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26 Feb 2003 : Column 289—continued

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that this is a case not so much of the al-Samoud missiles, which are the delivery system, as of the nerve and biological agents that could be delivered? Those agents could be delivered by all sorts of other means, including manned aircraft and many others. Merely to focus on one particular aspect of the offensive capability of the Iraqi regime is wholly naive.

Mr. Moore: I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to listen carefully to what I am saying. I was not saying that the requirement was the only one with which Saddam must comply, but I pointed out that it was an important test of his willingness to comply. It is for the chief inspector and his colleagues to judge this matter. The chief inspector has said that he should be able to reach that judgment within months—not hours or days, but months. He must be given sufficient time.

Angus Robertson: Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the interview given by Dr. Hans Blix to Die Zeit newspaper? In the interview, which will be published tomorrow, he appeals again to be allowed a number of months to complete his task. Should not the international community listen to his advice and give him some months to complete that task?

Mr. Moore: Alas, I am not as well connected with the editorial desks of foreign newspapers as the hon. Gentleman, but I will take his word for it. His intervention reinforces the point that I was making: the

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inspection regime needs a number of months to carry out its work and we should not be short-circuiting it at this point.

Prior to the passing of resolution 1441, we relied on containment and deterrents to look after Saddam.

Phil Hope (Corby): It is hard to understand the Liberal position. First, we heard the hon. Gentleman's party leader saying at the "stop the war" demonstration that he did not support the war, but the Liberal Democrats' amendment says that they would support war if it were sanctioned by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. What is their position?

Secondly, is it not the case that, if the United Nations passes a second resolution, the Liberal Democrats would support military action against Iraq within weeks, not months, which contradicts what he has just said?

Mr. Moore: May I suggest that the hon. Gentleman not listen to what the spin doctors from Millbank, or wherever they are now located, say about what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) has said. He said not that he was opposed to the war, but that we were in favour of resolving the situation through the United Nations and that war must be the last resort after all other options had been exhausted. That is a world away from the hon. Gentleman's characterisation.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Moore: I am sorry, but I have given way numerous times and I intend to continue.

At this point, the weapons inspectors are still in Iraq and are still saying that they have a worthwhile job to do. In response to the draft resolution tabled by the British and American Governments, the French have offered an alternative, supported by Germany and Russia. It talks about needing a clear programme of action, reinforced inspections and timelines for inspection and assessment. The Foreign Secretary drew attention to the contrast between Iraq and South Africa, but surely one of the key differences is that, in South Africa, the very points that the French memorandum sets out—a clear programme and timelines for inspection—were contained in the inspection regime. We must not dismiss that out of hand, as the Government appear to have done.

If we are to proceed to war, we must be a lot clearer about what the objectives might be. There is currently an enormous lack of clarity. It is not clear whether war would be only for disarmament purposes or for regime change. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both referred to regime change in previous contributions. Those mixed messages do not instil confidence in the international community—

Mr. Bercow: Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene on the subject of mixed messages?

Mr. Moore: Tempted as I am to draw attention to the mixed messages of the hon. Gentleman's party—some Opposition Members are signed up to the amendment while others are not, and Front Benchers who talked

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previously about not needing a second resolution now favour one—it would be as well to leave the matter to one side.

Apart from the objectives, we must also reflect on the consequences of any action. The most important starting point will be the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Iraq and in neighbouring countries. As yet, it is not at all clear what humanitarian preparations the Government or international bodies are preparing for. In the context of the situation in Afghanistan, where the President has complained about lack of follow-up to the conflict that occurred there a couple of years ago, that issue is very worrying.

We must also not lose sight of the dangers in the middle east conflict and its potential to spill over in what is already a very sensitive and difficult time, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) made clear. As the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury put it, the prospect of upsetting and putting at risk the support of moderate Muslim opinion throughout the world is very serious and we must not overlook it. There are many things that we must sort out. In doing so, we must be clear what we are setting out to do.

Mr. Straw: Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many Muslims he thinks Saddam Hussein has killed?

Mr. Moore: With due respect to the Foreign Secretary, that is not the point at issue—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is on his feet responding to the intervention.

Mr. Moore: It is beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein's evil regime has murdered thousands of his fellow citizens. That is not the point. The point at issue is the consequence of any action in the middle east that is not supported by international resolutions. The Foreign Secretary must think very carefully about that.

Many things have got to be sorted out. In sorting them out, we must be clear about what we are setting out to do and how we will deal with the consequences. We are far from having reached that position at this point. It is important that, in due course, if there is to be a further resolution, we must have a debate in this House and a vote when UK armed forces are to be committed. At the key moment, when another UN resolution has been passed, that is absolutely vital. This debate cannot suffice.

We believe that the decision by the British, Americans and Spanish to table a new resolution at the United Nations is premature. All of us want to see the Iraqi regime disarmed and Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction destroyed.

Dr. Julian Lewis: That is like feeding the crocodiles.

Mr. Moore: Under the existing resolution, the weapons inspectors are carrying out a clear mandate to inspect and to report to the Security Council. They must be given sufficient time to carry out and to complete

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their task. War can only be a last resort once all other political and diplomatic options have been exhausted. We have not reached that point. The case for war has not been made.

2.10 pm

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley): I will not repeat what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary said so eloquently yesterday and today, but I want to put on record that I support my Government—not out of loyalty, although that is not a bad reason, but because I think that they are right, and I want to add a few points.

First, supporting the Government today does not mean that one is in favour of war. [Hon. Members: "Oh, yes it does."] It does not mean that, as the media and—I was about to say idiots, but I had better not—Liberal Democrat Members say. War can be avoided by one simple act—Saddam Hussein complying with the resolutions of the United Nations. All the pressure—not just our pressure, but the pressure from everywhere—should be on Saddam Hussein, not on Blair and Bush. The pressure should be on Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions. I am no fan of President Bush, but the hyperbole of the attacks and the comparisons that he has suffered is incredible. That does no one's cause any good. The United Kingdom and United States Governments are working through the United Nations. We have heard that the weapons inspectors have found non-compliance on anthrax, on nerve agents and on long-range missiles. The evidence is now overwhelming, and we should be supporting the Government.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the majority of those who oppose Government policy, but I agree with the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) that the Liberals and, I would add, the Scottish National party, are attempting to use this issue—an issue of life and death—for party political purposes. As I said yesterday, that is irresponsible opportunism. They should be aware that Saddam Hussein is cleverly exploiting everything that they do, including my ex-right hon. Friend's patsy interview with him on television. I saw the marches that some of my colleagues took part in. They were reported with joy and glee on Iraqi television and they gave great succour to the dictator. I saw no placards on those marches saying, "Saddam must go". I saw no mention of the 2 million dead in the two wars, the Kurds who were gassed, the Iraqis who were exiled, or the hundreds of children who starve each day now because of Saddam Hussein's manipulation of the sanctions. Yet each day that passes without action to disarm Saddam Hussein means that more of those children will die and more members of the opposition will be persecuted. My colleagues should remember that there are consequences of inaction, as well as of action.

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