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26 Feb 2003 : Column 337—continued

5.14 pm

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): Like others who are waiting to be called to speak, I have listened to every speech and have tried to understand the way in which people have been reading between the lines. Although the sentiments of many hon. Members who spoke to the amendment are compatible with my own, I differ from them in my understanding of what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said.

Some hon. Members have had virulent words to say about George Bush but not about Saddam Hussein. I understand their fears and concerns—perhaps not those to do with George Bush, but certainly those to do with people around him, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Some mornings, I have got up and thought, "My God. We're going to war today." There is tension because we could, at any time, find ourselves dragged into a war.

I shall vote for the motion this evening. I have been asked to take note of the Command Paper, which is a factual and straightforward document. It reminds us that the story began in 1991—in particular with paragraphs 7 to 14 of part C of resolution 687. Had that resolution been followed at the time, the Government of Iraq would have reported in full on its weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Mike Wood (Batley and Spen): Would my hon. Friend confirm that resolution 687 also calls for the

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creation of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the middle east, which would entail the end of Israel's nuclear arsenal?

Mr. Griffiths: Of course I will confirm that. Having read the resolution, I am not surprised by my hon. Friend's point. However, it was Saddam Hussein who launched an unprovoked attack on Kuwait, so the world community was justified in wanting to see his weapons of mass destruction destroyed. Under resolution 687, the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council were given 45 days to set up a special commission, and a further 120 days to lay out the process of verification of the report made by Saddam Hussein. We know that by 1999, after a great deal of harassment, the inspectors decided that they could not carry on with their work and withdrew.

In the meantime, there was the no-fly zone policy, which provided for containment. It seemed to me that Saddam Hussein was quite happy with that. It left him, his family and his collaborators in power, living a life of wealth and luxury that the vast majority of his citizens could not even begin to dream about; and it meant that he was able to terrorise and kill people as he pleased, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) graphically described. Thousands died every year in a state that did not comply with a United Nations resolution that could have solved the problem. The resolution could also have solved other problems in the wider middle east, by creating a nuclear-free zone. I think that all of us would like to see that.

At the outset of this debate, the Foreign Secretary reassuringly said that there would be another vote in this House at, or around, the time that the second resolution was being put to the United Nations. I also got a clear feeling that there would be a vote before we went to war. I will support the motion tonight, but there should be a second United Nations resolution and a vote in this House to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein. There is a possibility of sorting out this terrible démarche peacefully. However, there are moments when my heart begins to stop because of the actions of, in particular, the people around George Bush, who would lead us into a war.

Several speakers have deliberately overlooked a crucial point: the inspectors still have an important role in reporting to the United Nations about the credibility or otherwise of their efforts in Iraq. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:

With those words echoing in my mind, I am happy to support the Government in the knowledge that we shall have further opportunities to debate the issue. If Dr. Blix reports that he is receiving co-operation from Saddam Hussein's regime, he will be given the time that he needs to carry out the inspections and to reveal the weapons of mass destruction. We can be thankful that the issue has been pushed to this point.

Like many people, I believe that the consequences of any war are incredibly difficult to judge. I have been involved in encouraging efforts to find a resolution to the Christian-Muslim conflict in Indonesia, where people are deeply fearful that a war in Iraq could result

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in a total upset of the work being done to try to maintain good relations between Muslims and Christians in that country. The Government of Indonesia believe that it would be extremely difficult to control extremists and prevent them from getting the upper hand there. We already have the experience of the Bali bombing.

There is a tremendous amount at stake in the debate and the votes that follow it. However, from what my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have said—particularly from what the Prime Minister said yesterday—I believe that the inspectors will have the time to resolve the problem peacefully. In that context, I am very happy to support the Government tonight.

5.22 pm

Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle): The Prime Minister's position last July when he first talked of supporting President Bush in regime change in Iraq was followed by an apparent failure to recognise the growing public disquiet at what is effectively a headlong rush to a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. The world does not feel a safer place than it did last July.

I am disgusted—I know that my constituents are, too—by the propagandist manoeuvrings to which we as a people and as a Parliament have been subject. It does not matter how often the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Foreign Secretary mouth the words "weapons of mass destruction", "anthrax" and "VX"; so far, none has been found and no intent to use them has been displayed.

Yesterday, I asked the House of Commons Library for a briefing note. While the Prime Minister continues to speak of weapons of mass destruction, it is important that we examine the scientific evidence for the likelihood of their being there. The Library says that

Dr. Julian Lewis: What about anthrax?

Mrs. Calton: I shall be coming to anthrax in a moment.

The Library briefing continues:

Various obstacles were encountered in ensuring the stability of chemical and biological agents and preventing their deterioration even when the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom had their own chemical and biological weapons programmes. In some instances, the addition of a stabiliser to a nerve agent or other chemical agents to prevent decomposition or deterioration can lengthen their lifetime.

Those are not my words, but those of the Library.

Undoubtedly, by the time of the Gulf war in early 1991, Iraq had developed advanced chemical and

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biological weapons programmes, but few sources believe that Iraq continued to produce such weapons during the 1990s while the UN inspection process was under way, even though the existence of an offensive biological weapons programme came to light only in 1995. Therefore, between 1991 and 1998, Iraq would have been dependent on existing stocks produced prior to 1991, which would have deteriorated to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the nature of the agent in question. Thus the main question mark over Iraq's current capability centres on whether it resumed the production of chemical and biological weapons following the departure of the United Nations Special Commission in December 1998.

Glen Rangwala, an Iraq analyst at Cambridge university, has compiled views on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction capabilities. His website examines the claims for each of the various weapons and makes very interesting reading. He says:

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): Will the hon. Lady tell us whether the person whose work she is quoting is a scientist or a political academic whose main interest is the politics of the west bank?

Mrs. Calton: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I understand that the academic in question has a scientific background, but I would be very happy to ensure that she gets the full details of the information that I have. It would certainly be very surprising if he were simply an analyst without any scientific background.

Glen Rangwala goes on to deal with anthrax. I asked the Library about anthrax because the Government have always indicated that anthrax is measured in litres and I was interested in that point. It seems that Iraq has almost always deployed anthrax as wet anthrax. In those circumstances, it is extremely unlikely that that anthrax is still a weapons-grade material. There have been arguments about the storage of anthrax, which is why we need weapons inspectors to examine the situation. A report published on 9 September 2002 states:

None the less, it would have to be stored properly, and the suggestion that it can be moved around is very difficult to support.

The document goes on to deal with sarin and cyclosarin, and says that both those chemicals would have deteriorated rapidly. US experts have considered chemical warfare agents that are less than 50 per cent. pure to be militarily ineffective. Indeed, the CIA has said that it is extremely unlikely that those materials are more than 18 per cent. pure.

I understand that my time is short, so I shall make my point. We are talking about weapons of mass destruction that involve chemical and biological agents. The weapons inspectors must be in there to see whether indeed those materials still exist. If they do not exist, and

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everything has been produced since 1998, then yes, there is an issue, but it is not clear that there is an issue in terms of weapons of mass destruction. Until we are absolutely certain about the way forward—about whether we are talking about old deteriorated weapons of mass destruction or ones that have been made more recently—we should certainly not be going to war.

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