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18 Mar 2003 : Column 821—continued

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): The old alliance.

Mr. Salmond: The old alliance was important. Somebody should speak up for the French, because their position has been consistent, as has that of the Russians and the Chinese. The Chinese, the French and the Russians issued a declaration on the passage of resolution 1441. It sets out exactly how the British and the United States ambassadors agreed that it was not a trigger for war. The reason that those countries did not want a second resolution was not that it would be a pathway to peace—I wonder who dreamed that up in Downing street. The reason was that they saw it as a passport to war, so obviously they opposed a resolution drawn in those terms. The majority of smaller countries in the Security Council and the General Assembly countries did not want to rush to war because they saw that there remained an alternative to taking military action at this stage of the inspection process.

We are told that the Attorney-General has described the war as legal. We could go into the legalities and quote professor after professor who has said the opposite, but one thing is certain: when the Secretary-General of the United Nations doubts the authorisation of military action without a second resolution, people can say many things about that action, but they cannot say that it is being taken in the name of the United Nations.

Mr. Llwyd: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I wish to make one brief point: the French and Russians signed up to resolution 1441 after the words "all necessary means" were specifically taken out.

Mr. Salmond: In order to become acceptable, resolution 1441 had to be amended. Everything has been consistent in the opposition of countries that are against a rush to military action.

Will the approach that is being taken work? The argument is that it will be a salutary lesson, that a dictator will be taught a lesson and that that will help us in dealing with other dictators. I suspect that the cost of the action—I do not doubt the military outcome for a second—will be so high in a number of ways that it will not provide a platform for an assault on North Korea or Iran, which form the rest of the "axis of evil". I do not think that the policy of teaching one dictator a lesson and then moving on to other dictators can work. Most of us know that it will be a breeding ground for a future generation of terrorists. That is not the case because people like Saddam Hussein. The images that will be shown throughout the Muslim world will not feature him, although, without any question, he will be more attractive as a martyr when he is dead than he has ever been while alive. The images that will be shown are those of the innocents who will undoubtedly die in a conflict that will be a breeding ground for terrorism.

Will the nation-building work? The record of the United States on nation-building has not been impressive. Let me say something about one of the other

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countries that is being reviled at present—Germany, which commits far more troops as a percentage of its armed forces to helping to secure the peace in the various trouble spots of the world for the United Nations.

We are told that the Prime Minister—this is the essence of his case—will try to restrain some elements in the United States Administration and make them take a multilateral approach, but that, if that does not happen, when push comes to shove he has to go along with their policy. I say that there is a broader United States of America than the United States Government. I believe that many sections of opinion in America would welcome a vote from this Parliament today that says "Not in our name", because the real America wants to see a stand for peace, not a rush for war.

4.27 pm

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): After my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) made his personal statement to the House last night, I felt it necessary to drive back to my constituency and speak with a number of people whose opinions I trust and value—people who are close friends and who have been members of the Labour party for many years. Not one of them wanted war, and neither do I. My constituency chair said to me, "Barry, you have to remember that this is our party leader and I trust him. He is our Prime Minister and, even though I disagree with the war, I want to give him our support now." I will not support the Prime Minister out of loyalty. I will support him out of the conviction that what he and the Government are doing is right.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that a genuine problem exists? The Government have experienced great difficulty in convincing the public about the rectitude of their position because people do not trust the Prime Minister. They do not trust him on health, education or crime. Why, therefore, should they trust him on Iraq?

Mr. Gardiner: I normally have great respect for the hon. Gentleman because he usually speaks with some sense. His comments on Iraq are ill judged. The people of this country know that our Prime Minister has behaved with absolute integrity on that issue. He has campaigned solidly for an international coalition. He went to the United States and brought George Bush to the United Nations to submit the power of the United States to the bridle of the United Nations. The people of this country therefore trust the Prime Minister on Iraq.

Mr. Andrew Turner : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Prime Minister has experienced so much difficulty in persuading the people of this country because he did not even admit that there was a problem until September last year? He did not genuinely start to try to persuade people until six weeks ago.

Mr. Gardiner: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The speech that the Prime Minister made on the day after 11 September 2001 states that we must revisit the position in Iraq. He has been focused on that ever since he became Prime Minister. Immediately after 11 September, he recognised a confluence. He realised that

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terrorists were prepared to use weapons of mass destruction to achieve their ends and that if we allowed proliferation in Iraq, the two strands would come together, with the most appalling consequences.

I respect all hon. Members who disagree in principle with using military force in Iraq. However, I do not understand how anyone who supported resolution 1441 can espouse that position. What did such people believe that "final" meant when Iraq was given a "final opportunity" to comply: "final" before tabling another resolution; "final" before a few more weeks passed; or "final" before a few more months elapsed?

Mr. Simon Thomas: I hope that I can help the hon. Gentleman. As John Negroponte, the US ambassador to the UN explained, the resolution was final before being brought back to the Security Council for negotiation. The US Government also said that in a statement of explanation.

Mr. Gardiner: The hon. Gentleman's memory is selective. Resolution 1441 provides that the matter would revert to the Security Council for consideration, and that has happened. The resolution states that the Security Council will remain "seized of the matter". The hon. Gentleman's interpretation of "final" is odd if he believes that a final opportunity is not final before force is applied, in accordance with chapter VII of the UN charter.

Other words in resolution 1441 include "immediate", "full" and "unconditional". Are any hon. Members prepared to stand up and say that Iraq has complied—

Mr. Sarwar: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gardiner: Are any hon. Members prepared to say—[Hon. Members: "Give way."] I shall. Is anyone prepared to say that Iraq has complied fully, immediately and unconditionally with its obligations to disarm?

Mr. Sarwar: Who is the final authority to judge whether Iraq is in breach of resolution 1441: United Nations weapons inspectors, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN Security Council, Bush or our Prime Minister?

Mr. Gardiner: I would urge my hon. Friend to read the words of the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, because he—[Hon. Members: "Answer!"] If hon. Members will listen, they will find that I am answering the question. Hans Blix is quite clear that Iraq remains in breach. Indeed, every member of the Security Council is quite clear that Saddam Hussein remains in breach, and that there has been no full, immediate or unconditional compliance. There is an option to go down the containment route, and some hon. Members have suggested that in their speeches today. It is not an option that I agree with. I believe that we have to maintain what we said at the United Nations Security Council in resolution 1441, which was that we have to disarm Iraq.

There are those who have said that they cannot now support military action because there has been no second resolution in the United Nations. That is the

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worst reason of all for not supporting it. If it were right to engage in military action, to kill innocent Iraqi people and to put our troops on the line to die for this country with the support of a second resolution at the United Nations, it has to be morally right to do so without one. The morality of our actions does not depend on who is prepared to carry out those actions with us; it depends on the judgment that we make about whether it is right or wrong. The Government are taking the right course of action. It is the only course of action that will achieve the disarmament of Iraq, and disarmament is the only way of ensuring that a further, far more bloody conflict does not happen in the future.

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