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18 Mar 2003 : Column 813—continued

3.53 pm

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush): There are two reasons why I supported the Government and shall continue to support them tonight: one is moral and the other is political.

The moral argument has been clear to me for a long time and it is constantly reinforced. Every time that a psychopathic killer takes over a nation state, they drive people out; they commit genocide, murder and torture of a type that is hard to imagine and, because I represent a west London constituency, I see their victims in my waiting room. I have seen the victims of the Shah of Iran, the Ayatollah, Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, but only in one case—Saddam Hussein—have I seen people tremble at the mere mention of his name.

The regime is gruesome in the extreme and it is dangerous. Although I can accept the moral case on either side of the argument, it has always struck me as odd that democratic, freedom-loving, tolerant politicians can get ourselves in a moral mess when we are confronted with such people and try to determine who is morally right in the argument about whether we should go to war. The only person who is morally bankrupt in that argument is Saddam Hussein. We should never have illusions about that, and it also reinforces our views about what is right and what is wrong.

I have also heard in the debate, unlike perhaps some of the others, ambivalence about the United States, varying from the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who takes the view that the United States saved us in the second world war. I do not take that view—it ignores the contributions of Britain, the fact that the Russians broke the back of the German army and a whole range of other things—nor do I take the view, which comes from various quarters of the House, that somehow everything that the United States does is bad.

Yes, the reality is that the United States is the dominant power of the day and, yes, it is true—we ought to remember this more than anyone else—that George Bush looks increasingly like Lord Palmerston in drag. I accept that the United States is doing the great power act and throwing its weight around in the world, but that does not make it wrong on such an issue.

The true criticism of the international community, the United States and all hon. Members is that we have done nothing about what has been happening in Iraq since 1991. The real criticism of all us is that we did nothing when Iraq first started to breach not just the 1991 resolutions, but the ceasefire itself, which Saddam had never put into effect. That ceasefire was signed with the UN, not the United States, and he breached it time and again with genocide, torture, human rights abuses,

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weapons of mass destruction and terrorism—the lot—and we did nothing, because of which many people have died and the misery continues.

Mr. Mike Wood (Batley and Spen): I am interested in the fact that my hon. Friend says that we have done nothing since 1991 in relation to Iraq. Does he count the sanctions, the over-flying of the no-fly zone, the work of the weapons inspectors who destroyed 95 per cent. of the weapons of mass destruction as nothing?

Mr. Soley: I regard that as ineffectual. [Interruption.] Let me say why. The one bit that was effective was the no-fly zones. It tells us an awful lot that there is no starvation, no torture and plenty of medical supplies in either of those areas, and they use the same oil-for-food programme as that available to the rest of Iraq. Of course what failed was the sanctions regime itself. Why? Because Saddam Hussein did what all psychopaths do in such situations—he used the weapons against his opponents. He starved the people who did not support him and he fed the people who did. We need only look at the television broadcasts from the time when he organised demonstrations in Baghdad against the sanctions and, lo and behold, they involved well-fed, well-dressed people—his own supporters. Those broadcasts did not show the real misery and how Saddam himself had caused it.

I tell hon. Members that we really do have a duty—this is where I come to the political bit—to face up to the UN's failure to deal with those people. We call them tyrants and dictators, but if they were the people beating up their wives or children in a house down the road, we would call them psychopaths and send for the police who would arrest them and put them inside. We only started doing that 50 years ago. Before then, we used to walk by with our fingers in our ears, saying "We cannot intervene; it is his own house, you know." That is what we do with the nation state, and it is why the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is wrong about the morality. His morality is based on the concept of the nation state. I take the view that the UN ultimately needs to intervene more effectively when those psychopathic killers take over nation states. We need to be able to do that. We do not want to do it by force with an armed invasion straight away, but we have to find ways to deal with such things because every time we leave them, not only do we sentence those people to absolute misery, but we destabilise the area.

Many Arabs live in my constituency, and I will tell hon. Members that Arabs have no less a commitment to democracy, freedom and tolerance than anyone else. They do not like Saddam Hussein. Many of them do not support the war, but they all want rid of him. The reality is that—this is the other part of the political equation—if we want a settlement in the middle east, particularly of the Palestine-Israel situation, we also have to deal with Saddam Hussein; the two are linked in that sense. If the world wants to move forward and face up to the problems of terrorism, we must also deal with states that produce weapons of mass destruction. Instead of just reading Dr. Blix's abbreviated report to the Security Council, hon. Members should go to the House of Commons Library, get the full document, and look at the list of things that Dr. Blix says that Saddam Hussein

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has got, some of which I have never heard of before. Unless we find ways of dealing with that, we risk the future of this world, too.

Lynne Jones rose—

Mr. Soley: The dangers opening up to us are severe and real.

The United Nations is the hope, but it has failed for 12 years. We cannot let it go on failing. I deeply regret that we do not have a second resolution, but the biggest failure is the failure to act. I say this particularly to some of my hon. Friends and to the Liberal Democrats, who say that delays are the answer: the reality is that we cannot go on passing resolutions unless we are resolved to act on them. It is better not to pass them in the first place, not to take risks, to let it happen and not get involved. Let us not pass resolutions unless we are resolved to act.

4.1 pm

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): I have a great deal of experience of commending my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) and for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) on the speeches that they have made as Leaders of Her Majesty's Opposition. I have much less experience of commending the Prime Minister, but I do so today without reservation. I would use his statement as the basis for a reply to any letter that I got from a constituent, as I feel that it represented broadly my analysis of and my reaction to the events that we face today.

I will not reiterate the Prime Minister's arguments, but I want to pick out two points. First, he said that the psychology of the United States changed, without qualification, on 11 September. I was on the last British Airways flight out of Boston prior to the hijacking of the planes that were used in the attacks. I was back in the United States two weeks later and have been there on a number of occasions subsequently. That psychological change is real, lasting and important. I agree with the Prime Minister that the rest of us had better go through that psychological change, and that we better do so quickly. The fact that so many have not yet faced up to those circumstances—God forbid that they should be forced to face up to them on the back of another atrocity such as that experienced by the Americans—and that Europe has not yet been gripped by that psychological change lies partly at the heart of the difficulties that we face.

Secondly, I want to highlight the Prime Minister's comment that there is no point in willing the ends if we are not prepared to will the means. That remark was addressed to his party and to our party—it was pointless addressing it to the Liberals, as they would not understand it. It is fundamental to the whole debate. Sooner or later, we must face up to some realities. This is not a debate about how much legality is on one side, and how much morality is on the other. I am just a simple Belfast boy: to me, it is a question of whether we have the will to do what we believe and know to be right, after having prevaricated for a long time.

Most of us in this House are parents. When we went through parenting, the one thing that we were told repeatedly was, "Don't say no to the children unless you

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mean it and unless you will make it stick." That was because every time we said no and they ignored it, and we ignored their ignoring of it, we made it more difficult to put in place a discipline framework for the future. Internationally and nationally, we have been guilty of saying no, and then ignoring the ignoring of that instruction. It is now time to take action, and I support the Government's intention.

Having said that, the Foreign Secretary made the point in his statement last night that the second resolution

We should not run away from the fact that our failure to secure it represents a political failure with which we must deal. When that point was put to the Foreign Secretary later, he said:

That was an extremely good answer in the field of diplomacy, but it was no answer in the field of politics. We are faced with the fact that there has been a political failure and a political breakdown. The Government must start to address that political failure quickly otherwise some of the more dire consequences that have been predicted may come back to haunt us, although I do not believe that they invariably follow from the Government's action.

There are two reasons why we need to reaffirm our will to act and focus on repairing the political damage. The first is that unless the damage is repaired, it will become more difficult to get new resolutions on humanitarian aid and the restructuring of Iraq through the United Nations. The situation might become more protracted, which is not to our advantage or to that of our troops, and it is certainly not to the advantage of the people of Iraq. The second reason, which my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) mentioned, is that part of the political opposition in the country to the Government's proposals exists because they have not talked about an exit strategy. The House has no idea about how we intend to get out of the situation after the war is over. I believe that the absence of any conversation about an exit strategy is fuelling concern about, and antipathy toward, the actions that the Government must take.

In summary, I support what the Government are doing and I shall join them in the Lobby this evening. However, I urge them to take seriously the political failure at the heart of the issue and to take steps quickly to address it for the benefit of the national interest, as well as the people of Iraq.

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