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Mr. Cash : I am much impressed by the way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is dealing with the question. I want to clarify one matter. He called in aid the opinion and lecture of Lord Alexander of Weedon. He will know that Lord Alexander suggested that this matter should go to the courts. I certainly would not agree, and I suspect that he will not do so either.

Mr. Campbell: The fact that one recognises that Lord Alexander of Weedon has made a powerful contribution to the debate does not commit one to accepting every line of every part of the lecture and the article that he subsequently wrote.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I hope that I am not wasting the right hon. and learned Gentleman's time by asking him this question. Does he accept that this Chamber and this House—no matter how well motivated we are as individuals or collectively—do not have the procedures to embark on an examination of the facts that is required to reach a sound conclusion to

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allow us each to reach separate, different or agreed opinions about the rights or wrongs of the Government's conclusion?

Mr. Campbell: The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a sound point. I have served on Select Committees and I confess that exercising political judgment seems much easier than getting to the facts of, for example, the case of the Iraqi supergun, which arose while I was a member of the Trade and Industry Committee in the 1987–92 Parliament. Indeed, if anyone of a sufficiently historical bent wants to read that Committee's report on the issue, he will see that the problems of establishing the facts are well laid out. I am glad that I gave way to the hon. and learned Gentleman while we are still entitled, at least for the moment, to call each other Queen's Counsel.

Some people would argue that some of the issues that I have outlined are contentious. I shall now detail some that are uncontested—for example, Mr. Jonathan Powell's apparent reference to the lack of imminent threat; the fact that the intelligence related to battlefield weapons and that those weapons posed no threat to the UK or its forces; and the fact that the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorists' hands was likely, on the assessments, to be increased by an attack on Iraq. I very much doubt whether, if those facts had been in the public domain, British public opinion would have been sympathetic to the case for going to war. If those facts had been in the public domain, I wonder how many more hon. Members would have taken the courageous decision of the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) and voted against war and in favour of more time for inspections.

We have to some extent anticipated the question of the Attorney-General. The Prime Minister was pretty dismissive of any arguments in relation to the Attorney-General based on Professor Greenwood's opinion, which I commend to those who are interested in these matters. It is important to realise that in the exercise of the giving of any legal opinion, it is essential to know the factual basis on which the opinion was given. That is why I want to know whether to any extent the opinion of the Attorney-General—partially published—was based on the dossier of September 2002. Did he take that dossier at its face value to any extent? Did he know, for example, that only battlefield weapons were involved? If he took it at its face value and did not know that such weapons were involved, does that not inevitably raise a substantial question about the validity of the opinion that he gave?

We are entitled to see the whole opinion and the statement of facts upon which it was based. Lord Alexander argues powerfully that we are entitled to know if the Attorney-General considered the doctrine of necessity as his last resort, or indeed the principle of proportionality. He also argues that we are entitled to see the whole of the Attorney-General's opinion. I agree wholeheartedly for the reason that while we are told that by convention the Attorney-General's advice should not be published, conventions can be broken. Indeed, we broke one on 18 March in this House. In any event, that convention has already been broken because the Attorney-General published part of his opinion. When

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he did so he broke with the convention. Either the convention rules or it does not. If one abandons it partly, in my view one abandons it completely.

We are debating a Conservative motion and we shall support it because we believe that the inquiry for which it calls is essential. I hope that I may be forgiven for saying that Conservative indignation after the event would be a little more easily received if they had shown some more scepticism in advance of it. The House should consider this. Who said on 1 September 2002:

Who said:

And who said:

Those were the words written on Sunday 1 September in an article in the home news section of The Sunday Times by the leader of the Conservative party. He had made up his mind before the dossier was published and before the Attorney-General issued his partial opinion.

The reality is that this motion is intellectually and politically much more consistent with the position of the Liberal Democrats than with that of the Conservative party. It would be churlish in the extreme not to thank the Conservatives for their generosity in allowing us the opportunity to show that that is so. That is why the motion will have our support.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next speaker, I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a 12-minute limit on all Back-Bench speeches, which applies from now.

3.10 pm

Mrs. Helen Liddell (Airdrie and Shotts): As the first non-lawyer to speak in the debate, may I break up the lawyer fest that has been going on for the past hour or so? If only we could import lawyers' job creation schemes into the wider economy, we should be even more successful than we are already.

I am rather disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition has tabled this motion. The reason for my disappointment is that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short), the former Secretary of State for International Development, made clear, the Cabinet received the same briefings on intelligence matters as the Leader of the Opposition, so it is disingenuous of him now to question the nature of that material and to seek, as he did in an article published in The Mail on Sunday, to traduce the officials who were responsible for drawing the intelligence together.

I am also disappointed that the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) should associate himself with the Conservative motion. He and I have discussed the subject on many occasions and I have the highest respect and admiration for him. However, I believe that this debate is about opportunism; its purpose is to give Conservative

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Members something around which they can at last unite. It gives them an opportunity to play to the gallery from the point of view, if I may mix my metaphors, of the lowest common denominator.

Whenever we consider the circumstances surrounding the background to our engagement in Iraq much is said about United States intelligence and about United Kingdom intelligence. What we must bear in mind, however, is that for 12 years, before resolution 1441, intelligence to most major countries indicated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The clearest intelligence of all was the fact that Saddam Hussein had actually used weapons of mass destruction not only against his neighbours but against his own people.

Several right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the fact that, six months on, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. It is a pity that not all the Members who are currently in the Chamber were here an hour before the debate started, because we have been looking for weapons in Ireland for more than 30 years and discussions over the past two days have been mainly about whether adequate supplies of those weapons have been identified and whether they could have been used for the type of destruction described yesterday by General de Chastelain.

The weapons inspectors are not playing some form of geopolitical spot the ball. The difficulties of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are extremely significant and we should stop the hysteria of suggesting that within six months of the cessation of hostilities it will be easy to find such weapons. I should have liked answers to several questions that arose during previous debates. Saddam Hussein knew that coalition forces were at the door, so, if he had nothing to hide, why did he not say so? Why did he not welcome back the weapons inspectors, giving them the opportunity and the information that they required to determine whether the weapons had existed and whether they had been destroyed? Furthermore, where are the answers now—in October—to the questions that Hans Blix posed in March this year? There was a dossier of 173 pages, but we do not yet have those answers.

When I joined the Cabinet I did not think that I would have to take a decision that would send the sons and daughters of other people to war. One must not assume that only those who resign from the Government examine their conscience on such matters. Those of us who stayed also had to examine our conscience. The decisions were not easy; they had to be based not only on the information available at the time but on Saddam Hussein's previous behaviour.

I want to share with the House something that was a significant factor in my decision: the implications for the United Nations. For 12 years Saddam Hussein had, appallingly, ignored the UN. If, at the eleventh hour, we had walked away from a challenge to Saddam Hussein, the damage to the UN would have been irreversible and the message to dictators in other rogue states would have been considerable. That is the background against which the decisions were taken.

We are gathered here today to discuss whether there should be judicial review. Earlier, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary pointed out that one has the sense that those who seek judicial review want review after

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review after review until they get the answer that they want. The Intelligence and Security Committee has conducted a full review and the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, despite reservations expressed by some people with the benefit of hindsight, has also conducted a full review. Although it would be wrong to go into too much detail about the Hutton inquiry, the House should bear in mind the fact that it was set up by the Prime Minister. Never before have a Government made information available to such a degree, when they could comfortably have hidden behind the 30-year rule. As far as possible, the Government have been open, although I do not dispute that there are matters where they cannot be as open as they might want to be. After all, there are requirements to protect the safety and security of intelligence sources.

I recognise that there is a valid and genuine debate in the country about the circumstances of our going to war. It will continue for many generations, as it did after the first world war and the second world war. However, using those issues for party political purposes, as is happening increasingly, reduces the real sacrifices made by others than us—those who had to prosecute the war in Iraq.

Much has been said on the allegations about the availability of weaponry, be it battlefield or otherwise, within 45 minutes, so I do not want to delay the House unduly on the matter. I followed every debate in the House at the time of the publication of the dossier and, in my recollection, no one raised the 45-minute issue. It makes little difference whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed in 45 minutes or 45 days; people would be just as dead after 45 days as they would be after 45 minutes. We have to take that into account.

It is regrettable that we are holding this discussion. I share the view of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary: we should be looking to the future. I share the view, too, that we should look to the achievements of our forces, especially in Basra, in bringing about a much better Iraq.

In conclusion, there is one point on which my conscience troubles me: it is that I and many others did not listen more closely to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) whenever she brought to our attention the real consequences of what Saddam Hussein was doing to his people. We have deposed Saddam Hussein from power, but he is still around and he will continue to wreak his vengeance until we find him. We must give the people of Iraq confidence and courage that a true, safe and prosperous country can be rebuilt. Lawyers dancing on the head of a pin will not secure that; we have to move forward and we have to do it now.

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