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24 Sept 2002 : Column 51—continued

2.43 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I echo what the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said about the affront to democracy. I shall set an example by making a speech which is much shorter than 10 minutes. It is in the form of a question, and it is apposite that a Minister from the Ministry of Defence should be answering this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and I have been much involved in the case of the Chagos islanders. Their lawyers told us of a problem with the Ilois returning to Diego Garcia because of the building of six huge temperature-controlled hangars. We were asked what we would do to protest to the Government about that. We asked what the hangars were for. Apparently they are for B52 bombers and, particularly, B2 bombers that have to be repaired and maintained in a particular temperature. Why does one have B2 bombers? It is particularly to carry earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, specifically the B61-11.

My question, which I hope will be addressed in the reply, is this: we are talking about a British base, the British Indian Ocean Territory, of which Diego Garcia is a part and which is a House of Commons responsibility. The House of Commons should be told if nuclear weapons, albeit tactical, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons to destroy bunkers—one can understand why the American air force may wish to have this particular weapon in relation to Iraq—are to be launched from British soil, with or without agreement by the United States air force. We should be told in the winding-up speech tonight.

2.45 pm

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham): I have only a few points to make and I shall endeavour to be brief.

First, the issue is not about human rights in Iraq. The Foreign Secretary made great play of them and the dossier covers them. We need no persuading that Saddam Hussein's regime is about the most evil in the world today. It has committed atrocities on a scale unseen almost anywhere else, but that does not justify armed intervention

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in Iraq. If I may say so, it is something of a red herring. The debate is about something wider, more important and of greater application to the world outside Iraq.

Secondly, there can be no controversy about the evidence that Saddam Hussein has developed, and is continuing to develop apace, weapons of mass destruction. The dossier, which puts forward the evidence in a calm and measured way, makes the case conclusively. Surely that can no longer be a matter of dispute.

Thirdly, does Saddam having and developing such weapons amount to a threat sufficient in immediacy and gravity to justify armed military intervention, even as a last resort? As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said in a powerful, lucid and cogent speech—I am afraid that I did not agree with much of it—the threat issue is a matter of judgment. Everyone has to make their judgment about the gravity and immediacy of that threat.

We must look at other countries that have developed weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, and ask ourselves what it is that distinguishes Iraq from, for example, India, Pakistan or even Iran. The answer is that there is clear evidence from the history of the Saddam Hussein regime that it is fundamentally an aggressive regime. He has developed these weapons, not as an instrument of deterrence to deter attacks on Iraq, but as weapons of aggression. In the past 20 years, the regime has twice invaded its neighbours. On a number of occasions, it has launched ballistic missiles against neighbouring states. It is not a regime under external threat that has developed these weapons to create a mutual deterrence, as is the case with India and Pakistan—regrettably, perhaps, but one can understand the reason for them doing so. Those considerations do not apply to Iraq.

In my judgment, this threat is clear, serious and present enough to justify decisive intervention by the international community in whatever shape that takes to enforce a disarmament of the regime.

My fourth point is about the threat to the stability of the middle east and was raised by my right hon. and learned Friend and others. We should be very clear about this: the greatest threat to the stability of the middle east is Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Quite apart from the actual attacks that he has mounted against his neighbours in the past 20 years, the fact that he consistently sponsors suicide attacks by Palestinians helps to prevent the peace process that we all yearn to be restarted from resuming. It is hard to see how the successful disarming and removal of Saddam Hussein can do anything other than contribute to the stability of the middle east.

Of course, the same concerns were expressed before the Gulf war, 12 years ago, but in fact the successful conclusion of the Gulf war was the trigger for the start of the Oslo process—

Mr. Galloway: Where is it now?

Mr. Maude: Sadly, it has come to a halt, but there has been massive progress in that time. There is not the chasm that existed between the positions of Israelis and Palestinians at that time. Unfortunately, the movement has, been insufficient, but there has been movement and that has created greater stability in the region.

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My fifth point relates to the legitimacy of potential military intervention. I earnestly hope that there will be a further Security Council resolution, to test out the offer—if we can call it such—that Saddam Hussein has made to allow in inspectors without conditions, but such a resolution is worth while only if it allows the sincerity of that offer to be tested very quickly indeed, with very specific conditions. It must set out specific locations, which must be open to inspection in a completely unfettered way, very quickly—in a matter of weeks rather than months, or at most of very, very few months. A Security Council resolution that permitted Saddam Hussein a prolonged period in which he could exercise his undoubted skills of procrastination, which diffused and dissipated the will in the international community to enforce the already settled resolutions of the United Nations, would be a grave mistake. If no such resolution can be procured, I believe that the existing resolutions, if they are further ignored and obstructed, would legitimise military enforcement by the international community. That international community may, I concede, consist of no more than the United States and the United Kingdom, but it would be acting not in the interests of American imperialism, as was rather offensively suggested yesterday, but genuinely in the interests of upholding the will of the international community as already expressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions.

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

Mr. Maude: I have only a moment left and I have another point to make, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

My final point is about that relationship with the United States. I do not believe that British foreign policy should be a pale reflection of American foreign policy, I do not believe that the Prime Minister should be, in that rather offensive phrase, a poodle of the American President, and I do not believe that the current Prime Minister is behaving in that way. But I do believe that it is a completely legitimate aim of British foreign policy to uphold and support what has been the most important relationship for security and peace in the modern world. Unhelpful references to imperialism—particularly coming, as they did, from people who only recently were lamenting American isolationism—gravely damage that relationship.

I hope, as everyone does, that it will be possible for military intervention to be avoided, but I believe that if the will of the international community, through the Security Council resolutions, continues to be ignored and obstructed, the House should steel itself to do what it has always been ready to do in such circumstances, which is to accept the use of military force to enforce those resolutions.

2.55 pm

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley): Looking around the House today, I see relatively few Members who were present when I spoke in a previous debate resulting from the recall of Parliament. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley), who at the time represented Hammersmith, and my hon. Friend the Member for

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Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who were there. That was on Saturday 3 April 1982, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow will recall.

On that occasion we were debating the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and the then Tory Government's decision to use military force to regain them. I was one of the very few Members, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, who then opposed sending the taskforce. In the debate, I said:

I think that my hon. Friend will recall that some years later, when I was an Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, I vigorously opposed the United States' invasion of Grenada. Given the same circumstances, I would do exactly the same on both occasions again. Therefore my predisposition has been, and still is, to oppose military force unless there remains no alternative, and I have not been uncritical of the United States on a number of occasions when I thought it justified.

I also recognise, however, that we need to learn from experience. It can be argued that in both Argentina and Grenada the return of multi-party democracy was at least in part due to the military intervention. I wish that some of my hon. Friends had the humility to enable them to learn from the past. For example, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) said so eloquently in a previous debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow was spectacularly wrong in his dire predictions on Kuwait, Kosovo and Afghanistan, so why is he more likely to be right now in his judgment on Iraq? A few—I am glad that it is just a few—of my hon. Friends seem more willing to accept the word of a dictator, who has twice invaded his neighbours and who has gassed to death thousands of his own people, than that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the leader of our party. I find it astonishing, and it smacks of ulterior motives.

I accept, however, that there are genuine concerns, which have been expressed by, among others, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short), the Secretary of State for International Development.

I came to this debate with four specific concerns. First, I share the view that the United Nations Security Council should be centrally involved in the debate on action against Saddam. But, as we heard earlier, that is exactly what our Government have been in the forefront of ensuring. Secondly, I believe that an all-out military invasion must be seen as a last resort. Incidentally, there are many ways in which our forces can be mobilised short of an all-out military invasion. The mere hint of the threat of force has already resulted in Saddam's first concession. To keep the dictator to his word and to move him forward, that pressure must be maintained, not withdrawn.

Thirdly, I hope that the Government will take a further initiative to prepare for the situation in Iraq when Saddam finally goes, by whatever means. The Iraqi people have suffered too much already, and they deserve at least a chance of a decent Government when the dictator goes.

My final concern, which has been expressed by others, is that we give as much attention to bringing justice to the Palestinians as we are now devoting to Iraq. I know, from

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my visit to the Israeli Labour party conference, and from my discussions with the Prime Minister—he also said so again today—that there is greater determination in both to achieve a peaceful solution in the middle east than they are often given credit for. We shall all be able to give more time and greater attention to that when we are rid of the Iraqi dictator and his threat to us all.

As my four concerns have been met by the Foreign Secretary and by the Prime Minister today, I give my full, wholehearted support to the Government.

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