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Mr. Salmond: A few minutes ago, the Foreign Secretary said that the question of publication was a matter for the Attorney-General. That view was challenged. Would the Foreign Secretary care to explain and revisit the argument that he advanced?
Mr. Straw: I am familiar with "Erskine May", but I should tell the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond)he has not been in government; I amthat it is utterly improbable that a Minister would publish legal advice from the Attorney-General without the authority of the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General. I have never known that to happen, and I do not believe it ever would.
David Winnick: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is rather odd that the very same people who used the absence of a second resolution as an excuse not to support military intervention opposed the liberation of Kuwait, in respect of which there was no ambiguity whatsoever about the Security Council resolution? I do not question the fact that they are anti-Saddam, but every time action is taken against Saddambe it the liberation of Kuwait, sanctions or the liberation of Iraq itselfthey make every possible excuse not to end one of the most notorious tyrannies since 1945.
I should tell the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy that all the resolutions were made available to the House in Command Papers. My dossier was published, and every single word in it was public and accurate. If he looks at resolutions 678 and 687 in their entirety, he will see that they were not confined to
Jeremy Corbyn: The Foreign Secretary has given an interesting build-up to the passage of resolution 1441 but says that it made various assertions about Iraq's real, present and credible threat of weapons of mass destruction. The weapons inspectorate was there, so can the Foreign Secretary explain why Hans Blix was denied the further two months that he requested to continue the inspection? What response does the Foreign Secretary have to make to the Iraq survey group's non-finding of any weapons of mass destructiongiven that we were all told that the reasons for the war were weapons of mass destruction and a real, present and credible threat from Iraq?
Mr. Straw: It was not just the Government who were telling my hon. Friend. The whole international community believed that Saddam posed a threat to international peace and security by the proliferation of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile systems. Russia did not rely on a dossier from the United Kingdom Government. Neither did China, Germany or France. The whole international community reached the conclusion it did from the evidencein particular, year after year of non-compliance by Saddam Hussein that was charted to the Security Council in the 173 pages of a 29-chapter document that Dr. Blix put before the Security Council on 6 March.
I invite my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and other hon. Members to examine Command Papers 5769 and 5785, which I laid before the House in February and March last year. They set out the case and include the speeches that I made before the Security Council. I relied not on direct intelligence but on facts shared with everybody elseincluding the fact that after 12 years, Saddam was still refusing active compliance with the inspectors. As Dr. Blix said in his report of 27 January, it was a game of catch as catch can.
Of 29 separate clusters identified by Dr. Blix almost six weeks later, he was explicit that in the cluster relating to anthrax, 10,000 litres of anthrax were unaccounted for. His words, not mine, were that there was a substantial presumption that material was still in Iraq and still active and could be used. When one put together all the publicly available facts and the behaviour that we could see with our own eyes, there was substantial evidence of further material breaches by Iraq.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North asked why we did not give the inspectors more time. That decision had to be made by the Security Council and GovernmentsDr. Blix never suggested otherwiseon the basis of earlier Security Council
Mr. Grieve: We have strayed on to wider issues. Earlier, the Foreign Secretary seemed to imply that it would be impossible to publish the Attorney-General's advice without his consent. While I appreciate that one should always ask the Attorney-General to agree, perhaps the Foreign Secretary concurs that ultimately, such advice becomes the property of the Government. It is for the Government to decide whether or not they wish to publish. That must be the position.
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman is rightpublication is ultimately for the Government. [Interruption.] Sure. If it was published by a Minister, of course it is a Government document in the end. In practice, one would have to seek the opinion of the Attorney-General. In practice, the idea that one would publish such advice without the Attorney-General's approval is so distant as to be wholly unlikely.
I am glad that we have moved on from whether or not we should dance on the head of a pin and have the legal advice made public. We accept that there was legitimate argument about the legal advice, but at the heart of this, political and moral judgments had to be made about whether or not we should go to war. We must accept the consequences of our decisions. Those who oppose military action must accept the consequences of what would have been their decisions, which would not have been the status quo.
Lembit Öpik: I came here to hear the justification not for the war but for the refusal by the Foreign Secretary and the Government to share the legal advice. This is not about the integrity of any individual but about the integrity in the eyes of the public of the British body politic. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it might be in the public interest on this specific occasion to share the legal advice? After all, if the outline was
Mr. Straw: But the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy gave himself away. He started by saying that we should make available the legal advice, then added that we should make available the instructions as well. The hon. Gentleman's party and the Scottish and Welsh nationalists disagreed with military action in respect of the war. They now seek to make one argument after another to justify their policy. That is fair enough but they must not expect us to be party to that attempt.
The Government have responsibilities to the House and have met them more than any previous Government in respect of military action. I came to the House and said that decisions on military action must be taken on substantive motions whereas, extraordinarily, that was never done in the past. We also made available a digest of the legal basis for the use of force, which had not been done in the past.
Mr. Llwyd: It is a not a question of disclosing the instructions. I said that if the full advice had been published, the instructions would be there because it was upon those factual bases that the advice was drawn. That is an obvious point for any practising lawyer and quite plain. The factual bases would have to be on the face of the documents.
The Foreign Secretary says that we introduced a smokescreen in relation to the war. I spent five minutes speaking about the legality of the war. The right hon. Gentleman has so far spent 20 minutes speaking on that aspect.