Previous SectionIndexHome Page

26 Feb 2003 : Column 283—continued

Mr. Straw: As will be expected, we are in active discussion with all our partners in the Security Council. As it happens, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my noble Friend Baroness Amos, is currently visiting the Cameroons, Guinea and Angola.

Mr. Ancram: I am relieved to hear that.

Given that it is accepted by all that Saddam Hussein is not complying and is not showing the change of attitude that Hans Blix was seeking, what further information—perhaps this will be answered by the Minister in his winding-up speech—will be required to trigger or justify a postponement of a vote? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that a last-minute agreement by Saddam Hussein to dismantle his illegal missiles will not be enough? I think that that was what the Prime Minister was implying yesterday, but we would like some clarity on the matter.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews : May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question that I would have asked the Secretary of State had I been given half a chance? I will put it to the right hon. Gentleman as he may well have information that Labour Members do not. If the weapons inspectors report that Saddam Hussein is complying with their demands, but it is revealed that the original Iraqi declaration was false and misleading, will it be the position of the Opposition that that would legitimise war?

Mr. Ancram: I was in the United Nations when Hans Blix reported on 27 January. The test that he set is correct—that Saddam Hussein must show that his attitude has changed and that he is prepared to comply directly with the requirements of resolution 1441. That is not a question of time; it is a question of attitude. Hans Blix will be able to report on whether what is happening in Iraq convinces him that such a change of attitude has taken place.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): My right hon. Friend has rightly highlighted the danger of cynical, last-minute gestures by Saddam that are designed purely to save his own skin. Given that Saddam has demonstrated over a long period that he is a mass murderer and a compulsive liar, would my right hon. Friend agree that, in practice, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction will also require the removal of Saddam and his hated regime?

Mr. Ancram: We are all aware that, unless Saddam Hussein decides voluntarily to disarm, the likely

26 Feb 2003 : Column 284

outcome of the removal of weapons of mass destruction will be the removal of Saddam Hussein. That brings me on to my next point, and I will take no more interventions because I know that many hon. Members want to speak in this debate.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday for information on contingency planning for the administration of Iraq after Saddam. I asked for such information as long ago as September. It is of grave concern that such information has not been forthcoming. With potential military action imminent, it is incredible that such contingency planning is not well advanced—although we were told yesterday that it was being discussed in the United Nations. We must be assured that there is no question of a long-term military administration and that early steps will be taken to see in place an administration that represents the interests and concerns of all parts of Iraq and all factions within it.

A key objective must be the preservation of the integrity of the sovereign state of Iraq. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that any break-up of Iraq would create enormous tensions and instability in the region? Does he also agree that, unlike Afghanistan, Iraq has a highly educated population and a suppressed but strong middle class? Within a relatively short period, it should be possible to establish a stable, representative and effective administration in Baghdad.

We need to know more about contingency plans for ensuring that immediate, adequate and effective humanitarian aid is available to the people of Iraq. That prospect would do much to reassure people in Iraq and the region, should military action prove necessary. The Secretary of State for International Development has shown a marked reluctance to come to the House to talk about this—she is not even in her seat today. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien) will give us some information when he replies to this debate.

Mr. Straw: With great respect, the Secretary of State for International Development has been extremely concerned about this issue and very forward in telling the House what she is doing about it. To my certain knowledge—because I heard her say it between 11.30 am and 12 noon today—she has spelled out what she is doing and the work in which she is involved.

Mr. Ancram: I have to admit that I was not here for that, but for a very good reason. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who spoke on my behalf, tells me that he received no information from the Secretary of State for International Development, other than a stream of abuse.

There is another important question on which we need reassurance. Everything that we are being asked to support is on the basis of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. We are told that they are well hidden. Are there contingency plans to ensure that, in the event of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, such material does not fall into the hands of terrorists or weapons dealers, or simply remain as a hidden arsenal that will be available to others in future? Even if we cannot be given the details, can we be reassured that clear plans exist to

26 Feb 2003 : Column 285

ensure that weapons of mass destruction and programmes to develop them will be well and truly eliminated by whatever action is taken?

I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has said about progress on the other area of concern in the region—the nearer middle east. It is essential for the reassurance of other countries in the region that that issue is not put to one side during the next few weeks.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) rose—

Mr. Ancram: If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will not give way. I really must draw my remarks to a close.

This is one of the most serious debates to be held in this House for many years. The Prime Minister faces momentous decisions in the days and weeks ahead. We have always made it clear that, so long as he is acting in the national interest, we will support him. That support has never been unconditional. We have been critical from time to time of the Government's failure to set out its case properly.

Mr. Paul Marsden rose—

Mr. Clifton-Brown rose—

Mr. Ancram: Some crucial questions remain to be answered and I have sought to pose them today. Most important is to do what is right. No international crisis is ever simple. No international questions are ever black and white. What is right and moral is sometimes difficult to discern. As I am sure we shall hear in this debate, matters are open to different interpretations. However, I am clear in my mind that, in the light of what we know, the direction and position of the Government in relation to this crisis is right. That is why, although it is not always the most comfortable or easy course, I believe that we owe the Government our support today. In the interests of the long-term security of our people, that is right. I urge my hon. Friends and right hon. Friends to support the motion.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I remind all right hon. Members and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed an eight-minute time limit on all Back-Bench speeches.

1.46 pm

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury): I beg to move, To leave out from "destruction" to end and add

The amendment stands in my name and the names of 115 hon. Members and right hon. Members from all sides of this House. Let us make no mistake. The Government motion before us talks—rightly—of the United Nations process. I welcome that. However, if the Government motion is passed unamended by this House, a signal will have been given that this House endorses the timetable that is now upon us—which will lead, I fear, inexorably to war within the next three to four weeks.

26 Feb 2003 : Column 286

Three main arguments appear to be mounted in support of early military intervention in Iraq. The first is: "They have had the time to comply; they don't need more time." Actually, Iraq has had 11 weeks since the weapons inspectors went in this time round. Let us not forget that, from 1991 to 1996–97, the weapons inspection process produced substantial results. Substantial amounts of chemical and biological warfare capacity were destroyed by the process. I would argue that a strongly supported weapons inspection process—one that is given the time to complete the job—is what the international community should be arguing for.

Jim Knight (South Dorset) rose—

Mr. Smith: I have only eight minutes, so I will carry on.

The second argument is that there has not been full and complete co-operation with the weapons inspection process. That is true. However, there has been a substantial amount of co-operation. Are we seriously saying that, because Saddam Hussein has complied by 70 per cent. rather than 100 per cent., that is a cause for going to war?

Next Section

IndexHome Page