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Ian Lucas: I am surprised by that response, because clearly a set of instructions to counsel is distinct from the advice that is tendered in response to them. The hon. Gentleman is completely misleading the House with that suggestion.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman might wish to reconsider that remark. Certainly, the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) is not misleading the House.
We want to know whether the Government stated as a fact that the 12-year-old UN resolutions were extant. That is why the question that the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) put to the Prime Minister last Wednesday, which echoes my remarks, was hugely significant. He asked:
I refer in passing to a further case in point. It is our understanding that in the Katharine Gun case, which collapsed on 25 February, the prosecution decided to offer no evidence on receipt of Mrs. Gun's defence statement. She was running a defence of necessity, in other words, to prevent unjustified loss of life and damage to property. That would have made it necessary to produce the Attorney-General's opinion or advice to the defence. Usually in such circumstances, the Crown would have applied by counsel to the trial judge to exempt it from producing that, on the ground of public interest immunity, and such a certificate would not have been granted if the advice were equivocal. Again, that highlights the need for the full advice to be produced.
Mr. Foulkes: I thought so. Is not all this pettifogging? Is it not far more important that Saddam Hussein is in custody and that Iraq is liberated and moving towards democracy and prosperity? If the hon. Gentleman and his nationalist allies had had their way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, killing and torturing hundreds of thousands of people.
Mr. Llwyd: There is more to it than that. If the right hon. Gentleman were in the Old Bailey facing a charge of breaching the Official Secrets Act 1989which is apparently what he wants to happen to his one-time friend the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short)he would not call legal niceties pettifogging. Those niceties are the bulwark that
David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I am going to the Home Affairs Committee in a moment, so I will be unable to listen to the rest of the debate. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, for many of us, the question of human rights in Iraq was not a petty, unimportant issue, but that we considered human rights there and in Kosovo in the same light? As I remember it, the nationalist parties opposed intervention in Kosovo, as they did in Iraq. If a regime such as Saddam's, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) has said, is responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people over the years, why should we in the House of Commons oppose military action to end such tyranny?
Mr. Llwyd: No one in this House, I imagine, would ever have supported the Saddam regime. No one in my party has ever said anything of the kind, and no one ever would. However, the remit of this debate is to look at the legal process and to see where Parliament fits into that process, if at all.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that some of those who are now the fiercest critics of Saddam Hussein failed to join some of us when we were demonstrating against his regime in the 1980s and campaigning against the arms trade with his and other evil regimes?
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Given that we are a signatory to the International Criminal Court, surely the question of whether the war was legal is not pettifogging, but goes to the heart of whether we support in principle and in practice the framework of international law.
Mr. Llwyd: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I add that, at a time when allied forces are quite properly trying to bring normality back to Iraq, one index of that normality will be the rule of law. How can we impose the rule of law on Iraq when we ignore, at our peril, international law in its entirety? That does not make a great deal of sense.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Has the hon. Gentleman had a chance to read Hans Blix's statement on the way in which he was removed from Iraq while still undertaking weapons inspection, and replaced by the Iraq survey group, which did not find any weapons of mass destruction? Mr. Blix is concerned that the real aim of the United States and Britain was always to go to war, rather than to achieve some kind of peaceful resolution to what was obviously a serious situation.
I return to the theme of the debate, which is fairly tightly drawn, to pursue the question of the Attorney-General's advice. If his advices were to be published in full, the matter might be laid to rest. As I said earlier, counsel invariably sets out in its advices the precise facts on which its instructions are based. The advice takes shape as those facts are assimilated and the law applied. That is why this question is of such huge import. Some might say that in publishing the advice, the Government would open a Pandora's box and give rise to such claims being made day in, day out. The answer to that is that there will be a discretion, as at the moment, but that what makes the present case so compelling is the consequence of the advice given, and the question of whether Members of Parliament were adequately informed of what was going on when the House voted on the matter some time ago. We need to pursue that because otherwise we will from now on be given only what the Prime Minister considers to be good for us, which cannot be right in any democracy. My party would resist that at all costs.
Another cardinal point in favour of publishing the advice in full is that this was the first occasion on which UK forces went to war almost solely on the basis of intelligence. Lord Boyce, the then Chief of the Defence Staff, was so concerned that a few days before
Mr. Foulkes: On how many occasions was the intelligence dossier referred to during the debate on 17 March, and how many questions were asked about it? There were only a couple of questions, and it was mentioned only once in passing. That was not the basis for the decision; the basis was the way in which Saddam Hussein flouted resolution after resolution of the UN, including 1441. That was what was referred to in the debate.
Mr. Llwyd: I shall refer briefly to resolution 1441 later. Frankly, I cannot say precisely how many times the dossier was referred to. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will do so if he catches your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speakerheaven preserve us.
Mr. Calum MacDonald (Western Isles) (Lab): The admiral demanded that before the Attorney-General's view was published. What I am really puzzled by is the fact that none of those who oppose the case for the legality of the war addresses the Attorney-General's argument. Will the hon. Gentleman do that now? The Attorney-General said that the Security Council had decided[Interruption.]