weigh just as heavily in the balance as whether or not the inspectors manage to lay their hands on yet more weapons of mass destruction. But I wish them well.

In May this year, the European Parliament passed a profoundly serious resolution. I was the drafter of the resolution. It was strengthened by the Foreign Affairs Committee. In the end we passed it with an 85 per cent majority. It was a double-sized report because of the importance of what we felt we had to say. It was accepted by the European Commission. We are now awaiting such implementation of our final resolution as the Commission can achieve. We are concerned that the Council of Ministers does not seem to have taken the report fully into account.

We made a number of serious proposals. Our view at the time—and it continues to be our view—was that Iraq certainly posed a threat to regional stability and world security. I remind the House that under UN resolutions from the beginning of the last decade Saddam Hussein has been forbidden to set up training camps for terrorists. Yet we know that he has been training the MKO terrorists. We have all the evidence that we require that he has not stopped this particular action. I would guess that he has been training other terrorists too. But we have the knowledge that he has not stopped

In our European Parliament report we propose a number of matters that are discussed in the British Government's report today, including the need for independent inspectors to examine the reconstruction of prohibited programmes for the development of weapons of mass destruction. We felt most profoundly, however, that the serious humanitarian situation within Iraq should be addressed, and we reiterated the absolute obligation of the Iraqi Government, to implement fully and immediately all UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1284, and to co-operate in all respects with the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies.

We stated that in our view the Iraqi Government had indeed continued over the past 11 years to increase their regime of terror against all levels of society and to commit gross and massive human rights violations. This included the active persecution of the Kurdish people, the Turkmen, the Assyrian populations and the Shia; the earlier destruction of the Christian population; the destruction of the Jewish population earlier still; and particularly the destruction of the inhabitants and the entire destruction of the ancient way of life, including the animals and fish, of the Mesopotamian marshlands and of all the Tigris and Euphrates waterways. We stated in our resolution of May this year that there was no sign of a change in that policy.

Earlier this year a short report was published by UNEP. It took 10 years for UNEP to address the marshland drainage. Even so, there must have been some political interference. With regard to the destruction of the Iraqi marshlands—30,000 miles of waterways—the UNEP report did not show that the last 10 per cent is being destroyed now.

The European Parliament resolution comments that the status and situation of women, children, ethnic minorities and religious groups inside Iraq has gone downhill drastically and dramatically in the last decade. Political rights have been destroyed, as have civil rights, liberties and family rights. There has been systematic violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Indeed, there has been the training of children in armies and associated practices with minors.

So we resolved that the European Council and the member states should take all necessary measures to bring those officials of the Iraqi regime who were responsible for those serious violations of international humanitarian law carried out inside Iraq and outside its territories before an ad hoc international criminal tribunal.

We pointed out that such a tribunal could indeed be established—as has been discussed but has not happened over a long period—by a United Nations Security Council Resolution, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. We took note that this had not happened despite many pleas. Therefore, we recommended another mechanism that had not been identified or articulated previously. I want to draw this to the attention of the House. Someone has to act to make this happen. We pointed out that such a tribunal could be set up, pursuant to treaty, by the concerned and injured states. We stated that this was an essential route to follow, since Article 11, the jurisdiction ratione temporis, of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court gives jurisdiction only with respect to crimes committed after the entry into force of the statute in July 2002.

Recognising that it would take a little time for concerned and injured states to draw up a treaty and to set up a tribunal, we proposed the setting up of an office of inquiry for human rights violations in order to prepare all the necessary evidence and an official register of the numerous violations perpetrated by the Iraqi regime. We called on the European Union to set up such an office without delay.

Many debates on Iraq have taken place during the past decade—indeed, I have been responsible for tabling a number of them myself. I am sad to recall that in one debate the present Leader of the other place completely disagreed and claimed, for example, that the drainage of the marshes was not happening. I remember that he declared in the other place that the burning of the houses in the villages was just what the Ma'dan had been doing for 5,000 years for health reasons. I also recall another Member in the other place who visits Iraq regularly asking from a seated position what the loss of a little drinking water was to a few Arabs. I am sad that such violations of human rights should have been treated with such levity and such a disgraceful attitude. I know that that would not happen in your Lordships' House.

I ask most seriously that we should here, today, take this major breach of the 1948 convention on genocide and look at Article 2, which defines genocide as: Killing members of the group: Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group". We should also look at Article 3 and consider how such actions should be punished, as well as considering Article 8 that talks about the way in which this should happen, which is as I have described: bringing about a trial of the accused. The setting up of a competent tribunal of the state in the territory in which the act was committed is the first objective. However, that has not happened over the period of 11 years, or longer, in Iraq. Therefore, as regards these breaches of the convention, I believe that we have not only a right but an obligation to establish such a panel outside the country. Just two states would be sufficient. Curiously, they could possibly even be the United Kingdom and the USA.

That is why I urge your Lordships to take human rights and the security of the region just as seriously as the question of weapons of mass destruction. If we care only for ourselves and our defence, are we really worthy to be judged as people who uphold the moral standards of international law? I think not. We should be just as concerned about the people of the region and, most particularly, about the people of Iraq. I call upon this Government to take steps to bring out the perpetrators of these injustices. They should bring together the contracting treaty parties and rapidly establish the ad hoc criminal tribunal. They should urge the European Union, which is a good body for this task, to set up an office of human rights and introduce the register. They should move rapidly because the Iraqi people can wait no longer. We have had enough debates. The time has come to act. As the accused will not come willingly to trial, then, yes, I believe that we can and should justify the use of force.

5.3 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, an inevitable consequence of being the 25th speaker in a debate is that one is bound to repeat and perhaps—even worse—to appear to ignore points already made by previous speakers. However, I should like to ask the Minister the following brief questions.

First, if we join the United States in a military attack on Iraq, what follows? The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said that this was not a question for today. But, with respect, I believe that it is a question that we need to address. Who will run Iraq in Saddam Hussein's place—assuming that we can in fact change his regime? Do the Iraqi opposition groups have any credibility now, let alone after they have been put into power by outside intervention? Are we confident of being able to unseat that great survivor, Saddam Hussein, without at least the risk of him unleashing some of the weapons of mass destruction that any invasion is presumably intended to remove and destroy?

Secondly, I have read this morning's dossier very carefully. But I see nothing in it to prove Saddam Hussein's connections with Al'Qaeda, or, indeed, with Palestinian extremists, let alone any involvement in the events of 11th September. Of course we have known for a very long time what a despicable and murderous tyrant he is. But what has changed? And why the urgency?

Thirdly, the Prime Minister is to be congratulated on any influence that he may have brought to bear on President Bush to agree to a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. But is the international community being invited to pass a resolution, ostensibly designed to reach a diplomatic solution in Iraq, when the United States may already have taken the decision to go to war? I see that suggestions in New York that regime change is on ice have been vigorously denied in Washington.

Fourthly, I recall Ministers telling us that we must be tough on the causes of terror. Have our American friends forgotten that one of the main causes of terror and resentment in the Middle East, and throughout the Islamic world, is the lack of any apparent readiness in Washington to use their undoubted influence to bring about a just and lasting peace settlement between the Arabs and Israel?

Much has been made of Iraq's failure to implement Security Council resolutions. Given the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, their failure to evacuate illegal settlements, and the outrageous attacks on President Arafat's headquarters during the past few days, talk of Iraq's failure to implement Security Council resolutions must strike the Islamic world as double standards at their worst.

I hope that I do not need, as other speakers have, to declare my admiration and affection for the United States, having served for five years in the British Embassy in Washington and having worked closely with American friends and colleagues for the 36 years that I spent in the Diplomatic Service. However, I find it astonishing that President Bush's speech to the United Nations contained no more than a few words on Palestine; and that the interview reported in yesterday's Financial Times with the National Security Adviser contained not a single reference to either Israel or Palestine. I very much welcome the passage on Palestine in the Prime Minister's speech that was repeated to us today. I hope that he can use his influence with President Bush to get the Americans to take the Palestinian issue as seriously as the Prime Minister clearly does.

I do not know whether the new strategy of preemption announced by Washington last week scares the Islamic world, whom it seems designed primarily to target, but, by God, it scares me. Frequent references have been made in the United States to further possible targets—or, "shopping lists" as described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell—for American military action. Iran, Syria and the Yemen have all been mentioned. Are we to stand shoulder to shoulder in the name of regime change there as well? And do we now accept the principle that international law and the United Nations Charter are irrelevant, and that unpleasant regimes should be evicted by external force?

I believe that we are at an extremely dangerous cross-roads. Are we wise to set ourselves on a collision course with the entire Islamic world, at a time when we should be concentrating our attention on the basic causes of terrorism and resentment against the West? Have we really measured the impact of a military attack on our wider political and economic interests in the Middle East, and on the stability of governments, with several of whom we have actually concluded treaties of friendship?

I hope that the Minister will confirm that our immediate aim in Iraq is not just disarmament, but disarmament through the effective, prompt and supported use of weapons inspectors. But in terms of removing a threat to the United States—or, indeed, to the world as a whole—the failure to move towards a comprehensive and just peace settlement in Israel and Palestine and also in Syria is, I submit, of equal urgency. I shall not get into an argument with the noble Lord, Lord Janner, who I see is not now in his place, except to remind him and the House that it was Mr Sharon's deliberate act of provocation in Jerusalem two years ago that set off the latest intifada over the past two years.

Finally, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I again quote the Foreign Secretary's remark in April of this year, in the context of the Palestinian authority, that, none of us can choose who leads governments or administrations in foreign countries". How do attempts to change other people's governments by force square with our calls for greater democracy in the Middle East?

5.10 p.m.

Lord Winston

My Lords, I have a son aged 21. One of his friends has already been referred to in the Chamber today by my noble friend Lord Janner of Braunstone. Jonathan was of the same age. He had five A-levels. He had places in Cambridge and in London. In two or three weeks' time he was due to start reading medicine in London. He was taking a lunch trip to visit some other friends of my son when his brains were replaced by a piece of metal.

Your Lordships have heard the story of how his mother flew out to Israel so that the life support machine was not switched off. My noble friend Lord Janner did not point out how he was nursed next to Arabs in the same hospital ward by people who were treating Arabs and Israelis equally. Noble Lords have heard how he donated his kidney. It might seem that this is an isolated incident. It is not.

I picked fruit with Palestinians. Cousins of mine built up factories on the West Bank in order to improve the lot of Palestinians and their welfare in all kinds of ways. My cousin was responsible for all kinds of water irrigation projects in what is now the West Bank. He did so because he felt that it was his duty to try and improve the lot generally of the area and not just of Israel.

Last year my son, the one I have just referred to, Ben, was teaching football to Arabs. He brought the Arsenal Football Club out there to support him. One of the Arab fathers said to him, "What a marvellous coach you are. You must be a professional". My son said, "No, actually, I'm a university student" He then immediately bought an entire Arsenal strip for the Arab boys of that village.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said something which was absolutely pertinent. It has been referred to again and again. She said that we have not addressed the Palestinian issue. I would argue that none of us today has addressed the Palestinian/Israeli issue and that there is a failure of understanding of what the basic issues are.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London referred earlier to the perils of violence. One of the most violent things in our society is violent language. Sadly, in the past we have heard a good deal of violent language in this Chamber and in the other place. It is not helpful. It cannot heal wounds. Violent language does not bring peace.

In Jewish tradition there is a phrase called loshen h'rah which means "the evil tongue". It is regarded as being one of the worst things to do. Bad-mouthing someone undermines one in a quite extraordinary way. Sadly, for the past few years one of the problems that has faced us in the world has been this increase in violent language. Do noble Lords not think that those young men who flew into the twin towers in New York had not been deprived but that they had been subjected throughout their youth to the violent language, the commitment to do something which was an evil crime? That is a fundamental problem.

I do not know whether my noble friend Lady Uddin reads Arabic. Like my noble friend Lord Janner, I have tried to learn it. My modern Hebrew is also much of a smattering. But I can tell your Lordships that in the Middle East on the Palestinian side children from the very earliest ages are treated to the most appalling violent language—to anti-Semitic literature which would make the Nazis look like pansies by comparison. That violence of language pervades the society. It goes through the media, the newspapers, television and textbooks. One can see it. I, together with many of my friends, can provide evidence of that. It is self-evident. It is a problem that we must face. Until we understand that violence we cannot really get to grips with the issue.

I regret very much that my noble friend Lady Uddin is not in her place to listen to my speech. I wrote down carefully what she said. She said that Israel has perpetrated state terrorism; that Israel literally gets away with murder; and she talked of the brutalisation of Palestinian people. Those are some of the phrases she used. They are common phrases. They may seem banal and mild. They are not. They are quite shocking. She talked about the abandonment of the Palestinian people 60 years ago. Those people were not abandoned by Israel.

Israel is a tiny country, the size of Wales or Northern Ireland. It is surrounded by huge wealth and huge countries occupied by, in the main, a desperately poor people who are definitely and appallingly under-privileged and who desperately need help.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, talked about Iraq being the cradle of civilisation. It is true that written language started there. But we are not talking about Sumeria, Arcadia, Akkad or Ur. Iraq was founded by Britain in 1932. Indeed, it was only about eight years later that we re-invaded Iraq because we saw the Nazi sympathies in that country. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, referred to the Balfour declaration as though this was something unusual. But the whole of the Middle East is a creation of the West and to a large extent of the British Empire. We have to take some responsibility for that.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I just want to clarify what I said. I apologise if I referred to Iraq as though I was referring to the nation, I was referring to the geographical territory known as Iraq, which still has, as the noble Lord will know, many artefacts and monuments which date from the Sumerian civilisation.

Lord Winston

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I was not referring to her speech in any pejorative sense. It was merely to put the record straight, as it were.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, said that he thought that this issue was in many ways one of the most difficult he had faced in 30 years of politics. I have only sat in this Chamber for seven years, and I think that it is an extraordinarily perplexing issue.

Perhaps in many ways the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford summed up the feelings of so many of my friends. We would be prepared to fight a just war, but the question is whether this is actually justice.

I do not believe that we can enter into the possibility of a confrontation which would be seen to be a conflict with the Muslim world. That is not acceptable. The Muslim world has an absolute right to exist and in peace the same as the rest of the world. It is particularly sad that so much of the Muslim world is extremely poor, under-privileged, sometimes poorly educated and—dare I say it—frequently very poorly led. There is a huge conundrum for the West.

Above all we must recognise that we must obey international law. Not to do so could result in a descent into tyranny, injustice, chaos and anarchy. That is something we could be facing. We have to find different ways of understanding the problem. Today, to my mind, we have shown surprisingly little understanding.

Perhaps I may refer to one aspect of the United Nations Charter which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Rea and to some extent by other noble Lords. There is a fundamental difference between chapters VI and VII of the United Nations Charter. Iraq threatening peace is a grave issue. The issue about withdrawing to borders is not a matter of the threatening of peace; it is a question of resolution to achieve a peaceful process and it is not enforceable under UN law in the same kind of way.

It is all very well to talk about Israel refusing to return to its border, but that is misleading. Israel offered to return all those territories two or three years ago and because Arafat refused a moderate Labour government collapsed. The result was a hard line. The risk is that the more we have the conflict, the more the hard line may be followed.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, the Barak government offered the Palestinians home rule. However, the Israelis would continue their settlements, control the roads and control the borders. That is not an independent state. It was not a generous offer.

Lord Winston

My Lords, that is not my perception of what was referred to. I have no doubt that other speakers will come back on that issue and I do not want to detain the House. However, the issue was clearly that there was effectively something like an offer of 98 per cent of the disputed territory on paper. It was something that could be debated and negotiated. Sadly those negotiations failed, I believe, through no fault of the then Prime Minister.

Whatever happens, there must be no pre-emption in the Middle East. If the worst comes to the worst, simply having those mass weapons of destruction—appalling though the dossier is—is not a convincing reason to strike at the present time. I fear that we may even have to take a hit. It may even be Israel which needs to take that hit, but somebody may be struck by Iraq. Perhaps then there would be a just war that could ensue.

It is a sad issue. However, we must recognise that in these debates there will be all sorts of pieces of intelligence to which we shall not have access. To some extent, only people close to the centre of government will have that access. Above all, we must trust our leaders. At present we have fine examples of moral leadership. We must recognise that we shall have to trust the decision to those people when it comes. We shall have to follow that decision to do the best we can to try to ensure peace and to seek justice where it is needed.

5.22 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

My Lords, I rise to speak as one of the signatories to the Pax Christi Declaration that was presented to the Prime Minister at the beginning of August. That declaration included this strong statement: It is deplorable that the World's most powerful nations continue to regard war and the threat of war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy, in violation of the ethos of both the United Nations and Christian moral teaching. The way to peace does not lie through war but through the transformation of structures of injustice and of the politics of exclusion, and that is the cause to which the West should be devoting its technological, diplomatic and economic resources". I remain firmly identified with that declaration and have an increasing sense of foreboding about the likelihood and consequences of some form of military action being taken against Iraq, particularly if the USA acts unilaterally. Brinkmanship is high risk strategy. It creates a war expectation momentum. Ears can be deafened to reason and readjustment. By prosecuting military action, economic and other resources are inevitably diverted from the war on poverty and injustice, further endangering the lives of millions of innocent people over and above those who become victims of the conflict itself.

I do not for one moment deny the brutality of the Iraqi regime. Saddam Hussein is guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. He has ruthlessly manipulated the sanctions deal to his own ends. But as a result, the Iraqi people—especially the children and not the regime—have borne the brunt of the sanctions in terms of infant mortality, chronic malnutrition, the inaccessibility of clean water, and crumbling health and education provision. How can we contemplate unleashing yet more misery upon them?

In addition, there is the question—and it has been touched on often today—of the possible destabilisation of the whole Middle East in the event of military action. It was King Abdullah of Jordan who warned that: The Middle East could go up in flames". He added another vivid picture when he said: In the light of the failure to move the Israeli-Palestinian process forward, military action against Iraq would really open a Pandora's Box". In my view, shared by many, there is a seemingly relentless concentration by Washington and London on dealing with Iraq which should be diverted to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is also the justifiable complaint that UN resolutions are being sought and then selectively applied to outlaw Saddam Hussein while leaving other transgressors untouched.

The repercussions from any military attack on Iraq will inevitably be far wider than the Middle East. For example, the current fragile peace process, seeking to bring to an end years of civil war in the Sudan, could be jeopardised. Here in Britain, Christian, Muslim and Jewish relations would be severely tested. I serve a diocese which includes a substantial part of multi-faith multi-cultural East London, as well as Essex. Many Jews and Muslims are feeling vulnerable, particularly since 11th September last year. Both communities have witnessed verbal abuse, and in some cases physical abuse, both to property and to person. The discernible increase in anti-Semitism is a matter of concern.

Generally speaking, British Muslims would view an attack against Iraq as another example of "double standards". For Muslims in the US, Britain and Europe as a whole, that is exacerbated by increased "anti-terrorist" legislation which appears to undermine their basic human rights. Many Muslims in Britain are feeling further alienated as a result of the ongoing debate on citizenship and the need to "prove" their loyalty to the United Kingdom.

There is a growing feeling that speaking out against the Government over Iraq may be taken as evidence of "disloyalty". For many Muslims, in this country and elsewhere, a military attack on Iraq would be aligned with hostility to the Islamic world as such. Much of the patient work of repairing, healing and strengthening inter-faith community relations since September 11th could be destroyed.

We are all acutely mindful of Saddam Hussein's predictable record of flouting UN Resolutions. However, there remains—and this has been stressed again and again today—a strong moral obligation for further weapon inspection to be given a chance to work.

In conclusion, I believe that removing the dangers posed by dictators and terrorists can only ultimately be achieved by tackling the root causes of the disputes themselves. That is the path that needs to be pursued. Peacemaking with justice, not war-making, must be the focus. You will be aware of the apostle Paul's injunction: Do not he overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good". My fear is that we are in great danger of being overcome by evil.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Alli

My Lords, I can only imagine the responsibility that must lay on the shoulders of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and his advisers. Theirs is seemingly an impossible task to balance the unbalanceable, to build a coalition where there is discord and to provide consistency where inconsistency has been the norm. Whatever the outcome of this debate and the debate in another place, I hope that my right honourable friend will reflect on what both Houses have to say and take strength and guidance from our words.

I am not privy to the detailed intelligence that my right honourable friend has at hand, nor do I have access to the military and civilian expertise that he has. So my knowledge is limited to the dossier published today, which I have managed only to skim-read. However, in the final analysis, I hope and trust the Prime Minister's judgment on these matters because he will have before him a better picture.

It is these judgments over the coming months that I believe will lay the foundation for a new world order for the coming years. And it is in those judgments, too, that I believe lie the hopes of millions of young Muslims, Christians and Jews. Without that hope lies a path to terror and more violence.

There are two major objectives in my contribution to this debate today. The first is to reassure my noble friends on the Front Bench that they will have my full support in the coming months for whatever action they feel is necessary in this fight against terror. The second is to put forward my own view, along with others, in this House to help them in their deliberations about what that action might be.

There seem to be a number of pivotal questions, many of which have been touched on, that need to be addressed and I have tried to distil a complex set of issues into the following questions. First, does Saddam Hussein pose a credible threat to the peace and stability of the world? Secondly, does Saddam Hussein possess chemical and biological weapons? Thirdly, is Saddam Hussein attempting to build a nuclear arsenal? Fourthly, should the United Kingdom press for the full implementation of UN resolutions and if resisted should it use force' Fifthly, should the United Kingdom, together with the United States, seek a new UN resolution which is stronger and more robust? Sixthly, does the UK require any further resolutions from the UN to authorise the use of force? Seventhly, should the United Kingdom go it alone with the US even if it is isolated from the rest of the world? Eighthly, is regime change a sensible idea on which to base present and future foreign policy?

Let me address those questions in turn. Yes, I believe that Saddam Hussein poses a credible threat to the peace and stability of the world. And, yes, I believe that he has developed chemical and biological weapons and that he seeks a nuclear capability. And, yes, I believe that we should use force if necessary to ensure that UN resolutions relating to Iraq are fully implemented. It seems to be a nonsensical position to give an ultimatum about weapons' inspections without the ability to force compliance. If the UN does not implement its resolutions, it is the weaker for it.

Yes, I believe that if possible we should seek a stronger and more robust UN resolution. However, I do not believe that there is a further requirement for additional resolutions to authorise military actions. Although perhaps it is not wise in this instance, I tend to share the view expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, during the Falklands conflict when she made clear that she felt that sovereign powers should have the ability to act without reference to other organisations provided they were not in violation of international law.

Should Britain go it alone with the US if isolated in world opinion? If my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and his Cabinet were satisfied that that was the only course of action likely to succeed, I believe that they should. Finally, is regime change a sensible idea on which to base foreign policy? I have to say that on this issue I part company with our allies, the United States Administration. It is a very tempting policy, but I would counsel my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to be careful with such a policy because it unlocks as many injustices as it seeks to solve.

Having said all of that, I believe that whatever action we take in the coming months we will have residual obligations as a result of those policies. The first obligation is to examine our own policy towards Israel and in particular the Middle East and to put pressure on President Bush to do more to begin a sensible peace process and put it in place to curb a cycle of violence.

Secondly, we need to extend the hand of friendship to Muslim and Arab countries and seek a more permanent alliance with Arab nations. Further, we must embrace Islam and not shy away from it and we must support the moderates and not rubbish what we do not understand. Here I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Uddin for what must have been a difficult speech. I applaud her bravery.

Thirdly, we must stop the fight against terrorism being hijacked by those who seek to use violence and military action for which there is no justification, except political convenience. I think in particular of Israel, Pakistan, India and even Russia with regard to Chechnya.

Fourthly, we should never forget that we armed Saddam Hussein and supported his regime. If we are to keep the moral high ground, there can be no justification for arms sales into that region. I find the argument that if we did not sell arms they would be bought somewhere else morally repugnant. You cannot have an ethical foreign policy, or anything that resembles it, and sell arms.

Finally, we have to call Saddam Hussein's bluff. He long ago forfeited his right to be trusted and should not be allowed to hide behind the right of sovereignty, for it is he who is in violation of international treaty and law, not us; it is he who has turned on his own people, not us; and in this instance it is he who is the aggressor, not us. As in all cases of aggression, appeasement is a weak weapon and in most cases aggression needs to be fought with aggression—even though many in this House and outside hope and pray that further force can be avoided. But if it is needed we should be ready to use it and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister should know that I, in that event, will give him my support.

5.37 p.m.

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, I welcome the debate and the opportunity for this House to contribute what is undoubtedly a considerable range of experience. The phrase "déjà vu" has already been used and it is obvious that some of us recognise similarities to situations we have been in previously.

It is right that this House and the other place are debating the matter because of the particular importance of the role of the United Kingdom. It is easy to flatter ourselves that we are key players. We know that we are not a world power but there is no question that one super superpower, as described earlier, cannot easily proceed on its own. It has a desperate need for partners. Previous personal observations lead me to believe that a particular British contribution can be made in terms of our background and experience over many decades of this sensitive and difficult part of the world. My noble friend Lord Hurd referred to the sense of public uncertainty so it is right that Parliament should speak at this most difficult of times. It should try to meet some of the concerns about an acutely dangerous situation that to many people has suddenly arrived.

In that most dangerous and volatile part of the world we have the unattractive and evil figure of Saddam Hussein. I do not believe that anyone seriously challenges the evidence, which is confirmed in the dossier and the earlier work of the IISS, that he is, if anything, accelerating his programme of producing lethal weapons of mass destruction. Added to that and, I am sure, to the question which the noble Lord, Lord Wright, sensed as to why we are in this situation and the Americans so concerned about the issue; whether or not Saddam Hussein intends to have such weapons purely for his own defence, the stability of his own regime and his own survival; and whether he sees weapons of mass destruction as a way to garner and increase his domination, power and influence in the area, there has to be the very real risk, which has been brought vividly home, that whether or not he has any link with Al'Qaeda at the present time, the fact is that in a rogue state, if ever there was one, there exist such weapons that could become the property of a terrorist group that does not need missiles or to address the maps that have been drawn out in the dossier to show just how far particular missiles fly. There are plenty of ways of moving weapons of mass destruction around the world. We know of the disruption caused to the US postal service by relatively small quantities of anthrax. That showed how easily terror could be spread without the need for massive missile capability.

It is in that situation that the United States initially and Her Majesty's Government have taken the view that enough is enough. United Nations resolutions were initiated 11 years ago at the end of the Gulf War. They have been systematically flouted and evaded over this period. Every device has been used to try to avoid the UN resolutions. Now it is not a stalemate situation, but the programmes are being accelerated. The resolutions now need to be enforced. The clear message of the Government and the United Nations should be that that is the objective. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alli. I find the phrase "regime change" particularly unattractive. We said during the Gulf War that if the outcome was the death of Saddam Hussein we would not shed tears over it. But the objective was the liberation of Kuwait and that was the kernel around which we were able to have United Nations support at that time. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent, said, it is important to have a clear objective which not just nations, sophisticated ambassadors and the United Nations debating these issues, but people can understand. I accept that it may not be necessary for legal purposes, as the noble Lord suggested, but for presentational purposes there should be a new, strong resolution in the United Nations giving authority for the enforcement, if necessary, of UN weapons inspection and the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. That is the right course to take.

I also accept that that must be backed by credible force. Having seen that once and the difficulties that we had then, it is a much more difficult problem. It is very easy to say that we must have credible force. I ask noble Lords to consider what that means. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, referred to the possible degradation of the Iraqi army. I accept that it is probably not what it was. Perhaps it never was. That was one of the mysteries perhaps of the Gulf War. Nonetheless, we shall need significant forces and ensure that they appear credible. No one should be under any illusions that Saddam Hussein will resist, not just because he is naturally devious and wishing to be as awkward as he can, but because he needs weapons of mass destruction. They have been essential to the survival of his regime. He believes that it is only by possessing such weapons and using them, such as 100,000 chemical shells, that he was able to resist the human wave of Iranian troops which Iraq faced in the Iran-Iraq war. I do not support this belief, but Saddam Hussein believes that it was possession of chemical and biological weapons which persuaded us not to go to Baghdad at the end of the Gulf War. That is not true because our authority was the liberation of Kuwait and not the capture of Iraq or the invasion of Baghdad. But he believes that. In a real sense it is his life insurance policy. I do not fancy that Saddam looks forward to a quiet retirement in a suitable retirement home were he ever to lose power. Because of the challenge that he faces he will wish by every means possible to maintain his weapons of mass destruction.

Nonetheless, I believe that we have to work through the United Nations and establish the toughest possible resolution there for the inspectors to go into Iraq and to seek to identify and remove the weapons of mass destruction. I know that it is said in America—some may have heard Richard Perle say it last night on television—that if you know that using the inspectors will not work then why bother. The reason why one must bother, even though one may have the deepest cynicism about the system working, is to return to my message of carrying world opinion with us. We have to be seen to have tried and to have shown that that is our objective. It is important to keep faith with the vital Arab neighbour countries which are in such a precarious position.

I believe that I was not the only noble Lord who was struck by what appeared to be a rather sudden change of view at the United Nations by a number of Arab countries who appeared to be unsympathetic and not keen to have troops based on their territory. They changed their views. I heard it suggested that that was in recognition of a superb speech by President Bush. His adoption of the route through the United Nations was obviously helpful, but I am sure that it was much more than that. Those Arab countries then believed that there was a determination to see this matter through. There was surprise in Arab countries at the end of the Gulf War when it was realised that Saddam Hussein was still in place even though Kuwait had been liberated and the Iraqi army had been defeated. That undoubtedly contributed to their nervousness and fear of his motivation and activities. I say as an aside that I cannot help thinking that if the bullets fired in Kandahar had been a centimetre or two in a different direction and Mr Karzai had been killed and the efforts of his special protection squad from the United States had been defeated, the result as regards some of the responses from Arab countries might have been different. That has brought out very clearly a point made by my noble friend Lord Hurd about the fragility of the situation. The insecurity of many of the countries and governments in the region contributes to the uncertainties in this most difficult problem that we face.

We now have to ensure that if we get a tough resolution from the United Nations we must have credible military force to back it up. That raises some horrific logistic problems and some very difficult problems of timing as well. The part of the world involved is not somewhere where one can stand to and stand down month after month. One moves into problems of temperature and the impossibility of conducting campaigns, perhaps in protective clothing and in temperatures around 40 degrees centigrade. There is a very real problem in how one sustains a militarily credible force in the area which is the only possible hope, if there is one, for a successful weapons inspection and the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction.

My own view on this matter now is that having reached the present position, it is essential that we see it through because we do not go back simply to where we were if we fail in the objective. If we fail to impose the will of the United Nations now on Saddam Hussein with the removal of his weapons of mass destruction, he will feel in a very real sense that he is now impregnable and that the world does not have the will to confront his deliberate obstruction of United Nations resolutions. He will become more aggressive and his neighbours will have to adjust their positions accordingly. They will then recognise where power lies and the future for that whole region will be much more uncertain and the position for the rest of the world and its future prosperity and security much more unpredictable.

5.50 p.m.

Lord Watson of Richmond

My Lords, in a debate of this length and complexity the danger of repetition is extreme and I am sure that I shall not avoid it entirely.

However, for that reason I want to focus on only one aspect of the Iraq crisis, namely, this country's relationship with the United States.

I believe in the special relationship, but taking the qualification of my noble friend, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, on the special relationship, I accept that it needs qualification. The special relationship exists because of language, history and significant shared values, but geography, population and economic power ensure that it is a special but not an equal relationship. Moral toughness, clarity of policy, reality about national interest and political skill will always be needed to ensure that this special, but not equal, relationship, does not deteriorate into a subservient relationship.

Details are important. It may seem a small, even a trivial, matter but last week I was made uneasy by the press photograph of the Foreign Secretary standing behind Colin Powell wearing a Stars and Stripes lapel badge crossed with the Union Jack. Why? Because we live in an age of symbols, a visual and a tele-visual age. Loyalty and friendship should be proclaimed, but not a sharing of identity by a Foreign Secretary charged with demonstrating and conveying the policy of the United Kingdom.

In relation to Kosovo and earlier crises, Her Majesty's Government have held distinctive positions that have influenced Washington. The resolution of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, in relation to the Falklands at first dismayed and then persuaded Washington. The Prime Minister's clarity over Serbia had a similar effect on President Clinton. In those cases the United Kingdom "leveraged" the special relationship, using it to make a distinctive and, I believe, valuable contribution to allied policy.

In what way are we now doing so? I accept that the Prime Minister's counsel almost certainly may have tipped the balance inside the United States Administration in favour of going to the United Nations rather than around it. It is a fact that to many people in this country, and particularly in the Arab world, we simply appear to be in America's wake. To identify fully with America's sorrow after 9/11, to share it as we did in this House—visually, symbolically and in our hearts—was right. To allow our actions, even inadvertently, to appear to be virtually unconditional to US leadership is quite different.

We must ensure that any US pre-emptive action against Iraq is sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. We must also voice the widespread concern in Europe that the despair of the Palestinian people be addressed. Israel has the right not only to exist but to have the moral and material support of the West to ensure that she does. But despair and hopelessness will always render the Middle East a danger to the peace of the world and to remove Saddam Hussein without seeming to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will produce "regime change" but ultimately no change in the Middle East.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no countervailing military power to match that of the United States. As a friend and democratic ally of the US we should welcome the novel fact that the power of democracy is no longer "check-mated" by the power of dictatorship. But in this situation the United States needs friends with their own and different vision of the world and the confidence to express it. We need to reflect a European as well as an Atlantic perspective. We must heed the views of important voices in the Commonwealth, and, having just returned from South Africa, I would say especially the very considered opinion expressed by President Mandela.

Winston Churchill, that closest ally of the United States, also struggled with her and saw Britain operating within three circles and not one: the Atlantic relationship, the European relationship and the Commonwealth relationship. He was right then and to me his perception remains right today. Thus, if "regime change" is imperative in Iraq it may also be in Zimbabwe.

If the United Nations inspectors are in any way impeded in Iraq, the Security Council must sanction military action. Time is of the essence, for Saddam Hussein will surely seek a nuclear capability and, as is clear from the dossier, there is at least a chance of his acquiring it. But military action must be seen to support the international order and not defy it or avoid it. America's power determines her responsibility not only to defend herself but to promote stability and fairness in the Middle East. We have a responsibility to help the US to understand and to achieve that.

Earlier this week a television documentary reminded us vividly of how at Suez British troops were deployed without national consensus. To put British Armed Forces in harm's way without clear, distinctive, national objectives which demonstrate to the British people and to all our allies that we have thought through the consequences for ourselves and for the Middle East will be to invite disaster. This debate is a step forward. The sober dossier published by the Government also helps. A new United Nations resolution specifying the consequences for Iraq if the United Nations inspectors are defied or disarmament is refused by Hussein will take us further—probably decisively further—to national consensus. As of this afternoon the argument has not yet been won. For all our sakes it has to be.

5.57 p.m.

Lord Inge

My Lords, like many noble Lords I welcome the debate because I believe that we are faced with an enormously important issue. I hope that the weapons inspection regime will succeed, but I am fairly sceptical. The key question to ask ourselves is whether the weapons of mass destruction capability of Iraq and Saddam Hussein's intention are so dangerous that we are prepared to go to war. I recognise what that could mean in terms of sacrifice and in terms of possible major consequences that go beyond the Gulf. The results of military action are never what one expects and never turn out as one hopes. In my view, we may be faced with a situation more difficult than the Gulf War, Bosnia or Kosovo.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. He has chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver some of them. Clearly, the character and personality of Saddam Hussein mean that he would be prepared to use them. Therefore, reluctantly I have come to the conclusion that we must be prepared to take military action. We do not have the luxury of saying to ourselves that we shall see how the weapons inspection regime goes—I shall touch on that in a minute—but we must have at the back of our minds the fact that we may have to use military force.

I pay tribute to our intelligence services, the unsung heroes who gathered the information and produced the dossier. I believe that, until recently, Her Majesty's Government presented the case for military action badly. As one or two noble Lords said, it would be disastrous if we were to commit our forces to armed action when they were unable to feel that they had the support of the country behind them. I cannot stress the importance of that too strongly.

What next? The Prime Minister and his officials deserve great credit for persuading President Bush to go via the United Nations. I am sure that that was the right way to proceed. However, we must recognise the pitfalls associated with that course of action. Saddam Hussein is, as has been said many times, a past master of duplicity and deception. He will play his usual cat-and-mouse game with the weapons inspectors, hoping that he can drag the process out and weaken the will of those who support America. There are already indications that some countries are beginning to wobble, if the weapons inspectors are to do their job effectively, we must be robust and unequivocal in our support of a credible weapons inspection regime. We should not underestimate the threats that the inspectors will face and the risks they will take.

My next thought may be more controversial. We must consider building up the military capability in theatre in parallel with the weapons inspections. That will give Saddam Hussein a clear indication of our intent to resort to military action if he blocks the work of the inspectors. If we go through a frustrating period of weapons inspection and delay the military build-up, we will send the wrong message to Saddam Hussein. We could lose the initiative and weaken the coalition.

I hope that we will not have to use force. I recognise the military, political and diplomatic difficulties associated with such a step. However, we must consider the option. I also believe that an internal coup is more likely if credible military forces are sitting on Iraq's doorstep.

Like many noble Lords, I believe that a huge issue which has not been addressed must be addressed urgently. What are our contingency plans if we have to take military action to help—I stress the word "help"—Iraq to keep itself together and avoid splitting into three parts? Iraq must become a more credible nation state that can play a more constructive international role. That is a difficult and daunting task, which will require large military and other forces in Iraq for some time. I hope that the United States recognises that fact and is fully committed to the task of nation building. That task cannot be handed over to a hotchpotch of nations. We need only look at Afghanistan to see the difficulties that lie ahead and to see how easily nations can slip back into had ways.

In focusing on Iraq, we should not forget the wider war on terrorism. We will not be able to rest on our laurels if we are successful in Iraq. As many noble Lords said, we cannot stress too strongly the fact that Iraq cannot be divorced from the threat of international terrorism. The failure of the international community to create a viable Palestinian state not only affects the stability of the Middle East and beyond but is a wonderful recruiting sergeant for Al'Qaeda and militant Islam. I do not underestimate the difficulties, but a solution to the problem is central to the success of any attempt to contain international terrorism. It should be an absolute priority for British foreign policy.

What will it all mean for the European security and defence identity? I should perhaps have mentioned this earlier. As one who strongly believes that Europe should do more militarily. I have been disappointed by the attitude of France, initially, and, more importantly, Germany. We would delude ourselves if we did not recognise that that had implications for the European security and defence identity. That may be an uncomfortable thing to consider, but it is better to talk about it than sweep it under the carpet.

6.7 p.m.

Lord Stone of Blackheath

My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, has suggested, once again, that the plight of the Palestinians is linked to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. At the same time, by failing to deal with Saddam Hussein, the international community leaves Israel under greater threat a rid exacerbates the plight of the Palestinians.

The map on page 31 of today's dossier shows that Tel Aviv is within easy reach of Iraq's Al'Hussein and Al'Abbas ballistic missiles. Someone suggested today that Israel might have to take the first hit. There is a direct nexus. We must deal with Saddam Hussein and step up political engagement in the Middle East. I suggest to the Minister that we should launch a pragmatic initiative in the area that could build on what she said in her speech. It would lead to a calmer, more stable Middle East that could, perhaps, influence the politics of Iraq for the better.

On 24th June, the President of the United States made a speech that was seen by the Israelis and the Palestinians and by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the neighbouring states as an important framework for moving forward the Arab-Israeli peace process. The US president's speech followed the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1397 in March, which, for the first time, achieved international agreement on the two necessary components of a peace settlement: security guarantees for Israel and specific statehood for the Palestinians.

The speech called for security and political reform in the Palestinian territories and envisaged the existence of a Palestinian state with provisional borders as soon as 2003. The president said that, with progress on security, Israel should withdraw to the lines that existed in September 2000 and end settlement activity, in accordance with Mitchell. The speech suggested that a permanent settlement between Israel and a nascent state of Palestine could be reached within three years, in accordance with Resolutions 242 and 338.

Even in these violent times, there is widespread support for concerted global action along those lines. Peace proposals from widely differing sources include such steps. The Arab plan agreed at the Beirut summit in March contained similar positive aspects; the international quartet—Egypt. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the international donors—already plays a key role in Palestinian reform. Only last week, the quartet produced a more detailed road map that envisaged Palestinian elections, Israeli troop withdrawal and the creation of a full Palestinian state by 2005.

By itself, the speech is not enough. However, forceful groups around the world are working on proposals for pragmatic routes to peace. The work of such groups could come together in a coalition for peace, rather than in the coalition for war that we are discussing today. Since the president's speech, I have been present at private discussions involving forceful but moderate groups in Israel, in Ramallah and in Gaza and with people from all the neighbouring states, as well as Americans, Europeans and Japanese. There is wide agreement that there should, as the Minister suggested, be a political mechanism to maintain constant, high-level international involvement to encourage the two sides to end the violence and resume the peace process.

It is specifically suggested that that could be done in a way that used American influence constructively in the formation of a multi-national commission, led by the United States and modelled on the Mitchell commission. It should be in place no later than the end of the year and would give practical expression to the key elements of the president's speech. In particular, the commission would be charged with determining that meaningful Palestinian domestic reform had taken place. Subsequently, a Palestinian state with provisional borders would be established, starting a process towards a permanent settlement that could be reached within three years.

An appointed commissioner would, in turn, appoint three deputies—perhaps from the quartet—to oversee the separate but interdependent broad areas of economics, security and political affairs. Under those broad headings, there are seven major issues to be resolved, as anyone who is familiar with the negotiations that have gone on for decades will know. Thanks to long discussions and well thought-out papers, there is a viable compromise solution for each issue. The new commission would oversee seven groups of non-partisan experts, who would examine each issue—economic development, security, refugees, Jerusalem, borders, water and the environment. They would initiate a process of full consultation with all involved parties.

As suggested in the Statement read at noon today, the commissioner would, one year after the formation of those seven groups and drawing on their findings, set parameters and recommend a date for a conference, to be sponsored by the United States and to be held in the region at the end of 2003. The conference would establish the framework for comprehensive peace and normalisation arrangements between Israel, Palestinians and the Arab world. By 2005, a new Palestinian state could be functioning; Israelis and Palestinians could feel more secure: the region would be more stable and perhaps begin to grow and flourish; and the Iraq issue would come under a new light.

That plan is not a dream and could be accomplished if moderates who support the Palestinians and Israel would work towards its fulfilment and put it to their supporters. The Arab world and Israel—with the support of the United States and Europe—have a responsibility for instilling hope, as well as for articulating and implementing a common vision for the region.

While all that occurs, it is vital that we help those on the ground who are continuing people-to-people work across communities. They are trying to heal the damage that has been done to civil society and to revive and strengthen the hearts and minds of the men, women and children who suffer because of our mistakes. Private-sector involvement is needed to underpin reconstruction and regional economic development. Businesses and non-governmental organisations are already at work across the region and I know of many more that are waiting to become involved if the politics move forward.

While dealing with Saddam Hussein, we need to formulate a concept that gives all the people of the Middle East a stake in their common future. The strategy that I suggest would provide the people in the region—and those who care about them—with a vision and a pragmatic plan that they could press their leaders to adopt. Or they could find leaders who would adopt that strategy. Energy and resources spent in that way, alongside Iraq action, would help to avert the disaster that many of us fear, resulting from a singular concentration on Iraq.

6.11 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, it is a sombre fact that there remain waiting to speak as many of your Lordships as have already taken part in this extremely impressive debate, so I shall only briefly delay the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs. Also, I have agreed with so much that has been said that I do not wish to spoil its effect by repeating it—no doubt worse.

Two important matters have characterised the debate. First, recognition of the massive danger that Saddam Hussein represents to the Middle East and the world. Secondly, acceptance that the matter cannot be ducked and must be dealt with in accordance with international law.

The dossier provides an ample foundation for everything needed to be said. When a noble and gallant field marshal tells the House that he finds the dossier's contents chilling, little more needs to be said on that score. I add my voice to the importance of the second characteristic of this debate—a determination that the matter be dealt with in accordance with international law.

Surely the experience of the past century has taught us all the lesson that mankind suffers terribly when its leaders flinch from upholding international law, paying the price and paying it in time. Whatever their imperfections—which are manifest—the United Nations charter and its connected institutions and other derivatives represent massive progress away from the rule of force and towards the rule of law. Those principles must not be allowed—as happened with the League of Nations 60 or 70 years ago—to atrophy for lack of will to operate them. Our country has been a leader in progress towards the rule of law by upholding the United Nations—sometimes in the face of strong temptation to set the law to one side.

Much has been said today about the Gulf War. Criticism has been levelled since the event of unfinished business. It is said that we should have finished the job. I believe that it was of critical importance to the United Nations—and through it to the rule of law—that the War Cabinet and Parliament conducted the Gulf War in strict accordance with the Security Council resolutions then in force—obtained through brilliant diplomacy in New York. To have motored on into Baghdad and brought about a regime change by force, which was not authorised, would have been to discard legality, discredit the United Nations, shatter the alliance and create a useful precedent for some unpleasant people to rely upon in future. That would have been quite an achievement—albeit in the wrong direction. That is to say nothing about when we could have got out, if it turned out that we were not entirely welcome.

As a consequence, we can claim that the United Nations today, for all its deficiencies, is a stronger instrument for enforcing the rule of law. As a result, the people of the UK expect us to uphold international law. They would not tolerate the commitment of our forces to active service in any circumstances in which it was not abundantly clear that we were upholding the rule of law—a point to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, alluded.

I shall not comment on analyses of the circumstances in which forceful pre-emption might be lawful. They can exist. What matters is that the Government are rightly committed in the present circumstances to seeking a resolution from the Security Council, to achieve the total disarming of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction—with the implicit promise of enforcement in default. That seems not only right but extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that it is not just a matter of law—that route should be followed, even more importantly, as a matter of political skill and practicality.

The precision of our own analysis and explanation is of critical importance. It must be precise—not least to those service people upon whom we may rely to enforce our policies. Yesterday, we were reminded by a military authority of unimpeachable persuasiveness—Major General Patrick Cordingley—that at the forefront of a British soldier's needs on active service is the knowledge that the people back home are wholly behind what he is required to do. We might add to that timely reminder the reflection that it would hardly be eccentric for a serviceman to require reliable assurance that his orders are lawful. He is entitled to that assurance. It is right that the Government define their objective as securing the complete disarming of all weapons of mass destruction in accordance with the Security Council resolution, not regime change.

It is extremely important that scrupulous care is taken in analysing the purpose of any proposed operation and justifying it—as much by the Americans as ourselves. Otherwise, the Government will not attract the confidence of those whom they send to fight, nor of the rest of the country. Even more importantly, the Government will not fulfil their duty to our servicemen. I much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, in that regard. It may be a vivid and satisfying use of the language, to call Saddam an outlaw but it is sloppy language, betraying sloppy thought. We are supposed to be upholding the rule of law. The concept of an outlaw is unknown to modern law. It is a mistake to demonstrate that we do not know the law because that suggests that we do not care.

In common with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent, I was once a National Serviceman. Some military talent was perceived in one of us. I was taught that maintenance of object is the first principle of war. I congratulate the Government on defining their objective as they have, and in maintaining it. I trust they will in future furnish Parliament in good time with the information that it needs to scrutinise progress, or the lack of it, and to confer the authority that will be needed for actions taken on our behalf.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Jacobs

My Lords, I was hoping to borrow a couple of minutes of time from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, but I fear he got close to his quota.

By the end of the day your Lordships will have spoken at least 60,000 words on the subject of Iraq. We must add to that the millions of words that have been spoken and written in the past four weeks. Of course, we must not forget the Iraq intelligence dossier, a mere 22,000 words so thoughtfully intended to be made available to us by the Government on the net at 8 o'clock this morning. So it will not be easy to add anything new to the debate.

I did not intend to speak about the Israel-Palestine situation; not because it is not vitally important, but because it is an issue on its own. Although it has influence on the Middle East situation, the question is not what happens in Israel and Palestine, but what happens in Iraq and whether we should take action. However, as so many noble Lords commented, I feel I should make just a few points.

I have not been an uncritical supporter of Israel. Almost from the beginning I condemned the building of settlements on the West Bank. I questioned their reason. But whatever my views then, the fact is that we are in this situation today. Therefore how do I now view the situation?

I make three points. First, I presided for more than eight years over the Haifa University in Israel—a university of around 13,000 students. Around 20 per cent of the students were Israeli Arab. The students comprised Christians, Muslims and Druse. Have things been perfect there? No. But have the various groups and sects got on with each other? In practice, yes. There is no desire to cause problems. There is a good degree of tolerance and there are almost no demonstrations.

In addition, there are in Israel 1 million Israeli Arabs. They have the vote. They have their own Members of Parliament and they have more or less the same rights as the Jewish Israeli citizens, except that they are not allowed to serve in the armed forces. I asked one or two whether, when there was a full Palestinian state, they would like to move there to become Palestinian citizens. I did not find one—though there must be some—who wanted to do so. Clearly, living in Israel, even for non-Jews, is not an unacceptable way of life.

I want to say why I believe the situation is in such desperate straits today. A couple of years ago negotiations took place between Ehud Barak, the then Israeli Prime Minister, and Arafat. Those negotiations were extremely advanced. They took place first at Camp David and were followed up in Taba. At the end Israel made an offer which I wrote at the time was around 110 per cent of what it could afford to make. It covered in particular the settlements. It would give up 20 per cent of the settlements entirely and 80 per cent would remain within Israel. But in exchange Israel was going to give up more of the land it lost near the border on Gaza, which the Palestinians strongly wanted.

That was a key element. Almost all of the other matters were agreed. But at the end Arafat said, "What about the Arabs who left Israel?". In those days they numbered around 800,000. He said, "There are now 3.5 million and we would like the right for them to return". Israel inevitably said that it was not possible; that they could discuss some return but not of 3.5 million. At that point Arafat concluded the negotiations and left. He did not say to his own people, "The offer was pretty significant. It did not go as far as we want and we want it to be improved"; he just walked away and that was the end of the matter.

Shortly after that, general elections took place in Israel. Barak lost; Sharon came in with a very tough policy. His aggressive policy owes much not only to his own approach to these issues, but also to the disillusionment of the Jews in Israel. At that point they began to believe for the first time—those most strongly in favour of the peace agreement—that Arafat would not co-operate. From then on the situation deteriorated tremendously. That is why we are faced with the problems we have today. I agree that it cannot all be the fault of Arafat; but Israel went a long way to try to find a settlement. The willingness of Israel and its determination to find a settlement has never been stronger than it is today.

We should really be discussing Iraq. In view of the pertinent information made available to us, the prime issue we face is whether Saddam Hussein is truthful and can be trusted. Some words uttered last week by his Foreign Minister, Mr Aziz, can help us understand where the Iraqis are coming from. He declared, Other nations must respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq". There can be no doubt about the intention of those words. Mr Aziz did not say, "You may remember how we respected the integrity and sovereignty of Iran", nor did he go on to say, "You may remember how we respected the integrity and sovereignty of Kuwait".

Why has Saddam Hussein been allowed to remain in power as the leader of his people? Saddam Hussein massacred tens of thousands of his own people, the Kurds; he invaded two sovereign neighbouring countries and after the Gulf War the United Nations took the soft option and allowed this man to remain in power. Is the sovereign nation of Iraq a responsible nation capable of caring competently for its own people?

Clearly, Saddam Hussein's past actions demonstrate his personal lack of integrity and trustworthiness. Your Lordships may fairly conclude that the world's present mistrust in him is sadly accurate. While he remains in power can any of us feel safe? If trust is to replace fear, what is our national responsibility?

Saddam Hussein perpetrated genocide when he drained the Marshlands where more than half a million Marshland Arabs lived. Two hundred thousand were forced into exile, but thousands upon thousands died of starvation. He also slaughtered more than 60,000 Shias who represented 72 per cent of the population but are ruled by the Sunnis, just 13 per cent of the population—including of course Saddam Hussein himself. If the United Nations fails to pass a strong, effective and comprehensive resolution on Iraqi disarmament or, having passed such a resolution, he fails to co-operate with weapons inspectors, should we be willing to support the US in a pre-emptive strike? Objectors to a policy of pre-emption believe that a pre-emptive strike is never the right policy. The last pre-emptive strike against Iraq was condemned by all nations, including Britain and the United States. It occurred in 1981 when Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

The United Nations at that time pressed Israel to compensate Iraq for this dreadful violation of Iraq's sovereignty, but the result of the attack was that Iraq was unable to manufacture its own fissionable material. The short-term positive consequence of the attack was that Iraq could not produce its own nuclear weapons for its invasion of Kuwait. Do any of your Lordships seriously believe that if it had them it would not have used them in the Gulf War?

Most nations disapprove of pre-emptive strikes against sovereign states. Governments find it easier to justify retaliatory actions. If Saddam Hussein were to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, the world would more easily unite and agree to retaliate. But is it necessary for us to wait for the need to retaliate? Are we content to live with this fear that emerges from time to time, casting shadows upon our lives, knowing the personal history of the unpredictability of Saddam Hussein?

When countries do not have democratic regimes and they are headed by kings or presidents, each nation will include within its history the definition of the words "complete suppression", invariably indicative of the total absence of free speech. If there is no free speech, how is it possible to oppose such leaders from within?

One must recognise that we are part of a global system that confronts us now. It concentrates political power in such a manner that the majority of humankind have no role whatever in determining their own destiny.

We British, and indeed many other nations, have a code of conduct that is honourable, truthful and just. When, as a humanity that shares and understands fundamental beliefs that benefit all people mutually, can we expect other nations to believe as we do? Sadly, in the year 2002 this understanding does not exist. We find it difficult to come to terms with those in power who are prepared to lie and deceive, whose word is never their bond and whose agreements are worthless. Adolf Hitler was such an evil man and so is Saddam Hussein.

6.32 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, it is a privilege to take part in the debate. I detest and condemn the evil done by Saddam Hussein and his government. Poison gas used on civilians at Halabja first alerted me to the wider plight of the Kurdish nation. Later with others I tried unsuccessfully to achieve a peaceful withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. I have campaigned for the release of the 600 or more hostages abducted from Kuwait. Today I loathe the torture and mutilation of army deserters that takes place in Iraq.

There are, however, tried and tested methods for dealing with dictators; principally, containment and deterrence. Many noble Lords have mentioned both. They worked against Stalin and his successors and they can succeed elsewhere. It needs to be made crystal clear that the least aggression outside Iraq or on the Kurds or the Marsh Arabs will be met by invincible retaliation. That, alas, was not done before Kuwait was invaded.

Other states such as Israel and Turkey occupy their neighbours' land. The Sudan and Turkey have waged massive internal wars, killing and displacing millions of their own people. China, Burma and Liberia all oppress their own people and harm their neighbours. India and Pakistan threaten each other with all-out war. Yet in none of those cases does anyone suggest that the existing governments should be replaced by force.

I hope that a different standard will not be applied to Iraq simply on account of its oil. There is a strong presumption against the use of military force. I therefore strongly agree with the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States who, in their recent letter to their President, argued against the pre-emptive unilateral use of military force to overthrow the Government of Iraq.

Unilateral use of force would provide the worst possible example to whoever might be the stronger party in future conflicts. Here, I can claim the support of the Professor of International Law at Oxford, writing in The Times yesterday.

The consequences of war, as has been mentioned, are almost always unpredictable. I therefore ask your Lordships and the Government to consider carefully the side effects of a war against Iraq. Would the pacification of Afghanistan still be possible? What would be the consequences in every state with a Muslim majority? That point was notably touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin. If the West, including Russia, is seen to deploy military forces principally against Islamic peoples, will that not encourage worldwide terrorism?

I conclude by urging the Government and their allies to study with care the consensus emerging within the worldwide Roman Catholic Church on the subject of war in general and of war with Iraq in particular. Prudence, courage, fortitude and restraint are most urgently needed. They seem to argue strongly in favour of the containment and deterrence of evil and the maximum possible use of inspection.

6.36 p.m.

Lord Campbell-Savours

My Lords, I was pleased to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, set the record straight as to what happened at the end of the Gulf War, because people have convenient memories. It was not only that we were bound by way of a United Nations resolution, which did not provide for us to enter Iraq, but also there were demonstrations throughout all the major Arab capitals in the days preceding the discussions that took place in the tent on the road from Basra to Baghdad between the coalition authority and the representatives of the Baghdad Government. Over the years we have heard repeated references to events which sadly have been completely misunderstood.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on the skill he deployed in convincing the President of the United States of America that he should go down the UN route. I congratulate him also on standing shoulder to shoulder with President Bush in the brinkmanship they have deployed in insisting that in the event that Saddam Hussein does not deal with the issue of weapons of mass destruction, there may have to be some form of military engagement. That is the right approach.

It is ironic that those in the anti-war movement, many of whom I number among my closest friends, contributed to convincing Saddam Hussein that we meant business, because they raised the profile of the statements made by leadership in the western world. I take a historic interest in issues of Iraq. I have kept contact over the past 15 years with many of the expatriate Iraqi politicians in the West and others who have great knowledge in those matters.

I oppose vigorously the policy of containment based on sanctions that were never properly implemented and which has led to the position we are in today. That policy was born in the mind of the American Administration. Clinton adopted it. I have always believed it was a policy of weakness. Many of us repeatedly went to Washington to plead with representatives of American Administrations over the years, in Congress, the Senate, the White House and the State Department, to plead with them to bring that policy to an end because it would enable Saddam Hussein to rebuild his armaments industry and once again threaten the western world; indeed, the whole world.

The policy of containment has enabled Saddam Hussein to build up the revenues that he has been able to use to acquire the equipment that we have been talking about today. Page 32 of the report says: However, the Iraqi regime continues to generate income outside UN control either in the form of hard currency or barter goods (which in turn means existing Iraqi funds are freed up to be spent on other things)… These illicit earnings go to the Iraqi regime. They are used for building new palaces, as well as purchasing luxury goods and other civilian goods outside the OFF programme. Some of these funds are also used by Saddam Hussein to maintain his armed forces, and to develop or acquire military equipment, including for chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programmes". On page 18, the report says: Since 1998 Iraqi development of mass destruction weaponry has been helped by the absence of inspectors and the increase in illegal border trade, which was providing hard currency". It was about that illegal border trade that we were going to Washington. I sent a researcher from my office in the House of Commons at the time to witness the trade going on into southern Turkey from northern Iraq. When he came back to the United Kingdom he told me that it was a bumper-to-bumper trade of trucks carrying oil into southern Turkey. When we made representations in the United States of America, people did not want to know about it. It was as if some deal had been entered into—which I subsequently found out was the case—whereby obligations to the Kurds required that they be funded. Of course, the Kurdish political parties were raising taxes on this illicit movement of oil traffic from Iraq into southern Turkey, thereby saving the American exchequer—and also, I presume, western aid agencies—the cost of funding northern Iraq's development in Kurdistan.

Furthermore, because those oil revenues at the beginning of the process were paid only, if I remember rightly, to the KDP and Masood Barzani, a row developed between the PUK, under Jalal Talebani, and the KDP, which ended up in the loss of lives in northern Iraq as they fought out who was going to get the oil revenues. The reality was that everyone turned a blind eye to the trade. That money raised from selling illicit oil supplies in southern Turkey, refined as well, sent in by truck, has been used by the Saddam Hussein regime to develop much of the programmes that we are discussing today.

The policy of containment prolonged arguments over United Nations sanctions, which people were led to believe were being properly implemented when they were not, leading to us in the West being blamed for the humanitarian suffering in Iraq. Even to this day, despite the fact that it is well documented that the responsibility for that suffering rests on Saddam Hussein, we are still held responsible in this country. Even in the other House today we have heard reference to that.

The policy of containment also allowed Saddam Hussein to make an effective link on the street, as the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said, between the position in Iraq and Israel. That has undermined the credibility of all that we have been doing in recent years. Clinton's dithering, by pursuing the policy of containment—which was supported after 1994 by successive British Governments, Conservative and Labour—has enabled Saddam Hussein to build up the menacing arrangements with which he is currently able to frighten much of the world.

Furthermore, the policy enabled Saddam Hussein to gain the confidence to obstruct UNSCOM. In doing so, it enabled Ritter to peddle his inconsistencies, which are now believed by much of the anti-war movement in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom. I went to a meeting in the other place some weeks ago attended by about 250 people from the anti-war movement. It was amazing. People were not listening to what Ritter was saying. They went in with preconceived views based on the international reputation that he has built up for opposing the policy that we have adopted on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What he told the meeting—which they were not prepared to accept—was that he had no knowledge of what intelligence information was available to the United States and United Kingdom Governments. He went on to say that in the event that it could be shown conclusively that Saddam held weapons of mass destruction he would be among the first to join up for war. I do not think that I am misquoting him; I am sure that his address to the meeting was taped. I was at the meeting. I heard what he said. Let the tape confirm it. Those comments did not register with many people. He has been inconsistent.

A number of noble Lords have referred to the possible successor regime. Everyone seems to presume that the Iraqi National Congress, with which I have had dealings over many years, might well form the basis on which a new regime could be constructed in Iraq. That would be a mistake. The successor regime in Iraq must be an interim military arrangement run by people who, we can speculate, have already been identified by the Government of the United States of America. We know that there have been many conversations over recent years with people in the Iraqi opposition and those who come out of Iraq about what should happen in those conditions.

There are some excellent people in the Iraqi National Congress, such as Ahmed Chalabi, who is an extremely educated and cultured man. However, I do not believe that he has the basis in Iraq to be able to create an alternative government to that of Saddam Hussein. We should look seriously at the kind of interim military regime—trusted by whatever coalition remains at the end of the process—that can bring in over a few years the democratic arrangements that we believe the people of Iraq will one day need, want and, we hope, get.

6.48 p.m.

Lord Eden of Winton

My Lords, I hope I am not being too naive if I confess to some puzzlement as to why this debate is taking place now. I wonder whether some new intelligence has become available about which we have not been told, which makes it imperative that the development of measures to restrain Saddam Hussein should be moved forward into a higher gear. I have to ask whether this debate and the publication on which it is based could have taken place more than a year ago. Could it have taken place before the horrendous events of September 11th last year, or even before the election of President Bush? Is there something new?

Perhaps the answer to my questions is that the true nature of the threat from the Iraqi dictator is seen today with greater clarity in the light of the post-9/11 happening. It is possible that the intelligence services of ourselves, the United States and others are more alert to the danger signals now than they were previously and that more accurate analysis and interpretation is available of a build-up of potential danger. If that is the case, of course it is to be welcomed. But it is a wonder that it has taken as long as it has because the threat posed by the development of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has been present since soon after the outbreak of the Gulf War.

Those weapons, which have been developed over several years, have not been designed solely for the purpose of repressing Saddam's own people. However, I must say that I found rather curious the reference on page 44 of the dossier to that dreaded organisation, the Saddam Fidayeen, under the control of Udayy. According to the document, it, has been used to deal with civilian disturbances". That is a misleadingly genteel way of referring to an organisation which is clearly extreme and has been guilty of the most horrendous cruelty, torture and murder—a catalogue which makes dreadful reading.

That organisation has itself spawned a special force, reportedly of some 30 strong, which has been described as "the elite of the elites". It has been trained in sabotage, urban warfare, hijacking and murder. It is not intended only, if at all, to deal with civilian disorders. Those people are known to be in the possession of credible United Arab Emirates passports and are therefore able to travel anywhere in the world. Therefore, the potential for international terrorism which they represent is very real.

The weapons which are being developed by Saddam Hussein and the specially trained forces which are in existence are to be deployed—the words are of the Iraqi leaders themselves—against "our enemies". Whom do they identify as "our enemies"? It will come as no surprise to your Lordships that prominent among them are the United States and Israel. It is not without reason that those two are linked together. Anyone who travels anywhere within the Arab countries of the Middle East will hear on all hands about the close interrelationship between the policy of the United States Government and the attitude and actions of the state of Israel. The extent to which that sentiment is deployed may be unfair but it is a reality. It is very much in the minds of all people in those countries. The American Government certainly have it within their power to do far more about it than they have been doing of recent times.

A reference has been made to Mr Sharon in Israel. I was very much encouraged by what the Minister said in her opening speech. She referred to the need to ensure the existence of a viable Palestinian state and the need for Israel to have secure frontiers. But the policy being pursued by Mr Sharon of territorial annexation, provocation, retribution and revenge are not achieving anything positive at all in the Middle East—certainly not on behalf of the people of Israel.

Sooner or later, Mr Sharon will have to engage in serious negotiation, and the sooner he recognises that, the better. I hope that America will apply its undoubted influence on the state of Israel to ensure that negotiation takes place very quickly. Israel has all the advantage in that it is the most powerful nation and it has powerful allies. Therefore, it can negotiate from a position of strength and it is quite unnecessary that it should resort to the policies that it has been pursuing. I hope that the United States of America will rapidly become far more even-handed in its policies in the Middle East.

But we should not allow thoughts of that kind to detract from the reality of the threat which Saddam Hussein represents. In my view and in that of others, we are correct to seek to secure the widest possible degree of international support and commitment for exerting the strongest possible pressure on Saddam Hussein and for ensuring that the inspection is renewed in a far more effective way than was possible during the inspectors' previous tour in Iraq.

We should seek to ensure that urgent reporting takes place. My one concern in relation to the reintroduction of inspectors is that they will be played along and that month after month will go by with an interminable sequence of events and no conclusion. We must have regular reporting, speedy action and effective inspection. The inspectors' aim must be to provide the rest of the world with the confidence that they are exposing the true nature of the weapons that Saddam Hussein possesses.

If necessary—these words must be weighed very seriously by anyone who uses them—the current pressure being applied against Saddam will have to be backed up by force and the readiness to use it. Even as we speak, navies, military command posts, air control authorities and aircraft are being deployed closer to the scene of potential action in the Gulf. I hope that it is not only window-dressing but of serious purpose and intent. I also hope that it is being done in order to be ready to back up the actions being taken at the United Nations and the introduction of the inspectors.

None the less, I hope that we do not see yet again a repeat of what has been witnessed in other theatres of war recently—the raining down of thousands of bombs from excessively high altitudes in some form of carpet saturation. I do not know anything much about modern weaponry, other than what I see and read. I defer to the experts who are in the forefront of these matters and who have all the information at their command. However, I do hope that this time, if we do deploy force, it will be done with much greater precision and more speedily. The action needs to be much swifter, precise, decisive and on the ground.

If there is to be precision in weaponry, there needs also to be precision in the language we use. I recollect that on a recent visit to Iran I met many young people who were anxious to emphasise that we in the West should leave matters of regime change to them. They knew how to handle the situation internally and changes of government were their responsibility and the responsibility of their fellow citizens. What applies to the people of Iran must equally apply to the people of Iraq. We should do whatever we can to stand by and to help them but it is for them to effect the change that they must be yearning to bring about. There is an Arab saying that evil comes to the evil-doer. Saddam Hussein would be well advised to take heed.

7.2 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley

My Lords, I shall be brief. I do not deny the chilling evidence of the dossier published today that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and I, like my noble friend Baroness Williams of Crosby, do not propose that we do nothing about it.

The evidence in the dossier is no surprise. However, there is a clear indication in it, that, although we know much, we do not know all we would like to know about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence community seems confident that there is even more than appears in the dossier. When the extent, nature or physical location of the threat is not really known, logic tells us that no amount of military preparation can ever be enough to counter it. In such a situation and given the proven disregard of this enemy for the lives of his own people, the only answers are diplomacy, understanding, international co-operation and mutual security.

Saddam has no respect for international law, but we must respect it. I am encouraged by the assurance of the Prime Minister that this country will always do so. We must continue to use our influence on the United States to do so also. No country, including the USA, must put itself above international law and act unilaterally. Nor must any country attempt to bully the international community.

In her introduction to this debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, said that delay will allow Saddam to amass more biological and chemical weapons. According to Page 17 of the dossier, he already has enough. Very small amounts of these substances can kill many thousands of people. He may not yet have nuclear weapons and their delivery mechanisms to threaten us, but he does have chemical and biological weapons which require much less sophisticated means of delivery, especially if those prepared to deliver them have no regard for the safety of their own lives.

Around the world we are becoming very familiar with fanatics so consumed with hatred of others, they are prepared to sacrifice their own lives in order to destroy them. Given that fact, surely the case for diplomacy and inspection is strengthened by today's publication and the case for a first military strike against Iraq is weakened. Saddam may already have agents positioned in this country and the United States with Sarin and Anthrax nestling in their suitcases amongst their underwear. What is to stop him from giving instructions for them to be used, as soon as he is attacked? Saddam lacks principles but he has never lacked his own logic. We must be logical also and the logic of the matter is clear. We must keep up the pressure through the United Nations for the unconditional return of the weapons inspectors and their unfettered access to whatever and wherever they want to see.

I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships to an aspect of Iraq's surprise offer to which little attention has been paid. Iraq offered to allow politicians to accompany the weapons' inspectors. I am aware that a number of members of the United States Congress are prepared to take up this invitation and go to Iraq with the inspectors. I should like to ask the Minister whether any British politicians have been invited and whether any are preparing to go. In the matter of access for the inspectors, they may be able to bring special pressure and influence to bear.

This brings me to echo a comment made by my noble friend Lady Williams. I, too, spent the whole of August in the United States and was impressed by evidence of a deep divide in public opinion about this matter. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, that any war requires general public support. Despite the publication of today's dossier, mainly of old evidence, there is not yet support in this country for military action to remove Saddam Hussein, nor is there support in America.

There are many who cling to the principle that the USA should not make a first strike against another sovereign country. An American friend of mine said, Using our military to attack rather than respond to an attack is a fundamental departure from our principles. Pre-emptive attacks on other sovereign countries, no matter how much we dislike their regimes, have never been acceptable to our democracy unless we do so in order to protect ourselves or others from very imminent danger. I do not believe that danger has been proved at this moment in time". Like my noble friend, I am a great admirer of much about the USA. However, America's sudden conversion to the importance of the UN is a matter I view with considerable circumspection. A country that has treated the UN with scorn over many years is not just Iraq and Israel in the east, but America in the west. Approaching the United Nations with a much belated cheque when he needs it on his side, is hardly likely to endear President Bush to the international community. The United States must not put itself above the United Nations and world opinion. It must not try to bully the UN and in future it must show a genuine interest in and support for the UN's efforts at world peace and sustainable development.

Saddam Hussein is not the one who will suffer if there is a military attack on Iraq. Count von Stauffenberg sat right next to Hitler but did not manage to kill him. Saddam has had 11 years to plan his escape and you can be sure that his plan will be a good one. No, it will be his already hard-pressed people who will suffer, especially the women and children of Iraq, who have had no say in who leads their country. He will lure his attackers into a Beirut-style urban war if he can and, in so doing, ensure massive casualties and win the propaganda war hands down.

Let us not forget the long-term consequences of military action. War does not only bring about death and destruction at the time; it also brings about starvation and poverty, and we have heard no good intentions from the Bush Administration about funding the rebuilding of Iraq after a war. That would be left to the international community, as usual. America's track record in this respect is not a good one.

My noble friend Lady Williams clearly laid out the objectives of these Benches in this regard and the very remote circumstances under which we would consider a pre-emptive attack on Iraq to be justified. I support her position. Frankly, given the probable consequences of admitting that all else has failed, I can hardly envisage circumstances under which I would feel that it would be either wise or justified to attack Iraq, no matter what weapons he has. Indeed, as I said earlier, the more wicked and dangerous his arsenal, the more vital it is to use international pressure and diplomacy to destroy it.

7.9 p.m.

Lord Haskins

My Lords, I strongly endorse the remarkable speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. My sense is that to a large extent they reflect the mood of this House. There is no argument in the House about the wickedness of Saddam or the need to do something about it. The UN inspectors must pick up the British dossier and use it as their shopping list when they go to Iraq. If Saddam obstructs them, there will no doubt be a strong case for UN-sponsored military action in response to that situation. I hope and believe that that will not come about.

If a unilateral US response had UK support but not UN or EU support, that would have very serious consequences. First, will there be military problems if neighbouring countries to Iraq do not supply bases? Some people say that there will be. Secondly, will not a successful outcome of such a war fuel the flames of Islamic fundamentalism rather than quell them? Thirdly, rebuilding Iraq with the world community beside us would be difficult; how much more difficult it would be to build it unilaterally. Imagine having US and UK troops permanently in Iraq, as UN troops are permanently in the Balkans at present. Fourthly, where will British relationships lie with our European partners?

Many of the Americans' motivations for action in Iraq are very different from ours and those of our European neighbours. First, for the US, understandably traumatised by the events of 9/11, this is the first serious foreign violation of mainland American soil ever, excluding Pearl Harbor, which was not exactly mainland. Over the centuries, alas, Europe has become used to such violations, but not in recent years on the scale of 9/11.

Secondly, partly because of the rhetoric, the US is under great pressure to be seen to be doing something in response to 9/11. No such pressure exists in Britain and Europe. That would be a terrible reason to choose to go to war.

Thirdly, the partial military success of the US in Afghanistan—it is at this stage only partial—has persuaded some members of the Administration that the same bombing techniques would work in Iraq. They may be right but several senior UK and US military experts are questioning that. Iraq is not Afghanistan.

Fourthly, my noble friend Lady Symons made a very convincing argument about how Iraq is different from Iran and Libya. She said that our Foreign Secretary has gone to Iran to negotiate diplomatically and that a junior Minister has gone to Libya. Do the US Administration make such a distinction? Not so far.

Fifthly, some people in Washington do not appear to care very much about international opinion or international law. Britain and Europe cannot afford to ignore either, and they will not. I am glad to say that the former Vice-President of the United States seems to agree with us today.

Sixthly, there are people in Washington who appear to be determined to undermine the UN route whatever that may be, short of a regime change. Britain and Europe are not insisting on an unconditional regime change in Iraq. The Prime Minister has done a wonderful job—a remarkable job—of restraining the wilder instincts of certain members of the US Administration. He must seek to maintain that role, although it is not easy. Post the Cold War and post 9/11, there is great volatility and uncertainty within the US about its new international role. Before 9/11, this Administration showed dangerously isolationist inclinations. Post 9/11, this Administration are showing dangerous unilateralist inclinations. Both are wrong.

There is a paradox in America, American patriotism this summer has to be seen to be believed. I addressed American grocers at a conference in West Virginia. You could only get in if you wore the American flag on your lapel. On the other hand, a poll in Chicago this week shows that 60 per cent of American people want a solution through the United Nations. The US is in the UN loop largely because of our British Prime Minister. If the UN loop is successful, our Prime Minister must take the lion's share of the credit because he will have persuaded the US to stay within the UN and within international law to the relief of most people and of millions of Americans.

The Government have achieved a huge amount internationally in their attitude towards Africa, in the way they have brought a settlement, of a sort, in the Balkans, and in the way they have supported enlargement of the European Union and have championed the modernisation of the European Union. The Government gain great international credit for all those matters. It would be a tragedy indeed if, by unilateral British support of unilateral US action, much of that great work were put in jeopardy.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld

My Lords, this is one of the most important debates I have attended in more than 25 years in your Lordships' House. We are truly at a crossroad of history. I know that comparisons with Munich and the age of dictators, or the Suez crisis, and the idea that history repeats itself, may be open to argument, but it is interesting to observe here and elsewhere in Europe how postures in the face of historic challenges recur with remarkable accuracy—postures ranging from interventionist fervour, through masterly inactivity, timorous self deception and a certain amount of accommodation and appeasement.

The Government have offered us a frightening but also convincing assessment of Saddam's policies which converges largely with that of our American ally. Though proven culpable of past aggression and continued non-compliance with international treaties, Saddam Hussein is a past master in playing on the raw nerves of slumbering dissent within the Atlantic alliance and the Arab and wider Muslim worlds and at sowing doubt in our minds. To what extent his brand of despotism and terror are linked with the Al'Qaeda may be less in doubt than has been argued by some noble Lords. Overtly Saddam Hussein pays 25,000 dollars for each and every family which has a suicide bomber in its midst. Covertly, Iraqi police and secret service are in constant touch through a camaraderie of terror with the most diverse movements in the world of terror. Each and every Arab terrorist movement has had and still has a link, whether secular, religious or extremist, with Saddam Hussein.

Eleven years ago he decided to spurn the pardon of the world community, the chance of developing potentially the most prosperous and advanced country in the whole of the Middle East, in favour of his quest for amassing and hoarding weapons of mass destruction. As has been pointed out, Iraq is a real country with an educational infrastructure, a middle class with its pool of managerial talent and enormous, still undeveloped, natural resources—yet he preferred to pauperise his subject citizens. For what purpose? Clearly it was to hold neighbours and foes to ransom and pursue his dreams of conquest, meanwhile torturing, gassing and raping, thus ranking as one of the world's worst dictators. At one time or another, terrorists of every hue were trained by him.

On the issue of UN resolution we shall see whether the inspections will occur and, if so, whether they yield any result. But those who doubt whether anything good will come of parleying with a proven cheat may yet be proved right. There must be no compromise about enforcing the strict and stringent terms President Bush laid down in his speech before the United Nations. In this case, inspection is not meant to be a gentlemanly Royal Commission, English style. It must be more of a police inquiry since we are dealing with a chronic delinquent.

Those frowning at the phrase "regime change" must surely realise that we are splitting hairs. If Saddam truly complied with each and every condition laid down, there would be a regime change. First, he would not do so. If he did so, he would not last. It would fly in the face of experience. On the other hand, if there were to be an end to his rule, the defeat of Saddam Hussein could spell real chances of transformation in Iraq and real liberation for his people. We talk about chaos or despair. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, alluded to it, as did the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. There is a chance of liberating the people of Iraq, for change towards honest government and a civil society leading to an indigenous form of democracy in one country is bound to be contagious. It must be said that we face dire options. But there is no question that inactivity harbours a far greater danger than resolute intervention.

The Jeremiahs who predict chaos on an apocalyptic scale are convincingly contradicted by distinguished experts on the region. When the Soviet empire was tottering before the fall, there were prophecies of doom, talk of bloodshed, civil strife and feuding warlords. Not a great deal of all this happened. Few people bemoaned the fallen titans of Communism. Who will bemoan Saddam? The collapse of the Soviet empire brought velvet revolutions in its wake. In post-Saddam Iraq, as one noble Lord has eloquently stated, the ranks of the civil service and the army could supply cadres to take over from the discredited leaders of the traditional governments and fresh faces will surface from the underground and from exile.

In that aftermath, the historic task of the allies and all those who wish to improve the lot of the misgoverned and ill-used subjects of the dictator would be immense. It would require statesmanship, compassionate understanding of traditions and of the psyche of the people in the region. It should be possible to steer developments in the direction of self-correcting evolution rather than brutal change and bloody revolution. That is the great art, the great task ahead. That is where Europe and moderate Arab regimes can help the United States in pacifying a post-Saddam Iraq.

The need to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front is pre-eminent. The question must be addressed simultaneously with, but independently of, the settling of accounts with Saddam. The idea of a peace conference is an important and good one. Of course, it begs questions of its composition and procedure. The intifada has flared up once again. The fragility of temporary respites only adds to the pessimism on both sides. But conversely, should the problem of Iraq be resolved—that is to say, if Saddam is de-fanged—the chances for a successful negotiated settlement would dramatically improve. I submit that the peace in Jerusalem can best be brought about by disarmament in Baghdad: because the fear of insecurity, the dread of the Scud missile from Baghdad and the rocket from Lebanon are at the root of Israel's visceral fear of making the necessary concessions to the Palestinians. Yet the moment the world community, especially the United States, could reassure the Israelis that that lethal threat would cease to hang over their heads, the same large majority which today backs General Sharon's government of steely confrontation would tomorrow hack a policy of accommodation, of painful concessions and sacrifices, horn of a new-found feeling of security.

Perhaps I may say a word about Prime Minister Sharon, who has sometimes been unfairly demonised. He is showing great restraint. The noble Lords, Lord Stone and Lord Winston, referred to this. He was voted in in the wake of the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to make peace and accept the office of Ehud Barak. A whole new mythology is arising to the effect that Ehud Barak never really made an offer, that it was fake, that it was conditional on this and that. The fact is that maps were never brought in by the Palestinians; a counter-proposal was never brought in. There was no negotiation of any kind. It was simply a decision to stall and to terminate the negotiations and wait for a better opportunity for a better deal. That is why Sharon was voted in.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilmour, was critical of Sharon. He has been demonised in good company; namely, that of the President of the United States, the Vice-President of the United States and the Secretary of Defence. The fact is that Sharon wants peace. He simply wants the end of the intifada—because what is the point of sitting down at a negotiating table if, 10 minutes after the negotiations have begun, an aide-de-camp comes in and tells the Prime Minister that another 50 people have been killed in a kindergarten or in a restaurant in Tel-Aviv? What do you do? Do you say: "Let's move on to the next point on the agenda"? That is the reality. All the Manichaean demonising of Sharon is too simplistic.

It is important for us now to address the question of the aftermath. Again, if we concentrate all our fervour, all our interests and all the skills that we have into various schemes with the intention of making Iraq a liveable place after the demise of Saddam Hussein, that will serve a much greater purpose than handwringing about the past.

In conclusion, the British Government's courageous stand in this crisis deserves to be endorsed and must not be allowed to weaken or falter. Perhaps we ought to borrow two new symbols from the aviary of political stereotypes and replace the hawk and the dove with the eagle and the ostrich. It is gratifying to know that the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister belongs to the first species and has refused to stick his head into the sand.

7.25 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, Like many noble Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on a matter of such crucial importance to the world, both today and tomorrow. I should like to add my congratulations to the Prime Minister for his endeavours in what still is a very difficult situation. More than that, as I am retiring at the end of this month as Bishop of Manchester, I should like also to take this opportunity on what I assume will be my last chance to speak—but, who knows, we might be called back again tomorrow—to thank noble Lords for the privilege of serving here, for their encouragement and friendship, and for the opportunity and responsibility of pointing to some of the Christian and more broadly moral and religious dimensions of public life.

I can assure noble Lords that I shall pray for them and their successors that they will continue to serve this nation with, I hope, wit, wisdom and the offering of good experience. Christians are called to love their neighbours, including their enemies; to seek peace and reconciliation; and to work for the transformation and renewal of God's people and world—what some speakers this afternoon have referred to as "nation building" and "human flourishing".

Many noble Lords have set out the moral arguments relating to the factors that traditionally have been taken into account concerning the Just-War test, and how such factors should be varied to take into account modern weaponry. I shall not rehearse all those factors at this stage of the evening, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to my real concerns relating to the risks involved and the evil and damage caused by military action. The latter could well be greater than the other evils that we are already enduring.

First, who will pay for this war? In asking that question I am obviously asking about the billions—it will be billions—of dollars and pounds that will be spent and which might have been used in attending to the world's poor. A greater number of people, mainly children, die every day—yesterday, today and tomorrow—because of the lack of clean water in this world than the number tragically killed in New York on 11th September of last year. Every day more children die than the number of those killed in that one event. If noble Lords wish to check the figures, they should ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I repeat: the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not the Archbishop of Canterbury, has quoted the figures in one of our House journals.

Similarly, when asking that question, I am also asking who will pay with their lives? The vulnerable people in Iraq have been well referred to tonight, many of whom have already endured terrible suffering. Do we honestly believe that Saddam Hussein will pay with his life? Where is Bin Laden? Perhaps bombs will unfortunately go astray which will bring neighbouring countries into the suffering. And, as has already been asked, what about our own armed forces? Will they be adequately protected if it comes to a chemical war?

I hear the question that noble Lords will ask; namely, who will pay if we allow Iraq to accumulate even more weapons of destruction? That has already prompted the question tonight regarding who has allowed Saddam Hussein, who, apparently—so we are told—has no friends, to accumulate over the years arms and equipment that have now been listed in the dossier supplied to us. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, gave us a story as to how that happened. But who is continuing to sell and make available the material, the know-how, that will allow Saddam to develop these weapons of mass destruction? Is it already all there in that nation of Iraq, or are there others who are playing hookey round the world? That takes us back to the Export Control Bill. We had a long debate earlier this summer on who controls what really goes on and about buying and selling. I do not mind admitting that in the North West there is a big defence industry. So who will pay?

My second concern is about the implications for the people in the United Kingdom, particularly if we go to war without the authority of the United Nations—I welcome all noble Lords' contributions made about that today—and the support of some Middle Eastern nations. Here I want to overlap with some of the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark.

As noble Lords are aware, in many parts of England local communities consist of a number of diverse communities which are characterised by ethnic origin, religious faith, long-standing residents and newcomers. Your Lordships will recall that in some of our towns in the North West we welcome and enjoy the presence of large Jewish communities and growing Muslim communities. Last year we experienced considerable difficulties in some of those communities. I shall not name them. That would only encourage people to start naming them and to make up the stories, but noble Lords know the stories.

My colleagues with whom I consulted before I came to the House—I am talking about clergy not only in the Diocese of Manchester, but in Blackburn and beyond—tell me that relationships are improving between the different communities and are becoming more positive and stronger. We have some encouraging stories to tell; for example, leaders of five different faiths came together in the centre of Manchester on September 11th this year to remember what happened on September 11th last year. A large crowd also gathered.

However, there is a huge degree of fragility in the recent growth in good relationships. Some still regard one another with suspicion and occasionally with outright hostility. We have had our own share of attacks on persons and on religious buildings. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in his presidential address at the recent congress in Hong Kong made the point that, I myself have been involved in a number of international dialogues…but there is another reality…at local level…where minority communities face dangers and difficulties that belie the rhetoric of international…gatherings". So, in a nutshell, how can we prevent the present struggle developing into a battle between the West and the Middle East, between America and the United Kingdom and Arab nations and then ultimately Christianity and Islam?

Minority families—many of them in parts of the North West of England—watch television beamed by satellite from the Middle East and Asia. They switch on for Match of the Day, the weather forecast and so on. Their view of the world, including the Middle East, Iraq, America, Israel, Palestine, the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan, and any possible invasion of Iraq, comes not from TV channels that most of us in England watch, but is beamed from countries which are much closer to where any action might be. Therefore, we need to understand that their world view is not shaped by what our Prime Minister or our spin doctors might say, or even by what religious leaders in England might say, but by satellite television near the situations in Iraq, by e-mails and by the whole Internet site system.

As we seek wisdom about the international dimension of this situation, and as we want to look for coherent support within the United Kingdom for any action that our leaders feel it is appropriate to take—I have in mind the military needing the support of the nation—I just ask that noble Lords bear in mind the possible local implications of any decisions taken or actions proposed and seek a little divine wisdom regarding how that is handled.

7.35 p.m.

Lord Grenfell

My Lords, it is a privilege and a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate. I am extremely sorry that regime change in the Diocese of Manchester—benign as it is—will deprive your Lordships' House of his wisdom. I am particularly grateful to him for having drawn your Lordships' attention to the costs of the war and how that money could be far better applied to the alleviation of poverty.

At this stage of the debate there is not a great deal new to be said. However, I feel that one must stand up and be counted. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on his tireless and eventually successful efforts to persuade President Bush and his administration to work through the United Nations. I congratulate the Government on producing a persuasive dossier which we have seen today.

I fully support the Government's insistence on a tough resolution in the Security Council, authorising truly intrusive inspection with serious consequences if the inspection is frustrated by the Iraqi regime. It is clear that Resolutions 687 and 1284 do not meet the present situation and that we need new resolutions. Passing a new resolution is not going to be a pretty process. Inevitably, there will be some shameful horse trading to persuade Russia to go along with it and perhaps to secure China's abstention. However, securing that resolution is vital.

I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others, who said that we must give inspection a real try. Only if that fails will an armed response be justified. That means not rushing the work of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. Do not try to second guess Dr Hans Blix. Let him and the Secretary-General draw the conclusions. We should also heed the warning of Hans Blix that belligerent statements from certain quarters in the US administration can encourage only non-co-operation with the inspectors. I repeat, do not rush it.

The time given to the inspectors allows the United States time to build its coalition which will be necessary if the inspection fails and US-led military intervention is called for. The likelihood of non-co-operation—as many Lords have pointed out—is all too real. Military action to enforce disarmament may be deemed necessary. It goes without saying—and was well put by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge—that if and when our own military are called upon to participate they will need, deserve and have our full support. However, I hope—maybe against hope—that an attack on Iraq will not be necessary. The consequences could be far worse than the United States Administration have ever dreamed of.

If it is necessary, then it must be sanctioned by the United Nations. I would have the greatest difficulty in supporting an attack on the initiative of the United States alone, with or without British participation, in the absence of unanimity in the Security Council.

Two issues cause me great concern. The noble Lords, Lord Hurd of Westwell and Lord Watson of Richmond, and many others, have insisted on the need to look beyond military intervention. I see scant evidence that the United States Administration are doing so, even if our own Government are. There are many important questions that need answering, and they need answering before a decision is taken to take military action.

For example, how will post-Saddam Hussein Iraq be kept together and a balkanisation prevented? Will the United States stay in for the long run? There is talk in the Pentagon of a need to keep 75,000 troops for five years in Iraq after hostilities. That, and the costs of reconstruction, could be between 100 billion and 200 billion dollars.

There are those on the other side of the Atlantic who optimistically see the post-Saddam Hussein scenario as a kind of McCarthurian regency in Baghdad, as if post-war Japan and present day Iraq could be equated. That is a false comparison. James Webb—President Regan's former Assistant Secretary of Defense—recently commented on that persuasively. He pointed out that US occupation forces never set foot in Japan until the Emperor had formally surrendered and prepared Japanese citizens for America's arrival. The Japanese were, and are, a homogeneous people. The Iraqis are a multi-ethnic people dividing into competing factions who, in many cases, would view an American occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. As he put it, in Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they could quickly become 50,000 targets of terrorism. Will American public opinion accept that? That is another question that needs examination.

Then, most importantly, what of the Arab neighbours. Among others, my noble friend Lady Uddin, in a most powerful speech, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford eloquently addressed the issue. The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and other countries in the region will probably survive the inevitable street protests which will follow an invasion of Iraq. But they will not show inexhaustible patience with their own people. If the American flag is to be burnt every night on the streets of Cairo or Amman, what chance the United States Congress will continue to vote financial assistance to these countries? Therefore, the governments of those countries will eventually crack down on the protests. Authoritarian rule will be reinforced. Is that what the US expects of its determination to bring democracy to the countries of this region.

I know that many noble Lords do not want the debate to be seen as primarily a critique of the United States and I entirely agree. But we cannot and must not ignore the signals coming out of Washington. The crucial point we must never let go is that there is a difference between power and legitimacy. A few days ago, the United States Administration set out their new national security strategy. As by far the most powerfully armed nation in the world—the world's sole superpower—it sees itself as having not just the capability but also the right and duty to take pre-emptive action anywhere in the world at any time where there is a perceived threat against the security of the United States. They will not hesitate to act alone.

As Condolleezza Rice put it in her interview last weekend in the Financial Times: We want to be thought of as liberators". I doubt that they will be seen as that. As Dominique Moisi of the French Institute of Foreign Affairs put it the next day: No one likes armed liberators, especially if they come from a different continent with a different culture and a different religion". I find all this deeply disturbing. Close allies though we may be with the United States, we must not hesitate to address the issue. The defining thesis of this new US strategy is that the doctrine of deterrence and containment have outlived their effectiveness. Pre-emptive action by the sole superpower is now the name of the game.

That to my mind sets an appalling precedent. Zbigniev Brzezinski last month addressed the dangers of a sudden attack on Iraq by saying that such an attack would prompt many in the world to justify any subsequent Iraqi retaliation against America or Israel, while setting a dangerous example for the world of an essentially Darwinian international system characterised by sudden pre-emptive attacks.

I fear that a Darwinian international system seems to be at the heart of the new US security strategy and to my mind it is very dangerous. It also implies that the United Nations is an irrelevant body. I am amazed by President Bush's timing. He goes to the United Nations General Assembly and tells it what the UN has to deliver. A week later he announces a security strategy that could totally bypass it. There is an extraordinary inconsistency in what he has to say.

Dag Hammarskjöld said that the United Nations was created not to bring mankind to heaven but to keep it out of hell. It was a wise statement. One of our greatest representatives in the United Nations was Gladwyn Jebb, later a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House. Twenty-five years after he relinquished that post, he reflected on the body he had helped to create. He said: in order that mankind should not destroy itself totally in its struggles, it is essential to have some place…in which reason, or law, can be brought to bear on conflicts either for preventing them, or for ending them in accordance with certain generally accepted rules. We must not despair if these rules are often violated, or, more frequently ignored, or even if the Super-Powers sometimes fail to make use of the machinery altogether. The great thing is that it should be there. And when the abyss really yawns before them I believe that this time…it is [to] the United Nations that the nations will turn". I believe that the abyss really does yawn now. Britain was a key founding member, along with the United States, of the United Nations. I therefore urge Her Majesty's Government to do nothing, although called on by siren voices across the Atlantic, to undermine this global institution. So far the Government have stood firm. May that be their permanent policy. I hope that, as we have seen in the performance of the Prime Minister who has done so much to help bring the United States to see the validity of the United Nations, that that policy will indeed be permanent.

7.46 p.m.

Lord Blaker

My Lords, I apologise in advance in case I am unable to be here for the winding-up speeches. Because of the Tube strike it appears that if I were to stay for the full debate I might not be home before breakfast.

In the absence of the dossier which only appeared this morning, I have been reading the evidence to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate given on 31st July this year and especially to the evidence of Ambassador Richard Butler who was, as noble Lords will remember, the executive chairman of UNSCOM until 1999 when it ended. He is a distinguished Australian diplomat. He has been the ambassador of Australia in Thailand and at the UN. He is now diplomat-in-residence at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has been in the business of arms control, inspection and verification for about a quarter of a century. He is obviously not very well informed about what has happened in the past four years although I have no doubt he is trying to keep up.

Nevertheless, what he had to say to the committee gives a very good perspective. Not surprisingly, his evidence was very much in line with the dossier. But there are some points worth mentioning tonight. First, a very clear picture emerges from his evidence on the subterfuges, excuses, trickery, delays and devices by which the Iraqis sought to prevent UNSCOM being effective. One gains a clear picture of Saddam Hussein as a prince of prevarication. That is very relevant when we are planning the next arrangements for inspection about which the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, very properly spoke.

The second point relates to nuclear weapons. Iraq has been working on getting nuclear weapons for 20 years, according to Ambassador Butler. When the Gulf War put an end to progress of that effort on the part of the Iraqis, inspection by the IAEA and UNSCOM showed that Iraq was only six months away from making a crude explosive nuclear device. All that Iraq needs now, according to Ambassador Butler, is fissionable material to make nuclear weapons and this may be obtainable elsewhere. Iraq is trying to obtain it.

As regards chemical weapons, as noble Lords are aware the efforts of Iraq have covered about 20 years. Chemical weapons were used against Iranians in the 1980s and against the Kurds in the 1990s. By 1998 UNSCOM had discovered that Iraq had loaded the chemical weapon, VX, one of the most powerful, and other chemical and biological weapons, into missile warheads.

On biological weapons, Iraq made very elaborate efforts, according to the ambassador, to conceal its weapons, more elaborate even than in the other two contexts. In his view that implies the great importance that is attached to biological weapons. It loaded anthrax into missile warheads during the time when Ambassador Butler was at UNSCOM and it looked at other methods of delivery such as sprays and other types of weapon involving smallpox, ebola and plague.

The most interesting difference between the evidence given by Ambassador Butler and the dossier published today relates to the question that my noble friend Lord Waldegrave asked the noble Baroness during her opening speech on the connections between Iraq and terrorism. In July this year, after referring to a place called Salman Pak outside Baghdad, which he described as a terrorist training centre, he said: There are detailed accounts available now of the through-put through that centre of a variety of nationalities, most of them from countries in the Middle East. But the point is not just Iraqis but a multiplicity of nationals being to that school, trained by Iraq in techniques of terrorism". He went on to talk about an incident that occurred when he was the Australian ambassador in Bangkok when Saddam Hussein sent "a terrorist hit group" to Bangkok, as the ambassador put it. That group was identified by intelligence authorities. Their plan was to make an attack on three embassies, the Australian, the American and the Israeli. Ambassador Butler took assistance from the Thai army who lived in his embassy compound for some time. He continued: The end of the story is that the cell"— the group sent from Iraq— involved was found. It was heavily armed, and it did indeed have detailed plans for a military attack upon those three embassies". Why are those two matters not mentioned in the dossier? It is the opinion of Ambassador Butler that Saddam Hussein would not have transferred to other countries any ingredients for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction because he wished to preserve his pre-eminence and importance in the area.

Another point made by Ambassador Butler in his evidence was that it would be deeply dangerous to agree to a system of inspection that could lead to phoney examinations, more deceit and more concealment which may provide an illusion of security. That is a fairly obvious point. We have to bear in mind that although about 10 days ago Iraq sent a letter to Kofi Annan accepting, on the face of it, inspection without any conditions, within a few days Iraqi officials were talking of conditions such as sovereignty. They regard sovereignty as a condition that limits the rights of the inspectors to operate.

It is clear that we must start on a wholly new basis. I follow what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, was saying about how important it is that the new arrangements for inspections should be extremely tough. It will be difficult, for example, to prevent evasion in connection with biological and chemical weapons because of the small quantities involved. It will be difficult to ensure that inspections are free and that they can occur where and when the inspectors wish. It is desirable that the next resolution makes it clear that if the inspections arc frustrated by the Iraqis the United Nations reserves the right to resort to force, which is one thing that Saddam Hussein clearly understands.

I conclude with two brief points, both in support of remarks already made. I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell said about the importance—the necessity—of being clearer about the sort of regime we want to see in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's. It was difficult enough creating some sort of regime in Afghanistan; it will be much more difficult in Iraq.

I also support the numerous noble Lords who say that the United States would make a serious error if it proceeded any further without taking steps to resolve the Middle East problem—the Palestinian-Israeli problem. That is a point of cardinal importance. We must take steps to solve that problem in a fair and balanced way. It is right to pay tribute to the success of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in persuading the United States to work through the United Nations. I hope that they can use the same skills in achieving that other objective.

7.56 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords, I must confess that I have torn up my speech. Speaking fiftieth in this long debate, I feel that there is no point in inflicting on the House that which has been more eloquently said by many others already. However, I shall endorse many of the speeches that have been made. In particular, my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby put the position exactly as I would have wished to myself. She spoke for everyone on these Benches. I was also struck by the speech made by my noble friend Lord Watson of Richmond.

Listening to the soldiers, I agreed with much of what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, said. However, I agreed with everything that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, said. Listening to the former diplomats, I agreed with a great deal of the analysis set out by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, but I agreed with every word of what the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, said. From the prelates, the speeches made by the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Oxford were memorable. The speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, were entirely apropos.

It was only last Thursday that Congress gave the President of the United States consent to military action in any one of three circumstances. The first was military action in defence of the United States; the second was action necessary to enforce United Nations resolutions; and the third was action necessary to maintain peace in the region. The overwhelming message from this House tonight is that no military action should be taken in any circumstances, without the firmest backing in United Nations resolutions.

It is also fair to say that the House has made it equally clear that it sees the need for action. This House shares the view that Saddam Hussein is unspeakable and that we must work with all vigour to extract from the United Nations as early as possible a new resolution or new resolutions that will, so to speak, do the trick. One can only wish the Government Godspeed in the continuance of that mission. As many have said, the Prime Minister two weeks ago would seem to have effected a key switch in United Nations policy away from the line being adopted by Vice-President Cheney—that the United Nations was superfluous to the action being contemplated—to the present position. As was said by my noble friend Lady Williams, many in the United States are as worried as most of your Lordships by sabre-rattling from across the water. Al Gore's remarks yesterday were of that ilk and greatly become him.

It has not been made sufficiently clear that a no-risk option is not available in the present predicament. Whether or not one acts, there is a real danger of conflagration in the Middle East. The present state of affairs is extremely fragile for all the reasons explained tonight. Saddam Hussein is at best an unpredictable tyrant.

Those whose response to a no-risk option is that we must act early and with assurance delude themselves. Many eminent former soldiers have said that winning a war against Saddam Hussein in the Middle East must be the easiest victory that ever presented itself to a nation of the power of the United States. Winning the peace is the difficulty. For all the reasons eloquently explained in this debate, no peace is more difficult to win than in the Middle East.

I will touch briefly on the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli situation to the difficulties faced by the region. The diplomatic software, not the military hardware, is crucial. Hearts and minds have to be won. The Prime Minister was absolutely correct in October 2002—during his hasty shuttle between the members of the coalition—when he made it clear that he was in the business of trying to influence opinion in the countries that subsequently and so successfully formed the anti-terrorist coalition.

How do the Middle East, Iran and the other nations most tied up with the crisis perceive our proposals and those of the Americans? How do they view US diplomacy? The answer given tonight is absolutely correct. The role of candid friend does not merely require us to raise the issues but to raise them directly and with whatever degree of brutality is necessary to influence America in its own best interests. It is also a matter of being a candid friend to Israel at least as much as to the United States.

My own background is typical of men and women of my generation, to whom the Holocaust was the defining event of 20th century history—and which led to my offering to enlist in the Israeli army in 1973. It cannot be said that I come from an anti-Israeli background. Anyone who has travelled in the Middle East will confirm that there is a great deal of antagonism towards the way in which America has conducted itself in recent years. There is no sense that the United States has been even handed. Rather, there is a sense that Israel is a client state of the US and that the needs, rights and entitlements of every other state in the region come third and fourth best.

Sadly, the United Kingdom is not entirely free from being tarred with the same brush. Although we have sincerely endeavoured to distance ourselves from the United States, I do not know that we have always been wholly successful. I recently attended a conference in London of mainly Israeli and Palestinian business men. Among those present were Israelis who had been engaged in the negotiations at Camp David and Taba. The message from that meeting, quite independently of my own thoughts, was that the state of affairs in Palestine is unsustainable. There is over 50 per cent unemployment; a living standard one-ninth that of Israel; 3.7 million refugees, 1.2 million of them living in 52 squalid, deplorable camps.

I was in Sabra and Chatila last year. I would say to the noble Lords, Lord Janner, Lord Winston and Lord Weidenfeld, that while having every conceivable sympathy with the strain and anxiety that they must feel, it is no use they or anyone else saying that Ariel Sharon was elected. A great many men—they are usually men—in history have been "elected". That is no guarantee against improvidence and lack of wisdom.

The fact is that last week saw the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Sabra and Chatila over which Ariel Sharon presided. He enabled the Falangists to slaughter between 1,000 and 2,000 of those Palestinians, man woman and child, one by one, over a 24-hour period. He set up and enabled that slaughter. An Israeli committee afterwards found him responsible and he was forced to resign as Defence Minister. For that man—leave aside the fact that he was a terrorist back in the British mandate days in the Hagana—to have been elected to power in Israel, far from giving him legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab world, merely reinforced their sense of where public opinion in Israel rests.

I make that point not in any sense to stir up feeling against Israel, but as one example of the extent to which we need, if we are candid friends, to say to the Israelis and the United States that they must have more regard to other interests in the Middle East than they currently appear to do.

We can look briefly at Iran. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, correctly referred to the fact that Iran alone suffered 1 million dead at the time Saddam Hussein attacked. And Saddam Hussein was backed and armed by the United States and ourselves. Those are the sort of recent historic facts which Middle East countries do not understand when we now act as we appear to be doing. I sit down, save to say to the noble Lords, Lord Janner and Lord Winston, that I can end on no better note than to quote the example of the young man, Yoni Jesner, who was so tragically slaughtered and whose organs were then given for an Israeli child. That at least gives a ray of light.

8.8 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, we have heard some excellent speeches, not least those of the noble Lords, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Lord Grenfell. I agree with much of what they said.

The priorities in the Middle East must surely be, first, however difficult it may seem at the moment, to obtain a just and guaranteed solution to the Israel-Palestine question; to build up the economic and political stability of Afghanistan; to encourage Pakistan and other countries to deal with any Al'Qaeda on their territory; and most urgent of all, to get the UN inspectors back into Iraq.

Saddam Hussein is indeed in breach of innumerable UN resolutions and the Security Council has every right, indeed an obligation, to insist on compliance and even to authorise the use of any force it believes necessary to ensure that happens. There can be no doubt that some degree of credible sabre rattling and psychological warfare has been necessary and could still be essential right up to the wire to bring about that compliance.

I therefore back the Government in their support of America in its diplomatic offensive with heavy military overtones and congratulate the Prime Minister on steering it through the United Nations, which is obviously the answer. That is the easy part. It is now up to the UN with our full support to enforce and maintain the unconditional return of the observers, backed, I hope, by a strong Security Council resolution holding President Saddam Hussein personally to account for that compliance.

I presume that the Government consider it important that time is now given for the observers to assess that task and report back before any further action is decided on. Here we come to the difficult part. If, in addition to all those priorities, irrespective of how the observers were making out, and without any further authority from the United Nations, British forces were to be committed to a large scale United States military action, primarily to effect a regime change, the British people—not unreasonably—would expect satisfactory and reassuring answers to some searching questions, some of which have hardly been touched on before this debate, to be sure that they had been thought through.

First, would such action really be necessary? Plenty of evidence is pouring in of the threat of Iraq developing and possessing weapons of mass destruction and delivery means. But surely the key question is whether, survivor that he is, Saddam would ever want or be in a position to use those weapons offensively when all the eyes of the world are on him and he must know that retribution would be terrible and swift. Could he still not be deterred, as to some extent he was during the Gulf War vis à vis Israel?

Iraq has not been appeased, as some claim it would be if it were not attacked. Sanctions are in place; there are no-fly zones at either end of the country. Selected sites in those zones have been taken out by air with impunity. Saddam must realise that other sites related to the production of weapons of mass destruction could be treated in the same way. Forces are at hand in the area ready to be used if so authorised. That is hardly appeasement. Observers able to do their job would greatly further inhibit him.

For 50 years we have based our defence policy on deterring, with heavy large-scale weapons of our own, those with more serious and numerous weapons of mass destruction. I wonder why the Government are so adamant that Saddam cannot be kept in place by similar methods; what the Foreign Office once in its wisdom described as "aggressive containment".

Secondly, would such action be morally justified? It is reasonable that the people of this country not only speculate whether the Americans can and will attack Iraq but whether they should. Unfortunately one cannot always base a country's foreign policy on morality. The instinct of self-interest, and, even more, self-preservation, is always more compelling both for governments and those who elect them.

But the weaker the case for necessity, the more the moral question has to be taken into account, particularly at times when pre-emptive action, largely to effect a change of ruler or implant a more favourable type of government, would not by itself be considered sufficient justification for war—consider the case of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. When such strong efforts are made to link military force to the authority of the United Nations the moral high ground is important, and this country is supposed to take a lead in such matters.

Thirdly, would an attack on Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein work? The advice of the chiefs of staff will be crucial; I hope that the Government are listening to them. With all the power at its disposal and no other superpower to gainsay it as occurred in the past, America can, I presume, eventually achieve any military objective it wishes, although historical precedent indicates that attack on a homeland as distinct from captured territory can be messy and prolonged.

Getting into Iraq may not present too many problems, but, as many noble Lords have asked, have we really thought through what we do when we get there and how we put together a fragmented and disparate Iraq that its Arab neighbours have never wanted broken up as a country? My noble and gallant friend Lord Vincent talked of the need for a clear political aim. Others have talked about any attack being only a beginning and not an end. A lot more work needs to be done on that.

Finally, will the wider aftermath of such an attack be beneficial or the reverse? There are two conflicting schools of thought. One, for which the support is slightly weakening, is that, as a result of a successful attack, with Saddam Hussein being removed, preferably with the help of a popular uprising, the terrorist-ridden, war-torn Middle East would somehow start to unravel beneficially, moderate Muslim governments would take heart and thus take more effective action against their dissident elements, the situation of Palestine would become more possible and the ability of the terrorists to strike another disastrous blow at the United States or Europe, with or without weapons of mass destruction, could be effectively reduced or even removed.

However, the other school of thought is that all-out war with Iraq, as distinct from aggressive containment, would produce in the area the display of massive, dynamic western military activity that is one of the mainsprings of motivation for terrorist action and outrages in the region and over a wider area. Far from advancing the war against terrorism—which could and should be conducted internationally by other means—and enhancing the peace process around Israel's borders, it would make things infinitely worse. Petrol, not water, would be poured on the flames.

Those who subscribe to this latter view might well consider that even if a prima facie case could be made for attacking Iraq unilaterally, the disadvantages might well outweigh the advantages and produce more pain and grief than they solved.

All this is a matter of judgment as to which scenario is more likely, which is difficult to make unless you are in possession of all the facts. I am not too certain of the answer, but it is a judgment that the Government, with all the diplomatic and intelligence channels at their disposal, can and should make on behalf of the British people. If the first point of view commends itself to them, they should stake their reputation on it and communicate it to the British people with all the conviction and vehemence that the Government can muster so that they can get a full consensus in the country, which our forces would need. If the second point of view prevails and they more or less say that come what may, right or wrong, the special relationship is so important that it must be supported at all costs, that viewpoint should be tested as well.

Many of us—including the British Government, I am sure—hope that the authority of the United Nations and the influence of other Arab and Muslim states will be sufficient to get Iraq to accept certainly no less than all the points in the previous United Nations resolutions. Then the case for further military action will have been weakened and an opportunity will exist to hold hack or pull back with honour. If not, then the Government will face a very serious situation. Going to war, which is what it would be, is a very serious step—particularly a war that, whatever the outcome, is bound to antagonise large sections of the Muslim world and cause a great many innocent casualties. If then I, like the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, would fear for the future and hold a pessimistic point of view, which I certainly did not at the time of the Falklands War, when I held office, or at the time of the Gulf War, when I visited the area in a parliamentary delegation—on both occasions, I was convinced that whatever risks there were should be taken and that we would win-it is because I feel in my heart of hearts—I believe that many who know the Middle East better than I do would agree—that the peace and stability of the world would best be served by less, not more, western military action in the Middle East, following the pattern successfully set in the last quarter of the 20th century in South-East Asia.

The West, led by America, must remain strong, alert and ever-vigilant, with improved missile defence and constantly improving and better-funded intelligence. It must be ready, too, to adopt the laws in a democratic society so that terrorist cells cannot so easily be planted and prosper. The much-needed bridges which will have to be built in the future between the affluent West and the less secure and resentful Muslim world would then be on the basis of mutual trade, aid, where it was needed and asked for, and, above all, mutual respect. Under those circumstances—again, I look at South-East Asia—I believe that Al'Qaeda would wither on the vine or that its members would be properly treated as criminals, as has so often happened in the years gone by.

8.21 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester

My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Williams and my noble friend Lady Symons, speaking with all their customary sincerity and conviction, argued a powerful and persuasive case for the policy that the Government are now pursuing as the world contemplates the prospect of what some in the media are already calling "Gulf War Two".

I have an interest to declare but not a financial one. It is my close working relationship with representatives of ex-servicemen and women, now in broken health, many of them terminally ill, who sacrificed their well-being in Gulf War One, and the bereaved families of those who sacrificed their lives. They became known to me, first, as Honorary Parliamentary Advisor for many years of The Royal British Legion and then as a founder member of its Inter-Parliamentary Gulf War Group of parliamentarians, medical and legal specialists, veterans of the conflict and ex-service charity leaders. Other members of the group include the noble Countess, Lady Mar, the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, Gisela Stuart MP, Michael Mates MP and Paul Tyler MP. The MoD is also represented.

It was my role in that group—and in this House in securing parliamentary time for five debates on the problems and needs of Gulf veterans and the bereaved families—that led the United States Congress to make me, without any known precedent, a co-opted member of its Congressional Committee on Gulf War Illnesses. Never was the "special relationship" more special. I was invited to sit on equal terms with members from both sides of Congress and have since done so at meetings on Capitol Hill. I did so again when, last June, the committee met here in the Palace of Westminster—the first Congressional committee ever to do so—to take evidence from British Gulf veterans.

The principal lesson I learned from that experience is that we could soon become involved in a second Gulf War without having applied, or even fully learned, the lessons of the first.

For we still do not know, 12 years on, even whether it was safe to subject British troops deployed to the Gulf in 1990 to a multiple immunisation programme of up to 14 inoculations and the first ever issue of nerve agent pre-treatment sets—NAPS tablets—as antidote to biological agents. Indeed, I am ministerially informed that Porton Down will not report on the programme's "long-term effects on humans" until late next year at the earliest, long before when further British troops could be in the Gulf facing an adversary known to be capable of deploying chemical, biological and possibly nuclear devices against them. This is of concern not only to Gulf War veterans—and their serving colleagues—but to former senior soldiers of the highest distinction. The noble and gallant Lord, Field Marshal Lord Bramall—a former Chief of the Defence Staff, whom I am delighted to be following in this debate—is in no doubt about the importance of the issue in terms both of explaining many of the still undiagnosed illnesses of Gulf veterans and safeguarding troops now awaiting deployment.

In the debate on Gulf War illnesses which I opened in your Lordships' House on 15 January 2001, the noble and gallant Lord said, at col. 1014, that, one glaring question stands out above all others and he described the combination of NAPS tablets and up to 14 vaccines, all administered at the same time, as by far the most likely common factor in causing subsequent indisposition or worse among Gulf veterans. The depth of his disquiet about the time-scale for completing the Porton Down studies was made equally clear.

This is in part why the ex-service community want Parliament now to be given all possible information on arrangements made to immunise our troops now awaiting deployment, more especially reservists, against any biological weapons that might be used. "Is the immunisation process already under way?", I am asked by The Royal British Legion. "Have all of the vaccines that are to be used been approved?"

They want specifically to know what precautions have been taken to protect British troops against the effects of nerve gases and what, if anything, has replaced the NAPS tablets that were used last time.

The ex-service community accept that mistakes made in 1990–91 were not deliberate; but they rightly insist that every lesson learned from past mistakes must be fully explained and seen to have been acted upon for the protection of troops now facing active service in the Gulf.

The scale on which veterans were reporting war-related illnesses soon after the 1991 conflict led even many doctors to think that there could be a single underlying cause. But the range of symptoms was very wide; and while this does not exclude damage done to the immune system by the multiple immunisation programme as the single most common cause of Gulf War illnesses, it was demonstrably not the only cause when so many veterans were presenting symptoms of organophosphate poisoning; of PTSD; of the effects of massive oil pollution from the firing by Iraqi troops of Kuwait's oil wells; and of involvement in the clean-up of vehicles and sites attacked by DU weapons.

Here again we need to know today what lessons have been learned under each of these heads and what action has been taken to apply them in protecting troops now about to be deployed.

The ex-service community also want reassuring, first, that organophosphates will not again be used to prevent fly-borne diseases and that sufficient stocks of other pesticides have been made available. Secondly, they want to be reassured that early warning devices that were discredited by the MoD as being over-sensitive in reacting to substances other than toxic gases have now been replaced by a system in which the department has confidence. Thirdly, they seek reassurance about the SA 90 rifle, more especially to hear that instructions and training have been given to deal with the problem involved in failing to maintain the rifle correctly. And, fourthly, they ask whether the issue of "melting boots" has been fully addressed.

My work with the Congressional committee of inquiry also made me aware that the prevalence of motor neurone disease is disturbingly higher among Gulf War veterans, both here and in the US, than it is in the population as a whole. I also learned that, had they been Americans, the late Nigel Thompson and other British veterans who have died of the disease would have had their illness accepted as war-related. Here the MoD continues to "study" the link, while the US Department of Defence has already acted.

Again, illnesses among US veterans exposed to the fall-out plume from US bombing of the Iraqi chemical weapons stored at Khamisiyah in southern Iraq in March 1991 are accepted as war-related. Not so those of British veterans who were exposed to nerve agent by the bombing; and they and their families want to know why. For they see the denial of parity of treatment as unjust.

They ask also why, while in the United States a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the effects of the conflict was set up very soon after the liberation of Kuwait, there still has been no such wide-ranging inquiry here.

Of all the duties it falls to parliamentarians to discharge, none is of more compelling priority than to act justly to citizens who are prepared to lay down their lives for their country and the dependants of those who do so. There was no delay in the response of our troops to the call of duty in 1990–91. Nor should there be any delay now in settling in full our debt of honour to them or in maximising the protection of those who could soon be putting their lives on the line in a renewal of hostilities in the Gulf. That commitment too is one of honour.

8.31 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, if I am not here at the end of the debate, that will not be because of a lack of stamina, although this debate could much more usefully have taken place over two days. It is a great mistake to think that in relation to very complex subjects such as this, having less time available, which makes shorter speeches necessary, contributes most to the debate. There are so many different matters on which all of us want to add our views; we want to do so and could usefully do so. Moreover, if I am not here later, that is not because I have any disrespect for the customs of your Lordships' House. In 35 years, I believe that I have never not stayed to the end of a debate in which I have spoken. If I do not stay this evening, that is merely because in trying to get to your Lordships' House this morning, I had difficulty negotiating the outer defences that had been thrown up and came a real purler; I will be better off at home.

Before I turn to the short speech that I want to make, I take up a point that was made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. In a very good speech—this has been a debate of very good speeches, not least that made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, who raised some important issues—the right reverend Prelate made a statement that goes to the heart of the debate. He said that he thought that it was morally acceptable to go to war on occasion and under certain circumstances because of what was threatened rather than because of what had happened. I believe—if I, a member of the inferior clergy, may say this to an empty Bishops' Bench—that that is bad moral theology. It leads one down a very tortuous path. One starts wondering, when one is considering individuals whose genes lead one to believe that they will almost certainly commit serious crimes, about how to deal with such people. That path should not be pursued. We should stick to the way in which people behave.

Like all noble Lords, I speak for myself, but I also speak for the Green Party. I do so with the more confidence because my party held its conference last week and, as will all party conferences this summer, it expressed its views on this subject.

Terrorism is a frightful thing; persecution is a frightful thing; and nothing I am about to say should be held to diminish our condemnation of Saddam Hussein and his regime for their part in these crimes.

But we believe that war is an even more terrible thing, coming as it does from the considered decision of states to unleash organised violence, backed by the semblance of legality, upon the world. We do not believe that it should ever be embarked on by civilised nations except with the sanction of the body that they have set up for this purpose, the UN, and then strictly within the framework of any conditions that body may have laid down. For that reason we strongly condemn the determination by President Bush and possibly our own Prime Minister to "go it alone" if they do not obtain a UN resolution which satisfies them. Such an action would be criminal, and the intention to do it is an intention to commit a criminal act.

Further, we hold that the UN must abide by its laid down rules, which specify the right to act in response to aggression. No aggression is threatened by Iraq at present. The holding of weapons of mass destruction is not in itself an aggressive act or the US and the UK would be equally guilty. Indeed, my party calls on both nations to surrender theirs. But, more to the immediate point, I believe that there is no excuse ever for a pre-emptive strike, for the reasons upon which I have touched.

Finally, I shall close with a quotation from a Republican Party president who had himself, unlike the present President, considerable experience of war, General Eisenhower. He said: Indeed I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it".

8.37 p.m.

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, this debate is, to take note of the situation with regard to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction". Despite that, and no doubt understandably, a great deal of attention has been paid to America's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I intend to address the question of Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, United Nations resolutions and the United Nations role in enforcing those resolutions.

I know that no one in this Chamber welcomes the prospect of war with Iraq. I certainly do not. But is that the simple, straightforward question to be faced? I suggest not. It seems to me that we have to ask, first, is a war with Iraq inevitable? Secondly, if it is inevitable, should it be fought on our terms or do we wait until the enemy has the opportunity to strike first in whatever form that may take? Of course, it would be comforting to believe that a military conflict with Iraq is not inevitable. But is that realistic? And that poses the third question.

In order to reach a reasonable conclusion on those questions, I believe that it is necessary to examine the record of the man with whom we are dealing—Saddam Hussein. I appreciate that he has given a commitment to allow United Nations inspectors to return to Iraq after a four-year absence. I shall come to that issue later. In the meantime it is sufficient to say that allowing inspectors into Iraq is not an end in itself but only a means to an end—the end being the removal of weapons of mass destruction. That is the commitment entered into in 1991, 11 years ago, following the Gulf War, which clearly has not been honoured.

So what of the record of the dictator with whom we are dealing? By a very conservative estimate, he was responsible for the mass killing of 200,000 Kurds in the late 1980s. We know that at least a further 300,000 Iraqis have been slain on the orders of Saddam Hussein. We know that in the region of 600,000 Iraqis died in the war with Iran; and we know of the countless Iraqis who were slaughtered as a result of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.

That record must surely tell us what value this man places on human life. If he places no value on the lives of his own people, what value does he place on the lives of the rest of us? The answer is unequivocally: none whatsoever. He is a tyrant who has no difficulty in embracing terrorism. I should not be surprised to learn that he knew of, even if he did not participate in, the atrocity of September 11th. I believe that Saddam Hussein would have no compunction in unleashing weapons of mass destruction on the world, particularly the free world, if it suited his purpose and if he were given the opportunity to do so. I believe that he must be stopped before that day comes—it is to be hoped by peaceful means but, if that is not possible, the employment of military means will, I fear, become necessary.

Perhaps I may say a few words on Iraq's contempt of United Nations resolutions and its past treatment of the United Nations inspectors. First, we know that there is a series of United Nations resolutions with which Iraq has failed to comply. That in itself justifies holding Saddam Hussein to account.

But at the stage we are at now, what must be of greatest importance is Saddam Hussein's latter-day concession—I use the term with some sarcasm—to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq after an absence of four years. But even given this development, would it not be folly to ignore our experience of the inspections between 1991 and 1998?

In June 1991, very early on in the inspection, there was the first showdown, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were barred from intercepting nuclear-related material by Iraqi security forces who attempted to intimidate the inspectors by firing their weapons.

In September of that year, agency officials were prevented from moving sensitive documents in Baghdad—and the Iraqis exerted this pressure on the inspectors for four days.

Following repeated attempts over the years by Iraqi forces to frustrate the work of the United Nations, the most blatant violation came in 1995. Until then, Baghdad had denied having biological weapons. In that year, inspectors unearthed Iraq's covert biological weapons programme—and only subsequently did Iraq admit to producing "tens of tonnes" of biological warfare agents. Richard Butler, who led the last United Nations team to be withdrawn from Baghdad, in 1998, said that Iraq had built, a wall of deceit and concealment", to fool inspectors in the past and might do so again".

So this is the experience of the past from which we must draw our conclusions for the future. The United Nations was created to maintain peace on this planet and to curb the excesses of tyrants and dictators whose actions threaten people's safety and security the world over. In this regard, for 50 years it has provided a great service. However, it seems to me that in respect of Iraq the United Nations has been extremely long-suffering.

In the week before George Bush made his speech to the United Nations, and during the period when America was widely criticised for suggesting the possibility of a military strike on Iraq, I was on holiday not in America but in the Baltics. While reading a novel by Robert Goddard entitled Past Caring, I came across a line which read: Truth without action is knowledge honour". How appropriate that seemed in relation to the United Nations and Saddam Hussein's continual and persistent flouting of its resolutions.

The "truth" is as I have described. But where has been the action—conspicuous, I suggest, by its absence? The "knowledge" is clear, but has not the honour of the United Nations already been dented, and is it not now at risk of further damage? Let us not delude ourselves by thinking that the United Nations, or Iraq, would be acting as they are now if it had not been for the United States and Britain making it abundantly clear that if the United Nations did not fulfil its responsibilities, then others would do it for them.

The United Nations has a clear responsibility to resolve problems, not to avoid them. As the past has taught us, avoiding difficulties in the short and medium term only results in even worse consequences in the long term. What happened on 11th September was catastrophic, but I do not want to wait to see a terrorist attack in the future that could possibly involve nuclear weapons and that would dwarf what happened to the Twin Towers and to the Pentagon.

Whether it is Iraq or elsewhere, we can no longer afford to be relaxed, or, worse, be complacent or apathetic to the dangers that confront us today. Like most noble Lords here, I am old enough to remember the Second World War. I have also read enough about the Spanish Civil War that preceded it. In both cases, our failure to act at the appropriate time only added to our eventual difficulties. In Spain we did nothing to defend democracy when Hitler, at the same time, was supporting Franco and the fascists—a war which many have said the Fuhrer saw as a dress rehearsal for World War Two. Yet, despite those developments, we embarked on a policy of appeasement with Hitler. And what good did that do us?

I am afraid that there are too many examples where we have allowed our enemies to take the initiative. In today's technological age, with the increasing growth of terrorism we cannot afford to relax and ignore the threat with which the free world is now confronted. I believe that the weapons of mass destruction must be removed and destroyed. If the United Nations inspectors can achieve this, then the best solution will have been found. However, there is no doubt that this will require the genuine co-operation of the Iraqi regime. But if that does not succeed, I believe that the United Nations must fulfil its responsibility and take the alternative and unavoidable action that is necessary to enforce the UN resolutions. In my view, a failure to do so will result in the United Nations following the same path as the League of Nations.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, and that is especially so this evening because I happen to agree with everything that he said. As a very old-fashioned Conservative, on defence of the realm I tend to support the Government and oppose them on everything else. I also take the view that it is no time of night to make a prepared speech and propose to entertain a somewhat jerky debate.

Whatever Saddam Hussein intends to do with these weapons, in about a year he will have the whole range and the means of delivery with devastating consequence—all this in defiance of United Nations resolutions. The credibility of the United Nations and of the world community is as stake unless these weapons are destroyed. Inspection has become the plaything for delay, while Saddam Hussein builds up his arsenal. And delay but heightens the order of the threat. Mandatory destruction with the authority of the United Nations is now urgent owing to the weather conditions in Iraq. This has to be the time for action if we are to act.

In that respect I am afraid that I take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and her party. It is assumed that armed intervention would be directed to protect inspection and, as I think was suggested by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, the inspectors and to pinpoint and ensure verified destruction to safeguard our own salvation and that of others from the threat of attack. Furthermore, in default of agreement by or obstruction by Saddam Hussein, in any extension of such intervention due to the exigencies of war no attack shall be directed against the civilian population, as was the case on both sides in World War II.

There is a need for clarification of the nature of the commitment of our Armed Forces. We are not under attack. Is the regime change still to remain on ice? It is assumed that there shall be no—as one reads in the papers—wholesale bombardment, no all-out war and that every attempt will be made in any event to avoid civilian casualties.

The Government have confirmed that before any decision is taken in Cabinet to commit our Armed Forces, who are now on standby, to engage in such armed intervention, debate should have ensued from the United Nations' regulation and on updated intelligence, of which the House shall have had due notice. One of the reasons why I tend to support the Government on defence of the realm is that they have access to the whole of the intelligence, which cannot possibly be, for security reasons, in the dossier. On that matter one has to trust the Government.

As yet no decision has or could have been taken pending such debate. In the meantime, is it not of vital consequence that diplomacy at the United Nations and elsewhere should not be inhibited or undermined by this debate? As has been said by many noble Lords—for example, in the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, my noble and learned friend Lord Howe and my noble friend Lord Hurd—this is a highly sensitive situation which requires very careful handling.

I turn to the nature of the threat and to the legitimate action in self-defence as opened by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernon Dean. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, was of crucial consequence. He dealt with self-defence from the position of threat of attack from weapons of mass destruction delivered at any time without any warning with devastating effect. That situation has not been encountered before in the international law of self defence. That has to be met, and the previous concepts have to be extended, in order that proportionate action in self defence—if the only way to defend oneself is by pre-emption—is self defence. The nature of the threat was expounded by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, with quiet but commanding authority. I believe that the House is indebted to him because he opened the door to extension of public international law to meet the situation in the world as it is.

The speech of my noble friend Lord Carrington, which provided the essential analysis of the position and what should be done about it, commends itself. My noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater, in his analysis of the difficulties, came to the conclusion that we shall have to see it through, but with the support of the world community under the rule of law. In effect, that was also the view of my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams, confirmed that the fundamental requirement was destruction of those weapons, one way or another. Inspection is relevant only if it were to serve as a means to that end. That is the issue between myself and the Liberal Party, to which I referred. The strength of our special relationship is the flexibility to adapt to changed circumstances. However, in the light of the statement and the dossier, is it not to be doubted whether any change of circumstances could affect the fundamental requirement?

In that situation, is it sensible or realistic that any government should ignore the intelligence, much of which we know cannot be disclosed, the record of Saddam Hussein, the evidence of Khalid Henza, and so forth? Could any government bury their head in the sinking sands of hope and indulge in prolonged chatter at the talking shop while Saddam Hussein builds up his arsenal? The spectre of control of the whole of the oil supply from the Middle East by Saddam Hussein hovers in the wings of this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, said that the purpose of those weapons was to dominate the Gulf. She is absolutely right, I believe. Whether she is right or wrong one cannot be certain. However, there is a real threat, not only to global states but, in particular, to the states in the Gulf.

Surely this is no time to seek appeasement, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, said. We cannot do it. We have to see it through. There is in public international law just cause for action in self defence to eliminate the threat. I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, believes that too.

9 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, it hardly seems like 11 years since we were discussing exactly the same problem—what to do about Saddam Hussein. At that time, I suggested, I remember, that he be encouraged to read The Water Babies and to contemplate the character of Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did. This, I fear, he has signally failed to do, or he would have stopped torturing and killing people, he would have stopped piling up weapons of mass destruction, chemical nasties and biological beastlinesses which, apart from the idea of their ultimate use, are expensive to make and to keep and do not appear to serve as any form of useful deterrent. Indeed, a deterrent from what? Their very existence and the fact that they are there simply incites other people to get rid of them.

We are all agreed that Saddam Hussein is an ogre. Whether he achieves a nuclear potential by Christmas, as some newspapers suggest, or in two years' time, as Secretary Powell appears to believe and indeed the dossier seems to indicate, there can be no doubt that he would want to use it. But he is not the only ogre in the world. What about President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, pointed out? He has expropriated all the farms from the white people, who now have no land, no money and nowhere to go to since, unlike the Ugandan Asians in similar straits, we will not re-admit them to Britain. A large proportion of the black population is starving and will die—men, women and children. And a terrorist organisation, the Green Bombers, is going about killing indiscriminately, black people and white people. But we are not threatening war on Zimbabwe unless the regime is changed. We are doing nothing.

This is not a time for jingoism and rattling sabres. It is a time of close international co-operation not only between Britain and our closest friends and allies, the United States, and some of our European partners, but between all the United Nations of the world. We must have the United Nations resolutions on weapons inspections upheld and proper inspections taking place. As all noble Lords have pointed out, the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister has been splendidly instrumental in achieving that. We must act together with the rest of the world under the aegis of the United Nations. That is, after all, what the United Nations is for.

We have to consider carefully also the welfare of our own service personnel. It is they who will bear the brunt of whatever we decide now. We do not know what will happen if they do invade. We do not know whether chemical and biological weapons will be used. Speaking as the president of the War Widows Association of Great Britain, I would like to quote George Washington. He said: The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation". It is possible, as some of the hawks flying around have seemed to suggest—not my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall, who is not in his place—that in the end we may have to use force. But going to war with Saddam Hussein is like throwing a stone into Loch Ness to try and hit the monster. You may succeed, but you do not know what ripples that stone will create, nor to where they will travel.

9.5 p.m.

Lord Turnberg

My Lords, of course the best course of action would be for the United Nations to send an unrestricted inspection team into Iraq, and we should make every effort to support that end. But does anyone seriously doubt that without a serious threat of military action Saddam would allow in the inspectors? It is only by maintaining that threat and following it through, if necessary, that we can possibly hope that the UN will be able to act successfully. So I strongly support the Government's line and welcome the Minister's Statement.

Other noble Lords have brought Israel into the debate, although it stretches my imagination at least to concede that it is Israel which makes Saddam such an evilly inclined man and provokes him into perpetrating the crimes that he has committed. But clearly it is important for us to make every effort to help resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Everyone here, and especially there, wants it with all their hearts. Israel wants nothing more desperately than freedom from the daily acts of terrorism to which the people are subjected and a sense of security, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has suggested in what I took to be a rather selective review of the history of the region. They desperately desire peace; and the Palestinians want nothing more clearly than their right to self-determination, their own state and relief from the misery that they undoubtedly suffer. I believe that these two sides could reach agreement with or without the help of others, as outlined in the optimistic ideas described by my noble friend Lord Stone and emanating from the Mitchell plan.

But there are other forces at work which do not want such a peaceful resolution. I would like to concentrate my few remarks on these. Some Arab countries want nothing less than the total destruction of Israel. Of course, it is possible that Saddam will try to broaden any conflict by attacking Israel in the belief that that will earn him credit with some of his neighbours.

But there is a more sinister aspect to the way in which Israel may be drawn into the conflict which has not been touched on today but which will have considerable implications for stability in the region and way outside it. That is the way in which Iran and Syria in particular are taking advantage of a possible conflict in Iraq by building up a massive armed force in southern Lebanon. Israel certainly has no conceivable interest in engaging in a war on its northern border. It clearly has nothing to gain from such a conflict. The only reason why Hezbollah is there in such large numbers, armed now with hundreds of short, medium and long-range rockets, is to do the bidding, of its Iranian and Syrian sponsors, funders and trainers to open up a front for the total destruction of Israel.

That the Iranian and Syrian leadership want to rid the Middle East of Israel is absolutely clear from their official and unofficial pronouncements, and they never deny it. A conflict with Iraq will provide the excuse, but of course Israel will be forced to defend itself and so the conflict will grow.

It is time that the international community in general and the United Kingdom Government in particular took very seriously the activities of Iran and Syria as they concentrate on Saddam Hussein. I ask the Minister whether he agrees with me that the stability of the region, and much more widely, is threatened by these provocative activities in southern Lebanon and whether the Government will bring pressure to bear on Iran and Syria to consider the dangers that they and everyone else face when they support terrorism in this way and pursue their current course of action.

9.9 p.m.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, for me the lesson of this debate has been to take a wider and a longer view of what is happening in relation to Iraq. The speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, reminded the House that we meet against a backdrop of increasing alienation between different worlds: the rich and the poor; the black and the white; the secular and the religious; the religious and the religious; and the democratic and the authoritarian.

That alienation was repeatedly and depressingly demonstrated at the recent Johannesburg world summit. The only area where the division of view continues to wither away is between those few who still advocate socialism as an economic system and those who recognise that, for all its faults, only capitalism can provide for the mass of the people the standard of living that can come from the goods and services that technology provides.

The attack on the United States in September last year demonstrated the depth of hatred towards America. At that time it was generally recognised that there was a need to be tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism. Sadly, the second part of that equation appears to be off the agenda. Many noble Lords will have heard John Simpson, the chief BBC foreign correspondent, reporting from Johannesburg on the sympathetic reception received by Iraq's foreign minister. He added that if Saddam himself had attended he would have had a rapturous welcome. I found that chilling.

The need to drain the reservoir of hatred was well put forward in the emergency debate held a year ago. Sadly that reservoir is now full to overflowing. Like it or not, in every Arab mind America is identified with the Jewish cause. For years Arabs have been outraged at the way in which the United States has abused its veto power by unswerving support for Israel. I believe that with the desirable removal of Saddam, the Americans should use their financial leverage to insist that all Jewish settlements are removed from the West Bank, with a deadline for so doing. As a matter of practical American politics, I recognise that that will probably have to wait until after the November congressional elections.

The window for a ground war in Iraq is November to March and understandably President Bush is being influenced by his November elections. If at that time the United States were to be poised for war, that might help the Republican party. As it is unlikely that action will be launched by then we may see different political priorities in America after those congressional elections. I believe that the latest public opinion polls that I heard this afternoon on CNN are rather optimistic. They showed 78 percent support for American military action under UN authority, but 60 percent against unilateral American military action.

Our troops are the finest in the world and I believe that it is unlikely that the United States will go for a "full frontal" involving a campaign by troops on the ground without British military support, so I believe that we have a real chance of influence over America. The world is only too well aware that President Bush will make the final decision but Her Majesty's Government must not appear to agree in advance to underwrite that decision.

Another important practical factor in considering British participation in a military operation on the ground relates to the equipment of our troops. I mention three examples: the communications equipment, the rifle and the suitability of a main battle tank for desert warfare. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, will answer the debate, because I should like to refer to the Clansman system. Our troops are still required to use that obsolete and unreliable radio communication system. It is obsolete because it is not secure; security must be added by manual encryption. That is wholly unrealistic, given the pressures of today's battlefield. The system is so unreliable that soldiers of all ranks—I have talked to them—habitually use private mobile phones for military communications during exercises. Will Her Majesty's Government make arrangements for American equipment to be used—if there is an operation in Iraq—until the new Bowman system is in place? I recognise that the Bowman saga went on under the Conservative Government, but this Government have been in office for five years, so they also bear responsibility.

The famous dossier that we got today is a useful background brief. However, I did not think that there was much new material in it. It is well put together, although it is extraordinary that such an important document should be published without a date on it. That is not much of a tribute to future historians, but I am not wholly surprised. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House said that Ministers thought that it was better that Parliament got the document before the press got at it. That says something too.

I do not share the doubts of those who question whether Saddam is a threat and is utterly evil. I am sure that he is, and the sooner he is dead, the better. If he is killed, however, is should be either at the hands of his own people or through foreign military action taken within international law. Going to war without UN cover, now that America has agreed to seek UN backing, would permanently damage the UN's position as a guardian of world peace. Moreover, a failure by the Security Council to pass a resolution to put real pressure on Saddam could be as damaging as the failure by the League of Nations to act against Mussolini apropos of Abyssinia in 1935.

Pending the internal overthrow of Saddam—eventually, he will be overthrown internally—we must keep him in his box. He must, of course, be subjected to what is being described as intrusive arms inspections. That could be supplemented by legalising and extending the no-fly zones and including helicopter flights. Military means, short of a full frontal assault, could make it increasingly hard for Saddam to govern.

All the experts agree that any successor to Saddam who was seen as the nominee of a foreign power would rapidly be killed by the Iraqis. Poor King Faisal lost his life in 1958 because he was seen as a British stooge. Today, an American stooge would be even more unacceptable. Although the Middle East would be less dangerous without Saddam, the crucial question is whether the region would be more or less stable if Saddam were overthrown by external military force. That is a question for today. The experts' view is that the region could become less stable. In Saudi Arabia, the Arab street could revolt and end the fragile regime in that country. The danger is that anti-western fundamentalists would replace virtually every regime in the Gulf. We could end up worse off than we are today. We should not forget, given the present fragility of the world economy, that a rise in the price of oil—however temporary—is extremely deflationary.

We know that Saddam has strong Samson tendencies. Under real threat, he is all too likely to seek to pull the whole edifice down with him. Would there be anybody in Iraq to stop him? I pray that there would. Otherwise, there is a real risk that, when under western attack, Saddam might use biological or chemical weapons against Israel, to which Israel would almost certainly retaliate with nuclear weapons. Where would that leave the world and, in particular, the USA?

I respect and admire much about our Prime Minister. He has done a great deal for the reputation of our country. As has repeatedly been said, he has persuaded our American allies to try the UN way. I cast no aspersions on his sincerity but in this grave situation, I do not yet have full confidence in his judgment as to the conditions in which the UK should support American military action. I should like the Prime Minister to take a longer view.

I hope that someone will draw the attention of Mr. Blair to the words of Winston Churchill when making his parliamentary tribute on the death of Neville Chamberlain: In one phase, men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield "because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however, the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour".—[Official Report, Commons, 12/11/40; col. 1617.]

9.20 p.m.

Lord Moran

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, who gave us a good deal to think about. It seems probable that before long the United States will attack Iraq. If so, should we take part? In my view, we should not. We should only go to war if we ourselves are threatened or if vital British interests are at stake. Kamal Ataturk put it like this in 1923: The strength of a nation shall be expended to defend its own existence. It is totally wrong to forget that". When my generation fought against Hitler, we knew that if we did not fight or were defeated our country would be at the mercy of a monstrous dictator. If we lost our lives, at least it would be in a good cause. That would not be true if we took part in a war against Iraq. We are not under any immediate threat. Nor are vital British interests at risk. In those circumstances, I do not believe that it would be right to send our young men to face being killed, possibly by biological or chemical weapons. Saddam would have nothing to lose and might use them this time. Essentially, it is not our quarrel.

We did not expect the United States to join us in expelling the Argentines from the Falklands. Neither should we he expected to join any attack on Saddam. I have been concerned for some time about the Government's readiness to commit what forces we still have to operations in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Afghanistan that have little to do with British interests. The Prime Minister seems to model himself on Henry V. With Iraq it is, Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more". He appears more interested in that than in the serious problems that the British people face at home. I do not mean that we should fail to support the United States at the United Nations and elsewhere, provided that US actions are reasonable. When the United States was attacked last year, it was reasonable to respond by going after Al'Queda. Earn glad that they defeated the Taliban. I was sorry that Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar eluded them but it is good news that the American and Pakistani authorities have apprehended a man who appears to have been a leading figure in planning the attacks on New York and Washington.

I thought President Bush's call for a worldwide effort to deal with the menace of terrorism was to be welcomed but if other countries take part, they must first deal with their own terrorists whom they know best. The Spanish and French authorities are doing just that with their recent arrest of ETA leaders and moves against Batasuna. We have not done the same. Mr. Blair speaks out against terrorism but has done nothing to tackle our own terrorists. On the contrary, he has caved into them. Adams and McGuinness are both leading figures in the IRA, which not only maintains a large arsenal of explosives and weapons but also takes part in international terrorism, as it was evidently doing in Colombia. Nevertheless its leaders are allowed to be Ministers in Northern Ireland. That makes a mockery of our Government's denunciations of terrorism.

Although the initial reaction of the United States Administration a year ago was understandable, it is much less clear why they have now switched their attention to Iraq. Nothing much has changed there since the 1991 war. President Bush must be conscious of his father's decision to halt the offensive when he did. I have always thought that if George Bush senior had allowed the headlong pursuit of the defeated Iraqi forces to continue for another week or so, the situation might now be less worrying.

There seems to be no evidence that the Iraqis were involved in last year's terrorist attacks on the United States, as the noble Baroness confirmed when she opened the debate. I wonder why Iraq suddenly became, on the anniversary of 11th September, Washington's public enemy number one. If there is a threat from Iraq in the near future, the country which is at greatest risk is Israel. Israel too has often disregarded United Nations resolutions. Only today the BBC reported that its reaction to the latest Security Council resolution on the destruction of Arafat's headquarters was to dismiss it, saying, "They can say what they like".

Israel has built some 145 settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Those have been described by the United Nations General Assembly as, illegal and an obstacle to peace". Sharon's government, in an unsuccessful attempt to secure Israel's security from suicide bombers, using American-supplied fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships, missiles and much else, is crushing and humiliating the oppressed Palestinian population, who are without any means of defence. What would have been the reaction if we, in Northern Ireland, had gone in for targeted assassination and killed numbers of innocent women and children as the Israelis have done. Their brutality under Sharon's leadership, coming on top of the forced acquisition of land and scarce water, and the establishment of roadblocks, curfews and much else, has built up a wall of impotent hatred. The Americans, seen as blind supporters of Israel, are putting themselves at huge risk by making themselves hated through out the Muslim world. What makes people in northern Nigeria want to call their sons Osama?

The only country that could conceivably help the Palestinians in their extremity is Iraq. I wonder therefore if it is not Sharon who has persuaded President Bush to deal with Iraq. If so, will we not be sending our young men out to run great risks simply to fight a war to help Sharon? It is one thing to attempt to disarm Iraq, though that may not be easy; it is quite another to have as an objective the elimination of the present regime, deeply unpleasant though it is. If we go along with that, where does it end? The world is full of thoroughly unpleasant leaders and deplorable regimes. Are we to try to get rid of them all?

I hope we can work for a firm but sensible Security Council resolution which will have the support of the world's leading powers and make it possible for the inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's store of weapons of mass destruction without the need for a bloody and destructive war. But, in any event, I think we should argue strongly for a balanced, fair and unbiased Middle East policy.

I welcome what the Prime Minister said about that in his Statement. If we are to deal with Saddam, we must also deal with Sharon. We must try to persuade the United States to be much less partisan in dealing with the problem of Israel and the Palestinians. We should insist that all the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem should be removed and Israeli forces withdrawn so that an independent Palestinian state, free of occupation and oppression, can be established alongside Israel. Only thus can we hope to bring about peace and stability in the Middle East.

9.29 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate. I am against war on Iraq. I am totally unpersuaded that the present regime, unpleasant as it is, poses any threat to the United States or ourselves. The dossier does not persuade me either.

There are many scare stories around that Saddam Hussein is such a threat to world peace that a pre-emptive strike is necessary. Who says so? Not the countries immediately surrounding Iraq, nor our neighbours in Europe, not Russia, not China, not India; only ourselves, apparently, and the United States. Many noble Lords have indicated that a pre-emptive strike by the United States and ourselves would be illegal under international law.

Iraq was devastated over a decade ago in the Gulf War. Two hundred thousand Iraqis died in that war. Its civilian infrastructure was heavily damaged. Since then, it has been subjected to economic sanctions regarded by some as punitive and to intermittent bombing attacks by ourselves and the Americans, including Operation Desert Fox in 1998. To suggest that this wrecked country poses a threat to us and to the United States defies belief.

But the bombing continues. A couple of weeks ago, a number of planes dropped 25 bombs on an Iraqi installation. It was not even claimed that the planes were defending the no-fly zones or being attacked by Iraqi air defences. That was an act of war and I do not recollect a UN mandate for it.

President Bush has gone to the UN, but he has said, "You either do it our way, or we will do it ourselves". Clearly, he wants to go to war. He is not interested in the Iraqi offer to admit inspectors unconditionally. He wants a new UN resolution and is intent on making it as difficult as possible for Iraq to comply.

It does not seem unreasonable that a country that has endured years of sanctions and bombing should seek some relief from those pressures if it readmits inspectors. But no, the USA wants regime change and is not interested in inspection. Saddam Hussein is so evil that he cannot be allowed to continue as leader of Iraq. Of course he is a brutal dictator; that is not in question. But it hardly needs saying that America has a history of supporting rather dubious leaders when it suits and then demonising them when it does not. That is true of Saddam Hussein as it was of Milosevic.

During the war with Iran, Saddam was heavily supported by the United States and ourselves with money and weapons. There was no criticism of atrocities then. Incidentally, the support then given to Saddam is not mentioned in the dossier. But now the blood price must be paid to get rid of him. That price will not be paid by us. No one really expects to see Iraqi bombing planes in the skies over London. Nor will his scud missiles reach us. The price will be paid by civilians; by millions of ordinary Iraqis with whom President Bush says he has no quarrel.

As always, the United States and ourselves will start the offensive with a bombing campaign. The idea will be not to endanger lives on our side—understandably—so the bombing will be conducted at around 15,000 or 20,000 feet. We shall be told, of course, that only military objectives will targeted and hit. I do not believe it. Not only will thousands of innocent people be killed or injured in the bombing, but the destruction of the civilian infrastructure that always occurs in such circumstances will mean that many more will die as power, water and food supplies are destroyed or contaminated.

We must ask ourselves whether the threat posed by Saddam Hussein can justify such a catastrophe; for it will be a catastrophe for the civilians involved. I do not think it does. I have no doubt that the United States can succeed in its objectives. It is, after all, the only superpower. Its technological superiority is immense. Moreover, a recent study reported that the Iraqi regime is weaker now than at the time of the Gulf War.

The question is whether we should support or join such a venture. We do not yet know what a new UN resolution will say, but it seems clear that President Bush wants to go ahead whether he gets a mandate or not. Many people believe that it is all about oil. With a compliant regime in Baghdad, the United States would have unrestricted access to the second largest reserves of oil in the world. There would be no need then to dig up Alaska.

Those who feel as I do—and there are many of us—are often derided as being anti-American. We are not. We know that there are many Americans who feel as we do. President Bush has sought to bring them on side by trying to link the Iraqi regime with the horror of 9/11, when so many innocent Americans were killed, but there does not seem to be any such link. If the war proceeds, there will be growing opposition within America. We should note particularly the statement just made by the former presidential candidate, Al Gore. Many Americans do not want this war any more than we do. We must do everything to try to stop it and to ensure that problems get solved within the UN. The appalling suffering that is modern warfare must not be inflicted again on innocent people. I urge the Government to think very deeply before committing this country to such a course.

9.36 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I rise as the 55th speaker in this debate and I am completely convinced that the First Lord of the Treasury is waiting with bated breath to hear every word that I say, take it on board and act on it.

We have to be careful when we combine Iraq with terrorism. There is an immense sloppiness in using the phrase "war against terrorism". Several people have talked about the IRA. We know that there have always been arguments about one man's terrorist being another man's freedom fighter.

We also have to be careful when we contrast Al'Qaeda, whose inspiration is the reactionary—I use the word in its true sense—appeal of desert Muhammadanism of 622 Anno Hegirae, with the Baghdad regime, whose progenitor is the reaction of the Muhammadan world when it found, in the words of Edward Gibbon, that when the sun of science arose in the West the Muhammadans were very confused about what had happened". Saddam Hussein is the heir of Ibrahim Pasha, Muhammed Ali, Kemal Ataturk, the young Turks, Nasser and that secular, tyrannical, modernising form of Muhammadanism. We have to separate those two.

When I listened to the Leader of the House repeating the Prime Minister's Statement, I thought, "There are the words of a great statesman". It was a beautifully constructed Statement. I also remember how the Prime Minister had taken on the old dinosaur—I think that I am being complimentary with that word—part of the Labour Party and reformed it. I then contrasted this strange man's attitude on this occasion with his attitude towards other matters of internal policy, on which one sees a shilly-shallying man who has no principles, cannot make up his mind and makes Harold Wilson look a principled man. I am torn between deep admiration and the opposite.

I am more or less convinced by the Government's document, except that it says that in 1991 Saddam had more bottles of nasties than he has now. When he was attacked then, he did not use the bottles of nasties. He is not being attacked at present, so will he use the bottles of nasties now?

I accept that Saddam Hussein is an extraordinarily—again, I use the word—nasty man. There is nothing whatever to recommend him. For the sake of this argument, let us assume that the Prime Minister is right. He made a very powerful case in his statement. But we have not asked ourselves how he will go about such an attack and I do not believe that anyone in their right mind would want to know the details. But I believe that we should have an outline of how it will be done and what troops will be involved.

Above all, very few people, with the possible exception of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, have asked what will happen following an attack. Let us remember that Iraq was cobbled together in the 1920s by amalgamating the alliance of Baghdad, Mosul and Basra out of the old Turkish empire. Basra was Shia; Baghdad was Sunni; and Mosul was Kurdish. Mosul is Arab and has the oil, but the majority of its population is Kurdish. However, because we did not want an independent Kurdistan, we allowed the French to have the Syrian part of Kurdistan, Turkey was allowed to keep its part and we put the rest into Iraq. That was a part of 1918 peace-making of which we should not be particularly proud.

If there is a war and if force is used, what will happen if the central authority in Baghdad collapses? Several different gangs of armed thugs will be left fighting each other and, in desperation, there will be the possibility of the use of germ warfare—"Let us just let off a rocket or three and hope it hits Tel Aviv". Following that, that kind of Liberal Democrat parish councillor, Mr Sharon, will immediately counteract with nuclear weapons and the whole of the Middle East will go up in flames.

I am not saying that Saddam Hussein does not pose a very serious danger. I know that he does. I am asking—I have heard nothing on the matter in the debate thus far: what is the worst-case scenario, are we thinking about it and do we know what to do? If we do not try to answer those questions, we shall be failing in our duty. Saddam Hussein is a threat and is, as I said, an extremely nasty fellow. There is nothing whatever to recommend him; he must be controlled.

But have we thought the matter through? Many noble Lords who have spoken today have said that we must do something, but no one has talked about what will happen if the whole of Mesopotamia breaks up. If it falls into pieces and anarchy breaks out, are the Americans prepared to act as a colonial power? That is what will be necessary and what will happen following military intervention. That is the question to which we must address ourselves.

9.43 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, I suffer from two disadvantages. The first is that the two people who were to speak between me and my noble friend Lord Onslow have "scratched" and I must follow directly after my noble friend. The second is that I must admit that I am the same age as Saddam Hussein.

I also suffer in that I am not sure what to do next. I have been very privileged to listen to the debate today. I was very confused this morning and I am rather confused now. I want to pay a great tribute to the Ministers sitting opposite. I have noticed that, while they have been in power, they have stuck rigidly to the Front Bench and have listened to many speeches. They have done so more often than any Minister since I have been in the House. It must be extremely boring for them, but let us see whether I can change the scene.

I have been to Baghdad and to Iraq many times—probably more often than anyone in your Lordships' House. I have not necessarily done so willingly and occasionally have done so reluctantly. That is partly because, when I was in the banking world and the financing trade, we were the main correspondent bankers for the government of Iraq and its banks. When I chaired the government's committee on Middle East trade, the Foreign Office, with all the rather devious ways in which it behaves, would say, "You are very honoured. You are chosen to go off to Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran"—all the places where Ministers dared not tread. But I like the Iraqi people. I should like to pull my noble friend up a little. At the end of the First World War, there was this chap called Lawrence of Arabia in the north and the British Anglo-Egyptian condominium in the south. They were getting rid of the Ottomans and Lawrence charged down with his Arab legions quicker than anyone else. They could march overnight in the cool of the desert. He arrived first and took this fellow Faisal and said, "You're King of the Arabs". When the British team from the south arrived, they said, "So what?"

The French got a little uptight—cheesed off, one said. I always wondered why de Gaulle always said that it is extremely difficult running a country where there are 246 different cheeses, to which he added later, "and too many head cheeses." The French were so upset that we withdrew and just made Faisal King of Iraq.

Then the League of Nations turned up and said, "We like the British very much. We trust you." We were given the mandate for Iraq and Trans-Jordan which included all of Jordan. The French got Syria and the Lebanon. They already had large chunks of north Africa, so the French and we together, directly or indirectly, controlled the Arab world.

As good imperialists, we ran Iraq out of India. I always thought of that later when we had to try and encourage the then Foreign Secretary my noble friend Lord Carrington to put in a presence in Iraq. He said, "Not something likely." But as he was in India, he came from India. The Iraqis would have preferred him to come from London but the Foreign Office kindly explained that India had always run Iraq.

This may appear fairly stupid but let me move on to what happened in 1974 and times after that. We started to help the Iraqis industrialise. The first time it came to public notice was when 57 London double-decker buses drove across the desert from Kuwait to Iraq, because they wanted double-decker buses. Not Leyland, but the old AIC. The label AIC had to be put on the front. When they arrived, they complained that the buses that they were used to had rear platforms that were low enough for ladies in long skirts to step onto. Could the British engineers lower the rear platforms? And we did.

This was just the start of our relationship. We trained Iraqis in this country in banking and engineering. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester should know that most of them went to Manchester or Leeds universities. Most of the ruling Ba'ath Party are very strong supporters of Manchester United and Manchester City. They will probably be watching this debate live, not only on the Parliamentary Channel but also when they occasionally manage to hack into our system here. They have great respect for your Lordships' House.

The Iraqis complained to me that we, the British, had effectively helped to make them and we were not prepared to talk to them. I talked a little while ago to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, or as the Iraqis call him, 'Sir Hannay' because, when he was in the United Nations, he was the only person to whom they were allowed to talk, except for people like me. They complained bitterly that they were no longer allowed to talk to their friends. I believe that this was one of the most important sanctions.

At the moment, I feel we are confused. As an eminent mathematician said, "There are no whole truths, only half truths. But people try to make half truths, whole truths and that is supping with the devil".

We do not know what the truth is. We have before us a document that quite frankly I could have written myself from my own knowledge and information. It is almost a straight crib from Section 5 of the anti-terrorist Bill about pathogens.

When we talk of weapons of mass destruction, we must ask ourselves what the military capability of Iraq is today. Colin Powell, on the Frost programme, pointed out that he thought it was a third of what they had in 1991. Therefore, let us assume they have a military capability. They are looking for nuclear weapons as many people have done. But who are their enemy? Can they attack the United Kingdom? No. Do they want to? Probably not. Do they want to attack the United States? No. Their enemy is Israel. Within the Middle East we therefore have to say, "Who is afraid of whom?". Politics that begin with fear end with folly.

I am worried about the attempt to associate terrorism with Iraq. Let us look at what happened in the United States. There were a number of incidents: the Oklahoma bombing; as my noble friend Lord King said, someone putting anthrax in the post; and, of course, the twin towers. That was an incident with American aeroplanes in the United States and there were problems with security in the United States; it was not necessarily a total invasion from abroad.

Terrorism literally means government by fear. Iraq has been remarkably capable of governing itself, through the Ba'ath Party, by fear. One removes all opponents instantly; one pulls one's gun out of a top drawer and one shoots them. That has happened in socialist systems throughout the world: remove the opposition. In the past we would have said, "And the hosts took the field and there were no survivors". When we in politics in the West start to fall into the trap of creating fear in order to unite our own people behind us, we create fear of a regime, of an enemy, of disease and of anything else.

It would be perfectly easy to take all of these pathogens and diseases and create the most horrendous scenarios, which frighten people. They involve infecting a whole range of people in a host country—they are about to die of cancer, put on aeroplanes and shoved off around the world, and that is put in the newspapers. What the Iraqi regime—the Ba'ath Party—has managed to is something that even New Labour has failed to do: it has dominated the press and the media worldwide. It has almost its own Alastair Campbell. Suddenly one notices Saddam Hussein is no longer in military uniform; he is in civilian uniform and holding a gun in his hand as though he were a hunter firing a shot, as the Berbers did in the desert and the hunters do in Bravade. He is changing his image and removing fear of himself.

The regime is and for a long time has been dangerous. They are not necessarily our enemies. My fear is that the United States, which is our great ally, has failed to recognise that the world is beginning to see it as an enemy of the world. That fear can be rammed home. It starts slowly and builds up over a long period. We are the friends and allies of the United States. We know Iraq and the Middle East. It should listen to us in a way that it has perhaps never listened before. I urge noble Lords to pay attention to the noble Lord, Lord Wright, in view of his background. He knows what he is talking about, as do others.

I should like the UN to give the United Kingdom the mandate for Iraq and for us to lead the initiative. Of course we must go in and disarm but we must not send inspectors in without force behind them. Like so many in the Middle East, the Iraqis recognise strength and understand commitment. We are trusted because we observe the law, as many noble Lords have said. We cannot do anything without the mandate and authorisation of the United Nations. I, for one, in 1991 would have gone on to Baghdad but I take the view that the law was not with us. Right is on our side. We must make sure that the law is as well, and we must act positively.

9.53 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, the noble Lord has been a great refreshment in this long debate, for which we are grateful. He ended on a serious note. A war against Saddam Hussein, in my view, however evil a dictator he is, would be a diversion from our fundamental objectives, which are to defeat poverty and terrorism. It would not necessarily help the people of Iraq, it would be a poor excuse for our failure to respond adequately to the challenge of terrorism and it could jeopardise the hard-earned support of the international coalition. Threats of war to back up a UN resolution is one thing, and all noble Lords agree that that is desirable. Reform of the UN system to reinforce resolutions is also necessary, but that is not what President Bush is about. He does not intend to wait for the UN to change. The question today is whether we should stand beside him and why.

As other noble Lords have said, Iraq itself poses no direct problem to us or the United States. We are not a threatened nation as we were in 1938. Any such comparison is odious. September 11th was an atrocity without precedent: it was a different kind of attack, needing a highly co-ordinated and well-focused international response.

Despite the casualties, the war against the Taliban and Al'Qaeda achieved results within a clear UN framework. This absurd war on the axis of evil serves the opposite purpose by breaking up a carefully balanced alliance. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said, there is no legal justification for it at present.

In the war against terrorism close co-operation with the leading Arab states was essential. When it comes to Iraq, President Bush is calling the shots and the Middle East, UN, Russia and even Europe are all but ignored. On these occasions, our Prime Minister is transformed. He is no longer the man who went to see President Assad and received Chairman Arafat. Instead, he stands shoulder to shoulder with the boys in the White House as though only an evangelical Atlantic partnership can save us from a tyrant. By this action he clearly risks separating himself from Parliament and large numbers of his own party in another place, as we have heard today.

We are told that he favours a new Middle East peace initiative, Splendid. But the last time we heard that, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour, said the peace initiative was killed stone dead not by suicide bombers but by General Sharon and the hawks in Washington; and Downing Street said little or nothing.

The Government contain a majority of MPs who value a truly international dimension in world affairs. They would like to see a strengthening of the UN and a greater awareness of poverty and injustice. While they may see the value of NATO in anti-terrorism, they do not want a Labour leader taking us to war with Iraq in a new US-led crusade. In the quest for liberty, they may ask: what happened to life and the pursuit of happiness?

The war against terrorism should not be about war. It should be a vigorous campaign against organised criminal activity and a sustained drive for diplomacy, conflict resolution and international development. The Government know that well. No one can doubt that September 11th, whatever the warped Islamist intent of the suicide bombers, was a reaction to world inequality, with the twin towers as potent symbols of Judao-Christian hegemony in world economic affairs as much as to US policy in the Middle East.

Most people recognise this imbalance and would like to address it through our Government. In our April debate, I said that the Iraqi people were suffering enough without another war. I mentioned a survey carried out by Save the children in northern Iraq which showed that three in five families have to live on only six dollars a week. This is the position of many people in the Middle East today. We cannot simply put countries right one by one with F16s and cluster bombs followed by promises of reconstruction, as Condoleeza Rice said this week. We have to face the much longer challenge of development, as many aid agencies and NGOs are doing in Iraq. None of them believes in the military solution.

Fortunately, we have the Foreign Office, which has traditionally understood the Middle East, and related organisations like the BBC and British Council. But lately the FCO has been under some restraint because of Israel. What about Israel? Apparently, its weapons are of no concern to us and the Americans do not see it as a threat to world peace. It does not, they are told, possess a mad dictator, weapons of mass destruction or a people in servitude. It is a sister democracy, an ally, a trading partner; and, more than that, it is a homeland with well watered and defended settlements—a resort for their kith and kin in a hostile environment. That is the sort of stuff the Americans believe about the Holy Land until they can see for themselves what is happening. Then they will see the hold which Sharon has on the United States which allows him to have Palestine by the throat and to conduct disgraceful military attacks in the name of anti-terrorism. No wonder there are people trying to bomb themselves out of a ghetto, just as their persecutors did before them under the British mandate. The middle ground is continually falling away. It seems that the European Union has backed off under US and Israeli pressure, leaving Arafat friendless and the Hamas militants unrestrained. It is a senseless, hopeless policy. It is a lack of policy. I am relieved to hear so many noble Lords say that the peace process is closely connected with this debate. It must now be a priority for this Government.

Are we subject to charges of racism if we accuse Israel, or of anti-Semitism if we sympathise with Palestinians? Of course not, I visited the region a year ago and I drew my own conclusions. Israel is conducting a dirty war of occupation and the world will never be free of terrorism while it is allowed to bulldoze the homes of Palestinians and compound their poverty, vulnerability and humiliation, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, reminded us. What is the value of UN resolutions in Ramallah today? Palestinians, too, make mistakes but from a position of weakness. They are now almost leaderless and defenceless.

So do we side with the so-called besieged democracy, the occupying power which still pretends to be the victim, or do we recognise the injustice on both sides? Plainly, the former is our current policy, however much we claim the opposite. This is a moral blackmail which has ensnared western democrats, including many in the Labour Party, who feel helpless and remain silent. But it amazes those in the Arab world, who can see what is happening and can understand much of the motivation behind today's appalling terrorism.

So what is to be our new role in the peace process? Are we going to forge a new European partnership and rebuild the trust of which the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, spoke? I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, say that General Sharon wants peace. But how are we to find that trust and that peace after our failure to act over the past two years of intifada? We should begin by dropping this war against evil and return to the main purpose of the coalition. Can we still look our Pakistani, Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian and Gulf friends in the eye and say that we are their friends provided they join a war against Iraq?

We could learn something from the German and Canadian government positions. We could rethink our Atlantic partnership, rebuild our relations with the Middle East and base them on mutual respect, not just on the oil and arms trade.

The Gulf War does not have to be fought all over again just for the sake of Israel's security. Of course there must be strong UN resolutions on WMDs, and the inspectors must return. But it must be a truly international policy, not one dictated by the United States.

How can Britain continue to hold America's hand while it flagrantly rides over the UN? The noble Lord, Lord King, said that Bush cannot proceed alone; in other words, he needs to be guided. That is a very fair position, but I am not as confident as he. If Blair believes that he is leading Bush by the hand back into the centre ground—as many of us have said, and as we momentarily thought when he addressed the United Nations—all well and good. But it is much more likely that he is being dragged off course into a new and more dangerous adventure. Unless he realises this in time and demonstrates his membership of the whole world, he will be ignored by many other nations which matter to us all. It is time that this Parliament, and indeed his own party, brought him and this country back into the international community.

10.3 p.m.

Lord Naseby

My Lords, while the recall of Parliament is to be welcomed, in my judgment we have been recalled rather later than we should have been. It is particularly cynical that we should receive a document this morning and be expected to read its 50 pages in any depth—which, incidentally, are dated on the very last page. That is not joined-up government. It is not fair to Members who wished to make a serious contribution to the debate to have the document delivered this morning. It is an unacceptable way in which to treat either House.

I suspect that I am one of the very few fathers whose son took part in the whole of the Gulf War. He was in the front line, one of the doctors charged with initially assessing the casualties as a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, which, sadly, this Government have allowed to lapse and virtually to collapse so tragically. I also suspect that I am one of the few who had a good friend killed in the Twin Towers. So I come to this debate with no gung-ho background, but with the utter realism of the risks that would arise from any possible military action.

I also come to the debate with three historical episodes that I believe we in this country must never forget. The first is the week of 24th to 28th May 1940, when the Cabinet sat and debated and when the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, recommended in essence that a deal should be done with Hitler. Winston Churchill, a minority voice initially, was the one that stood out because he realised that no deal was possible with Herr Hitler. One has to reflect a little on what would have happened if those voices that wanted a deal had actually been the ones that were successful.

Secondly, one has to reflect upon the 1920s and the early 1930s and the position of the then German government—their weakness in allowing Herr Hitler to rise to power, in commuting his prison sentence, and in allowing his party, and the thuggery associated with it, to develop. It ill-behoves the current German Government to criticise the President of the United States and to allude that he has any degree of association or commonality with Herr Hitler. The present German Government appear to me to be very similar to the German government of the 1920s and the 1930s.

The third analogy that I draw is the one of 1936 when because of the weakness of the western allies Hitler moved into the Rhineland. If that move had been challenged there and then, perhaps the Second World War would have taken on a very different aspect.

My conclusion from those three historical instances is that if you are faced with evil—there are many evil regimes, but we are putting our particular focus on Iraq at present—you must face up to that evil and the sooner you do so the better, because the later you leave it the more difficult it becomes. It is possible that the offer for inspectors to return unfettered will be successful. I personally think that it is rather unlikely, but certainly it must be tried. It is just possible that they can achieve the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

However, even if those inspections are successful, there is what should be happening now and in the weeks ahead. In my view, there is no reason why the United Nations should not review and update the resolutions on Iraq. Further, those resolutions must not be optional. But if they are treated by certain countries as optional, and if they cannot be persuaded to join the world view, we shall have an evil situation. If Iraq flouts those inspections, I believe it is right that the United States and the United Kingdom should look to their own interests.

When we hear the concluding speech tonight, or perhaps if Parliament is recalled again later on next week, I hope that we shall be told something more about the strategy in the event that Saddam Hussein is deposed, killed, or goes into exile—some of the points that my noble friend made in his speech. There must be an exit strategy, as well as an entry strategy. It is a great pity that the present Government trust Parliament so little that we are involved today almost as an afterthought.

Nevertheless, I make my position clear. I support the Prime Minister in his linkage with President Bush, his desire to have updated and tougher UN resolutions and his recognition that if UN resolutions are flouted, and if the UN will not act when they are flouted, then we, the Americans and, one hopes, others, will have to act.

If we do act we must be ever more vigilant because of how Iraq will react, for in that scenario Saddam Hussein will be a desperate leader and desperate leaders will stop at nothing.

10.10 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

My Lords, it has been said that all wars are waged against children. Through Centrepoint I have been introduced to young Kurds from Northern Iraq with exceptional leave to remain in this country. So I should like to take this opportunity to ask her Majesty's Government, first, whether they are keeping Iraqi children in mind. I am sure they are, but I want reassurance on that point because these children are so vulnerable. Secondly, I ask them whether they will seize any opportunity that the current diplomatic round may allow to review the sanctions regime, which does so much to harm Iraqi children. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, spoke eloquently about the many problems associated with the current sanctions regime.

One is appalled when one considers how many children—3,051 according to Newsday—were orphaned by the fanatics who perpetrated the atrocities of 11th September last year in the United States. Some children lost both parents in the attack. Many Israeli children have been murdered in suicide attacks. Others have had their parents stolen from them in the bombings of buses, cafes and restaurants. Palestinian children have lost their mothers and fathers.

Nearly 50 per cent of Iraqis are children. One third of those children are malnourished and one in five suffers from chronic malnourishment. The under-five mortality rate has deteriorated 160 per cent under sanctions, reversing the positive trend of the 1980s. Sanctions were introduced as a result of the unspeakably awful regime lead by Saddam Hussein.

School enrolment of girls has declined because of lack of teachers and increasing poverty. Female illiteracy rates are rising steeply. Without education these women are unlikely ever to learn how they might choose to limit their families. Population growth will continue to outstrip any improvement in service provision. The current sanctions regime denies funding for teacher training and exacerbates poverty.

One recognises that we are still engaged in diplomacy. Military action, if it is to be taken, is still some way off. But should there be such action of any length and intensity the consequences will be devastating for many Iraqi children.

In January of this year the Save the Children Fund published a report entitled Understanding Kurdish Livelihoods in Northern Iraq. It states: The sanctions and ration regime created by the UN Security Council has undermined and distorted markets and livelihoods and destroyed normal economic life for the vast majority. The rations system instituted…has created unprecedented levels of dependency. Poor people would not be able to afford to feed themselves if the…ration was suddenly removed". I am grateful also to Save the Children for providing me with a video documentary entitled "Is Anyone Listening?" It is comprised of interviews with young Kurds in the North of Iraq. In particular, one animated young girl, Tanka, struck me. She said that she loved her school. Every day she speaks about it with her sisters. She wanted to obtain a qualification but her father removed her from school to help him and her sister in the fields. Much of her day is spent collecting water from a distant standpipe. Her shoulders always hurt, as water is carried on them either in pails or in large cans. Is it anything less than tragic that so much of that girl's potential, and that of her fellows, is being squandered? Without literacy can she and her sisters ever look forward to anything more than labouring and child bearing?

I ask the Minister whether during the current round of diplomacy the Government are keeping fully in mind the hardships endured by Iraqi children? Will he and his colleagues seize any opportunity to review UN sanctions? If there is to be a military conflict will the Government pursue all means possible—including the preparation of adequate stockpiles of food and providing the means of its distribution—to minimise the impact that such action is likely to have on Iraqi children?

Surely, if we want other communities not to attack us without any thought of loss of life of our children, it would be prudent for us to demonstrate that we take very seriously the well-being of children not of our own community.

10.16 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, the phrase "asymmetric warfare" has frequently come into play during the past 12 months. It is even touched upon in the new chapter of the Strategic Defence Review. I suppose that it means the ways in which the small power can contest or fight the larger one. I do not believe that Saddam Hussein actually wants to have a war with the United States. However, he has all the qualifications and pursues all the policies which would be required for that approach.

He is ruthless: the treatment of his own people, let alone people in Kuwait, or the Iranians who suffered in the Iran/Iraq war, demonstrates his ruthlessness. He is cunning: as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, pointed out he has adopted a more avuncular image on international television. He is determined to acquire the most awful weapons and has done so at the cost of the children of Iraq, who suffer dreadfully. He has earned illicitly, through smuggling of oil, vast sums of money which could have provided the medical care and food which his people desperately need. He has used that money to strengthen his armoury of horror. He is extremely good at propaganda—for example, for a long time now the American and Royal Air Force aircraft have flown over the north and south no-fly zone. Without their operation, heaven knows how much more suffering would have been inflicted upon the northern Kurds and the southern Shi'ites. All we hear about is the need for sanctions to be lifted and the no-fly zone operations cancelled.

However, the fact remains—and I would be grateful if the Minister would confirm this—that there have been 2,500 threats or attacks on aircraft policing those no-fly zones in full accord with the United Nations authority. If it were not for the professional expertise of the air crew involved, perhaps we would have seen a successful interception by Iraqi radar. However, should those aircraft retaliate, then the world's media will be shown photographs of bombed houses or crippled children which it will be claimed are consequent upon the inaccuracy of the allied air forces fulfilling the international obligation.

The cunning of Saddam Hussein is demonstrated by the way in which he has almost contemptuously flouted the United Nations. I fear now that he will string matters along in order that the reality of his failure to take any real notice of the United Nations will coincide with the development of the hot weather in the Middle East, so that it would be an intolerable burden for our own forces to wear the protective gear in periods of savage heat.

It may be true that the Iraqis still do not have the fissile material and so forth necessary to complete the preparation of a nuclear weapon. But if, as described in the dossier we are debating, it is believed that there is a risk of Iraq acquiring a nuclear weapon within the next two years, we must consider whether we should allow Iraq to string things out so that the hot weather comes before failure to fulfil its obligations as regards inspection arrangements. That would mean that one of the two years to nuclear reality would have passed.

I do not believe that Saddam wants war, but I believe that he wants to be dominant. The fact that Iraq has the world's second largest oil resources may be a factor in that. If we are to ensure that sanity develops in Baghdad, we must accept that we should not enter into conflict without clear aims. If there is to be conflict, that cannot be separated from the need to have a resolution of the Middle East situation.

There is a danger that America might act unilaterally. If it does, the world will be a far worse place. There will be cynical comment that America is taking action to comfort the Texas oil men. There will be cynical comment about America taking the action in order to provide oil to sustain an energy policy which the rest of the world may resent. That may not be helpful as it could lead to a more isolationist approach in Washington.

It is important that the Prime Minister should seek to maintain a close relationship in order to ensure that the United Nations will be safe from the almost mortal wounding which will occur if it allows the development of the nuclear weapon and the deployment of the horrible weapons which Saddam Hussein has obtained. There are dangers, not merely the nuclear ones. There is the development of the UAV to distribute chemical and biological weaponry; the development of mechanisms such as the adaptation of missiles to extend their range to a more potent degree; and the use of the economic weapon. The development of plant disease such as wheat smut could have a devastating effect, perhaps far more than any of our fears on grant-maintained or genetically modified food.

It is a dangerous time. The Government are right in their present approach, but if there is a cause for regret it is that Europe is insufficiently quick militarily to play any part in the structure of peace should conflict take place. If it does, there will be required considerable military resources in Iraq, and it would be a pity if that were left to the United States and the United Kingdom, when the rest of Europe and other parts of the world have a considerable interest in the matter. It is a pity that that interest has not been maturely and sensibly expressed in many cases during the past three months.

10.23 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, this has been a long debate, and I am sure that it will not be the last we shall have on the subject. I hope that we shall return to it on many occasions during the next few months.

One should mention the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester who, sadly, made his last speech in this House. It would also be appropriate to mention the remarkably good series of speeches—perhaps the largest number from the Bishops' Bench I have ever heard in a debate in this House.

We started with the Government's dossier and I, too, want to compliment them on publishing it at least a couple of hours before the debate began. It is fair and balanced, but it tells us little that is new and little that was not in the IISS report and in a number of publications available from the United States. It gives us the full catalogue of weapons of mass destruction as we know them. It confirms the appalling nature of the Saddam Hussein regime, but, as a number of speakers have suggested, it does not say that inspections have failed and that any further inspections would not succeed. I quote from page 39, paragraph 13, of the report under the sub-heading "Inspection achievements". It states, Despite the conduct of the Iraqi authorities towards them, both UNSCOM and the IAEA Action Team have valuable records of achievement in discovering and exposing Iraq's biological weapons programme and destroying very large quantities of chemical weapons stocks and missiles as well as the infrastructure for Iraq's nuclear weapons programme". Our aim must be to restore a vigorous inspection programme.

We welcome the focus which Her Majesty's Government have put on weapons of mass destruction and not simply as a brief excuse on the way to conquest and enforced regime change. My noble friend Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne also correctly added that we have to be concerned with human rights. Those or us who have struggled with the question of humanitarian intervention over the past 10 to 15 years know that the case for regime change on grounds of human rights abuses has to be very carefully made and very seldom used.

We on these Benches support a robust inspection regime backed by the threat of force. But it matters immensely how Her Majesty's Government, in co-operation with the United States and others, move forward from here to re-enforcement. The path forward must be multilateral, not unilateral; through international law and international institutions, not going round the side of such institutions if they do not immediately provide the answers that the United States wants.

In the last resort it may be necessary to use force to enforce UN resolutions and if that is so it will have the support of our party. But that must be the collective intervention of the international community. If it is just the United States and the United Kingdom alone, we shall have failed to make our case and our support for such action cannot be taken for granted.

But, as so many speeches have made clear, this is not just about Iraq. Many speeches today have dealt with Israel and Palestine as a constant theme. The weapons of mass destruction which Iraq has been accumulating are a threat to its neighbours and a claim for domination of the Middle East and of the oil supplies there. War on Iraq overlaps with, and in some ways distracts from, the war on terrorism and easily slides, as a number of speakers have said, into a war on Islam. The concern that many of us on these Benches have is that a war on Iraq which is not carefully prepared and justified may damage the war on terrorism. As the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, said in a very powerful speech, a war on terrorism can only be won it-moderate Muslims are persuaded that western democracies are open to the Muslim world and not hostile. That is one reason why there has to be parallel action on the Israel-Palestine conflict to a move to disarm Iraq. We are all conscious of just how much bitterness there is at the present moment on the two sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict and how much despair.

But the lines of a compromise are relatively clear. There has to be a two-stage solution, a substantial withdrawal from the current Israeli settlements and a limitation on the Palestinian claim for the right of return. It would help if there were new leadership on both sides. I do not wish to defend in any way Mr Arafat or Mr Sharon. It is extremely important that under current circumstances the heaviest pressure is brought to bear on the Israeli Government not to take advantage of pressure on Iraq to expel large elements of Palestinians from the West Bank and not to demolish the rest of the Palestinian infrastructure which has not already been taken down.

Success in disarming Iraq should, as the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, remarked, make Israelis feel more secure. Therefore, those two matters go together. The cost to the West of a badly handled attack on Iraq could be severe in terms of a surge of anti-Americanism and possibly also of Anglophobia across the Muslim world and across European publics.

Two weeks ago I attended a conference in Washington, convened by a number of US foreign policy agencies, on the subject of anti-Americanism. The most powerful intervention came from a senior diplomat from Singapore who remarked that it had been discovered that middle class Muslims in Singapore had been plotting to blow up American and other installations on the island. He also said that one must understand that if American actions in the Middle East appear to be biased against the Muslim world, it will not be only in the Arab states that one will be faced with severe problems.

One has to be concerned about the stability and future of the Saudi regime and we have to be concerned about our future relations with Iran. One of the best critical examinations from the United States of what will happen after the conflict that I have read in the past couple of weeks raised the question: will the Iranians be happy with American troops guarding their border posts for five years after we occupy Iraq? That suggests that the American policy towards Iran could usefully be a little more constructive.

Post-conflict reconstruction, as a number of noble Lords have said, is extremely important and loose talk within the United States about comparisons with Germany and Japan after 1945 are clearly extremely damaging. Both Germany and Japan had been completely defeated, had made unilateral surrenders and were occupied. I hope that that is not what the Americans are proposing for the whole of the Arab world and the Middle East.

There has to be a regional approach which includes a long-term commitment to nation building and democracy building. There also has to be a broader approach to international order within which Muslim countries and states can be comfortable. Our aim must be to strengthen the United Nations and international law, not to weaken it. As many noble Lords have said, it is also about transatlantic relations and about how the United States sees its future role in the world. Many noble Lords have made clear to the Government how concerned they are about the current debate within Washington. There is a deep divide within the Republican party on America's role in the world. It is far more bitter than our Conservative Party's worst point in the final days of Mrs Thatcher's term of office. The active hostility towards Colin Powell on the ideological right and the determination to get rid of him if they can that one sees in semi-serious American newspapers I find quite shocking.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Winston, talked about the dangers of violent language. There is some horrifyingly violent language within the right wing American press. Mention has been made of Saddam as an outlaw and Muslim fundamentalists as mad. There has also been constant reference to America's enemies, dividing the world into us and them. That is not a good way in which to approach the complexities of international politics. As my party said yesterday, there is an air of triumphal imperialism that one also sees in people within the Administration as well as outside. Before they entered the Administration Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and Doug Frieth wrote things decrying the United Nations and wanting to raise the United States above international law.

We need a different language from the United States. We need the sort of language that the Truman Administration managed to find for the Truman Declaration and the Roosevelt Administration tried to find for the Atlantic Charter. Such language must include the rest of the world and avoid the aggressive "America first" rhetoric used by too many in the current Administration. In that context, we welcome President Bush's United Nations speech. It was extremely constructive and showed that the President had resisted many of the pressures from the right. I am a little less happy with the security strategy that followed it; it has a triumphalist air.

The ideological right is unrepresentative of the United States as a whole. I welcome the growing criticism from within the United States, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government put all their weight into the debate in Washington on behalf of the moderates and against the ideological right. I was happy to hear a US Congressman refer the other day to the "Rumsfeld-Cheney axis" and the "Powell-Blair axis". That is a good indication that the Prime Minister is putting his oar in on the right side. As a candid friend of the United States, we should spell out our conditional support in public to Congress, to US audiences via the American media and, of course, to British and European audiences and beyond.

What should Her Majesty's Government say to the Bush Administration and to American audiences? First, they should say that we are willing to share in the maintenance of international order but that it must be collective international order. Secondly, we should say that we wish to defend and promote universal values. Language matters, and we must speak of universal values, not of western or Judaeo-Christian—let alone American—values. On Radio 4 this morning, Indarjit Singh, the editor of The Sikh Messenger, made an important distinction between language that implies that the West is imposing its values on the Muslim world and language that expresses common values of universal civilisation that we should all share.

Universal values mean universal standards, so there should be no double standards towards American allies in Israel and elsewhere. Having universal values also means promoting international institutions and international law. We should encourage the Bush Administration to make it clear that they have now changed their initial position on support for the United Nations, on non-proliferation, on energy conservation—including Kyoto—and on nation building, which they had happily decried. The United States cannot claim to be outside and above international law as, sadly, some members of the Bush Administration appear to do.

What are Britain's other priorities? In the long run, British influence in Washington depends on being seen to speak for the European allies and for Europe as a whole. The Government have been in danger of neglecting our European allies in recent months. We should turn back to the strengthening of European defence co-operation, which was a French and British initiative. It is vital to revive it and press ahead, not only because Mr Rumsfeld, in particular, is demanding that we make a more effective contribution to defence but because European influence over the United States depends on our being seen to have greater military capability. It would also help to promote a European study of the problem of weapons of mass destruction. Overwhelmingly, the debate on weapons of mass destruction has taken place in the United States, but we should focus the attention of our parliaments and publics on the severity of the problem.

All those actions are needed to build consensus. We should work through the UN to build a worthwhile, tough UN resolution. We must build consensus at home and abroad. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, said that those who cannot persuade the international community are probably wrong. We should be setting out to persuade the international community.

Earlier on, a number of colonists in America suggested that when putting across a difficult argument one should start with decent respect for the opinions of men—which is what we and our American allies now need to have.

In the last resort, the use of force may prove unavoidable but we have not yet exhausted the alternatives.

10.40 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, on behalf of Members on these Benches, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for introducing this debate and therefore affording the opportunity to debate the long-awaited dossier. This has been an exceptional emergency debate on a complex subject. I have found it illuminating listening to distinguished speakers with great expertise in the military and diplomatic fields. This is yet another subject where your Lordships' experience and knowledge are outstanding. I speak with due humility. It is a daunting task winding up this debate but I hope to encapsulate fairly the mood and some of the points made without being too repetitive. I trust your Lordships will forgive me if I do not cover, after 10 hours, all the valid points made in the debate.

I was fortunate to participate in the International Institute of Strategic Studies annual conference earlier this month and have had more time to study the institute's document A Net Assessment of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction than today's dossier—which we received only this morning, for reasons not yet adequately explained.

As my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford said in his eloquent speech, we fully support the Prime Minister in his support for President Bush in the face of a common threat—a stance that our leader, lain Duncan Smith, has consistently made clear.

Understandably, many of your Lordships have asked whether it would not be illegal and immoral for Britain to support an American war against Iraq. Others—such as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and many outside the House—ask why Saddam poses a threat to us. We have read and heard loud and clear from many of your Lordships today facts—which at this late stage I will not repeat—indicating that the illegality is firmly on the side of Iraq.

The informative dossier and the IISS document details Saddam's stockpiling and weapons programme. They demonstrate how close he is to obtaining a nuclear capability, which represents a far more potent threat. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, in a forceful speech, and others said that the Iraqi forces have been much reduced, most of their tanks are obsolete and their air force is diminished. Your Lordships have heard that a mixture of Saddam's immorality—having used weapons against his neighbours and his own people—combined with his unpredictability in passing weapons to terrorist groups undoubtedly affects our national interest. It is difficult to see how or why Saddam Hussein should take any notice of yet another UN resolution or agree to accept the new suggestion of coercive inspections. I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell and Lord Hannay, about the importance of inspectors.

What assessment have the Government made of the system of coercive inspections recently mooted in the American press? We welcome President Bush's United Nations speech, demonstrating as it did something that we have long thought—that the American Government are thinking carefully about the issue and, more importantly, are keen to engage the wider international community.

Of course, Iraq is not an easy problem to solve. No one claims that it is. As Goethe said, every solution of a problem is a new problem. Many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Onslow, asked, "What next?". Several speakers emphasised forcefully—I agree—that our objective is to render harmless Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme.

We fully support all noble Lords who stressed the necessity to have a clear blueprint for the rebuilding of Iraq, for the Iraq we would like to see and the Iraq the Iraqi people would like to see should there be any military action. I should be grateful if the Minister could reassure the House that those problems have been considered and indicate his thinking on the matter. Indeed, only a few days ago the Iraqi newspaper, Al-Iqtisida, the newspaper owned by Saddam's eldest son, called for the formation of suicide squads to launch attacks on the West. Iraq plays a key role, both as a financial sponsor and harbourer, thereby threatening international peace and security. Therefore one of the most effective ways of defeating terrorism is by tracking the money that supports its activities.

During the last Session, on 9th July, my noble friend Lord Saatchi raised an important question concerning terrorist-related assets frozen in UK bank accounts. Can the Minister tell the House what further progress has been made in finding and freezing terrorist-related funds and how any of those findings impact upon the current situation in Iraq?

Finally, people are asking daily for more compelling evidence of the threat. The dossier provided by the Government is important, but a point was put to me recently which I should like to put to the Minister. Can the Minister tell the House whether the Iraqi opposition has been approached? This opposition group, the INC, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is based in the UK and the US. It is funded by the West. Bearing in mind that it claims to command the support of 80 per cent of Iraqis back home and maintains secret connections with top levels of the Iraqi Army, would it not be well placed to confirm publicly what we have hitherto received only from other sources? It could provide us with the extra evidence that public opinion demands. Why not ask it to produce an authoritative defector to testify in front of the UN? For it is through the UN, as most noble Lords have said, that whatever action is taken against Saddam Hussein must be channelled.

We have heard passionately-held and differing views today—or should I say "tonight" at this late hour. Like other noble Lords, I hope that this confrontation may be resolved peacefully. Only—I repeat, "only"—if that proves impossible then I cannot but recall Aristotle's words, "We make war that we may live in peace".

10.49 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

My Lords, I begin by praising and thanking all those who have spoken in the debate. This has been a particularly stimulating and informed debate with a huge variety of expert knowledge. It has been a very good debate, but also a very long one. I am sure that the House will be with me in this at least: I intend to limit myself to 20 minutes at the most—if I do not, my Chief Whip will.

Free speech is one of the proudest traditions of this House and a vital part of our way of life. I believe we all agree on the importance of the issues under discussion. What is so impressive is the way in which Members of this House listen to those who hold sometimes very different views from their own. Sadly, this is not a privilege permitted to the people of Iraq.

However, in closing, it is worth returning to the key questions posed earlier today by my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in another place. First, does the Iraqi regime pose a real and growing threat not only to the region but also to this country and our allies? Secondly, if so, what should the Government, in concert with our allies, do in response?

The dossier published today sets out in considerable and convincing detail the evidence to support the Government's belief that the threat is real and increasing. It also highlights the manner in which Saddam Hussein has blatantly and consistently ignored and evaded UN resolutions. The connection between Iraq and terrorism has been discussed. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the issue and was mildly critical of the dossier because it did not make a connection between Iraq's programme of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. The noble Lord will remember that the document is a report from our intelligence community on what we believe to be matters of fact. It is emphatically not about speculation.

Your Lordships would rightly have been critical of us making a connection we could not substantiate. Of course if any weapons of mass destruction fall into terrorist hands it would be catastrophic—an expression used in the debate. But evidence of such weapons passing from Iraq to terrorists does not exist. That is not to say that there is not considerable evidence of Iraqi support for various types of terrorism over the years. As noble Lords have said, there is no evidence of direct links to Al'Qaeda in the dossier, but Iraq has a long record of support for terrorism including Palestinian terrorist groups such as Abu Nidal; the activities of the MEK against Iran; payments to the families of suicide bombers and the assassination of political opponents in Iraq and abroad.

The House will remember that Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate the first President Bush and the Emir of Kuwait in 1993. All this should come as no surprise to anyone in this House.

Earl Russell

My Lords, does the Minister agree that that the House is persuaded that there is a threat from Saddam Hussein, but there is no consensus in the House as to whether a military action against him—even a successful one—would make us, the Middle East, or the world any safer?

Lord Bach

My Lords, that is certainly one of the issues in front of the House. There are others as well. I shall proceed. Saddam Hussein's record since seizing power in Iraq in the late 1970s has been characterised—as has been said throughout the House—by a disregard for international law, human decency, and the true interests of his own people. It has been motivated by personal self-aggrandisement and ambition. With calculated disregard for human life he has used some of the most appalling and vicious weapons ever developed against his neighbours, even his own people; often against innocent civilians who were the least well protected. That has resulted in many thousands dying in agony while thousands more will suffer from their injuries for the rest of their lives. One noble Lord accused Saddam Hussein of having made serious errors of judgment. I do not know whether those facts that I have just set out represent some of those serious errors of judgment in his opinion.

In the wake of the Gulf War, a major international effort was launched to uncover and then destroy those WMD programmes. The sheer extent of the programmes and how close he came to developing the ultimate horror—a useable nuclear weapon—deeply shocked the international community. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, asked how different the events of 1990–91 would have been if Saddam had completed his nuclear ambitions. We should ponder that when deciding what it is best to do next.

These facts have long been recognised by the United Nations and are graphically exposed in our dossier. I remind the House that since 1990 the Security Council has imposed nine resolutions involving 27 specific obligations. Their aim has been to expose the true dimensions of these programmes and to ensure that they are completely dismantled, yet Saddam has consistently prevaricated and made a mockery of international law. He has defied the United Nations and scorned diplomacy and seeks to rebuild his arsenal. He has broken 23 of the 27 obligations and ignored world opinion. What is more, he has harassed the inspectors, hampered their movements and eventually, in 1998, expelled them from Iraq, only one month after having promised them unconditional access.

I remind some noble Lords that of course we shall go down the United Nations inspection route, but we shall do so with our eyes wide open, never letting up the pressure on Iraq. That pressure must involve the possible use of force. The House has to come to terms with that.

The evidence published this morning leaves no doubt that Saddam is continuing to develop, conceal and protect his weapons of mass destruction programmes. The important point from the dossier is that he is still manufacturing chemical and biological weapons. He also retains a capability to deliver such weapons by missile and is seeking to enhance that capability. All that is contrary to UN resolutions. A judgment is made in the dossier that Iraq has military plans for use of the chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. That has not been said very much when the dossier has been quoted. It also makes the point that some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of the order to use them.

Saddam's intention to acquire nuclear weapons remains undiminished. He has sought covertly to acquire technology and materials, including large quantities of uranium, and has taken care to retain and use the specialist expertise developed in his pre-1991 nuclear weapon programme.

There is also ample evidence in the dossier that the regime has used the experience of the previous UN weapons inspections in order better to conceal its current activities. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, quoted from paragraph 13 of the dossier. I am sure that he has read paragraph 14 as well. Paragraph 13 talks about inspection achievements, but paragraph 14 begins: Despite UNSCOM's efforts, following the effective ejection of UN inspectors in December 1998 there remained a series of significant unresolved disarmament issues". The paragraph ends: Overall, Richard Butler declared that obstructive Iraqi activity had had 'a significant impact upon the Commission's disarmament work'". The inspectors were very useful and they did a wonderful job. But let us not pretend to ourselves that somehow the inspectors managed to achieve all that they wanted.

We cannot know all the details of how Saddam Hussein may lash out next time, but one thing is clear and I believe that the House is united upon it. Doing nothing now is just not an option. Saddam Hussein, armed with nuclear weapons, would be even more of a menace than he is to the international community, to its neighbours in the region and to the UK. It is a threat that will not go away. It is a regime that twice launched unprovoked and unjustified wars of aggression upon its neighbours.

We have long made clear our commitment in support of the United Nations to contain Saddam. For more than 10 years, the Royal Air Force has kept much of Iraq safe for its people through its humanitarian patrolling of the no-fly zones in Iraq. That is directly in support of UN Security Council resolutions. It has constrained Saddam from further repression of the Kurds and other minority groups in the North and the Shia in the South. Perhaps f may pay a compliment to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, for the work she has done in this field and for the expertise with which she spoke about the tragedy that unfolded in the south of Iraq.

The Royal Navy has played its part, too, sailing with the international maritime force to enforce United Nations sanctions on Iraq. I myself have just returned from a short visit to the Gulf where I had the privilege of meeting some of the men and women on HMS "Argyll" and at the Ali Al-Salem airbase. It is right in a debate such as this that we pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have placed themselves—and still do every day—in harm's way to carry out the vital endeavours.

Those efforts continue to be invaluable but, as the dossier shows clearly, the policy of containment is no longer effective. The threat posed by Saddam to regional and international security is real and it is growing. I quote from what the Prime Minister said on 3rd September: It is not that for 10 years he has not been a problem. He has been a problem throughout the last 10 years. What has changed is, first, that the policy of containment is not any longer working—certainly without a massive change in the way that the regime is monitored and inspected. Secondly, we know from 11th September that it is sensible to deal with these problems before, not after". Indeed, how could the containment work properly without inspectors? There have not been any inspectors for three-and-three-quarter—nearly four—years.

What happens next? Many noble Lords—the noble Lords, Lord Hurd, Lord Wright, Lord Campbell-Savours, Lord Grenfell, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and others—asked what would happen after all this was over. As my noble friend Lady Symons made clear, there are questions that we honestly cannot yet answer fully. But I can assure all noble Lords that Her Majesty's Government are very aware of the peril of winning the war and losing the peace.

Obviously, in the end, the Government of Iraq must be a matter for the people of Iraq. I believe that Her Majesty's Government have good credentials on this issue. We have had some good precedents over the past few years. I mention Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone. Despite all the criticisms that we have heard today, I also include Afghanistan. Obviously there will be more to come on that matter. I know that that is not a fully satisfactory answer to the questions that are posed but it is an issue that Her Majesty's Government are thinking about a great deal.

I assure the House that military action by ourselves or our allies is neither imminent nor inevitable. Members of this House know perhaps better than anyone else the tragic cost of war. Here, I pay tribute to the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Vincent, Lord Craig, Lord Inge, Lord Bramall and Lord Guthrie, all of whom took the trouble to speak today and are courteous enough to be here this evening. As always, they spoke with authority from their enormous military experience. We may well hear more from them in due course.

Of course, we would all agree that a diplomatic solution that fully satisfied our concerns would be the preferred outcome. We are doing everything in our power to achieve that. However, if diplomatic action does not succeed we must be prepared to take further steps. We in the Ministry of Defence will take prudent steps to ensure that our servicemen and women are ready, fully trained and fully equipped to undertake any task that their country may ask of them. We would not take such action lightly but nor will we shirk our international obligations.

Recent operations, from Sierra Leone to Afghanistan, have demonstrated that, as part of an international coalition, our military strength can provide regional stability, root out terrorism and give local people a chance to rebuild their nations and their homes in safety. A great deal has quite rightly been said about the Middle East peace process in the course of this debate. The importance of achieving a just and lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israelis cannot be understated.

Noble Lords will remember hearing a long time ago now—this morning—my noble and learned friend Lord Williams reading the Prime Minister's Statement. Towards the end of that Statement, he dealt with the Middle East peace process. Noble Lords also heard from my noble friend Lady Symons that the Foreign Secretary himself will in a few weeks visit that part of the world. The Government take that issue extremely seriously, as the Prime Minister's words show.

We continue to insist that all parties must abide by UN resolutions and that the road to peace begins with acceptance by all sides of UN Resolution 1402, which involves Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian towns, an effective ceasefire and the return to negotiations.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, asked about the elections in Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza. We support well-prepared and effective elections and we are urging the Palestinian Authority to set a realistic date for those elections and Israel to allow conditions suitable for them to take place. However, we must not let our concerns about the Middle East peace process cloud our determination to deal with Saddam Hussein. That point was not lost, frankly, on those in the region with whom I was fortunate enough to have discussions last week. We have heard a great deal about the street and about Arab sentiment; much of it, I am sure, is correct. However, my experience over the past week was that some distinction was made between those issues. I do not think that we should immediately assume that all Arab countries take precisely the view that those two issues are necessarily interlinked all the time.

Let us not forget that Saddam Hussein has murdered more Muslims and Arabs than perished in the four great wars that took place between Israel and the Arab states during the 20th century. It is only free from the danger that Saddam poses that the people of the region have a chance to build peace.

The way open to Saddam is clear: he must re-admit the weapons inspectors now and unconditionally, and he must accept immediately all the obligations imposed by the United Nations.

We have had a free and open debate. Saddam should not mistake such a debate for evidence of uncertainty on our part. We draw strength and unity from our democratic principles—tyrants always misunderstand that. We must and we will face up to our responsibilities towards this appalling regime and the threat that it poses towards us and our allies. I conclude by thanking all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the right reverend Prelates who spoke from the Bishops' Bench. I single out the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester for his fine contribution.

In another place, the Prime Minister today said, should Saddam continue to defy the will of the international community, this House, as it has in our history so many times before, will not shrink from doing what is necessary and what is right". I have no doubt that we in this House will do no less. I ask the House to agree to the Motion.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at ten minutes past eleven o'clock.

Back to