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Mr. Llwyd: I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument fairly carefully and agree with him, but it is highly unlikely that the Attorney-General's advice contains anything secret. If that were the case, the Katharine Gun case would not have collapsed because the judge would have allowed a public interest immunity certificate.
Mr. Grieve: We may be entering the realm of speculation by discussing the collapse of the Katharine Gun case. The hon. Gentleman's point is a little far-fetched because we do not know why it collapsedwe were told that there was a lack of evidence. I do not know whether there was a lack of evidence, whether the Government had material that they would have liked to have put before the court but could not because it was
Mr. McCabe: I want to return to the notion that the Government may have deliberately sought to dupe an array of people in the build up to war. Were members of the Privy Council such as the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) so slow and inept that they could not see possible areas of doubt? Were they so in love with the idea of war that they did not want to consider the matter? What is it about the position now that was not remotely apparent to any of them at the time? This issue is difficult for all of us, but at the time they were in no doubt about the information that they were receiving. Apart from the political opportunity, which we have heard about, why have all the doubts surfaced subsequently? Why did members of the Privy Council not entertain any doubts at the time?
Mr. Grieve: As I said earlier, the hon. Gentleman does not seem to have kept abreast of what has happened since. When the debate took place, it was clear that Iraq had flouted the UN resolutionsI suspect that no hon. Member in the Chamber this afternoon could suggest that it had not flouted UN resolutions because it did so consistently. The obfuscation, the denial and the expulsion of the inspectors in 1998 form a pattern, and each of those events might well have justified taking military action at the time that it occurred. I can think of all sorts of other things that Iraq did not do: it did not hand back the Kuwaiti art treasures and it never provided a full list of those it had deported and murdered; the list is endless. Saddam Hussein was a monster who behaved monstrously before, during and after the war against Kuwait. I have no regrets about having seen him removed from power.
The issue was difficult for the House. We were told that the pressing need to take military action rather than relying on other means was the existence of weapons of mass destruction, which provided a real and present danger that had to be addressed then and there and not by any other prolonged means. That argument influenced me when I considered how I should vote. I was comfortable in voting for the resolution provided that the Government were acting honestly with the House, and I certainly have no reason to think that they were not. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe) may remember that it was pointed out to the Prime Minister that, if only people trusted him more on other matters, it would be easier for them to trust him on that important matter, where we all think that trust was required.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): My hon. Friend and I took different views about military action at the time, and I did so with a heavy heart. In March last year, I asked the Prime Minister for the full evidence because many of my constituents and I wanted to be persuaded by the Government. We wanted the evidence to know
Mr. Grieve: I agree with my hon. Friend. Other Conservative Members also voted another way as a matter of conscience and were given every allowance to do soI fully respected their position. I agree that there is a need to restore public trust. It is in nobody's interest for trust not to exist, and we will all lose in those circumstances. The belief that there are short-term party political advantages from a decline in trust in politicians in general is frankly a mistake. A loss of trust will ultimately affect the entire system of governance in this country and do none of us any good.
The Government's reliance on the advice, the fact that they published a summary of it and the fact that it was intimately linked to the information that was available at the time and on which they based their view seems to make publication desirable. At the end of the day, however, it is their decision, not mine.
Mr. Cash: Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that there was a pragmatic reason for the release of the summary? Having been intimately involved in those matters, perhaps he will take it from me that the necessity for producing a summary opinion had much to do with getting Labour Members of Parliament through the Lobby. Furthermore, the alternative in the absence of any such summary would have been a deluge of opinions from Matrix and other chambers, which would have been in the hands of those who were opposed to the war, and the nation would have heard them on the airwaves if they were broadcast nationally on that day.
Rather than getting agitated by what, in the light of what has happened, is a perfectly sensible suggestion, the Government should go away and consider the matter carefully. It is in their interest and that of good government generally that the advice should be published. If there are compelling reasons why it should not be published that go beyond the reasons of convention, the Foreign Secretary should explain them, rather than saying simply that convention does not allow publication and then giving us an interesting speech on several issues that are not germane to the point that we are discussing this afternoon. I wish the Government every success in what they are trying to do in Iraq, but I also think that it would be wise for the Government to publish the entire advice from the Attorney-General.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): To save time and prevent unnecessary interventions, I shall say straight away that I was among those who voted against the war. However, I oppose Saddam Hussein now, just as I opposed him and demonstrated against his rule in the 1980s. I find it ironic that some of his greatest critics today were some of his greatest friends in the 1980s. I remind the House, as I said in an intervention, that I
Perhaps I was naive to assume that we could disagree on whether to go to war but that we could still agree that all the information that the Government received before taking the decision to go to war should be provided to hon. Members and to the public. Sadly, that is not the case. However, I believe that the Government have a moral obligation to provide that information, especially to the families of those who died as a result of the war. That obligation extends to us all, so that we can decide whether that act of war was legal. I am not a recent convert to that argument and I have not jumped on the bandwagon. Indeed, I am one of those who have consistently posed such questions to the Government over the past 12 months.
Mr. Salmond: The hon. Gentleman is well versed in the statement that was produced by France, Germany and Russia thereafter, which emphasised that that was their understanding of the resolution that they had voted for.