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7 Nov 2002 : Column 449—continued

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston): Does my right hon. Friend believe, as I do, that the resolution in its current form constitutes a test for the United Nations of its relevance in the 21st century?

Mr. Straw: Yes, it does. That is why we have said throughout that this is not just a matter of our showing faith in the UN; in turn, the UN has to take responsibility for such a flagrant breach of its own obligations.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): Like all hon. Members, I hope that the UN will pass the resolution later today or tomorrow and that the Security Council will give it its full support. It is much more preferable that the will of the Prime Minister and people such as Colin Powell has prevailed in Washington, rather than that of people such as Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, who, at one time, seemed intent on our going to war straight away. Countries such as Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, will be very pleased that it seems as though things will be resolved peacefully through the UN.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us what will happen to the no-fly zones if everything goes ahead as the resolution indicates? What lessons will there be for the role of the UN in dealing with other hot spots? The middle east has already been mentioned, but what about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the half dozen other nations involved in that struggle, very much to the detriment of their own peoples?

Mr. Straw: First, I hope that the resolution will be passed by tomorrow, but I would rather the vote were delayed if the result of that delay was that we gained unanimity or a larger vote. I would personally be very happy to wait until the beginning of next week if by doing so we get 14 or 15 signed up to the resolution rather than a lower number.

On the no-fly zones, decisions will have to be taken about them in the light of circumstances. Self-evidently, they operate not under this resolution but under previous resolutions, but neither we nor the United States have an interest in continuing to operate the no-fly zones longer than necessary.

On the DRC, my hon. Friend will know that a UN peacekeeping force—MONUC—is already there, and we want MONUC to have an enhanced role in the emerging peace process.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): Although I acknowledge the work put into the resolution, are not the Russians right in saying that it still contains ambiguities? For example, would not inspection teams under the resolution be likely to be US-dominated? Why have UNMOVIC and the IAEA got the right to destroy any records at will? Why has Iraq got to justify everything that is not related to weapons production or materials? That could include any pharmacy shop. Why cannot the Secretary of State explicitly say that economic sanctions will be lifted if Iraq complies with the final UN resolution?

Mr. Straw: With great respect, on the last point, I have already said that resolution 1284 lays out the

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circumstances for lifting economic sanctions, which are not directly dealt with by this resolution. The sanctions could be lifted tomorrow by the Security Council if Saddam Hussein complied with his obligations; it is his failure to do so that causes the sanctions to continue. Moreover, let us be clear that it is not the economic sanctions that have plunged the Iraqi people into poverty but Saddam Hussein's decisions. He could feed every man, woman and child in Iraq today, under sanctions, if he chose to do so.

So far as the Russians are concerned, there has been a lengthy iterative process of discussion and negotiation with all five permanent members of the Security Council which has resulted in a meeting of minds with the Russian Federation and others. The Russians' view is a matter not for me but for President Putin and his Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov. A few issues remain to be discussed, but just before I came to the House I had a good conversation with Mr. Ivanov about aspects of the resolution, and I believe that these matters can and will be resolved.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): As it seems likely that, one way or the other, there will be regime change in Baghdad within six months or a year, do the Government have a clear view about whether the interests of Iraq's neighbours in ensuring the integrity of Iraq are more or less important than a possible conflict with the democratic wishes of the Iraqi people?

Mr. Straw: All the neighbours are clear about the importance of maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq. One of the preliminary paragraphs of the draft resolution reaffirms

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his work in bringing us to this point. Does he agree that the special status of this resolution under chapter VII of the United Nations charter, which deals with acts of aggression, puts special responsibility on the United Nations to secure its enforcement?

Mr. Straw: Yes, which is why I drew the attention of the House to the fact that this is a chapter VII resolution. That does not mean that other resolutions should not be enforced, but this resolution places categorical obligations on one member state. Other resolutions, such as 242 and 338, are more complex because they place obligations on a number of member states and on the Palestinian Authority, and we have therefore to enforce them through a different route.

Roger Casale (Wimbledon): I welcome the resolution, which offers us the best hope of achieving what we all want—a peaceful resolution of the crisis. I know that my right hon. Friend will accept, however, that while we all hope for the best, it is the Government's special responsibility to prepare for the worst. I know that he will pursue the United Nations route to the end, but he is right to emphasise that if it is not possible to resolve the crisis in that way, we must retain the right to act in the face of the threat posed by the Iraqi regime. Will he confirm that, in the future as now, it is in this country's

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best defence interests to have a strong multilateral, international system, but we will not achieve that by failing to stand up to dangerous, aggressive dictators such as Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Straw: I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks, and I agree with every word.

Mr. Ancram: The Foreign Secretary will agree that it is important that we and our American allies interpret the resolution and its outcome in the same way. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) asked him whether he would regard full compliance as a regime change, and his answer was that if Saddam Hussein is still there, the regime has not changed. He may remember that yesterday Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State, when asked the same question, said that if there were full compliance, the American Government would consider that the regime had changed. I hope that the Foreign Secretary is not trying to take a harder line than the American Government, and I offer him the chance to reconsider his answer.

Mr. Straw: Richard Armitage is a great man. I would not dream of disagreeing with him—no one who had seen his size would do so. This is a question of ambiguity, and an important issue is involved. There is an issue of regime change and of removing the current regime under Saddam Hussein from office. Is that the purpose of the resolution? No. It is not mentioned once in the resolution. As a matter of interpretation, if Saddam Hussein has his weapons of mass destruction removed, does that, in turn, change the nature of the regime? Yes.

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Orders of the Day

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill

Consideration of Lords message.

Mr. Speaker: I draw the House's attention to the fact that a paper containing a Government motion to disagree and amendments in lieu is available in the Vote Office. I also remind the House that proceedings on the Lords message are limited to one hour.

Lords Amendment: 17B, in page 9, line 8, at end insert—

1.46 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

I offer my thanks to Members on both sides of the House who have contributed to the debates and the improvements that have been made during the passage of the Bill through both Houses. It is a better Bill for the changes that have been made, and, on the whole, people have contributed very constructively to it. I do not pretend for a moment that I can satisfy every Hampstead liberal in every party, although I might go some way towards satisfying the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), who was described by one of his former shadow Cabinet colleagues as a Hampstead liberal, which I am not sure was a term of endearment.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Shocking.

Mr. Blunkett: Absolutely. Terribly shocking. I also want to put on record my thanks to the Minister of State, my noble Friend Lord Filkin, and our Whips, advisers and officials for all their tremendous hard work.

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