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10 Mar 2003 : Column 33—continued

Mr. Straw: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what she said and, if I may say so, the very robust way

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in which she has prosecuted the case against Saddam Hussein on humanitarian as well as wider security grounds. There is, of course, a strong humanitarian case against Saddam Hussein. We concentrate on disarmament because of our subscription to international law. The basis for any military action in the region will be implementation of resolution 1441 and its predecessors, but of course my hon. Friend is right to imply that a consequence of that will be freeing the Iraqi people from the terrible burden and humanitarian catastrophe that is the Saddam Hussein regime.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Will the Foreign Secretary please remind the House exactly of which part of resolution 1441 authorises war? Can he point to a similar resolution with the same wording under which war has been prosecuted and say which of the 37 UK Government vetoes were used unreasonably, and which uses of the veto by other countries were unreasonable?

Mr. Straw: I am delighted to do so. We start with paragraph 1, which says that the Security Council

We then go to paragraph 4, in which the Security Council

obligations of which it is now in breach. We then turn to operative paragraph 13, in which the Security Council

The text of all those paragraphs is available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): Will my right hon. Friend explain to the House how the raining of death upon innocent men, women and children can be an acceptable alternative to a policy of containment that is working? Will he listen to the people of this country, who are fed up and tired of him appeasing the United States and the hawks in the White House?

Mr. Straw: If I thought that there was a viable policy of containment that could work to ensure Saddam's disarmament I would support it, but that is palpably not the case. It is still possible for this matter to be resolved peacefully, but sadly that is Saddam's choice, not ours. With respect, I remember my hon. Friend saying something similar against military action in Kosovo. In the end, that proved necessary and was also right.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the International Development

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Secretary's description of the Prime Minister's policy as "reckless"? If not, has collective Cabinet responsibility broken down?

Mr. Straw: Like all my right hon. and hon. Friends, I believe that the policy that Her Majesty's Government are following is right.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Have the Government estimated the number of civilian casualties there will be if the war against Iraq takes place and 800 cruise missiles are targeted on Baghdad, as spelled out in the US war plan "Shock and Awe"? Has my right hon. Friend drawn up contingency plans for the plight of the children, when they are subjected to such terror bombing with weapons of mass destruction?

Mr. Straw: If there is military action, people will be killed, and some of them will be innocent. In any case, I do not even want guilty people to be killed unless that proves absolutely necessary. That is the nature of military action. I respect the pacifist tradition, but I do not support it. Unless we are pacifists, we have to acknowledge, as does the United Nations charter, that military action is sometimes necessary in pursuit of a greater good. It is my belief that if military action proves necessary the prime responsibility for that will be on Saddam's head. Although sadly people will be killed, the number of people saved by military action will greatly exceed the number killed.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): The Foreign Secretary has helpfully characterised the second resolution as a mechanism for ensuring that there is no lack of clarity, and that there is no lack of a date or timetable to pressurise Saddam Hussein, because he will know that at that moment he will reap the whirlwind. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that, irrespective of the result of the United Nations vote, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States will pre-empt that timetable?

Mr. Straw: I have to speak for the United Kingdom Government: I do not speak for the United States Government, as I made clear in a television programme yesterday. I repeat the undertakings that I have given before, which are there for all to see. We have repeatedly come to the House, and we have introduced proper, substantive votes on these resolutions. That is entirely appropriate. Subject to the caveat that I have entered about the safety of troops, we will come back immediately there is anything to report—as I have done today, even though there is no conclusion to the current Security Council considerations—and when there is a substantive result or lack of result.

Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South): Recently, the Prime Minister and President Bush have been dismissive of any use of the veto in the Security Council on a second resolution, yet on the Israel/Palestine question the USA has used its veto 34 times in the past 30 years. Given the USA's poor record on using its veto,

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is the Foreign Secretary happy about British support for military action in the face of a veto after a second resolution?

Mr. Straw: Our preference is clearly to get a second resolution, and plainly we can get that only without a veto. On many occasions, I have had to say that we reserve our rights as to what judgments we make if we cannot get a second resolution, but of course I understand that the authority of the United Nations will be one of the important considerations that we will have to take into account in any difficult decisions we then have to make.

Mr. Michael Portillo (Kensington and Chelsea): I have registered an interest.

What future does the Foreign Secretary believe NATO can possibly have now that the Foreign Secretary's good friend, dear Dominique, is touring Africa canvassing opinion against France's NATO allies, the United States and the United Kingdom?

Mr. Straw: I think that it has an interesting future. It certainly has a future—I am clear about that. These institutions, which have served, in the case of NATO, the western alliance and, in the case of the United Nations, the whole world, so well over the past 60 years are too robust to be undermined too far by temporary problems. We must all have a care, however, to ensure that those institutions continue to operate effectively.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): I commend the very hard work that lies behind the Foreign Secretary's statement. Is he concerned, however, that the joint organiser of the anti-war marches and demonstrations is the Muslim Association of Britain, with its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, who are committed as a religious requirement to the annihilation of the state of Israel?

Mr. Straw: I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about that. I have to say to her that in a free, democratic country, unlike Iraq, people come together in broad alliances to organise marches. I know from my long experience of being on marches that one sometimes finds oneself with the most curious of marching companions.

Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): The Foreign Secretary says in his statement that he profoundly hopes that the Iraqi regime will, even at this late stage, seize the chance to disarm peacefully. I am sure that we all recognise that sentiment. However, the right hon. Gentleman has also said on several occasions that it is in fact impossible to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in a country the size of France without his support and without his offering them up for verification. So my question is: what is the yardstick? Should the event arise whereby he does offer to disarm, how do we measure his compliance? Is it against the list that we had in 1998 or the future projection? How can we be sure that he has actually disarmed should he offer to do so?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman raises a really important question, which I touched on, but only

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lightly, in my statement. There are two issues here: first, how one measures whether Saddam has, over a matter of days, come into compliance; then, when and if he has come into compliance, how one measures whether he has disarmed completely. One measures whether he has come into compliance on whether he is co-operating with the 29 separate clusters set out in this very detailed UNMOVIC report. As I indicated in my statement, we are discussing whether some of those can be distilled into a few possible markers or tests by which the Security Council would be able to make a judgment about whether there was compliance.

To take the issue of interviews, for example, anybody who feels that they should give the Iraqi regime the benefit of the doubt need only to look at the record in this report and in the successive reports of Dr. Blix and Dr. el-Baradei concerning the point-blank refusal of the Iraqi regime to facilitate any free interviews outside Iraq whatsoever, notwithstanding the very clear requirements of 1441. So if they were suddenly to say, "Yes, we are going to comply with that and co-operate", and the relevant people appeared, and their relatives and friends were not murdered, that would be one indicator among a number. If we got to that point, the inspectors would go in and could have the time that they needed—I made that point to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham). It would then be a matter of the inspectors saying, "Well, we have gone through each of these areas of the dossier and each of these clusters of issues, and they have dealt with what is required of them over a period of time." First, however, they have got to show that they are in compliance.

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