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7 Nov 2002 : Column 433—continued

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for giving me sight of it in advance.

We congratulate the United States and United Kingdom Governments on the resolution, and I recognise the Foreign Secretary's contribution to it. We hope it will secure the support of the Security Council and not be vetoed by any permanent member. This is a test of the determination of the United Nations to deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unstable, undemocratic, despotic and aggressive regimes. If the resolution were to fall because of the veto of permanent members with political or commercial interests in so vetoing it, the integrity of the United Nations would be seriously damaged.

The resolution sets out clearly the requirements that Saddam Hussein must fulfil if he is to rectify what the resolution describes as the

Those resolutions, which together would achieve the central objective of the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction, are already in place. The resolution stipulates the timetables within which the various requirements must be met and rightly indicates serious consequences for non-compliance. We also strongly welcome the commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the resolution must leave no room for doubt or manoeuvring in the mind of Saddam Hussein? There are a number of matters on which the resolution could be still clearer, which I hope he will clarify. Do the words in paragraph 2—

mean that in the event of non-compliance no further resolutions will required before appropriate action can be taken? Is it implicit in the resolution that action is

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already justified by the existing and continuing material breach of Iraq's obligations? What happens if, after seven days, Saddam Hussein has not unambiguously confirmed his intention to comply with the resolution? That does not seem to be covered in paragraph 12.

Who judges under paragraph 3 whether any disclosure of weapons and missiles is full and final given that previous disclosures by Iraq have subsequently been admitted to have been inaccurate? What account has been taken of the use of the past eight weeks by Saddam Hussein to hide his weapons of mass destruction, which was alluded to in the dossier published in September, and what measures are being taken to counter that? What happens if, after the 105 days to which the Foreign Secretary referred in paragraph 5, no weapons of mass destruction have been found but there remain indications that they exist?

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the reference in paragraph 12 to restoring Xinternational peace and security" must be read in conjunction with article 42 of chapter VII of the United Nations charter, which states:

What will the Government do if the resolution is vetoed? What preparations is the right hon. Gentleman making to have a full debate on the subject in Government time when the House returns?

The message of resolution and, I hope, the message of the House to Saddam Hussein must quite simply be:

Mr. Straw: May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his generosity in what he said about the work done in the United States and here, including by me?

The right hon. Gentleman asked about a veto. We are not anticipating a veto of the resolution, and I do not want to anticipate that. Nothing is certain until the matter is put to a vote, but we have worked hard over the past eight weeks to bring our colleagues in the P5 and the elected 10 to a clear consensus not on a mushy resolution, but on a clear-cut resolution that sets out the clearest possible obligations on Saddam Hussein. Every Foreign Minister to whom I have spoken in the past eight weeks agrees that the best chance of resolving Saddam Hussein's defiance of the international community lies in the international community showing the greatest degree of unanimity—and toughness.

The right hon. Gentleman asks a series of questions about the Xfinal opportunity" mentioned in operative paragraph 2. The draft resolution is structured to tell Saddam Hussein, in operative paragraph 1, that

operative paragraph 2 states that this is Xa final opportunity"; operative paragraphs 3 to 10 set out how Iraq has to fulfil what is described euphemistically as an

under operative paragraph 11, the inspectors are under a duty to report to the Security Council if they come across any breach; and under operative paragraphs 4 and 11, the Security Council can—and will—resume its meetings to consider the circumstances if there is a breach.

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I do not want to anticipate what will happen if there is a breach, except to say that although we would much prefer decisions to be taken within the Security Council, we have always made it clear that within international law we have to reserve our right to take military action, if that is required, within the existing charter and the existing body of UN Security Council resolutions, if, for example, a subsequent resolution were to be vetoed. However, I do not believe that it will come to that.

The right hon. Gentleman asks about the 105 days. There is a clear requirement on the inspectors to report within 105 days, but that, as Sir Jeremy Greenstock made clear yesterday, does not mean that the inspections end when the 105 days have elapsed.

The right hon. Gentleman asks about article 42 of the UN charter. The whole resolution, if it is passed, has to be read against the background of the UN charter.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asks whether I am making arrangements for a full debate in Government time. The answer is yes, and we hope that it will be on a substantive motion.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): May I offer apologies on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell)? He had an unavoidable appointment in Scotland today.

I welcome the Foreign Secretary's statement about a debate on a substantive motion, which would lead to a vote in the House of Commons on this matter.

I welcome the progress that the Foreign Secretary and British officials have made on the resolution. I share the hope for a successful outcome leading to inspection getting under way with the clear intention of removing Iraq's programme for weapons of mass destruction.

Recognising that it was Kofi Annan who referred to the threat of force being essential to the success of diplomacy, which we know to be true in the case of Saddam Hussein, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Security Council remains central to the consideration of whether the use of force is required; and that the inspectors and, indeed, interested states are required to report any breaches by Iraq to the Security Council for its consideration?

Although it is welcome that US spokesmen appear in the past few days to have backed away from the idea that regime change can be the objective of or justification for military action, does the Foreign Secretary recognise that there is still widespread anxiety across a broad range of opinion in this country that, fortified by the Republicans' electoral success, those elements in the US Administration who favour unilateral action may again come to the fore? Will he maintain Britain's commitment to an approach that has UN Security Council backing and the best prospects of securing continued international support?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks.

The United Nations remains central to consideration of this issue. We have been working hard to ensure that the UN stays involved and enhances its credibility and effectiveness. I repeat: any decisions that we make in

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respect of military action will be made within the context of the body of international law, of which Security Council resolutions form a part, but not the whole.

The resolution does not deal with regime change: it deals with Saddam Hussein's flouting of Iraq's obligations in respect of its weapons of mass destruction. However, we need to be aware that the Iraqi regime is one of the most revolting regimes in the world.

Mr. Beith: That is not justification for military action.

Mr. Straw: It is one of the most revolting regimes in the world. I look forward to the international community being more effective than it has been in, for example, dealing with the flagrant violation of human rights within Iraq, which has been going on for the past 12 years.

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South): At the risk of being seen as sycophantic, which I am not, may I express my delight and relief that the United States has been prepared to persevere through the Security Council route, which may minimise the risk of a military solution?

I ask my right hon. Friend to give us a little more information about what he thinks the phrase Xserious consequences" may be. Has that been discussed? Is there some form of continuum of potential serious consequences that may run from a slap on the wrist, to a fine or military action?

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