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25 Nov 2002 : Column 67—continued

Mr. Ancram: Perhaps I have a suspicious mind. I used to wake up after dreaming about words, and I know what negotiating such a text is like. However, words matter and replacing Xrestore" with Xsecure" must have a significance that has not been explained. Hon. Members deserve an explanation because it may be germane to our debate.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman accepts that all hon. Members want weapons of mass destruction to be removed from Iraq, if they are found there, and elsewhere. However, he has spoken at length about confusion and the precursors to United Nations resolutions. Does he know about paragraph 14 of resolution 687, which demands the removal of nuclear weapons throughout the middle east? Israel is the only nation with proven supplies of nuclear weapons; it has perhaps more than 200 nuclear warheads. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that there is a link between the confusion and what is perceived—rightly or wrongly—in the Arab world as a partial attitude towards Iraq when Israel can harbour such weapons with impunity?

Mr. Ancram: I do not want to get involved in a long debate about Israel. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Israel is a democracy and would not be described as a rogue state in the same sense as Iraq. I have spoken at length about confusion because many arguments may soon turn on it. It is therefore important that we be clear that there is no room for a veto. Of course, we would prefer a second resolution, but we cannot be put in a position whereby one permanent member of the Security Council can veto necessary action against Iraq. I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will reaffirm that there can be no veto even if there is a second resolution.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South): The right hon. Gentleman refers to the need for certainty, but he listened as closely as me to the Foreign Secretary's speech. While the right hon. Gentleman conveyed uncertainty, and spoke hypothetically, using phrases such as Xwould prefer a second resolution", and Xwould, under certain circumstances, be prepared to move," it was clear from my right hon. Friend's language that, in the circumstances that the right hon. Gentleman describes, there will be no second resolution, and that Britain will not move such a resolution. That will happen only if a further resolution that allows military action against Iraq can be obtained on the nod.

Mr. Ancram: I am in the slightly unusual position of agreeing with the hon. Gentleman. That is why I read out the Prime Minister's statement on Radio Monte Carlo, in which he said,

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He did not say, Xafter another resolution has been passed" or Xsubject to another resolution." It is important to be clear about that point. I should hate to return in four or five weeks to find that hon. Members had voted on a misunderstanding tonight. I therefore ask the Secretary of State for Defence to make matters clear.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's researcher drew his attention to the joint statement of China, France and the Russian Federation on their interpretation of resolution 1441. It states that the resolution

If the right hon. Gentleman succeeded in getting the Foreign Secretary to repudiate the position of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, would that be good for British diplomatic representation at the United Nations?

Mr. Ancram: It is important to be frank in our discussions tonight. There is no point in a debate on a substantive issue if we do not clarify what is currently unclear. I test the position that the Prime Minister has set out against the Foreign Secretary's statement today. He has genuinely tried to explain the matter, but a lack of clarity remains and it must be tackled.

Mr. Kaufman: The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the precursor paragraphs in resolution 1441. The second line states that a resolution was made on 29 November 1990, that another was made on 2 March 1991, and that there was nothing in between. Yet we were parties—rightly, in my view—to a land war that began on 15 January 1991. It is important not to erect hurdles that were not built on the previous occasion. Although I would support a second resolution, paragraph 13 of resolution 1441 may be sufficient if the circumstances requiring military action arose, even though we all hope that that will not happen.

Mr. Ancram: That is a constructive contribution, for which I am grateful.

Let us consider material breach. I was asked what would happen if an aeroplane belonging to one of the allies was shot down. That is an important question because we know that our light planes have been fired upon since the resolution was passed. Paragraph 8 stipulates that

That answers the question that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) asked.

Would any further attacks by surface-to-air missiles on allied planes automatically be perceived as a material breach? The United States appears to regard them in that light. Would there be an automatic response? In those circumstances, would the inspectors, who may not know the details, or the country whose plane was involved, report the material breach? More clarity would be helpful.

Paragraph 7 stipulates that the inspectors

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It is important to understand what impediment or delay in allowing or facilitating such access will be regarded as a material breach.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) made an important point about what happens under paragraph 3 if, on 8 December, Saddam Hussein enters a nil or gratuitously irrelevant return in the required Xaccurate, full and complete" declaration of his weapons of mass destruction and the associated programmes. What would happen if he claimed that he had no weapons of mass destruction? Given the Government's dossier and repeated assertions by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that they have evidence from September this year that Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction, would not such a return be false by definition?

The dossier stated that

It also stated that

and so on. There was much more. Would the Government, whose dossier had been contradicted, perceive a failure to declare those items, which existed in September, as a material breach of Iraq's obligations under operational paragraph 4? When the Foreign Secretary was asked such a question, his reply did not satisfy me that he accepted such failure as a material breach. He went on to discuss what would happen if it constituted a material breach.

Paragraph 4 states that

So the false statement or omission to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe referred would, under this provision, automatically constitute a material breach.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: I want to ensure that my right hon. Friend is clear as to which direction I am coming from on this question. I have spoken to two authoritative and influential Americans recently, both of whom thought that a nil return would, in itself, represent a material breach and, therefore, give sufficient authority under resolution 1441 for military action thereafter. I am quite prepared to contemplate military action if there is a material breach of that resolution, but I would hope to see much more material support of the assertion that a nil return constituted a breach, before we went any further. A dossier of imports, without any report from the inspectors or any further opportunity to follow it up, would be a rather reckless basis on which to proceed or to state that there is now international authority for an attack.

Mr. Ancram: That is why I am pursuing this question. The paragraph to which I have referred makes it clear that

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It does not say Xmay constitute"; it says Xshall". The only question, therefore, would be whether they were false statements or omissions. The Government have told us that they have evidence, which they produced in their dossier, that these materials exist. If Saddam Hussein said that they did not exist, would that, in the Government's view, constitute an omission or a false statement and, therefore, a further material breach that would have to be pursued in the way described by my right hon. and learned Friend?

If there were also evidence, as the dossier suggested, that weapons had been actively hidden over the last few months, either within Iraq or outside it, would such evidence amount to a material breach? We need clarification on that point, too.

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