Back to warmwell.com website


18 Mar 2003

The rebel amendment read: "This house believes that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific UN authorisation, but in the event that hostilities do commence, pledges its total support for the British forces engaged in the Middle East, expresses its admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hopes that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides."

It was tabled by former Labour culture secretary Chris Smith and ex-defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, Tory ex-cabinet minister Douglas Hogg, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell, Tory MP Edward Leigh and the SNP defence spokesman, Angus Robertson.

The MPs who voted in favour of this amendment were:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-06.htm#30318-06_head1

Iraq

[Relevant document: The Fourth Report from the International Development Committee, on Preparing for the humanitarian consequences of possible military action against Iraq (HC444-I).]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith).

12.35 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I beg to move,


    That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty's Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty's Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty's Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet's roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty's Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.

At the outset, I say that it is right that the House debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right, but that others struggle for in vain. Again, I say that I do not disrespect the views in opposition to mine. This is a tough choice indeed, but it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down now and turn back, or to hold firm to the course that we have set. I believe passionately that we must hold firm to that course. The question most often posed is not "Why does it matter?" but "Why does it matter so much?" Here we are, the Government, with their most serious test, their majority at risk, the first Cabinet resignation over an issue of policy, the main parties internally divided,

18 Mar 2003 : Column 761

people who agree on everything else—[Hon. Members: "The main parties?"] Ah, yes, of course. The Liberal Democrats—unified, as ever, in opportunism and error. [Interruption.]

The country and the Parliament reflect each other. This is a debate that, as time has gone on, has become less bitter but no less grave. So why does it matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people who have been brutalised by Saddam for so long, important though those issues are. It will determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship between Europe and the United States, the relations within the European Union and the way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world. So it could hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.

First, let us recap the history of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. In April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had used the weapons against Iran and against his own people, causing thousands of deaths. He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear, after the Gulf war, that Iraq's WMD ambitions were far more extensive than had hitherto been thought. So the issue was identified by the United Nations at that time as one for urgent remedy. UNSCOM, the weapons inspection team, was set up. It was expected to complete its task, following the declaration, at the end of April 1991. The declaration, when it came, was false: a blanket denial of the programme, other than in a very tentative form. And so the 12-year game began.

The inspectors probed. Finally, in March 1992, Iraq admitted that it had previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction, but it said that it had destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. Again the inspectors probed. In October 1994, Iraq stopped co-operating with the weapons inspectors altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In March 1996, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1996, however, Iraq was forced to admit that declaration, too, was false.

In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.

Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how extensive those programmes were. In November 1996, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles

18 Mar 2003 : Column 762

that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. Then a further "full and final declaration" was made. That, too, turned out to be false.

In June 1997, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September 1997, lo and behold, yet another "full and final declaration" was made—also false. Meanwhile, the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent production equipment, the existence of which had always been denied by the Iraqis.

In October 1997, the United States and the United Kingdom threatened military action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors. Finally, under threat of action in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. They did continue, for a few months. In August, co-operation was suspended.

In December, the inspectors left. Their final report is a withering indictment of Saddam's lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities of weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Then, in December 1998, the US and the UK undertook Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as much of the Iraqi WMD facility as we could.

In 1999, a new inspection team, UNMOVIC, was set up. Saddam refused to allow those inspectors even to enter Iraq. So there they stayed, in limbo, until, after resolution 1441 last November, they were allowed to return.

That is the history—and what is the claim of Saddam today? Why, exactly the same as before: that he has no weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, we are asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and non-compliance, finally resulting in the inspectors' leaving in 1998—seven years in which he hid his programme and built it up, even when the inspectors were there in Iraq—when they had left, he voluntarily decided to do what he had consistently refused to do under coercion.

When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

Resolution 1441 is very clear. It lays down a final opportunity for Saddam to disarm. It rehearses the fact that he has for years been in material breach of 17 UN resolutions. It says that this time compliance must be full, unconditional and immediate, the first step being a full and final declaration of all weapons of mass destruction to be given on 8 December last year.

I will not go through all the events since then, as the House is familiar with them, but this much is accepted by all members of the UN Security Council: the 8 December declaration is false. That in itself, incidentally, is a material breach. Iraq has taken some steps in co-operation, but no one disputes that it is not

18 Mar 2003 : Column 763

fully co-operating. Iraq continues to deny that it has any weapons of mass destruction, although no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes it.

On 7 March, the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages long, and details all the unanswered questions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It lists 29 different areas in which the inspectors have been unable to obtain information. On VX, for example, it says:


    "Documentation available to UNMOVIC suggests that Iraq at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX".

On mustard gas, it says:


    "Mustard constituted an important part . . . of Iraq's CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for . . . additional uncertainty"

with respect to over 6,500 aerial bombs,


    "corresponding to approximately 1,000 tonnes of agent, predominantly mustard."

On biological weapons, the inspectors' report states:


    "Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq's potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000 to 25,000 litres . . . Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist."

On that basis, I simply say to the House that, had we meant what we said in resolution 1441, the Security Council should have convened and condemned Iraq as in material breach. What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the same old games in the same old way. Yes, there are minor concessions, but there has been no fundamental change of heart or mind.

However, after 7 March, the inspectors said that there was at least some co-operation, and the world rightly hesitated over war. Let me now describe to the House what then took place.

We therefore approached a second resolution in this way. As I said, we could have asked for the second resolution then and there, because it was justified. Instead, we laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into line with resolution 1441, or be in material breach. That is not an unreasonable proposition, given the history, but still countries hesitated. They asked, "How do we judge what is full co-operation?"

So we then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and drew up five tests, based on the document that they published on 7 March. Those tests included allowing interviews with 30 scientists to be held outside Iraq, and releasing details of the production of the anthrax, or at least of the documentation showing what had happened to it. The inspectors added another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to co-operate with them.

So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified time to fulfil all six tests to show full co-operation; and that, if he did so, the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme that would extend over a period of time to make sure that disarmament happened. However, if Saddam failed to meet those tests to judge compliance, action would follow.

So there were clear benchmarks, plus a clear ultimatum. Again, I defy anyone to describe that as an unreasonable proposition.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 764

Last Monday, we were getting very close with it. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.

Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we continued to negotiate, even at that point.

Last Friday, France said that it could not accept any resolution with an ultimatum in it. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement. However, the fact is that France remains utterly opposed to anything that lays down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

The Prime Minister: Very well.

Hugh Bayley: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I took the view that Britain should not engage in military action without a second resolution, but the decision of some members of the Security Council to back away from the commitment that they gave in November to enforce resolution 1441 has made me change my mind. Does my right hon. Friend agree that France's decision to use the veto against any further Security Council resolution has, in effect, disarmed the UN instead of disarming Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. The House should just consider the position that we were asked to adopt. Those on the Security Council opposed to us say that they want Saddam to disarm, but they will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position—no to any ultimatum and no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand that Saddam disarms, but relinquish any concept of a threat if he does not.

From December 1998 to December 2002, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. For four years, no inspection took place. What changed Saddam's mind was the threat of force. From December to January, and then from January through to February, some concessions were made. What changed his mind? It was the threat of force. What makes him now issue invitations to the inspectors, discover documents that he said he never had, produce evidence of weapons supposed to be non-existent, and destroy missiles he said he would keep? It is the imminence of force. The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep. However, when that fact is so obvious, we are told that any resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance will be vetoed—not just opposed, but vetoed and blocked.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): If it is the case, as the Government continually say, that the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 765

French position was so uniquely influential, why did not the Government and the United States pursue the second resolution, which—if the Government have given us a true reflection of the Security Council's position—would show that the French were isolated?

The Prime Minister: For the very reason that I have just given. If a member of the permanent five indicates to members of the Security Council who are not permanent members that whatever the circumstances it will veto, that is the way to block any progress on the Security Council. [Interruption.] With the greatest respect to whoever shouted out that the presence of the troops is working, I agree, but it is British and American troops who are there, not French troops.

The tragedy is that had such a resolution ensued and had the UN come together and united—and if other troops had gone there, not just British and American troops—Saddam Hussein might have complied. But the moment we proposed the benchmarks and canvassed support for an ultimatum, there was an immediate recourse to the language of the veto. The choice was not action now or postponement of action; the choice was action or no action at all.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): What does the Prime Minister mean by an "unreasonable veto"? Were the 30 occasions on which the UK has used the veto and the 75 occasions on which the US has used the veto reasonable or unreasonable?

The Prime Minister: We can argue about each one of those vetoes in the past and whether they were reasonable, but I define an unreasonable veto as follows. In resolution 1441, we said that it was Saddam's final opportunity and that he had to comply. That was agreed by all members of the Security Council. What is surely unreasonable is for a country to come forward now, at the very point when we might reach agreement and when we are—not unreasonably—saying that he must comply with the UN, after all these months without full compliance, on the basis of the six tests or action will follow. For that country to say that it will veto such a resolution in all circumstances is what I would call unreasonable.

The tragedy is that the world has to learn the lesson all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant is the surest way not to peace, but—unfortunately—to conflict. Looking back over those 12 years, the truth is that we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, and to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil.

Now the very length of time counts against us. People say, "You've waited 12 years, so why not wait a little longer?" Of course we have done so, because resolution 1441 gave a final opportunity. As I have just pointed out, the first test was on 8 December. But still we waited. We waited for the inspectors' reports. We waited as each concession was tossed to us to whet our appetite for

18 Mar 2003 : Column 766

hope and further waiting. But still no one, not even today at the Security Council, says that Saddam is co-operating fully, unconditionally or immediately.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Prime Minister will carry the House with him in describing the evil of Saddam Hussein and the effectiveness of the threat of force. Can he therefore explain why the diplomacy that has not so far succeeded—not through lack of his effort—should not be continued for a little longer, so that agreement could be reached between all permanent members of the Security Council? Then if force had to be used, it could be backed with the authority of the UN, instead of undermining the UN.

The Prime Minister: We could have had more time if the compromise proposal that we put forward had been accepted. I take it from what the hon. Gentleman has just said that he would accept that the compromise proposal we put forward was indeed reasonable. We set out the tests. If Saddam meets those tests, we extend the work programme of the inspectors. If he does not meet those tests, we take action. I think that the hon. Gentleman would also agree that unless the threat of action was made, it was unlikely that Saddam would meet the tests.

Simon Hughes indicated assent.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman nods his head, but the problem with the diplomacy was that it came to an end after the position of France was made public—and repeated in a private conversation—and it said that it would block, by veto, any resolution that contained an ultimatum. We could carry on discussing it for a long time, but the French were not prepared to change their position. I am not prepared to carry on waiting and delaying, with our troops in place in difficult circumstances, when that country has made it clear that it has a fixed position and will not change. I would have hoped that, rather than condemn us for not waiting even longer, the hon. Gentleman would condemn those who laid down the veto.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that a criticism can be made of all the countries that make up the Security Council because it has taken 12 years to reach this point? Why was action not taken earlier? The delay and frustration has only encouraged the Iraqi dictator to act as he has, and there is no justification for further delay.

The Prime Minister: I truly believe that our fault has not been impatience. The truth is that our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and even years ago.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): The Prime Minister says that the French have changed position, but surely the French, Russians and Chinese always made it clear that they would oppose a second resolution that led automatically to war. [Interruption.] Well they publicised that view at the time of resolution 1441. Is it not the Prime Minister who has changed his position? A month ago, he said that the only circumstances in which

18 Mar 2003 : Column 767

he would go to war without a second resolution was if the inspectors concluded that there had been no more progress, which they have not; if there were a majority on the Security Council, which there is not; and if there were an unreasonable veto from one country, but there are three permanent members opposed to the Prime Minister's policy. When did he change his position, and why?

The Prime Minister : First, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong about the position on resolution 1441. It is correct that resolution 1441 did not say that there would be another resolution authorising the use of force, but the implication of resolution 1441—it was stated in terms—was that if Iraq continued in material breach, defined as not co-operating fully, immediately and unconditionally, serious consequences should follow. All we are asking for in the second resolution is the clear ultimatum that if Saddam continues to fail to co-operate, force should be used. The French position is that France will vote no, whatever the circumstances. Those are not my words, but those of the French President. I find it sad that at this point in time he cannot support us in the position we have set out, which is the only sure way to disarm Saddam. And what, indeed, would any tyrannical regime possessing weapons of mass destruction think when viewing the history of the world's diplomatic dance with Saddam over these 12 years? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions has only been matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop—because it is dangerous: dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us; dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, and even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace against us; and dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity, when, in fact, if pushed to the limit, we will act. But when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. It is true that Iraq is not the only country with weapons of mass destruction, but I say this to the House: back away from this confrontation now, and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects.

Of course, in a sense, any fair observer does not really dispute that Iraq is in breach of resolution 1441 or that it implies action in such circumstances. The real problem is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat, dispute the link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and dispute, in other words, the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life.

There are glib and sometimes foolish comparisons with the 1930s. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone here is an appeaser or does not share our revulsion at the regime of Saddam. However, there is one relevant point of analogy. It is that, with history, we know what happened. We can look back and say, "There's the time; that was the moment; that's when we should have acted." However, the point is that it was not clear at the time—not at that moment. In fact, at that time, many people thought such a fear fanciful or, worse, that it was put forward in bad faith by warmongers. Let me read one thing from an editorial from a paper that I am pleased to say takes a different

18 Mar 2003 : Column 768

position today. It was written in late 1938 after Munich. One would have thought from the history books that people thought the world was tumultuous in its desire to act. This is what the editorial said:


    "Be glad in your hearts. Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your husbands and your sons will not march to war. Peace is a victory for all mankind . . . And now let us go back to our own affairs. We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up . . . to confuse us."

Now, of course, should Hitler again appear in the same form, we would know what to do. But the point is that history does not declare the future to us plainly. Each time is different and the present must be judged without the benefit of hindsight. So let me explain to the House why I believe that the threat that we face today is so serious and why we must tackle it. The threat today is not that of the 1930s. It is not big powers going to war with each other. The ravages that fundamentalist ideology inflicted on the 20th century are memories. The cold war is over. Europe is at peace, if not always diplomatically. But the world is ever more interdependent. Stock markets and economies rise and fall together, confidence is the key to prosperity, and insecurity spreads like contagion. The key today is stability and order. The threat is chaos and disorder—and there are two begetters of chaos: tyrannical regimes with weapons of mass destruction and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.

Let me tell the House what I know. I know that there are some countries, or groups within countries, that are proliferating and trading in weapons of mass destruction—especially nuclear weapons technology. I know that there are companies, individuals, and some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, who are selling their equipment or expertise. I know that there are several countries—mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes—that are desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of those countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.

We all know that there are terrorist groups now operating in most major countries. Just in the past two years, around 20 different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands of people—quite apart from 11 September—have died in them. The purpose of that terrorism is not just in the violent act; it is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, and to produce consequences of a calamitous nature. Round the world, it now poisons the chances of political progress—in the middle east, in Kashmir, in Chechnya and in Africa. The removal of the Taliban—yes—dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away.

Those two threats have, of course, different motives and different origins, but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life. At the moment, I accept fully that the association between the two is loose—but it is hardening. The possibility of the two coming together—of terrorist groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction or even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb—is now, in my judgment, a real and present danger to Britain and its national security.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that thousands of scientists and civil

18 Mar 2003 : Column 769

servants in this country—hundreds of them my constituents at Porton Down—have been warning of those threats for some years and are hugely relieved that he and his Government are taking this seriously? They will support him, as will I.

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What could be more calculated to act as a recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world than putting 600 cruise missiles—or whatever it is—on to Baghdad and Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Let me come to that very point.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Let me deal with this point first. Let us recall: what was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of innocent people but the knowledge that, had the terrorists been able, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000—and the more the suffering, the greater their rejoicing. I say to my hon. Friend that America did not attack the al-Qaeda terrorist group; the al-Qaeda terrorist group attacked America. They did not need to be recruited; they were there already. Unless we take action against them, they will grow. That is why we should act.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

Sir Teddy Taylor: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Just give me a moment and then I will give way.

Let me explain the dangers. Three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate 0.25 sq km of a city. Millions of lethal doses are contained in one litre of anthrax, and 10,000 litres are unaccounted for. What happened on 11 September has changed the psychology of America—that is clear—but it should have changed the psychology of the world.

Of course, Iraq is not the only part of this threat. I have never said that it was. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously. Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I simply say to the House that to break it now, and to will the ends but not the means, would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other single course that we could pursue. To fall back into the lassitude of the past 12 years; to talk, to discuss, to debate but never to act; to declare our will but not to enforce it; and to continue with strong language but with weak intentions—that is the worst course imaginable. If we pursue that course, when the threat

18 Mar 2003 : Column 770

returns, from Iraq or elsewhere, who will then believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? It was interesting today that some of the strongest statements of support for allied forces came from near to North Korea—from Japan and South Korea.

Sir Teddy Taylor: The Prime Minister is making a powerful and compelling speech. Will he tell the House whether there has been any identification of the countries that have supplied these terrible biological materials—such as anthrax and toxins—to Iraq? Should those countries not be identified—named by the Prime Minister and condemned?

The Prime Minister: Much of the production is in Iraq itself.

Lynne Jones: A moment ago my right hon. Friend said that the association between Iraq and terrorists is loose, yet last night President Bush told the American people that Iraq has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda. Was President Bush accurate in what he told the American people?

The Prime Minister: First, let me apologise to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor). He was making a point in my favour and I failed to spot it.

Secondly, to my hon. Friend, yes, I do support what the President said. Do not be in any doubt at all—Iraq has been supporting terrorist groups. For example, Iraq is offering money to the families of suicide bombers whose purpose is to wreck any chance of progress in the middle east. Although I said that the associations were loose, they are hardening. I do believe that, and I believe that the two threats coming together are the dangers that we face in our world.

I also say this: there will be in any event no sound future for the United Nations—no guarantee against the repetition of these events—unless we recognise the urgent need for a political agenda that we can unite upon. What we have witnessed is indeed the consequence of Europe and the United States dividing from each other. Not all of Europe—Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Portugal have strongly supported us—and not a majority of Europe if we include, as we should, Europe's new members who will accede next year, all 10 of whom have been in strong support of the position of this Government. But the paralysis of the UN has been born out of the division that there is.

I want to deal with that in this way. At the heart of that division is the concept of a world in which there are rival poles of power, with the US and its allies in one corner and France, Germany, Russia and their allies in the other. I do not believe that all those nations intend such an outcome, but that is what now faces us. I believe such a vision to be misguided and profoundly dangerous for our world. I know why it arises. There is resentment of US predominance. There is fear of US unilateralism. People ask, "Do the US listen to us and our preoccupations?" And there is perhaps a lack of full understanding of US preoccupations after 11 September. I know all this. But the way to deal with it is

18 Mar 2003 : Column 771

not rivalry, but partnership. Partners are not servants, but neither are they rivals. What Europe should have said last September to the United States is this: with one voice it should have said, "We understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily. However, in return"—Europe should have said—"we ask two things of you: that the US should indeed choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of restarting the middle east peace process, which we will hold you to."

That would have been the right and responsible way for Europe and America to treat each other as partners, and it is a tragedy that it has not happened. I do not believe that there is any other issue with the same power to reunite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course, there is cynicism about recent announcements, but the United States is now committed—and, I believe genuinely—to the road map for peace designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today, as Palestinian Prime Minister. All of us are now signed up to this vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestinian state. That is what this country should strive for, and we will.

And that should be part of a larger global agenda: on poverty and sustainable development; on democracy and human rights; and on the good governance of nations.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance. Here again there is a chance to unify around the United Nations. There should be a new United Nations resolution following any conflict providing not only for humanitarian help, but for the administration and governance of Iraq. That must be done under proper UN authorisation.

Mike Gapes: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I endorse very strongly what he said about the need for the road map of progress in the middle east. However, the problem is that there is a perception that we are engaged in a bilateral action with just the United States. Could he respond to my constituents and others who believe that, and point out how strong is the support for action at this moment to rid the Iraqi people of the oppressive Saddam regime?

The Prime Minister : I shall certainly do so. The UN resolution that should provide for the proper governance of Iraq should also protect totally the territorial integrity of Iraq. And this point is also important: that the oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 772

Let the future Government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation's disparate groups, on a democratic basis—

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: If my hon. Friend will allow me to continue for a moment, I shall come back to him.

The process must begin on a democratic basis, respecting human rights, as, indeed, the fledgling democracy in northern Iraq—protected from Saddam for 12 years by British and American pilots in the no-fly zone—has done remarkably. The moment that a new Government are in place, committed to disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, is the point in time when sanctions should be lifted, and can be lifted, in their entirety for the people of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. Can he tell the House what guarantees he has had from the Turkish Government and the Turkish military that they will not use the opportunity of a war in the south to invade the northern part of Iraq and destroy the Kurdish autonomous region and the demands of Kurdish people for their own self-determination? There is a very serious fear that the Turkish army has always wanted to destroy any vestige of Kurdish autonomy.

The Prime Minister: Turkey has given that commitment. I have spoken to the Turkish Government, as have the President of the United States and many others. I have to say to my hon. Friend that it is clear from the conversations that I have had with people in that Kurdish autonomous zone that what they really fear above all else is the prospect of Saddam remaining in power, emboldened because we have failed to remove him.

I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441—that is our legal base. But it is the reason why I say frankly that if we do act, we should do so with a clear conscience and a strong heart. I accept fully that those who are opposed to this course of action share my detestation of Saddam. Who could not? Iraq is a potentially wealthy country which in 1979, the year before Saddam came to power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia. Today it is impoverished, with 60 per cent. of its population dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine. Four million people out of a population of just over 20 million are living in exile.

The brutality of the repression—the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty—is well documented. Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, their tongue was cut out, and they were mutilated and left to bleed to death as a warning to others. I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam. "But you don't", she replied. "You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear." And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine what it must be like not to be

18 Mar 2003 : Column 773

able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place, and the blunt truth is that that is how they will continue to be forced to live.

We must face the consequences of the actions that we advocate. For those of us who support the course that I am advocating, that means all the dangers of war. But for others who are opposed to this course, it means—let us be clear—that for the Iraqi people, whose only true hope lies in the removal of Saddam, the darkness will simply close back over. They will be left under his rule, without any possibility of liberation—not from us, not from anyone.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. This is the choice before us. If this House now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning—this is what it means—what then? What will Saddam feel? He will feel strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states that tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, take from that? They will take it that the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep if we take our troops back from the Gulf now?

Glenda Jackson: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: I am sorry. If our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make it multilateralist, or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism that we could possibly imagine? What then of the United Nations, and of the future of Iraq and the middle east peace process, devoid of our influence and stripped of our insistence?

The House wanted this discussion before conflict. That was a legitimate demand. It has it, and these are the choices. In this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no choice is ideal, but on this decision hangs the fate of many things: of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century, and meet it; of the Iraqi people, groaning under years of dictatorship; of our armed forces, brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, and whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear; of the institutions and alliances that will shape our world for years to come. To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest. To turn the United Nations back into a talking shop; to stifle the first steps of progress in the middle east; to leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events over which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better; to tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination, Britain faltered: I will not be party to such a course.

This is not the time to falter. This is the time not just for this Government—or, indeed, for this Prime Minister—but for this House to give a lead: to show that

18 Mar 2003 : Column 774

we will stand up for what we know to be right; to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk; to show, at the moment of decision, that we have the courage to do the right thing.

1.23 pm

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): The House and the whole country rightly recognise that we are soon likely to be at war. It is a solemn moment in the life of our nation, and our first thoughts and prayers today must be with our troops and their families as they prepare for action. The Opposition recognise the heavy responsibility that the Prime Minister and the Government have to bear. I remind the House that the Prime Minister's decision comes at the end of 12 years of what was too often indecision by the international community.

I make it clear from the outset that the official Opposition will vote tonight in the same Lobby as the Government. In saying that, I recognise that there are honestly felt and genuinely carried differences of view on both sides of the House about further military action in Iraq. I respect those unreservedly, wherever they are held, and I recognise that they reflect strong differences of view that are felt throughout the country. However, given the differences and the difficulties that they have posed for the Government in general and for the Prime Minister in particular, I say frankly to the House that the official Opposition could somehow have sought to manoeuvre themselves into the No Lobby tonight. After all, we have argued consistently that Ministers have failed to convince the public of their case, and we have sought to hold the Government to account in the House for their mistakes. In particular, we have also pointed out the failures with regard to the humanitarian consequences of war. However, I believe that when the Government do the right thing by the British people, they deserve the support of the House, and particularly of the main Opposition.

Certain issues need to be taken head-on today. The idea that this action would become a recruiting sergeant for others to come to the colours of those who are "anti" any nation in the west is, I am afraid, nonsense. The biggest recruiting sergeant of all has been indecision, and the failure to take action to show that such resolve matters.

There are well-held views that I have respect for, but as I said, we could have sought a way to do something that would have damaged the Government. I understand that the Liberal Democrats will do just that tonight. They are, of course, entitled to their view, but I simply say this to them. One can argue that further military action by our armed forces would be illegal, or that it should be supported. But a political party surely cannot simultaneously argue that military action is illegal but should none the less be supported somehow. Yet that, we gather, is what the Liberal Democrats plan to put as their main case tonight. What is clear is that one cannot have it both ways; one has to make a decision and lead.

We are voting tonight in support of the motion not because we endorse every detail of the Prime Minister's handling of the matter, certainly not because we are eager for conflict—as the House knows, I served in the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 775

armed forces, and I have some knowledge of the horror of the aftermath of conflict—and not just because we want to show our support for our troops. That said, I believe firmly that, as the Prime Minister says, they are entitled to our full support today.

Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who tortures and murders his own people. He poses a threat to the safety and stability of the middle east, and he is in complete breach of his obligations to the United Nations and to the international community. However, the main reason why we will be voting for the motion is that it is in the British national interest. Saddam Hussein has the means, the mentality and the motive to pose a direct threat to our national security. That is why we will be voting tonight to do the right thing by our troops and the British people.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): I am interested in what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, just as I was in the Prime Minister's speech. However, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, between 1986 and 1991, 12 early-day motions were tabled in this House calling for the abandonment of the supply of arms to Iraq and condemning what happened at Halabja, and that all the 60 Members who signed at least one of those motions—they included me—were Labour Members? Not a single Tory name was included. However, not even the Prime Minister signed any of them; indeed, only two members of the current Cabinet did so. Yet now they are most strident. I think that—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech.

Mr. Duncan Smith: The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case for supporting the Government's motion tonight, and I expect that he will be in the Lobby in support.

The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that Saddam Hussein has lied to the UN for 12 years. Even now, we do not know the full extent of his arsenal, or of his facilities to develop weapons. He has the means, and as has already been said, it should be evident to everyone that he remains in breach of the obligations under 1441. He has absolutely no intention whatsoever of relinquishing the weapons that he has developed: the remaining al-Samoud 2 missiles; the Scud-B warheads; the R-400 bombs; and the tonnes of VX, anthrax, sarin, soman, botulinum toxin, mustard gas and other deadly weapons, viruses and agents identified by Hans Blix in his report, which I recommend that every Member of this House read before passing judgment.

Saddam Hussein has not only the means but the mentality. To date, his main victims have been his own people. The tale of his rule of lawlessness is a litany of horror. Dissident women are raped, children are tortured and prisoners are trapped in steel boxes until they confess or die. As we have heard, chemical weapons have been used against the Kurds, and Shi'a villages razed to the ground. As the Prime Minister said, when Saddam Hussein came to power, Iraq was a wealthy country: today, it is impoverished.

If that was not enough, Saddam Hussein is also the man who has waged war against Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Here in Britain, where we are at

18 Mar 2003 : Column 776

liberty to protest against any military action, we should recall—as the Prime Minister said—that such liberty does not exist for those who live in Iraq and whose tongues are ripped out if they dare to question Saddam Hussein.

When I had the privilege of visiting our troops in Kuwait, I also had the opportunity of talking to the families of 600 Kuwaiti prisoners of war, taken by Saddam Hussein at the time of the last Gulf war and still missing. I recall talking to one old man whose last sight of his son was when he was being taken away by Iraqi soldiers. He has never been returned. There is no documentary evidence of the existence of those 600 people. Inspection of the prisons is not allowed. At no time has Saddam Hussein agreed to independent inspectors telling their families what happened to them.

Some may say that 600 people do not matter in the great scheme of things, but the equivalent percentage in our population would mean that 60,000 British people were missing. How many Members would not consider that a matter of massive importance and a sign of the distinct distastefulness of that regime?

There is a huge and powerful argument to act. Saddam Hussein is in breach not only on weapons but also in personal terms for those who live and have to suffer under his regime. It is well worth meeting the dissidents and I advise all Members to do so. Their tales about what has happened to their families are harrowing. One man told me that he last saw his brother 18 years ago as he was being taken away for a minor traffic offence. His brother has never been seen again. I promise that no one will shed a tear over the departure of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein has the means and the mentality. He also has the motive. We in Britain helped to expel him from Kuwait. For more than 10 years, British forces have been enforcing the no-fly zones. We are a crucial part of the coalition that seeks to force UN resolutions upon his regime. The threat that his arsenal poses to British citizens at home and abroad cannot simply be contained. Whether in the hands of his regime or in the hands of the terrorists to whom he would give his weapons, they pose a clear danger to British citizens. To those who doubt that, I point out that only the other day Saddam said that he would strike anywhere,


    "by land, sea or sky".

Those who believe otherwise are living in cloud cuckoo land. The reality for them, as for others, is that Britain and its citizens are as much prime targets as anybody in the world.

As the Prime Minister said, Saddam's last hope lies in his ability to string along the international community for as long as possible. People who say that another month and a half would be all right and that it is only a small delay should realise that, in another month and a half, any military action will become nigh on impossible. The delay would not be for a month and a half but would have to last until the autumn, and in the meantime, Saddam's prevarications and games will split the international community and wreck the UN. The blame for further military action lies squarely in the hands of Saddam Hussein. It is his regime only that has made further military action necessary, yet, even now, he has the power to ensure that such action does not take place.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 777

It would be wrong for us not to acknowledge the consequences of that military action. I am sad to say that the Iraqi people may have to suffer yet again, but I hope and believe that, in the decision that the Prime Minister has to take, the suffering of the Iraqi people will be short-lived and that the ultimate end will be peace and security in their country.

That is why the Opposition have constantly urged the Government to set out their plans for humanitarian assistance. Our view of the lack of preparedness was endorsed by the Select Committee on International Development, which warned last week of concern about the "lack of leadership" in co-ordinating the planning and preparation of the humanitarian response to possible military action. The Committee also recommended that the Department for International Development


    "immediately issues a statement outlining its basic humanitarian contingency plans".

We welcome the written statement made last week by the Secretary of State for International Development, but it did not explain what is being done to improve co-ordination between the Ministry of Defence and DFID. It did not establish whether DFID would set up a mechanism to co-ordinate the UK humanitarian response. It did not set out what will replace the oil-for-food programme, which feeds up to 60 per cent. of the Iraqi population. It did not spell out DFID's plans in the event of Saddam Hussein unleashing any of his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons on his own people. Nor did it give details of how to cope with the flight of refugees. Those are pressing questions, as it is estimated that up to a million people may seek refuge on the borders. The questions need to be answered.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): If those preparations are so ill advanced, why is the right hon. Gentleman so keen on going to war?

Mr. Duncan Smith: The hon. Gentleman betrays a certain ignorance. The reality is that we need to deal with Saddam Hussein regardless of those arrangements. We have rightly urged the Government that arrangements must be made and that there must be a way of dealing with the emergency requirements. I believe that that can take place and I hope that, in their response to the debate, the Government will explain how those matters will be dealt with in the course of events.

David Burnside (South Antrim): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Duncan Smith: I will give way in a second.

We note the renewed commitment of the Secretary of State for International Development to her position, but we remind her of its current significance to the Iraqi people and that her recent detachment and indecision have done them and the House a disservice.

We also accept that the prospect of further military action against Iraq causes widespread anxiety among Muslims throughout the Islamic world and in Britain. It is vital to recall that the majority of Saddam Hussein's

18 Mar 2003 : Column 778

victims have been Muslims; their number stretches to the appalling figure of more than 1 million. Two Muslim countries—Iran and Kuwait—were invaded by Saddam and Muslim countries bordering Iraq would not mourn his passing.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): If the right hon. Gentleman is so concerned about sentiments in the Muslim world, is he in favour of enforcing the outstanding resolutions on Kashmir?

Mr. Duncan Smith: Decisions on Kashmir have little to do with what is happening in this case. We want all UN resolutions to be enforced, but these circumstances are particular and peculiar. They relate to the UN resolution under chapter VII, which shows that Iraq is a direct threat to the United Nations and all who inhabit the countries around it. That is the point. It is intriguing that the hon. Gentleman and others hang on to those other resolutions as though that justifies taking no action in this case. It is right to act and we should deal with this matter right now.

Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Govan): Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to apologise to the Muslim world for supporting Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons against his people and killed 1 million Muslims?

Mr. Duncan Smith: I have never supported Saddam Hussein at any time when he has used any weapon, particularly not chemical weapons. What happened in Halabja was an outrage and should be condemned by everyone regardless of their views.

We remain committed to the right of Israel to exist behind secure and legally accepted borders, as the Prime Minister said, with binding guarantees of peace from its Arab neighbours, but hon. Members on both sides of the House are equally committed to the cessation of settlement activity and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the west bank. We are firmly of the view that Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories and believe that now is the time for the Government fully to embrace the process, as the Prime Minister laid it out.

There are welcome indications that the road map will be published soon, paving the way for a full and comprehensive settlement, and we realise that the Muslim world is looking to the implementation of that road map as a way forward that is coherent and consistent. It is imperative to all those committed to that road map now to prove their commitment to it during the months ahead, and I am assured that the Prime Minister will do just that.

The House knows that I have long held the view that Saddam Hussein is a threat to our national interest and that, if decisive action had been taken earlier, we would not now stand on the verge of war, but all that lies in the past, for we are entering the final phase of a 12-year history in relation to Iraq. The 17 resolutions passed since then have put Saddam Hussein under 27 separate obligations, and resolution 1441 gave him a final opportunity to meet those obligations or face the serious consequences named. More than 18 weeks have passed since he was given that final choice. More than 600 weeks have passed since he was given the first chance when the UN first entered Baghdad.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 779

I acknowledge that other hon. Members oppose further military action and some have general doubts and concerns, but I genuinely urge them all to consider the consequences of turning back now. In turning back, we would widen splits in NATO, stir up isolationism in the United States and abandon our allies in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia and many countries in eastern Europe, where people know what it is like to live under tyranny and have supported the actions of the Prime Minister and others.

Above all, we would strip the UN of its authority, betray our own national interest and send an unmistakable signal to Saddam Hussein and every rogue state and terrorist group in the world that we lack the will to enforce just demands against those tyrannical regimes. That is the road that France would have us go down, and we must not take that road.

There are matters at stake that rise above party politics. It is the duty of the Government to act in the national interest, and it is the duty of the Opposition to support them when they do so. The Prime Minister is acting in the national interest today. That is why he is entitled to our support in doing the right thing. This is a critical moment for the House. If we vote to give Saddam yet another chance, the moment will pass, our concentration will falter, our energy and our focus will disperse and our nerve will fail, with disastrous consequences for us all.

We cannot funk this challenge and leave it for future generations. We cannot heap up the problems at their door and leave them to face the consequences. We must not deprive our troops of the support that they fully deserve from all quarters of the House. We must shoulder our responsibilities and seize that moment. If we give way now, our failure will be used as a club against us in years to come. We should stand firm, act and show that we have learned from past failures. For the sake of our security and that of the wider world, I urge the House to vote for the motion tonight.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I will call a Back Bencher to move the amendment. I point out to the House that there is an eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches and that, on a day like this, it will not be appreciated if hon. Members approach the Chair—whether I or one of my Deputies is in the Chair—regarding when or whether they will speak. I call Peter Kilfoyle to move the amendment.

1.44 pm

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): I beg to move, To leave out from "1441" in line 2, to "in" in line 21 and insert—


    "believes that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific United Nations authorisation; but, in the event that hostilities do commence, pledges its total support for the British forces engaged in the Middle East, expresses its admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hopes that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides."

I hope to move the amendment without the rancour and personalisation that has sometimes characterised the debate on the fringes surrounding this issue because I agree with the Prime Minister when he says that this is

18 Mar 2003 : Column 780

one of those issues that come along once in a generation. Indeed, it is an issue that transcends many normal ties of party, friendship and even family because the outcomes of the decisions that will be taken here and elsewhere will be so tremendous. As the Prime Minister says, those decisions will set the tone for a very long time to come.

It would be remiss of me if I did not pick up a number of the points that the Prime Minister made in his speech if only to point out that he is rightly credited with being a man of conviction, but so are other right hon. and hon. Members, and with their convictions and their examination of the facts as opposed to the collection of assertions, value judgments and interpretations that seem to make up the Government's case, they seem to draw very different conclusions.

For example, the Prime Minister made much of events back in 1938. Of course, he said that he was not suggesting that anyone was an appeaser. The only person whom I have ever appeased in my life is Mrs. Kilfoyle—not very successfully, I hasten to add. The thing that struck me, of course, was that I do not recall that the League of Nations had inspectors in Germany dismantling the panzers in 1938, as we have inspectors dismantling the weapons in Iraq today.

The Prime Minister rightly made much of the dangers of terrorism, but does that not illustrate the idiocy of fighting the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong enemy? We are having a 19th-century gunboat war in the Gulf when the real dangers of terrorism should be isolated and dealt with as the first priority. I accept the argument that those things run concurrently, but I do not accept the linkage that is often made. The Prime Minister said that the linkage is loose, but that it is hardening. He will have privileged information that we are not privy to, but nevertheless the one thing that I can guarantee will harden that linkage is the manifest failure to deal with the underlying causes that have given us the terrorism and the situation in Iraq in the first place.

I note the fact that the Government motion refers to the road map—a road map that was torpedoed within 24 hours by Prime Minister Sharon's insistence that he would not accept a Palestinian state.

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kilfoyle: No. I am sorry, but I have only eight minutes.

The fourth issue that struck me was the Prime Minister's comment that the US had a preoccupation after 9/11, which changed its world view. The US may have that preoccupation, but the Administration had set out their view long in advance of being an Administration. I refer the Prime Minister to the parliamentary record, which will show references to the letter written to President Clinton in 1998 by the Project for a New American Century in which it set out very clearly what its intentions were and urged President Clinton to mount an attack on Iraq.

Those of us who have put our names to the amendment have done so not with any sense of mischief making or because we do not recognise that those on the other side of the argument hold very sincere views, but because we are conscious of our interpretation of what

18 Mar 2003 : Column 781

is said. My own interpretation is that this act would be illegal, immoral and illogical. The Government will tell us that the selected evidence from the Attorney-General that has been published has satisfied the Government and ought to satisfy the House, but I prefer to take the views of the many eminent jurists who have reached very different conclusions. And yes, I also accept the view set out by Kofi Annan that the international community needed a second resolution. I am satisfied that, without that second resolution, we are getting into extremely dangerous ground and setting extremely dangerous precedents.

It is immoral because in waging this war—we should think about what the term awe and shock implies—the United States is aiming to put in 10 times as many missiles and precision bombs in the first 48 hours as it committed in the whole of the last Gulf war. That is against a country that has been decimated year after year. Regardless of the rights and wrongs, the fact is that an already destroyed, effectively third-world country will be further damaged. It seems to me grossly immoral to talk about the reconstruction of damage that one has wilfully caused.

It is illogical because, as I intimated a moment ago, we are going after the wrong enemy at the wrong time and in the wrong way. I do not believe that Saddam Hussein has been anything other than contained. I do not believe any assertion that is made without the evidence being provided that there are linkages between him and al-Qaeda. I do not believe that he has had the wherewithal, or would have it, to be able to attack the United Kingdom directly. There has been an awful lot of scaremongering that does not add to the Government's case.

I am conscious that I am running out of time. I have mentioned once before in the House the advice that was given by Archidamus to his Spartan allies. He said that slow and cautious may be seen as wise and sensible. Many years later, the Athenian superpower, in its impatience, found out that he was absolutely right: impatience had imperilled it and led to its destruction. I say earnestly and honestly to the Government: their impatience will reap a whirlwind, which will affect us and ours for generations to come. I urge hon. Members to support the amendment.

1.51 pm

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): Following the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), I acknowledge with thanks, through him, to the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and to all those concerned in all parties in this House, that an honest option has been discussed and agreed in a cross-party way. In the previous debate, the right hon. Gentleman made a powerful contribution to that cross-party basis, which needs to be heard and discussed rationally today.

Although it is sad that we have lost a very good Leader of the House, there is no doubt, having listened to his brilliant resignation statement in the House yesterday evening, that those of us who are supporting the cross-party amendment in the Lobby tonight, as I and my right hon. and hon. Friends will do, have gained

18 Mar 2003 : Column 782

a powerful additional advocate for the case that we are sincerely making. Given the events of the past few days and the last few hours, there has been much understandable comment about the drama of the situation. In the next few hours and days, however, we are liable to see even more drama and trauma when what appears to be the inevitable military conflict against Iraq begins. Let us hope, as we all agree, that the conflict can be conducted as swiftly as possible, with the minimum of casualties: first and foremost, clearly, among our forces, but equally among innocent Iraqi civilians, with whom none of us has ever had any quarrel and who have suffered terribly under the despicable regime of Saddam Hussein.

As for those of us who remain unpersuaded as to the case at this time for war, and who have questioned whether British forces should be sent into a war without a further UN mandate having been achieved, there stands no contradiction—as the former Leader of the House and former Foreign Secretary put succinctly last night—between giving voice to that legitimate anxiety and, at the same time, as and when exchange of fire commences, looking to the rest of the country, and to all of us in the House, to give full moral support to our forces. They do not take the civilian political decision in relation to what they are being asked to do, but they must carry out that task in all our names. The shadow Leader of the House expressed that well last night, but, equally, Church leaders, who earlier expressed profound opposition to war in this way at this time, are making the same point. If, later tonight, at the conclusion of this debate, under the democratic procedures that we enjoy in this House, that is to be the decision, it is important that the whole House unites in that genuine support.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Can I therefore take it that if the amendment is lost the right hon. Gentleman will vote for the substantive motion?

Mr. Kennedy: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, but the answer is no. I will not do so because our consistent line is that we do not believe that a case for war has been established under these procedures in the absence of a second UN Security Council resolution. That is our position—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) should not make such a remark. She will withdraw it.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): I withdraw that remark.

Hon. Members: Let's hear it.

Mr. Speaker: Order. All the House has to know is that I heard the remark.

Mr. Kennedy: I will see you afterwards, Mr. Speaker—[Hon. Members: " Oh."] I assure the House that a Glaswegian Speaker knows whether that is said as a threat or affectionately.

Mr. Duncan Smith : The right hon. Gentleman failed to answer my hon. Friend the Member for South

18 Mar 2003 : Column 783

Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). Will he clear up an inconsistency? On the one hand, he said that he wanted to support the troops, while, on the other, he said that he would not support the main motion. He has a split in his party. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) has said that


    "legally, no new resolution is required for the use of force to implement resolution 687."—[Official Report, 24 September 2002; Vol. 390, c. 43.]

Lord Goodhart, however, has said that the existing resolutions on the Iraqi situation, particularly 1441, do not authorise armed intervention without a second resolution. Which position is that of the Liberal Democrats, and why do they travel across two separate positions?

Mr. Kennedy: First, my noble Friend Lord Goodhart spoke with great authority as an international lawyer in the House of Lords debate last night. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) spoke on that issue in September, before resolution 1441 was passed, and 1441 has moved the position on. I want to return to the issue of legality in a moment.

The Leader of the Conservative party chose to open his contribution with one or two remarks about me and my hon. Friends, which is perfectly fair in this debate. In relation to consistency, however, let us remind ourselves about the position of the Conservative party, for instance, on weapons of mass destruction. After Saddam Hussein used such weapons in 1988, the Conservative Government continued to sell arms to Iraq. They provided him with anthrax and other chemical weapons, and they approved the construction of dual-use factories in Iraq. When it comes to humanitarian reasons—

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the right hon. Gentleman is in the act of misleading the House, given that the Scott inquiry made it clear that the Conservative Government did not sell any chemical weapons to the Iraqi regime during the 1980s, how can one make him withdraw his remark?

Mr. Speaker: I can help the hon. Gentleman. These are matters for debate, and it may be that some hon. Member may be able to rebut the right hon. Gentleman's case.

Mr. Kennedy: Continuing—

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kennedy: No—

Hon. Members : Give way.

Mr. Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is not going to give way.

Mr. Kennedy: To be fair, I am in the process of replying to the right hon. Gentleman's party leader.

If Conservatives speak about the need for consistency on the international stage with respect to humanitarianism, as several have over many months,

18 Mar 2003 : Column 784

why did they not support the humanitarian intervention in Sierra Leone or the use of ground troops in Kosovo? Why did they veto 11 United Nations resolutions relating to apartheid South Africa when they were in government?

Mr. Lilley rose—

Hon. Members: Give way!

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Kennedy: We do not need moral lectures from the Conservative party—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to be heard. Every other party leader has been listened to properly and he should get that courtesy too.

Mr. Kennedy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My concluding remark to the leader of the Conservative party is that if I saw the names of three former Cabinet Ministers who served in the last Conservative Government listed in support of the amendment on the Order Paper, I might try to sort out my own party before I started lecturing other party leaders.

Mr. Lilley rose—

Hon. Members: Give way!

Mr. Kennedy: There are legitimate questions that need to be raised—

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the leader of the Liberal Democrats not to give way to a right hon. Member who was Minister when the accusations were made?

Mr. Speaker: That is not a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman should know better.

Mr. Kennedy: I do not think that the Conservatives like the more extensive answer that their leader just received.

As the activity of our armed forces progresses, legitimate questions—

Mr. Lilley: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kennedy: No, I am not giving way—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) is disrupting the speech. Take my word for it: the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) is not going to give way.

Mr. Kennedy: When it comes to the further engagement of our armed forces, it would be proper for hon. Members to raise legitimate questions, as many have in all parties, on the supply and suitability of

18 Mar 2003 : Column 785

equipment, the eventual war aims, the participation of British forces and the bombs that might be used. It would be right to ask whether we would desist from resorting to cluster bombs or depleted uranium. It would also be right to ask about the longer term role that we hope British forces will play, if the war ensues, in the humanitarian and reconstruction roles on which they have such a distinguished track record. That is why we have supported the UN route, and it will be a source of great regret if the motion is passed because British troops will be put into action.

There are, however, two specific things on which the Government are right to expect and deserve significant credit over the course of the past six months. The first is that they were instrumental in persuading a reluctant United States to go down the UN route. Everything that I have been party to and privy to over the past six months persuades me that that is the case. The second is that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other senior colleagues have been consistent in emphasising to the Americans and others the primary need to re-establish a meaningful middle east peace process.

Jim Knight (South Dorset): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kennedy: I shall just finish this point and then of course I shall give way.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Oh! You will not give way to the person you accused. What a disgrace!

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must calm himself.

Mr. Kennedy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What makes this week so sadly ironic is that the very moment when the Bush Administration at last embraced the fresh urgency over the middle east peace process was the very time when they chose to abandon the UN route. Let us face it, having taken the decision to abandon the UN route, the sudden embrace of the middle east peace process with refreshed urgency arouses the suspicion among many that the two are not unconnected and, perhaps, that if they are willing to do one, they may be willing to abandon the other or to go lukewarm at a later stage.

Jim Knight rose—

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage) rose—

Mr. Kennedy: I shall give way to the hon. Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) first.

Jim Knight: I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, although it is tempting to ask why he gives way to some hon. Members and not to others. He pays tribute—rightly, in my view—to the Prime Minister for engaging with the United States, but he also believes that it is right to release them into isolationism, which makes progress on the middle east settlement less likely. Why is that?

Mr. Kennedy: I do not accept that thesis, and I shall explain exactly why. It is best summed up by the words

18 Mar 2003 : Column 786

used by Kofi Annan over the past few days. In the absence of a further explicit United Nations resolution, which is obviously the position in which we find ourselves, he remarked last week:


    "The legitimacy and support for any such action will be seriously impaired. If the USA and others go outside the Council and take military action it will be not be in conformity with the Charter."

That raises very serious questions on which we should reflect. Only yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General said:


    "If the action is to take place without the support of the Council, its legitimacy will be questioned"

and the international support will be diminished. We are right to reflect on those considerations.

Mr. Robert Jackson: The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question asked by the hon. Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight). Having quite correctly praised the Prime Minister and the Government for the influence that they have exerted on the middle east peace process, will he please explain how his vote tonight will contribute to maximising British influence on that process?

Mr. Kennedy: I think that I have responded to that. It is best for the process to proceed through the auspices of the United Nations itself. If we undermine the legitimacy and authority of the United Nations, that cannot assist us in re-establishing the middle east peace process.

Although I have never been persuaded of a causal link between the Iraqi regime, al-Qaeda and 11 September, I believe that the impact of war in these circumstances is bound to weaken the international coalition against terrorism itself, and not least in the Muslim world. The big fear that many of us have is that the action will simply breed further generations of suicide bombers.

Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Govan): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the reason for the failure of the United Nations and diplomacy is not the threat posed by the French, Germans, Russians, Chinese and the international community, but the American Administration of hawks and oil merchants who have no intention of finding—and no reason to find—a peaceful resolution to the crisis?

Mr. Kennedy: There is great anxiety in the country, especially about the more hawkish elements of the Bush Administration. If the people of this country were given the choice of whom they would prefer to vest their trust in, they would undoubtedly go for the present Secretary-General of the United Nations rather than the President of the United States.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kennedy: No. I shall not give way now; I want to make progress.

Last night, the Foreign Secretary told the House that everyone knew what they were signing up to on

18 Mar 2003 : Column 787

resolution 1441. However, we should consider what the British and American ambassadors said when they secured that unanimity. The British ambassador said:


    "Let me be equally clear in response, as a co-sponsor with the USA of the text we have just adopted, there is no 'automaticity' in this resolution."

The American ambassador—his counterpart—said:


    "If there is a further Iraqi breach . . . the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required".

With China, France and Russia, as permanent members, not acknowledging that an automatic trigger has taken place, it is clear that people agreed to resolution 1441 on different bases. The historians will have to judge why that came about, but that is the position in which we find ourselves. To circumvent the continuing legitimate task of the weapons inspectors, who say, and who have been instructed unanimously in the name of the international community, our own countries included, that they should be given extra space, to cut that process short, will cause all the international disorder, tension and potential chaos that we are warning against and have been for quite some time.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kennedy: No, I am about to conclude.

Before launching an almighty assault upon Iraq, is it not better to pursue the course of disarmament on the ground in the presence of weapons inspectors? No matter how sophisticated modern technology, even compared with at the time of the last Gulf war, is it not more precise to have weapons dismantled in the presence of inspectors rather than so-called precision bombing trying to take them out?

There is huge public anxiety in Britain. That is the mark of a fundamentally decent society. All of us, whatever our views, whatever our parties, know that the kind of people contacting us are very different from many of those with whom we deal regularly. They are the kind of people who say, "I have never contacted a Member of Parliament before," or "I've never been politically active before." They are the kind of people who have never gone on a march or attended a vigil before. Another significant point is that, whether or not they agree with the Prime Minister, only a tiny fraction ever call into question his sincerity in this matter. I have never done so and I do not do so today. But much as they detest Saddam's brutality, they are not persuaded that the case for war has been adequately made at this point, they are worried about the new doctrine of regime change, they are wary of the Bush Administration's motives, and they do not like to see Britain separated from its natural international allies.

The cross-party amendment is the correct amendment. It is tabled at the correct time, and, if passed, would send the correct signal. It is on those grounds that the Liberal Democrats will vote for it tonight.

2.12 pm

Alan Howarth (Newport, East): Anyone who has studied the document "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" provided by Hans Blix and the inspectors to the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 788

United Nations on 6 March cannot be in any doubt that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. It sets out the history of his deception and of his continuous and unrelenting attempts to build his arsenal. The requirement that must be placed upon him if he is to come into compliance is set out, as, glaringly, is the huge gulf between his compliance so far and what should be required. The document is scrupulous, sober and chilling. We cannot doubt that Saddam needs to disarm, but that he is failing to comply immediately, unconditionally and actively.

There is, of course, much disagreement about the tactics to bring him into compliance. The French, the Germans and the Russians have taken the view that a further series of inspections extending into the months ahead would be a satisfactory and plausible means to make the progress that is needed.

Lynne Jones: In that document, does not Hans Blix say:


    "While a precise description of the disarmament issue to be resolved is generally not too difficult, an exhaustive definition of the ways in which it may be solved is often hard."

He was asking for more time—months, not years, not days. Surely he understands his own document.

Alan Howarth: Hans Blix spells out the extraordinary complexity and difficulty of his task in 173 pages, and anyone who wants to make a judgment with any confidence needs to study that document. My hon. Friend has done so, as have I, and we disagree in our view of it.

Saddam has strung us along over many years and it is a sentimental view that says that a tyrant who has maintained his regime on the basis of violence is likely to capitulate to non-violent means. The position taken by France is unrealistic because we know for sure that Saddam Hussein is adept at spinning out the whole process, and he will never create a situation in which it will be possible for Hans Blix to come to the United Nations and say, "The process has failed; it has run into the sands." It was only on that basis that France said that it would be willing to contemplate war. It is also evasive because it is not fair or proper to require the inspectors—the officials, the technicians—to take the decision between peace and war. That decision has to be taken by politicians and in the Security Council.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): In that context, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the suggestion made by the leader of the Liberal Democrats that the inspectors had already achieved much in the past six months, not some prospective achievement, is, on the basis of Mr. Blix's report, frankly laughable?

Alan Howarth: The progress is clearly demonstrated to have been minimal and Hans Blix signifies how much more progress would be needed. There is no reason to suppose that a perpetuation of the process that we have observed over the past six months will lead to the conclusion that is needed.

Mr. Robert Jackson: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any offer from France, Russia or China to

18 Mar 2003 : Column 789

rotate its forces in the Gulf with the American and British forces in order to continue pressure on Saddam over the months and years ahead of further inspections?

Alan Howarth: The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister noted earlier in the debate, it is American and British forces that are there, not French forces or forces of other nationalities from the Security Council.

Those who raise doubts about the course of action that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has concluded is appropriate for us ask whether Saddam is truly a threat to us. I remind the House what was in the dossier published by the Government last October. It is not the dossier that was submitted for a PhD; it is the dossier based on the findings of the intelligence community. Among many other important findings, on page 27 we are advised that if Saddam were to be unchecked he would achieve nuclear capability in a period of not more than five years, and that were he to be supplied from the international black market with fissile material and other components that he would need for the programme it might be in as little time as one or two years.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Alan Howarth: If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall continue.

That is an extraordinarily dangerous situation and one upon which we need to act, and with urgency. I agree with the Government that the time that has elapsed since then has been ample to enable Saddam to demonstrate his compliance and it is simply too great a risk—

Mr. Prentice: Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?

Alan Howarth: If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall continue.

It is said that we are not seriously at threat from global terrorism; that there is not a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda. Certainly the Spanish and Czech authorities, as was significantly reported in The Observer at the weekend, believe that there have been operational links. The risk is too great to run, because Saddam must be tempted to recruit and equip terrorists from wherever he can find them. There may indeed be a coincidence of interests between al-Qaeda and Saddam's regime, notwithstanding the fact that they start from profoundly different ideological positions.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary noted to the House some time ago that Saddam was operating what he described as a permissive regime in Iraq in relation to al-Qaeda. Whatever the case may be about that, it will be compellingly tempting for him to equip home-grown terrorists—terrorists whom he can recruit. Saddam harboured Abu Nidal and offered rewards to suicide bombers in the middle east. He is a sponsor of terrorism and will see the opportunity that is available to him.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 790

Objections to the Government's policy include assertions that in the past appalling mistakes were made—that the UK played some part in arming Saddam, that we failed to dispose of him in 1991, and that during the 1990s he was allowed to continue to build weapons of mass destruction. We may note that those errors were made, but they provide no justification for making further errors.

People cast doubt on the motives and character of those who urge that decisive action be taken now by asking who is on whose payroll, what old scores are being settled and what vanities are in play. I remind the House that the freedom of Europe has depended on the generosity of American intervention. It is arguable that if it were not for the Americans coming to our rescue, we would have fallen under Nazi or Stalinist rule. We should pay tribute to and be grateful for the courage of American military personnel then and now.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Alan Howarth: No, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

North Korea might present a threat that is at least as urgent and serious as the threat presented by Iraq. Al-Qaeda and international terrorism are immensely serious threats. But that in no way invalidates the analysis that Iraq is a major threat to us.

People ask how it can be right to go to war to uphold a UN resolution by taking a course of action that risks destroying the UN. Equally, they say, NATO and the EU are damagingly split as a consequence of these events. However, it is arguable that the UN has not been the failure in every respect that some maintain it has been. In recent weeks and months, it has been the cockpit of international diplomacy, and, although it has failed to generate the international consensus that we all wanted so much, its existence provides the legal basis for the action that we need. I support the view of the legality of that action on which the Government base their claim.

Geopolitics has changed since 1945. We moved beyond the cold war, and we moved into a new period especially after 11 September. Now, we have to act with courage and realism in a world of nuclear powers, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed states, genocide—[Interruption.]—and all the other dangers that now face us—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. There is far too much conversation in the Chamber.

Alan Howarth: I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

In a world in which the only global superpower feels vulnerable, the development and advancement of a doctrine of pre-emption are inevitable. This action is self-defence, albeit not as traditionally defined in UN terms. We cannot wait until we are attacked.

2.23 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks): I rise on this occasion to support the speech of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but in opening let me comment on the speech of the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 791

If the Iraqi army collapse under fire with the same speed, this will be a very short war—[Laughter.]—and I very much hope that it will be. The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) asserted that if his view was defeated, the whole House must rally in unity, but he then informed my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) that if the amendment was defeated he would refuse to vote for the Government's substantive motion. On the grounds that he was poleaxed by that intervention, he refused to take an intervention from my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), despite the normal convention of the House that one gives way to a Member to whom one has directly or indirectly referred. My right hon. Friend would have pointed out that he published all 90,000 export licences to Iraq during the period in question and that the only lethal weapons involved were two hunting rifles. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had given my right hon. Friend the opportunity to do so.

There is a powerful moral case against war—there probably always is—but that was not the case put by the Liberal Democrats today. A more powerful case was put by the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), in what I thought was a powerful and impressive speech made in the House last night. It was an impressive resignation, for those of us who are students of resignations. On that subject, I am sorry to see that the Secretary of State for International Development is not here—I have never seen a more spectacular failure to resign than hers over the past 24 hours. Last week, after the right hon. Lady said that the Prime Minister was reckless, it was whispered in the corridors that he would take his revenge in due course. I believe that by persuading her to stay in the Cabinet even for this last 24 hours—[Laughter.]—he has now taken his revenge. Even setting aside any issue of honour and consistency, we should at this time have a Cabinet whose members are absolutely, 100 per cent. agreed on the course of action, especially all the Ministers involved in the course of action, which must surely involve the Department for International Development. We look forward to the Prime Minister continuing to take his revenge over the next few days.

The Prime Minister said that analogies with the 30s can be taken too far, and of course they can, yet in some of the opposition to the Government's stance there is a hint of appeasement. Last night, one hon. Member—I think it was a Liberal Democrat—said that we should not take this action because of the danger of terrorist or other retaliatory action against this country. There is a similarity to the phoney war in 1940, when the commanders in charge of the great guns of the Maginot line—we all know who was in charge—refused to fire those guns in case the Germans fired back. But of course the Germans were always going to fire back, and terrorist organisations that have the capability to hit this country will try in any event to hit this country. Our job is to deter them from doing so and remove their means of doing so.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition stood on the right ground when advancing their policy today. Although there are moral arguments on either side, there are powerful moral arguments on the side of military action, as the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) has so graphically demonstrated in recent

18 Mar 2003 : Column 792

days—perhaps she will have the chance to do so again in this debate, if she catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. Furthermore, although there are legal arguments on either side, we are not morally obliged to take action—if we were, we would have to take action against many other countries—nor legally obliged to do so, nor legally prevented from doing so. We should take action because it is in the national interest. The Prime Minister was right to make that argument.

Our national interest is wide ranging, given that ours is the fourth largest economy in the world, our trade extends across the world and our citizens may be found throughout the world. However, it is also part of our national interest to act in concert with the United States of America in matters of world peace and stability, and that is what the Government are seeking to do. Every serious attempt to advance peace in the middle east has been advanced under the auspices of the United States of America. Every successful attempt to clean up the Balkans has been undertaken only with the support of the United States of America. Those who will not venture out when a criminal is coming down the street should not complain when someone acts as the policeman. The reason why the USA takes on so many responsibilities in the world is that others shirk those responsibilities, as they have done in the Security Council in the past few weeks.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: Is the right hon. Gentleman's point that the United States is inevitably correct in every action it takes? Does he think that the then UK Government should have supported America in its invasion of Grenada, and that the then Labour Government should have supported the American action in Vietnam?

Mr. Hague: No, I do not think that we should have supported the invasion of Grenada. The hon. Gentleman will remember the sharp differences between the Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, and the US Administration. That shows that it is possible to have a firm alliance with the United States while differing with it from time to time. That is exactly the policy of the Government. Of course, there will be differences from time to time, but when major issues of the stability of the world and the future conduct of world diplomacy are at issue, it will generally be in the interests of the United Kingdom to act in concert with the United States of America.

We should remember that whenever we really need help, we turn to the United States of America, and Europe turns to the United States. Without America, France would have lived under dictatorship for decades. Without America, the Germans would not have rescued themselves from a racist ideology. Without America, Europe would have exchanged Nazi tyranny for communist tyranny in the 1940s. We turned to America, and our alliance with the United States is a fundamental attribute of the foreign policy of this nation when it is correctly conducted. For all our many differences with the Prime Minister, I believe that he has understood that from the beginning.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that those of us who now differ with American policy do so because terrorism is fuelled not

18 Mar 2003 : Column 793

by resources and equipment, but by motivation? We feel that the motivation for terrorism has been provided by the very act of attack.

Mr. Hague: Relieved of my responsibilities of a while ago, I have been lucky enough to travel a great deal in the past year. I have travelled to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and I have spoken to many people. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that they do not care what happens to Saddam Hussein. They have no time for Saddam Hussein. They care passionately about Palestine and Israel, which is why it is so important that the so-called road map is put forward. They will not shed a single tear for Saddam Hussein, because they know many of the things that have been done to the people of Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. So if the hon. Gentleman believes that it is a recruiting sergeant for terrorism to rid the world of that despotic dictatorship, he is making a serious mistake. We would be setting a new standard of deterrence—a new type of deterrence, which is necessary in a changed world.

We all grew up in the cold war. We are familiar with the cold war and the balance of terror, when it was always necessary to be ready for action, but always necessary to take minimal action so as not to disturb the balance of power in the world. But now the world has changed. Now there is no balance of power and the dangers to world peace are not from all-out nuclear confrontation between superpowers, but from the development of new weapons by rogue states and terrorist organisations.

Deterrence therefore takes on a new character. It is not a matter of being ready for action. It is occasionally and it will occasionally be necessary to take action to make sure that those who aspire to be rogue states or sponsors of terrorism know what happens and know how the western alliance responds to such a threat. That is why it is so important in this case to take action and to set the standard for the future. Those who say that action is not necessary now must remember that we have passed so many deadlines, so many ultimatums, that not to take action now is to reduce the credibility of any action being taken. The time has come for a decision. The Prime Minister has put before the House the right decision. He deserves the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House.

2.33 pm

David Winnick (Walsall, North): I regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has resigned. I considered him a very good Foreign Secretary and an excellent Leader of the House, and it is regrettable that he has resigned. Although I understand the reasons, I disagree with them. We shall miss him in government.

While I am on the subject of resignations, I regret the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) has also decided to resign, but I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will be staying on.

The present situation reminds me of the time after Kuwait was invaded in August 1990. The United Nations Security Council gave the regime four months

18 Mar 2003 : Column 794

to leave Kuwait. Saddam Hussein refused to do so. There are those present today who opposed the liberation of Kuwait, as they had every right to do, and who oppose the motion today. That does not include all the critics, by any means. Quite a number took a different line, if they were in the House, but some, including the Father of the House, argued strongly that we should not take military action to liberate Kuwait. What would have been the position had we not done so? Saddam Hussein would have been strengthened and would have realised that he could commit aggression with no response whatever.

Some of today's critics were no less opposed to action that was taken over Kosovo and Afghanistan. They argued—as I said, they had every right to do so—that we should not take such action. When we are accused of being anti-Muslim, when that vile accusation is directed at us, I would ask the House: why did we go into Kosovo? Was it to help the Christians, the Jews, the Sikhs, or the Hindus? The only reason that we intervened in Kosovo was to help the ethnic Albanians, who happen, as we all know, to be Muslims. That was the only reason and the only justification.

The way to demonstrate again our commitment in respect of the position of Muslims is for the international community, and not least the United States, to bring about a settlement in the middle east. I make no apology for the fact that I have supported the state of Israel from the very beginning, and for all the obvious reasons—what happened to Jews, not only in the holocaust but over 2,000 years—but I support an Israel within the 1967 borders. If the Jews are justified in having a state for all the reasons that I have just explained, the Palestinians are also justified in having a state of their own—not a sort of statelet, but a sovereign state, no less sovereign than Israel itself. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make sure that the United States pursues that policy in practice, and does not just say certain words at this particular time.

Mr. Dalyell: My hon. Friend rebukes me for Afghanistan. Were we so wrong to have doubts? Was not the object to apprehend Osama bin Laden? That has not happened. The production of opium, which three years ago was 185 tonnes, is now 2,700 tonnes. When my hon. Friends visit Kabul, apparently they are not allowed out of the city because of the dangers of the warlords. Is that success?

David Winnick: My hon. Friend has demonstrated again that he was wrong, as he has been on virtually every military intervention, from the Falklands to Afghanistan. The Taliban, who gave room to the terrorists, were defeated, and in my view the action taken was right. I am sorry that my hon. Friend disagrees.

As I said in an intervention on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Security Council has been at fault. It should have been far tougher over the past 12 years. We have reached the present position because some Security Council members took the view that after Kuwait there should be a less tough response to Saddam Hussein, and he has played around. Such a tyrant has exploited every disunity, as he is doing now, on the eve of military action, for his own advantage. It is unfortunate that no tougher action was taken.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 795

In previous debates, I listened to some of my hon. Friends criticising the United States. As I want my own Government to be more radical, I am hardly likely to be a fan of the United States President, but when I listened to some of that criticism made by hon. Members who said not a single word of criticism about the murderous tyrant in Baghdad, I thought that there was a lack of logic somewhere along the line. Surely our criticism should first and foremost be directed at the dictator.

I have always taken the view that if war can be avoided, it should be avoided, because of the casualties. It is no use those of us who support the Government line kidding ourselves. Innocent people will be killed. In the next few weeks, men, women and children—people who should never be killed—will be put to death, but we know that that is the result of war and military intervention. Unlike the critics, I believe that if Saddam is destroyed, it will be a significant victory not only for the international community, but first and foremost for the people of Iraq.

We have been told that there are many dictators in this world. Unfortunately, that is so and I wish it were otherwise, but I do not understand the logic of those who say, "There are many dictators, so why pick on this one?" If, as a result of the regime's refusal to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, one of the most murderous tyrannies is destroyed, surely that is a positive gain. Surely the fact that we cannot take on every dictator or many other dictators is not a reason or justification for not seeing the end of the regime in Iraq. Of course, not a single critic has, on other occasions or today, given any indication of how Saddam Hussein could be got rid of except by military action. No one here today will argue that it is up to the people of Iraq. How can it be? It is only by military action that this tyranny can be destroyed.

I make no apology for saying that the international community as such has on many occasions turned a blind eye to tyrannies. However, I was very pleased in 1979, for example, when Tanzania liberated Uganda from the Amin regime. Was that wrong? When Pol Pot was destroyed by Vietnam, also in 1979, was that wrong? Would anyone here argue along different lines?

In conclusion, I want simply to say that this crisis has been brought about not by the British or American Governments, but by the murderous dictator in Baghdad. If military action is taken, as we all know it will be, I wish the British and allied troops every possible success. I do not believe that we can be neutral in judging between a murderous tyranny and the democracies that will be engaged in fighting it. I believe that right is on our side and that the overwhelming majority of people in Iraq will take the view that the allied armies are liberators, as they will be getting rid of a tyrant that those people themselves cannot get rid of.

For all those reasons, I shall take much pride tonight in voting for the Government motion.

2.42 pm

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Last night, this House heard a speech of very great distinction from the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). What he said was dignified and of great quality, and the fact and manner of his resignation did honour to him and, in a small way, did credit to this

18 Mar 2003 : Column 796

beleaguered profession of politics. May I also say to the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), who I believe has resigned, that his decision, too, is an extremely honourable one?

The Speaker has been extremely generous to me in previous debates and I know that I have had the opportunity to express my views in some detail on a number of occasions. I shall therefore confine myself today to making but three points. First, so far as the British forces are concerned, war is not inevitable. That may not be true of the United States forces, but it is true of the British ones, for this reason: the Government, very much to their credit, have tabled a motion before the deployment of forces into conflict. The House therefore has a choice. If we accept the amendment and reject the Government motion, British forces will not be deployed into action. That is a choice for each and every one of us to make. So as far as British forces are concerned, war is not inevitable. We have to decide that.

Secondly, in the course of this debate and on previous occasions, a great deal of criticism has been made of the Governments of France and Germany, and of Russia and China to a lesser degree. Of course it is true that when nations vote on policy, they bring into account their own national interests—I have no doubt that national interests were involved—but it should have surprised nobody that we did not secure a consensus in the Security Council. If we are honest with ourselves, we do not have a consensus in the House or in this country. In all probability, there is not support for war. Why? Because the case for war is not overwhelming.

I do not speak of the legalities. I have read what the Attorney-General said about that matter and I do not feel competent to express a view as to whether he is right or wrong, but I am competent to say this: many distinguished lawyers—as distinguished as the Attorney-General—will take a contrary view. In any event, if I am honest, I do not think that the legalities go to the root of the matter. The real question is whether it is right—right expressed in moral terms. Here I have to say that I think that the answer is no, because I do not think that any of the usual characteristics of a just war have been satisfied. If we were dealing with a situation in which Iraq had attacked another country or had mustered troops on the frontiers of another country, or if there were compelling evidence that Iraq was delivering to terrorists weapons of mass destruction with which they could attack another country, I would vote for war, but none of those circumstances exists.

Mike Gapes: What would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say to the Iraqi Kurds who are suffering under the repression of Saddam and being expelled from Kirkuk at this moment? Would he merely say, "Tough—you are going to have to suffer another 12 or 35 years of it"?

Mr. Hogg: No; I would not express myself in that way. We are talking about the morality of war, and I do not believe that what is going on in Iraq is a sufficient moral basis for war.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): As a fellow lawyer, I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. Can he really suggest that Saddam is not attacking his own people when 2 million have died in

18 Mar 2003 : Column 797

tyranny, 7,000 have been gassed, 180,000 men, women and children in Kurdistan have been forcibly removed and the whereabouts of 650 Kuwaiti civilians is still unknown? Is that not an attack on a people?

Mr. Hogg: I was talking about the international risk that Saddam Hussein poses and saying that the normal tests for war have not been satisfied in this case.

That brings me to my last point. I accept that there is a terrible dilemma. Incidentally, it has not come about as the result of policy decisions in the past two or three weeks, but stems from the policy decision made in the latter part of last year, when the United States and United Kingdom Governments decided further to disarm Iraq using force if necessary. I regard that as a critical mistake, because the policies of containment and deterrence had worked from 1991 to 2002 and would have continued to do so. That was the critical mistake.

Now we stand in the dilemma. The Prime Minister has identified it and so has my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith): if we go to war, we affront the principles of morality to which I referred and the principles of legality, which I think are in doubt; if we do not go to war, it is true that the authority of the United Nations will have been defied and the credibility of the United States and, to a lesser extent, ourselves will be at risk.

So what is the way forward? How do hon. Members and reasonably minded people decide that dilemma? I can only offer my explanation. The right hon. Member for Livingston spoke yesterday of the consequences. If we go to war, the probability is that thousands and maybe tens of thousands of people will be killed or injured on all sides. That seems to me the principal question with which we should concern ourselves. I cannot find a sufficient moral case for condemning thousands or tens and thousands of people to death and injury. For that reason, because I think that war lacks a moral basis, I shall vote for the amendment and against the Government's motion.

2.49 pm

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen): With regret, I resigned from the Government this morning. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the Government and the Prime Minister since 1997. Although some have at times questioned the Government's direction, I say with all honesty that not a day has passed when I have felt that I could not make some difference on the very issues that brought me into the Labour party 27 years ago. I shall certainly miss being part of the Government.

The events of 9/11 must have brought home to us all the fact that we have created a world of great danger and great insecurity. That action must be taken, that we must tackle the sources and causes of insecurity, is not in doubt. But it is not simply a question of whether we take action; how we take action is also important. The reason for that is simple. If we act in the wrong way, we will create more of the problems that we aim to tackle. For every cause of insecurity with which we try to deal, we shall create a new one.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 798

I am not a pacifist. I am not against armed intervention. In 1992, I was one of the Labour Members of Parliament who called for much earlier intervention in Bosnia. I shall never forget the surprised and bemused expression on John Smith's face when some 20 newly elected Labour Members of Parliament went to see him to demand Labour support for a foreign war. I believe that we should have supported it, and that, had we done so, Balkan history might be different. I supported our action in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

After 9/11, however, it should have been clear that the scale and nature of the threats to global security required the world community to come together on an unprecedented scale, not only to defeat terrorism, but to tackle the conflicts that give rise to it and other threats. For a time, not least thanks to our Prime Minister, such coming together seemed possible. Today, the prospect is severely damaged, if not in disarray. That has happened not simply or primarily because of one country across the channel, unprincipled and disastrously unilateral in its way though France has been. It has happened because those who wish to take action now, and in the way in which we are considering, have failed to persuade others and thus create international consensus on the need to do so.

The question for me has never been one of narrow legality. I was in the Home Office long enough to know that lawyers are the last thing one needs when things are difficult. It is a question not of one or two votes either way in the Security Council, but of whether we can put our hands on our hearts and say that the majority of those who should support us do so. I do not believe that they do.

I do not blame the Prime Minister for that. No one could have worked harder to forge consensus. His achievements are real, not least in persuading the US Administration to take the United Nations route. However, our Prime Minister has been ill served by those whom he sought to influence. The US Administration appear at times to delight in stressing their disdain for international opinion and in asserting their right to determine not only the target but the means and the timetable, their gratuitous actions apparently designed to make a common voice impossible, not least here in Europe. That has made the international coming together that we need impossible to achieve.

In future, people will ask how one nation could have thrown away the world's sympathy in such a way. Does anyone doubt that a nation of such power, influence and, in many ways, such genuine authority could have built the support that we needed if it believed that necessary? I am not indulging in anti-Americanism, but simply recognising that unilateralism on such a scale, no matter how legitimate the target, brings danger.

The action against Iraq is, I believe, pre-emptive, and therefore demands even greater international support and consensus than other sorts of intervention. We do not have it. Such isolation entails a genuine cost and danger. It undermines the legitimacy that we must maintain to tackle the many threats to global security. It fuels the movements that are antipathetic to our values and way of life, and the view, which is probably the reality, that in an interdependent world, one nation

18 Mar 2003 : Column 799

reserves the right to determine which of the world's problems should be tackled, when, where and in what way.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Denham: I shall not give way. I have never made a resignation speech before, and I should like to get to the end of it.

The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) set out a powerful case for support for a United States that acts in the manner I described. If I believed that that would work, I could swallow my qualms and sign up for that with the right hon. Gentleman. But I do not. I believe that the reaction to such a method of working will be as dangerous as the problems that we are trying to solve. It will turn many parts of the world against us, undermine friendly Governments, fuel terrorism and those who will join it in the future, and make it more difficult to sustain international action against common problems.

If the motion were on the honesty, integrity, commitment and sheer courage of our Prime Minister, I would not hesitate to support it. However, we are voting not for that but for the words on the Order Paper and the consequences that will follow in the weeks, months and years ahead. I cannot support it.

My final point is a difficult one. I, too, have constituents who are in our armed forces in the Gulf, and their families at home. The failures of Governments and of the international community are not their failings. Although I clearly do not believe that we should commit our troops to action now, they should not feel that they are on the wrong side, that the enemy they face is not evil or that the world would not be a better place without Saddam Hussein.

If the vote of the House commits our troops to fight, we must stand with them. We may have failed them; I doubt whether they will fail us.

2.57 pm

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). I congratulate him on the quiet and dignified way in which he made his resignation speech and personal statement. He will be remembered for the principle that he has established and I honour him for that.

At a time of crisis, the House often rises to the occasion. That happened last night when the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), who was Leader of the House, made his personal statement and resignation speech. He made a powerful case for his decision. He was a distinguished Minister, not only as Foreign Secretary but as Leader of the House. I admired his commitment in both high offices. I tried to work with him in a small way in his capacity as Chairman of the Modernisation Committee. He has made changes that have benefited the House. He is one of the most entertaining and articulate speakers in the House, and we shall miss him.

Today, the Prime Minister made a brilliant, articulate and powerful case for the motion. I hope that his speech will receive wide publicity. The overwhelming majority

18 Mar 2003 : Column 800

of people in this country, many of whom are worried about the Government's intentions, will be persuaded by the transparent and powerful way in which he presented the argument on behalf of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition fully supported the position in a speech that took up many of the Prime Minister's points.

I will be supporting the Government in the Lobby tonight. I have no disagreement with any part of the lengthy but substantive motion that they have tabled. I am not in favour of war. In fact, I am positively opposed to it. War is brutal, cruel and indiscriminate. Innocent people will undoubtedly die in any conflict that takes place, but there are occasions on which war is inevitable if the civilised world is to defend its civilisation against a despotic tyrant such as Saddam Hussein.

Like a number of other hon. Members, I have served in Her Majesty's forces—not as a regular officer but as a national service officer—and I understand the way in which our armed services live, and their loyalty and team spirit. Like everyone else who has spoken, I express the hope that this will be a short war and that the minimum casualties will be incurred, not only in our armed services but among civilians as well. Members of my own family have served in wars, in north Africa and Burma, at Dunkirk, in Normandy and, more recently, in the Korean war. So, to those who say that people like me who agree with the Government do not know what we are doing, I would say that we do know. Likewise, I honour and respect the position that has been expressed by the right hon. Members for Livingston and for Southampton, Itchen.

David Burnside: My hon. Friend mentioned the great service provided by the members of our armed forces who are ready to serve and to fight. Does he share the concern of my constituents who are related to servicemen and servicewomen in the middle east, who are not at all happy with the standard of equipment and supplies being provided to them? We have a Defence Minister on the Front Bench today, and we need more assurances and more support for our servicemen and servicewomen.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: May I say to the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have the very highest regard, as well as respect for the stand that he takes on matters relating to Northern Ireland, that this is not a matter that I would wish to comment on at this time? We want to ensure that the men and women among the troops of Her Majesty's forces have the best possible equipment available. I know, from my own contact with members of the armed services who are currently in Kuwait, that they are ready to go and that they believe that they have the equipment and the support to enable them to do an excellent job.

The history that was so accurately sketched by the Prime Minister is right. We have had 17 resolutions since April 1991. The first, resolution 687, required Iraq to


    "make a declaration within 15 days of the location and amounts"

of its weapons of mass destruction. It is now 4,380-plus days since that resolution, and we are a further 16 resolutions on. Saddam Hussein has made a mockery of the United Nations. If we are to take the United Nations

18 Mar 2003 : Column 801

seriously, and if it is to be an instrument for peace and stability in the world, its resolutions must be implemented and enforced. I congratulate the Government, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence on what they are doing, not only in the national interest but in the international interest.

I would like to raise one issue that might be controversial. I am saddened by what I perceive to be the anti-American views that are being expressed. As someone who will shortly reach his 65th birthday, I believe that the world as a whole owes an immense debt to the United States for what it has done over more than 50 years for peace and stability in the world, and for the humanitarian aid that it has advanced. It has been wrong on occasions, but, my goodness, haven't we all? Overall, I believe that the benefit that the United States and its successive Administrations have brought to the world have been immense, and they should be very proud of that.

I am delighted that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have highlighted the importance of achieving peace in the middle east, if at all possible. The road map is absolutely right. It is important that the state of Israel, within its 1967 boundaries, should be guaranteed by the international community, but it is also essential that the Palestinian people, who have suffered so greatly, should be given a meaningful, consolidated state. That would lead to stability in the middle east. If we remove Saddam Hussein in the next few days, as I hope will be the case, the chance of bringing peace to the region will be that much greater.

I have sent a petition to the Prime Minister carrying about 700 signatures from my Macclesfield constituents expressing their concern and their opposition to the war. I say to them, "On this issue, put your trust in the Prime Minister. I fervently believe, as your Member of Parliament, that he is right." We will get it right; we will bring peace to the middle east, and we will restore the credibility of the United Nations.

3.6 pm

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South): This is the moment that we have all been dreading—the moment at which we have, individually and collectively, to decide on which side of the line in the sand we choose to stand. War is hell, as an American civil war general once said, but, for the Iraqis, the Iraqi Kurds, the Marsh Arabs, the Kuwaitis or the Iranians who have been the victims of Saddam Hussein, the so-called peace can be hellish, too. Any agonies of conscience that I had have been resolved, and I shall vote with the Prime Minister and the official Opposition this evening on many grounds. That is not to say that I do not have uncertainties and difficulties with the problems facing our armed forces, or with the consequences of our action. Of course I do. I shall certainly not argue that no mistakes have been made by the Americans or the British—little mistakes or bigger mistakes. Perhaps the biggest mistake was to misjudge France, Russia and, possibly, the Turkish Parliament. The biggest misjudgment of all, however, was surely Saddam's, when he desperately hoped that the cavalry—or should I say the French cuirassiers, the German uhlans, hussars, lancers and dragoons, and the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 802

Russian imperial Cossacks—would ride to his assistance. It remains to be seen whether 'Smith's Fencibles'—or indefensibles—will succeed where they have failed, later this evening.

I believe that the strategy of the United States and the United Kingdom of combining military and diplomatic pressure could have worked, had it been backed up by the support of the United Nations. The combination would surely have been irresistible for Saddam Hussein, and he and his sons would have jumped on their camels and ridden off into the great unknown—probably somewhere in central Asia or even an expensive flat on the Champs Elysées. That never happened, however. It could have happened, and those who made it not happen must surely have a great deal on their conscience.

President Bush—incidentally, I am not standing for election as chair of the Walsall chapter of his fan club—has gone down the diplomatic route for a long time, and his speech last night showed that he is still prepared to do that, by giving Saddam Hussein one final chance. I support the Government because the Attorney-General said yesterday that there was a legal basis for the war. To those who have argued that UNMOVIC needed more time I say this: the inspectors' work restarted in the spring of last year; the inspections recommenced on 27 November, and Dr. Blix told the Defence Committee three weeks ago—I refer to the notes that I and the Committee Clerk took at the meeting—that:


    "The provisions of resolution 1284 could be fulfilled within a year if Iraq chose to co-operate".

A year! I do not think that that time is available. He went on to say


    "Without co-operation, the inspectors' task is endless."

Surely what the Prime Minister said today was that the task of the inspectors and also the waiting period would be endless, and that that time had run out.

I doubt that the United States and the United Kingdom would wish their troops to endure the wait for any longer than necessary for the purpose of expecting Saddam Hussein to co-operate. He will duck and dive, and use anything to thwart the United Nations. Any enthusiasm that remained after 12 months of waiting would surely be dissipated.

We keep being told that the United States and the United Kingdom stand alone. In a letter in today's Guardian, a lady wrote that perhaps only Spain and Portugal remained holiday venues for the Blairs. It should be said that Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and almost all of eastern and central Europe support the Prime Minister, and provide wonderful holiday destinations. We could add North Korea, Japan, most of the Gulf—[Interruption.]

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): North Korea?

Mr. George: South Korea. That is the first thing on which I have agreed with the Liberal Democrats today. South Korea is a possible destination, because of the fear of North Korea, as is Japan, north and south. The

18 Mar 2003 : Column 803

cities of Bokhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan are also available. Many countries are prepared to support the United States and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): In which of the countries whose Governments support the action do the majority of the population support it, according to opinion polls?

Mr. George: Those who want to judge the results of opinion polls—which, up to now, have clearly shown opposition to the Prime Minister—should wait for the results of polls the day after war starts. The hon. Gentleman may have a rather different perspective then; indeed, I am sure that he will.

On Sunday, at a shop just down the road in my constituency, I met a close neighbour who told me that her son—whom I have known since he was seven—was in the Gulf. Afterwards, I wondered how I could have looked her in the eye and said, "It is true that your son is risking his life, but I want him to know that his cause is unjust, illegal and immoral, and that he may well be dragged before an international court". I could certainly not have done that.

Those who cannot commit themselves to supporting the Prime Minister's case may be persuaded by the argument used before that a military personnel in peril would need our support. A politically incorrect poet wrote this of the British Tommy:


    "But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot."

I suspect that when the guns begin to shoot, not just the Liberal Democrats but most people will be prepared to give their support. Similarly, I was opposed to any British involvement in the Falklands, but when all diplomatic initiatives failed I was prepared to support the Government of this country.

Bob Russell (Colchester): What, then, is the right hon. Gentleman's problem?

Mr. George: Listening to inane interventions by people like the hon. Gentleman.

I endured the 1970s and the 1980s, when disunity in my party was the norm. I supported Wilson, Callaghan, even Michael Foot, Kinnock and Smith in the Lobbies. I do not think I am prepared to dump the Prime Minister at this moment of crisis.

3.15 pm

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): I agree with the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) to the extent that this is, indeed, a momentous debate. I entered Parliament 26 years ago this month, and I cannot remember a more serious debate or a time when the vote was more important.

This is also a very close call for many Members. Those of us who remember the Gulf war—I do, vividly, because I was Tom King's Parliamentary Private Secretary when he was Secretary of State for Defence—and those of us who were out of the House, "resting", during the Falklands war but watching very closely found the necessary decision very easy: a sovereign state had been invaded, and it was essential that we go to its rescue.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 804

More recently, I found it sensible and easy to support the Prime Minister in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. It was clear that a British intervention would be in the interests of peacekeeping, and in the interests of restoring democracy to those countries. Only 18 months ago, an overwhelming majority of us strongly supported the allies' going into Afghanistan. I am sure it was the right decision to remove the Taliban regime, and to try and restore some order to that troubled country.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): The right hon. Gentleman recalls the Gulf war of 1991. Does he also recall that although Kuwait and its allies—among whom we were numbered—had an inherent right to self-defence and required no additional authorisation from the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom then sought and received specific authorisation from the UN in resolution 678?

Mr. Mackay: I shall come to that in a moment, but on that occasion we were not thwarted by a French veto.

On 16 April, I said this to the Minister:


    "But what has happened in the past two, three, six or nine months that requires military intervention to be considered that had not happened before? We are not told what weapons of mass destruction he has now that he did not have then."—[Official Report, 16 April 2002; Vol. 383, c. 506.]

I had great doubts, which is why, like most of my constituents, I was delighted when, along with our American allies, we took the UN route with resolution 1441, while also strongly supporting the return of the weapons inspectors.

I think I speak for everyone in the House when I say we all hoped that through UN resolutions, through diplomacy and through the work of the weapons inspectors the crisis might be ended. Sadly, that has not happened. During that period my constituents, whose concerns I share, took the critical view that both the Prime Minister and the American President were not making a proper case for war. They were not helped by the unfortunate "dodgy dossier", which I think caused huge harm to the credibility of the Government's case. They were not helped by the suggestions of the American Administration, and at times our own Ministers, that for some time there have been direct and close links between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaeda terrorists. That was clearly not true. There is never any point in exaggerating one's case, because one will not be believed.

I listened carefully to what I thought was one of the Prime Minister's outstanding speeches. I was convinced and satisfied that the case had now been made. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), who expressed the hope that the full text of the speech would be given the widest circulation among the British public. I am confident that if it is, there will be a majority in favour of military action later this week.

It was also absolutely right for us and our American allies to send huge numbers of troops to the Gulf. I believe that only by that means—along with resolution 1441 and the presence of the weapons inspectors—could pressure be put on Saddam Hussein. At that point, however—here I return to the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire

18 Mar 2003 : Column 805

(Mr. Lansley)—we were sadly let down by our French colleagues: our French allies. I believe that their behaviour has been nothing short of disgraceful.

I am satisfied that many hon. Members—such as the Father of the House, the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and others—believe completely and honesty that it is wrong to go to war. However, I do not accept that President Chirac and his Government believe in the same way. They are acting for entirely false reasons.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Selfish reasons.

Mr. Mackay: Their reasons are very selfish. They are acting for commercial gain, and for wider international and political gains. I shall take no lessons from a French President who breaks sanctions and invites the murderous Mugabe to Paris. I shall take no lessons from a French President and his defence Minister who threatened EU applicant states for merely supporting us and the Americans, and for signing a letter of support.

The behaviour of the French has been disgraceful. It ill befits a close ally and friend. I feel sorry for the French people today. I regret that the President was re-elected last year. I believe that he has done great harm to the international community.

In conclusion, every hon. Member faces a simple choice tonight. We must decide which course of action is more likely to bring peace and stability to the world and, in the short, medium and long term, ensure that fewer innocent lives, whether civilian or military, are lost.

I passionately believe that the whole international community would suffer if we and our American allies withdrew our troops from the Iraqi border without Saddam Hussein having complied with the UN resolutions that he has flouted. Every terrorist and tin-pot dictator around the world would be given a green light. The harm and damage that that would do, to us and to future generations, is incalculable. That is why I have reached the conclusion that the right thing to do tonight is to oppose the amendment and support the Government motion.

3.23 pm

Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West): It is a privilege to speak in a debate that in some ways seems to have started last night, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) made his personal statement. I should like to pay a brief but deeply felt tribute to my right hon. Friend. I had the opportunity to work with him, in opposition when I was deputy in his team, and in government. He can look back on hugely significant achievements in all the roles that he has fulfilled in his time in the House of Commons.

It is a privilege to speak in the debate, but somewhat daunting. I find myself in the uncomfortable position of finding it very difficult to decide how to vote at the end of the debate. The arguments on each side are compelling. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a very powerful speech. I acknowledge and welcome that he said that hon. Members faced a test not of loyalty, but of whether they were convinced by the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 806

arguments, and by the rightness of what he proposes. That is a comfort to those of us who are fiercely proud of our Government, and of all their many achievements to date.

When this matter was last debated, I voted with the Government. I felt that they were very vigorously pursuing the UN route. It the culmination of that process that troubles me this evening.

I supported the Government very strongly in relation to Afghanistan and Kosovo. I certainly believe that military action can be justified in certain circumstances, but the motion before the House troubles me in a number of ways. War is a last resort, to be begun only if it is absolutely essential. Despite my keen desire to see Saddam Hussein disarmed—and to see the end of him, if at all possible—I have to ask whether war is essential this week. Is it essential now?

Saddam Hussein has behaved despicably, it is true. As many speakers have noted, he has delayed disarmament over a period of 12 years. However, some progress has been made in the past 12 weeks, perhaps more than in the past 12 years. For that reason, I should like the inspection process to given an opportunity to produce results.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, rightly, that dealing with Saddam Hussein was like drawing teeth. However, I think that some teeth are being drawn. For that reason, too, I believe that the inspection process should have some time in which to work—even if that time is of limited duration.

Two countries apart from our own have figured in the debate—the US and France. I want to draw a clear distinction between those countries and their peoples, for whom many will feel a huge affinity. In my case, I have ties of both family and friendship, but many people at present feel totally at odds politically with those countries' Administrations.

I believe that the President of France behaved outrageously in throwing a mega-spanner into the UN works. That follows his equally outrageous statements on EU enlargement. However, I also believe that the American policy has many faults. At times, the Americans' diplomacy has been atrocious, especially in the summer of last year. Then, they were brought back to the UN route only by the efforts of our own Government.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that if we did not support the US now, they would be tempted in future to go down the unilateral route. That worries me, as I do not want to feel intimidated into supporting action now on that basis.

I am worried by some elements of the Government's case. The links between Iraq and al-Qaeda seem tenuous in the extreme. Although the proliferation issue is serious and important, the risk of proliferation is very often to be found more in states where there is very little control. That applies especially to states that used to belong to the former Soviet Union. I consider them a real risk in terms of proliferation at present.

In conclusion, I worry about the timing of this military action, given that weapons inspectors could still pursue their work and that alliance building could still occur. That is why, so far, I remain unconvinced.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 807

3.28 pm

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon): I wished to pick up a point made by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about the comparison between the situation we are now in and 1938 that seems to me utterly inappropriate. In the confrontation between the west, and other democracies, and Iraq, the similarity with 1938 has already happened. It happened when Iraq invaded Kuwait, when the House and my party supported military action to confront Saddam Hussein and secure Kuwait's liberation. For the past 12 years, there has been an inconsistent policy towards Iraq, while that country got weaker and weaker and its capacity to inflict damage in the area reduced.

The sad situation that we have reached today is that the United Nations' own agents tell us that they believe that they are making progress towards neutralising the situation. It would be possible to secure international agreement either to accept that we can secure peaceful disarmament through the operation of the weapons inspectors or to give support for military action if the weapons inspectors conclude—after they have been given the time for which they have asked—that they cannot complete the job. Most of us now believe that we are facing a premature and pre-emptive decision to embark on military action before the process has been concluded.

Many of us are also concerned about the possible consequences. We all hope that military action will be swift and clean, with minimal casualties. However, even if not a single life is lost, at the end of that venture—if it is undertaken in the way that is proposed this week—the international community will be fractured in a way that has not been witnessed since the end of the second world war. That is because the approach to dealing with the problem has been totally incoherent, partly because the US Administration decided at the outset what they would do and demonstrated no real commitment to persuading the international community of the merits of their case.

We have been confused about whether the US objective is regime change, the defeat of international terrorism or the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Regardless of the legal advice—and I am not competent to comment on it—we can all recognise that the only legitimate reason for the United Nations to back action in the case of Iraq would be to deal with weapons of mass destruction. That position should have been sustained throughout. The President's speech about the axis of evil and rogue states has raised many concerns about what will happen after Iraq, especially as the US attitude to the UN has been inconsistent.

At first, the US saw no real role for the UN, or any need for resolution 1441. Thanks to the British Government, resolution 1441 was achieved, with the clear understanding that a further resolution would be required. Then we were told that a second resolution was not needed, because resolution 1441 stood on its own. That leaves us with the United Kingdom divided, Europe divided, NATO divided and the UN divided. Many of us share a deep anxiety—and it grieves me to say so—that those divisions may be exactly the outcome that the Bush Administration wanted.

The US Administration appear to be motivated by a fundamentalist conviction about the rightness of their cause, the absoluteness of their power and their ability

18 Mar 2003 : Column 808

to confront the world and say, "We will decide who the good guys are, who the bad guys are and what course of action will be taken. Your job is to back us or make yourself our enemies."

Mr. Blunt: The hon. Gentleman makes the point that that may be the desire of some people in the US Administration. If true, would they not have that in common with the French Government, who are seeking to push the US away from a transatlantic alliance?

Malcolm Bruce: Everybody knows that the French have had their own view on transatlanticism for many years, and there is nothing new or unexpected about the position that they have adopted. Those of us with friends and relations in the US will understand the clear anxiety among the US population that they are vulnerable to attack in a way that they have never felt before and they look to their Government to demonstrate strong action to defend them against that attack. The problem is that that anxiety has encouraged a form of US nationalism that is determined to demonstrate that they can hit back hard after the shock of the terrorist attack on mainland America. Many of us were persuaded that that was legitimate in the case of Afghanistan, because the Taliban Administration was clearly harbouring the perpetrators of 11 September, and we backed that action. There is not the same connection in the case of Iraq. In those circumstances, we are entitled to argue that the case for military action has not been made.

Even if this war is quick, effective and decisive, and even if, as the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) claimed, opinion polls swing behind the Government because of a short, sharp, successful action—although such polls are not a concern of mine—the problems that I have described will still be there for a considerable time. How do we rebuild the ability of the international community to work together when the American Administration have demonstrated an unwillingness to use international institutions constructively?

With a number of colleagues from this House, I was in Athens yesterday at a meeting of the Western European Union. The meeting was organised by the Greek presidency of the WEU to discuss common mechanisms for Europe and America to defeat terrorism. However, everybody questioned how we could work together without a consistent engagement of trust and purpose with the American Administration, the tactics of which were based on economic bullying and political threats—such as the indication that, if France pursues its present line, it will face significant economic boycotts.

We have to consider how to rebuild the effectiveness of transatlantic co-operation in the aftermath of this war. We have to make clear our absolute determination to work together to defeat international terrorism, which threatens all of us. We need common purpose and we need to share intelligence. However, in return for a guarantee of international support, which we want to give, we are entitled to ask the Americans to acknowledge their responsibility to offer genuine leadership to the world and to show respect towards other democratic countries that do not always share the objectives of the United States and do not see the world as being defined entirely in terms of the economic

18 Mar 2003 : Column 809

interests of the United States. I respect the leadership role that the United States can and must give the world. However, if the United States is going to provide leadership for the world, the United States needs to provide a world leader.

3.37 pm

Clive Efford (Eltham): I want to say how much I appreciated the opening comments of the Prime Minister. I welcome his respect for the views of all those who have strong feelings on this matter. When Parliament was recalled last September, I tabled an early-day motion making my position clear. I have not moved from that position one jot. This is a challenging time for Members of Parliament and we have a heavy task in front of us in this debate. However, I have never been clearer in my mind about my position. Many people in the country feel that the inspectors have not been given time to complete their task in dealing with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I say to my right hon. Friends that, at this time, I fundamentally disagree with the military action that they intend to take.

Much has been made of the road map for Palestine. In the aftermath of 11 September, many people rushed to make statements on how the Palestinian issue and the middle east peace process were central to resolving the long-term problems at the heart of the cause of the tragedy that occurred, and the atrocities that were committed, that day. However, people are right to stop and take stock of what is being proposed with the road map. For me, it may not be too little, but it is certainly too late. The US may be sincere in what it says about the road map but, coming at this late stage, it smacks too much of political expediency. I have no doubt that pressure from this House has led to the road map at this late stage.

I understand something about road maps from my previous profession: the obvious route is not always the best way to get to one's destination. I do not say that to trivialise the matter. I sincerely believe that this House still has a significant role to play in ensuring that we reach the destination that we all want in terms of the middle east peace process, but it is not just a question of the views of this House, and it never has been. It is about how people in the middle east view the west and how we pursue our foreign policies and about learning the lessons of 11 September. It is about our not continuing to be, through the way in which we pursue our foreign policies, recruiting agents for Osama bin Laden and other terrorist organisations. I say to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) that it is not an attack on Saddam Hussein that will be the recruiting agent, but the double standards that have been applied in relation to the rush to deal with Saddam Hussein at this stage and the approach taken to resolution 242, which has sat on the table for 35 years and has not been dealt with.

After 11 September, many people made the case for dealing with the middle east peace process to secure the peace for the long term. We understand the importance of ending the occupation of Palestinian territories, ending the plight of Palestinian people in their own land and stopping settlements that are in direct breach of United Nations resolutions on Palestinian territory. If

18 Mar 2003 : Column 810

we are to develop a new world order, we have to address those issues in tandem with the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Clive Efford: Not at this stage.

Much has been made of the use of the veto at the UN, but we are not all innocent in that respect. In the past 30 years, the United States has vetoed 34 resolutions concerning Israel. The veto has been used 250 times, in more than 40 per cent. of cases in relation to issues involving the middle east. Only this week, we have seen yet another attack in Gaza, where 10 people were killed, including a four-year-old child. Even in the days after 11 September, people were attacked and killed by Israeli forces in Jenin and Jericho. I have to ask whether that is the action of a country that recognises the weight of the issues involved in the tragedy that occurred on 11 September or its role in securing long-term peace. We need to find a way forward. How do we get those people to follow the route map set out by the United States and our Government? How do we convince Arab people of our sincerity? What guarantee is there that after this conflict is over the road map will not be lost?

The USA provides $2.1 billion of aid every year to Israel. Only last October, there was a request for another $10 billion of aid because the intifada has hit its economy and almost cut it in half. Just by threatening to cross a nought off the end of that aid, we could bring Israel seriously to the negotiating table and sort out the problem once and for all. We need more time and we need to deal with the issues in parallel. If we are to convince the wider world community of our sincerity, why not give the inspectors more time to deal with Iraq in tandem with sealing, progressing and following the route map that has been set out in terms of Israel?

The stakes involved are too high for failure. The UN is right to challenge the USA. For too long, the USA has been able to say to the United Nations, "Jump", and the United Nations has said, "How high?" The UN is absolutely right in this new world order to question whether it should jump in terms of the timing of any action that should be taken. I do not support what France has done during the past week—its actions have hastened the deadline for war—nor do I support its attempt to create a European axis against the United States in a new world order.

The UN is ours, faults and all. It is the route by which we should decide that in future we will negotiate away these difficult situations without the need to resort to military action. The Prime Minister said in his opening statement that the UN should be the focus of diplomacy and of action. I agree. If we are to win the peace for my children and for future generations of children, we have to go back to the UN and give it more time.

3.44 pm

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): I am very pleased to be called to speak in this debate at such an early hour. I believe that I have perhaps one small advantage over other Members of this House, which is that I have personal experience of being bombed by the Pentagon while in a capital city. I was in Belgrade, and then in

18 Mar 2003 : Column 811

Pristina, during the Kosovo campaign, when B-52s and cruise missiles were deployed in an operation conducted, after all, by the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), whose moving speech I listened to with great attention last night. Of course, that operation was carried out without UN endorsement. I remember writing some very angry articles while in Belgrade about the way in which that war was conducted, because I honestly hated the methods that were used. I despised the bombing from 30,000 ft, which seemed to me to be cruel and erratic. I also loathed some of the anti-Serb rhetoric, and I became, among the many unfashionable aspects of my beliefs, rather pro-Serb.

I saw lives ruined and families destroyed by bombing, and I saw civilians grieving for their loved ones, who had been killed by NATO. We all saw the results of the Pentagon's tragic mistakes: the slaughter of people in a convoy of tractors, the train that was blown up on the bridge, and the killing of the make-up girls who worked for Serbian television. I in no way retract all my criticisms of those methods, but as I look back now on that reporting, I must admit that my anger obscured a separate truth: the aim was a good one, and it was a good idea to force Milosevic to stop his persecution of the Kosovar Albanians, and to do what we could to force him from office. One would have to be rather perverse not to agree that the world is better for his going; indeed, Serbia is better and the whole of the former Yugoslavia is better. There are no more hideous pogroms whipped up by ruthless politicians, setting one ethnic group against another. There is no more torching of houses, no more rape camps, and all the rest of it.

Mrs. Mahon: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we should be even-handed and mention the 300,000 ethnically cleansed Serbs, Roma and Ashkali who are now living in dreadful camps in Serbia?

Mr. Johnson: I accept fully what the hon. Lady says. I am not pretending that life in Serbia is perfect now, and it is of course true that there are a great many refugees, and that many injustices have been done. However, it would be rather extremist and irrational to say that life in Serbia is not better, because it is. As I drove around the former Yugoslavia after that conflict, I was surprised at how few casualties there were, and at how few casualties the Serbs claimed.

If one were to ask me now whether that mission was worth it in order to end a culture of violence, hate and savage ethnic murder, I would say yes, it probably was. That is the lesson that I learned.

Lembit Öpik: The hon. Gentleman is describing how he became sympathetic to the Serbs on account of the suffering that he saw. However, does he not accept that those are exactly the ingredients that can lead to a resurgence of terrorism, and that there are analogies between how he felt, and the paramilitary recruiting drive that took place in Northern Ireland immediately after Bloody Sunday?

Mr. Johnson: I listen to the hon. Gentleman's point with great interest, but to be frank, I wonder why his party now stands against action to help the people of Iraq, given that its previous leader, Paddy Ashdown, was so vigilant and fierce in his demands for

18 Mar 2003 : Column 812

humanitarian action on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians. I find that a very curious reflection on how times have changed for the Liberal Democrats, and I wonder whether it has anything to do with opportunism and how they see the public opinion polls moving. I do not really understand their motivation.

There is much that I admire about the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Livingston. I noted with interest the acclaim with which he was greeted on the Government Back Benches last night, which may or may not be ominous for the Prime Minister. There was one striking omission from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, however. He dwelt at length on the threat that Saddam might, or might not, pose to western security—I thought that he was too optimistic about that—but he said not a word about the condition of the people of Iraq. How many people has Saddam Hussein killed? Is it 100,000, 200,000—a million? We have all met Iraqi people who yearn for that man to be removed. I am thinking in particular of an Iraqi computer technician who said, "You guys have got to get rid of Saddam Hussein because no matter how many people Bush kills it will not be as many as Saddam kills in a year".

The right hon. Member for Livingston spoke of a long-standing Anglo-American agenda to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Like many others, the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know "why now?" and "why Saddam Hussein?". Such objections are logically frail and hardly amount to an argument for doing nothing now. If anything, they are an argument for wishing that we had done something earlier and, indeed, in other places. To people who ask, "What about Mugabe?", I reply, "Indeed, why don't we do something there?"

It is possible to criticise many aspects of the way in which the Government have prepared the country for the course of action that we are about to take. I shall not delay the House further with repetition of my objections to the dodgy dossier and the UN bungling. I do not know who made the diplomatic assessment of the likelihood of French accession to a second UN resolution but he obviously blundered.

We can dilate until the cows come home about what the situation means for the so-called common European security and defence policy, which has nothing in common, nothing to do with security and barely amounts to a policy. I shall not go further into the curious hermaphroditic policy of the Liberal Democrats.

We should all like a second UN resolution but that is not going to happen. Tonight, we have to decide whether to give authorisation for British forces to engage in enforcement of UN resolution 1441 and, indeed, the 17 other UN resolutions that Saddam Hussein has continually flouted. Having learned the lessons from what I saw in Serbia, I shall vote for the motion. There are several reasons but one is paramount. It will mean the enforcement of the will of the UN and the removal of Saddam Hussein will make the world a better place, but, above all, it will make the world better for the millions of Iraqis whom he oppresses.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 813

I deeply respect the hesitations of people on both sides of the House, but, as they make up their minds, I urge them to think of those people in Iraq and to decide whether, by our votes and actions tonight, we shall be prolonging their misery or bringing it to an end.

3.53 pm

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush): There are two reasons why I supported the Government and shall continue to support them tonight: one is moral and the other is political.

The moral argument has been clear to me for a long time and it is constantly reinforced. Every time that a psychopathic killer takes over a nation state, they drive people out; they commit genocide, murder and torture of a type that is hard to imagine and, because I represent a west London constituency, I see their victims in my waiting room. I have seen the victims of the Shah of Iran, the Ayatollah, Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, but only in one case—Saddam Hussein—have I seen people tremble at the mere mention of his name.

The regime is gruesome in the extreme and it is dangerous. Although I can accept the moral case on either side of the argument, it has always struck me as odd that democratic, freedom-loving, tolerant politicians can get ourselves in a moral mess when we are confronted with such people and try to determine who is morally right in the argument about whether we should go to war. The only person who is morally bankrupt in that argument is Saddam Hussein. We should never have illusions about that, and it also reinforces our views about what is right and what is wrong.

I have also heard in the debate, unlike perhaps some of the others, ambivalence about the United States, varying from the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who takes the view that the United States saved us in the second world war. I do not take that view—it ignores the contributions of Britain, the fact that the Russians broke the back of the German army and a whole range of other things—nor do I take the view, which comes from various quarters of the House, that somehow everything that the United States does is bad.

Yes, the reality is that the United States is the dominant power of the day and, yes, it is true—we ought to remember this more than anyone else—that George Bush looks increasingly like Lord Palmerston in drag. I accept that the United States is doing the great power act and throwing its weight around in the world, but that does not make it wrong on such an issue.

The true criticism of the international community, the United States and all hon. Members is that we have done nothing about what has been happening in Iraq since 1991. The real criticism of all us is that we did nothing when Iraq first started to breach not just the 1991 resolutions, but the ceasefire itself, which Saddam had never put into effect. That ceasefire was signed with the UN, not the United States, and he breached it time and again with genocide, torture, human rights abuses,

18 Mar 2003 : Column 814

weapons of mass destruction and terrorism—the lot—and we did nothing, because of which many people have died and the misery continues.

Mr. Mike Wood (Batley and Spen): I am interested in the fact that my hon. Friend says that we have done nothing since 1991 in relation to Iraq. Does he count the sanctions, the over-flying of the no-fly zone, the work of the weapons inspectors who destroyed 95 per cent. of the weapons of mass destruction as nothing?

Mr. Soley: I regard that as ineffectual. [Interruption.] Let me say why. The one bit that was effective was the no-fly zones. It tells us an awful lot that there is no starvation, no torture and plenty of medical supplies in either of those areas, and they use the same oil-for-food programme as that available to the rest of Iraq. Of course what failed was the sanctions regime itself. Why? Because Saddam Hussein did what all psychopaths do in such situations—he used the weapons against his opponents. He starved the people who did not support him and he fed the people who did. We need only look at the television broadcasts from the time when he organised demonstrations in Baghdad against the sanctions and, lo and behold, they involved well-fed, well-dressed people—his own supporters. Those broadcasts did not show the real misery and how Saddam himself had caused it.

I tell hon. Members that we really do have a duty—this is where I come to the political bit—to face up to the UN's failure to deal with those people. We call them tyrants and dictators, but if they were the people beating up their wives or children in a house down the road, we would call them psychopaths and send for the police who would arrest them and put them inside. We only started doing that 50 years ago. Before then, we used to walk by with our fingers in our ears, saying "We cannot intervene; it is his own house, you know." That is what we do with the nation state, and it is why the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is wrong about the morality. His morality is based on the concept of the nation state. I take the view that the UN ultimately needs to intervene more effectively when those psychopathic killers take over nation states. We need to be able to do that. We do not want to do it by force with an armed invasion straight away, but we have to find ways to deal with such things because every time we leave them, not only do we sentence those people to absolute misery, but we destabilise the area.

Many Arabs live in my constituency, and I will tell hon. Members that Arabs have no less a commitment to democracy, freedom and tolerance than anyone else. They do not like Saddam Hussein. Many of them do not support the war, but they all want rid of him. The reality is that—this is the other part of the political equation—if we want a settlement in the middle east, particularly of the Palestine-Israel situation, we also have to deal with Saddam Hussein; the two are linked in that sense. If the world wants to move forward and face up to the problems of terrorism, we must also deal with states that produce weapons of mass destruction. Instead of just reading Dr. Blix's abbreviated report to the Security Council, hon. Members should go to the House of Commons Library, get the full document, and look at the list of things that Dr. Blix says that Saddam Hussein

18 Mar 2003 : Column 815

has got, some of which I have never heard of before. Unless we find ways of dealing with that, we risk the future of this world, too.

Lynne Jones rose—

Mr. Soley: The dangers opening up to us are severe and real.

The United Nations is the hope, but it has failed for 12 years. We cannot let it go on failing. I deeply regret that we do not have a second resolution, but the biggest failure is the failure to act. I say this particularly to some of my hon. Friends and to the Liberal Democrats, who say that delays are the answer: the reality is that we cannot go on passing resolutions unless we are resolved to act on them. It is better not to pass them in the first place, not to take risks, to let it happen and not get involved. Let us not pass resolutions unless we are resolved to act.

4.1 pm

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): I have a great deal of experience of commending my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) and for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) on the speeches that they have made as Leaders of Her Majesty's Opposition. I have much less experience of commending the Prime Minister, but I do so today without reservation. I would use his statement as the basis for a reply to any letter that I got from a constituent, as I feel that it represented broadly my analysis of and my reaction to the events that we face today.

I will not reiterate the Prime Minister's arguments, but I want to pick out two points. First, he said that the psychology of the United States changed, without qualification, on 11 September. I was on the last British Airways flight out of Boston prior to the hijacking of the planes that were used in the attacks. I was back in the United States two weeks later and have been there on a number of occasions subsequently. That psychological change is real, lasting and important. I agree with the Prime Minister that the rest of us had better go through that psychological change, and that we better do so quickly. The fact that so many have not yet faced up to those circumstances—God forbid that they should be forced to face up to them on the back of another atrocity such as that experienced by the Americans—and that Europe has not yet been gripped by that psychological change lies partly at the heart of the difficulties that we face.

Secondly, I want to highlight the Prime Minister's comment that there is no point in willing the ends if we are not prepared to will the means. That remark was addressed to his party and to our party—it was pointless addressing it to the Liberals, as they would not understand it. It is fundamental to the whole debate. Sooner or later, we must face up to some realities. This is not a debate about how much legality is on one side, and how much morality is on the other. I am just a simple Belfast boy: to me, it is a question of whether we have the will to do what we believe and know to be right, after having prevaricated for a long time.

Most of us in this House are parents. When we went through parenting, the one thing that we were told repeatedly was, "Don't say no to the children unless you

18 Mar 2003 : Column 816

mean it and unless you will make it stick." That was because every time we said no and they ignored it, and we ignored their ignoring of it, we made it more difficult to put in place a discipline framework for the future. Internationally and nationally, we have been guilty of saying no, and then ignoring the ignoring of that instruction. It is now time to take action, and I support the Government's intention.

Having said that, the Foreign Secretary made the point in his statement last night that the second resolution


    "has never been needed legally, but we have long had a preference for it politically."

We should not run away from the fact that our failure to secure it represents a political failure with which we must deal. When that point was put to the Foreign Secretary later, he said:


    "France and Russia informally proposed that there should be a lock in resolution 1441 requiring that before any military action or any enforcement of the system of disarmament proposed—by force—there had to be a second resolution. France and Russia dropped that proposition. They never even put it forward as a formal amendment."—[Official Report, 17 March 2003; Vol. 401, c. 703–708.]

That was an extremely good answer in the field of diplomacy, but it was no answer in the field of politics. We are faced with the fact that there has been a political failure and a political breakdown. The Government must start to address that political failure quickly otherwise some of the more dire consequences that have been predicted may come back to haunt us, although I do not believe that they invariably follow from the Government's action.

There are two reasons why we need to reaffirm our will to act and focus on repairing the political damage. The first is that unless the damage is repaired, it will become more difficult to get new resolutions on humanitarian aid and the restructuring of Iraq through the United Nations. The situation might become more protracted, which is not to our advantage or to that of our troops, and it is certainly not to the advantage of the people of Iraq. The second reason, which my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) mentioned, is that part of the political opposition in the country to the Government's proposals exists because they have not talked about an exit strategy. The House has no idea about how we intend to get out of the situation after the war is over. I believe that the absence of any conversation about an exit strategy is fuelling concern about, and antipathy toward, the actions that the Government must take.

In summary, I support what the Government are doing and I shall join them in the Lobby this evening. However, I urge them to take seriously the political failure at the heart of the issue and to take steps quickly to address it for the benefit of the national interest, as well as the people of Iraq.

.9 pm

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): There is only one issue that we must consider today: whether we should go to war at this time and set what is, to me, the terrible precedent of starting a pre-emptive war on a dubious legal basis without the support of the United Nations. Nothing else should matter. The issue should

18 Mar 2003 : Column 817

transcend party politics. We know how the Front Benchers, Whips and others will argue that support for the war is a vital party loyalty test—whether that is support for the Conservative party or for the Labour party—but the issue is too serious for that. It should transcend our careers, whether we are Back Benchers or Front Benchers, because in this context we should regard ourselves as here today, gone tomorrow politicians. I do not remember the Prime Minister's exact words, but he summed it up when he said something to the effect that we are talking about the future safety of the world and therefore we should be concerned about the future of our children and future generations.

It is not a matter of whether or not we like France as a result of what it has done. It is not a matter of trade-offs: this will not become a just war simply because we say as a trade-off that we will do something about the middle east peace process or that we will tidy up in the aftermath in a very decent way.

Let us be clear about the position on UN support. The three original proposers had support from only one other member of the Security Council. Five other states said that they were opposed and there were six swing states. The Prime Minister made a lot of the position of Chile, but it proposed a delay of three weeks and was turned down out of hand by the United States. There are others who have been "unreasonable". Those of us who put a lot of faith in the Prime Minister's promise that war would be regarded as a last resort fear that the Bush Administration have not regarded war as a last resort.

The question put to the Prime Minister by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) in respect of the unreasonable veto was not satisfactorily answered. If it was really just a question of France, why did we not put the issue to the Security Council? If the vote had been 14 to one in favour, we could have done what we did with regard to Korea and gone to the General Assembly and asked whether we had its support. We know that we would not have done that because we did not have the support of the majority of Governments in the world, and those Governments who do support us do not have the support of the majority of their population.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has suggested that if we go ahead in this form we will be breaching the United Nations charter. I respect the Attorney-General's view on legality, but we must respect the fact that a wide range of senior international jurists take a different view. Therefore, the only basis on which we could go ahead would be if there was an immediate threat to justify immediate war.

Reference has been made to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq does not only not have nuclear weapons, but, in answer to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Alan Howarth), Dr. el-Baradei has said that so far he sees no evidence for the suggestion that Iraq has restarted its nuclear weapons programme. Iraq has had most of its biological and chemical weapons—if it still has them, and I suspect it has—for several years. Do we believe

18 Mar 2003 : Column 818

that there is an immediate intent to attack the United Kingdom, the United States, neighbouring states or other states?

Mr. Francois: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons programme in the early 1980s and that the main reason that it did not develop the nuclear bomb was that its nuclear reactor at Osirak was destroyed by military action?

Mr. Savidge: I accept that it had such a programme and I have no doubt that Saddam would like to develop a nuclear bomb, but it is important to be realistic about the nature of the threats from different countries.

Mike Gapes: My hon. Friend refers to weapons of mass destruction. Has he read page 98 of the Blix report, which makes it clear that


    "Iraq currently possesses the technology and materials, including fermenters, bacterial growth and seed stock, to enable it to produce anthrax"?

Mr. Savidge: That is very possible. The major threat that is suggested is not that Iraq intends to attack anyone with such weapons but that it would pass them to terrorist organisations. I have already quoted what George Tennet said on behalf of the CIA on that, and I repeat that it is important when talking about what connections countries have with terrorism to distinguish between unconditional terrorist organisations, which would be liable to wish to use weapons of mass destruction, and political terrorist organisations, which, however unpleasant or vile, probably would not have a purpose in doing so. I am talking about groups such as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq Organisation and Hamas, with which I accept that there is evidence that Iraq has had connections. As for al-Qaeda, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East referred to evidence given by Vaclav Havel; in fact, Vaclav Havel later said that the information provided no clear evidence of a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

The Prime Minister said today that the question before us is how Britain and the world face the central security threat of the 21st century. I believe that he was referring to weapons of mass destruction, which brings us to an extremely important point. The general belief in the House has been that we should deal with that problem through a regime of non-proliferation and multilateral disarmament. That has been the common view of UK parties. That does not rule out the possibility of a counter-proliferation strike against a country that is disobeying that regime. However, we have to recognise that the Bush Administration are adopting a wholly different scheme, whereby counter-proliferation, as they call it, takes absolute precedence. In a sense, they are saying, "It is okay if our friends develop nuclear weapons, but not if our enemies do," and they choose who are the friends and who are the enemies. Let us remember that Iraq was regarded as a friend and was supplied during the 1980s, but is now regarded as an enemy. I find that approach capricious and destabilising.

Even more worrying is that the policy of the Bush Administration seems to be tending towards saying, "We can develop new nuclear weapons or try to make nuclear weapons more usable, and we can decide to

18 Mar 2003 : Column 819

breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the security assurance that we gave under that treaty." That is a serious aspect of the overall problem of weapons of mass destruction, especially when it is added to the doctrine of pre-emptive war.

I have heard the Prime Minister speak twice today, and I apologise for not being able to remember whether he said this at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party or in the House, but it is not an internal party matter in any case. He made the point that war on Iraq was not on his agenda when he became Prime Minister in 1997, and he said that George W. Bush had told him that two days before 11 September it was not on his agenda. However, I fear that, long before 11 September, it was on other people's agenda—namely, that of several of the hawks whom George Bush appointed to his Administration. Some time ago, I sent hon. Members an e-mail entitled "Why Now?", which outlined some of the different things that they had said and gave original documents that one can get from various websites.

That raises another question. If war with Iraq was not on the Prime Minister's or the President's agenda in 2001, can we forget that it was not on their agenda for 10 years and say that we have been waiting for 12 years? If full-scale war was not on the agenda, why is it on the agenda now? Is it a logical response to 11 September?

The Prime Minister said that we can view the United States as a major power and seek a rival pole, as a unilateral power or as a partner. I want partnership, but I have doubts. I am not happy about partnership if it means that the United States takes the decision and the rest of us are expected to follow—that to me is not partnership—or if, as seems to be happening, the Bush Administration decide what action should be taken and what should be done immediately, and allow us to supply some of the rhetoric or some of the long-term wish list.

If we vote for a pre-emptive war against Iraq now, we should ask ourselves what precedent we will be setting, because the hawks have already said that they have plans for other pre-emptive divisive wars. We should contrast their plan of the world with the inspirational vision set out by the Prime Minister in Brighton in 2001, when he spoke of


    "the moral power of a world acting as a community".

4.19 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): I know that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) has been waiting to make that speech in a number of debates. He used his time extremely well; it was a very informed contribution. I shall continue directly from one of the points that he made about the new world order into which we are moving.

Fundamentally, the debate is not about Iraq, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction or even oil, though oil is certainly a factor. The debate is about a new world order, with an unrivalled superpower adopting a doctrine of pre-emptive strike, and how we accommodate that and come to terms with that new world order. Eighteen months ago the United States had an atrocity committed against it and it is still in a trauma. The point was made a few minutes ago, and it is undoubtedly correct: on 12 September 2001, the day after the attack on the twin towers, the United States

18 Mar 2003 : Column 820

was at its most powerful. In its moment of greatest extremity, the United States was at its zenith. In addition to its unrivalled military might, it carried total moral authority throughout the world. A hundred or more nations signed messages of sympathy, support or solidarity with the extremity that the United States had suffered.

Now, 18 months later, that enormous world coalition has been dissipated. I do not take the position that it was only a gang of four who gathered in the Azores. I accept that there are more countries—or at least countries' Governments—who are signed up, but the coalition of the willing for the campaign against Iraq is very narrowly based. Anyone who wants confirmation of that should just count the troops: 300,000 United States and British troops, and I understand that 1,000 Australians have been asked for, and 100 Poles have been offered. That is a very narrowly based coalition indeed.

The Prime Minister believes, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North identified, that the way to accommodate the situation is to accept that the United States will be predominant and that the rest must fall into line. They can try to restrain it, but they will have to fall into line with the views of the United States Administration. That is a wrong-headed policy, and it is taking people into ridiculous positions.

In his undoubtedly powerful speech today, the Prime Minister argued that the weapons inspection process had never worked. He came close to saying that it had all been a waste of time. I remember a speech on 2 October at the Labour conference in which another powerful speaker went into enormous detail to show how successful the weapons inspection process had been in the 1990s and how it had led to the destruction of chemical weapons, the chemicals used to make weapons, the armed warheads and the biological weapons facility. He concluded that


    "the inspections were working even when he"—

Saddam Hussein—


    "was trying to thwart them."

I watched that speech on television. Many hon. Members were there. The speaker was President Bill Clinton. The television was doing cutaways to Ministers, including the Prime Minister. They were all nodding vigorously last October when President Clinton said that through the 1990s that policy worked and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction than were destroyed, for example, in the Gulf war. The Prime Minister now seems to be denying what he accepted only last October.

We are told that the majority of the Security Council would have voted for the second resolution, if it had not been for the nasty French coming in at the last minute and scuppering the whole process. Let us get real. Have we listened to what other countries were saying? The Chileans proposed an extension of three weeks, but they were told by the United States that that was not on. In the debate in the General Assembly, country after country expressed their anxieties about not letting the weapons inspectors have a chance to do their work. They were told that the nasty French—I am not sure whether the Conservative party dislikes the French

18 Mar 2003 : Column 821

more than the Liberals, or vice versa—were being extremely unreasonable, but the French position, and the Chinese position—

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): The old alliance.

Mr. Salmond: The old alliance was important. Somebody should speak up for the French, because their position has been consistent, as has that of the Russians and the Chinese. The Chinese, the French and the Russians issued a declaration on the passage of resolution 1441. It sets out exactly how the British and the United States ambassadors agreed that it was not a trigger for war. The reason that those countries did not want a second resolution was not that it would be a pathway to peace—I wonder who dreamed that up in Downing street. The reason was that they saw it as a passport to war, so obviously they opposed a resolution drawn in those terms. The majority of smaller countries in the Security Council and the General Assembly countries did not want to rush to war because they saw that there remained an alternative to taking military action at this stage of the inspection process.

We are told that the Attorney-General has described the war as legal. We could go into the legalities and quote professor after professor who has said the opposite, but one thing is certain: when the Secretary-General of the United Nations doubts the authorisation of military action without a second resolution, people can say many things about that action, but they cannot say that it is being taken in the name of the United Nations.

Mr. Llwyd: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I wish to make one brief point: the French and Russians signed up to resolution 1441 after the words "all necessary means" were specifically taken out.

Mr. Salmond: In order to become acceptable, resolution 1441 had to be amended. Everything has been consistent in the opposition of countries that are against a rush to military action.

Will the approach that is being taken work? The argument is that it will be a salutary lesson, that a dictator will be taught a lesson and that that will help us in dealing with other dictators. I suspect that the cost of the action—I do not doubt the military outcome for a second—will be so high in a number of ways that it will not provide a platform for an assault on North Korea or Iran, which form the rest of the "axis of evil". I do not think that the policy of teaching one dictator a lesson and then moving on to other dictators can work. Most of us know that it will be a breeding ground for a future generation of terrorists. That is not the case because people like Saddam Hussein. The images that will be shown throughout the Muslim world will not feature him, although, without any question, he will be more attractive as a martyr when he is dead than he has ever been while alive. The images that will be shown are those of the innocents who will undoubtedly die in a conflict that will be a breeding ground for terrorism.

Will the nation-building work? The record of the United States on nation-building has not been impressive. Let me say something about one of the other

18 Mar 2003 : Column 822

countries that is being reviled at present—Germany, which commits far more troops as a percentage of its armed forces to helping to secure the peace in the various trouble spots of the world for the United Nations.

We are told that the Prime Minister—this is the essence of his case—will try to restrain some elements in the United States Administration and make them take a multilateral approach, but that, if that does not happen, when push comes to shove he has to go along with their policy. I say that there is a broader United States of America than the United States Government. I believe that many sections of opinion in America would welcome a vote from this Parliament today that says "Not in our name", because the real America wants to see a stand for peace, not a rush for war.

4.27 pm

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): After my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) made his personal statement to the House last night, I felt it necessary to drive back to my constituency and speak with a number of people whose opinions I trust and value—people who are close friends and who have been members of the Labour party for many years. Not one of them wanted war, and neither do I. My constituency chair said to me, "Barry, you have to remember that this is our party leader and I trust him. He is our Prime Minister and, even though I disagree with the war, I want to give him our support now." I will not support the Prime Minister out of loyalty. I will support him out of the conviction that what he and the Government are doing is right.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that a genuine problem exists? The Government have experienced great difficulty in convincing the public about the rectitude of their position because people do not trust the Prime Minister. They do not trust him on health, education or crime. Why, therefore, should they trust him on Iraq?

Mr. Gardiner: I normally have great respect for the hon. Gentleman because he usually speaks with some sense. His comments on Iraq are ill judged. The people of this country know that our Prime Minister has behaved with absolute integrity on that issue. He has campaigned solidly for an international coalition. He went to the United States and brought George Bush to the United Nations to submit the power of the United States to the bridle of the United Nations. The people of this country therefore trust the Prime Minister on Iraq.

Mr. Andrew Turner : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Prime Minister has experienced so much difficulty in persuading the people of this country because he did not even admit that there was a problem until September last year? He did not genuinely start to try to persuade people until six weeks ago.

Mr. Gardiner: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The speech that the Prime Minister made on the day after 11 September 2001 states that we must revisit the position in Iraq. He has been focused on that ever since he became Prime Minister. Immediately after 11 September, he recognised a confluence. He realised that

18 Mar 2003 : Column 823

terrorists were prepared to use weapons of mass destruction to achieve their ends and that if we allowed proliferation in Iraq, the two strands would come together, with the most appalling consequences.

I respect all hon. Members who disagree in principle with using military force in Iraq. However, I do not understand how anyone who supported resolution 1441 can espouse that position. What did such people believe that "final" meant when Iraq was given a "final opportunity" to comply: "final" before tabling another resolution; "final" before a few more weeks passed; or "final" before a few more months elapsed?

Mr. Simon Thomas: I hope that I can help the hon. Gentleman. As John Negroponte, the US ambassador to the UN explained, the resolution was final before being brought back to the Security Council for negotiation. The US Government also said that in a statement of explanation.

Mr. Gardiner: The hon. Gentleman's memory is selective. Resolution 1441 provides that the matter would revert to the Security Council for consideration, and that has happened. The resolution states that the Security Council will remain "seized of the matter". The hon. Gentleman's interpretation of "final" is odd if he believes that a final opportunity is not final before force is applied, in accordance with chapter VII of the UN charter.

Other words in resolution 1441 include "immediate", "full" and "unconditional". Are any hon. Members prepared to stand up and say that Iraq has complied—

Mr. Sarwar: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gardiner: Are any hon. Members prepared to say—[Hon. Members: "Give way."] I shall. Is anyone prepared to say that Iraq has complied fully, immediately and unconditionally with its obligations to disarm?

Mr. Sarwar: Who is the final authority to judge whether Iraq is in breach of resolution 1441: United Nations weapons inspectors, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN Security Council, Bush or our Prime Minister?

Mr. Gardiner: I would urge my hon. Friend to read the words of the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, because he—[Hon. Members: "Answer!"] If hon. Members will listen, they will find that I am answering the question. Hans Blix is quite clear that Iraq remains in breach. Indeed, every member of the Security Council is quite clear that Saddam Hussein remains in breach, and that there has been no full, immediate or unconditional compliance. There is an option to go down the containment route, and some hon. Members have suggested that in their speeches today. It is not an option that I agree with. I believe that we have to maintain what we said at the United Nations Security Council in resolution 1441, which was that we have to disarm Iraq.

There are those who have said that they cannot now support military action because there has been no second resolution in the United Nations. That is the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 824

worst reason of all for not supporting it. If it were right to engage in military action, to kill innocent Iraqi people and to put our troops on the line to die for this country with the support of a second resolution at the United Nations, it has to be morally right to do so without one. The morality of our actions does not depend on who is prepared to carry out those actions with us; it depends on the judgment that we make about whether it is right or wrong. The Government are taking the right course of action. It is the only course of action that will achieve the disarmament of Iraq, and disarmament is the only way of ensuring that a further, far more bloody conflict does not happen in the future.

4.37 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I plan to reach the same destination as the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner), but I propose to take a slightly different route.

We are witnessing the most spectacular failure of diplomacy in my political lifetime. Here we are with the most sophisticated, best-resourced international institutions that the world has ever seen, peopled by the most civilised, best-educated diplomats in history, assisted by every modern communication device that technology can provide, and working at a time when many of the barriers that used to divide the world have come down—yet they have failed, with the inevitable apocalyptic consequences for Iraq.

First, those close to Iraq—those who may take a different view from that of the United States and the United Kingdom—have totally failed to convince Saddam that his country and his people were going to be hit hard by American and British troops, and that he would be annihilated, unless he agreed to what was being put before him. Many thought that Saddam would give way at the last moment, obliging the American and British troops to go home and leave him in control, without a regime change. But those close to Saddam, geographically and culturally, have failed to bring home to him the fate that lies in store, and that is the first diplomatic failure.

The second failure is more important. The world's democracies have failed to get their act together to present a coherent and united front to an obnoxious regime. It is that institutional failure, rather than the underlying case against Saddam, that has led to the equivocal response from public opinion.

We will need to revisit the whole architecture of international institutional peacekeeping, and re-engineer it radically to avoid future failure. I do not give that as a reason for going to war, but I happen to believe it will be easier to make the reforms that are necessary once the Iraq crisis has been resolved, than to do so with the crisis hanging over the United Nations indefinitely.

I believe there was a need for greater clarity at the inception of the resolution process, a need for more visible and better-defined milestones as we went along, and for greater certainty about the nature of the consequences if there was no progress. The traditional skills of diplomacy involve getting people to agree to something by persuading them that it means what they want it to mean, and saying that there is no harm in "signing up" because the eventuality is remote. All that has come horribly unstuck. There has been too much ambiguity and obfuscation in the process.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 825

The public squabbling about what resolution 1441 actually means baffles our constituents, as do discussions on "Newsnight" and "Today" between expensive barristers about whether the war is legal. I believe that if the process had been more open and transparent—if there had been more clarity—we would be receiving a more supportive response from our constituents, because the underlying case is strong.

That, however, is for tomorrow. What should we do today? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) that the decision is close to call. I believe that, in a nutshell, the debate concerns the credibility of the United Nations on the one hand, and its unity on the other. The Prime Minister's view is that unless firm action is taken now, the UN's credibility will be fatally undermined. The alternative view is that moving too fast will shatter the unity of the UN, thus fatally undermining it.

With the benefit of hindsight, we may think it might have been possible for the United States and the United Kingdom to go a little more slowly, not to give Saddam more time, but to give the rest of the world more time. That is not possible now, though. The unity of the UN is no longer there—which makes it more important to assert its credibility.

When we last debated this issue I had some sympathy with the amendment that had been tabled, but I did not support it, for this reason: the best prospect for peace at that time was convincing Saddam that we were prepared to go to war. It seemed to me that the more people voted for the amendment, the more Saddam would get a picture of a country that was not prepared to go to war. Voting for the amendment ran the risk of encouraging Saddam to call the bluff. Having looked at the amendment tabled today, I feel that anyone who genuinely believes that the case for war has not been established should vote against the war. The amendment seeks to square a circle that is incapable of being squared.

Whatever the doubts and reservations about the process that brought us here, here we are. My constituency, like others, has a high military profile. Many of my voters are sitting on the hot yellow sand in Kuwait, wondering whether they will see the cool green fields of Hampshire again. I believe that they and their families are entitled to know that their Member of Parliament backs the risks they run in removing an obnoxious regime, and I shall therefore support the Government tonight.

4.43 pm

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): We have reached the time of day when we have already heard many speeches, and I am not sure that I can add anything dramatically new.

Like many ordinary Members of Parliament, however, I have wrestled with this issue for several months. I did not start with the view that we should necessarily take military action in Iraq. Naturally, I have spent a good deal of time listening to the criticisms of those who are worried about the prospect of war. It has occurred to me that there have been a number of recurring themes in the arguments of those who believe

18 Mar 2003 : Column 826

that we should not go to war. Obviously, nothing I say will have any impact on those who are already implacably opposed to war, but over the past few days many colleagues have told me that they are not sure about it, because they feel that the issue is very finely balanced. I wondered which matters people were not certain about. I regularly hear that the case regarding weapons of mass destruction has not been made. Some people are certain that Saddam Hussein has none at all, and others say that he has neither the capability nor the capacity to use them.

How did we end up in this position? We must assume either that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is misleading the House whenever he comes to the Dispatch Box to talk about his fear of those weapons of mass destruction and about the intelligence reports that he has been reviewing, or that the intelligence community is deliberately misinforming him. We must draw those conclusions if we say that the story about WMD is utterly wrong. Moreover, whenever there is a report from a respected journalist that a scientist has been assassinated or detained because he has knowledge of the weapons programme, we must believe that that journalist is seeking to mislead us.

Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) arranged for representatives of the INDICT organisation to come to the House. They gave a graphic description of the people held in Saddam Hussein's detention centres. After those people have been subjected to every sort of torture and humiliation, they are then gassed with mustard gas. Where does all that mustard gas come from, if all that sort of stuff has been degraded or destroyed? We cannot assume that there are no WMD in Iraq. The inspectors' reports repeatedly indicate that there are.

We do not know with any certainty the extent to which WMD exist, but anyone who believes that Saddam Hussein has no such weapons, and no viable chemical or biological weapons, should not vote for the amendment tonight. I agree with the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young): anyone who honestly believes that Saddam Hussein has no weapons of that variety should vote straightforwardly against the Government motion. In those circumstances, it would be absurd to vote for the amendment.

People have been preoccupied by the question of the additional UN resolution. I have been troubled by the way in which that resolution has been regarded. For weeks, there has been a systematic effort from certain quarters to convince people that any such resolution would have been irrelevant anyway, as it would have been secured by buying people off, or by arm twisting. No hon. Members who are party to the view that the resolution would have been worthless anyway have a right to come to the House and say that they will not vote for the motion because that resolution was not secured.

I happen to be one of those who believe that the Government were right to try to secure a second resolution. I commend the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to go the full distance to try and achieve that, but it would be absurd to put to the vote a resolution that has effectively been blown out of

18 Mar 2003 : Column 827

the water already. There is no getting away from the fact that that was the consequence of the French President's behaviour.

We have therefore been left without a second resolution and, as a result, Saddam has been given a further advantage. We might have been able to say today that we were all at one about how to deal with the man, but we find ourselves sidetracked into dealing with the question of the resolution. The second resolution in itself is important only if we disregard everything that went before, but the reality is that there have been umpteen resolutions in the past 12 years. For a full year, the House has had virtually no other topic for debate than the question of what we should do about Saddam.

Some hon. Members say that they would have supported the Government under other circumstances, but that the lack of a second resolution—a resolution which, a couple of weeks ago, the same people were calling dubious—has made the decision for them. With all due respect to the people involved, that is an extremely hard case to believe.

The other question that I have pondered is why the situation is suddenly different now. I read the amendment with interest, but it is the "Groundhog Day" scenario. It says that, despite everything that has happened, we want to go back to the beginning and start again. The amendment is saying, "Well, we think that Saddam might have some weapons and the UN might be well advised to take some action against him, but we think that the Prime Minister should start all over again and see whether he can get another resolution. If he gets a resolution this time, however, we think it should give Saddam an unspecified period of time." The amendment calls it a "defined period", but that could mean three days, 30 days or 30 years. Those who support the amendment think that we should start again, allow everything that has already happened to happen again and then, if we are no further forward, consider military action.

I am no fan of the prospect of military action, but the time has come to draw a line if we are to justify what we have said. The talking must end and we must show that our intent is real. Any other course of action diminishes everything that has happened.

Many people have raised the legitimate point that there are two issues that we cannot walk away from. If we resort to military action—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order.

4.52 pm

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): It is pleasure to speak in such a full Chamber. My normal lot is to speak when the Chamber is almost empty, which is probably a good thing. I am afraid that when the gift of making good speeches was handed out I must have been somewhere else, but I shall try to explain why I intend to vote for the amendment tonight. I shall do so with a heavy heart, and the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition nearly persuaded me to vote with them. Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) nearly persuaded me not to vote with him.

There are many reasons for my decision and I cannot give them all. One of the principal reasons is the action in Yugoslavia, which I opposed. Although I understand the reasons given by other hon. Members—notably my

18 Mar 2003 : Column 828

hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson)—I find it disturbing that that action has been portrayed recently in debate as a great victory and success. Anybody who knows the current situation in Kosovo will realise that we certainly have not finished what we started. It is one of my great worries that the same will happen in Iraq.

Enough has been said in some excellent speeches, but I have lost my faith in what happens in war because in the past the truth has been blatantly abused by our propagandists. I do not seek to make a party political point, but I thought that our Government were above that. If we want to keep the faith and trust of other countries, we must not try to hide the truth. Military considerations aside, we must try to tell the truth.

This is a difficult decision. Although I would normally say that the Whips are a fine body of men and women, and it is usually a good idea to do exactly what they say, on this occasion I suggest to all hon. Members that it is best to make up their own minds. Those who are voting with the Government are not warmongers; those of us who are voting for the amendment are not appeasers. Everyone has their own opinions and it is very difficult to come down on one side of the fence.

America is not a villain. I would like to count myself as a friend of America. However, as all good friends should, we sometimes have to speak out and tell our friends that they are doing something that they should perhaps think twice about. All I mean by that is that they should just hold back a little longer. I can understand that the military build-up is like water behind a dam. We cannot keep it there forever. That is why I think that what is going to happen is inevitable.

I was brought up to believe in serving my country. I also believe in doing my duty. My duty is first and foremost to my country, then to my constituency, and then to my party. However, one of the things that I have always been frightened of in the Whips Office is when people listen to the arguments. Listening to the arguments today has been a salutary lesson. Another expression that we have in the Whips Office is, "I'm afraid I'm all over the place."

Many of my constituents from RAF Uxbridge are already in the Gulf, and many others will soon join them. The last thing that I want is for them to feel that I am undermining them. If the amendment falls, I shall seriously consider the political and moral gymnastics of whether I can support the Government. I am not sure at this stage whether I can do that, but I can promise my constituents out there that I wish them well. Once I have said my piece, I shall shut up and let them get on with their job. I hope—I have never hoped this so much in my life—that I am wrong about some of the possible consequences. I will be the first to admit that, if I am wrong, I shall be delighted.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

4.57 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): There was a quiet eloquence about the hon. Gentleman in spite of his disclaimer. What I liked about his speech was his considerable respect for those on both sides of the argument and his readiness to express honest doubt. I have felt little respect for those who have total confidence in either side of the argument. There are

18 Mar 2003 : Column 829

many high risks and many uncertainties, and many questions that have not been answered—indeed, there are some questions that cannot, as yet, be answered. However, we are not a university debating society and we are not a seminar of professors. We have to make decisions. People will make decisions, exercising their judgment as best they can.

We are faced with this problem as we seek to come to a decision: should we now stand down our troops, and should we fundamentally change our strategy? In theory, we could indeed fold our tents and glide away, forgetting about the fact that there are men and women representing our country on the borders of Kuwait and Iraq. We have chosen to be engaged. In my judgment, we made a correct strategic decision way back last summer. We remain engaged with our US allies. To withdraw at this stage would be unthinkable. To suggest that we could was the essential flaw in the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) last night. His speech was highly compelling. Moreover, he has, in a short time, made a major and positive impact on the procedures of the House and on the House generally. The fact is, however, that we cannot easily now turn back without undermining our own credibility and the authority of the United Nations. The wording of 1441 was clear. One does not need any special knowledge to know that "immediate" should mean immediate and that "unconditional" should mean unconditional. Only in an Alice in Wonderland world do words mean what I say they mean: elsewhere, the word "immediate" must surely mean immediate. After four and a half months, Dr. el-Baradei said clearly that there would have to be a dramatic change on the part of Saddam Hussein if there was to be compliance. Given Saddam Hussein's record, one would need faith in a Damascene conversion to imagine that such a dramatic change was likely to happen. It was reasonable to assume that the words meant what they said. If we backtrack now, no future Security Council resolutions will have any credibility. We can make all sorts of pious declarations but a giant leap will be required if there is not the will to enforce them.

I turn to the role of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He promised in good faith to pursue the diplomatic path, and he has indeed gone the extra mile, as many of us demanded. The Prime Minister undertook to make possible a debate in this House before action. That was wholly unprecedented and wholly against all the practices and conventions of our constitution. I applaud his having done so; it is a major victory for Parliament. The Prime Minister stated clearly that he wished to act in conformity with international law—of course, there are weighty lawyers on both sides, but the opinion of the Attorney-General is very clear on this point; not one Member of this House could have tried harder than the Prime Minister to continue negotiations to avoid war; not one Member could have shown more commitment or more courage.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Donald Anderson: Yes, as long as I have injury time.

Ms Abbott: My right hon. Friend said that the opinion of the Attorney-General could not be clearer,

18 Mar 2003 : Column 830

but in fact the Attorney-General's advice rests on a 10-year-old UN resolution. It is not as clear as my right hon. Friend thinks.

Donald Anderson: Perhaps my hon. Friend should see a lawyer. I have confidence in the Attorney-General. He chaired the Bar Council, he has his reputation among his fellow lawyers to maintain, and he is a man of stout independence. I urge my hon. Friend to look carefully at the conclusions that he reached.

Our Prime Minister made a strategic decision to stand alongside the United States on the basis that it would give him influence—it certainly has given him influence in terms of the UN route and of the middle east peace process—and on the basis that Saddam Hussein, given his past conduct, only responds to pressure with the credible threat of force. I am confident that that was the correct decision at the time. We could not have foreseen that the UN route could lead to the current impasse. One or two hon. Members have spoken of a spectacular failure of diplomacy, but all the advice available to our Government—not only from our diplomats but from conversations with leading members—was that there was a likelihood that 1441 would be obeyed.

The US has many vocal critics—I have frequently raised my concerns about its unilateralist policies in other areas—but the blame for the collapse of the diplomatic process lies with the wilful obstruction of the French Government, who said in terms:


    "Quelles que soient les circonstances la France votera non".

The French is clear: whatever the circumstances, France will vote no. There is nothing clearer than that. The French ruled out negotiations on the proposals put forward by the UK Government even before the Iraqis did. That approach, which has led to a crisis in the international organisations and put at risk the transatlantic alliance, is based essentially on a Gaullist view of the world—the idea that Europe can be an effective rival or counterweight to the megapower of the United States. France has played into the hands of Saddam Hussein by blocking the UN route. Do we seriously expect Saddam Hussein to make concessions and to co-operate with the weapons inspectors now that the pressure has been taken off him—or would have been taken off him if the French had had their way? In short, France has dealt a mortal blow to any hopes of a peaceful, negotiated outcome.

I recognise the uncertainties and the high risks, and I share many of my colleagues' suspicions about the unilateralism of the US Administration. However, I am confident that the French position can only encourage that unilateralism, while our policy will help to keep the US engaged internationally, and will ensure our national influence for the good. Despite all the uncertainties and anxieties, I fully supported the Prime Minister when he lined up with the President to disarm Saddam Hussein voluntarily, or by force. That was done for the best motives, and on the basis of a correct analysis at the time, and it has had significant results. Disarmament is now impossible through the preferred route, so serious consequences are now imminent and inevitable. In my judgment, if we prevaricate, we lose credibility. To uphold the UN's credibility, we should hold our course. I shall support the Government tonight.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 831

5.6 pm

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): We could be at war in days, if not hours, and in meeting here today, we have perhaps one last chance to reflect on that fact. The Prime Minister has set out a powerful case. We can all understand his commitment and applaud his efforts; unfortunately, we cannot support his conclusions. Many of today's contributions have reflected the passions and concerns surrounding this issue. The House will, of course, unite on one key issue: that Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant who should not be in possession of weapons of mass destruction; he must be disarmed. The fault line in the debate is about how we do that. We take him on because he ignores international law, and in so doing we must respect the principles of international law, in whose name we act. War must be a last resort.

We believe that the military build-up was the right thing to do. Saddam and his regime have undoubtedly had their minds focused, but an important distinction surely exists between a credible threat of force, and the certain use of force. We must not go to war simply because the forces have turned up and are ready to roll. Resolution 1441 contained no automaticity. It was, of course, a significant achievement, and all the more powerful because it was unanimous. It did indeed talk about a "further material breach", a "final opportunity", and "serious consequences". We are all familiar with the litany; indeed, the Foreign Secretary can quote it unsighted, and has firm views on its meaning.

However, there is one part of resolution 1441, in paragraph 12, that often gets overlooked. It states that the Security Council


    "Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 . . . in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance".

In weighing up the best way to tackle Saddam, it is the Security Council as a whole that must judge the course of action to take. The Government's efforts in recent days to persuade Security Council members about their course of action shows that they recognise this truth; however, their arguments have not prevailed. The core of 1441 is about the weapons inspectors. Doctors Blix and el-Baradei have made progress. The US and UK Governments may not be persuaded, but that does not alter the position. Dr. Blix said recently that the time allowed "is a little short". He also said that he needed


    "not years, not weeks, but months".

The process set out in 1441 is not exhausted; alternatives to war have barely been explored. In the past few days, we have seen diplomacy laid bare, considered discussion subverted by shouting matches, and force of argument now replaced by force of arms. It has been ugly, but the downward spiral of international debate must not distract us from the underlying truths of the situation. The Governments of the USA and the UK have not won the arguments; not simply because a majority in the international community believe that the weapons inspectors should continue their work but, just as significantly, because there is disagreement about the war objectives—disarmament only, or regime change. There is also concern about the consequences of action, which could be horrific and extremely serious, whether in humanitarian terms in the middle east region or

18 Mar 2003 : Column 832

through a spur to international terrorism. All those issues weigh heavily on us and they should tip the argument towards continuing with the UN route.

We are not yet at war, but in all likelihood our armed forces will be engaged in military conflict in the next few days. Our thoughts are with them and their families. As the cross-party amendment notes, in the event that hostilities commence, we pledge total support for the British forces. We express admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hope that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides.

We still have a final moment for reflection. Late last week, President Bush issued a plea. He said:


    "Let us move beyond entrenched positions and make moves for peace."

He was talking about the middle east peace process, but his words also apply to Iraq. We should still be working through the United Nations. We have not yet exhausted all the diplomatic and political alternatives.

We should not be going to war.

5.11 pm

Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): I shall talk about only one aspect of this issue: the humanitarian consequences of the action of my Government and the United States in going to war on Iraq.

In this debate we have been obsessed, as we have been for many months, with the wickedness of Saddam Hussein. There have been countless words of vilification, but for my constituents they were hardly necessary; they are fully aware of his behaviour. What bothers my constituents—it is one of the reasons why the Prime Minister fails to persuade them of the rightness of his approach—is that little or no attention is being paid to the consequences of the action that we are about to take.

If damaging consequences are set loose by our actions, we must take the morality of that into account. If, as we are likely to do, we take action that strongly increases the probability of the use of weapons of mass destruction, we must question whether such a policy is wise or moral. If we take action that involves the use of our own weapons of mass destruction in a horrific onslaught against the people of Iraq, that, too, has to be put on the moral scales. Half the people whom we are going to kill are children. None of the people whom we are going to kill had any say in the imposition of Saddam Hussein as their tyrant. We must take that into account.

We are going to invade a country of Balkanesque complexity where occupying forces will be unable easily to withdraw. We are rapidly in danger of becoming piggy in the middle for every discontented ethnic or religious group in the area. There seems little doubt of speedy, initial victory, but it is worth remembering that the six-day war in the middle east is still going strong after 35 years. This war has similar potential.

It is currently not easy to get countries to volunteer for armed service in Afghanistan. Which countries will have troops of the right quality to assist the Americans and us? Have we faced up to being an army of occupation?

18 Mar 2003 : Column 833

Above all, we are being led by an American President who is completely honest about what his Administration intend to do with the world. I have recently been reading Bob Woodward's book, "Bush at War"—on his first war in Afghanistan—which is a real love story. Bob Woodward says of Bush:


    "His vision clearly includes a radical reordering of the world through pre-emptive and, if necessary, unilateral action."

We have not just to look at the history, as we keep doing, but to think through the consequences.

I have been concerned by the lack of reporting to the House on the humanitarian consequences of an invasion. When I backed the Government in going down the UN route, the intention was certainly not that we would just debate and vote in the Security Council and then the Iraq issue would be simply handed over to General Tommy Franks. Obviously, the conduct of the war has to be done by the military, but what happens alongside and afterwards must be an UN operation.

The Government have been very remiss in reporting on what the operation will involve. The only people who have been clear about what will happen are the Americans, and they did so most clearly five to six weeks ago in a report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defence.

The Pentagon would be in control. I quote:


    "US post war responsibilities will not be easy to fulfil and the US by no means wishes to tackle them alone. We shall encourage contributions and participation from coalition partners, non-governmental organisations, the UN and other international organisations and others."

Another quote:


    "The coalition officials"—

that is us—


    "responsible for post-conflict administration of Iraq—whether military or civilian, from the various agencies of governments, will report to the President through General Tom Franks and the Secretary of Defense."

That is simply not acceptable as a way of administering a country that has been invaded. That is not conjecture; it is a statement of policy by the American Government. The expectation is that the Americans, not the UN, would have the lead role and that foreign Governments and organisations would report to the United States President. That had been planned without reference to the Secretary-General of the UN or any UN organisation.

Stories are now going around that, in fact, the Prime Minister has negotiated the lead role for the UN under a new UN resolution that will be proposed. I am puzzled by that story because it is not in the motion and it was not in the Prime Minister's speech. [Interruption.] It is not in the motion. If hon. Members read the motion, they will see that it does not refer to a UN-controlled mandate post-conflict. If that is there, it is very welcome. If it is true—this story is going around as well—that Kofi Annan will be in charge of the oil-for-food programme, that is a big step forward, but perhaps the Minister would tell us in his winding-up speech exactly what has been negotiated with George Bush to make the situation much more acceptable when the conflict is over, rather than what is in the motion at present. I would very much welcome that.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 834

We have to consider the scale of the humanitarian problem. Iraq is a huge country, the size of France. We have to think about feeding 26 million people instantly. That has to be done by the UN, not by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance after the election. No one has paid any attention to that very important issue, but I hope that the Minister will be able to make it absolutely clear in his winding-up speech whether the UN or the American generals will be in control after the election.

5.19 pm

Mr. John Baron (Billericay): It is my belief—I say this with a heavy heart—that war at this moment is wrong for a number of reasons. First, war should always be the measure of last resort, when all other approaches have been exhausted and are futile. Indeed, war can be justified only if there is no other possibility. As we stand today, however, that is not the case. The threat of force is yielding some results. UN inspectors want more time and are finally making some progress, slow though it may be, and no one can dispute that.

Many who advocate war point out correctly that Iraq has had 12 years to disarm but has not done so, and cite that as a reason to go to war now. However, many of those years were wasted by the international community. To resort to war now, having made some progress during the last 12 to 13 weeks of the present policy, makes little sense.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does my hon. Friend accept, however, that it is not the inspectors' job to go on doing what they have been doing over the last few weeks in acting as detectives? If they are to perform their task properly, they need to be actively shown where the forbidden weapons are, and they are not being shown where they are.

Mr. Baron: I accept my hon. Friend's point, but he must accept that the UN inspectors' reports request extra time because they believe that some progress is being made and there are tentative signs that the regime may be changing its view. An extra 45 days, or a couple of months, would determine whether that was true. Time would tell.

To wage war now makes little sense when all the other possible approaches and measures have not been exhausted. Waging war is the ultimate act of politicians, yet such an act recognises the futility of their endeavours. Until we know that all other avenues have been exhausted, our consciences cannot be at ease. What is to be lost by giving the UN inspectors what they want: a few more months to see whether the task can be completed? Do we seriously believe that Iraq's biological and chemical weapons, in whatever state and quantity, pose such an immediate threat to the US, the UK or Iraq's neighbours that if we do not act this week or this month, we put our citizens at serious risk? I do not believe so.

Iraq's army is a shadow of its 1991 standing. Iraq is probably the most watched-over country in the world at present. It would not pose any more of an immediate threat to our citizens during this period than it has done over the past 12 years. The prize for being patient, however, could be great: we would have a much greater chance of the UN speaking with at least a moral majority, if not one voice, on this issue.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 835

That leads me to my second concern, which is for the UN. For whatever reasons, it is clear that the UN does not believe war to be justified, and will not vote for it. Unlike the action in relation to Kosovo, we cannot even get a moral majority for this action. The UN imposed the sanctions, and, on this issue, the UN should decide whether war is a necessity. By taking unilateral action, the US and the UK have undermined the organisation, which saddens me greatly. Having served with the UN, I have seen the tremendous potential for good that it possesses. It is not perfect, and blame can be laid at its door over the last 12 years, but it is the best that we have got, and could do much more if we put our minds to it. At a time when the UN should come together as never before to fight global terrorism and other threats after 11 September, it is being undermined by this action. The credibility that the international community will require when dealing with rogue states and terrorist organisations will be that much harder to muster.

Since the second world war, the threat of force, deterrence and containment have been successful policies, during the cold war and when dealing with rogue states such as Libya. The broad unity that has made that possible is at risk of fracturing, and that could be a serious consequence of this action.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Baron: I will not. I must make progress or I will run out of time.

We have debated the broad legality of the action long and hard, and I accept that, if one puts several lawyers in a room, one will probably not receive only one answer. Resolution 1441, for which I voted, clearly implies that war is possible, but only if other means have been exhausted. I thought that it was passed in that spirit and, as we all know, the American ambassador to the UN was at pains to emphasise at the time that there were no hidden trigger points for war in the resolution. However, we have been told that the resolution is sufficient justification for war in its own right. If that is the case, certain questions must be answered.

Why did the US and UK try to secure a second resolution if not to provide legal cover for war? Why has Kofi Annan cast doubt over the legality of war without a second resolution? Why does a growing body of opinion, both at home and abroad, question whether resolution 1441 is sufficient justification for war? The countries that signed up to 1441 believed that it could justify war only if there were no alternatives. We all agree that Iraq has a revolting regime—there can be little doubt about that—but that is insufficient justification to go to war.

Insufficient thought has been given to the consequences of the action and urgent questions must again be answered. Who and what will replace Saddam Hussein? What plans exist for humanitarian relief? We know little about that. What effect will the action have on the stability of neighbouring states? My right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary has consistently asked those questions but the Government have failed to answer them, broadly speaking. Any plans have not been assisted by the fact that the USA has cited different objectives at different times: regime change, links with

18 Mar 2003 : Column 836

al-Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction and morality. We need to be clear about the objectives when taking such important decisions.

I wish to address the view expressed in some quarters that we are somehow letting our troops down by questioning our policy here and now. It is only right that we question the policy given that we are probably about to go to war. I am sure that I speak for everyone in the House when I say that we will wholeheartedly support our troops if and when they are sent to war. They deserve our fullest support and I know that they will not fail us, although we may have failed to address the issue adequately.

War now is not the right action. I have no doubt about the result of the conflict because the combined military power of the US and the UK will ensure a quick military victory. However, an easy victory does not make the war right. I am not anti-American—quite the opposite, I have great respect for America—but that is not the issue. Good friends need to point out where policy is going wrong.

The UN can only be weakened by unilateral action by certain members at a time when it clearly does not believe that action is justified, despite all the talk over the weekend in the Azores. That is why I cannot support the Government's action and I shall vote for the amendment.

5.28 pm

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch): We have just heard a courageous speech, although I am not sure how well it will go down with warlike taxi drivers from Billericay.

It is customary on these occasions to wish our forces well when they carry out the thankless task that we ask them to do in our name. In my capacity as the civilian president of 444 Squadron, Shoreditch—I proudly wear its tie today—I hope against hope that all our airmen and women, soldiers and sailors will return home safely from the war. I also hope that men, women and children in Iraq will be safe. With apologies to Churchill, I hope that this will not signal the end, or even the beginning of the end, for our Prime Minister. However, my gut instinct tells me that he will face almost insurmountable problems because of the position that he has taken. The scale of his misjudgment on this issue is enormous.

Who would have thought that the actions of a Labour Prime Minister would have given rise to the biggest demonstration in our history against his own Government? Who would have thought that his actions would give rise to the biggest parliamentary Back-Bench rebellion in modern political history? How did he manage to poison the idea of European unity? The attempts to make France the scapegoat for the miserable failure of British diplomacy have demeaned both our Foreign Secretary—I regret to say that—and our Prime Minister. Listening to some of today's debate, one would think that there is such an anti-French feeling that people have started to read the editorials in The Sun. It will be a long time before the civilised citizens of our continent forgive them.

How came it that our Prime Minister allowed a road map for peace to become a road map for war, thereby sowing deep division in the United Nations? Did he really think that the United States Government could

18 Mar 2003 : Column 837

bully and bribe all the nations of the UN to acquiesce in armed conflict? It is sad that, both as a politician and as a lawyer, the Prime Minister should have forsaken the ideal of a tolerant and liberal internationalism in favour of the frightening concept that might is right.

We are supposed to admire the Prime Minister because he is a man without doubts and one shorn of scepticism—two of the greatest qualities that the British people have. He just knows that he is right and is therefore prepared to ignore the advice of virtually all the leaders of the great religions in the world, including the Pope and our own archbishop. I find that approach rather frightening.

Worse than all that, the Prime Minister shows himself to be oblivious of and careless towards the shrewd moral judgment of the majority of the British people. No, we do not govern by opinion poll and focus groups, but in a modern democracy we need something stronger to hold on to than the slogan, "My Prime Minister, right or wrong."

In this catastrophe the Prime Minister, a self-avowed admirer of Baroness Thatcher, has ignored the principal lesson of her demise. He should know, as the rest of us do, that when arrogance turns to hubris, come-uppance is never far behind.

Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): Will my hon. Friend give way.

Mr. Sedgemore: No, I will not give way.

The public find much of the background to this war difficult to comprehend. So do I. Shortly after Saddam Hussein did use chemical weapons of mass destruction against his own people, I sought to go to Iraq with my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and a chemical weapons expert to find out just what had happened. I do not remember any of us being given any support, either by the then Government or by the then Opposition. The heroic efforts of my hon. Friend, for whom I have unstinting admiration, to help the Iraqi Kurds, were met with her dismissal by the Prime Minister on the advice of the then Labour Chief Whip . I find that appalling.

More recently, my hon. Friend has been thwarted by the Attorney-General in her attempts, as an alternative to war, to indict Saddam Hussein and his henchmen for crimes against humanity. The Attorney-General's response, as my hon. Friend told the House in withering terms, was woeful. His legal opinion, which I have seen myself, was scorned by experts.

So now it is to be war on the basis of another bad legal opinion by the Attorney-General. I have it here in my pocket. I do not want to be rude to the Attorney-General, but he is a commercial lawyer who, frankly, seems to be out of his depth when trying to deal with this problem. Let us not forget too—I apologise to my learned Friends for this—that the law is a marketplace and if one shops around, one can always get some poor soul to give the opinion that one wants.

Of course there are laws, domestic and international, and they should be adhered to, but it takes people of clarity and understanding at the top to enable systems to work fairly and properly. In my view, we lack such

18 Mar 2003 : Column 838

people at the moment. History frequently tells us that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem at the time they occur; ominously, however, it sometimes tells us that they are worse. I suspect that the latter will prove to be the case this time. In the end, politics, like most other things in life, is about trust. Sadly, I do not trust some of the people who are leading us in this issue, so they cannot rely on my support tonight.

5.35 pm

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon): That was fairly indigestible. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) indulged his usual understatement, but apparently one can safely make that sort of speech from inside the Cabinet as well as outside.

I shall pick up the point about legality and spend a few minutes examining it. Seventeen United Nations Security council resolutions and the opinion of the Attorney-General are enough for me—although apparently not for some people—and I cannot see how one more resolution can make moral something that is otherwise immoral. However, to examine the issue strictly in terms of legality, the opinion of the Attorney-General seems to me powerful and well argued. No doubt, as the hon. Gentleman said, if one got a different lawyer, one would get a different opinion. I note that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament commissioned an opinion from a QC and got an opinion that was precisely the opposite of the Attorney-General's. How surprising. There is no point in paying one of those expensive people if they are not going to say what one wants to hear.

I wish to explore the views of many of those who are rebelling against the Government over Iraq but were perfectly content with the action that the Government took in Kosovo. We did not get even one United Nations Security Council resolution for Kosovo. We relied on a doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention that almost certainly does not exist—certainly the point had to be stretched. The United States may be stretching the concept of pre-emptive self-defence if it uses that as an argument for intervening in Iraq, but at least that doctrine exists, unlike the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. What we did in Kosovo was illegal.

A great many Labour Members and some Conservative Members seem to have problems with what the Government are doing now, when there is a strong case that the action is legal, even if the case is not watertight. In Kosovo, the action was clearly illegal. There were three major debates in the House on that action, and no one voted against it, even though they could have forced votes on the Adjournment. There was nothing like the plethora of activity that we are seeing now. One cannot help wondering what prejudices this policy on Iraq has tickled.

The leader of the war party at the time of Kosovo, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), who spoke yesterday—I told him that I would refer in this debate to what he said—is now apparently the leader of the peace party. At the time, he argued strongly for the intervention in Kosovo on what I consider were powerful and compelling moral grounds. There was indeed a strong moral case for intervening, but there was

18 Mar 2003 : Column 839

not a legal case for doing so. Are we now saying that Milosevic was a bigger threat to international peace and security than Saddam Hussein, or that Milosevic was committing worse breaches of human rights than Saddam Hussein? Milosevic did not have weapons of mass destruction; Saddam Hussein almost certainly did.

Those who wrap themselves in principle and say that on this occasion they are behaving out of principle, as the right hon. Gentleman does, at least owe us consistency. If people base their views on foreign policy on principle and morality and they are inconsistent, one is entitled to ask about their sincerity. Those who will oppose the Government tonight out of their principles cannot have been acting on the same principles when they supported the Government on Kosovo.

Mr. Savidge: In the Balkans, Milosevic had started a series of wars in the recent past, and Kosovo was just one more, whereas Saddam Hussein, evil though he is, has been contained for more than a decade.

Mr. Maples: I do not want get sidetracked into the history of the Balkans, as we could be there for a very long time. All I will say is that our intervention in Kosovo was an intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Kosovo was part of Serbia. The then Foreign Secretary engineered a conference at Fontainebleau at which Milosevic was presented with a wholly unacceptable set of terms and conditions, which was then used as a pretext for starting a war. We intervened in the internal affairs of another sovereign state, without any legal basis for that action. I do not argue that there was no moral basis; there certainly was, and in that respect the intervention was successful, but nobody could argue that it was legal.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maples: No, I have taken an intervention on that point and I want to pursue my own argument.

We must understand that the world has changed since 11 September. If we do not think that it has changed for us, we must understand that it has changed for the United States. Things that were previously acceptable as nuisances or pinpricks no longer are. We must also accept that only the United States will sort out the problems. We will not do it; the French will not do it. If we and the French could talk to each other, we could not do it together. We are going to rely on the United States to do it.

The idea that our foreign policy can be carried out legally and morally only if it is the subject of a United Nations Security Council resolution is a dreadful hostage to fortune. It gives any of the five permanent members of the Security Council a veto over what we decide to do.

On my second point, I turn to what will happen or not happen tonight. I have read the amendment with more than 100 signatures against it. Presumably, rather more hon. Members will vote for it. The case could have been made until two or three weeks ago, but do those hon. Members really think that it is sensible, at this late stage in the day, to try to defeat the Government on the matter? Let us consider what the consequences would be if the Government were defeated.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 840

If, on the verge of battle, with our troops and their command structure integrated into an alliance with the United States, playing vital small parts in that military effort, they were withdrawn, that would destroy the credibility of British foreign and security policy for a generation. Just reflect what happened at Suez. It took 26 years, till the Falklands war, for the credibility of British foreign policy to be reasserted. If we withdraw—

Jeremy Corbyn: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maples: No. I am in the middle of making my main point.

If we withdrew our support for the alliance at this late stage, we would destroy the credibility of our foreign policy for a generation. We would damage immensely, if not terminally, our alliance with the United States. We would damage our relations with a great many countries in Europe that support the stance that the Government have taken, and I venture to say that we would never be trusted again while most of us are in the House, and probably long beyond.

I believe that the Prime Minister's actions will be vindicated. Even if one disagrees with what he is doing, the time has come to stop criticising and undermining him and to let him get on with the job. The best that most of the rest of us can do is hope and, dare I say, pray that the conflict will be short and that very few people will be killed.

5.42 pm

Hugh Bayley (City of York): In July last year the Prime Minister took the decision to work through the United Nations. He was the first person to call for UN weapons inspectors to be readmitted to Iraq. France was not calling for that, nor was Germany, nor was the peace movement and CND, nor was the United States, so it was a major achievement to gain unanimous support in November for resolution 1441.

I deeply regret the divisions on the Security Council that have opened up since then. Those divisions, as I said earlier, have had the effect of disarming the United Nations, rather than disarming Iraq. On 24 February France, Germany and Russia submitted a memorandum to the Security Council that stated:


    "The unity of the Security Council must be preserved."

So why the talk of a veto? Why not negotiation with other members of the Security Council? Why not compromise on a defined period for disarmament to be followed by military action, as was proposed by our Government?

I wanted to see a second resolution carried in the Security Council before UK troops were committed to military action, but unfortunately the opportunity for that debate has been taken away by the French decision to wield its veto. I do not agree with the French or German view that if we give Saddam Hussein a little more time, he will change his mind and disarm, but I respect the German position when they say that they will not participate in military action. I would respect the French position if they said the same, but I cannot accept that France, Russia or China have a right to use their veto to prevent others from enforcing UN resolutions.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 841

In the absence of the second resolution that I wanted to see, I simply ask two questions. First, has Saddam complied and disarmed? The answer is no. Secondly, does it matter? As far as I am concerned, the answer is yes. Given that we, the Americans and others have built up forces in the region, we now face only two alternatives—to commit those troops in the very near future to military enforcement of the UN resolutions or to pull them out of the theatre. If we pull them out, Iraq will immediately end what limited compliance it has shown with the UN's requirements. We cannot keep those forces on stand-by in tents in the desert and bobbing up and down in ships on Indian ocean for a further 120 days, as the French proposed. Every Member of this House knows that. Indeed, France knew that when it put forward its 120-day proposal.

I detest the prospect of war every bit as much as the many constituents who have written to me opposing it, but I do not believe that we can ignore the threat that Iraq poses to neighbouring states, the gross violation of the human rights of the Iraqi people or the risk that the Iraqi regime will at some point in future supply chemical or biological agents to terrorists who might use them in this country or elsewhere in Europe.

I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of war. There is an urgent need to ensure that responsibility for distributing food under the oil-for-food programme is transferred from the Iraqi authorities to the United Nations and that there is adequate funding to ensure that that happens, because 60 per cent. of Iraq's population depends on that food aid. We need to ensure that neighbouring countries open their borders to refugees and that refugee camps have water, sanitation and health facilities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) said, we need to ensure that the UN runs the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. Without UN leadership, many donor countries simply will not make the contributions that will be necessary to rebuild Iraq.

I am pleased that our Prime Minister has put Palestine on to the agenda. There cannot be peace in the middle east without the creation of a Palestinian state and security for the state of Israel. Members of this House cannot ignore the fact that security for the state of Israel will be impossible as long as Saddam in Iraq is providing funding and support to the families of suicide bombers.

Finally, and importantly, I pay tribute to the almost 600 men and women of 2 Signal Regiment from my city, York, who are currently on active service in the Gulf. We in this House do not face the dangers that they face and we in this country are fortunate to have brave and professional soldiers in the British Army, and our other servicemen and women. They are deeply respected for their professionalism throughout the world and my thoughts are with them now.

5.48 pm

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): Securing the approval of the United Nations has become the rallying cry for some who oppose military action in Iraq. For them, no war without a second UN resolution has actually meant no war at all in any circumstances and

18 Mar 2003 : Column 842

whatever the provocation. That evasion is deliberate. However, the United Nations cannot absolve us from exercising our own critical or moral judgment. Although UN approval is useful in garnering international support, a democratic sovereign nation state has the right to defend itself from external aggression, even if the UN or its Security Council has not given its blessing.

The judgments that we must make today are whether our country is right to go to war, and, if so, whether it is necessary to go to war now. Anyone who, like me, has voluntarily joined Her Majesty's regular armed forces is unlikely to support the "no war ever" brigade. No one who believes that a major war would probably be initiated by a nation where power was concentrated in the hands of the evil, the insane or the bigoted dictator can be in any doubt that Saddam Hussein poses a potential threat.

I have no doubt that Europe owes its freedom, and that some of its people owe their very existence, to the people and Governments of the United States. We owe that great nation a debt that too many in Europe ignore. Despite all that, I believe that the case for a war now has not been made. Too little has been done to put irresistible pressure on Saddam Hussein to effect the changes that our safety demands.

Any threat has two components: the available weapons and the likelihood of their use. In the past, the Iraqi regime has manufactured chemical, biological and probably nerve agents. They are weapons not of war but of terror, of which Saddam Hussein must undoubtedly be deprived. However, the Government have not demonstrated that they are easily available for use now. Neither have they shown that, contrary to all Saddam's previous actions, Iraq intends to threaten us with their use. I asked the Prime Minister on 12 February


    "what new threat, proven threat or imminent threat is there to justify war?"—[Official Report, 12 February 2003; Vol. 399, c. 860.]

The question remains unanswered.

We were first told that war was necessary as the Iraqi regime had a history of supporting al-Qaeda. Undoubtedly the regime has supported terrorism, and so have Syria, Iran and Libya. But al-Qaeda? Hardly. A godless, ruthless dictator with a history of oppressing his own Islamic people is inimical to such a fundamentalist terrorist organisation.

Mr. Dalyell: Of course, al-Qaeda had a connection with Saddam Hussein. On two occasions, it tried to assassinate him.

Mr. Sayeed: I thank the Father of the House for reminding hon. Members of that fact. It makes my point that Saddam Hussein is inimical to al-Qaeda.

Secondly, we were told that war was necessary because Saddam Hussein had a variety of foul weapons. When the inspectors did not find them, the Prime Minister changed his "just cause for war" again. In

18 Mar 2003 : Column 843

answer to my question on 12 February, he introduced the concept of a moral war, waged as a humanitarian intervention to save the people of Iraq.

Mr. George Osborne: Surely it was not the weapons inspectors' job to find the weapons, but Saddam Hussein's job to show them where the weapons were.

Mr. Sayeed: I agree absolutely. Saddam Hussein should have done that. I intend to show why he would never do it.

Would the people of Iraq be better off if Saddam Hussein were dead or in exile? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Does the Iraqi regime have weapons of mass destruction? It almost certainly does. They are possibly so well hidden that they would be difficult to use immediately. Has Saddam Hussein supported terrorist organisations? Again, the answer is yes, but, as far as I am aware, to a lesser extent than Syria. None of those factors justifies immediate military action.

Much more could and should have been done to bring irresistible pressure to bear on Saddam Hussein by, for example, extending the no-fly zones to cover the whole of Iraq, by requiring Iraqi military personnel and equipment to be returned to agreed positions or by demanding that the weapons inspectors had unfettered access to sites and Iraqi personnel. Such draconian measures might have received international approval, and might reluctantly have been accepted by Saddam Hussein, provided that the visible threat of war continued. They certainly would have degraded the Iraqi regime's ability to resist military action if it came. Obviously, I cannot prove that my ideas, or any others, would have worked. I believe, however, that much more could have been done, and that much more should have been done differently, so that the effect of prevarication or cheating would have been obvious. We did not do that, however. Instead, we made demands that the Iraqi regime was always unlikely to accept, and which, if it did pretend to accept them, would be easy to cheat or lie about, as its dishonesty was hard to prove.

So, we are faced with war. It is a war whose justification will not be accepted by most of the Muslim world. Too little fresh thinking has been employed in trying to avert it, and its rationale has changed as each reason has remained unproven. It is portrayed as a war of last resort, yet it appears to be born of frustration with a regime and a leader without whom the world would be better off. I will give my unswerving support to those whom we have sent to fight in our name, but I will not support a premature decision to wage war. I hope that we will not come to regret this, but I fear that we will.

5.56 pm

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly): I would like to begin by paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). When I was a Member of the European Parliament, I worked closely with him when he was shadow Foreign Secretary and Foreign Secretary, and I have a deep respect for his genuine internationalism.

Like many Members of the House, I have thought long and hard about this complex issue. I have great respect for everyone who has spoken in this debate and

18 Mar 2003 : Column 844

for the many people with whom I have had discussions on the issue over the last couple of weeks. I want to say clearly that I support the Government. I do so not out of any sycophancy or blind loyalty, but because I believe that the position that they have adopted is morally correct.

Equally, I would like to say that I am not naturally a great ally or fan of the United States of America. I remember going to Nicaragua on two occasions in the 1980s, and I saw at first hand the extremely negative aspects of the US foreign policy of the time for the people of that country. Furthermore, when I turn on the television and see George W. Bush, I frequently cringe when I hear the vacuous rhetoric that he often employs. That is not a reason, however, to oppose the US position on Iraq. It is incumbent on all of us carefully to study precisely what the American position is, and what it means in practice.

Like many Members of the House, I had strongly hoped that we would have had a second United Nations resolution. However, having studied carefully the transcripts of various statements by President Chirac of France, there is no doubt in my mind that the French are primarily responsible for the fact that we do not have such a resolution. They threatened to use their veto in a quite unreasonable way, and many of us who wanted a second resolution did so on the assumption that all parties on the Security Council would approach the issue in a constructive, objective and fair way. That clearly has not happened.

We have to ask ourselves why the French have adopted this position. Some people might cite French commercial and oil interests. We have to bear in mind, however, that the French are playing a longer and bigger game plan here. They are concerned, it would seem, with developing an alternative global vision to that of the United States. They see themselves as the new and natural leaders of the European Union. I find that perspective extremely worrying, and I think that we in our country must ensure that there is a bridge between the United States and Europe enabling us all to work together as far as is humanly possible.

We must also never forget that, time and again, Saddam Hussein has been given the opportunity to resolve the situation. The onus has rightly been placed on him. If he had said at any moment—not during the last few days or months, but at any time during the last 12 years—that he was prepared to comply with United Nations resolutions, we would not be in our present position. We should never, ever forget that.

A clear choice is before us today. Many have talked of the consequences of military action; let me briefly refer to some of the consequences that I envisage in the event of no military action. First, I believe that the UN's influence would be reduced still further. Our Prime Minister's approach has, I believe, been the right approach. We must ensure that once military action has been taken, the UN continues to play a major role in world affairs and, in particular, plays a leading role in the creation of the democratic Iraq that we want to see. If we abdicate our responsibilities, the chances of that will be significantly less. Secondly, I believe that if we vote against military action there will still be a war: there will be a war if the United States alone attacks Iraq. I think that that more than anything else would reinforce the inclination of many in the US Administration to go

18 Mar 2003 : Column 845

for unbridled unilateralism, which would constitute a huge step back for the global community. I fear, too, that the much-discussed road map would be that much more difficult to fulfil.

If the United States and we do not take action, however, Saddam Hussein will have been given the all-clear to keep his weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, he will have been given the OK by us to develop them still further. Let us not forget, too, that when we talk of weapons of mass destruction we talk of some of the most appalling weapons that humankind has developed—anthrax, mustard gas, VX gas, sarin gas and so on.

Finally, let me say this. If we do not take action—if we abdicate our responsibilities—the consequences for the people of Iraq will be dire. No one can doubt the barbarities of Saddam Hussein's regime: the torture, the persecution, the intimidation, the rape, the murder, the sheer inhumanity of the Ba'athist regime. My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) has depicted that inhumanity more graphically than anyone else I can think of. If we back down now, we will not be forgiven by thousands of ordinary people in Iraq.

Yesterday I was privileged to attend a meeting with the Prime Minister of Kurdish northern Iraq. The message was crystal clear: "Please stand by us. Please stand by the people of Iraq, the Kurds and the Shi'ites, so that we can have a better life—a life free of tyranny and free of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein".

Like all other Members, I have given this issue careful consideration. I believe that there are powerful and genuine arguments on both sides; but I also believe that at this crucial time we must stand by the people of Iraq, do what we believe is right, and support the Government's motion.

6.4 pm

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): As someone remarked earlier, there is a sense that this debate is a continuation of what we discussed at some length a few weeks ago. I dare say that we will come back to the subject in the next week or two.

Many arguments have been made and points touched on, but the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) spoke of containment and deterrence as a way of dealing with the problem. Those concepts worked well during the cold war, but the world has changed since the cold war ended. We must recognise that containment and deterrence will not work in the situation that confronts us.

In the modern world, we face danger from what are called rogue states, terrorist groups and weapons of mass destruction. As a consequence of the cold war, there is a lot of expertise and matériel floating around the world that is not as well guarded as it should be. Perhaps we did not fully appreciate the problem before 11 September, but the events of that day should have concentrated minds on the matter. In the context of this debate, the significance of 11 September is that it made people realise that a different approach was needed if we were to deal with the problems caused by WMD, terrorist movements and rogue states.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 846

That different approach was symbolised last year by the passing of resolution 1441. The international community decided to proceed by a route different from that offered by containment and deterrence, and to go back to the weapons inspections that had taken place immediately after the Gulf war. In that way, a serious effort was made to disarm Saddam Hussein.

As I noted in the previous debate on the matter, there was a paradox in the attempt to disarm Saddam Hussein through weapons inspections. The paradox was that disarmament was not going to happen unless inspection was backed up by a credible threat of force. That was how it turned out: Saddam Hussein was not going to disarm voluntarily, and any moves made in that direction would happen only if he believed that massive force would be used against him if he did not comply.

The paradox was that the peaceful, diplomatic route was credible only if a major power was ready to use force, if necessary. However, that approach was no longer tenable after Monday of last week, when the French said that they would veto a resolution whatever the circumstances.

People have talked about the position of other countries, and about the position of Russia in particular. I shall talk about Russia again in a moment, but the French took a unique position because they said that they would veto any resolution that appeared to authorise force, whatever the circumstances. The French were not going to say, "Give it another month or couple of months." If the French position had been to give the approach a little more time, it would have been possible to maintain the credible threat of force. However, as soon as the French said that they would exercise their veto whatever the circumstances, they destroyed the credible threat of force used through the UN channel.

The UN route was therefore blocked. The Government and the US Government spent a week seeing whether they could unblock it, or find some way around the blockage. I am surprised that they spent so long coming to terms with the French position, which effectively closed down the UN route.

Why have the French done this? Their actions are different from the normal French way of operating, with which we are all familiar. In the past, yes, the French have been awkward and difficult. They have hung on until people have met the requirements of what the French regard as their national interest, or until people have recognised the French position. They do not like being taken for granted, but in the past they have usually come into line.

There were indications that the Russians were going to do the same. Whatever their public position, the Russians had a shopping list. I am very glad that the Americans were not tempted to accede to the list, as the reports that I have heard suggest that it contained some pretty gruesome items. Be that as it may, the Russians were operating in their normal way, and one expected the French to do likewise. The question is, why did the French adopt the position of saying that they would exercise the veto, whatever the circumstances?

The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) was getting close to the answer to that question when he said that it went back to the French view of themselves in Europe. The hon. Gentleman said that the French

18 Mar 2003 : Column 847

believe that they should lead Europe, and that Europe should be another pole of power in the world—a challenge or a rival to the US. However, they discovered that that was not the view of the majority of European countries. That goes a long way to explain the French position and I hope that the Government will bear that in mind when we come to the accession of the eastern European countries to the European Union. I hope that that will not be subject to a veto. We should also remember that point when we consider the outcome of the Convention on the Future of Europe.

For present purposes, we must recognise that the UN route ended on Monday last week. What do we do now? We are not where we wanted to be and the situation is not ideal, but we must operate in the circumstances that now prevail. Are we just going to strike camp and go away? Will the United States allow itself to be humiliated by the French? No, it will not, and nor could anyone reasonably expect that. Nor would it be reasonable to think along those lines ourselves. If resolution 1441 is right, ensuring compliance with it is also right. The French action, therefore, is an unreasonable exercise of the veto.

The Prime Minister made a powerful and compelling speech. I agreed especially with the comments that he made towards the end of it. We must make a choice in the present circumstances. We must consider the consequences of that choice, some of which are unknowable and unpredictable. There is an element of risk in the choice that we make, but we must make it. The situation is imperfect—this is an imperfect world—and the issue cannot be easily compartmentalised. In the present situation, however, we do not have much of a choice and that is why my colleagues and I will support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

6.11 pm

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), because, as leader of his party, alongside the other party leaders in Northern Ireland, he has shown the way in going the extra mile when the point is reached at which they are as frustrated with the peace process as any Member of Parliament is with the present international impasse. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from that.

The imagery of the past few weeks has included some disturbing contrasts. We have seen 1.5 million people on the streets of London—one of the biggest demonstrations ever. We have seen the images of the Iraqis sending old al-Samoud missiles off to the knacker's yard and the awesome sight of an army of modern weaponry on the border of Iraq, prepared to invade and occupy a small but strategic and historic country in the middle east. There is always something distasteful and unpleasant about overweening might being used in war against a much smaller nation. It is the imagery of David and Goliath, the bully in the playground, the Soviet invasion of Hungary or the tanks rolling into Czechoslovakia, the bombing of La Moneda palace in Chile in 1973 and, indeed, the despotic acts of Saddam Hussein in oppressing minorities in Iraq.

I disagreed with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister today when he compared this situation with that in 1938. In that situation, we faced a country that

18 Mar 2003 : Column 848

itself was using overweening force to impose its will on other smaller countries. It was right to challenge the US Administration and go through the UN last autumn, but it became apparent that that approach could be interpreted in two ways. The danger was that the US would see the UN approach as a vindication of something that it always intended to do and would pay only lip service to resolution 1441. On the other hand, resolution 1441 could be seen as the consensus between those nations—I count Britain among them—that genuinely felt that it offered the potential of disarmament without military action.

The effectiveness of the peaceful approach was undermined every time that we saw Donald Rumsfeld or other members of the US Administration on television saying, "We will take military action to enforce our will in Iraq, but we would prefer a UN resolution." It was undermined every time that Britain failed to offer a strong rebuttal of such statements or to demand publicly that the US should declare that it was prepared not to use military force if that was the consensus reached in the UN. It was undermined whenever Members of Parliament said that the UN mandate would not prevail and that nothing would stop the US. It was undermined when the President of France, Jacques Chirac, threatened recently to veto rather than negotiate the terms of a second resolution, which we all wanted desperately to see negotiated in the Security Council.

Resolution 1441 required that the Security Council consider the outcome of the weapons inspections and it clearly left the UN in control of whether action was taken. Our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary understood that very well, and I applaud their efforts. The collective view has not been secured, however, and that imposes constraints on everyone, whether they comply or not. As matters stand, we are no longer in compliance with the international will and Kofi Annan has not lent his authority to military action.

When I was in Africa last week I was struck by the shock and incredulity of people in the small country of Malawi at the British position. They said, "But we thought that Britain was on our side. We thought that you would support small, developing countries that have only international bodies to protect them." Only six months ago, a large group of young constituents came here on the fair trade lobby, feeling totally in tune with a Government who had a proud record of tough international action on the issue. That has been a hallmark of this Labour Government and we have been in tune with the new generation, reflecting their growing recognition that the world is now a smaller place and that we are now more dependent than ever on a collective approach not only to security, but to the joint occupation of this planet.

Two weeks ago, I supported the amendment that considered that war was not yet inevitable. The decision and judgment for MPs is more difficult today, because further efforts have been made and there is a serious question about where we should go from here. First, we are all united in supporting the troops. Secondly, we hope that the new smart bombs that are supposed to be able to destroy everything within 600 yd will try not to destroy too many people. Thirdly, we hope that the excellent section of the Government motion—if it is passed tonight—on Israel and Palestine will be realised.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 849

I remain sceptical about any war that is said to end wars; I remain sceptical that this war will secure defence against international terrorism; and I remain sceptical, finally, that this will reap—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Lady has had her time.

6.20 pm

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): Our difficulties in this debate are as nothing to those that confront our armed forces, who deserve our unqualified support. It has been a principled decision of my party to uphold international order and institutions—in particular, the United Nations. We have consistently argued, first, that military action should not take place to enforce resolution 1441 without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, and, secondly, that no British forces should be committed to any military action without a debate in the House and a substantive vote in favour. I personally have engrafted a further condition to my constituents—I would in no circumstances do anything that I consider would undermine our armed forces.

I am grateful to the Government for—uniquely, I believe—providing an opportunity for this debate and vote. The whole country is well aware of the lengths to which the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and his team have gone to secure the further resolution from the United Nations to authorise military action. There has, however, been a failure of diplomacy. Considerable criticism has been directed at the United States Administration for adopting a bulldozer approach and displaying a cavalier insensitivity towards a number of our allies and a number of their potential, and crucial, allies. However, I support our strong links with the United States. Despite one or two hiccups, for the past century our close links with the United States have served both countries well.

The position of France has always been pivotal to the negotiations on a further resolution of the United Nations. It is deeply disappointing that France's final position was that, whatever further resolution was passed, it would veto any measure that provided authority for the use of military force in the event of failure. France's position was pivotal: if she had been prepared to vote for a resolution, not to vote at all, or not to veto a resolution, I believe that it would have caused a domino effect and that the resolution would have passed. Whatever criticisms can be directed at the allies, France does not come to this matter with clean hands. France has her own view of the world and the French have major contingent contracts and commercial interests with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The Prime Minister has not spared himself in endeavouring to secure a second resolution, which demonstrates the importance that he and his Government attach to that second resolution. It would have been crucial to my party's support for any military intervention. The courageous men and women of our

18 Mar 2003 : Column 850

armed forces are now about to be sent into battle. They simply cannot be kept hanging around any longer. I offer them my wholehearted support. In the terms of the main amendment, I express my


    "admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty".

I not only hope but believe that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides.

I cannot vote against a motion that offers support to Her Majesty's armed forces who are now on duty in the middle east. Of course, there are matters in the Government motion with which I do not agree and which I cannot support. Nevertheless, there is much in the Government motion with which I do agree and which I can support. I shall, however, vote for the main amendment. I concede that it took the imminent threat of overwhelming force, but the weapons inspectors were having significant success. I strongly believe in world order, the reverse of which is anarchy and chaos.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): The hon. Gentleman was following impeccable logic until the last moment. If his preferred amendment is defeated, will he—given what he has just said—vote in favour of the main motion?

Mr. Burnett: I will make my position quite clear. I shall probably have to abstain. There are aspects of the Government motion that I support and aspects that I cannot support.

Pre-emptive action must be reserved to deal with the threat of an attack on a nation or its allies, or there must be compelling evidence of imminent, impending attack, or there must be the sanction of the United Nations Security Council. There has been a diplomatic failure, which I deeply regret. However, for all its flaws, I believe in the United Nations and the rule of international law.

In his speech, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) described the decision on this amendment as finely balanced. I very much agree with him. He went on to say that this debate was a battle for the credibility or the unity of the United Nations. I submit that the United Nations cannot be credible without unity.

6.27 pm

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): There is an old and famous observation about the relationship between murder and international power politics: if someone murders one person, they go to prison for life; if someone murders 15 people, they are put in a sanatorium; and if someone murders 150,000 people, they get invited to a peace conference. Those words were much in my mind yesterday when I listened to the Foreign Secretary talking about the prospect of Saddam Hussein resigning power voluntarily. The Foreign Secretary said that Saddam Hussein would be offered and would receive amnesty and indemnity internationally for the crimes that he had committed.

In these debates in the House, there has been no shortage of people who have set out in graphic detail the crimes and the iniquities that Saddam Hussein has committed against his own and other people; the individual and collective tortures that he has visited on those people; and the gassing, the burning and the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 851

mutilations for which he has been responsible. If that indemnity is to take place, those who have suffered those injustices will have no justice.

Whether there is a greater right or greater wrong in offering such indemnity is not the reason behind my observations, but I wish to reflect on these questions. By whose authority is that indemnity offered? Whose writ runs here and whose may be abrogated? On what authority would that be done? Who decides which mass murderers should be the subject of indemnity and pardon, and which should be the subject of indictment? Who decides which mass murderers should be the subject of condemnation and which should be hanged? Who decides that Milosevic should be in The Hague, as he undoubtedly should be for his complicity in the murder of thousands in Bosnia? Who decides that Ariel Sharon should be supreme in Israel, which he undoubtedly should not be because of his complicity in the murders at Sabra and Shatila? Who decides that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, which it undoubtedly is, and that the Contras were a freedom-fighting organisation, which they undoubtedly were not? Who decides that the hundreds who are held without trial or civil rights in Zimbabwe present an affront to international justice? Who decides that it is necessary for international security to hold hundreds in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo bay in Cuba, which undoubtedly it is not?

Who decides on the form of international justice that the Foreign Secretary talked about? The Foreign Secretary, of course, was echoing and acting as a mouthpiece for Donald Rumsfeld, who has already set it out.

I can say straight away that it is not the UN that decides such matters. When one reads resolution 1441, one finds, despite its inordinate length and impenetrable prose, absolutely nothing that speaks of any form of clemency for, or acquittal of, Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Alan Duncan: In practical terms, is not the logic of what the hon. and learned Gentleman advocates that he rejects a free Saddam and a free Iraq, and favours, by contrast, a free Saddam and a subjugated Iraq?

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: That is not the position that I advocate, as the hon. Gentleman will realise if he listens for a while. My point is this: who creates this form of international justice? I am not arguing about its merits, but pointing out that the perception that concerns this House and creates aversion outside it is that this international power is wielded not by the United Nations, nor even by the United States, but by the Bush Administration from within the United States. What concerns my constituents and those throughout the country and the world is the prospect of the uncontrolled, unbridled power now exercised by America, as America chooses and America pleases. My constituents perceive, although they would not put in these terms, that we now have a de facto international monarchy—an autocracy that rules by its own version of divine right. The genesis of that divine right can be found in its charter—the project for a new American century.

Much has been said today about America. As I have said before, America is the greatest paradox in the world. There is no greater force for peace in my lifetime

18 Mar 2003 : Column 852

than America, and I have never known a greater cause for war. No country holds a torch for freedom that burns as brightly as that of America, and in my lifetime no country has so often been vilified—on many occasions, rightly—for the perception that it denies those freedoms to others, as it has on many occasions, notably in Latin America. That is the great paradox.

What matters about America is who governs it and what is done in its name. We are now in a black period of American history, and that fact is perceived darkly by our constituents. That is why, sometimes apparently incomprehensibly, they oppose the overthrowing of a dictator because they believe that the method is unacceptable.

The American Administration wish to overthrow Saddam Hussein. That was set out in the project for a new American century even before George Bush obtained the power that he has in the White House. They will do it by whatever means that they can, and that is also known to those who observe, but they will not do it by war: it will be done by slaughter. It will be done by the means that we saw exercised on the Basra road and the Mitla ridge, when Newsweek reported that American soldiers, white-faced and vomiting, were standing underneath bridges ankle-deep in Iraqi blood and saying, "Jesus, did we do that?" That is the prospect that we face in the coming days. Of course it will be short: no such slaughter could be anything else.

I long—I really do—for a time when we have an international system that means that we no longer have to walk by and listen to the screams in our neighbour's house, and when the duty to intervene in Rwanda and in Bosnia will be undertaken by the international community, not taken by anybody as a capricious right. That day, which I long for both as a lawyer and as a politician, will not be brought a second, a minute or an hour closer by the exercise of arbitrary and capricious power.

6.35 pm

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): So many hon. Members wish to speak—I have never known a previous occasion on which there have been so many at this stage—that I shall speak very briefly just to mention three points that I hope Ministers will bear in mind when they wind up.

The main point that hon. Members have addressed is the appalling weapons controlled by Saddam Hussein and the terrible damage that they could do to so many people. I hope that before we vote, the Government will help to clarify where those weapons and biological materials came from. I have tried for quite a while to get information about that. About three weeks ago, in Question Time, I asked the Secretary of State for Defence to confirm where they came from and whether they had perhaps come from America. We were told that the Americans had denied it. Earlier today, when I intervened on the speech of the Prime Minister, I asked him to help to identify where the weapons had come from and who was responsible for them. Hon. Members may recall that he said that Iraq had made most of them itself.

I would suggest that there is abundantly clear evidence that, instead of taking a high-handed and upmarket view of ourselves, we should accept a

18 Mar 2003 : Column 853

considerable measure of the responsibility for what has happened. Now that our sittings finish at 7 o'clock, I am engaging in reading books, which is something that I have not done for a long time. If any hon. Member wants to know about the subject, they should buy a book called "The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq", by Kenneth Timmerman. It is a rather dramatic book that gives full details of where all the materials came from, and we simply have to accept some responsibility for that.

What kinds of materials are we talking about? I have managed to get full details not only of the materials that were sent, but when they were sent—on which days—from the United States to Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission and Government. It is an astonishing list. It includes bacillus anthracis, which is just anthrax—a very substantial amount; clostridium, which is the source of a toxin; histoplasma, which causes a disease resembling tuberculosis; brucella, which damages major organs; another material that causes gas gangrene; E. coli; and seven others. Those materials were not produced by Iraq, but provided and sold by the western powers. We should show a little humility and decency, and say that part of the problem came from ourselves.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Will my hon. Friend explain whether the book and the documents that he has been reading actually say whether Governments or private companies supplied those things and, if it was the former, for what purpose they thought that they were supplying them?

Sir Teddy Taylor: It is abundantly clear that the US Department of Commerce approved every single thing that went from the United States to Iraq. It was not a question of secret firms doing nasty things; this was approved by Government. It is difficult to prove that one wants to use a material such as anthrax to help in the improvement of animals, or to achieve better forms of production.

Mr. Calum MacDonald (Western Isles): I, too, have read the book that the hon. Gentleman mentions, as well as documents issued by the House of Commons Library detailing arms exports to Iraq before the previous Gulf war. Will he confirm that 75 per cent. of all conventional weaponry exported to Iraq before the Gulf war came from two states, France and Russia; that 90 per cent. of the nuclear weapons technology given to Iraq came, of course, from France, in a deal signed personally by Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein; and that the overwhelming bulk of chemical technology came from Germany?

Sir Teddy Taylor: I would not question that in any way—of course Germany and France provided materials, and the Soviet Union and the United States did so as well. I am simply saying that, in arguing that here is a bad state doing evil things, we should remember that lots of other countries—including the United States, Russia and France—were involved in providing such material. It would be very wrong indeed not to accept some degree of responsibility.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 854

My second point concerns our responsibilities in international law. The Government's biological Green Paper states that there was an "internationally legally binding instrument", and that


    "those at every level responsible for any breach of international law will be held personally accountable."

That refers to the export of biological and toxic materials. The danger is that we are throwing away a great deal, and that, to some degree, we might be responsible for such matters. It is totally wrong to say that some people in the world are good and some are bad, because we have a great deal of responsibility for them.

There is a great feeling among us that we are going to intervene, improve matters and restore democracy, freedom and liberty, but where is the evidence that such intervention has been successful in the past? For example, a great deal has been said about Afghanistan, a country that I know a little about, but can we say that things there are much better as a result of the intervention that took place? Rather, it is a pathetic country, run by a group of people who have no democratic responsibility whatever.

Mike Gapes: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Teddy Taylor: I am sorry, but I have no time. As we well know, the production of materials that run rife in that country—drugs—has increased dramatically. There is a danger in thinking that we can solve things too easily and too quickly.

I accept that we have a responsibility towards British troops, and that Saddam Hussein would probably have made no move at all had the troops not been there. However, as I said, there is a danger in not accepting our responsibility. The United Nations has a very important role to play, but we must ask ourselves honestly whether we are using that facility in the proper way. For example, the Government of Chile—an unusual little country—proposed that three weeks be allowed before intervention. Of course, they were told that that was not even a consideration.

At the end of the day, we will regret it if we destroy the United Nations. I shall in no sense go against France, as some of my colleagues have done. They have voted to hand over most of our national sovereignty to such countries, and they seem now to regard France as a great enemy. I regard no country in that way. We need to show a little humility, and not think that we can provide the answer to everything by running the world and becoming the emperors of it. If we can show such humility, this will be a better debate, and there will be a better outcome for all concerned.

6.44 pm

Peter Bradley (The Wrekin): During the past six months, I have listened to my friends, to colleagues in my constituency party, to constituents, and to colleagues in this House today and during previous debates. Like every other Member, I have agonised over whether I could be party to a decision that will result in the death of innocent people, because that, inevitably, is what war involves. I hoped that we would not reach this day, that reason would somehow prevail, and that Saddam would come to order. However, the day has come, and we have to make a decision.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 855

For us tonight, there is nowhere to hide. We will have to be honest with our constituents and, first of all, we have to be honest with ourselves. That is infinitely difficult if we cannot be certain that the decision that we take, individually or collectively, will be right; and it is all the more difficult when there is no unanimity on which is the right course.

I believe in just wars. I believe that they are commissioned in defence of freedom, and against oppression. I also believe that, for them to be just wars, they must be the last resort. Diplomacy must come first, but if we are ultimately to prevail in defence of what we believe to be right, there must also be a limit to diplomacy.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): Is it not much easier to decide what constitutes a just war a long time after the event, and much more difficult to make that assessment at the time one decides to go to war?

Peter Bradley: My hon. Friend makes precisely the point that I was trying to make, but far more eloquently. We do not have the gift of hindsight, and we will not have it for many years. Nevertheless, tonight we must make a principled and rational decision.

Like other Members, I believe in the United Nations, for all its imperfections and deficiencies, and for all its sins and omissions. It is the best hope that we have, and it provides the best opportunity to build international consensus, and to impose and sustain a world order that believes in the same principles that we hold dear. I wish that the United Nations had been more consistent, and that we, too, had been more consistent. When we intervened in Kosovo without a UN mandate, I said that I hoped that this was the beginning of a new world order. I hoped that we would be emboldened to intervene, when required, before genocide was committed in Rwanda, rather than wringing our hands afterwards. Had we been more consistent, perhaps we would be facing less difficulty now over the legitimacy of intervening in Iraq. If we do intervene, as seems inevitable, I hope that we will in future take to heart the lessons about consistency, and that we will be prepared, together as an international community, to intervene to prevent genocide and oppression, and to deter dictators.

For the past six months, I have characterised my views on Iraq as being open-minded but sceptical: that I could be persuaded that this would be a just war, but that I had yet to be so persuaded. I was looking for the killer fact. We all acknowledge that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and we know that he has used them brutally against his own people and against others. However, we, too, have weapons of mass destruction. The key point is: is he prepared to use them again? If he is—if we have that intelligence—the case for war is unanswerable. However, we have not had that killer fact.

In listening to the debate that took place in this Chamber three weeks ago, I had sympathy with the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). He said that the case had not been made. He and his colleagues argued that we needed a second UN resolution desperately—in fact, it would have been the 18th resolution—because wars are always evil, and innocent people get killed in wars. They argued that without a

18 Mar 2003 : Column 856

second resolution, we would light the blue touch paper to a conflagration in the middle east and recruit people to terrorism, but that if we got that resolution and Saddam still failed to come to order, undertaking military intervention would be justified. However, would innocent people still not die in those circumstances? Would we still not risk a conflagration in the middle east? Would we still not recruit people to terrorist causes? Wars do that, with or without resolutions.

I say to my colleagues that convictions are not enough; we also need courage and clear-sightedness to see the world not as we would like to see it, but as it is—as Saddam has made it. For 30 years he has oppressed his people and butchered Iraqi minorities; he has invaded his neighbours and threatened us all with weapons of mass destruction and for 30 years, yes, we have tolerated it. Some western nations supplied and fuelled his ambitions and his barbarity. We should indeed be humble, as the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor) suggested, but that does not mean that we should do nothing.

Last November, it appeared that the United Nations had woken up to its responsibilities. There was unanimous support for resolution 1441, which spoke of final opportunities and serious consequences. Four months later, when Saddam has failed to comply with that resolution, the international community has shown that it is not serious about "serious consequences".

I was prepared to support the drive for a second resolution, not because I felt that we needed its legitimacy, but because the decision before us would have been much more straightforward if the international community had been united and also because public opinion demanded it. However, as colleagues have suggested, the French put that diplomacy beyond reach; their President foreclosed on diplomacy.

A stark choice faces us: we can walk away from our international responsibilities and our obligations to the Iraqis and cede victory to Saddam and to every fascist dictator who chooses to emulate him; we can decide not to decide; or we can take the decision that no one who loves peace chooses to make or ever thought that they would have to make—to fulfil our obligations and go to war to secure peace.

Do those who say no to war in their name want Saddam to continue his barbarity in their name? Are we to abandon his victims in their name? Just as they warn us of the consequences of the war that we may commit, it is right to warn them of the consequences of inaction. I share the misgivings expressed by right hon. and hon. Members about United States policy and about US contempt for the UN, which is in stark contrast to the commitment and consistent principles that we have adopted in pursuit of diplomacy; but if might is not always right, being strong is not always wrong either. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that the US is the only global superpower. We can either try to influence it within the international community or abandon the world to its often cynical self-interest.

Now is decision time. If we are to set aside our prejudices and accept that doing nothing is not an option, if we accept that diplomacy is at an end and that Saddam continues to defy and threaten us, what is the alternative

18 Mar 2003 : Column 857

to war? It is not the Prime Minister's war. It is not the American President's war—it is Saddam's war. We must join it and end it as soon as possible.

6.53 pm

Mr. Richard Page (South-West Hertfordshire): I am no peacenik. I supported action in the Falklands and the Gulf. I supported the Prime Minister's excursions in Kosovo. When the Serbian army withdrew, its condition was such that I was glad that Milosevic had decided not to fight. If he had, the outcome could have been much more bloody and horrific.

If there is a war, I, like everyone in the House, will give our troops full support. The Iraqi regime is rotten and the war could be short, so we shall be in the reconstruction and rebuilding phase quicker than we might anticipate. I wonder whether the Government have spent enough time looking at reconstruction, rather than knocking things down.

I made it clear that unless there was a second resolution I would not support the Government. I shall vote for the amendment, but I shall do so with reluctance and regret; in 26 years as a Member of the House, this will only be the second or third time that I have voted against my party.

There are additional reasons for my views. The proposed action will crack unity—if it has not cracked already—in NATO, the EU, the Security Council and the United Nations. I am not saying that Humpty Dumpty can never be put together again, but it will take a long, long time. I take no pride in hearing clever-clever remarks knocking other countries, because sooner or later we shall have to get together and rebuild things. We shall have to bring about international agreement on the way forward. Smart remarks against the French and remarks such as those made by the American Secretary of State are not helpful and I greatly regret that they were made.

The Government produced various arguments that were apparently the best thing to do at the time, which seems to be part of their policy. They have proposed the morality argument. I go along with that. Saddam Hussein is an evil man. I am one of the few Members who have actually met him. If he were to be found dead tomorrow, I would not lose sleep. But where do we stop? It is Saddam Hussein today because he is an evil, wicked man, but who will it be tomorrow? I would have more respect for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary if they had condemned what was happening in Rwanda at the time and said that we should put forces into that country to stop the terrible genocide. The standard punishment for young girls at that time was to take off their hands at the wrist.

Where will the moral argument take us? I am concerned that the Americans will become the international peacekeepers; they will be Matt Dillon while we are Chester, limping along behind. We must think carefully when we take the path of ending tyrannical regimes.

To try to bolster their case, the Government produced documentation, rightly described as dodgy documents. To lift vast chunks of a person's work, which was already several years old, lard it with words such as "terrorism" and try to pass it off as one's own work is less than satisfactory.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 858

Another argument is that Saddam attacked other countries. He fought Iran and Kuwait. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor) pointed out, several western countries do not have entirely clean hands in that matter; we seem to pick and choose our support or condemnation of various people. The world should be careful about providing equipment and weapons of mass destruction to people of the ilk of Saddam Hussein.

We are told that Saddam Hussein still has weapons of mass destruction, but what will happen if we do not find them when we go in? If I were Saddam Hussein, I would have got rid of them long ago. We could be creating justification for every extremist Islamic group in the world to declare open season on the United Kingdom and the United States.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Page: I should rather not. The magic hour of 7 o'clock is approaching and I should like to finish my speech by then.

I want to look ahead to the rebuilding. I am greatly concerned that we have not spent enough time considering how to rebuild Iraq. Have the Government thought the process through? What exactly will we put in place? I have heard about territorial protection and the maintenance of borders, but has anyone talked to the Kurds of northern Iraq about that? [Hon. Members: "Yes."] Has anyone spoken to those in the east of Turkey? Have they signed up to all this?

In conclusion, I have to say that, without world support, I fear that our well-established moral integrity and authority throughout the world will be damaged and that Islamic extremists will take advantage of that if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq.

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),


    That, at this day's sitting, the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister relating to Iraq may be proceeded with, though opposed, until Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Jim Murphy.]

Question agreed to.

Iraq

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

7 pm

Caroline Flint (Don Valley): If the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) wants to believe anything, let him read the reports of the inspectors themselves and Hans Blix. I certainly know without any doubt that, whatever measures of progress the inspectors may think they have achieved since resolution 1441 was passed, their reports indicate that there are a lot of unanswered questions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that weapons are unaccounted for and that they are seeking to find chemical and biological agents. There is no doubt that there is cause for concern.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 859

Saddam Hussein's track record over the past 12 years shows that, time and again, when he has assured the UN and the world that weapons are not there, he has been found out, and the most telling time was when his own son-in-law gave information to that effect and, as we know, he lost his life as a result.

I personally have always believed that, sooner or later, we would have to come back to the issue of Iraq and the UN resolutions, having been a Parliamentary Private Secretary for two years to a Foreign Office Minister who had that as part of his brief and having sat in the Chamber listening to the debates on sanctions policy and whether the containment policy was working. Some of my colleagues who are against the Government this evening were also against the sanctions policy, as well as the containment policy. Despite the best efforts, we have seen that progress was not being made.

I well remember that the whole issue of sanctions and containment was argued and debated during Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions and in Adjournment and other debates in the House before we broke for the summer recess in 2001. Then we had the disaster of the twin towers and 11 September. That changed the world's views, and it made people look back and consider how to move forward. Of course we had the situation in Afghanistan to deal with. During all that time, my personal thoughts were that that was the immediate issue to deal with, but we would have to come back to Iraq sooner or later.

Why? We would have to come back to Iraq because 17 UN resolutions legally require Saddam Hussein and Iraq to disarm. If we are to challenge and deal with the many different factors that create the very insecure world that we live in—whether organised terrorism, or those who are tyrannical in their repression of their own people and a danger to their neighbours and who have the ability not only to procure weapons of mass destruction, but to develop them and sell them on—we have to have a fresh look at our approach to all those matters. We were therefore bound to come back to the issue of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

People in my constituency and party members have made their representations to me about the issue. I understand that they sincerely believe that war should not be an option, but sometimes war is needed to secure the peace, and I believe that we are at that stage today. I am mindful of acknowledging those hon. Members and other people who sincerely hold views that are against the Government's strategy, but I have also received letters, e-mails and phone calls from constituents and party members who support the Government, the Prime Minister and myself in voting for the Government this evening.

Those who believe, as I do, in force as a last resort, to be used to achieve the greater good are no less principled than those who do not believe that we should vote in favour of that tonight. I certainly do not believe that I have a monopoly on truth or wisdom or necessarily the moral high ground above anyone else. All hon. Members and many people outside have to look at the information and make a judgment call on what they think is the right thing to do.

We have choices to face about Iraq. Those choices are undeniably hard, but we have to make them because the evidence of weapons of mass destruction is there, the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 860

questions are unanswered and the reality is that, if Saddam Hussein had the will to co-operate and the attitude to take part in realistic disarmament, we would have seen evidence of that by now. There is no way that we can continue to make excuses for that lack of co-operation.

I also believe very strongly that only by tackling the issue of weapons of mass destruction can we seek to tackle Saddam Hussein's repression of his own people in his country. I first came into contact with the politics of the Ba'athist party as a student in the early 1980s, when Ba'athist agents in this country were trying to hound and track down exiled Iraqi students, find their names and addresses and put at risk their families back in Iraq. I have known about that for the past 20 years. In the past week, the reality of life for people in Iraq today has been brought to my attention because of the efforts made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd).

When the northern Iraqi Prime Minister Barham Salih was asked about war and violence, he said that this was not an issue of war or no war. All 22 million people in Iraq live every day in fear of violence and an internal war against them, and we cannot walk away from that. We have the opportunity not only to deal with weapons of mass destructions and to make sure that resolutions that have been passed time and again are finally enforced but to do the right thing by the Kurds in the north, the Shi'a Arabs in the south and the Iraqi people who are opposed by that regime, and I say that as a democratic socialist.

Lynne Jones: I refer back to my hon. Friend's comments about Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, whose testimony has often been cited to aid the case for war, but in the transcript of the evidence that he gave, which has not been publicised, he is alleged to have said that Saddam Hussein destroyed all his stocks of chemical and biological weapons before 1993.

Caroline Flint: I know whom I would give the benefit of the doubt to—it certainly would not be Saddam Hussein. It is interesting to note from reports this week that Saddam Hussein's regime executed Khalis Muhsin al-Tikriti, an engineer who supervised the burial of chemical weapons in the days before the inspectors arrived last November. Indeed, there are now reports that members of Saddam's special security organisation who took part in hiding weapons have already been killed by the regime for fear that they may disclose their whereabouts to the UN.

We are not dealing with someone who can be trusted. We are dealing with someone who has a track record of betraying his own people and lying to the international community. Take our Prime Minister's track record of doubling international aid, fighting repression in Kosovo and supporting people in Sierra Leone. If I were in a room with Saddam Hussein or Tony Blair, it is Saddam Hussein—[Interruption.] It is the Prime Minister I would back.

7.9 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I was going to say, "How can I follow that?"

Underneath the debate lies the burning question of the power of the sword and where it is vested. I happen to believe that it is an ordinance of God given to

18 Mar 2003 : Column 861

mankind, and we have a responsibility to exercise the same. The scriptures make it clear: it is vested in proper authority. I believe that the proper authority for this debate is this House, and I welcome the fact that this debate is taking place. Today, the House has redeemed itself before the whole nation: this is the place where the issue should be settled and decided on. It will strengthen Parliament. I welcome the fact that the Government decided to have this debate and to keep their promise that the debate would take place. It is healthy to have this debate. I prefer this House to make the decision and not the UN. This House should say to the British servicemen whether they are to go to war or not, and not someone else who does not know the ins and outs of the situation.

I trust that, tonight, when the debate ends and the votes are taken, a message will go out from us all to our servicemen, who are already prepared for battle in the Gulf, that we will be backing them all the way as they do the task that we have appointed them to do. The main town in my constituency is Ballymena, which is the headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment. The Royal Irish Regiment is in the Gulf at present, and members of the Irish Guards are there, as well as many people from Northern Ireland who are in various other regiments of the Army. All of us tonight are thinking of them, and not only of them, but of their wives and families. We sit here and have our debate in relative comfort, but they do not know what the day will bring forth. After we have had this debate, and after the voting is over, I would like to think that there will be a clear message: no matter what opinions have been expressed, the House will back those men, as they do the task to which we have appointed them. My prayers are with them and with their families, which I am sure that all can echo.

The Prime Minister stated at the beginning of the debate that some things cannot stop a tyrant. That is very true. Diplomacy cannot stop a tyrant. We can try to buy off terrorists, but they will not be bought off. As Churchill said, if we appease them they will come back for more: it only feeds their appetite. We need to remember that. When we are dealing with a tyrant, as we are doing in this instance, we are dealing with someone who has no conscience, no law and no faith: he cares only for himself. We have seen the sorrows, troubles and calamity that he has brought to his country: the woes of the people, the cries of the people and the broken homes and families. When talking to exiles here, they tremble when they are asked to discuss Saddam and where they were brought up: the fear is on them. We should ensure that that is dealt with. It should have been dealt with long ago.

None of us in the House tonight are responsible for what previous Governments sold to Iraq. We had nothing to do with that. People cannot come back and say, "Your own Government did this." It was not done with our votes. I am sure that many of us were not even in the House when some of those things took place. We had no responsibility for what happened. It was wrong: the Government should not have had such a relationship with Saddam; we should have had nothing to do with him, but it happened. That should not tie our hands tonight, however. We need to face up to one thing only: if he is not dealt with now, he will never be dealt

18 Mar 2003 : Column 862

with. Things have gone too far. The troops are in the Gulf, and if they were withdrawn, he would have a great victory. That victory would spread, and others would be encouraged to follow in his wake. Let us not bluff ourselves about that.

The die is cast. It is imperative that this matter goes forward. It is imperative that we do our best to ensure that the bloodshed is not as grievous as it might be, but that is a very difficult task. We are going into a country where the dictator and his four generals will, it seems, fight to the end. If they are going to fight to the end, they will not mind whom they destroy. They will not mind the havoc that is left. If some country has already made an arrangement to take them in, as may be the case, of course, I totally disagree with any suggestion that any Government in the world should make a deal with them and say that they will never be brought up for the crimes that they have committed. They should all be in the dock, and they should all be tried for their crimes against the people.

I regret that the Prime Minister is not in the House to hear this, but I have said it to his face, to which I am sure that he will be glad to testify: it is a shame that the Government do not take the same view in relation to the terrorist situation in our country. I do not think that there is any difference between an IRA-Sinn Feiner who has killed, maimed and taken a screwdriver and driven it through a man's eye and the type of character that we are discussing tonight. I am sad at heart that in Northern Ireland we have reaped the dark harvest of attempting to appease terrorism. Where has it got us? With our so-called peace process and all our agreements, the Assembly has had to stop four times—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his time.

7.17 pm

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley): I wonder whether we would be having this debate if Iraq had no oil wells. American companies will be running the oil wells once the war is over—if it happens, and I am sure that it will—and a trust will be set up that will be given money for the Iraqi people. If we look at the evidence in America, at its companies, and at President Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, we see that every one of them has been a board member if not a chairman of an oil company in America. The evidence also shows clearly that the biggest contributors to President Bush's election campaign were oil companies.

If one puts all that together, one begins to wonder: is it a question of oil? We have been told by the Prime Minister and by many others that that is certainly not so. As the Prime Minister said a few weeks ago, if it were, we could cut a deal with Saddam Hussein. But I am not sure. I think that when the Chilean President suggested a resolution asking for another three weeks, and the Americans did not want it, the Americans had the war all set up. I know that I am being anti-American, but other Members have had a good bash at the French this evening, and I am going to have a go at the Americans. I wonder whether it is all for the oil. I am sure that, by this time next year, it will have been proved that oil was

18 Mar 2003 : Column 863

the issue. I honestly believe that we would not be discussing the motion and the resolutions were there no oil in Iraq.

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the often heard argument that America intends to take all the oil for itself is simplistic and wrong? The real argument is that by ensuring a continuous supply from a compliant country, America can keep the price of oil down. That is where its interest lies.

Mr. Campbell: The two ideas go together and the hon. Gentleman takes us deeper into the argument, but I look at the problem from the perspective of an ordinary Member of Parliament, and that is the way I see it. The Americans never wanted a diplomatic or peaceful solution. They wanted to go ahead with their plan and did not give the inspectors enough time to find the arms and the so-called weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. George Osborne: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell: No, I have just given way and want to get on.

What are weapons of mass destruction? They include, of course, chemical weapons because they can kill a lot of people, but so can nuclear weapons. So let us consider who has nuclear weapons in the middle east? Iran might have a nuclear capability, but we are not sure, in the same way as we are not sure that Saddam Hussein has such a capability. Pakistan, India and Israel have nuclear weapons. Pakistan is a dictatorship with a general in charge. The country is unstable and there could be an uprising at any time. That is why members of al-Qaeda hang out in Pakistan. Even bin Laden might be hiding there. Although I do not think that India could fall at any time, Pakistan might and it would become a dictatorship with a regime in the same mould as Saddam Hussein's regime. Then what? Would we send our forces there?

Let us go across the water to North Korea. Its Government have told us that they are testing and developing weapons of mass destruction. What are we going to do about that? Will we have to fight a war there? I have news for hon. Members: the North Koreans will not wave a white flag and give up. They will stand and fight, and we will have a job on our hands. Once we go down the route of taking out tin-pot dictators, wherever they might be, we have to take them all out. There might be no oil in North Korea, but I gather that there is plenty of coal. The big fear is that America is saying to the United Nations, "You're useless. You're hopeless. We're going to be the guardian—the sheriff—of the world and take these people out wherever we see them."

Mr. Sheerman: My hon. Friend is taking us on quite a tour of the world. I recall that he was against intervention in Kosovo. Is there anywhere that the international community, or the United States and the United Kingdom together, can intervene?

Mr. Campbell: Of course there is. Treaties and organisations have been set up to bring such countries on board so that they get rid of their weapons, but we

18 Mar 2003 : Column 864

cannot ignore the fact that Pakistan and North Korea are testing weapons of mass destruction. The problem is getting worse: everyone wants a weapon. With Russia in the state that it is, people can get hold of such weapons and proliferation is a danger.

I have just read a newspaper article on the new smart bombs. It even gave their prices and made me wonder, "Here are all these lovely smart bombs. They only kill so many people and leave the houses standing, all for £1 million." That newspaper article is a shop window for selling arms, and the biggest contributor to Bush's election was the arms industry. [Hon. Members: "We thought it was the oil industry."] Both industries gave a lot of money.

The new bombs can do all sorts of things. They all have names—the microwave bomb, for instance—and the newspapers act as a shop window for them. It amazes me that the Evening Standard gives their prices.

Hon. Members talk about how Saddam Hussein kills his people, but many dictators have killed their people. That is no excuse for us to kill his people as well. Two wrongs do not make a right. What happened years ago when Pol Pot murdered and plundered half his country? The British Government at the time—it was the Tories, I believe—had diplomatic relations with Pol Pot. So what do we do about dictators? We appease them. But we have a new order now and have to go to war with everyone who might have a weapon of mass destruction.

When the war starts, and it certainly will, moderate young Muslims will be told that that is what the west does to them: it invades a Muslim country and drops thousands of bombs on its people. By doing that, we will push those youngsters towards dictators, just as we pushed youngsters towards the IRA in Northern Ireland. Such action would make it much easier for al-Qaeda to recruit young people to become human bombs in this country. That is what I fear might happen. That is the worst scenario if the war goes ahead. Once we invade a Muslim country, the consequences here could be terrible. I am told that such weapons can be carried in a little container. In fact, two scientists carried a container from the Iraqi border, through Europe and Britain, and into America without being challenged.

There are problems if we push moderate Muslims into a corner. If the young ones see nothing but a big bully—in this case, the Americans and, unfortunately, the British—who bombs them and kills their families, they will be recruited to get into Britain or America—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

7.28 pm

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): The hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell) took us on his own unique tour of the world. Although he expressed many views, there was a grain of truth in what he said. He reminded us that if we are to embark on military action against Saddam Hussein, we must have a consistent approach to the way in which we deal with other rogue states subsequently. That was an important point.

I welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and agree with much of what she said. I, too, formed the same view that if over the past 12 years Saddam Hussein had complied with his obligations, as agreed by the United Nations, we would

18 Mar 2003 : Column 865

not be having this debate. Equally, if he had fully co-operated with Hans Blix instead of playing for time and making it ever more difficult either for him to show his weapons of mass destruction or for us to discover them, we would not be here this evening. Indeed, we would not be here if Saddam Hussein had not developed his unique and barbarous approach towards his people and weapons of mass destruction.

One interesting theme has emerged from many speeches, and it is that we should focus for a second or two on what comes next. It is vital—I say this to those on the Front Bench—that if military action is now embarked upon, as seems likely, we should ensure that the Iraqis are left in no doubt about what they can expect. If we are looking for help and acquiescence from the Iraqis, if we are trying to persuade their military that there might be a better life by laying down their arms and not fighting, they must have a clear idea of what will replace Saddam Hussein's regime.

No hon. Member will not have wrestled with their conscience in deciding how to vote this evening, worried about how they will explain that to their constituents, and considered whether they are doing the right thing for the country. Voting for or against war and conflict is never easy, but that is what we are sent here to do. The alternative to supporting the Government's motion, which was, if I may say so, outlined with skill, determination and clarity by the Prime Minister and supported by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, is the amendment. But the amendment appears to be a formulation for having one's cake and eating it, and that is not an option for us this evening.

The amendment talks about


    "the absence of specific United Nations authorisation",

but why do we not have that authorisation? It is because the French in particular, and the Germans and Russians, have made it extremely difficult for the United Nations to authorise anything. There is no guarantee that, if we went back to the United Nations, they would, as I might say, come to the party and agree some formulation that would, at some unspecified point in the future, resolve the matter.

One of the great mysteries about the diplomatic process has been the lack of seeming efforts by the French, Germans and Russians to use their so-called relationship and good offices with Saddam Hussein to persuade him to change his course of action. There is no sign whatever that Saddam is listening to anybody. If the Russians, Germans and French had been doing their bit behind the scenes, they might have found a way of opening up something in the United Nations with which we could have all agreed. I can only assume that, acting out of their own national self-interest, they are now denying the United Nations the opportunity to exert its power. Earlier, we heard concerns about the power of the United States, but the best counterbalance to that is a strong United Nations, and that, sadly, has been denied to us, in particular by the actions of the French.

One reason why I, after much thought, will be supporting the Government in the Lobby tonight and voting against the amendment is, bluntly, a question of conscience. How long can we in the international community walk by on the other side when people such

18 Mar 2003 : Column 866

as Saddam Hussein, and potentially other states, threaten the very peace that we have worked on as a group of international nations working through the United Nations since the second world war? We have enjoyed an unparalleled period of world peace, but, particularly after 9/11, rogue states and terrorist organisations, answerable to no one—no democracy do they report back to—pose a threat to all that we hold near and dear. We have a great deal that is good to contribute to the rest of the world, but if that is put at risk by the Saddam Husseins and al-Qaedas of this world, there comes a time when we cannot walk by on the other side.

I have often regretted that we never did anything about Rwanda where 2 million of our fellow human beings perished while we sat on our hands. If we talk of a new world order, let us not have such matters on our conscience again. If going into conflict against Iraq starts a new process, that has my support.

Today's debate is being broadcast by BBC Radio 4 and, somewhere out in the desert, members of our armed forces may well be listening to our deliberations. They will want to know whether the House of Commons supports the action in which they have been invited to participate. I shall strongly support that. The very Tornados that may be in action within a few hours were made in my constituency of Fylde. I am left in no doubt about the awesome fire power of that weapon system. I am also aware of those who work for BAE Systems out in Saudi Arabia who are potentially at risk. Such matters go round in one's mind when deciding what to do, but on this I have clarity.

We must no longer allow Saddam Hussein to play for time. Leaving him the open option with the United Nations, further discussions and more time, pushes dealing with him not back a few months but possibly another year. We do not have that option. Having read again this morning the article written by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) about the torture and loss of life, the use of gas weapons and the way in which Saddam Hussein deals with our fellow human beings, I am left in no doubt about the correctness of my decision tonight to vote with the Government.

7.35 pm

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of my constituents this evening. I sought to speak in the previous debate on the subject, but I was not called. It is important to make the point that on that occasion 121 Labour Back Benchers, of which I was one, decided to support the amendment. I cannot be regarded as one of the usual suspects and I had no intention of voting in order to destroy the Prime Minister, but, as a matter of conscience, I felt that the case for war had not been made.

I welcome today's debate for two reasons. We have an opportunity tonight to decide whether to support the amendment or the motion, and it is proper that the House should have the opportunity. I congratulate the Government on the decision to have that vote in the House of Commons today because it was a hard choice. If our armed forces in the desert are listening, I join all hon. Members who have said that they will support them if the decision for war is taken.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 867

But I hope that the debate will create an opportunity to avoid war. To support the motion would be to give a green light to unleashing the weapons of mass destruction that the United States and the United Kingdom have lined up in the desert at this moment.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Does the hon. Gentleman realise that if the amendment is carried tonight, those young men and women will come back, the Prime Minister will fall and this country will be in a very great mess indeed?

Mr. Tynan: The best way to avoid war is to work through the United Nations. The amendment makes it clear that the case for war has not been established, and, especially given the absence of specific UN authorisation, we should not go in that direction. If we pass the amendment tonight, the UN will have the opportunity to continue with the inspections that have been taking place in order to disarm Saddam without bloodshed, and that would be an admirable position.

We are not talking about abandoning the troops and bringing them back. The pressure that they have put on the regime in Iraq has weakened it severely. We have the strength, without a shadow of doubt, to take Iraq at present. Iraq has no opportunity to resist that. I do not believe that it has weapons of mass destruction.

Geraint Davies: Does my hon. Friend accept that the choice tonight is not whether to prevent war? We cannot prevent war. The choice is either to go in alongside the Americans to topple Saddam Hussein, or to let the Americans go in on their own. It is important that my hon. Friend and others realise that there is no choice to stop war. There will be a war. The question is are we going to be involved in it and extend our influence in the post-conflict Iraq and in the Palestine-Israel peace process? Let's get real.

Mr. Tynan: I believe that I am getting real. If we support the amendment, we can avoid a decision for war. This is a profound matter of conscience, not a loyalty test. If it were a loyalty test, I would fail it tonight. Anyone who examines my record on voting in the House of Commons will realise that this is an issue of conscience and that I do not vote to displace a Prime Minister. I am just not convinced that war is justified now.

We have heard of terrible suffering in Iraq. It has been made clear that for the past 10 or 12 years, the regime in Iraq has created enormous suffering for its people. If we decide to invade Iraq, we will be in precisely the same position—inflicting greater suffering on those people. The best way to deal with the Iraqi regime as a force is by disarming it. If we weaken Saddam Hussein enough, there is a good chance that his own people will overthrow him. That is a far more practical proposition than the one before us now.

I accept that human rights abuses have occurred and that Saddam Hussein rules through fear, but that is true of many countries. If we decide, simply because of that, to tackle Saddam, logically we have to follow through in other countries. We have to talk about North Korea,

18 Mar 2003 : Column 868

Syria and Iran. We in this country have to decide whether to be perpetually at war. I think that the population of this country would not accept that.

Lynne Jones: Have not respected human rights organisations such as Amnesty International called for the implementation of UN General Assembly resolution 57/232, which calls for human rights monitors to be sent into Iraq? We have heard no mention of implementing that proposal.

Mr. Tynan: I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Britain is no longer a superpower. We can no longer act in isolation and we cannot solve the problems of the world, so it is worrying to find ourselves divorced from the international community, in agreement only with the United States, Spain and Portugal. How do we bring the family that used to exist back into being? Last week, at a meeting in Luxembourg, I listened to Luxembourg's Foreign Minister discuss Iraq with a committee. She believed that Luxembourg was like a child trying to resolve a problem between two warring parents. When our family is at war, we weaken the opportunities that might be available to the international community.

If military action is needed, as it has been before, it must be taken, but I do not believe that now is the proper time. There is an opportunity to continue on the road to peace. If we can do that, we will have achieved some sort of success. I have heard comparisons made between the League of Nations and the United Nations and the claim that the UN will end as the league did if it does not support an international war now. I think that the UN would be discredited if strong pressure from the US and the UK forced it not only to accept war when it did not believe that war was justified, but to join with those forces.

It is important that we deal with the issue as it is now. Who is to decide whether Saddam is a threat? To whom is Saddam a threat? The UK? The US? His neighbours? I believe that he is currently in such a weakened state that he is not a threat. We all understand the US reaction to 9/11. The world genuinely believed that that event would galvanise the international community into action. I accept that the Prime Minister exerted a restraining influence on the President of the United States, but after he had persuaded the US to take the UN route, he could not adopt a different view.

I do not believe that we can bomb the terrorists into submission. An idea, a belief or a cause cannot be killed in that fashion. We must try to change the conditions in which terrorism arises and change the terrorists' minds. If we can do that, we will achieve some success. How can flying a plane into a building be justified logically? We speak of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. When sarin nerve gas was released in the cramped conditions of a Japanese subway, four people died and more than 100 were injured, but a cigarette end dropped in Kings Cross caused far more devastation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Time is up.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 869

7.47 pm

Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham): I trust that the House appreciates that this is a special evening. As the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) said, tonight sees the rebirth of our democracy. We have heard many fine speeches, including those from the hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell), the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) and the hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan). With great humility, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) described how he had been wrestling with his conscience about what he should do.

It is a legacy of the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) that we are having this debate. I trust that it will set a precedent, for there can be no doubt that we are entering a state of permanent war. After Iraq, other countries will face US might. I trust that the Government will be true to their word and that in future we will be able to debate and genuinely vote on military action before it takes place. The Liberal Democrats have been pressing such a policy throughout.

Hon. Members will not have heard it on the news tonight, but 30,000 children have died. Thirty thousand children—ten times the number of people who died in the twin towers on 9/11—die every single day because of lack of clean water, tuberculosis, cholera and lack of food. Their names will not be known. The might of the media and the internet conveyed terrible images of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but they do not carry images of the innocent who die. That is why I take issue with the way in which the Government are conducting themselves. This is not a Government crusade against poverty, but a crusade for war. It is a great tragedy and a missed opportunity. Even though the Prime Minister has previously spoken of healing the scar of Africa, he has never been able to deliver on that. He has followed what the US President has been telling him about conducting a war against Iraq.

I want to see a strengthened and reformed United Nations. Last week I was in New York, where I met some senior UN officials. They were aghast at what was going on. They could not believe that the US would not be prepared to compromise. I listened to Hans Blix's statement. He asked not for years, but for months in which to make a true assessment of what was happening in Iraq. More time is not too much to ask for. We can find a peaceful way through. At the very moment that the United Nations is successfully forcing the evil regime of Saddam Hussein to comply, the rug is pulled from under its feet, and it is told to get out of Iraq, to stop its job and not to fulfil previous resolutions, because war must be the answer.

In the 21st century, surely we can start to find better solutions than all-out war with a quarter of a million troops to plough through. The bomb doors will open and the bombs will start dropping in the next few hours. You will have 48 hours of sustained bombing that will kill thousands of innocent people. There are sons and daughters in Basra, and mothers, fathers and grandparents in Baghdad who tonight are living in great fear. They are the innocent. They do not support Saddam Hussein. They have nothing to do with his evil regime, but they will pay the blood price because the American President says, "This is the only way to free you."

18 Mar 2003 : Column 870

Why cannot we look at the alternatives? As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) said, there are other ways to achieve a peaceful outcome. That would include a no-fly zone right across Iraq, and UN humanitarian observers stationed throughout Iraq. If you had said 12 months ago that there was no chance of UN weapons inspectors being able to come back into Iraq and fulfil their job, you would not have been able to believe that Iraq agreed to that. But it did agree to that.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the case for war has not been made; that is why I voted for the amendment a few weeks ago. Is the issue before us now whether we have more time? Is not the real issue whether the Americans act on their own or bilaterally with us? That is the only choice. The choice that we have to make tonight is whether the world is made a safer place by the United States acting on its own, or with us having some influence and being alongside it while the war is conducted? My inclination is for the latter proposition. I should like to know the hon. Gentleman's view.

Mr. Marsden: It is for every Member of the House to decide how they will vote tonight. It does not make it any better—any more right—if Britain decides to support the military operation. We should not feel that we are being bullied into that, or that we have to show our willingness to be partners in crime with the US by going into Iraq now. It is a great pity that the Prime Minister did not show more resolve earlier on in order to influence a US President to stop where we are now.

I accept what the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) says. Tonight we are on the verge of war. Thousands of our troops will be putting their lives in danger. I salute their courage and professionalism, and I would not thank—[Laughter.] Please do not laugh. This is a serious issue. We will face dreadful consequences not just in the next few weeks, but possibly for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. We will reap what we sow.

I say to each hon. Member: think so carefully. I want you to be able to look your children in the eye in years to come and say that you did everything you possibly could to stop the war and keep your conscience clear. To answer the hon. Gentleman, I say it is up to you. It is up to each and every one of us.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Gentleman must use the correct parliamentary language.

Mr. Marsden: My apologies, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is up to each and every hon. Member to decide for themselves.

In the final analysis, what kind of peace do we seek? Is it a genuine peace that we strive for? Is it peace in our time or peace for all time? Right around the globe, we all cherish our children's future. We all breathe the same air and we are all mortal. Those were the words of an American President in 1962 after the Cuban missile crisis, when the world almost came to grief. It almost destroyed itself. We have to think so carefully. I would say that hon. Members should vote against the Government tonight and vote for peace.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 871

7.56 pm

Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): The British people do not want war. A million people marched in London against war. None of us wants war. Nine million people signed a pledge before the second world war. We are not a war-loving nation, but war cannot now be stopped. Our choice today is not whether to prevent war—we cannot do so—but whether we join the US in toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and have influence in the post-war settlement in Iraq and the peace process in Palestine, or stand to one side and watch the US act alone.

No one wants war, and no one has worked harder to prevent war than the Prime Minister. Early last year, the US policy was unilateral regime change through pre-emptive military strike. Saddam Hussein's position was that weapons inspectors would never be allowed back into Iraq, yet the influence of our Government, at great political cost, moved the US from a position of unilateral strike to disarmament through UN weapons inspectors. After 12 years and 16 UN resolutions that had left Iraq a threat to the world, the world united behind resolution 1441 demanding immediate disarmament, backed by the credible threat of US military action. It was only the threat of serious consequences that forced Saddam to let the inspectors back in.

Every concession that Saddam has made has been from fear of serious consequences. Without that threat, Hans Blix would not have been allowed to find weapons in Iraq, any more than we can find IRA arms in Northern Ireland. Yet, tragically, the unity of purpose of resolution 1441 that gave the inspectors their leverage has been weakened by the grandstanding of Jacques Chirac threatening the French veto, corrosively undermining the credible threat of force on which co-operation and disarmament rely.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: I find the argument confusing. My hon. Friend says that the credible threat of force is causing Saddam Hussein to react favourably to us. How is the credible threat of force reduced by the French action when everyone, including everyone present in the Chamber, knows that war is about to be unleashed upon Saddam Hussein?

Geraint Davies: War could have been prevented. We would have had disarmament by now, had the French not been waving their veto and if there had been unity of purpose. As a result of the French corrosively undermining 1441, Saddam has spun out his concessions month after month as he knows we approach the hot Iraqi summer. That provides a safe haven from military action and a chance for further political division spun by the French.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. It is my certain recollection that Hans Blix asked for more time to complete a very successful inspection and destruction mission, but that the United States and Britain refused that extension of time. Hence, we are going to war.

Geraint Davies: My understanding is that Hans Blix said that there had not been active co-operation and

18 Mar 2003 : Column 872

compliance. Time is useful if there is co-operation, but that co-operation is not occurring. No hon. Member who studies the cold-blooded cynicism of the calculating and murderous Saddam Hussein could doubt that he is playing for time. Of course, Jacques Chirac is playing into his hands by using up that time with all this prevarication. If the UN had stayed at one in its resolve, peace would have been possible and we might have been in a position in which disarmament would have been continuous.

Even in the last minute of the last hour, when Britain has offered benchmarks for disarmament in a fixed time frame as the basis for a second resolution to avert war if Saddam disarms, the French have said that they will veto any second resolution, whatever it says. Even if that resolution gave Iraq a year to disarm, the French would still veto it, so the prospect of disarmament that is backed by the credible threat of force—the very basis of resolution 1441—is in tatters now and in future. Saddam knows that the French can be trusted—trusted to veto the will of the UN as expressed in resolution 1441 if it means a timetable for compliance. They want no ultimatum and no threat of force, and they have said so.

We face a stark choice: we can choose war without the express consent of the UN because the French have cast their veto even before the second resolution is framed or else do nothing, accept the veto to timetabled disarmament and hope that Saddam will voluntarily hand over his anthrax and biochemical weapons to UN inspectors whose authority is no longer backed by military force. That is not a credible option.

Lynne Jones: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Geraint Davies: No, I will not.

The world has accepted through 17 UN resolutions that Saddam is an evil dictator who has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own people in gas attacks, torture and execution, invaded Iran and Kuwait, bombed Israel, developed a nuclear programme and holds stockpiles of biochemical weapons. If resolution 1441 is not enforced, the authority and effectiveness of the inspectors will crumble as they did in 1998, Saddam will rearm and dictators around the world will know that they can establish arsenals of biochemical death in the knowledge that the UN does not act to enforce its will.

No Member of this House wants war or wants to face the choice of taking action alongside the US without a second UN mandate or letting Saddam off the hook, but it is not enough to stand on the sidelines and watch the US act alone, lose our influence in making a post-conflict settlement in Iraq that respects all its ethnic groups, as well as its borders and mineral wealth, and lose our influence in bringing a lasting peace to Palestine. Let us be in no doubt—I say to my colleagues that if we are not there, the constitutional arrangements for Iraq will not be framed by the values that we share, but determined by the interests of the US, and the obligation to bring peace to Palestine will not be shaped by our ambition for a quality and lasting peace, but relegated by an all-powerful and all-isolated US that is suspicious of outside countries that choose to stand aside.

This is not a comfortable decision for any of us. We are all driven by what we believe to be right and forced into choices that we do not want to make. I believe that

18 Mar 2003 : Column 873

we must act even though there may be consequences that we do not like, as the alternative is a world of worse consequences. Our soldiers must know tonight that this Parliament will give them our support to liberate Iraq from an evil tyrant, remove the threat of biochemical attack and show the world that we will not accept a future of fear of the mass carnage of biochemical terror. However difficult or uncomfortable, we will take action to protect our freedoms, children and people, liberate the people of Iraq and build a world of peace and security where trust can be rebuilt in a future that we all must share.

8.4 pm

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Geraint Davies), who set out his case with passion and clarity.

Each of us must examine our consciences and determine how we will vote at 10 o'clock, for this is surely one of the most significant decisions that we will make as a House of Commons in this generation. It seems to me that the choice we have to make is not between an obvious right and an undeniable wrong. We are being asked to choose between two imperfect propositions. In my judgment, it is not obviously right to go to war now and not obviously right to seek more time for the inspectors to do their work. This is a murky and complicated choice and each of us must balance the arguments and decide where we stand.

In coming to our judgment, it is difficult not to be influenced by the certain imperfections and inconsistencies of US foreign policy over many years. It is interesting that we have had so many different objectives for this potential conflict. We must take into account some of the doubts that have been expressed in this excellent debate about the legality of the action. It is definitely true that the dodgy dossier and some exaggerated claims from the Government have not helped us in forming our judgment.

However, it is equally hard to believe that President Chirac has suddenly become the principled saviour of human rights and international legitimacy. It is hard not to see Saddam Hussein, the father of lies and master of deception, continuing to play cat and mouse with the UN inspectors, however long they are given to do the job. It is hard to imagine that this Iraqi tyrant will be disarmed other than by force. If we do not deal with him now, we will have to do so later. Who knows how many people will suffer in the meantime?

Many of us have said that we hate the prospect of war and I am no different. I hate the thought of war and all its gory consequences, but I hate even more the thought of Saddam Hussein continuing in office. I hate the thought of chemical and biological weapons falling into the hands of suicidal terrorists and of the west once again showing weakness in the face of terror and threat when we should show strength. I have made my decision and I know where I stand: I will support the Government tonight and back the motion to use "all means necessary" to disarm this tyrant. At the same time, I respect strongly those who have reached a different conclusion, but I am convinced that that is the right way forward.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 874

I pay tribute to the leadership that the Prime Minister has given to our country in recent weeks. He first attracted my silent admiration when he said that, for him, the special relationship with America was an article of faith. I also believe that it is our current destiny as a nation that we should support this only superpower. That is the reality of modern-day global politics. The Prime Minister has done his utmost to achieve a second resolution and has articulated the need for action in a clear and compelling way. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, whom I am glad is in his place to listen to this rare tribute from me. He has been steadfast in his position on Iraq not only for months, but for many years. That should be recognised and respected. He is also to be respected for not seeking to exploit the potential political difficulties of the Government on this issue, but focusing on doing the right thing. That is certainly what I came into politics for.

I want to make two other points. I was pleased to see that even the amendment expresses strong support for our troops who are about to go into action. Many of the armed forces now on the brink of conflict live or are based in my constituency—notably the Royal Marines of 42 Commando. They are highly professional and very brave. They will acquit themselves well and we in the south-west are all rightly proud of them.

Whenever I speak to a soldier, marine or person in the Navy or the Air Force, I am always most impressed by the fact that they are trained for action and, when the time comes, they want to undertake it on behalf of their nation. They are ready to do that despite the risks. It is vital, as they cross the desert, risking their lives in the national interest, that they know that the country is behind them. I hope that, after we vote tonight, the House will unite and send to our troops with one voice the clear message that they have our full backing.

It is also crucial that their loved ones at home know that. My family is experiencing its first taste of the personal agony of war. Our daughter married a fine young trooper in the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment only two and a half months ago. She remains by the television, constantly awaiting news of the conflict. However, she is surrounded by people in her university—we Streeters marry young—who demonstrate against what her husband is risking his life to do. That does not help. I therefore implore those outside who are planning their protests, marches and placards to think, once battle is engaged, of the thousands of troops who risk their lives and of their families at home. I ask people to show some common humanity and postpone their political protests until the conflict is over.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Streeter: I appreciate that that was a moment of fine rhetoric, but I had not finished.

I want to speculate briefly on the future of the international community. We need a credible United Nations if we are to try to build a safer world. However, the stark reality, whether we like it or not—some colleagues have stated today that they do not like it—is that the world has only one superpower. It is not perfect, and often speaks and acts in a way that baffles many of

18 Mar 2003 : Column 875

us. We should certainly not give it a blank cheque. However, without positive American engagement, the United Nations would be a useless talking shop. The Prime Minister was therefore right to go the extra mile in persuading the US President to take the UN route. He is also right to make full use of our special relationship and be the closest ally to the only superpower.

President Chirac plays a dangerous game when he waves his veto around, reckless about the consequences. Driving the USA out of the UN would be one of the most serious things that could happen to global security. President Chirac and everyone else would rue the day.

8.12 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): Today is the first occasion on which I have spoken in a debate about Iraq and I am grateful for the opportunity.

It is a time to draw on one's inner beliefs and vote according to principle. I want to put my views on record for my constituents and the community where I live and which I work hard to represent so that they know and understand what I do today.

I shall vote against the war and for peace. I shall walk through the Lobby with many members of the socialist Campaign group, but one will be missing. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will not be with us tonight, and I send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Last week, in a desperate attempt to gain support for war, the Ministry of truth at No. 10 tried to portray the Campaign group's position as a challenge to the party leadership. Let us make it clear that today's vote has nothing to do with the leadership. It is a vote on principle: one is either for war or against it.

The Prime Minister said that he wants people to vote not out of loyalty but on the basis of understanding and supporting the argument. I respect him for that. I would respect him even more if he gave us a free vote instead of a three-line Whip, and if the Whips were called off from trying to persuade people in their normal manner.

I shall vote for peace tonight because the Bush war plan is immoral. It fails the test of the basic just war principles of not only last resort but right intention. I do not accept that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle and Bush have the right intention for the future of Iraq.

I believe that war is illegal. We cannot simply erase the US ambassador's commitment to UN Security Council partners that resolution 1441 contained no hidden triggers and "no automaticity". Many will perceive war against Iraq as an act of international vigilantism by a superpower state that increasingly appears out of control. We will reap unforeseen and incalculable consequences for the world, our citizens and constituents for generations. People will suffer and die. No matter how few die, it will be too many for me.

If we go to war, we must be clear that we have the support of our people.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): My hon. Friend has been eloquent about what he believes to be unacceptable. How would he disarm Saddam Hussein's regime?

John McDonnell: We will work through the UN. We will use weapons inspection and implement the proposal

18 Mar 2003 : Column 876

for UN human rights inspectors. We will support the Iraqi people because a tyrant falls best and hardest when he is pushed by his people. We will not bomb but support them.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way with his usual courtesy. Did not we hope that the Iraqi people would get rid of Saddam Hussein in 1991 when we left it to them? They rose up and were massacred.

John McDonnell: With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not believe that the Basra road is a good example of supporting the Iraqi people. We inflicted carnage on them. Many were simply conscripts who did not wish to fight.

If we go to war, we need the clear support of our people. In the past 12 months, we have been treated to a global propaganda exercise to persuade us of the need to attack Iraq. We have been subjected to a global stream of new-Labour-like publicity stunts, cynical in intent and increasingly ineffective. The lasting inheritance is the perpetrators' inability to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, even when lives are at stake.

Most people have seen through the global propaganda exercise. The great persuaders have failed to persuade. People have seen through the dodgy dossiers and the forged nuclear weapons evidence. They have been offended by the use of the memories of those who died on 11 September to justify dusting off Rumsfeld's five-year-old plan to invade Iraq. They understand that the war has no link to the war against terrorism and will exacerbate the terrorist threat for years. They have grown wary of pleas for and justification of war on humanitarian grounds by those whose humanitarian credentials are compromised by their military, economic and political support for the tyrant Hussein and who, after 20 years, have suddenly discovered the plight of the Iraqi people.

Even those who believed Bush and would have been held to the principles of the UN by the Prime Minister have been rapidly disillusioned. We now know that the Bush military regime had set a timetable for invasion of Iraq that was based not on the outcome of the UN weapons inspections but on the climatic conditions of the middle east. A second UN resolution was not an act of faith in the UN and the rule of international law. It was simply another part of the propaganda exercise to bring states, and especially the British electorate, on side. When not enough states could be bought or bullied, the UN route was cast aside.

We reached the height of cynicism last week when we were promised the Palestinian-Israeli road map. It comes from a President who was forced by world opinion to send Colin Powell to Israel when Sharon sent his tanks to demolish Jenin. To give Sharon the time to murder enough Palestinians, Powell took the longest route from Washington to Tel Aviv in the history of travel. Where was the road map then? Where was it this week when Israeli bulldozers drove backwards and forwards over the peace demonstrator, killing her outright?

18 Mar 2003 : Column 877

When rational argument fails, we find a scapegoat. Who better than the traditional enemy, the French? The language that has been used in the debate against the French verges on xenophobia. Yet any criticism of the Bush regime is pounced on as anti-American.

It might be impossible to prevent the Bush regime from going to war, but we can still prevent Britain from being party to this international atrocity. Our vote tonight could withdraw any moral or political authority to take this country to war. Without the overwhelming support of the House, no Prime Minister can be confident that he has the backing of the British people for war, or the right to lead our people into this unknown risk.

If the Prime Minister proceeds to take us to war in this coalition—not of the willing, but of the killing—I shall say clearly, "Not in my name. Not in the name of thousands of Labour party members up and down the country. Not in the name of the British people." To our communities, we say, "Continue the campaign for peace, to shorten this war and to prevent the next." To the British troops, we say, "Safe home." To the Iraqi people—the parents—we say, "Hide your children deep in the shelters, but we wish you safety. We will stand by you when the bombing stops." To the peoples of the world, we say very clearly, "We will not let this coalition destroy the United Nations as the arbiter of international order." We must form a new coalition to build institutions of global governance capable of safeguarding the world from the new superpower that is globally dictating its policy to the rest of the world.

8.21 pm

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): We conduct this debate, 18 months after the horror and tragedies of 11 September, with our institutions impotent, with no coherent solutions to the threats facing civilisation, and with the old world order split asunder, possibly irrevocably. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) that international diplomacy has failed. The United Nations has shown that its structure is not equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. The European Union is split, and its plans for a common foreign and defence policy are in ruins. The future of NATO is threatened as the different aims, objectives and outlooks of its members are exposed. Out of this carnage of shattered institutions, a new world order will emerge. Rebuilding those institutions must be a priority, but this is not how it should happen.

Many will ask how we got ourselves into the position in which we find ourselves tonight. I have sat here for months listening to Ministers confidently predicting that those institutions would accept the challenges before them. I have waited for Ministers to produce the killer piece of evidence that they gave the impression was there. It has not materialised. With hindsight, their optimism was misguided, misplaced and misleading. There is no smoking gun. There is no clear link between international terrorism and Saddam Hussein. The dodgy dossier and the false claims of attempts to buy uranium in Africa have undermined the argument. There is some evidence that the tyrant is disarming.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 878

These are all strong arguments for opposing involvement in this conflict, yet I pause. What would be the consequences of turning our backs on this motion tonight? In my judgment, it would simply make things worse and, if I had any doubts, I was persuaded by the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon.

As a young politician, I was brought up to believe that democracies do not start wars. It is not for civilised nations to interfere with the internal affairs of another country, no matter how much we disapprove. But now, the tyrants hide behind that principle and terrorise their own people, believing that they are immune. We need no further evidence than the stream of refugees fleeing from cruelty and torture in Iraq. If we couple that with the new emergence of the unseen enemy who leaves no fingerprints and dies for his cause—the suicide bomber and the man who flies a plane into a building—we realise that the rules of the game have changed.

We must never forget the horror and traumas of the 11 September nightmare in New York. Since then, the American people have been marching to the sound of a different drumbeat from the rest of us. I understand the view of a President who says that he does not distinguish between terrorists and countries that support terrorism, and my gut instinct is that Iraq is one country on a short list of countries that threaten the peace and stability of a world of democracy, opportunity and prosperity. I believe that those countries possess weapons of awesome capacity and that they will give them to terrorists who are prepared to use them. Saddam poses a threat to us all, and we must not shirk from addressing it.

The cry of those who oppose this war—for whom I have huge respect—is not to leave Iraq alone, but to persuade that country to disarm by peaceful means. That is well meaning and well intentioned, but, in my judgment, it is unachievable. If we were to give Saddam Hussein an extra six months to comply, we would be back here in six months' time having the same debate. He has already flouted endless UN resolutions. That is what has brought us to this point. If France said that it would support a UN resolution, provided that certain conditions were met, I would understand—we all would. But if it continues to prevaricate, I cannot see the point of further delay. Despite serving in the Royal Navy for nine years during the cold war, I am as appalled as anybody by the threat of war. However, I believe that it is only a matter of time before 11 September repeats itself in a European capital. I ask myself, as I am sure many hon. Members do, whether I would regret not supporting the motion tonight if such a thing happened. The answer is clearly yes.

Failure to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict is at the root of the discontent in the Arab world. The announcement of a new impetus to solve that crisis once and for all is persuasive and warmly welcomed. Along with rebuilding Iraq and restoring confidence in our institutions, that must be our priority.

Jeremy Corbyn: The hon. Gentleman referred to the Palestinian crisis. Does he not think that 50 years of arming, financing and not condemning Israel, and

18 Mar 2003 : Column 879

allowing it to possess nuclear weapons, are contributory factors to the destabilisation of the whole political process in the middle east?

Richard Ottaway: The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point, but that is not the question before us tonight. The question that we are being asked to address is about the here and now, and whether we involve ourselves in this war. Of course his point is relevant, but it is not the central point.

A successful outcome to this conflict will not end terrorism, but it will contain it. It will send a message to those who engage in or support terrorism that there will be a price to pay. In a powerful speech, the Chief Rabbi recently said that we were not looking at the difference between night and day. He said that we were in the twilight areas of dawn and dusk, and that this was not about the difference between right and wrong, but about which of the two wrongs we should choose.

This is a defining moment in world history. Our policy of being at the heart of Europe is in ruins. We are witnessing the emergence of new principles in international affairs. We must play our part in the new order that will emerge from the rubble of this conflict. It is with a heavy heart that I will support this motion tonight, but to me it is the lesser of two evils.

8.28 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): May I say that it is with a heavy heart that I will not be supporting the Government's motion this evening? I feel it necessary to put a few things on the record about what one is not, when explaining what one intends to do.

I am certainly not anti-American. I agree very much with the points made by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) about what we owe to the United States. I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment. As ever, he made a characteristically strong and authoritative speech. There must be many Conservative Members who wonder why he ever stood down and left them with his father as leader. I endorse his point that we owe a great debt of honour to the United States. If it had not been for the intervention of the United States in the last war, who knows, we would probably have been overrun by the Nazis, and many people in the Chamber would have been growing small moustaches and polishing their jackboots—those, that is, who had not already been eliminated.

I am not pro-Saddam Hussein. I was speaking against him in the early 1980s when the then Conservative Government, the German Government, the French Government and the Russians were all arming him, trading with him and sustaining him. I need no lectures on how evil Saddam Hussein is, but to compare him with Hitler is absurd. There is no comparison between the ramshackle state of Iraq and the military and industrial might of Germany in the 1930s. This is not the occupation of the Rhineland; it is not Czechoslovakia; it certainly is not Poland. And George Bush sure is not Winston Churchill.

I am not one of those who think that all leadership automatically leads to treachery. The Prime Minister has worked himself almost physically to a standstill to try and resolve this issue peacefully and through the United Nations, which is enormously to his credit. But,

18 Mar 2003 : Column 880

tragically, we have failed in the process, simply because the case for war has not been persuasive in the United Nations, in Europe or in this country as a whole.

It is far too convenient to blame the French. Legally, of course, we might or might not have needed a second resolution as well as resolution 1441—you get your lawyers, and you get whatever view you are prepared to pay for—but politically, securing that second resolution was crucial. If it truly was only the French who opposed it, we should have pushed for a vote in the Security Council in order to isolate them. Their veto would then have been seen as unreasonable, if they had used it. But the threat of the veto was not, in fact, what it was all about.

While we are talking about vetoes, let me say that it really is time that we proposed getting rid of the veto in the UN Security Council. It is a legacy of the old cold war. Anyway, I do not think that this was about the threat of a French veto. We did not push for a vote to see whether we could isolate the French, because we knew that we would have been in the minority in the Security Council. It is simply not credible for us to say now, having not done that, that we propose to uphold the authority of the United Nations. What is being proposed will undermine the authority of the United Nations and replace it with Pax Americana.

I accept that the Prime Minister has been a restraining influence on the US Administration, but it is becoming clearer by the day that President Bush and/or his advisers have always wanted a war with Iraq. Now he needs one; he desperately needs that war for his own domestic agenda. For the Americans, Saddam Hussein has become a symbol of everything that is wrong in the world. No one could seriously suggest that Saddam Hussein poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, but the world has changed for the United States, dramatically and traumatically, and the Americans need the war for that reason. They need a war against the symbol, Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately—if I may use that old Texan cowboy cliché—we in this country, the British Government, have been led into a box canyon.

Jeremy Corbyn: Does my hon. Friend accept that numerous people in the United States passionately oppose American military foreign policy? In the demonstrations in New York, Washington and San Francisco, many carried placards reading "41 million Americans have no health care, yet we have money to bomb Iraq".

Mr. Banks: Of course I accept that. We could equally say that we have the money to send large numbers of troops to the Gulf, but we cannot get the Central line running.

What really worries me, though, is that we in this country are now trapped between a bunch of right-wing religious bigots in the White House and Islamic terrorists in the middle east. That worries me, and it should worry all Members. We are being dictated to by the demands of United States domestic politics. Just think about it: would we be here if the Democrats were still in control of the White House? Would we still be arguing the case for the invasion of Iraq if the Labour party were in opposition? Thank God we are not, but I

18 Mar 2003 : Column 881

think that if we were I would hear people saying "No, we must stand by the United Nations. We in the Labour party have always been an internationalist party, and we must do nothing that would undermine the authority of the United Nations".

I am old enough to remember Suez. I recommend a reading of Anthony Eden's memoirs, which, ironically, are entitled "Full Circle". In that book, Eden suggested that the British Government wanted to use the invasion of Suez "to secure a solution of middle eastern problems". That is exactly what we are now being promised in the context of the invasion of Iraq. We have now come up with something called the road map. Well, it is a pity that we did not have that road map 46 years ago. Where has that road map been for the last 46 years? I can only say that it must have been in the hands of Mark Thatcher.

In 1957, we were forced out of Suez by the Americans—by President Eisenhower. I believe the Americans were right then, but they are wrong now. Regrettably, we were wrong then and it looks as though we are going to be wrong now. Clearly, we in this country learn very little from history.

I am not a rebel, and I really object to being described as one because I happen to disagree with what the Government propose.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Banks: No, I will not. Yes, I will: the hon. Gentleman is a lovable fellow.

Sir Patrick Cormack: I am extremely grateful to my old friend. Does he accept that the logical consequence of his vote this evening, whether or not he regards it as a rebel vote, would be the defeat of his Prime Minister?

Mr. Banks: I do not accept that at all. We have all agreed that this is a matter of conscience and judgment. I think that this is the place, in a democracy, where we can have disagreements, although I do not want them to be rancorous. I do not want the Prime Minister to get a bloody nose. I am not one of those who want to see him go. The Prime Minister has led this country and our party well, and I want to sustain him. On this occasion, I am afraid I cannot do that—but that merely underlines the strength of my loyalty, for I feel very unhappy that I will be voting against the Government tonight.

Ultimately, my decision not to support the Government is not a result of my wrestling with my conscience all night and then clinging to office. My decision to vote against the Government is based on a cold calculation of what I think is in the best interests of the country. The disadvantages of this clearly outweigh the advantages. Yes, we will get rid of Saddam Hussein, but the potential problems are enormous: a Pandora's box could be opened in front of us. We will have a divided country, a divided party, a divided Parliament, a divided UN and a divided European Union, which I think is terrible; and there will always be the chance of more terrorism in this country and around the world.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 882

That is my analysis. If I am wrong there is no damage, but if the Government are wrong we really are in deep do-do.

8.38 pm

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon): Tonight's vote is not about whether there is war or peace. It is a vote about whether there is war with us or without us, and, by extrapolation, about whether there is reconstruction with us or without us—and, by further extrapolation, about whether there is a rebuilding of international institutions with us or, perhaps, not at all.

I will go into the Government's Lobby tonight after travelling a rocky and reluctant road, and without enthusiasm. I want to explore why so many people are concerned about the prospect of war, and why this war has commanded so little general support in comparison with previous conflicts.

When the Prime Minister put British troops into Sierra Leone, I thought that that was an act of outstanding courage. There were no votes in it, and no issues that would sway British electors; the Prime Minister saw it as a moral concern. When we participated in Kosovo and Afghanistan, it was apparent to me that that was the right thing to do. Humanitarian and security issues were at stake, and ethics and politics met.

I do not have the same conviction over Iraq. For one thing, we have been told specifically that it is not a humanitarian issue. The Foreign Secretary has said clearly that, if Saddam were to give up his weapons voluntarily and easily, he would stay in power. He would then be free to continue his activities, in power. It may be that, by accident and miscalculation, we can turn this into a humanitarian issue, but we did not embark on this venture for humanitarian purposes.

It is a pre-emptive war in its conception. However much I share the loathing for the Iraqi regime, I believe that there must be special reasons for embarking on a pre-emptive war. Of course there is a generic threat to the UK from the existence of weapons that lend themselves to terrorism. That is the reason that President Bush used in his broadcast much earlier today, but it has not been demonstrated that there is a specific threat to the UK.

The Prime Minister says that the national interest is at stake. It is, in the general sense that our national interest is to have a world that is well ordered and democratic rather than one that is unstable and run by despots. However, I and many other people cannot see how that national interest is more threatened today than it was three, five or 10 years ago. Indeed, my understanding is that over that period Iraqi capability has been degraded, and that Saddam has been debilitated and pegged down—that deterrence, in a nutshell, is working. We must remember that, in many ways, the war started a long time ago, with the constant aerial intervention over Iraq.

People say, "Well, the Prime Minister must know something we don't." We have all rather taken in refuge in the belief that the Prime Minister must have access to information that we do not have. The Government speak with such categorical certainty about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction that one is

18 Mar 2003 : Column 883

inclined to believe them. But does Saddam Hussein have such weapons? Will we find the arsenals that we believe are there?

The nuclear inspectors have talked about the matter, but not with the apparentness to which public opinion responds. Moreover, the Government have made some statements that have been at odds with statements in the document that they issued in September, especially in connection with the building of nuclear capacity.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. It is unlikely that I will be called to speak, so I am adopting all his arguments, but is not the logic of the American position regime change? Trust has broken down so much that the Americans could never be sure that Saddam would ever give up all his weapons. Ever since 11 September, they have been determined to change the regime in Iraq.

Mr. Curry: I agree with my hon. Friend, but the problem is that America's reasons for the war have changed often. The Americans have given a number of reasons for the war, and the UK has always been careful to exclude regime change from our rationale, but there is a dislocation between the logic being brought to bear in Washington and the logic here.

The Government seem to postulate a choice between the forcible disarmament of Saddam, and the inevitable rebuilding of his weaponry. Given the degree of surveillance constantly applied to Iraq, I wonder whether that really is the only choice at hand.

The Government say that they will fight to uphold the will of the UN or of the international community, but we chose the UN route knowing its rules. The Government pulled President Bush down that route, and we all applauded when they did. It is difficult now to invoke a mandate based on furthering the interests of the international community in the UN when we acknowledge that the UN would not deliver the endorsement that we sought.

The problem is that the US has given the impression that its only interest in the UN was to get its approval for war, and not to exploit the potential for progress by non-military means. Every report from the weapons inspectors has invariably been greeted by Washington as a causus belli. The US has shown a palpable distaste for the whole UN operation.

Of course I believe that the French actions would have been a great deal more plausible had President Chirac said that, if Saddam did not conform to UN requirements after a certain period, French troops would take their place alongside other troops in the Gulf. That he did not say that is a signal failure on his part. French policy has failed but, if France stands accused of wanting to veto war whatever the circumstances, many observers drew the conclusion that that was in reaction to an apparent US predetermination for war. The Americans' reasons for war kept changing, but their military build-up was remorseless.

I have real concerns about the position of the UK. I respect the depth and power of the Prime Minister's conviction that the policy is right, but there is a real danger that the UK will fail to meet US expectations, while at the same time it is burning its boats in respect

18 Mar 2003 : Column 884

of relations in Europe. I have doubts about whether the policy—if it is the Government's policy—that the UK can act as influence, harness, guide and tutor to the exercise of power by the world's only superpower is, in the long term, any more than a historical intellectual conceit.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Is not another problem with UK involvement in this adventure that we are the old imperial power in Iraq? People in Iraq and throughout the Arab world must understand that. Even in 1955, we had Crown territories in the area, and Iraqi military recruits had British officers. Will not that pose a serious problem for how the Arab world perceives the UK?

Mr. Curry: I suspect not, as a matter of fact. I think that that history has died. I believe what is said about the relationship of the Iraqi people to their regime.

However, the question of how we cope with the world's only hegemon, especially after 11 September, is a real issue. I hope that the Government do not believe that the right answer is to ride postillion. There is an urgent need for us to repair relations in Europe, and for Europe to rebuild transatlantic partnerships. A Europe of 25 member states will be more flexible and open to influence than one still dominated by historical and traditional axes. If 11 September brought a new world to the American continent, enlargement will certainly bring new politics to Europe.

All European states ultimately have an enormous stake in the EU, the UN and NATO. Those structures are now badly fractured, but they are still of proven resilience.

I share the bewilderment of millions of Britons as to how we got here. It is reasonable for that unease to be registered in this Chamber tonight, but one thing that we must conclude is that the UK has to think hard about its role in the world, and about how its interests are best served in that world.

The decision tonight is not about whether there should be peace or not, because that decision has passed us by. If it had not passed us by, I should have had no hesitation about going into the Lobby that stands for peace. However, I must decide what my country's legitimate role and influence are. I have to decide how best I can propel my country to be that force in world affairs that is part of our historical destiny and which, to use a Gallic word, is our vocation.

That is why, with much heart rending, I shall go into the Government Lobby tonight. We must throw open the debate to deal with what happens in the aftermath of war. We must discuss how we reconstruct and rebuild, and how we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. If we do that, the conflict—which we all pray will be as short and clean as conflicts ever can be—will have taught something to us, as well as to our enemies.

8.48 pm

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): We all face a difficult choice tonight, whichever way we decide to vote, but we will all respect the choice that each individual Member makes. When I came here today I intended, reluctantly, not to support the Government, but I have listened to

18 Mar 2003 : Column 885

Members on both sides and that has made my life very difficult. The expectation that we will do the right thing makes life difficult, and life is about difficult choices.

This week we have been told that the Prime Minister is reckless, but I do not believe that. No one could have done more than the Prime Minister. I must also support the Foreign Secretary for the way in which he has backed our Prime Minister. It is difficult and hard, and I wonder how we have ended up in this position. Hindsight is a great thing and we can look back and say that we would have done things differently. Unfortunately, we cannot change things now, and we all face a tough decision tonight. I am not yet sure how I will vote tonight. At first, I was fairly confident that I could not support the Government, but the conviction that I hear from both sides persuades me that I must question right up to 10 o'clock whether I am doing the right thing.

The Prime Minister deserves credit for what he has done to avoid war so far. Without doubt, we would have been at war already without our Prime Minister. What worries me—my quandary—is how we can rebuild the UN. I said that our Prime Minister has been called reckless, but the French Government and President are the reckless ones. I do not seek to blame them, but they have been reckless in this matter.

The credibility of the Government is what will count tonight. I am concerned about the credibility of the map that has been drawn for the future of the middle east. We will be united by the fact that we all fully support the British troops whose lives will be put at risk. It is not easy for me to say, "Go to war and risk your life." It will not be my life on the line, but that of an 18-year-old from my constituency and many others. Every hon. Member has constituents who will be put at risk. Two Territorial Army regiments have already been called up from Chorley, together with many full-time regulars. Their lives will be put at risk. I would like to think that we still had the opportunity not to put their lives, or the lives of civilians in Iraq, at risk.

Sir Patrick Cormack: What will those young men and women—our constituents—feel if the Government are holed below the waterline tonight, which is what would happen if the amendment were carried?

Mr. Hoyle: That would be an interesting scenario and I think we would then pull back our troops. The Government would be left with no alternative. The point is that the troops are now ready to go. We could have had an easy choice tonight if the Prime Minister had already committed the troops. We could all have got behind him and our lives would have been made easier. But tonight is not about easy choices: it is about difficult choices. We all face a difficult choice. I cannot easily face up to that choice, but I must do so later.

Many of my constituents genuinely believe that there should be an alternative to war, and I fully support that view. I wish that I could give them an answer, but we no longer have an alternative. It has now gone, and that is the difficulty. The press, the Churches, the constituency parties, other hon. Members and the general public all have their views, and we should listen to them and uphold their wishes, but sometimes we have to stand up and be counted.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 886

Tonight we have to make a difficult choice, and hon. Members on both sides of the House will be represented in both Lobbies. The split will not be straightforward, down party lines, because this is a matter of conscience. We should have a conscience on this issue. We should consider not what will happen to us, but what will happen to our armed forces. They will risk their lives, and that is what worries me. People say that the troops signed up for the job that they do, and that is true, but we should always seek to explore any alternative to war. We should grasp any opportunity to avoid war as firmly as possible, but my worry is that it is not there for us to grasp. That is what makes our choice tonight so difficult. When I vote tonight, I will upset people whichever way I go. I hope that we can all make the right decision.

I am one of those who have wondered whether, after 12 years, a few more weeks mattered. I believed that, if the opportunity was there to allow a few more weeks, I would support that. However, during those 12 years, we have failed, along with American Governments. When we saw the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds rise up against Saddam's regime—one of the most evil regimes that we know—we failed them in their hour of need. When they wanted us, we turned our backs. Are we going to mislead them again? There is a danger that they will rise up, thinking that they have the backing of this Government and the American Government.

Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak): My hon. Friend is struggling, as we all are, with these difficult issues. Some hon. Members have portrayed this as a simple issue—one Lobby for war and one for peace. Does he agree that it is not as simple as that and that there is no peace in Iraq to maintain? It is a country in which there is murder, barbarism, torture and oppression. Walking away from that will not help the Iraqi people one bit.

Mr. Hoyle: I agree that there is no simple answer. This is a difficult time for all of us. It will be a matter of conscience. I will not condemn anybody, no matter how they vote, because they will be voting for what they think is right. It is important that we will be voting for what we believe in and not for what we have been told to vote. People may say that we have been put under pressure. There is pressure from all sides, but I will not vote because of pressure but because I hope that what I am doing is right for my constituents.

There is no doubt that innocent civilians will be killed, because we cannot protect everyone. That is a price that I do not wish to pay. However, I am beginning to believe that we are left with little choice. The decision will be hard. I will swing between being with the Government and against the Government. As I say, this is a tough time. We have to make our minds up and do the right thing. We have to make the choice. I must make the right decision—not because of what happens to me but because of what happens to the people of Iraq and our troops on the ground. I must stand by my decision and explain it to my constituents if I let them down.

8.52 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Nobody who has listened to the Prime Minister over the past few months and, indeed, this afternoon, when he made a powerful speech, could doubt his conviction and

18 Mar 2003 : Column 887

sincerity on this matter. I agree with the Foreign Secretary when he says that no one has a moral monopoly.

I find myself in the same position as the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). Before I start, I want to set out my reasons for taking the view that I have taken. I am certainly not anti-American. Indeed, having shared, at least in a superficial way, the events of 11 September, when I was on Capitol Hill in Washington, I believe that I have at least some understanding of the change in the psychology of the American people that occurred that day. I do not ignore the failings of Saddam Hussein and his appalling regime, which I detest with every fibre of my body. I do not naively accept the actions of some countries and their representatives, which I believe are not without motives. I am not a pacifist. I freely admit that I take a robust line on occasion—as I did on Kosovo when I spoke for my party.

Having taken all those factors into account, I still feel that, at this stage and under these circumstances, the option of war is wrong. I believe that for three reasons. First, I do not believe that the alternatives have been exhausted. That has been largely because of a gross failure of diplomacy. My criticism is not of the energy levels of the British Government and our representatives in pursuing a consensus, but because I believe that the consensus that they were pursuing was on the wrong basis. Throughout the process, there was a ticking clock, and I agree with Sir Crispin Tickell, who asked who started the clock ticking. The British Government were trying to find a consensus on a military timetable rather than on a process of disarmament.

The case for war has not yet been made, certainly not to my satisfaction, but also not to the satisfaction of the people whom I represent in my constituency. Why is that important? Because, as a democracy, we can declare war only with the consent of the people of this country, and that consent is not presently there. The reason why they are not persuaded is partly because of the Government's changing position: first, the pretext was weapons of mass destruction, then regime change, and then some humanitarian impulse. At the last Defence questions, the Secretary of State for Defence seemed to be saying that, if British troops were put into Iraq, they would be attacked by Saddam Hussein's forces, so that was a pretext for putting British troops into Iraq.

Those arguments do not ring true to the British people. We have had a superfluity of dubious evidence that has been countermanded by the inspectors themselves when they have looked at it. We heard about the yellow mud from Niger, which turned out not to have been imported at all, and the mobile biological laboratories that proved to be ordinary trucks. There probably is significant evidence available to the security services, but it has not been shared with the British people.

Any progress that the inspectors have made has been belittled and demeaned by the American Government, and sometimes by the British Government as well. That is not helpful in persuading world opinion that the British and American Governments were serious about disarmament rather than about finding a pretext for war. Any number of fallacious arguments have been put forward, whereby anyone who does not agree with the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 888

Government's position is held to hold views that are absurd. It does not do much for the body politic for such arguments to be advanced.

The third reason why I find myself in difficulty is that I believe in the United Nations. I do not believe that when the Security Council has not been able to reach a conclusion we can be said to be acting in its name. Without that agreement, action would be illegitimate and wrong. I personally have doubts about action even with that agreement, because it would then be legitimate, but folly. There are very many arguments for not taking military action in the present circumstances. I do not want to get hung up on international law, which is often a chimera that can take any shape that the strongest country chooses to adopt for it, but I do believe that the political legitimacy that the United Nations Security Council offers is a significant factor that has now been thrown away.

As regards the position from now on, I share the view of every Member of this House. I am arguing against war. I am not persuaded for one moment by the ridiculous proposition that, because our troops may be employed, it is wrong for us to argue against their being deployed. This is the only opportunity that we have to make that point. Once the troops are in the field, however, I will give them my every support, and I expect every Member so to do.

Mr. Barnes: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that those of us who will vote against war and will later, when war starts, be opposed to it, are not thereby against our troops in any way, and that we will wish to support and sustain them as well as we can, even though we think that they should have been pulled out? Indeed, it would be difficult for me to adopt any other position. When I was 18—many moons ago—I was in Iraq as a member of the forces, never having heard a shot fired in anger.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman speaks with singular personal authority on that issue. I do not doubt the sincerity of any hon. Member , and nor will I doubt their credentials. I wonder whether we have paid sufficient attention to the humanitarian consequences of war, and whether the promised regional initiatives will come to pass. However, my biggest concern is that the consequences of this war are incalculable. I hope that they will be very much less than may prove to be the case, but I fear that there will be a knock-on effect not only in the region, but across the world.

In my more despondent moments, I feel that since 11 September, we have entered into a new hundred years war—a war not between religions, but certainly based on religion. If that is the case, my fear is that conflict in Iraq under these circumstances—without the support of the United Nations—can only inflame that situation: that it can only create more opportunities for conflict; that it can only reduce the influence of the United Nations and of other international bodies. For all those reasons, I believe that I am right to support the amendment, and to vote against the Government's position.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 889

9.6 pm

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this debate—it is a very difficult debate—in making a decision on which way to vote. I have been approached by many of my constituents, by party officers and by others in this House in the past 24 hours, and they have given me advice as to which way I should vote. I say that the debate is difficult because, as an officer in the Labour party for some 45 years, this is one of the most difficult decisions that I have had to take. The last thing that I want to do is to damage the Labour party and the Government, who are so ably led by our Prime Minister. They have done an excellent job since 1997, and I recognise the part that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have played in the past few weeks in trying to get a second United Nations resolution.

At the end of the day, of course, the decision has to be mine. I have decided that I will vote for the amendment, although I would have preferred one that included a timetable. I would have liked to incorporate amendment (b), which was not selected, into amendment (a), on which we will vote. I would have preferred a timetable, because a line must eventually be drawn in terms of how long we are prepared to give Saddam Hussein to disarm, and of how long the exercise can go on. I shall abstain on the main motion. I cannot support it because it contains a passage that effectively gives the power to go ahead to war now; however, I do support almost everything else in it. It refers to what will take place after the conflict, assuming that it happens, and I fully support that. It is with great regret that I will not be able to support the Government tonight.

I accept that Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant and that he possesses weapons of mass destruction, although exactly what they are we do not know. However, I recognise that the weapons inspectors have asked for more time, and it is for that reason that I will vote for the amendment. It is wrong for Hans Blix's report to be rejected. He has clearly said that he wants more time—months, not years—and I believe that we should give him that time.

I also believe that it is very important that we do not fall into the trap that some seem to have fallen into today. They say that war is inevitable in any event, regardless of tonight's vote, and in doing so they are implying that it is essential for us to go ahead, so that we can influence the United States after the conflict has taken place, and that if we do not join them, they will totally ignore us in future. That would be an appalling tragedy for the whole world. I want us to strengthen the United Nations.

Lynne Jones: I am perplexed by my hon. Friend's speech. If the amendment falls, by voting for the Government motion, he will be voting for war.

Mr. Pike: I did not say that; I said clearly that I would abstain. We all have to make our decisions and defend them. I shall defend my decision because it is based on my personal view of the situation. It is my vote and I shall vote for the amendment and abstain on the motion.

As I was pointing out, I do not believe that if the US chose to disregard the views of this country, there would be no future for unity or for the credibility of the United Nations.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 890

I am concerned about stability in the middle east. We must also consider countries such as Pakistan where the National Assembly was prorogued last Thursday. I am a supporter and sympathiser of President Musharraf; he should be assisted. I want the infant democracy of Pakistan to succeed. If Musharraf fell, there would be an extremist Government, which would be appalling.

Wars do not result only in death and injury; there are also massive refugee movements. On my last visit to Pakistan, I saw refugees from Kashmir and the 2 million refugees from Afghanistan. They had not fled from recent events in Afghanistan but from the Soviet invasion of 20 or 30 years ago. There are many such displaced persons all over the world.

I can remember the end of the second world war. I was living in London when the flying bombs and rockets started so I know what it is like to be bombed. Indeed, to this day, I remember my seventh birthday. Just as I picked up my present, we heard a flying bomb overhead. We panicked because the engine cut out and we thought it was coming straight at us, so I never saw my present again. After that, we moved north to Burnley, which is why I ended up as its Member of Parliament. Burnley suffered as a result of my evacuation.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) referred—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Conversations are breaking out throughout the House. I appreciate that we are coming to the end of the debate, but the House should do the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) the courtesy of listening to what he is saying.

Mr. Pike: My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham referred to the Suez invasion. I am no pacifist and I was doing my national service at that time as a member of the Royal Marines. I was not called to Suez although I should have been if the conflict had continued.

Suez shows that some conflicts do not yield the aims that we set out with. That is why I am worried about the present situation. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the aim of Suez was to end the middle east problem and to keep the canal open: but what happened? Ships were sunk in the canal and it was blocked for years. We had to develop supertankers because we could not use the canal.

The other fiasco was that there were tragic deaths. A marksman in my squad was killed by the Egyptians as he was disembarking from a helicopter. I shall never forget that. We were only 18 or 19 years old. The consequences of war can be extremely serious.

I do not think we have reached the stage where we need to go to war. We need a few more months to allow the weapons inspections to be completed. The inspectors should be allowed to say whether disarmament is taking place. We could then make a decision.

The action that we are taking is tragic. I realise that 11 September changed the world. Wherever we were at the time, we saw what happened then. I support the Prime Minister in his fight against terrorism, especially the fight against the causes of terrorism, which we must always keep in mind. I believe that the Prime Minister has a 100 per cent. commitment to settling the problems of Palestine and Israel—unlike President Bush.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 891

We also need to solve the problems of poverty and illiteracy throughout the world. Our Prime Minister is committed to that and I give him my full support, but I cannot vote with him tonight.

9.15 pm

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): This has been a remarkable and extraordinary debate. We have heard from 55 hon. Members—too many for me to refer to them all, I am afraid, and I hope that those to whom I do not refer will forgive me. It has been a passionate and sincere debate in the best traditions of the House, and may I say what a pleasure it is to see the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) in his place this evening? We could have done with him earlier in the debate.

None of us can derive any pleasure from where we find ourselves tonight. We had all hoped that the UN would provide a route to disarming Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) said, sadly, we were wrong in that hope. We had all hoped that a united international voice would bring Saddam Hussein to his senses. We knew that only a united and determined voice, backed by the credible threat of force, would work.

Now, sadly, we will never know whether a second resolution would have brought Saddam Hussein to disarm voluntarily. What we know is that that chance has been sunk by the ill-considered action of France, and I hope that, as the transient euphoria and popularity fade, the French will reflect on the chilling consequences of their ill-considered action. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) and the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) in their judgments on France; I do not believe that history will treat France kindly.

Lynne Jones: Although it is extremely unfortunate that President Chirac used the words "regardless of the circumstances", is it not time to consider a more accurate portrayal of what he actually said in the context of the assessment that the weapons inspection process was working and the acknowledgement of the role that the threat of force has played? President Chirac says:


    "My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote "No" because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves—to disarm Iraq."

Mr. Ancram: I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Lady; I had not realised that she is an apologist for the French President. The French President knew exactly what he was saying when he said it, and he knew its impact.

Serious concerns have been expressed today and, as we have said throughout, we must respect the sincerity of one another's views. I heard the views of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg); my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed), for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) and for Billericay (Mr. Baron); and the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). I do not agree with their conclusions, but I respect their views and pay tribute to them for the way that they expressed them today.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 892

I also tried to listen with respect to the leader of the Liberal Democrats. He knocked me off that attempt very early in his remarks. He lectured us on the need to listen to the voice of the House if it were to vote against the Government tonight. He then told us that he would not accept the judgment of the House if it voted for the Government motion tonight—some democrat. He made false accusations that the Government sold arms to Saddam Hussein after he gassed the Kurds, and then he refused to accept an intervention from my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), who would have proved him wrong—not much moral fibre in that. He talked of consistency; his only consistency is his inconsistency. He makes the Grand Old Duke of York look like a paragon of decisiveness.

The debate has revolved around a number of key questions. First, does Saddam Hussein—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Too much conversation is going on.

Mr. Ancram: First, does Saddam Hussein really pose a risk to international peace and security? Well, the UN certainly thinks so, and it has thought so for the past 12 years because all but one of the 17 resolutions was passed under chapter VII of the UN charter, which deals with threats to international peace and security and which, under article 42, permits the use of military force if necessary to deal with them.

It was interesting that the words of resolution 1441 deliberately replicated the language of article 42. Nobody who signed up to it, including France, can be in any doubt as to what that resolution means. They knew at the time when they signed, and they still know it. Nobody denies that Saddam Hussein has failed to comply with resolution 1441. It is incomprehensible that any of the signatories did not accept the need for the action that must flow from it.

The second question is: does Saddam pose a threat to us? The Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in powerful speeches today, made a compelling case, to which I do not need to add. Hans Blix's 7 March report demonstrates the terrifying weapons of mass destruction that are missing, and that must still be assumed to be there. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) said, they are clearly a threat to us today, and they will be a growing threat in the future if they are not dealt with now.

Why should we act now? There is no doubt, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) argued effectively, that if we were to withdraw from action now and withdraw our troops, we would not only destroy the credibility of ourselves and our policy but of the United Nations and international security, too. There can never be an absolutely right time, but history teaches us that action delayed or postponed is rarely action avoided. Putting off what needs to be done almost always leads to more dangerous challenges later. As my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) said, if we do not deal with it now, we will have to do so later. To me, that is the most compelling reason why we must vote for action tonight.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir Brian Mawhinney) said that it was not enough to know what must be done if we do not do

18 Mar 2003 : Column 893

it. We do not have the moral right to turn our backs on a threat in the certain knowledge that we will leave to those who come after us something far worse and far more dangerous. There can be no more dishonourable political act than that.

The next question is: is military action legal? I accept the Attorney-General's advice. It is not the advice of an individual lawyer or legal expert but the considered legal advice of the person who is charged with the constitutional duty of advising the Government and the House on the legality or otherwise of actions. The House should give exceptional weight to that advice.

Mr. Lansley: Does my right hon. Friend recall that, in 1991, in the Gulf war, an inherent right of self-defence enabled us to repel Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, but the British and US Governments sought and received specific approval from the United Nations? Many, such as me, feel that we should have continued down the path of seeking specific approval from the UN. In the absence of that, however, the question we must resolve tonight is: will we vote for this amendment, the only result of which would be for the American Government to go it alone, knocking away the last remaining central pillar of British foreign policy, after all the damage that has already taken place?

Mr. Ancram: I agree with my hon. Friend on his last point. On his first point, if he looks at the Attorney- General's advice, he will see that, under resolution 1441, consequent on the previous resolutions, the legal authority is there.

What we must realise tonight is that we vote but our armed forces fight. We must never forget our armed forces as we debate conflict. We must never take them for granted. They are brave, professional and courageous. They will do what is asked of them, and they will perform magnificently. They must know that they have our unequivocal and wholehearted support.

What we are doing is right in the national interest, but it must also show positive results in meeting all our objectives, and I was pleased to see that those objectives are set out in full in the motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay was correct in saying that the House and the Government must address them. The first of those is the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We must not forget that that is the objective of the United Nations resolution: it was never regime change; it was the elimination of those weapons.We need to be sure that our military operations will specifically target Saddam's weapons of mass destruction—whether it is the nerve agents, the mustard gas, the illegal warheads or the other vile weaponry that we have heard about.

We know from the experience in South African that if a country is committed to disarmament, the United Nations can achieve it extraordinarily quickly. I remember that nuclear disarmament in South Africa was carried out in a matter of days once the Government decided to go down that route. I hope that arrangements are being made with the United Nations to ensure that once relevant areas of Iraq are secure from Saddam Hussein's regime, it will finally be able to complete its mission fully and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 894

We also want to hear the Foreign Secretary outline clearly that the Government are making adequate provision for the swift delivery of humanitarian aid. That is not only to reassure the House and the British people but, more importantly by far, to let the people of Iraq know that with the removal of Saddam Hussein, the aid that they so desperately need will be immediately forthcoming. It is important to get that message to them as early as possible. We are told that all that is in hand, but we have not yet heard what is in hand or how it will be delivered. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge rightly pointed out, in a moving speech, that in Yugoslavia we started but we did not finish. This time we must finish.

We must also ensure that what replaces Saddam Hussein's brutal regime is a truly representative Government, accepted by the Iraqi people and, as Kofi Annan said and the Azores meeting agreed, under the auspices of the United Nations. The new regime should allow the fledgling, functioning democracy of Kurdish northern Iraq to continue to meet Kurdish aspirations for a degree of autonomy. It should recognise the long-ignored Shi'a majority rights and their claim to a share in the Government. It should safeguard the rights of the Sunni Arabs of central Iraq and of smaller minority groups, such as the Turkoman population in the north and the small Iraqi Christian population. If the Administration are not representative—if they are not balanced—they will fail. I hope that the Government are well appraised of that in their conversations with the United Nations. Above all, we must preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq, as the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations have all recognised. Coupled with representative Government, that is vital in order for that country to move forward to the domestic cohesion, stability and prosperity that it so wants and, I believe, deserves.

But we cannot look at Iraq in isolation, especially when we talk about stability in the region. We know that the focus of so much anger emanates from the continuing Israel-Palestine dispute There will never be a settled peace in the wider Arab world until there is a lasting peace between the Arabs and the Israelis. If action is to be taken in Iraq, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) said, there must also be immediate progress in the nearer middle east. We must urge the United States not only to publish the road map, but to promote discussion and implementation of it. We must also press both Israelis and Palestinians urgently to engage in genuine negotiations that lead to a secure Israel sitting alongside a viable Palestine.

Once that is done, further immediate challenges will face us all in rebuilding, reforming and renewing those institutions that have been the victim of the divisions in the past months. As my right hon. Friends the Members for North-West Cambridgeshire, for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and for Fylde (Mr. Jack) said, the events of the past months have called into the question the ability of the United Nations to act with unanimity when international security is threatened. The events raise serious doubts about the current structures and procedures of the United Nations. When the crisis is over, we will need to generate a debate on how it can be made effective again.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 895

We will also need to look at NATO. We cannot let a body that has assured our peace and security for 50 years to become a footnote in history, but that is what we face today. Recent events have shaken NATO to its foundations. They have sown severe doubts in the minds of the United States and many new members. We must fully embrace the vision advanced at Prague last year for NATO to develop greater capabilities and specialisations to deal with new threats, crisis management, non-proliferation and, indeed, missile defence. Above all, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) in a remarkable and typical speech said, we must ensure that the United States remains fully engaged in NATO and that the Atlantic partnership remains its foundation.

Recent events have also created fundamental rifts in the European Union. They have proved that a unified European foreign policy is a fantasy. I have to say that the Opposition have always said that it was. We need to repair Europe and to restore damaged relations, not within a coercive structure, but as part of a true partnership, and I hope that the lessons of the last months will be well and truly learned before the Convention on the Future of Europe resumes its work.

This debate has highlighted the evil with which we are faced, and it has made it clear why that evil now needs to be removed. It has shown clearly that Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is a threat, that the threat is current and real, that Saddam will not disarm voluntarily, and that the people of Iraq have suffered under this tyrant for long enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) said, we can choose tonight to prolong the misery or bring it to an end.

The time for decision has come, not just for the Prime Minister, not just for the Government, but for the House. The motion asks us to authorise "all means necessary" to remove Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We know what those words mean. Those words mean military action and military action means war. This is not easy for any of us. I say in all seriousness that voting for war is the most serious vote that can be cast in the House. Voting for war in the knowledge that we are committing our armed forces, that lives may be lost, that injuries will be sustained and damage caused, is hard. It is a grave moment for us all. But as Conservatives on these Benches we know what we must do.

Our party has always stood for the national interest. Our party has always stood for the security of its citizens. Our party has always stood for what is right. These are our principles, our instincts, our traditions, and we will remain true to them tonight. We know where the British national interest lies. This debate has confirmed that the Government are acting in that national interest and we will support the Government in doing so.

Tonight we will do what is right. We will be true to our country, to our principles and to ourselves. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to oppose the amendment and support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 896

9.32 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): This has been a fine debate on a momentous issue. There have, as we heard, been 52 speeches from the Back Benches and I commend them all. I should particularly like to welcome back the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell). It is a real delight to see him in his place. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) spoke with feeling and for the House when he said that we have sorely missed him—a point to which I shall return, if tempted, in a moment.

It is invidious to pick out from those 52 speeches any for special mention, but I do pick out two—one made this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). I greatly regret the fact that he has chosen to resign. I do not happen to share his view, but I have to say, first, that I greatly admired his record as a Minister in two Departments, and I think that the whole House was impressed by the quiet and dignified way in which he made his speech of resignation.

That gives me an opportunity to put on record my appreciation for my right hon. Friend and my friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), my predecessor as Foreign Secretary for four years, a very fine Foreign Secretary, and an excellent Leader of the House. I am sorry that after great years of collaboration in the shadow Cabinet and in government, he has left the Front Bench. That will not reduce our respect or friendship, but it will necessarily reduce our opportunities to work together. I am especially sorry that it should have happened on an issue such as this, on which there are great divisions, and it is not possible for me, and I think I can speak for the whole Government, to support his position.

The other speech I particularly wanted to mention, and I hope that in so doing I do not undermine the great prospects ahead of him, is that of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), the former leader of the Conservative party—and who knows what is in store in the future? He made a very powerful case for the need for us, not only in the UK, but in Europe and the international community, to work in partnership with the United States rather than separate ourselves from the United States. He is right, because of simple facts that none can gainsay: the United States has one quarter of the world's wealth and income, and armed forces greater than those of the next 27 countries put together. The issue is not whether we can argue that the United States is the only superpower. It is whether and how we encourage the United States to work within the multilateral system, or, by our own actions, push the United States away and force it to become unilateral.

The right hon. Gentleman's dismissal of the leader of the Liberal Democrats will be recorded as one of the great parliamentary put-downs of all time. When he spoke, the House was fairly crowded, and I am sorry that it was less crowded when the Liberal Democrat hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) spoke, because hon. Members missed an absolute gem.

Mr. Burnett: Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr. Straw: I shall in a moment, but I wanted to do the hon. Gentleman honour and flatter him by repeating

18 Mar 2003 : Column 897

precisely what he said. We were spellbound for seven minutes and 30 seconds as he made a powerful case against the amendment and in favour of the Government's motion. We were waiting to see whether the iron discipline of the Liberal Democrat party would, for once, break down and a man of conscience and principle would stand up—and of course he will in a moment. Then, in the last 25 seconds of his speech, the hon. Gentleman turned on his head, span around and explained how he would vote for the amendment.

Mr. Burnett: Will the Foreign Secretary give way? [Laughter.]

Mr. Straw: Of course, that is only a minor error as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) asked whether, in view of the hon. Gentleman's statement that he would vote in favour of the amendment, he would, if the amendment were lost, then vote with the Government. This is what the hon. Gentleman replied—I wrote it down exactly. He said, "I shall make my position quite clear. I shall probably have to abstain." [Laughter.]

Mr. Burnett: We will see what Hansard says tomorrow. Like other hon. Members, I shall abstain on the motion. I am surprised that the Foreign Secretary plays games on such a serious occasion. I made it clear that there is much in the Government motion that I can support, but, for example, I cannot support the proposition—and there is an overwhelming weight of opinion against it—that


    "the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today".

That is simply not the case.

Mr. Straw: Very good. There is nothing more to say. I will just add, before I move on to other matters, that we have seen more each-way bets placed by the Liberal Democrats this evening than ever we see on a grand national.

Before I come to the central issue of Iraq, let me say a further word about the related and very important issue of Israel and Palestine. It is as important for the future stability of the region as the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Our aim remains a just and lasting settlement of the disputes between Israel and her Arab neighbours. That settlement must allow for a secure state of Israel and a viable and secure state of Palestine, consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace.

There are, I know, many criticisms, and many were expressed today, of the position of the United States Administration in respect of Israel and Palestine. That debate is for another time. However, I draw attention to the fact that in addition to resolutions 242 and 338, we now have Security Council resolutions 1397, 1402 and 1405. Those were put on the Security Council statute book with the support and at the instigation of President Bush of the United States. Never before had the United Nations committed itself to a two-state solution. It has done so now, and I commend the President of the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 898

United States, as well as the Security Council, for taking that bold step. It is crucial that we ensure that progress is made towards the implementation of that vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): I applaud the efforts of my right hon. Friend and those of the Prime Minister in bringing about the road map. Let us all hope that it turns out to be rather more than the basis for discussion, as President Bush said. There are three people who are likely to use the situation in Iraq for their own ends and use the Palestinians to that end. One is Saddam Hussein, who will attempt to dupe the Palestinians into thinking that he is their saviour, and he is not. The second is Osama bin Laden, who will try to use the situation to create the idea of a general war between Islam, and Christianity and Judaism. The third is likely to be Ariel Sharon, who may well use the situation in Iraq to strengthen the occupation inside the west bank. If he attempts to do that, perhaps as the price of his non-participation in the war in Iraq, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that that will be resisted absolutely?

Mr. Straw: I understand my hon. Friend's concerns and I greatly applaud his work on behalf of the Palestinians. Whatever reservations he or others in the House may have about Prime Minister Sharon, Prime Minister Sharon is the elected head of a democratic Government. I do not happen to agree with my hon. Friend and I do not believe that it is fair or reasonable, therefore, to compare Prime Minister Sharon with the tyrant Saddam Hussein or the terrorist Osama bin Laden. Of course, if there is military action, as well there may be, it is incumbent on all Governments and states, especially democracies—that includes Israel and Turkey—to act responsibly, and I believe that they will do so.

Mr. Francois: The Foreign Secretary has just described Saddam Hussein as a tyrant, and I entirely agree. Throughout the debate, Members in all parts of the House have criticised Hussein's regime as evil. Is it not appropriate tonight, therefore, to remember Burke's famous dictum that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing? Should not hon. Members bear those words in mind as they prepare to go through the Lobby?

Mr. Straw: That is good advice, but I also say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said yesterday, that none of us should claim a monopoly of morality or a monopoly of wisdom. Each of us must respect the position of the other.

As the Prime Minister spelt out earlier today, we greatly welcome the process of Palestinian reform, which has led this evening to the passing of legislation by the Palestinian Legislative Council to create a Prime Minister with Cabinet-making powers. It has confirmed the nomination of Abu Mazen as Prime Minister. That legislation has this evening been signed and approved by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. After a few formalities, which we expect to occur today, and when the appointment of Abu Mazen is confirmed, we expect the immediate publication of the

18 Mar 2003 : Column 899

Quartet's road map. I greatly welcome President Bush's announcement last Friday to that effect. That will be another very important step forward.

The road map charts a clear course to a resolution of the conflict of the kind that I have described within three years. The promise that I give to this House is that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I and the Government as a whole will fully and actively support the Quartet and the parties in its implementation of the road map. We will hold all the parties to the promises and pledges that they have given.

During the course of this debate, a large number of questions have been asked about humanitarian relief. I should say that the House has been greatly assisted in its consideration of questions of humanitarian relief in Iraq by the fourth report of the Select Committee on International Development, which was presented just a week ago. One of the propositions in a list of recommendations made by that Select Committee was that there had to be a new United Nations Security Council resolution to provide proper authority for reconstruction and redevelopment work, and, in addition, a proper mandate for any Government who are to operate within the territory of Iraq once Saddam Hussein is removed. As the Prime Minister, President Bush and Prime Minister Aznar agreed in the Azores on Sunday, such a new resolution will be put before the Security Council. I hope very much that it will attract the fullest possible support, whatever position Security Council members have taken on the issue of military force in Iraq, and that the United Nations will be fully and actively involved in the reconstruction effort.

Mr. Salmond: If this war goes ahead, the minimum cost if it is quick war will be $100 billion, which is 30 times the annual budget of the United Nations for peacekeeping and 20 times its annual budget for development and humanitarian relief. Can the Foreign Secretary offer us any indication that there will be a change in those ratios?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman speaks with great confidence about the costs of reconstruction. I do not have his confidence in his figures. I say to him that Iraq is an astonishingly wealthy country. The oil is important to this extent: it has the second largest oil reserves in the middle east. One of the other agreements clearly reached in the Azores, which must also be endorsed by a United Nations Security Council resolution, which we shall propose, is that every single cent and penny of those oil revenues are not plundered by Saddam Hussein and his friends, but used for the benefit of the Iraqi people. I am quite clear that, when that happens, the costs of reconstruction to the rest of the world will be remarkably insignificant. I also tell the hon. Gentleman that we have already provided funds for contingency work to ensure the smooth passage of the reconstruction work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is travelling to New York tomorrow to see the Secretary-General of the United Nations further to co-ordinate that work.

Mrs. Mahon: Will the Foreign Secretary tell us now exactly what the cost of this war to the British Exchequer will be? Does he agree that many pensioners

18 Mar 2003 : Column 900

and students who are in favour of free grants and do not want top-up fees would rather that that money was spent on them, including his own son?

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend has many arguments against military action, and I respect her for them. However, we cannot reduce the value of doing right to the price of a student grant or loan. We should not indulge in that sort of calculus. Of course, I cannot say precisely what the cost of military action will be. However, I know that if we fail to take action in the face of an obvious evil and an unresolved problem, the costs not only to the international community but, over time, to this country and the rest of the world will be calculable and high.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Will the Foreign Secretary remind those who are considering voting for the amendment that, however pure their motives—I do not dispute the purity—if it is carried, Britain's influence in the world will be destroyed for a generation?

Mr. Straw: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made that point. Those in government and those who aspire to it cannot have it both ways. Many hon. Members, not in the main parties, claimed that we would never go to the United Nations and that military action would be taken without a mandate. We cannot go to the United Nations and argue for a fresh resolution—as we did, with the House's support—get a mandate, stand up and claim that words mean what they say and subsequently resile from that at the moment of difficulty and withdraw our troops. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) is right.

Mr. George Howarth: Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us who fervently hoped for a second Security Council resolution had the option removed by President Chirac, not the Security Council? Does he further accept that that leaves anyone sensible who has considered the issues no option but to support the Government?

Mr. Straw: It appears as though the French Administration may be changing their position. At 5.22 pm, the BBC News website stated:


    "Later on Tuesday, Paris' US ambassador Jean-David Levitte said France would join US-led action if Iraq used biological and chemical weapons."

I say to the Liberal Democrats that they should not be behind Chirac.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Straw: In a few minutes, we shall vote and I shall therefore not take any more interventions.

We are about to vote on the most crucial issue that has been before the House in the 24 years that I have been privileged to represent my constituency of Blackburn. I have been present when military action by British troops has been debated. However, never before, prior to military action, has the House been asked on a substantive motion for its explicit support for the use of our armed forces. The House sought that, but, more important, it is constitutionally proper in a modern democracy.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 901

The substantive motion places a heavy responsibility on each of us. We will carry it for years to come. The choice is not easy for any of us. In our previous debate on 26 February on the subject, I said that the issue was the most difficult that I had ever had to tackle. That is truer today. I did not want the country, the Government or the House to be placed in our current position. Like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and many others, I have worked for months for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. However, I am as certain as I can that the Government's course of action is right.

We are where we are. We all wish that the world was different and that Saddam Hussein had actively, fully and immediately complied with his disarmament obligations. However, he has not done that, and, however much they may have resisted the conclusion, no one, either today or in New York in the four Security Council meetings that I attended, has had the thought in their heads, still less the words in their mouths to claim that Saddam Hussein has fulfilled the full and immediate compliance that was required of him.

So, what are the responsibilities placed on us? First, we have clear duties to our troops in the field. I do not claim this as a conclusive argument—of course not. I do say, however, that if our troops go into battle, those young men and women—constituents of every Member of this House—need to know not that this motion has scraped through, nor that some here have willed the end but not the means, but that they, our troops, have the fullest conceivable support from each one of us.

Then there are the responsibilities that lie at the very heart of this debate—namely whether we seek the exile of Saddam Hussein, and, if that fails, his disarmament by force. For me, now, there is no other alternative, and nothing that I have heard today seriously suggests otherwise. I have already dealt many times with the issue of containment, but let me repeat that containment is not the policy set out in resolution 1441. Containment failed when the inspectors had to leave in 1998. We first had to resort to Desert Fox to set back Iraqi WMD facilities. Then, in December 1999, there was Security Council resolution 1284, which represented an attempt to offer Iraq a new way to peaceful disarmament while containing the Iraqi threat. Months of negotiation followed, and a new inspection regime. But three permanent members failed to support the resolution, Saddam said no, no inspectors were allowed to return, sanctions were eroded, and containment was left weaker than ever.

The world did nothing—until last year, that is, when President Bush's speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 12 September invited the UN to reconsider its approach. The United Nations embraced that invitation, and what it agreed—which was encapsulated in 1441—was not containment but a realisation that containment and the exhortation of Saddam Hussein had run their course and had failed. In their place, there was a new strategy for the active disarmament of the regime, backed by a credible threat of force—a threat that, if it is to be credible, has to involve the actual use of force if and when the threat itself has failed to work. As Sir Jeremy Greenstock told the Security Council when resolution 1441 was passed, there was indeed "no

18 Mar 2003 : Column 902

automaticity" about the use of force: it was entirely conditional on Saddam Hussein's compliance or otherwise with the resolution.

In the debate today, some have said that we should have shown more flexibility and offered more time. We did both. We offered great flexibility and clarity about the terms of the ultimatum, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spelled out. We also said—I said—to our five permanent colleagues that if the only issue between us and them over the ultimatum was more time than the 10 days that we had allowed, of course we could negotiate more time. But no country that has asked for more time has been prepared to say how much more time should be allowed before time runs out. None of them is prepared to issue an ultimatum. In reality, they are not asking for more time. They are asking for time without end.

The fact is this: Saddam will not disarm peacefully. We can take 12 more days, 12 more weeks, or 12 more years, but he will not disarm. We have no need to stare into the crystal ball for this. We know it from the book—from his record. So we are faced with a choice. Either we leave Saddam where he is, armed and emboldened, an even bigger threat to his country, his region and international peace and security, or we disarm him by force.

I impugn the motives of no one in the House. The different positions that we have taken all come from the best, not the worst, of intentions. But as elected Members of Parliament, we all know that we will be judged not only on our intentions, but on the results, the consequences of our decisions. The consequences of the amendment would be neither the containment nor the disarmament of Saddam's regime, but an undermining of the authority of the United Nations, the rearmament of Iraq, a worsening of the regime's tyranny, an end to the hopes of millions in Iraq, and a message to tyrants elsewhere that defiance pays.

Yes, of course there will be consequences if the House approves the Government's motion. Our forces will almost certainly be involved in military action. Some may be killed; so, too, will innocent Iraqi civilians, but far fewer Iraqis in the future will be maimed, tortured or killed by the Saddam regime. The Iraqi people will begin to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that should be theirs. The world will become a safer place, and, above all, the essential authority of the United Nations will have been upheld. I urge the House to vote with the Government tonight.

Question put, That the amendment be made—

The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 396.

Division No. 117

[10:00 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Austin, John
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barrett, John
Battle, John
Beith, rh A. J.
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Bruce, Malcolm
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Carmichael, Alistair
Caton, Martin
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Crausby, David
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Drew, David (Stroud)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Annabelle
Fisher, Mark
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Galloway, George
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Godsiff, Roger
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Gummer, rh John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, John (Orpington)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leigh, Edward
Lepper, David
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McCafferty, Chris
McDonnell, John
McGrady, Eddie
McKechin, Ann
McNamara, Kevin
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Malins, Humfrey
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Julie
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Hara, Edward
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Page, Richard
Perham, Linda
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pollard, Kerry
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Ken
Randall, John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sayeed, Jonathan
Sedgemore, Brian
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Stevenson, George
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N.
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Worthington, Tony
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Tony Lloyd and
Mr. Douglas Hogg


NOES


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Amess, David
Ancram, rh Michael
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Arbuthnot, rh James
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bailey, Adrian
Barker, Gregory
Barron, rh Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Bell, Stuart
Bellingham, Henry
Benn, Hilary
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blair, rh Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blunkett, rh David
Blunt, Crispin
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brown, rh Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bryant, Chris
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Byers, rh Stephen
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Cameron, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cash, William
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cooper, Yvette
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Corston, Jean
Cran, James (Beverley)
Cranston, Ross
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curry, rh David
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, rh Alistair
David, Wayne
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Stephen
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drown, Ms Julia
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Flook, Adrian
Follett, Barbara
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foulkes, rh George
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Edward
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Hague, rh William
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hammond, Philip
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Healey, John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hendry, Charles
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hunter, Andrew
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jamieson, David
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Khabra, Piara S.
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, rh Oliver
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Linton, Martin
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCartney, rh Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackay, rh Andrew
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Maples, John
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Mates, Michael
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Meacher, rh Michael
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, rh Estelle
Moss, Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev. Ian
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Paterson, Owen
Pearson, Ian
Picking, Anne
Pickles, Eric
Pickthall, Colin
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Portillo, rh Michael
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Redwood, rh John
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rooney, Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruffley, David
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Selous, Andrew
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simmonds, Mark
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Squire, Rachel
Stanley, rh Sir John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Straw, rh Jack
Streeter, Gary
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, rh David
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Viggers, Peter
Ward, Claire
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
Whittingdale, John
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Joan Ryan and
Dan Norris

Question accordingly negatived.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 907

Main Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 412, Noes 149.

Division No. 118

[10:14 pm


AYES


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Alexander, Douglas
Amess, David
Ancram, rh Michael
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Arbuthnot, rh James
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bailey, Adrian
Barker, Gregory
Barron, rh Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Bell, Stuart
Bellingham, Henry
Benn, Hilary
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blair, rh Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blunkett, rh David
Blunt, Crispin
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brown, rh Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Byers, rh Stephen
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Cameron, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cash, William
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Clelland, David
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Corston, Jean
Cran, James (Beverley)
Cranston, Ross
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curry, rh David
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, rh Alistair
David, Wayne
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dorrell, rh Stephen
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drown, Ms Julia
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Flook, Adrian
Follett, Barbara
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foulkes, rh George
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Edward
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Gummer, rh John
Hague, rh William
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hammond, Philip
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Healey, John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hendry, Charles
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hunter, Andrew
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jamieson, David
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Khabra, Piara S.
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, rh Oliver
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Linton, Martin
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCartney, rh Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackay, rh Andrew
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Maples, John
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Martlew, Eric
Mates, Michael
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Meacher, rh Michael
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, rh Estelle
Moss, Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev. Ian
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Paterson, Owen
Pearson, Ian
Picking, Anne
Pickles, Eric
Pickthall, Colin
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Portillo, rh Michael
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Redwood, rh John
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rooney, Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruffley, David
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Selous, Andrew
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simmonds, Mark
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Squire, Rachel
Stanley, rh Sir John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steen, Anthony
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Straw, rh Jack
Streeter, Gary
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, rh David
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyrie, Andrew
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Viggers, Peter
Ward, Claire
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whittingdale, John
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Dan Norris and
Joan Ryan


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Austin, John
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Battle, John
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh A. J.
Bennett, Andrew
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Bruce, Malcolm
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Carmichael, Alistair
Caton, Martin
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davidson, Ian
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, rh John
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Doughty, Sue
Efford, Clive
Ewing, Annabelle
Fisher, Mark
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, Don (Bath)
Galloway, George
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gidley, Sandra
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Grogan, John
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Heyes, David
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kilfoyle, Peter
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McCafferty, Chris
McDonnell, John
McGrady, Eddie
McKechin, Ann
McNamara, Kevin
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Julie
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Öpik, Lembit
Perham, Linda
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Stevenson, George
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N.
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Worthington, Tony
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Tony Lloyd and
Mr. Douglas Hogg

Question accordingly agreed to.

18 Mar 2003 : Column 911

Resolved,


    That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty's Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty's Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty's Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet's roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty's Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.