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Mr. Clarke: No, no, no.

Mr. Straw: The right hon. and learned Gentleman says no, no, no, but the answer is yes, yes, yes. From that, there can be no resiling. Our point is simply that we shared a judgment with the international community. It was not based on an intelligence dossier. It was based on the facts as we knew them, which were published in report after report of the weapons inspectors, and on our own judgment of the conduct of the Saddam regime, going back over 25 years. That was the basis on which the United Nations came to its decision on 9 November 2002. It said that Iraq posed a threat to international peace and security.

When we came to debate this matter after weeks of the most intensive scrutiny in the House and efforts in the United Nations to gain a second resolution, the central case that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I made to the House—and which formed the core of the motion that we put before the House—was Iraq's breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions. The motion was there to uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in resolution 1441 and many others preceding it. Indeed, paragraph 3 of the opening report of the Foreign Affairs Committee says—this much at least was unanimous—that the war was fought


Mr. Clarke: Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr. Straw: I will in a moment.

On the question of a wider inquiry that covers areas other than those that we have already inquired into, I think that the lament of the right hon. Member for Devizes is that those inquiries have failed to come up with the right answer. Let him be clear that the scope of such an inquiry would have to cover why the other 14 members of the Security Council came to the same conclusion as us, namely that there was a threat from Iraq because of its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That is at the heart of the matter. I give way to the former Chancellor.

Mr. Clarke: I am astonished to hear the Foreign Secretary using language worthy of George Orwell to describe how we went to war at a time when we knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction posing a threat to anybody. The background to the United Nations discussions was surely that the threat of war had been looming throughout the last year, with the United States talking about the need for regime change and threatening to intervene. The other nations voted for the Security Council resolution, as did most Members of this House, as an alternative to war—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members know very well the view that Mr. Speaker takes about electronic devices going off in the middle of important

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debates. May I also remind the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) that he is making an intervention?

Mr. Clarke: Resolution 1441 was voted for by this House, in support of most of the nations in the Security Council, as a possible alternative to war, so that we could put inspectors back in by coercion in the belief that they would demonstrate conclusively whether there was any threat from weapons of mass destruction. The issue became one of whether Mr. Blix, who had been working there for only a few months, could find any evidence of any threat emerging. We went to war because the Government said that there was an imminent threat and that they were not prepared to wait for Mr. Blix any longer. That was not the position of the Syrian Government, nor of many Members of this House.

Mr. Straw: It was also not the position of the British Government, because we never, ever said that there was an imminent threat. Never, ever did we say that. Neither my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister nor I ever, ever said that.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr. Straw: No, I wish to make some progress.

I would say to the former Chancellor that there was convincing intelligence that Iraq had active chemical, biological and nuclear programmes, and the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons. Iraq was also continuing to develop ballistic missiles. That was the judgment reached by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which carried out the most thorough of investigations—I am witness to that, because I gave evidence before it—over a great many weeks.

The issue before the United Nations and this House was, in the end, to what degree Iraq was in clear further material breach of its obligations under resolution 1441, and if it was, whether we should still allow the weapons inspectors more time to do their work, or whether we should take military action. That is essentially a political judgment. Never once did I come to this House and say that I believed that we should not give the weapons inspectors more time because I did not think that they were going to get any more co-operation than they had had in the past. The judgment was based not on any intelligence but on what I could see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears in respect of what was happening in Iraq. The idea that we should now find a judge who is willing to second-guess the most explicit of political judgments is absurd, and, frankly, only illustrates the turmoil at the heart of the Tory party.

Tony Wright (Cannock Chase): Knowing what we know now, will the Foreign Secretary tell the House directly whether he now believes that the Iraqi regime did represent a clear and present danger to this country?

Mr. Straw: Yes, I do. I regret the fact that the Iraq survey group—[Interruption.] It has done a great deal

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of work and found a good deal of evidence. I regret that, because of the environment in which it has been working, it has not so far been able to find more. However, nothing that it has found so far has diminished my view of the threat. While opinion has differed within the Security Council—as we well know—about whether it was appropriate to take military action at the time, I have heard no member of the Security Council who was there when resolution 1441 was passed, and who signed up to it, saying subsequently, "Oh, by the way, we did not happen to think that Iraq was a threat." Of course, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) was right to say that this was an issue, partly for the reasons that he suggested. Each member of the Security Council was capable of making their own judgment. It does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. and learned Gentleman or anyone else to claim that that they were under pressure in November, and that that was the only reason that they came to that decision, when, palpably, in March, they were under even greater pressure, and most members came to a different decision, which is why we were unable to get a second resolution.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Straw: No, I shall not give way. I want to make some progress.

Listening to what the shadow Foreign Secretary had to say just now, one might think that the only reason why military action was supported was that there was some secret intelligence briefing that has now turned out to be wrong. If that is the case, it is remarkable that neither his speech nor that made by the Leader of the Opposition on 18 March mention the word "intelligence" once. The shadow Foreign Secretary's whole gravamen was about Saddam's publicly known conduct. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition said that Saddam had


and that


He was absolutely right about that. He then listed the deadly materials identified not in an intelligence dossier but by Hans Blix in his report of 7 March, and recommended that


that report—


It is also worth reading the conclusion of that speech by the Leader of the Opposition, if only to highlight how far and how quickly the Opposition have since fallen. He said:


The scale of the official Opposition's subsequent opportunism was captured eloquently by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack)

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in the debate in the House on 16 July. He has written to me to apologise for his absence, for reasons that I fully understand, this afternoon. This is what he said in July:


He was referring to his own side. He went on:


Sadly, so many of his pleas have been in vain.


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