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18 Mar 2003 : Column 853—continued

Sir Teddy Taylor: I would not question that in any way—of course Germany and France provided materials, and the Soviet Union and the United States did so as well. I am simply saying that, in arguing that here is a bad state doing evil things, we should remember that lots of other countries—including the United States, Russia and France—were involved in providing such material. It would be very wrong indeed not to accept some degree of responsibility.

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My second point concerns our responsibilities in international law. The Government's biological Green Paper states that there was an "internationally legally binding instrument", and that

That refers to the export of biological and toxic materials. The danger is that we are throwing away a great deal, and that, to some degree, we might be responsible for such matters. It is totally wrong to say that some people in the world are good and some are bad, because we have a great deal of responsibility for them.

There is a great feeling among us that we are going to intervene, improve matters and restore democracy, freedom and liberty, but where is the evidence that such intervention has been successful in the past? For example, a great deal has been said about Afghanistan, a country that I know a little about, but can we say that things there are much better as a result of the intervention that took place? Rather, it is a pathetic country, run by a group of people who have no democratic responsibility whatever.

Mike Gapes: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Teddy Taylor: I am sorry, but I have no time. As we well know, the production of materials that run rife in that country—drugs—has increased dramatically. There is a danger in thinking that we can solve things too easily and too quickly.

I accept that we have a responsibility towards British troops, and that Saddam Hussein would probably have made no move at all had the troops not been there. However, as I said, there is a danger in not accepting our responsibility. The United Nations has a very important role to play, but we must ask ourselves honestly whether we are using that facility in the proper way. For example, the Government of Chile—an unusual little country—proposed that three weeks be allowed before intervention. Of course, they were told that that was not even a consideration.

At the end of the day, we will regret it if we destroy the United Nations. I shall in no sense go against France, as some of my colleagues have done. They have voted to hand over most of our national sovereignty to such countries, and they seem now to regard France as a great enemy. I regard no country in that way. We need to show a little humility, and not think that we can provide the answer to everything by running the world and becoming the emperors of it. If we can show such humility, this will be a better debate, and there will be a better outcome for all concerned.

6.44 pm

Peter Bradley (The Wrekin): During the past six months, I have listened to my friends, to colleagues in my constituency party, to constituents, and to colleagues in this House today and during previous debates. Like every other Member, I have agonised over whether I could be party to a decision that will result in the death of innocent people, because that, inevitably, is what war involves. I hoped that we would not reach this day, that reason would somehow prevail, and that Saddam would come to order. However, the day has come, and we have to make a decision.

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For us tonight, there is nowhere to hide. We will have to be honest with our constituents and, first of all, we have to be honest with ourselves. That is infinitely difficult if we cannot be certain that the decision that we take, individually or collectively, will be right; and it is all the more difficult when there is no unanimity on which is the right course.

I believe in just wars. I believe that they are commissioned in defence of freedom, and against oppression. I also believe that, for them to be just wars, they must be the last resort. Diplomacy must come first, but if we are ultimately to prevail in defence of what we believe to be right, there must also be a limit to diplomacy.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): Is it not much easier to decide what constitutes a just war a long time after the event, and much more difficult to make that assessment at the time one decides to go to war?

Peter Bradley: My hon. Friend makes precisely the point that I was trying to make, but far more eloquently. We do not have the gift of hindsight, and we will not have it for many years. Nevertheless, tonight we must make a principled and rational decision.

Like other Members, I believe in the United Nations, for all its imperfections and deficiencies, and for all its sins and omissions. It is the best hope that we have, and it provides the best opportunity to build international consensus, and to impose and sustain a world order that believes in the same principles that we hold dear. I wish that the United Nations had been more consistent, and that we, too, had been more consistent. When we intervened in Kosovo without a UN mandate, I said that I hoped that this was the beginning of a new world order. I hoped that we would be emboldened to intervene, when required, before genocide was committed in Rwanda, rather than wringing our hands afterwards. Had we been more consistent, perhaps we would be facing less difficulty now over the legitimacy of intervening in Iraq. If we do intervene, as seems inevitable, I hope that we will in future take to heart the lessons about consistency, and that we will be prepared, together as an international community, to intervene to prevent genocide and oppression, and to deter dictators.

For the past six months, I have characterised my views on Iraq as being open-minded but sceptical: that I could be persuaded that this would be a just war, but that I had yet to be so persuaded. I was looking for the killer fact. We all acknowledge that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and we know that he has used them brutally against his own people and against others. However, we, too, have weapons of mass destruction. The key point is: is he prepared to use them again? If he is—if we have that intelligence—the case for war is unanswerable. However, we have not had that killer fact.

In listening to the debate that took place in this Chamber three weeks ago, I had sympathy with the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). He said that the case had not been made. He and his colleagues argued that we needed a second UN resolution desperately—in fact, it would have been the 18th resolution—because wars are always evil, and innocent people get killed in wars. They argued that without a

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second resolution, we would light the blue touch paper to a conflagration in the middle east and recruit people to terrorism, but that if we got that resolution and Saddam still failed to come to order, undertaking military intervention would be justified. However, would innocent people still not die in those circumstances? Would we still not risk a conflagration in the middle east? Would we still not recruit people to terrorist causes? Wars do that, with or without resolutions.

I say to my colleagues that convictions are not enough; we also need courage and clear-sightedness to see the world not as we would like to see it, but as it is—as Saddam has made it. For 30 years he has oppressed his people and butchered Iraqi minorities; he has invaded his neighbours and threatened us all with weapons of mass destruction and for 30 years, yes, we have tolerated it. Some western nations supplied and fuelled his ambitions and his barbarity. We should indeed be humble, as the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor) suggested, but that does not mean that we should do nothing.

Last November, it appeared that the United Nations had woken up to its responsibilities. There was unanimous support for resolution 1441, which spoke of final opportunities and serious consequences. Four months later, when Saddam has failed to comply with that resolution, the international community has shown that it is not serious about "serious consequences".

I was prepared to support the drive for a second resolution, not because I felt that we needed its legitimacy, but because the decision before us would have been much more straightforward if the international community had been united and also because public opinion demanded it. However, as colleagues have suggested, the French put that diplomacy beyond reach; their President foreclosed on diplomacy.

A stark choice faces us: we can walk away from our international responsibilities and our obligations to the Iraqis and cede victory to Saddam and to every fascist dictator who chooses to emulate him; we can decide not to decide; or we can take the decision that no one who loves peace chooses to make or ever thought that they would have to make—to fulfil our obligations and go to war to secure peace.

Do those who say no to war in their name want Saddam to continue his barbarity in their name? Are we to abandon his victims in their name? Just as they warn us of the consequences of the war that we may commit, it is right to warn them of the consequences of inaction. I share the misgivings expressed by right hon. and hon. Members about United States policy and about US contempt for the UN, which is in stark contrast to the commitment and consistent principles that we have adopted in pursuit of diplomacy; but if might is not always right, being strong is not always wrong either. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that the US is the only global superpower. We can either try to influence it within the international community or abandon the world to its often cynical self-interest.

Now is decision time. If we are to set aside our prejudices and accept that doing nothing is not an option, if we accept that diplomacy is at an end and that Saddam continues to defy and threaten us, what is the alternative

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to war? It is not the Prime Minister's war. It is not the American President's war—it is Saddam's war. We must join it and end it as soon as possible.

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