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22 Jan 2003 : Column 344—continued

Mr. Jenkin: My hon. Friend's point makes itself.

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With such a large overseas deployment, what is the position of the armed forces left at home, and what sort of circumstances do they face?

For example, the Government have deployed the First Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment, a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare regiment. That is obviously an appropriate element to deploy to this operation. But what NBC cover is left at home to deal with a potential terrorist attack? Do the Government begin to detect something of a morale problem in line regiments and other frontline forces, which find themselves confined to firefighting and possibly another tour in Northern Ireland for as far as the eye can see?

We are constantly told that the opinion polls show a majority of the British public to be opposed to war. Such polls inevitably depend upon the nature of the question and the timing. No civilised human being wants a war. At this time President Bush and the Prime Minister are seeking to avoid a war. It nevertheless remains one of the biggest challenges the Government face to ensure that the nation will be in true support of our armed forces if the time comes for military action.

The Prime Minister has been passionate in the advocacy of his policy, but, periodically, he has been drawing on different arguments. The need to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction begs the question: why Iraq and not North Korea? There is no doubt about North Korea's nuclear weapons and long-range missiles programmes—it boasts about them. Moreover, last week the Secretary of State said that North Korea might be able to strike directly at the United Kingdom within weeks.

The Government have also published a dossier on Saddam Hussein's human rights record. That certainly strengthens the moral case, against Saddam Hussein. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) might reflect on that. For some, it is certainly a pretext for intervention. If so, why not publish, as I asked earlier, an equivalent dossier on human rights in Zimbabwe? Only recently have the Government started to set out the arguments about links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq, weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) rose—

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) rose—

Mr. Jenkin: What a choice! I give way to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson).

Glenda Jackson: I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has made the best choice.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and indeed my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his most recent statement, have been at some pains to point out that there is no evidence linking Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, where does the hon. Gentleman obtain his evidence for making a direct link between Iraq and international terror as we have experienced it?

Mr. Jenkin: The hon. Lady must have kept herself rather immune from much of the speculation in the

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press, which is probably based upon sound judgment that there are substantial links between Saddam Hussein and terrorist networks. Saddam Hussein has worked with al-Qaeda in the past and he has sheltered known terrorists. He is today assisting certain terrorist movements. The hon. Lady would have to be blind to have missed that fact. The Government need to make that fact clearer.

Glenda Jackson: As I heard one of my hon. Friends say from a sedentary position, there must be a lot of very blind people here.

The hon. Gentleman referred to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden working together. I should point out to him that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have both worked with, and been funded and supported by, the United States of America.

Mr. Jenkin: I certainly think that the latter was a mistake, and that the Government would admit that it was a mistake. I have heard representatives of the United States Government admit that it was a mistake. The important fact is that, for example, the 1993 al-Qaeda attack on the twin towers was known to have been supported by Saddam Hussein. Most particularly—

Paul Flynn rose—

Mr. Jenkin: I should like to finish the point.

Saddam Hussein was the only world leader at the time to welcome the destruction of the twin towers in New York and the attacks on the Pentagon.

Paul Flynn: I think that the hon. Gentleman was in the House when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence was asked precisely whether there was any proof of collaboration between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda. My right hon. Friend said quite specifically that there was absolutely no evidence of any link between Saddam Hussein and what happened on 11 September.

Mr. Jenkin: The hon. Gentleman is entitled to put these questions to his own Government. After all, it is the recent arrests of suspected terrorists in this country, along with the discovery of materials contaminated with the lethal poison ricin, that seem to have galvanised the Prime Minister and his Government to make the link between terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and rogue states.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Jenkin: I wish to make progress. I do not want to detain the House unnecessarily.

During the cold war the west successfully developed a clear doctrine of nuclear deterrence to contain the Soviet threat. It helped to explain to people throughout Europe and the free world the basis for deploying weapons such as Trident, Cruise and Pershing nuclear missiles. Similarly, British counter-terrorist doctrine served this country well after 1945 in such campaigns as Borneo, Malaya and Oman, and, most significantly, against terrorism in Northern Ireland.

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Winning the argument is as much a part of modern warfare as winning the war itself. Now we are fighting a war against terrorism, but the Government have not yet succeeded in articulating a comprehensive doctrine for it. There is clearly need for new strategic thinking to meet new strategic twin threats—international terrorist networks linked to rogue states developing weapons of mass destruction.

On 17 October, I set out to the House what the basis of such a strategy might be. The Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday and the new UN resolution on terrorism would appear to be the first steps towards a more comprehensive approach to international terrorism and rogue states. It needs to be fleshed out, but the argument for threatening and, if necessary, using military force against Saddam Hussein can be won with the broad majority of the British people. It is asking far more of our troops than is reasonable to face military action if there is doubt that the nation is behind them. But the job of explaining would be much easier if people could see that the actions that the Government are taking are in a clear, coherent context of policy and doctrine that shows how the leading democracies of the world are acting rationally and in the wider interests of world peace and stability.

Llew Smith: Putting aside the obvious links between the United States and Iraq, does the hon. Gentleman think that it was somewhat of a mistake for the previous Tory Administration, in particular the Department of Trade and Industry, to encourage the export of military equipment to Iraq, as was highlighted and concluded in the Scott inquiry?

Mr. Jenkin: That point is entirely irrelevant to the debate.

The Secretary of State also addressed the question of the NATO summit, and this is the first opportunity that we have had to address the outcome of the Prague summit. I certainly join him in congratulating the noble Lord Robertson on his term of office as Secretary-General of NATO. He has been seeing NATO through an extremely challenging period and has maintained, so far, its relevance, supremacy and centrality to the security of our nation and our continent.

We remain sceptical about some aspects of the outcome of the Prague summit, particularly about the effectiveness of the commitments to increase military capabilities without targeted increases in defence expenditure. We welcome the creation of the NATO rapid response force, although the composition of that force remains unclear. But have the Government truly resolved the institutional relationship between NATO and the EU? I point out to the Secretary of State that the so called Berlin plus agreement is said to be the basis of the new settlement, but Berlin plus was coined at the 1996 Berlin summit when that referred to the European security and defence identity, long before the ESDP had been conceived and long before the ESDP included non-NATO EU members in the arrangements.

The question that I put to the Secretary of State and to which he could not give a clear answer remains. Who decides whether an operation falls to NATO or the

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ESDP? Every time a crisis arises, there will be a complex and lengthy political question to resolve—whether that crisis requires European military intervention. I raise that now briefly only because future events are bound to expose the problems.

This is an anxious time for many servicemen and women and their families. The time is approaching when we may need to resolve our differences in the House with a debate, a specific resolution and a vote. If that time comes and we resolve to support military action, that will be the time when we must all give our armed forces our fullest support. They are a beacon of excellence to other nations. They believe in our country. Once a decision has been made we must back them with faith in our own judgment.

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