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25 Nov 2002 : Column 64—continued

Mr. Hogg: Does my right hon. Friend endorse what I take to be an assurance from the Foreign Secretary first, that he will return to the House for the authority of a substantive motion in the event that British forces are to be, or have been, deployed and secondly, if at all possible, that there will be an express motion in the Security Council authorising further action?

Mr. Ancram: I agree with everything that the Foreign Secretary said in relation to our duty to the House in the event of military action being taken, and I certainly endorse what my right hon. and learned Friend said. With regard to a second resolution, I hope that he will allow me to make my points on that in my own time in my remarks.

The concept of Saddam Hussein in possession of such weapons and such systems is intolerable. As the Foreign Secretary said, Saddam Hussein has demonstrated that he is prepared to use similar weapons against his neighbours and against his own people. I have heard it sometimes suggested that he would not use weapons of mass destruction. The survivors of Halabja must shake their heads in disbelief when they hear such comments made. Saddam with a nuclear weapon is unthinkable, not least because such a weapon, once established, becomes a deterrent against its own removal.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): The House knows that, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction against his neighbour, Iran, and against his own people. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, when he was a member of the then Tory Government, they did not condemn Saddam's use of weapons of mass destruction at the time?

Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman raises that in every debate on the subject. [Interruption.] He must treat the matter seriously. We are speaking about the development in Iraq at this time of weapons of mass destruction which could be used not only internally against Saddam's own people, as we know he can, but more widely than that. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would join the Foreign Secretary and me in trying to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not in a position to use such weapons, because they have been eliminated.

That is why the unanimous vote of the Security Council on resolution 1441 was so important. It has confirmed and underwritten the objective of eliminating those weapons. It makes it clear to Saddam Hussein that this is the end of the road. The resolution is not part of some diplomatic game; it is stark and it is for real. The wording of the resolution is clear: continued violation by Iraq of its obligations will result in serious consequences—no ifs, no buts.

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We know, too, what those serious consequences will be. As the Prime Minister rather esoterically told Radio Monte Carlo on 14 November, if Saddam fails to disarm,

not Xmay be" disarmed, not Xcould be" disarmed, but Xwill be" disarmed by force. That clarity is important. If, as we hope, the objective of eliminating Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction can still be achieved without recourse to arms, there must be no doubt in his mind that if, in the event, armed intervention is required, we have the determination to see it through.

I know that this is an issue that gives rise to genuinely held and sometimes contrary views, and I have said before that we must respect each others' opinions, but I believe that it is vital that we be totally honest and transparent in what we are debating and what we are voting on. This is no time for fudged positions; it is a time for clarity, because when considering potential British military involvement, the Government owe nothing less to the House and to the British people. Clarity is needed also because if, for one reason or another, the House cannot debate military action before any decision to deploy British armed forces might have to be made—we heard from the Foreign Secretary tonight the circumstances in which that might happen—it is vital that we know what we are voting for tonight.

The motion is a little bland in that respect. It leaves a number of key questions unanswered. The resolution itself is not entirely clear. I hope that, despite the Foreign Secretary's best efforts, I can still elicit a little more light about some of the key questions which I believe have still not been answered, but which the House will be asked to support and endorse tonight.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman a point that I had hoped to put to the Foreign Secretary. I should like his opinion on the term Xmaterial breach". If, for example, an American plane was brought down in one of the no-fly zones, which are not legalised by any UN resolution, would that be a material breach?

Mr. Ancram: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, as I intend to deal later with what would amount to a material breach.

The point is that the Government can no longer shelter behind the shield of not addressing hypothetical situations. The inspectors are now on the ground. There can be no hypothetical situations—only contingencies and options to which the Government must have worked out their responses. Yet there is still some confusion—I say this in all seriousness to the Foreign Secretary—on some of the important questions.

I must ask the Foreign Secretary again: does he agree with the Prime Minister, without equivocation, that if Saddam does not dismantle his weapons of mass destruction, it will be done for him? Will there be no more prevarication, negotiations or long drawn-out international debates in which Saddam can seek to divide and rule? Is he also clear that, while it is preferable to have a second resolution before action is taken, if action has to be taken, there is no requirement for such a resolution? Does he accept that the Xserious

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consequences" to which the resolution refers mean military action and that, with or without a resolution, as set out in paragraph 12, such action will follow continued violation by Saddam of his obligations?

I want to explore that matter in a little more depth, because it is important. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that resolution 1441, in conjunction with previous resolutions and article 42 in chapter VII of the United Nations charter, is sufficient in the circumstances to legitimise military action? That appeared to be the case on 7 November, when he told the House at column 435 of Hansard that

I ask that question, because on the same occasion, he said at column 438:

I have to say to him, with all the generosity that I can muster, that it may be complicated, but it is hardly clear.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that article 42 in chapter VII, which, as he rightly reminded us, deals with action in respect of threats to peace, refers in terms to

Does not paragraph 12 of the resolution specifically refer to restoring or securing international peace and security? Will he confirm whether that was the basis on which he reserved

to which he referred again today? Is he clear that that precludes a future veto? Does he agree that in the event of non-compliance by Saddam, it would be unthinkable that he could avoid the serious consequences because one permanent member of the Security Council, possibly for their own political or commercial reasons, decided to veto the decision? Will he assure the House that that situation cannot and will not arise? I understand from his earlier remarks that that is probably the case, but it is vital that we deal in this debate not with what is probably the case, but with what is the case under the terms of the resolution.

There is a further point of confusion that I would like the Foreign Secretary to tidy up. On 7 November, when the matter was before the House, the words of paragraph 12 and article 42 were identical. They referred to restoring international peace and security, but the late amendments made in the Security Council the next day altered the resolution so that it sought not to Xrestore", but to Xsecure" international peace and security. What was the significance of that change? The French seemed very pleased with it and I wondered whether it was a ploy on their part to detach resolution 1441 from article 42 of the charter so that they could subsequently argue that chapter VII did not apply. The Foreign Secretary shakes his head. The matter has never been explained; perhaps he would like to do that now.

Mr. Straw: The words mean what they say. As I said in response to an earlier intervention, there was a

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process of amendment. However, it is as plain as a pikestaff that the resolution is based on chapter VII. Indeed, the sentence immediately before paragraph 1 reads:

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