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Mr. Griffiths: I am sorry to hear the Prime Minister say that. Christmas could not be celebrated last year in Bethlehem because of the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. International voluntary workers, including Alistair Hillmans, a constituent of mine, were illegally arrested by the Israelis on territory that is not theirs. Given the new determination under the new middle east peace planthe road mapwould it not be good if the Prime Minister could say, "I will be in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas this year."? Would it not be good if such towns as Jenin, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Dura and Dhahiriya were all part of a consolidated Palestinian state?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend's point is right. It is important to do all that we can to make sure that there is freedom of access to Bethlehem this year. As he rightly points out, as a result of the situation in the middle east, people were not able to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem last year. However, it is worth pointing out that, for the first time in several years, we have the prospect of the peace process in the middle east moving forward. I very much welcome the initiative that President Bush has taken in that regard. If we can get some sort of normalisation under way, I have no doubt that it should include access to Bethlehem. I am sure that that will be one of the points that those who are trying to negotiate the first steps in reviving the peace process will take into account.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): Why does the Prime Minister not grasp the nettle and reaffirm the probity and efficacy of his Government by holding a clear judicial inquiry into the matters that are of public concern?
The Prime Minister: I have answered the allegations that people have put. I have answered them not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. There is a proper way of proceeding. The all-party Intelligence and Security Committee will look into these matters, as it has asked to do, and will make a report. The specific allegation made about the 45 minutes is one that the Committee is perfectly able to investigate and reach conclusions on. I hope that if it concludes that what I have said from the Dispatch Box is correct, our security servicesnever mind the Governmentwill receive an apology from those people who made that allegation.
Q4.  Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating Liverpool on becoming the European capital of culture? Will he also congratulate Cardiff, which put in a great bid, and the other cities on the shortlist? What plans are there to build on the success and momentum created in Cardiff and the other shortlisted cities?
The Prime Minister: I offer my warm congratulations to Liverpool on becoming the European capital of culture. For my own safety, I should point out that the decision was taken on a recommendation by an independent committee
My commiserations go, of course, to those cities, not just Cardiff, that made fantastic efforts in their bids. Because they have done so well, the Government intend to invest a particular sum to ensure that those cities that did not win, because Liverpool did, will still be given a chance to develop as cities of culture.
Q5.  Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham): The governors at Neville Lovett community school in my constituency are likely to have to disband its learning support unit in order to balance the books. Does the Prime Minister think it right that those who need support in their education are likely to lose it because the Government have not got their sums right on school funding?
The Prime Minister: Obviously, I do not know the situation in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. However, we have put in a huge increase in his area, Hampshire, over the past few years, and there was a particularly large increase this year. I cannot say for sure exactly how the money has been allocated by the local education authority, but I do say to Conservative Members who say that they want even more money to go into education that it is curious to demand that when their policy has been not to support extra investment, but to cut it by 20 per cent. across the board.
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston): Does the Prime Minister recall saying in the September debate that we knew that Saddam had been trying to buy uranium from Africa? Has he been advised since then that it is accepted
The Prime Minister: No, I am afraid that I have to say to my right hon. Friend that I will not do that, for this reason. There are two quite separate allegations. My right hon. Friend started with the allegation about uranium from Africa. There was intelligence to that effect. I shall not go into the details of the particular intelligence, but at the time it was judged by the Joint Intelligence Committee to be correct. Until we investigate properly, we are simply not in a position to say whether that is so. In respect of the 45 minutes, however, that is a wholly different allegation. I have to say to my right hon. Friend that the Joint Intelligence Committee made that assessment on its own behalf with no interference from anyone. I shall certainly not stand here and say that that assessment is wrong, as the committee's judgment is that it was right. The committee is in a better position to make that judgment than either me or, with respect, my right hon. Friend.
Q6.  Sue Doughty (Guildford): Yet again, Greenpeace has today highlighted the use by the Government, in the Home Office, of timber from unsustainable sources. Will the Prime Minister accept that the use of unsustainable timber must be stopped[Interruption.]
The Prime Minister: I regret to say that, along with everything else, I am not 100 per cent. up to speed about the fence around Marsham street. The Home Secretary seems to be disputing rather vigorously the claim that is being made.
The Prime Minister: Probably he would. I shall look into the matter and drop the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) a line about it. It may be an issue to take up with the contractors rather than with the Government.
The Prime Minister: We believe that documents relating to Iraq's WMD programmes have been carefully concealed, including at the homes of scientists and other personnel connected with those programmes. As I informed the House a moment or two ago, a new organisation, the Iraq survey group, has been set up to take charge of the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, among other things. The group will harness intelligence resources and the investigatory skills of about 1,300 to 1,400 staff from the US, the UK and Australia. It will subsume the existing smaller operations and investigations being carried out by the US military. It will also include former United Nations arms inspectors, and it represents a significant expansion of effort in the coalition hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Dalyell: Tonight at 7 o'clock, Mr. Speaker has given me an Adjournment debate on the situation in detention of Tariq Aziz. Could the Prime Minister ask the junior Minister at the Foreign Office who will be replying to the debate to enlarge on the processes by which the documentation that is found may relate to trials, not only of Tariq Aziz but of some others? Do we not have to be rather careful, whatever our views, about victors' justice? Surely those people have to be brought to trial one way or another?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend: they have to be brought to trial in a proper way. That is something that we are discussing at present both with our allies and with the United Nations. I shall certainly pass on to my hon. Friend, the Foreign Office Minister who will reply to the debate, the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has made. I hope, however, that he will recognise and support us in one thing. Sometimes over the past few days, it has been almost as if the whole issue of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction were a curious invention. The weapons of mass destruction issue and Saddam have been around for 12 years in the UN, as have Saddam's efforts at concealment.
When I was replying to my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), I forgot one point. It is sometimes said that it is very curious that, if those weapons were ready to fire, they were not found immediately. The answer to that lies in the very point we made in the dossier, which is that once Saddam started to realise that United Nations inspectors were coming back in, as I think I said continually at the Dispatch Box, there was then a concerted campaign of concealment of the weapons. Indeed, I think I also saidif not at this Dispatch Box, then elsewhere publiclythat one benefit of that, although there were obviously a lot of problems with it, was that it would make it more difficult to reassemble those weapons; but that does not in any shape or form dispute the original intelligence.
As for the other point that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow makes, about the tribunal and how these people are tried, I can assure him that if they are tried they should be tried according to proper and due process.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): Those of us who argued that the conflict in Iraq was illegal continually had the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction thrown at us by the right hon. Gentleman and others. Is it not high time to have a full public inquiry? It is not good enough for the Prime Minister to rely on a report by the Joint Intelligence Committee, because he can be selective as to what he produces, and when all is said and done, the Committee is answerable to him.
The Prime Minister: I suspect that whatever we did would not be good enough for the hon. Gentleman. The fact is that he and his colleagues were opposed to this from the very beginning, and from the moment the conflict ended and all their predictions of disaster turned out to be untrue, they have been looking for a way of getting back into the argument, saying it was all a terrible mistake.
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman one thing. I have been to Iraq and spoken to those Iraqi people; yes, it is true that there is an enormous job of reconstruction to be done in that country, but seeing the literally tens of thousands of bodies in mass graves uncovered in Iraq, and realising that these people had been deprived of freedom for decade upon decade, let us be thankful that someone who was a threat with his weapons of mass destruction and also a brutal tyrant has been removed once and for all.