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26 Feb 2003 : Column 316—continued

Mr. Salmond: I very much agree with the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making, but, if I remember correctly, President Clinton made exactly the same point about the success of the arms inspections at last October's Labour party conference, and many members of the current Cabinet were nodding vigorously behind him.

Dr. Strang: We are in broad agreement that, certainly, the inspections process should not be concluded at this point.

Turning to the future, I am not in a position to assess the strength of opposition that the Iraqi regime can mount against the military might of the US, supported by Britain and any other states that might fight alongside us. But regardless of the intensity and duration of a war in Iraq, it would not be surprising if sustaining a new regime within a framework acceptable to the victors was far more demanding in terms of resources and what could be achieved politically. Reports of the plans for Iraq after military action show the scale of what we have in mind.

Neither would I want to guess what support there is for Saddam Hussein in Iraq—possibly the vast majority will welcome his overthrow—but it is certainly true that many people in the wider world will deeply resent a military attack, especially if it is not explicitly authorised by the UN. A leading figure in the international Muslim community who was visiting Edinburgh last year told me that an attack on Iraq will be seen by many Muslims throughout the world as an attack on a second Muslim country after Afghanistan. It would certainly not be a surprise if the new regime in Iraq were a target for Muslim radicals throughout the world.

More broadly, without a second resolution we can be confident that war on Iraq would be detrimental to the international coalition against terrorism that has been built up since 11 September 2001. Some states that are now co-operating would reduce or even cease their involvement. Some individuals who are currently co-operating with the police and the security services, or who have the potential to do so, would be discouraged from doing so. As has been pointed out, a bloody war in Iraq could be a factor in encouraging more young Muslims to adopt a misguided and radical approach and to support and participate in terrorist acts.

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What are the options before us? We can all agree that the most desirable outcome is full Iraqi co-operation with weapons inspectors and the peaceful dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. That would be a victory for the United Nations and for the stance taken by the United States and our Prime Minister. A second scenario is military action that is not endorsed by the United Nations. Some may say that resolution 1441 gives authority for military action, and if Iraq is in breach, any resulting military action can be described as being authorised by the UN. However, France, China and Russia made it clear when that resolution was passed that they did not consider their support for the resolution as constituting endorsement of future military action. Given the views of those three states, the realpolitik is that an attack on Iraq will be seen by the world as authorised by the international community only if it is backed by a further resolution from the United Nations. If military action is clearly endorsed by the UN, I imagine that most Labour Members will go along with it. While many people worldwide would resent the attack, explicit authorisation by the UN would reduce the scale of opposition.

Phil Hope: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dr. Strang: I am sorry, but I would rather not because of the time remaining.

A second resolution would demonstrate unequivocally to Iraq and the wider world that any military action was based on international agreement and was properly authorised by the only institution in the world that has the authority to do so: the United Nations.

I respect the motives of my right hon. Friends, and I do not question the seriousness of the issues about which the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon. However, to register my concern that the US and British Governments are, on the face of it, rushing to war too quickly, and to make it clear that military action without further explicit UN support is unacceptable, I intend to vote for the amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith).

3.52 pm

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): This may be the last opportunity to vote on a substantive motion before British forces are committed to war. If so, those of us who disagree with a war policy will find it much more difficult to express our views. It is therefore important that we take advantage of this debate to do so.

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has spoken about anti-Americanism, which troubles me, too. I am disturbed by the fact that I cannot support the American position on this matter. I have always attached huge importance to the relationship with the United States. I have long-standing and close relations with that country. I am bound to say, however, that I believe it to be wrong on this matter. I understand the American position, which is not crude or unworthy of respect. It is not about oil or about completing what a previous President left undone; in fact, I think that he was right to stop the Gulf war when he did in 1991. This is different.

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Since 11 September, the United States has developed a different sense of vulnerability. In the context of that sense of vulnerability, it has developed the philosophy of a pre-emptive strike against those who may pose a threat to its security. I understand that. I happen to think that it is wrong, but it is not an unworthy attitude. At the same time, I also have a great deal of respect and understanding for the position of the Prime Minister. In that regard, I agree with much that my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) said. It is right that we should stand by our allies; after all, we expect them to stand by us. However, we need to keep in mind the fact that the United States is the one country capable of taking unilateral action. It is therefore all the more important that we should bind the United States into the multinational organisations that try to regulate the world.

War is wrong. I want to explain my reasons for saying that in four brief ways. First, a Security Council resolution is highly desirable, but it does not make what otherwise is wrong, right. It may provide legal cover, to use the phraseology of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), but that is not sufficient.

Secondly, I am deeply troubled by the morality of what we are about to do. Here I find myself adopting the language—although perhaps less eloquently—of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). As we were reminded by the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), war involves injury and death—maybe of thousands—and the devastation of a country. We really must not do that unless all other policy options are closed. Above all, we must not do that unless we can properly invoke the doctrine of self-defence. I accept that the doctrine of self-defence has to be given an enlarged meaning: one does not wait until one is attacked. However, one must be able to say that the risk to one's own country, to the country of one's friends and allies, or to the world is imminent and grave. In all conscience, I do not think that we can say that about Iraq. The policy of deterrence has worked these past 12 years and I believe that it will continue to work in future. I am therefore not satisfied as to the morality of our action.

Simon Hughes: I agree with the right hon. and learned Member's last point. Does he agree that a risk that is clearly imminent and grave is the terrorist risk, which is most likely to be precipitated by precipitate action by us?

Mr. Hogg: I entirely agree; that is my third point. The consequences of any war are likely to be grave. They include the risk of increased terrorism, to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention. They also include: turmoil in the middle east; the fact that Islamic opinion throughout the world will be deeply affronted; and the certainty that we will be involved in, and preoccupied with, the affairs and administration of Iraq for years to come. Those are the predictable consequences of what we are about to do; the unpredictable consequences are probably just as grave. The risks are disproportionately great when one considers any possible benefits of conflict.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): The right hon. Gentleman talks about the risks of terrorism. What

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would be his strategy for dealing with the risk that the Iraqi regime could pass dangerous chemical or biological agents not, perhaps, to al-Qaeda, but to secular Islamic extremists?

Mr. Hogg: I would pursue a vigorous policy of inspection, but I would also make it plain that, if there were any evidence of the risk that the hon. Gentleman mentions, Saddam Hussein would be the subject of attack because the principle of self-defence would properly be invoked—as it was when military action was taken in Afghanistan.

Lastly, it is very dangerous to take a democratic country to war unless the population gives its whole-hearted assent. I do not believe that that assent has been given. We shall be taking this country to war when the country does not support war. That is a perilous venture.

For all the reasons that I have outlined, I am against war. I shall vote for the amendment and I shall vote against the Government's position. I very much hope that many other right hon. and hon. Members will do so as well.

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