HL Deb 13 October 2004 vol 665 cc269-71

3.1 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the report of the Iraq Survey Group.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made a statement on Iraq in another place on 12 October, in which he made clear that the report provides chapter and verse as to why the policy of containment was not working.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, I am surprised, because, as I read the report, the policy of containment was clearly working. Can the Minister explain why the ISG, which, as I understand it, contained British and Australian members as well as Americans, appears to have been accountable only to the US Congress, instead of also to the British Parliament? Does she agree that, in the light of the evident failures of intelligence analysis, the role of the intelligence services and their links to their American counterparts should be a matter for fuller openness and parliamentary accountability, rather than their being answerable only to her Majesty's Government?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, on the noble Lord's second question about the reporting relationships of the intelligence services, he will know that there is a clear process and parliamentary involvement in the scrutiny of the work of the intelligence services. At this point, we see no reason to change those reporting relationships.

The noble Lord's first point has been dealt with a number of times across this Dispatch Box. I understand that the report was made to the United States, but it is of course widely available. It is on the website and open for anyone to read.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the ISG report reveals the frightening success of the web of corruption and bribery with which the Saddam regime tried to snare other parties, especially permanent members of the UN Security Council, into ending UN sanctions and that it also reveals the plans kept in place for restarting the chemical, biological and nuclear programmes of Saddam? Is it not interesting how little attention the media seem to be focusing on that frightening picture of the terrible threat that that regime constituted?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. While the report confirms that there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq, it makes very clear Saddam's intention to resume WMD programmes once sanctions were lifted. It shows that he was in multiple breach of UN Security Council resolutions; was pursuing an aggressive strategy to subvert the Oil for Food programme and bring down sanctions; and was thus eroding the policy of containment.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, as the Minister said, the ISG report contains extensive evidence of the flouting of the UN oil sanctions by Iraq. Can the Lord President give us any further details about the investigation into the alleged corruption of the sanctions regime contained in the ISG report and, in particular, the abuse of the Oil for Food programme? I have been asking about the Oil for Food programme abuse by the UN for many years. Was there any intelligence of that at the time? What steps are the Government taking to press the UN to prevent any similar abuse recurring within its organisation?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the Volcker commission is investigating the Oil for Food programme. I am unable to give the noble Baroness further details of those investigations today, but if there is further information, I will of course make it available to her in writing. Once the results of the commission are known, the UN will look at them very closely to see what lessons there are to be learnt for other aspects of its programme.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that we would be doing the people of Iraq a much greater service if, instead of trying to analyse the genesis of what has happened, we all agreed on where we are now and what needs to be done in future, which is concentrating our efforts on trying to create a peaceful Iraq, a democratic Iraq and a prosperous Iraq? That needs to be our priority and we need to be encouraging the international community to join with us in that process to make it happen.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, although I totally agree with my noble friend, it would be wrong not to recognise the deep feelings that exist on the issue. I respect that, and the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have made it absolutely clear that they respect those differences and that some were very clearly against the war. However, I agree with my noble friend that we need to look to the future. We need to consider what we can do to support the people of Iraq in their pursuit of democracy and to bring security to that country.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

My Lords, the previous supplementary question notwithstanding, do not the Government agree that the heart of the problem for this country over the Iraq war is that there has been a regrettable elision in public discussion of what is, at least for some of us, a debatable reason for going to war in the first place and the supposed beneficial consequences of having done so?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we made absolutely clear the basis on which we were going to war, which was the failure of Iraq to comply with Security Council resolutions. I have reread the Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament in March last year; I have read Statements made by Ministers from the Dispatch Box; and the legal basis for going to war was made absolutely clear. I acknowledge that there are those who disagree with that, but there is a certain amount of rewriting of history here. I strongly believe that, having been a Minister in the Foreign Office at the time, having worked very hard indeed with Foreign Office colleagues to get a second Security Council resolution and remembering that, very close to the point where war was declared, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government were asked to comply one last time with a set of conditions to which they did not respond.