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11 Mar 2003 : Column 178—continued

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): Does my right hon. Friend accept that the responsibility for the splits in the international community is due less to the work of Saddam Hussein and a great deal more to the partners, who should be able to work together much more effectively in those coalitions?

Donald Anderson: That is a noble aim, but the divisions would not have come about without the crisis over Iraq, which was provoked by Saddam Hussein. All those relationships are adversely affected by Iraq. The Prime Minister said at his press conference that the most dangerous thing for international security would be a wedge between the United States and Europe. I agree with my hon. Friend that only together can we solve such international problems, as the Foreign Secretary emphasised in his statement to the House yesterday.

The second issue is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is crucial for the international community to develop and agree on strategies to prevent proliferation. Iraq is but one of the many potential sources of weapons of mass destruction. Even if Iraq is disarmed, we must continue to think carefully about how to deal with the wider problem. We know that the cookery books are still available to those who want to use them. We cannot disinvent that which has already been invented. We need renewed international co-operation.

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Mr. Salmond: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have read the report. At paragraph 172, on page 48, the Committee unanimously concluded that

and called upon the Government to seek a resolution including the words "'all necessary means'". When the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) asked about that, the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to give the answer that is in the Committee report. For the avoidance of doubt, can he say whether he stands by paragraph 172 of the report, adopted unanimously by his own Committee?

Donald Anderson: I emphasised that the report was produced in December, and that that was the unanimous view of the Committee at that time. I would not like to anticipate the views of the Committee today. We are dealing with an evolving situation, as different drafts are tried at the Security Council.

Is regime change the best way to reduce the combined threats of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism? If the Iraq campaign is perceived to go well, can we expect the United States to continue with a series of regional wars against the "axis of evil", within or without the UN context? We must consider very carefully indeed what role Britain can play as the key ally of the United States.

If we take action in Iraq we will face the challenge of peacekeeping and reconstruction on two fronts—Afghanistan and Iraq. Will that take the focus and vital resources away from the war against terrorism? We asked whether the implications had been fully thought through. With regard to reconstruction, a genuine, well planned and truly multinational effort to keep the peace in Iraq, and a commitment to restoring the livelihoods and rights of the Iraqi people, would help the people of Iraq and their Arab neighbours to see the positive consequences of any intervention, but we cannot overstate the importance of winning the peace. Those who go into Iraq should be seen as liberators, not victors.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Was the right hon. Gentleman's Committee able to establish whether the reconstruction costs after a war with Iraq will come out of Treasury contingency reserves or out of the reserves of the Department for International Development? If the latter, does he agree that that is extremely unfair on the poorest people of the world, who hoped to receive those funds?

Donald Anderson: The short answer is that we produced the report in December, when the costs of reconstruction were not high on the agenda. The matter is foursquare within the remit of our sister Committee, of the Department for International Development. The question should be addressed to that Committee.

Other challenges include how Britain can best help the reformers in Iran to strengthen their democratic structures and promote transparency. We need to ensure that the situation in North Korea is defused peacefully. There must be a different approach there, as it can be argued that North Korea is invulnerable because of the amount of artillery pieces directed against

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the south. Without disarmament, that could be the position in Iraq in a few years' time. We also need to take careful note of both the achievements and the failings of multilateral arms control regimes, and of measures to destroy stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.

Thirdly, on the middle east, I recalled the statement made to the House yesterday by the Foreign Secretary. What can we do to minimise instability in the wider middle east region and reduce the level of threat from al-Qaeda? Our report considered the effect of any military action in Iraq on the Arab world. I draw attention to paragraph 200. Images of Iraqi civilian casualties, combined with the voices of al-Qaeda claiming that that is further evidence of the US colonisation of Arabia, could have a powerful effect on disillusioned young people in the Islamic world generally, and even in this country. We need to think carefully about how to ensure that western involvement in the middle east region is seen as positive. There is also a need for a new realism in the Arab world—people there should not see themselves as victims, as many of them do. I refer to the recommendations in paragraphs 209 and 210. I commend to the House the United Nations Development Programme's Arab human development report of 2002, which stresses the need for good governance and economic development in the Arab world.

We also need to persist with efforts to restart the middle east peace process. In our report, the Committee praised the Government's commitment to pressing forward with negotiations and concluded:

The US Government have perhaps been much stronger in declaring the viability of the state of Palestine than in exerting any serious pressure. It may be that President Bush has weighing on his mind the electoral consequences of what his father did in withdrawing loan guarantees in respect of settlements.

The Government have pushed hard for Palestinian reform. The publication of the Quartet's road map, the long-awaited route towards a final two-state solution, is emphasised by Washington. Of course, there is continuing violence in the region. Progress on this issue is crucial. There was some recognition of that fact in President Bush's recent statement, but it is clear that we are far from having a very serious US commitment to bring to bear all the leverage and pressure that it can to bring an end to the continuing conflict in the region.

In conclusion, I should like to quote Burke:

Certainly, 11 September proved that that is the case. We entered a new era and uncharted territory as we embarked on the war against terrorism. We will need new thinking on the problems of global security. As I said, that includes revisiting the raft of treaties on international law conceived in the post-second world war settlement. Our report commends the Government for their firm and continued leadership in the war against terrorism. Britain has contributed substantially to ensure that the coalition remains a reality. My personal opinion—I think that the Committee would agree—is that much credit lies with the Prime Minister in respect of his tireless efforts and total commitment.

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We also commend Ambassador Greenstock, who has done an outstanding job at the UN in chairing the Counter-Terrorism Committee.

These are difficult days and we face very difficult decisions, but we cannot wash our hands of our duty. As Ambassador Greenstock said on Friday,

Saddam Hussein may not be the only one who is facing a choice of survival. In many ways, this is also a watershed for the international community. Multilateral institutions must be and remain relevant. The only way in which we can overcome the unprecedented challenges of international terrorism and proliferation is if the international community seeks to remain united.

In our judgment, a key task of the Foreign Affairs Committee is to inform the House of the work that we do and provide a platform for informed debate in the Chamber. I believe that we have done that. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and, I hope, publish a further report in the same series in May. I commend our report to the House.

1.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I congratulate the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on a very thorough report on the war against terrorism. With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I intend to speak relatively briefly at the beginning of the debate in order, perhaps, to seek your indulgence in allowing me to respond in detail at the end. In dividing up my contributions, if you agree, I shall deal first with the broader aspects of the war on terrorism and deal in my other contribution with some of the issues relating to Iraq.

On the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) about the legal complexities of the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence, those issues are indeed important, but they are none the less enormously complex. As a lawyer, I know that if one puts two lawyers in a room, one gets an argument. Indeed, the reason why we have so many court cases is that lawyers often cannot agree on the law. In the present context, going back to the main case of 1837—the Caroline case—it is clear that issues of legality have arisen that will need to be explored for many years to come in order to arrive at a clear and final view. No doubt, many lawyers will venture their deeply considered views in the meantime, but I suspect that final definitions will take a long time to be accepted.

In the next decade, our country faces two key threats—terrorism and the development by dangerous states of weapons of mass destruction. Problems do not come one at a time and they have to be dealt with when they come. On this occasion, two problems have presented themselves and they need to be dealt with. Obviously, we are also concerned that, at some stage, those two issues—terrorism and weapons of mass destruction—may well become linked, and we need to be prepared to deal with that as well.

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The terrorist threat from al-Qaeda and related groups remains extremely serious, despite the fact that we have had some significant successes. The detention of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in particular is a major blow to al-Qaeda, but we must not delude ourselves that it is some sort of mortal blow. Al-Qaeda has been dispersed and disrupted, but not decimated. It is ingenious, dedicated, persistent and global, while the loose, secretive nature of the networks makes them difficult for us to target. It will recover and adapt; the threat will continue and we must be prepared to address it.

All indications, including intelligence and al-Qaeda statements, suggest that high-profile political and economic targets remain in al-Qaeda's sights. It poses a threat to the United Kingdom regardless of what happens in Iraq. The past year has shown that terrorists will attack western interests, including British people, in an ever more indiscriminate way. To record but a few recent attacks, 18 people including tourists were killed in Tunisia in April 2002; 17 people died in Mombasa in November; and, most infamously, 202 people, many of whom were tourists, including Britons, were murdered in Bali on 12 October. Churchgoers have been bombed in Pakistan on a number of occasions. Voluntary health workers, diplomats and expatriates have been murdered in the middle east. If terrorist plans had come to fruition more often during the past year, many more people, including Britons, would be dead. It is thanks to the work of our intelligence services and others throughout the world, as well as to the co-operation that has developed between them, that a number of those terrorist threats have been frustrated.

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