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Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton): The Secretary of State rightly drew attention to the success of the military operation 10 years ago. I was there, I rejoiced in it and I was a witness of it. But that operation had proper backing in the Arab world and the international community. Where are our friends this time, outside Washington and Jerusalem? Is the right hon. Gentleman not concerned about our friendlessness in the world as we pursue this course?
Mr. Hoon: I have answered that question already. The hon. Gentleman was in Kuwait, and there is no doubt that Kuwait strongly supports the action that we have taken. Indeed, it provides a base from which RAF crews and pilots can operate.
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): It stretches credulity to say that the bombing is a humanitarian act to save Kurds given that the Turks, our NATO allies, are killing Kurds and that we are sending back to Baghdad Iraqi Kurds who have sought asylum. It simply does not make sense--it is a mess. As we are in a hole internationally, is it not time for us to stop digging and do as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) suggests--start talking? Even if we do so through a third party, please let us start talking and stop killing.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has rightly made a reputation in the House for concern about the rights of minority groups and organisations both in this country and around the world. I am surprised that she is not prepared to recognise the rights of, say, the people of Kuwait and of people who live on the ground in the northern and southern no-fly zones. That is why we are there and are protecting those people. My hon. Friend knows from the facts of Saddam Hussein's regime that if we were not there, they would suffer the sort of damage and harm that they have suffered in the past. However much she wishes otherwise, that is the reality of the circumstances with which we have to deal.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): Some of us have believed for some time that a grave error was made 10 years ago when the coalition forces were stopped so soon, before they had the opportunity to cut off Saddam Hussein's republican guard north-east of Basra. Some of us have believed for 10 years that there can be no peace in the middle east while Saddam Hussein remains in power. From what the Secretary of State has said, I think that he rather agrees with that view. If the right hon. Gentleman agrees that Saddam Hussein is the problem, not Iraq or the Iraqi people, and if the new US Administration intend to act more personally against Saddam and his regime, will the Government's policy be to support the US Administration in deposing Saddam?
Mr. Hoon: As it is the 10th anniversary of the end of the Gulf war, today is perhaps an appropriate time to be reflecting on those events. I can only remind the hon. Gentleman of what the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), said yesterday, I think, in Kuwait. He said that he had not judged it appropriate to continue the effort further, and argued that it would not have been justified in international law. Furthermore, he said that there was no military argument for continuing to attack Iraq once the legitimate objective of freeing Kuwait had been achieved. I think that that is a complete answer to the hon. Gentleman's observations. It has been a consistent policy of United Kingdom Governments not to work for regime change in the manner that the hon. Gentleman describes. I make it absolutely clear that we are convinced that Iraq would be a much better and safer place without Saddam Hussein and his regime, but that is a matter for the Iraqi people.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West): Does my right hon. Friend accept that the debate is not about the nature or malevolence of Saddam Hussein's regime, but about the most effective way of building broad support for controlling it? The problem with UN Security Council resolution 1284 is that Saddam's regime has no interest in compliance, so it is not a way forward. Does my right hon. Friend accept that we cannot achieve a proper resolution with the UK and the US alone? Is a thoroughgoing review being conducted across the MOD and the Foreign Office to consider how to rebuild broad support for an effective way forward in dealing with Iraq as part of a broader middle east policy?
Mr. Hoon: The difficulty with my hon. Friend's argument is that she is describing precisely the process that led to the formulation of Security Council resolution 1284. An enormous and determined diplomatic effort was made by the international community to achieve the broad consensus that my hon. Friend fairly describes. I was involved in that process for a short time as a Foreign Office Minister, so I can assure her that every effort was made to solicit opinion from around the world in order to achieve precisely the degree of consensus for which she argues. If she is suggesting that we should start that process again and repeat it, all that I would invite her to consider, after looking carefully at resolution 1284, is whether we would achieve anything different at the end of it. The resolution provides an opportunity for Saddam Hussein and his regime to end sanctions completely if they accept the need for inspection and the legitimate suspicions of the international community about their past efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. I invite my hon. Friend to read the resolution again and to consider whether any alternative would be more attractive to Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Hoon: The answer is yes to both points. Sanctions are targeted against military equipment, and our actions have been directed against equipment that threatens our aircrew who patrol the no-fly zones. The hon. Gentleman is right to stress his second point.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): Does not my right hon. Friend find it strange that he has the support of the shadow Defence Secretary, given that, at a time when some of us stood on platforms to support the Iraqi resistance and oppose Saddam Hussein, Tory Governments helped to arm him?
Mr. Hoon: The issue is not party political. The Labour Opposition supported the then Government's position on the Gulf war and their subsequent action. We are not talking about party politics. I accept that others hold legitimate and reasonable opinions and different views about international law. However, I have set out clearly the Government's policy and position.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) asked about the endgame. The Secretary of State's reply concentrated on an endgame whereby Saddam Hussein ends matters, but we are worried about the endgame from our point of view. Given the Secretary of State's anxiety about Saddam Hussein's development of weapons of mass destruction, does he believe that it is possible to prevent it through a combination of economic sanctions and aerial bombardment alone? If not, what is his recommendation for solving the problem in the long term?
Mr. Hoon: I remind the hon. Gentleman that our policy is not a combination of economic sanctions and aerial bombardment; it is a policy of sanctions. The use of weapons to protect our aircrew is a consequence of Saddam Hussein's attacks on them. If he did not attack our aircraft, there would be no need for "aerial bombardment", in the hon. Gentleman's words.
On an endgame from our point of view, the hon. Gentleman should propose practical and sensible suggestions about the way in which the policy of successive Governments--whom he may have supported from time to time--can be changed to deal with the problem. Resolution 1284 is a proper, diplomatic response by the international community to try to further the endgame to which the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) referred earlier.
Although I agree with the policy on no-fly zones because we have a right to protect the safety of our aircrew, the sanctions regime needs overhauling. May I commend to my right hon. Friend the report on sanctions of the Select Committee on International Development? It proposed smarter sanctions, which, if adopted, would mean that the regime would not get away with its current actions. It is a disgrace that allies such as Turkey allow 800 lorries a day to cross the border without checking their contents. Those lorries return laden with oil. The sanctions regime needs overhauling--