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3.49 pm

Mr. Kerry Pollard (St. Albans): I visited Iraq twice just before the war and am perhaps one of only two or three hon. Members to have been there at that time. I opposed the war and voted against it. Indeed, I led the march against the war alongside Jesse Jackson and

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Bianca Jagger, both heroes of mine. The war was wrong then and I have not changed my mind on that. I am sure that the Prime Minister was sincere in his belief that he was right, but I believe that he was wrong. However, it is now time to stop picking the scab of the sore of Iraq and to move forward by rebuilding the country and establishing democracy. We must return prosperity and peace to that benighted country.

When I was in Basra 18 months ago, there was little clean drinking water. I visited a hospital where there was little medicine. Children were regularly dying from dysentery because of the lack of clean water. I visited a school that had raw sewage in the playground, although that was a result of Saddam Hussein's activities and had nothing to do with the war. I have contacts in Iraq. They tell me that things in Basra are much improved. The people are pleased that the British, not the Americans, are there. They would like British administration throughout the country rather than just in Basra because they have more confidence in the British.

We have to rebuild the economy. The region is the cradle of civilisation. Iraqi civilisation is older than British civilisation. We need to bring security and prosperity back to that country.

3.51 pm

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): Ironically, the motion tabled by Her Majesty's Opposition is partly a result of the failure of Her Majesty's Opposition to scrutinise the situation before the attack on Iraq and subsequently. Even now, after all that we have heard and seen over the past few months, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said that he still believed the war was right. With respect, a competent official Opposition could and should elicit answers to many of the questions posited for the tribunal.

I also take issue with the Foreign Secretary who referred to the high court of Parliament. That may or may not be true, but those are merely words because we are not able to see the Attorney-General's legal advice, which is crucial. It should have been made available to magistrates courts, let alone the high court of Parliament. I feel strongly about that. It made me a bit wobbly to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to Iran as the next contestant in this ghastly game.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on what he just said? Nothing that the Foreign Secretary said indicated that there was an intention to move towards Iran. Quite the opposite. The work that he has been doing in Iran in the past day underlines that.

Mr. Llwyd: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has had a humour bypass. The Foreign Secretary mentioned it in passing. It was a slip of the tongue and meant to be taken in a flippant way.

Several hon. Members mentioned Lord Alexander's opinion. Whether one accepts it or not, he is a legal heavyweight. In his interesting article, he refers to every conceivable argument being deployed to justify the war.

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One month it was self-defence; a little later it had become humanitarian intervention; in the end, it was apparently to bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq. Yet none of those political arguments could be used to justify invasion under international law.

Article 51 is the important article on self-defence. It clearly states that there has to be an immediate specific threat to a specific country. That did not happen. The idea of a pre-emptive strike, which has been mentioned, is a grey area and does not have the force of international law. Nor should it, because it is often based on subjective material such as intelligence material and so on and may give carte blanche to rogue states that wish to attack others.

Turning to the resolutions that form part of this debate, my reading of resolution 678 is that it authorised force against Iraq specifically to eject it from Kuwait. Resolution 687 imposed on Iraq obligations to continue to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction to restore international peace and security. Speaking on behalf of my party, Plaid Cymru, and the Scottish National party, I, like many others, believe that resolution 1441 did not sanction belligerent action. Since the very beginning, we have consistently believed that there is no threat. Indeed, containment appeared to be working at the time.

Apart from Lord Alexander, several other people have declared that resolution 1441 did not provide a mandate for war. On 6 March 2003, a group of distinguished international lawyers sent a letter to the Prime Minister, which was published in The Guardian:

The letter was signed by professors at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Paris as well as the London School of Economics.

I agree with many people that resolution 1441 did not authorise war. It stopped short of doing so, and that is acknowledged in the central role proposed for the United Nations. The US and the UK tacitly recognised that in their promotion of a second resolution in March. However, when they realised that they would not obtain a majority on the Security Council, in wild west fashion, they decided to ignore the United Nations altogether. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) said on 1 June:

Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said of the alleged sale of yellowcake by Niger:

The dossier said that aluminium tubes that Iraq had tried to buy could be used for nuclear weapons, but the

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US Energy and State Departments dismissed the claim. That very month, the US Defence Intelligence Agency concluded:

As for the UN inspectors, former inspector Bernd Birkicht said that he believed that the CIA had made up intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to provide the legal basis for the war. He told The Guardian that supposedly top-secret, high-quality intelligence had led the inspectors into an absurd wild goose chase. He said:

Mr. Birkicht said that the so-called decontamination trucks in satellite photographs were, in fact, fire engines.

The Government believe that resolutions 687, 678 and 1441 together authorised the use of force, but many of us continue to believe that that is wrong. I shall not labour the point, as I have made it repeatedly. Any reliance on resolution 678 was restricted to what was strictly necessary to enforce the disarmament provisions of resolutions 687 and 1441 with the objective of restoring international peace and security to the area. An assessment of the quality, reliability and strength of the evidence that was made available to the Government, and in particular to the Attorney-General, is therefore essential to establish whether there was any lawful basis for the invasion of Iraq on the Attorney-General's legal advice.

The current position is that there are occupying powers. Articles 43 and 64 of the Geneva convention are clear. Order must be maintained, life must be respected and the occupying powers are a policing power until their role is taken over by the United Nations. The regulations and the convention thus recognise that occupation may occur, and they recognise the right of an occupying power to make changes to existing institutions in the occupied territory. However, the right to make changes is not unconditional. In the main, it is available in order to allow the occupying power to uphold its duties under regulations and the convention in respect of the maintenance of public order and safety, orderly government and its own security. It follows that civilians are entitled to protection.

In a parliamentary answer to my hon. Friend the Member for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price), the Secretary of State for Defence stated on 7 October that the Government had no idea how many non-combatants in Iraq had been killed since the forces of occupation took over. That is unacceptable. It appears to fly in the face of the fourth Geneva convention. We must ensure that the people are properly respected and protected. Such a cavalier response is not good enough, and perpetuates the idea held by some people that a Muslim life is somehow worth less than a Christian or a western life. That is nonsense, but if we say in answer to a reasonable question that we have no idea how many have been killed, we give that impression. It is the wrong impression. None of us in the Chamber, no member of the Government and no sane person would adhere to the view that one life was worth less than another, but that is the impression that is given. That is part of the reason for the great vacuum between east and west.

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The threat of weapons of mass destruction was a justification for the war. We were told that they were there, but they have not come to light, as we know. There are many questions that need to be answered. I support the idea of a judicial inquiry somewhat reluctantly, even though I am a practising barrister. It will take some time to set up and to publish its findings. However, I, like others, am impressed by the way that the Hutton inquiry was set up and is proceeding. That could well be a model.

It grieves me that the Foreign Secretary speaks of the high court of Parliament, yet we are not allowed to see the evidence. One wonders whether a Hutton-type inquiry would be able to do so. I still say that we are entitled to see the Attorney-General's full opinion and the factual basis upon which he received his instructions.

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