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25 Nov 2002 : Column 47—continued

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Straw: If my hon. Friend will allow me, I will give way to her later.

For the United Kingdom, support for the UN has always been a central tenet of our foreign policy. It is the embodiment of our belief in an international order of peace and security. The UN charter is a robust document.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Straw: If I may be allowed to make a little progress first, I shall of course give way.

The UN charter provides in chapter VII for mandatory obligations to be binding on all member states, and it makes it clear that these resolutions may be backed by military action.

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Today, Iraq stands in breach of nine separate chapter VII Security Council resolutions. It has completely ignored 23 distinct obligations out of a total of 27. That plainly cannot be allowed to continue. As President Bush said to the UN General Assembly on 12 September, the UN has either to enforce the writ of its own resolution or risk becoming irrelevant. Happily, the Security Council responded to his challenge.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way and I apologise for intervening so early in his speech, but I do so for a particular reason.

Over the past two days, there have been media reports that the Secretary of State for Defence is likely to make a statement today on troop deployments or calling up the reserves. If that were to be the case, obviously he would not be able to do so until his speech at the end of the debate. That would be totally unsatisfactory, as the House could not debate those issues. If he is likely to make a statement, will the Foreign Secretary outline what is in it so that it can form part of the debate?

Mr. Straw: I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, as the Prime Minister made clear, we have quite properly, because it is our duty, ensured that the House is kept fully informed and, where appropriate, is able to vote on substantive motions on the issue. That will continue. When and if there is an appropriate moment for a statement to be made on calling up reserves, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who is in his place next to me, will make it. As it happens, and although I shall speak briefly on the preparedness of our troops, no such statement is currently in prospect.

Mrs. Anne Campbell: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. As he knows, I receive a large amount of correspondence on this issue, and I have here half my weekend's post on Iraq and the UN resolution. My constituents are concerned that the resolution deliberately makes it difficult and potentially impossible for Iraq to comply, mainly because it requires Iraq to produce within 30 days a full inventory—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but interventions should be a little more spontaneous and certainly fairly brief in the context of the limited time available for the debate.

Mrs. Campbell: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The concern is that Iraq is being asked to produce within 30 days a full inventory of all activities and all chemical facilities in that country, including non-military areas. Will my right hon. Friend comment so that I can feed back the information to my constituents?

Mr. Straw: May I say to my hon. Friend, as I say to my other hon. Friends, that I shall deal with that issue and others that I know are of concern to many people in the country? I hope to reassure them. May I also say that nobody who reads the full text of resolution 1441, including paragraph 3, can be in any doubt that it is straightforward for Iraq to comply? It can comply if it wishes.

Mr. Kaufman: My right hon. Friend refers to the Government's consistent support for the UN. Would it

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not be a good idea at this point to place it on record that paragraph 3 of clause IV of the Labour party constitution also says that we should co-operate with the UN and that that part of the constitution was moved by Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn?

Mr. Straw: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend—as ever, I have to say. It must be one of the few parts of clause IV that was not amended by people such as me, when we had the opportunity to do so and to modernise it in 1994. He is quite right that it is a timeless part of our constitution and I am very glad that we are so committed to it. It has also to be said, as he tempts me down that path, that I am just old enough to remember when Mr. Wedgwood Benn was one of the leading modernisers—

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): That is when you were on the left.

Mr. Straw: I still am. Some of us still are—unlike my hon. Friend, who will doubtless go through some contortions to explain why he takes his current position on the Security Council resolution.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Straw: I want to make some progress now.

My speech endeavours to deal with key questions that I know are on the minds of many Members on both sides of the House. As I have said, President Bush told the General Assembly on 12 September that the UN must either enforce the writ of its own resolutions or risk becoming irrelevant. Happily, the Security Council responded to that challenge.

Negotiations on resolution 1441 were long and intensive. It was some eight weeks in gestation, and that period was one of unrelenting high-level diplomatic contacts. The Prime Minister made frequent telephone calls to President Bush, and spoke regularly to other Heads of Government. I had daily, sometimes hourly, contacts with my counterparts. But the success of that diplomatic activity owes much to the expertise and professionalism of many British diplomats and officials in New York, in London and around the world, and I pay tribute to them.

I want to describe the process of inspection set out in resolution 1441, then to answer four key questions. The questions are these. First, what constitutes a material breach? Secondly, who decides and what happens if there is a material breach? Thirdly, would there be a second Security Council resolution if military action proved necessary? Fourthly, if Her Majesty's Government were to decide that military action was necessary, would the House be able to vote on it, and if so when?

Resolution 1441 has one central aim: the peaceful removal of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction through an effective inspection regime. Although it is a complex resolution, it is carefully constructed. It sets out in its operative paragraphs the steps that Iraq must now take. At its outset, in paragraph 1, it makes it clear that Iraq

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under existing Security Council resolutions, in particular through its

—that is, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Paragraph 2 clearly states that this is Iraq's

Paragraph 9 demands that Iraq confirm within seven days of the passing of the resolution

Iraq has now sent two letters in response to that paragraph, one nine pages long and the second—which arrived over the weekend—13 pages long. Despite their verbosity and their argumentative nature, we are treating them as a yes. I say that in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell).

The next deadline is 8 December. By that time, under paragraph 3, Iraq must have provided the inspectors, UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the Security Council with an

Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei have already given Iraq advice in regard to that disclosure. The inspectors have already sat down with the Government of Iraq to offer them advice on how to comply—not how not to comply, but how to comply. There are no tripwires or traps in the resolution; it sets out a very clear procedure.

Aside from indications from intelligence, some set out in the dossier that we published on 24 September, the Government of Iraq will have to account for large stocks of weapons of mass destruction which the previous inspectors' reports—the UNSCOM reports, the last of which was prepared in January 1999—said were unaccounted for. I have the reports here: they set out, in 203 pages, all the material that the inspectors said was unaccounted for when they had to leave in 1998. This has been on the record for at least three and a half years.

The material included up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agent, including 1.5 tonnes of the VX nerve agent, more than 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents, and large quantities of growth media acquired for use in the production of biological weapons—enough to produce over three times the amount of anthrax Iraq had previously admitted to having manufactured.

Inspections by UNMOVIC and the IAEA will resume in Iraq by Wednesday 27 November, in just two days' time, four weeks ahead of the Security Council's deadline. Under paragraph 5, the inspectors will be required to update the Security Council on progress by 26 January.

Paragraphs 4, 11 and 12 deal with non-compliance, which I shall come to in a moment. Paragraph 13 reminds Iraq that it has been repeatedly warned

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