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13 Feb 2003 : Column 1062—continued

Mr. Straw: First, may I say two things about the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), for whom the hon. Gentleman is deputising? I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that it is a matter of great pleasure to hear that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is making good progress. I also take the opportunity to record our congratulations to him on having been elected deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The hon. Member for Winchester asked about us ignoring vetoes. We do not want to be in that position. We are asking all members of the Security Council, when they come to assess the report of Dr. Blix and Dr. el-Baradei, to follow through the true meaning of the language to which every single member of the

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Security Council signed up on 8 November. We cannot be in the position where we and other members of the Security Council believe that conclusions following from the true meaning of 1441 are inescapable, but one member, for example, seeks to avoid those conclusions. In the end, the decisions that the British Government make must be a matter for the British Government endorsed by the House, not for another member state.

We want a second resolution if we deem military action to be necessary. That has always been our position, but let it also be clear that 1441 is a sufficient mandate for such military action, because 1441 spells out with complete clarity that there are obligations on Iraq that it must follow through—very straightforward obligations. If Iraq follows them through, there will be—there can be—no military action whatever. If Iraq fails to follow those obligations through, it will be in further material breach, and if it is in further material breach, serious consequences—force—will follow. There was a suggestion in the United Nations when we negotiated 1441 that there had to be written into 1441 a requirement for a second resolution if military force was to take place. That was dropped from the final draft, which is how we ended up with 1441 in its present form.

The hon. Gentleman asked me about discussions with my French and Russian counterparts. We have discussions all the time. I shall be having more discussions with Igor Ivanov and Dominique de Villepin tomorrow. I accept entirely, as I did in response to the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton, that we do not want to be involved in recriminations between friendly member states of the United Nations, so we will not get involved in that.

On further United Nations inspections, I said in a speech on Tuesday this week that if the inspectors themselves ask for more resources, of course we will consider that, but we cannot be drawn into the argument from outside the inspectors' ranks, which seeks to imply that, in the absence of co-operation, more inspectors will resolve the matter. They will not. Procrastination is not the solution to the problem; co-operation is.

Alan Howarth (Newport, East): Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that decent and humane instincts cause people to feel revulsion from war? Will he also explain to those who may be thinking about marching for peace on Saturday that there is an accumulation of evidence that indicates the need to deal decisively with the Iraqi regime as an irrational, aggressive, dangerous power in breach of international law, and that deeply desirable as it is that the United Nations should proceed together, if the UN proves unwilling to enforce its own resolutions, those nations that are willing to take responsibility would be justified in undertaking military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Straw: I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. I do not criticise people who go on this march. That is their democratic right, and I celebrate the fact that they are able to go on the march. I acknowledge that not only they, but people of all political persuasions and none are anxious about military action. We should all be anxious

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about military action, but most of us recognise that in certain circumstances military action is necessary to save the peace.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there are many RAF personnel based in my constituency and living there? Quite a few have been deployed to the Gulf already; many are on standby to go. Those brave servicemen and women are prepared to lay down their lives for their country. Surely they deserve nothing less than a totally united alliance and a totally honest Government, who issue no more dodgy dossiers?

Mr. Straw: I have dealt with the latter point. The dossier itself was accurate. On the hon. Gentleman's wider point, yes, I am aware of the important garrisons of RAF personnel in his constituency. We salute their courage. Of course, as I said in my opening remarks, it is extremely important that those people, who are placing their life, their future and that of their family on the line, receive the fullest possible support, not just from this country, but from the wider international community.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Just how will we determine that it is Saddam Hussein and his rotten regime that will face the serious consequences provided for in resolution 1441, and not the Iraqi people generally who suffer the bulk of the destruction? Their conditions have been described poignantly in the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, who spelled out a number of serious humanitarian crises that will arise if an attack takes place.

Mr. Straw: Any military action involves a terrible but necessary calculation that the number of casualties and deaths from that military action should be less than that which would occur without such military action. I say to my hon. Friend that in that calculation we must not only bear in mind the deaths and killings by Saddam Hussein, which will continue into the future unless his vile regime is checked, but draw into that account the fact that Saddam Hussein is already responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslim people in his own territory and in the territory of Iran and Kuwait.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): Does the Foreign Secretary share our concerns about Turkey, particularly in light of the disgraceful decision by France, Germany and Belgium not to fulfil their NATO obligations, and after the pretty shabby treatment that Turkey received from the EU for its application, which was underlined by the racist remarks of the Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Giscard d'Estaing? May I have an assurance from the Foreign Secretary that he will do everything to underpin Turkey, and that he will tell the Turks that the great majority of people in Europe, in NATO and in this country strongly back their new democracy?

Mr. Straw: The deal that was achieved at the European Union summit in Copenhagen was not a shabby one, but a very acceptable one, which we urged upon Chairman Erdogan and Prime Minister Gul at the time. I accept the wider anxieties expressed by the right

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hon. Gentleman. It is somewhat ironic that there is only one member state of NATO that is Muslim, and it is that state whose defence is being denied by three member states of NATO. This is an important matter to weigh in the balance. As for our position, we stand fully behind and in support of Turkey as a most important member of the NATO alliance and as a prospective member of the European Union.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): My friend mentioned the September document published by the UK Government, which suggested that Iraq had a fully functioning nuclear programme, but is it not the case that when the weapons inspectors reported on 27 January, they found no evidence at all that Iraq had reactivated its nuclear programme? It is because of the quality of evidence that has been presented by my friend and the Prime Minister that we seem unable to carry public opinion with us. Would it not be an absolute outrage if we went to war without a majority of members of the Labour party, the parliamentary Labour party and the British public endorsing that action?

Mr. Straw: I am sorry to say to my hon. Friend that I simply disagree with him. The evidence in respect of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons and weapons programmes, and its readiness to develop a nuclear weapons programme, is overwhelming. The United Nations itself has said that repeatedly. This is not an assertion of the United Kingdom Government or of the United States; it is the central part of resolution 1441. I know that my hon. Friend subscribes very strongly to the United Nations and places faith in it. The third paragraph of the resolution states that the United Nations recognises

That is the truth; that is what we are dealing with. It is Iraq that was found guilty 12 years ago and it has to prove its innocence, given the guilt that was plainly found in 1991.

On the nuclear weapons programme, the absence of evidence in a huge country where there are only 100 inspectors does not prove the absence of a programme. What we must then look at is the other circumstantial evidence. We must look at the fact that, in 1991, it turned out that Iraq had a nuclear programme that was so highly developed that it would have been able to launch nuclear weapons within three years.

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