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11 Feb 2003 : Column 776—continued

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham): Is not the point that Turkey needs protection before it comes under immediate threat? I strongly support what the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) said: Britain should be prepared to come Turkey's aid even before there is a NATO resolution.

On the dossier, which the Minister has accepted was unfortunately misrepresented, why cannot he just say sorry?

Mr. Ingram: Well, the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] I am a bit perplexed as to why we are talking about the dossier when the question was about NATO and the current situation that some people are calling a crisis. However, I understand that the linkages can be made, that the matter is for discussion and that as I am the first relevant Minister to come to the Dispatch Box, I am being asked all these questions about it. I answered in depth on the Government's approach to the dossier. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look again at the facts in the dossier; if he then disagrees with the dossier, he can call it anything that he wishes.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about whether Turkey needed support now. Perhaps I have not been clear enough and he has not understood the

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Government's position. The answer is yes, but as I have said, 15 out of the 19 countries also support that decision. We are clear about what we want from the NAC.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): May I ask the Minister not to cease repeating the fact that 16 nation states in the NATO Assembly support the resolutions and upholding the constitution? Will he repeat that Turkey's request under article 4 is before NATO today? It is very important to use tact and diplomacy at this time. Is it not a fact that the 18th resolution will enable every nation state in the Security Council to decide whether it wishes to uphold resolution 1441 and the charter of the United Nations and to render a signal service to the international community in relation to Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Ingram: I agree entirely with the three points that my hon. Friend makes, and I repeat that 16 out of 19 states wish to comply with his request. That is a significant figure which all of us should remember.

On my hon. Friend's point about the need for diplomacy, my opening response and, I hope, all my answers have indicated that that process is currently under way in the North Atlantic Council. Of course our ambassador to NATO will be working with those allies who are on side and those with whom we may have a disagreement to find a resolution. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for picking up the fact that this is the 18th resolution, not the second resolution. We have got to ensure that Saddam Hussein and his regime comply wholeheartedly, without question, with the will of the international community. That way lies peace.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Will the Minister ask the wholly admirable Lord Robertson, who is doing such a splendid job, gently to remind the Germans, French and Belgians of just what they owe to the United States, this country and the collective security that NATO has provided?

Mr. Ingram: All the nations attended the Munich conference, and those points were made. There was no question at all in the minds of the three countries to which the hon. Gentleman refers but that they remember all too graphically what we went through in the middle of the last century and what spawned NATO, as well as the purpose of NATO and why it has to remain the cornerstone of our collective security; but I will certainly pass on his comments to my noble Friend Lord Robertson.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is hardly helpful to restoring NATO unity for US politicians and members of the US Administration to make insulting remarks about our close allies—the French and the Germans?

Mr. Ingram: I will certainly draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my US friends, some of whom are US politicians, but it is not surprising that people descend to name calling at a time of what some

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would call crisis. It is right to say that we have got to take the heat out of all this. Let us get into the meeting and find a resolution to the current difficulties.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): Will the Minister tell the French that the way the French ambassador in Washington, who was president of the Security Council the day after the events of 11 September, explained the need for collective action in dealing with Saddam Hussein and the horrors that he has visited on his own people and his neighbours was very convincing? I hope that the meeting this afternoon will lead to an overcoming of the difficulties.

Does the Minister agree with me and, I hope, the British people in general that the best way to stand with the people of Iraq, their neighbours and Turkey is for us to go on standing with the United States?

Mr. Ingram: I do not know whether I will get the chance to say anything to the French President, but again, I am sure that those from that country who study the debates in this House will ensure that the hon. Gentleman's comments are reflected through their diplomatic channels to their Government. There is no question at all but that all the countries, including the one he mentions, are resolute in their determination to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies with the wish of the United Nations. The debate is about the route to that, wherein lie some of the differences.

On seeking the resolution to support Turkey, if there were an ultimate threat to or an attack on Turkey, the three countries to which reference has been made would not say, "No, we will not stand by NATO." They have consistently said that they will do so. So this is more about timing than substance. I am sure that diplomacy will prevail, and we have to await the outcome of that diplomacy.

Ross Cranston (Dudley, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is wrong to over-dramatise this? Article 4 of the treaty imposes an obligation to consult. That has to be done in good faith. Certainly, since the 1950s, an obligation of solidarity has grown up in practice, but this is not an unprecedented crisis; it is nothing like a breach of the treaty and NATO is certainly not crumbling.

Mr. Ingram: In the interests of brevity, I agree entirely with everything that my hon. and learned Friend has said.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): Does the Minister understand that some people in this country admire what the French are doing to hold us back from over-precipitate action? Some of the damage to NATO has been caused by our American friends, not at least in the disdainful way they treated the triggering of article 5 just after the events of 11 September and in the way that, over the past few days, Donald Rumsfeld has been virtually pre-empting Hans Blix's statement, which will come on Friday and which will in itself determine whether the United Nations believes that there should be war. I hope that he will convey that to President Bush, because we must reconcile the damaging threat to NATO's credibility, but that will not happen just by putting pressure on France.

Mr. Ingram: Of course the hon. Gentleman has a right to respect any country that he wishes and to criticise any

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other country. That does not happen in Iraq, and I know that he would stand four square behind what we are seeking to do to disarm Saddam Hussein and to bring stability and, I hope, peace to that country and that troubled region. I do not accept what he says about the United States pre-empting the United Nations. The US is setting out its case. That is part of open diplomacy. We are asked for our views because we are a democracy. Does the hon. Gentleman expect Secretary Rumsfeld to say, "I have nothing to say until 14 February"? That would be a ridiculous position to adopt.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): Having regard to the Prime Minister's repeated promises to treat war as a last resort and to the opinion poll in The Times today, showing that 86 per cent. of the British people believe that inspections should be given more time, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether serious consideration can be given to the proposals from our German, French and Russian allies or to any alternative option to allow more time to try to disarm Iraq peacefully?

Mr. Ingram: We have made it clear that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeatedly promised that that war must be the last resort. I hope that my hon. Friend takes that as a sincere and total commitment by the Prime Minister, the Government and every Minister who has responsibility in this area. I have said in response to earlier questions that peace, not the alternative, is a route that we want, but we cannot deliver that alone; only Saddam Hussein can do so. How can he do so? By complying with the wish of the UN.

My hon. Friend has consistently argued that we should recognise the will and wishes of the UN. We now have resolution 1441. I ask him to read it again and to realise that very clear commitments are laid down in that resolution. He now argues for more time and more inspectors, but how many more? How much more time does he want, and whom will that satisfy? It will satisfy Saddam Hussein, and it will continue his tyranny over the people of Iraq.

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