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18 Mar 2003 : Column 867—continued

Sir Patrick Cormack: Does the hon. Gentleman realise that if the amendment is carried tonight, those young men and women will come back, the Prime Minister will fall and this country will be in a very great mess indeed?

Mr. Tynan: The best way to avoid war is to work through the United Nations. The amendment makes it clear that the case for war has not been established, and, especially given the absence of specific UN authorisation, we should not go in that direction. If we pass the amendment tonight, the UN will have the opportunity to continue with the inspections that have been taking place in order to disarm Saddam without bloodshed, and that would be an admirable position.

We are not talking about abandoning the troops and bringing them back. The pressure that they have put on the regime in Iraq has weakened it severely. We have the strength, without a shadow of doubt, to take Iraq at present. Iraq has no opportunity to resist that. I do not believe that it has weapons of mass destruction.

Geraint Davies: Does my hon. Friend accept that the choice tonight is not whether to prevent war? We cannot prevent war. The choice is either to go in alongside the Americans to topple Saddam Hussein, or to let the Americans go in on their own. It is important that my hon. Friend and others realise that there is no choice to stop war. There will be a war. The question is are we going to be involved in it and extend our influence in the post-conflict Iraq and in the Palestine-Israel peace process? Let's get real.

Mr. Tynan: I believe that I am getting real. If we support the amendment, we can avoid a decision for war. This is a profound matter of conscience, not a loyalty test. If it were a loyalty test, I would fail it tonight. Anyone who examines my record on voting in the House of Commons will realise that this is an issue of conscience and that I do not vote to displace a Prime Minister. I am just not convinced that war is justified now.

We have heard of terrible suffering in Iraq. It has been made clear that for the past 10 or 12 years, the regime in Iraq has created enormous suffering for its people. If we decide to invade Iraq, we will be in precisely the same position—inflicting greater suffering on those people. The best way to deal with the Iraqi regime as a force is by disarming it. If we weaken Saddam Hussein enough, there is a good chance that his own people will overthrow him. That is a far more practical proposition than the one before us now.

I accept that human rights abuses have occurred and that Saddam Hussein rules through fear, but that is true of many countries. If we decide, simply because of that, to tackle Saddam, logically we have to follow through in other countries. We have to talk about North Korea,

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Syria and Iran. We in this country have to decide whether to be perpetually at war. I think that the population of this country would not accept that.

Lynne Jones: Have not respected human rights organisations such as Amnesty International called for the implementation of UN General Assembly resolution 57/232, which calls for human rights monitors to be sent into Iraq? We have heard no mention of implementing that proposal.

Mr. Tynan: I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Britain is no longer a superpower. We can no longer act in isolation and we cannot solve the problems of the world, so it is worrying to find ourselves divorced from the international community, in agreement only with the United States, Spain and Portugal. How do we bring the family that used to exist back into being? Last week, at a meeting in Luxembourg, I listened to Luxembourg's Foreign Minister discuss Iraq with a committee. She believed that Luxembourg was like a child trying to resolve a problem between two warring parents. When our family is at war, we weaken the opportunities that might be available to the international community.

If military action is needed, as it has been before, it must be taken, but I do not believe that now is the proper time. There is an opportunity to continue on the road to peace. If we can do that, we will have achieved some sort of success. I have heard comparisons made between the League of Nations and the United Nations and the claim that the UN will end as the league did if it does not support an international war now. I think that the UN would be discredited if strong pressure from the US and the UK forced it not only to accept war when it did not believe that war was justified, but to join with those forces.

It is important that we deal with the issue as it is now. Who is to decide whether Saddam is a threat? To whom is Saddam a threat? The UK? The US? His neighbours? I believe that he is currently in such a weakened state that he is not a threat. We all understand the US reaction to 9/11. The world genuinely believed that that event would galvanise the international community into action. I accept that the Prime Minister exerted a restraining influence on the President of the United States, but after he had persuaded the US to take the UN route, he could not adopt a different view.

I do not believe that we can bomb the terrorists into submission. An idea, a belief or a cause cannot be killed in that fashion. We must try to change the conditions in which terrorism arises and change the terrorists' minds. If we can do that, we will achieve some success. How can flying a plane into a building be justified logically? We speak of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. When sarin nerve gas was released in the cramped conditions of a Japanese subway, four people died and more than 100 were injured, but a cigarette end dropped in Kings Cross caused far more devastation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Time is up.

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7.47 pm

Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham): I trust that the House appreciates that this is a special evening. As the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) said, tonight sees the rebirth of our democracy. We have heard many fine speeches, including those from the hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell), the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) and the hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan). With great humility, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) described how he had been wrestling with his conscience about what he should do.

It is a legacy of the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) that we are having this debate. I trust that it will set a precedent, for there can be no doubt that we are entering a state of permanent war. After Iraq, other countries will face US might. I trust that the Government will be true to their word and that in future we will be able to debate and genuinely vote on military action before it takes place. The Liberal Democrats have been pressing such a policy throughout.

Hon. Members will not have heard it on the news tonight, but 30,000 children have died. Thirty thousand children—ten times the number of people who died in the twin towers on 9/11—die every single day because of lack of clean water, tuberculosis, cholera and lack of food. Their names will not be known. The might of the media and the internet conveyed terrible images of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but they do not carry images of the innocent who die. That is why I take issue with the way in which the Government are conducting themselves. This is not a Government crusade against poverty, but a crusade for war. It is a great tragedy and a missed opportunity. Even though the Prime Minister has previously spoken of healing the scar of Africa, he has never been able to deliver on that. He has followed what the US President has been telling him about conducting a war against Iraq.

I want to see a strengthened and reformed United Nations. Last week I was in New York, where I met some senior UN officials. They were aghast at what was going on. They could not believe that the US would not be prepared to compromise. I listened to Hans Blix's statement. He asked not for years, but for months in which to make a true assessment of what was happening in Iraq. More time is not too much to ask for. We can find a peaceful way through. At the very moment that the United Nations is successfully forcing the evil regime of Saddam Hussein to comply, the rug is pulled from under its feet, and it is told to get out of Iraq, to stop its job and not to fulfil previous resolutions, because war must be the answer.

In the 21st century, surely we can start to find better solutions than all-out war with a quarter of a million troops to plough through. The bomb doors will open and the bombs will start dropping in the next few hours. You will have 48 hours of sustained bombing that will kill thousands of innocent people. There are sons and daughters in Basra, and mothers, fathers and grandparents in Baghdad who tonight are living in great fear. They are the innocent. They do not support Saddam Hussein. They have nothing to do with his evil regime, but they will pay the blood price because the American President says, "This is the only way to free you."

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Why cannot we look at the alternatives? As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) said, there are other ways to achieve a peaceful outcome. That would include a no-fly zone right across Iraq, and UN humanitarian observers stationed throughout Iraq. If you had said 12 months ago that there was no chance of UN weapons inspectors being able to come back into Iraq and fulfil their job, you would not have been able to believe that Iraq agreed to that. But it did agree to that.

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