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Jeremy Corbyn: The Soviet Union found to its cost that invasion is quick and simple with an efficient and well-equipped army, as my hon. Friend says. The problem arises in the longer term, and no doubt the situation was a major factor in bringing about the fall and demise of the Soviet Union.

The war has tragically cost the lives of servicemen from Britain, the United States and Iraq as well as the lives of many Iraqi civilians—the hon. Member for

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Banff and Buchan cited a figure of 6,000. Iraq Body Count, which is a reputable academic organisation, puts the figure between 6,000 and 10,000. I do not know the figure, so I look forward to the Secretary of State's answer. Many people are dying due to unexploded cluster bombs, which were sold by this country and are on sale at the defence equipment exhibition that is being held in the east end of London. I suspect that large numbers of people will die of cancer because of the use of depleted uranium weapons and the poison that comes from them. A price will be paid for the war by children who are yet to be born in Iraq and poor civilians who do not have access to medical equipment.

Surely we need to look at the world in a rather different way from one involving a series of wars and conflicts during which we align ourselves politically with the United States Administration. We should instead examine the causes of war: injustice, poverty and the grasping of natural resources. When I hear the speeches of Bush and Cheney in which they talk about North Korea and other such places, I am horrified that what has happened in Iraq could well be repeated in other places. I ask the Government to think seriously about the need for a real break with the American strategy and about some intelligent approach to achieve peace and justice in the world, which would save us from wars in the future.

3.14 pm

Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset): The debate is important and it is appropriate that we should have it after our two-month recess during which the situation in Iraq has deteriorated and we have seen the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the conflict exposed in the Hutton inquiry. I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) and for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on not exposing, or gloating about, what has happened during the inquiry but concentrating on what has happened on the ground in Iraq. The situation has deteriorated and they have especially examined the role played by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. It is important to preface my remarks with congratulations to our troops on their efforts.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman comment on how it is consistent and reasonable to criticise the British Government's lack of planning in Iraq as the situation deteriorates, with which I have a fair degree of agreement, yet to make no criticism whatsoever of the American role, which is far more important?

Mr. Walter: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his early intervention. Perhaps he would care to listen to the rest of my speech and make a judgment on that.

I want to say a few words about the role that our troops have played in the conflict. I congratulate them on their efforts, skill and courage. I have spoken to many of my constituents who have come back from Iraq—I have a substantial Ministry of Defence establishment in my constituency—and I am proud to be associated with the attitude that the troops have taken on the ground. If I may say something to satisfy the comments of the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), I am impressed by the attitude of the British

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troops compared with that of some of the American troops. The way in which the American troops have approached the Iraqi people might be described, at best, as arrogant. The situation has been deteriorating every day.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Surely my hon. Friend accepts that the Americans are policing a much more difficult part of the country and that they must necessarily adopt different tactics.

Mr. Walter: Whatever the tactics adopted by various troops, every occupying power has a duty to respect the human rights of those whom they are present to protect. There have been instances when United States troops have done things that I would frankly not wish to defend, but that is beyond the scope of the debate, which is about the military situation in Iraq as it affects this Government and our troops.

I have taken a close interest in the situation in Iraq both in the run-up to the conflict and during it. I am a member of the Select Committee on International Development, which has published several reports about the preparations for the conflict. The Committee has taken evidence from two Secretaries of State and other Ministers and officials. It has taken an interest that sometimes has gone beyond the role of the Department for International Development by examining other agencies, including those that act for the Ministry of Defence.

It is no secret that I spoke during the debate in the Chamber on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction on 26 February and that I voted for the amendment and against military action. What I said has been vindicated by the events that have taken place and the evidence presented to the Hutton inquiry. I said:

However, I went on to say:

we still await—

and remain—

Mrs. Mahon: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that although al-Qaeda was not conspiring with Saddam before the war, it is more than likely that it is in Iraq now, conspiring with any unscrupulous element to disrupt a settlement?

Mr. Walter: I would not wish to speculate too much on that, but the conflict has not improved the terrorist situation. As we have seen on the ground in Iraq and in other parts of the world, the situation has deteriorated.

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The Hutton inquiry has shown that the Government massaged some of the flimsy evidence on Saddam's capabilities. The evidence of the UN weapons inspectors was that they could find no weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): As the hon. Gentleman said, he was not taken in by the document and voted against it, as I did. The truth is that we are in the position that we are in today because we lost that vote on the war, not because of what the Government said at the time.

Mr. Walter: The hon. Gentleman is right, but the background to the current military situation is that the UN weapons inspectors could find no weapons of mass destruction. There were no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, yet the Prime Minister told the House that Saddam Hussein had them and they could be deployed in 45 minutes. That is the longest 45 minutes in history.

Mr. Salmond: The Prime Minister may not have managed to persuade the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) or me, but the point is that some of the Prime Minister's more gullible colleagues were persuaded by the variety of dodgy dossiers with which we were presented.

Mr. Walter: The British people were taken in by dodgy dossiers and other things. I think that Hans Blix was too convincing in the view that he presented to the UN and that the military situation was precipitated by the possible disappearance of a window of opportunity, but that is all history, as hon. Members have said. We need to consider how we deal with the awful situation in Iraq now.

From those whom I have spoken to who have been on the ground in Iraq, it is clear that the life of ordinary Iraqis in many parts of that country is not, as the Secretary of State said, better than it was. There are severe problems with electricity and water supplies and other basic essentials of normal life. Crime and killings are commonplace. Any occupying power should be truly ashamed of the breakdown of law and order in that country.

In my constituency last week, I attended a meeting at which a number of people who had recently been in Baghdad and Basra told stories that are a fair reflection of what is going on, although I cannot corroborate them. We were told that a son was kidnapped in Basra. The family knew where to go to deal with the problem because the gang that had kidnapped him had set up a shop in the centre of town. It was clearly marked and everyone knew it was there. All one had to do was go to the shop with the name of the person who was sought and, after ferreting through files and so on, someone would come up with a piece of paper stating the ransom to be paid for the person to be returned. That is appalling and it is just one example of what is going on.

There are many such stories: electricity transmission lines have been pulled down in broad daylight under the gaze of coalition forces who appear to the local population to be either unwilling or powerless to do

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anything. I am talking not about sabotage but about a criminal business activity done for money. The scrap metal produced from such activities is freely available on markets around the world. The question is whether coalition forces were prepared for the aftermath of the war. Was the situation that we face today predictable? If so, what has gone wrong?

The International Development Committee spent a long time considering the humanitarian consequences before, during and after the conflict. As I said, we published several reports on that. We took evidence from the United States Administration in Washington, the UN in New York, numerous other international organisations and non-governmental organisations. We took evidence a number of times from both Secretaries of State for International Development. When asked the general question of what planning had taken place or whether there had been any, Baroness Amos said on 30 June that plans had been made but that they were for a different outcome. That sums up some of the lack of preparedness of our Government.

Baroness Amos said:

She went on to say:

The disruption of essential infrastructure has happened, so what was the planning for?

Baroness Amos said:

She went on to say:

So they got it wrong, at least in the Secretary of State's post-conflict view.

I take the House back to the evidence given by the previous Secretary of State, who on 21 March, in response to our first report, said in answer to our question about planning:

In answer to a question about the possible security situation, she said:

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I shall now cite one of the Committee's recommendations to which the then Secretary of State replied. We said:

I think that that has come to pass. The right hon. Lady's response of 21 March was:

Another of our recommendations said:

The then Secretary of State replied:

The Secretary of State ended her response to the Committee's report by saying:

The Government acknowledged that there was a need for post-conflict planning, but as the current Secretary of State for International Development said, they planned for the wrong scenario. It was clear from the evidence that we took from the United Nations, both here and in New York, and from senior officials such as the director of USAID, Andrew Natsios, in Washington, that the post-conflict planning was both far too limited and unco-ordinated. That reinforces the need for the UN to have a key position. If the new Iraq is to fulfil the vision of the beacon of democracy, prosperity and freedom that President Bush has talked about, the Iraqi people must feel that they have ownership of this process. They must feel that they have confidence in this process, which means that it must be a UN process. That security force must be a blue beret security force, and if we are to have an economic effort to rebuild Iraq, it must be an international effort, not just a United States effort.

There is no doubt that we have removed an evil dictator who was oppressing the people of Iraq. I have every sympathy with those inside and outside Iraq who sought his removal. However, the case should have been made to the international community and executed under the auspices of the international institutions that we have spent half a century building up. Let us now restore the confidence and legitimacy of the United Nations. Let the United Kingdom and the United States put their strength and resources at the disposal of the UN for the benefit of the Iraqi people and for peace in the middle east.

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