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7 Nov 2002 : Column 439—continued

Mr. Straw: I am sorry that my hon. Friend takes that view, and I have to say that I profoundly disagree with everything she has said. The very intensive discussions that I have been involved in over the past eight weeks with Foreign Ministers and Governments—those of Mauritius, Cameroon, Ireland, Syria, Mexico, Norway, Bulgaria, Singapore, Colombia and Guinea, as well as those of the Russian Federation, France, China and the United States—are not discussions between people who are not equal. The P5 and the elected 10 are all equals, because we have a similar vote within the Security Council. It strains credibility to suggest that if there is, as I hope there will be, a 14:1 or 15:0 vote on the resolution, it has come about only because of bullying. That is not the case. The reason why it has come about—or rather, will have come about, if it does—and the reason why there is now a great emerging consensus, is that everybody in the civilised world recognises that Saddam Hussein has been in the most terrible breach of international obligations under Security Council resolutions, and that the time has come to require that awful, terrible regime to put right those breaches of obligations. Sadly, we have to do so by threatening force, but backing it in this way with such an inspection system. There are no trip wires in the resolution; we have been extremely careful to ensure that there is none. For

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example, it gives realistic time scales. If he wishes, Saddam Hussein can comply with every dot and comma of it. It is what it says it is: a final opportunity.

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): Will the Foreign Secretary give an assurance that in the event of non-compliance by Iraq with the terms of the resolution, and the future commencement of large-scale military operations, the Government will at that point come to the House and make it clear whether the objective of those operations is disarmament alone or disarmament plus regime change?

Mr. Straw: I shall not speculate about the circumstances in which military action may or may not operate, but I will tell the right hon. Gentleman, as I said in my statement, that there will be the fullest possible discussion in the House as things develop. For example, I am arranging with my right hon. Friends the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House for an early debate on the substantive resolution so that the House has a full opportunity to debate the matter.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the remarks of Tim Trevan, the former United Nations inspector, who referred to Saddam's consistent policy of Xcheat and retreat"? Does he agree that the real crunch point is likely to come not now or even before Christmas, but some time in the spring of next year, if the Saddam regime—as has always been the case—carries out a policy of lying and misleading, and cheating on its obligations? Can my right hon. Friend be sure that the international inspectors will be given the fullest possible support, so that they can really reveal what is going on in Iraq?

Mr. Straw: I do not think that we can yet be sure of anything so far as Saddam Hussein is concerned. We work on the basis that this man is a liar and a cheat. We spent a long time drafting the resolution to ensure that it covers every possibility that we can conceive of; and that is why, annexed to the resolution but being made into Security Council law, is a very detailed letter from Mr. Blix and Mr. El Baradei to the Iraqi regime, setting out further very important conditions on the operation of the inspection regime. We cannot be sure that Iraq will comply—it is in its interests to do so—but we can be sure that if it fails to do so, it will be in material breach. That will then be reported to the Security Council, and serious consequences will follow.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): I am not sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) got a full answer to his question, so perhaps I might try to put it this way. If Saddam complies in full with this resolution and remains in power, will that, in the Government's view, constitute regime change?

Mr. Straw: Well, if he is still there, it will not constitute regime change.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): In the event of Saddam Hussein's failing to meet the terms of this resolution, do the British Government intend to table a resolution to the United Nations, seeking its support for

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the use of force, whether or not that resolution will be supported by the Security Council? Furthermore, will he confirm that the draft resolution will not anticipate a carte blanche for British troops to intervene in Iraq without the obtaining of further permission from the House?

Mr. Straw: I have already sought to explain to Members how the procedure set out in the resolution would operate. If there is a further material breach, meetings of the Security Council will be called, and there will be discussions. It is open to any member of the Security Council—including, obviously, the United Kingdom—to put forward a resolution or resolutions about the circumstances that will then obtain. We of course reserve the right to do so, but I cannot at this stage anticipate what could happen in a series of hypothetical situations. I have already given undertakings on the issue of matters being debated, discussed and determined by this House. I am strongly in favour of this House playing a full role whenever the issue arises of military action being taken by forces on behalf of this country.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): Like others, I warmly welcome the progress made by the United Nations towards achieving compliance. The Foreign Secretary talked about the need to progress the middle east peace process, which is clearly essential. The Prime Minister proposed the setting up of a new conference on that process, but little progress seems to have been made. In the light of the imminent election in Israel and the possibility of an even more right wing Israeli Prime Minister, does the Foreign Secretary see matters progressing beyond mere words? Such developments are essential to getting the process moving.

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman raises a serious and important issue. As I said in response to an earlier question, we have to push forward with the middle east process with even greater firmness and determination precisely because of the situation with Iraq. We must not allow it to hold us back. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the various obstacles. Intensive discussions have taken place between the quartet—the United Nations, the Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union—about the so-called road map. I gave an interim progress report during Foreign Office questions on Tuesday. I am hoping for progress, not least now that there is some political space in the United States.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): A few minutes ago the Foreign Secretary said that, internationally, we are all equal. I do not doubt, however, that some are more equal than others. Given the atrocious nature of the regime in Baghdad—but also given what many believe to be the incontrovertible fact that the United States Administration have browbeaten the United Nations in an unedifying spectacle, on the basis that might is right—can the Foreign Secretary

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explain to me and to people of a like mind how it serves our wider national interest to be associated with such diplomatic tactics?

Mr. Straw: I cannot offer my hon. Friend an explanation because the assumption behind his question is simply untrue.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield): I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has said today, which underlines the tremendous skill shown by our diplomats in New York and elsewhere in working to achieve what he describes. I wish to underline a point that has been made only twice today so far. If international action follows, as I fear it will, the widest possible coalition of international support in the middle east should be sought, so that we receive, if not the active support, at least the passive acquiescence of those countries that will suffer most from the fallout of that action.

Mr. Straw: By the process of intensive discussion that has taken place over the past eight weeks—and through this whole calendar year—the United States and this country have shown that we fully recognise the need for a broad coalition of opinion behind such a use of the international community's power. That intent will continue.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): I wish to build on the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King), and remind the House that the Iraqi people would be the greatest beneficiaries from the removal of sanctions if Saddam Hussein complied with the resolution. If a time of crisis is a time of opportunity, is not this a great and unique opportunity for Saddam Hussein to return to the international community, to live by the rule of international law, to ease tension in the Gulf and to benefit his people by full compliance with the 17th United Nations resolution?

Mr. Straw: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): Will the Foreign Secretary accept that the motion before the United Nations is a considerable improvement on the previous motions, and that this process—in which he has played an important part—has been vital in obtaining a consensus internationally and among many who are concerned about the legality and the way in which any action might be viewed in future? Will he emphasise to the United Nations how important it is that the motion is not a compromise but something better? Will he also bring home to the United States the necessity of using the same efforts to solve the problems between Palestine and Israel at the same time?

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