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Mr. Straw: As my hon. Friend knows, what is debated on the Floor of the House is a matter for the Leader of the House, but I will ensure that her views are put to him. I profoundly regret any loss of life, in Iraq or anywhere else. However, let us be clear that in certain parts of that country the MNF and the Iraqi security forces are dealing with the most unpleasant terrorist insurgency. It is the terroristsnot the MNF, the US, the UK or the Iraqi security forceswho are using suicide bombers to blow up streets full of women and children. They are deliberately seeking to undermine the recruitment of security personnel to the Iraqi police by means of terrorist outrages against them, and to prevent the political process from taking place. The culpability for most of the deaths lies with the terrorists.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): The Foreign Secretary is clearly right to say that the Joint Intelligence Committee signed off the dossier but, as the Hutton process exposed, that dossier's language was considerably strengthened as a result of representations to the JIC made by Alastair Campbell and other spin doctors. In the light of the findings of the Iraq survey group, does the right hon. Gentleman think that the intervention by Alastair Campbell and the other spin doctors made the intelligence more accurate or less accurate?
Mr. Straw: First, I believe that the role of spin doctors can be overspun. Palpably, there are many lessons to be learned from the fact that some of the intelligence turned out to be wrong, but some of the intelligencesuch as that received about Iraqi missile systemsturned out to be amazingly accurate. However, I accepted the intelligence without too much inquiry because of everything else that I knew, from perfectly public sources, about the record of Saddam, who continued to defy Security Council resolutions for many years, even though he could have put himself in order. Also, as late as 7 March 2003, Dr. Blix published a 173-page report in respect of unanswered disarmament questions, in which he stated that there was a strong presumption that 10,000 litres of anthrax remained in Iraq. I am very proud of our intelligence service and I remind the hon. Gentleman that it had made very accurate judgments, on a similar intelligence base, about Libya, the A.Q. Khan network and other matters. That is why I, and the rest of us, accepted the intelligence.
Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab):
One of my many Iraqi constituents asked me over the weekend whether people in Britain understood that the nightmare endured by Ken Bigley's family had been a daily occurrence for familiesincluding his ownin Iraq under Saddam Hussein. He went on to discuss with me the difficulties encountered when a body such as the UN tries to deal with a person who is a psychopathic killer and who is in breach of both the resolutions and the ceasefire. To me, that was always more important than the question of weapons of mass destruction. People like Saddam Hussein are intelligent and brutal, but also deeply unpredictable. Saddam succeeded in
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fooling the international community in respect of WMD, but does my right hon. Friend agree that what made him dangerous was his unpredictability?
Mr. Straw: As with my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt), I wish that more people were listening to the authentic voice of Iraqis, both here and in Iraq. Life there is getting better. One Iraqi told me that Saddam was the biggest terrorist of all, and that 300,000 people, including many members of his own family, had been murdered and dumped into mass graves. My hon. Friend is also right to say that, although there might be lessons for us to learnand there areit is also plain that there are lessons to be learned about the UN system, and to be learned by those who did not support effective action. As I recall, in the middle of 2001before 11 Septembera number of Security Council members were willing to work with Saddam to allow the sanctions regime to degrade, even though they knew that he was in clear breach of all sorts of obligations. The UN suffered from that, as did international peace and security. I hope that the high-level group established by Kofi Annan will find a way through these difficulties and learn some lessons so that we have much better ground rules for taking decisions in the future.
Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (LD): I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister for their personal involvement in trying to secure the safety and release of Mr. Kenneth Bigley in Iraq. I disagreed with both of them at the beginning of Mr. Bigley's ordeal, but by the end I believe that they had done everything possible to secure his freedom. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a new international summit on Iraq, as outlined by Senator John Kerry, would be helpful in increasing the involvement of the UN?
Mr. Straw: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generous remarks, which are much appreciated. However, I hope that he will forgive me if I do not get too involved in the debates currently taking place between the two leading presidential contenders. An international conference called by Egypt is being held next week, and will involve Iraq's neighbours, the P5the permanent five nations on the Security Councilas well as Egypt and some other countries. There is no doubt that the more we can involve the international community and get it on board in this matter, the better it will be for the Iraqis.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): The Butler report concluded that the allegation that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Niger was well founded, yet the ISG was unable to find any evidence to support the allegation that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from abroad in the period after Desert Storm. Which of those conclusions does the Foreign Secretary support?
I simply say to my hon. Friend that that shows the difficulties faced by our intelligence services. We expect them to operate as effectively as possible but, by definition, they do not deal with established truths.
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They deal with fragments of information that they then have to put together to make judgments. Without their efforts, Britain would be a far less safe place and would have suffered many more terrorist outrages. To put it bluntly, people must understand that.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): May I associate myself unreservedly with the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) about the incident connected with the death of Mr. Bigley, and with the remarks that the right hon. Gentleman made about our forces in Iraq? There can be no controversy about that matter.
I supported the Government in the Lobby in March 2003 because I believed that the Prime Minister had advanced a case for war that was based on the unvarnished truth. However, the Government's current justification for the invasion of Iraq is markedly different. Will the Foreign Secretary give me an assurance that what the Prime Minister told the House in March 2003 was based on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for the first part of what he said, and I fully understand why Opposition Members might be tempted to raise questions about the good faith of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or other members of the Cabinet. However, I do not believe that British politics is helped by that, or that there is any foundation for such claims. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister acted in complete good faith and there have been three separate forensic inquiries into the basis of the September dossier and much else besides. If the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at the motion put before the House on 18 March last yearthe terms of which were discussed with the Opposition in advancehe will see that it was based on Saddam's breach of his Security Council obligations and on his failure to comply. That remains as true today as it was on the day when we voted for that motion.
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): On the issue of an attempt to procure uranium from Africa, the Iraq survey group confirms the view of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was presented to the UN Security Council before the war, that there was no evidence to support those allegations. However, Butler, while restating the IAEA view, comes to the opposite conclusion without giving any logical argument to justify that view. Does not that call into question the credibility of the Butler report and its conclusions on that and other issues? Why was it that the Government insisted that that allegation was correct, but omitted to mention that Iraq had no need to procure uranium from Africa because it had stockpiles of the stuff?
With respect, I am not entirely clear what point my hon. Friend is trying to make. If it is clear that the basis for intelligence was wrong, it has been withdrawn. I have announced two withdrawals today.
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Butler analysed the information with great care, including all the intelligence that formed part of the dossier. Together with his colleagues, who included two right hon. Members of this House, he reached conclusions that were his conclusions, and not the Government's. If he had come to different conclusions, we would have accepted them.
All that this shows is the great difficulty of making cast-iron judgments in an area of intelligence. Nevertheless, people have to understand the importance of intelligence. The same intelligence services have a fantastic record of accuracy. In some of the dossiers they have worked on, such as Libya, they have been in error only in underestimating rather than overestimating the problem.
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