Madam Deputy Speaker:
Order. The hon. Gentleman is making an intervention.
The hon. Gentleman makes my case for me. How can I argue about the full advice if I have not seen it? That is a fairly obvious point.
The hon. Gentleman does not need the full advice. All he has to do is address the logic of the
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Attorney-General's argument. Does he refute the fact put forward by the Attorney-General that the Security Council had decided that Iraq was in breach of resolution 1441; that in so being, it was in breach of resolution 687; and that being in breach of 687 invoked the right to use force as expressed in resolution 678? That is the only fact that the hon. Gentleman needs to make his argument.
It most definitely is not, with great respect to the hon. Gentleman. In a few moments, I shall deal with the three resolutions, albeit in a fairly short time. Frankly, it is not enough for the hon. Gentleman simply to disclose something written on a sheet of A4 paper that purports to be the Attorney-General's full advice
What matters is not how long it is, but the logic.
I shall come to the logic. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I will deal with that point in a moment.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
(Con): The hon. Gentleman said that a key issue was that the decision to go to war was taken on the basis of intelligence. Is not another key issue the fact that the decision was, at the Government's own request, taken by this House, this Parliament? That was wholly unprecedented, and in order to persuade Parliament to back them the Government saw fit to place before Parliament a large amount of material, including part of the Attorney-General's advice.
That is absolutely right, but I take exception to being given only a part of anybody's advice.
Some apologists will say that legal professional privilege might apply in supporting non-disclosure, but in my view it would not apply in this instance. The Government are concerned about the lack of trust with which the public treat politicians in general and the Government more specifically. How can they expect to build up that relationship when they behave in this way? How is a member of the public expected to engage, if he or she is not allowed to see fully what is going on?
The Government have talked extensively about freedom of information and openness. There was even talk of another Freedom of Information Act. That must have been nothing but spin, in the light of the Government's record in general and of this episode in particular. I hope that the Government will change their mind about producing the full advice to Dr. Ann Abraham, the parliamentary ombudsman. Failure to do so would be to undermine her office completely.
I shall now deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. MacDonald). The Attorney-General believed that resolutions 678 and 687 were both revived, and that 1441 would allow for military action, as was anticipated by resolution 678. He believed therefore that there was automaticity in resolution 1441 and a trigger for action. However, that is not what was understood by the combined ranks of
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the Governments of France, Germany and Russia. I would suggest that such mass misunderstanding is rare in international diplomacy.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I will, but I want to make this the last intervention that I take. I must make some progress.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Is it not the case that resolution 1441 was passed only because of assurances that there was no automaticity?
The hon. Lady is right; that is precisely the point that I was trying to make.
Following the adoption of resolution 1441, the United Kingdom's ambassador to the United Nations said:
"There is no 'automaticity' in this Resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required under operational paragraph 12."
Turning to what the Attorney-General has made known, we find that he said that resolution 678 authorised force against Iraq. I do not disagree with that. However, that force related only to Kuwait[Interruption.]
Well, that is what he has said in the information that he has given us. He said that resolution 687 set out ceasefire conditions, then somehow came to the conclusion that those two old resolutions, which were specifically drawn up to authorise action in Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I have already explained that I must make some progress.
Many experts believe that the Attorney-General's argument is flawed, because although resolution 678 authorised military action, using the diplomatic language "all necessary means", that referred specifically to military action to free Kuwait. Resolution 687 marked the permanent ceasefire. It did not adopt or preserve the right to use force set out under resolution 678, although such words did appear in paragraph 4 of resolution 686. Rabinder Singh, QC, said in his opinion of 10 September 2002 that there was a clear recognition that the right to use force required express terms if it was to be continued, and that the absence of clear terms in any resolution after 686 led to the conclusion that no such use of force was authorised.
Further, resolution 687 states that the Security Council
"decides to remain seized of the matter and to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the region."
That clearly suggests that the Security Council will remain seized of the matter and will itself decide what further steps might be required for the implementation of that resolution. We must remember that both resolutions 678 and 687 were specific to the matter of Kuwait. It is therefore difficult to follow the Attorney-General's thesis in the material with which he has graced us. That is, that those resolutions somehow authorise the use of force. In my submission, according to their
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wording it is impossible to accept an implicit authorisation for the use of force without a further resolution, because the Security Council remained seized of the matter.
At this juncture, I could cite the opinions of many respected international lawyers who would agree that such authorisation was not and is not revived. This aspect of the argument has been debated before and the ground has been well covered. To be fair, some respected lawyers have also given a differing opinion, but they are in a small minority. There is, as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said, a legitimate debate. Over the weekend, the Prime Minister urged usin new Labour parlanceto find closure on that debate and to move on.
Sir Adam Roberts, professor of international relations at Oxford university, recently said that there was, in principle, a possible case for the lawfulness of resorting to war, but that the US and UK Governments had overstated the Iraqi threat. On the question of whether the Attorney-General's advice should be published, however, he said:
"Of course I'd like to see the full advice. What we have seen of the Attorney-General's advice does not deal with the key question of why the situation was deemed so urgent that inspectors had to be withdrawn and forces sent in."
On the question of legality, Malcolm Shaw, QC, professor of law at Leicester university, said:
"On the basis of intelligence we had at the time and publicly available knowledge, there was a credible and reasonable argument in favour of the legality of the war."
When asked about disclosure of the full advice, however, he said:
"I don't see why not. There's no constitutional bar to doing so."
Nick Grief, professor of law at Bournemouth university and a specialist in international law, said that he did not believe that there was a legal basis. As to the publication of the Attorney-General's advice, he said, "Definitely." James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge university, is unclear as to the legality. On the disclosure of the Attorney-General's advice, however, he said:
"If the war was conducted in private, there would be every case for hiding the advice. If it's going to be fought with public funds, in public and expending the lives of members of the public, then it should be published".
Lord Alexander, QC, did not believe the war to be lawful, and on the question of the Attorney-General's advice, he said:
"Yes. I want to do justice to the Attorney General's arguments. This was the most important legal opinion given in the last quarter of a century. The Attorney has already published a summary. So why not publish the whole text. There's no legal distinction between the two."
Those are five distinguished international lawyers who have differing views on the first question, but are unanimous on the question of the publication in full of the Attorney-General's advice.
To conclude, I emphasise that the House will be asked to divide this evening on the specific motion before it. Despite the opinions held by me and my colleagues, it is not meant to be a further vote on the war. The question before the House is whether the Attorney-General's
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advice on Iraq should be published in full. Those who believe in informed democratic debate, freedom of information and transparency in government should have no problem joining us in the Lobby this evening. I urge every right hon. and hon. Member to consider the matter carefully and to support the motion.