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Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am reliably informed that yesterday the official spokesman for No. 10, Downing street told the Lobby that the report from the Intelligence and Security Committee had been handed to the Prime Minister that day. However, when the Prime Minister was asked earlier today in the Chamber why he would not publish the report, he said—as far as I can remember hearing—that he could not possibly publish it today because he would not have it until tomorrow. There is a serious inconsistency between what No. 10 told everybody yesterday and, unsurprisingly, what the Prime Minister told the House today. Can you help the House to sort the matter out? It is a matter of the greatest importance and considerable controversy. It is not good enough for the Prime Minister to say something to the House that is in direct contradiction of what his spokesman told the Lobby yesterday. May we have this matter sorted out before much more time passes?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I understand the points that the right hon. Gentleman makes, but I am not in a position to help him because I am not aware of the detailed points he has made. No doubt the House will have heard his points and they are, of course, now on the record.

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Role of the United Nations in Iraq

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I must inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

4.27 pm

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I beg to move,


Those who have come here today hoping for a partisan debate, like yesterday's, will—I hope—be disappointed. We have chosen to ask the House to consider a serious matter and I begin by thanking the Foreign Secretary for being present. I know that he had other obligations for today that he has cancelled in order to attend the debate.

The scepticism of me and my party about the military action against Iraq is well documented, but nothing in the events of recent weeks—the Hutton inquiry, the fact that we still have not found weapons of mass destruction capable of deployment within 45 minutes, the Foreign Secretary's memorandum setting out, with admirable clarity, the risks and responsibilities of Government policy towards Iraq or today's allegation of a leak from the Intelligence and Security Committee—has persuaded me that my scepticism was other than well founded. However, we have a duty to deal with events as they are, not as we would like them to have been.

If I were to allow myself a brief moment of self-indulgence, it would be to point out that on the East river it will not be lost on those who work for the United Nations that the institution that was bypassed in March as part of the problem is being assiduously wooed in September as part of the solution.

When the force commander on the ground asks for more troops for an operation that the House of Commons authorised by democratic vote on 18 March, there would have to be a very good reason to refuse the request. In my view, no such reason exists. I understand the reluctance of some to acquiesce in the sending of more troops, but it is not realistic or fair to ask forces to fulfil tasks for which they have inadequate resources.

Some would argue that the logic of refusing more troops is that the forces already deployed should be withdrawn. However, one need only pause and ask what the consequence of withdrawal would be. Would Basra be made safer for its citizens? Would electricity and water flow more regularly? Would aid agencies find it easier to operate? The answer to those questions is self-evidently no.

The additional forces now being sought are necessary for two principal purposes—to help to achieve the humanitarian objectives to which I have referred, and to keep safe those already there, both military and civilian.

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What would be the military consequences of withdrawal? It would create a vacuum in which disaffected members of the Ba'ath party, the sullen soldiers of the disbanded army and the suicidal jihadists would flourish. The current deterioration that all recognise would accelerate out of control

However, the deployment of the extra troops can be seen only as a stopgap that allows an opportunity to buy time. The deployment, to be added to in the way that has been suggested and indeed already implemented, cannot go on for an unlimited time, for military and economic reasons. A former leader of the Conservative party asked three questions last September to which no one has been able to provide answers. He asked what the exit strategy was, how many British troops would be required, and how long they would be required to be deployed. Those perceptive questions of 12 months ago remain unanswered.

Sooner or later, there will have to be an exit strategy. I suggest that it will be based either on a determination that the job has been done and the objectives achieved, or on a recognition that we can no longer do the job and that we should go. However, that is not a matter for today.

The House and the country are entitled to more detailed information about the financial costs to date. What are the daily and monthly costs? What are the projected costs? I was not satisfied with an answer that I received on 10 July from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and I have written to the Chancellor again today to ask for further information, but it has become overwhelmingly clear that the burden in Iraq has to be shared. I have no doubt whatever that the best way to do that is through the UN, which now enjoys belated recognition among even the most neoconservative elements in Washington. Truly, rumours of the UN's death are shown to have been grossly exaggerated.

I turn now to the military position. We need a resolution that mandates a multinational force under unified command. In that respect, there is nothing between me and the Foreign Secretary. We must be realistic, and accept that that force will be under US command. The force, and the command that is established, should be modelled on the arrangements for what we might now call Gulf war one. The command should be obliged to report to the Security Council, as happened in Gulf war one.

I do not know how many hon. Members have had the opportunity to read the draft resolution now circulating in New York. Those who have read it may have noticed that it uses the phrase "all necessary means", in contradistinction to the earlier phrase "serious consequences". If "all necessary means" had been in people's contemplation last October and November, it is possible that some of the difficulties encountered by the UN might have been avoided.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Earlier, the right hon. and learned Gentleman made the interesting remark that we might have to withdraw from Iraq because of a recognition that we cannot achieve our objectives there. Is that possibility more likely to come to pass if we retain a command structure that is under the control of America and not the UN? If the UN were calling the shots in military terms in Iraq, would the

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withdrawal under the conditions that he describes be less likely? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say a little more about how there could be an American command structure that would, nevertheless, be recognised internationally as answerable to the UN?

Mr. Campbell: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was a Member of the House in 1990 and 1991; the answer to the second part of his question is that precisely such a structure was established for the purpose of expelling Iraq from Kuwait. It was under the command of General Schwarzkopf, and General Sir Peter de la Billière was the senior British representative. The French were also represented in that command and the representation of other contributing nations related to some extent to the value and degree of their contribution. It is perfectly possible to create such a command. Our motion seeks to establish that the command is authorised by the UN and obliged to report back to the Security Council.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall answer the questions put by the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) before I take his intervention.

On whether we are more likely to succeed through the UN or through existing arrangements, I have no doubt whatever—indeed, it is implied in the motion—that we shall much more easily and effectively achieve the objectives that we regard as desirable through not only a multinational security arrangement, but also an arrangement for the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq conducted through the UN. That would enjoy far greater legitimacy than proposals and measures from a coalition about whose right to continue with such measures there must be, at least, some legal doubt as, to some extent, it is stretching its responsibilities under the Geneva convention.


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