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Lord Ackner: My Lords, I merely quoted from the report in which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor himself made the observation that if he were not burdened with the wig, he would be able to discharge his job more efficiently--an observation that I was delighted to hear.

Earl Ferrers: Dear, oh dear, my Lords. The noble and learned Lord will not remain a friend of the

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1015

Lord Chancellor for very much longer. He has directed the arrows to the Lord Chancellor who, according to the noble and learned Lord, admits that he will do his work better without a wig. I would like to hope that his conduct has not been adversely affected by wearing a wig.

I was also concerned when the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, in arguing for doing away with the wearing of the wig, asked what we are doing here and whether we are providing entertainment and mockery as per Gilbert and Sullivan. That argument was not worthy of the debate. In fact, we are concerned with the dignity and stature of the office of Lord Chancellor. That is not a question of mockery. If people want to mock it, they can. If people want to mock your Lordships, they can. The fact is that the office of Lord Chancellor is one of great dignity and great awe. When the noble and learned Lord carries out his ceremonial duties, including every day in the Lord Chancellor's Procession, that is important.

If I may say so with a degree of humility, I make no apology for having tabled the two amendments. It is important that the office of Lord Chancellor should retain its stature. The Lord Chancellor should not dress down; he should not dispose of his breeches, buckles and tights. I do not believe that he should leave his position as Speaker on the Woolsack, move over to join his ministerial colleagues and, as I said earlier, metamorphose into a Front-Bench Minister as opposed to standing at the Woolsack with the dignity and aura of the Lord Chancellor. I commend my first amendment to the House.

5.14 p.m.

On Question, Whether the amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 115; Not-Contents,145.

Division No. 1


Aberdare, L.
Ailesbury, M.
Ailsa, M.
Astor of Hever, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Beloff, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Burnham, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Calverley, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnock, L.
Chalfont, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chesham, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Craigmyle, L.
Cranborne, V.
Cross, V.
Davidson, V.
Denham, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Drogheda, E.
Ellenborough, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Erne, E.
Falkland, V.
Ferrers, E. [Teller.]
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gormanston, V.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Headfort, M.
Higgins, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jopling, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Liverpool, E.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Middleton, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Munster, E.
Naseby, L.
Northesk, E.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pender, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Rathcavan, L.
Rees, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. [Teller.]
Savile, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Teviot, L.
Teynham, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Warnock, B.
Wedgwood, L.
Wilcox, B.
Young, B.


Ackner, L.
Acton, L.
Addington, L. [Teller.]
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Annan, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blackstone, B.
Brightman, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Burns, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carter, L.
Chorley, L.
Christopher, L.
Clancarty, E.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Freyberg, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Holderness, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Jacobs, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Leathers, V.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Ludford, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Marsh, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Northbourne, L.
Paul, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Sawyer, L.
Shaughnessy, L.
Shepherd, L.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wharton, B.
Wilberforce, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1017

Earl Ferrers had given notice of his intention to move, as a second amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end to insert ("except the recommendation that the Lord Chancellor should be able to speak from the Government Front Bench when the House is sitting as a House").

[Amendment not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before we move to the Statements on Iraq and agriculture, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that The Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length will do so at the expense of other noble Lords.


5.24 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on Iraq which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

    "Madam Speaker, as the House will know, on Saturday I had authorised substantial military action as part of a joint US-UK strike against targets in Iraq.

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1018

    British Tornado fighter bombers were about to take to the air, and I had already spoken to the detachment commander to thank them for their bravery and professionalism, when we received word that the Iraqis were telling the UN Secretary-General that they had backed down.

    "I want to explain to the House why we were ready to take such action, why we decided to stay our hand, and why we remain ready to strike if the Iraqis do not fully comply with their obligations.

    "Let me first put these events into context. Security Council Resolution 687 of April 1991, containing the ceasefire terms for the Gulf War, obliged Iraq to accept the destruction of all its weapons of mass destruction and not to develop such weapons in the future. The UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) was established to oversee these processes, with the International Atomic Energy Agency. A further resolution required immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any places and records in Iraq inspectors wished to inspect.

    "The seven years since then have been a constant struggle between Iraq and the weapons inspectors, backed by the full authority of the UN. The inspectors themselves have been harassed and threatened. Iraq has deceived and concealed and lied at every turn. A deliberate mechanism to hide existing weapons, and develop new ones, has been in place, involving organisations close to Saddam Hussein, in particular his special republican guard.

    "Despite all this obstruction, UNSCOM and the IAEA have been remarkably successful in uncovering and destroying massive amounts of weaponry, particularly following the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, in 1995. He was murdered on his return to Iraq the following year. For example, UNSCOM has destroyed more than 38,000 chemical weapon munitions, 690 tonnes of chemical weapon agents, and 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals. Forty-eight Scud missiles have also been destroyed, as has a biological weapons factory designed to produce up to 50,000 litres of anthrax, botulism toxin and other agents. Without the weapons inspectors, this deadly arsenal would have been available to Saddam Hussein to use against his neighbours. Who can say with confidence that he would not already have used it?

    "Huge question marks remain, for example, over 610 tonnes of unaccounted for precursor chemicals for the nerve gas VX, over imports of growth media capable of producing huge amounts of anthrax, and over missile warheads, particularly those designed for chemical and biological weapons. Iraq has denied weaponising VX, but analysis of missile warhead fragments in a US laboratory showed traces of VX. Further tests were carried out in French and Swiss laboratories. A multinational group of experts concluded in late October that the original US tests were accurate, that the French laboratory had found evidence consistent with the trace of a nerve gas on one fragment, and that all three laboratories had found evidence of Iraqi attempts to decontaminate the warheads.

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1019

    "The simple truth, therefore, is that before the Gulf War Iraq had built up a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. It has been trying to hide them, and to acquire more, ever since. Despite UNSCOM, Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction capability. We do not know precisely how much. They still have the skills, the engineers and the equipment to make more. Saddam Hussein has used these weapons before, including on his own people. I am in no doubt he would use them again, given half a chance.

    "Let us not forget also that Saddam's conventional military capabilities remain at a very high level: more than 1 million men under arms, including 75,000 in the republican guard and 15,000 members of the special republican guard; 2,700 main battle tanks; and nearly 400 combat aircraft. That is what he continues to spend his money on, rather than the welfare of his own people.

    "In October 1997, Iraq sought to exclude US personnel from UNSCOM teams. In the face of international pressure, the Iraqis then backed down but continued to try to impose controls on so-called presidential sites. In January 1998, Iraq again objected to US and UK personnel, made explicit a ban on access to eight presidential sites, and threatened to end co-operation with UNSCOM if it had not completed its work by May 1998. We, the Americans and others made clear that we would use force if Saddam did not change his mind.

    "On that occasion, Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the UN, negotiated a memorandum of understanding under which Iraq confirmed its acceptance of all relevant Security Council resolutions and its readiness to co-operate fully with UNSCOM and the IAEA. This averted military action at the eleventh hour. The Security Council's endorsement of this MOU stressed that any violation of it would have the severest consequences for Iraq.

    "Iraq subsequently resumed superficial co-operation, but on 5th August suspended everything but the most routine monitoring when its demand for a declaration saying it had fulfilled all its disarmament obligations was rejected. A further Security Council resolution in September suspended reviews of sanctions in consequence but endorsed the idea of a comprehensive review of Iraq's compliance with its obligations. On 30th October, the Security Council unanimously agreed terms of reference for this review, holding out the prospect of a clear statement of the steps Iraq still had to take, and of the likely timeframe for their completion, assuming full co-operation by Iraq. Astonishingly, this offer was rejected by Iraq on 31st October, and then the Iraqis announced that they were ceasing all co-operation with UNSCOM. The Security Council unanimously condemned this on 5th November as a flagrant violation of Iraq's obligations.

    "I have set this out in detail because it is important that we understand what is at stake. We are not talking about technical breaches of UN resolutions,

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1020

    but a pattern of behaviour which continues to pose huge actual risks for Iraq's neighbours, the Middle East and the entire international community.

    "Let me now return to the events of the past few days. Following the Iraqi decision to break off co-operation with UNSCOM on 31st October, despite the offer of a comprehensive review, we and the Americans decided that if Saddam Hussein did not return to full compliance very quickly we were ready to mount an air attack to reduce substantially Iraq's threat to his neighbours, in particular by degrading his weapons of mass destruction capability, and his ability to develop, control and deliver such weapons.

    "We did not want a lengthy military build-up of the kind there had been in February or endless rhetorical warnings. But we did make clear that if they did not return to full compliance very quickly indeed, they would face a substantial military strike. A private warning was delivered directly to the Iraqi permanent representative at the UN on Thursday, 12th November, giving no details about timing, but leaving no doubt about the scale of what was intended.

    "Saturday afternoon London time was set for the start of the attack. I gave final authorisation for the use of force that morning. I did so with regret, and with a deep sense of responsibility. I saw no credible alternative. The UK's weight in the planned strike would have been substantial, including nearly 20 per cent. of the tactical bomber effort.

    "Just over two hours before the attack was due to start, we received word that the Iraqis had told the UN Secretary-General that they were responding positively to a final letter of appeal he had sent them the previous night. We decided then that the attack should be put on hold for 24 hours to give us a chance to study the details of the Iraqi response.

    "The first Iraqi letter appeared to agree to resume co-operation with UNSCOM and the IAEA. It was described as unconditional by Iraqi spokesmen. But the full text of the letter, and in particular nine assurances they were seeking about the comprehensive review, listed in an annex, left this unclear. We and the Americans therefore spelled out that this was unacceptable and there could be no question of any conditions. During the course of Saturday night and Sunday morning, the Iraqis offered a stream of further written and oral clarifications, making clear that their compliance was unconditional, that the nine points were merely a wish-list--not conditions--that their decisions of August and October to withdraw co-operation had been formally rescinded, and that the weapons inspectors would be allowed to resume the full range of their activities in accordance with UN resolutions, without let or hindrance. I have placed the text of the Iraqi letters in the Library of the House.

    "These clarifications, taken together, mean that Saddam Hussein has completely withdrawn his positions of August and October. No concessions of any kind were offered to him in exchange. There was no negotiation of any kind. Nor could there have been. Nor will there be in future.

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1021

    "We do not, however, take Iraqi words at face value. Long experience has taught us the opposite. But we had asked for unconditional resumption of co-operation. In the face of the credible threat of force--in this case very imminent force--Iraq offered this. In these circumstances, we and the Americans have suspended military action further while we bolt down every detail of what the Iraqis have said, and while we test the words in practice. The Security Council decided last night that UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors should resume their work in Iraq immediately. They will be in Iraq tomorrow. They must be afforded full co-operation in every respect. As ever, we do not rely on the good faith of Saddam Hussein. He has none. But we do know that, under threat of force, we can make him move.

    "We will be watching with extreme care and a high degree of scepticism. Our forces remain in place and on high alert. We and the Americans remain ready, willing and able to go back to the use of force at any time. There will be no further warnings. The inspectors will now carry out their work.

    "There are, in my view, two substantial and fundamental differences between the Iraqi climb down this time and in February. First, there is now a very clear diplomatic basis for action without further need for long discussion in the Security Council or elsewhere. In February we allowed a long time for negotiations. This time we allowed only a short period. If there is a next time, there will not even be that. If there is a next time, everyone knows what to expect, and President Chirac and others have made this clear. Secondly, the world can now see more clearly than ever before that Saddam Hussein is intimidated by the threat of force. Many so-called experts told us that Saddam wanted military action--even needed it--to shore up his position internally and in the region. His complete collapse on Saturday gives the lie to this bogus analysis. When he finally saw, correctly, that we were ready to use force, and on a substantial scale, he crumbled. I hope other countries, more dubious of the use of force, can now see that Saddam is moved by a credible threat of force. He has now exposed the fact that his fear is greater than his courage. Let us learn the lessons from that.

    "If there is a next time, I will have no hesitation in ordering the use of force. President Clinton's position is the same. The US and the UK, with far greater international support than ever before, now have Saddam Hussein trapped. If he again obstructs the work of the inspectors, then we strike. No warnings. No wrangling. No negotiations. No last-minute letters. The next withdrawal of co-operation and he will be hit.

    "We have no quarrel with the people of Iraq. On the contrary, we support the desire of the overwhelming majority of them for freedom from Saddam Hussein. They find themselves in a desperate position. I have no doubt of the genuine suffering of many, though not the elite and those who keep them in power. We do what we can through our aid programme. Under the oil for food arrangements, the

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1022

    Iraqis can import as much food and medicines as they want. I hope we will hear no more echoes here of cynical and hypocritical Iraqi propaganda about this. If Saddam Hussein wants to import more, he can do so freely. If he wants the sanctions position to change, the solution is in his hands, through fulfilment of his obligations.

    "This is far from over. It is merely in a different phase. Our course is set. Complete compliance and nothing less, and we shall not be moved from that course."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.41 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. From these Benches we support and endorse the Government's willingness to use force to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies unconditionally with United Nations resolutions. While such a threat remains necessary, we shall continue to pledge our backing for the use of force. We also supported the decision of the Prime Minister on Saturday to authorise the use of RAF Tornados. We commend the bravery of those RAF personnel involved in the proposed mission. We also pay tribute to the Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, for the part that he played in seeking to defuse this latest Iraqi-engineered crisis.

We join the Minister in welcoming the statement by Saddam Hussein that he will allow UNSCOM inspectors complete and unconditional access to suspected illegal weapons sites. We support the Prime Minister in his statement that if there is any future breach of the undertakings which Iraq has once again given to the international community, air strikes will be launched without further warning. I am sure that the Minister will agree that in these days of ultimatum-led foreign policy in Kosovo and Iraq we must prove as good as our word, or else we risk devaluing the diplomatic expedient that is the credible threat of the use of force.

The Minister no doubt shares our concern that, although the crisis was defused at the eleventh hour, it may be only a temporary respite before Saddam Hussein tests the patience and resolve of the international community and reneges on his commitments yet again. Solemn undertakings were given to the UN Secretary-General in February, only to be broken in November. How long will it be before these new promises, so freshly given, are broken?

I am glad that the Minister agrees that we cannot allow international policy towards Iraq to become a passive and indefinite policy of crisis-response. We are only too well aware of Saddam Hussein's audacious game of brinkmanship; we are only too well aware of the consequent divisions in the international community. Each Iraqi-engineered crisis has, sadly, brought disunity to the Security Council and to the Gulf allies. Does the Minister agree that perceptions of weakness, particularly in the Security Council, serve only to embolden Saddam Hussein and to encourage him in seeking to exploit differences of opinion within the international community? Does the Minister agree that it

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1023

is deeply detrimental to the authority of the international community and that Saddam Hussein must at all costs be denied the opportunity to cause such damage?

Saddam Hussein is a past master at playing for time and breaking his promises. What assurances do the Government have that, this time, he will not try his hand at brinkmanship once again, at a time of his choosing, when he believes he can secure his objectives of getting sanctions lifted without surrendering his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons?

Will the Minister accept the continued strong support on this side of the House for maintaining a consistent and tough line against Iraq until the destruction of that country's biological and chemical weapons capability is completed? Furthermore, will the Minister give the House an assurance that, should air strikes prove necessary, they will be undertaken within the context of a coherent and unambiguous policy towards Iraq, so that any use of force will achieve more than a straightforward demonstration of military might? Will the Minister give a further assurance that the use of military force will have clearly-defined objectives, particularly given the plans, presently on hold, to reinforce the military build-up in the Gulf with ground troops?

I welcomed the Minister's comments about humanitarian aid. Given the fact that Iraq can now sell over 10 billion dollars of oil annually to pay for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods, should not the blame for the privations being suffered by the Iraqi people be laid firmly at the door of Saddam Hussein, who chooses to build new palaces instead of new hospitals and who wants to buy missiles instead of medicines?

Given that it has proved impossible to negotiate in good faith with Saddam Hussein, to what extent do the Government associate themselves with President Clinton's statement that:

    "what we want and what we will work for is a government in Iraq that represents and respects its people ... and one committed to live in peace with its neighbours"?
Do the Government support the negotiations which the United States is conducting with Iraqi opposition groups with a view to forming a viable opposition to Saddam Hussein's regime? What plans do the Government have to join the United States in pursuing such a proactive political strategy? What assessment have the Government made of concerns that the Iraqi opposition is too weak and fragmented to mount a credible challenge? Will the Minister therefore assure the House that the Government will be clear in their direction and targeting of support to such groups?

Finally, we on these Benches shall be interested to learn whether the Minister believes that Saddam Hussein's record of broken promises, his breaches of faith and the continuing threat to peace that he presents not only to the region but to the world, mean that the open and acknowledged objective of western policy, even given the formidable difficulties involved, should be his removal from power.

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1024

5.48 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, first, I commend the Government and the Government of the United States on the resolution and strength that they have shown. I believe that we should all commend the Armed Forces on the excellent state of preparation in which they found themselves.

But that is not the end of the story. It may, indeed, be the beginning. We know that the coalition behind previous actions in regard to Iraq is not a strong one; that the absurd actions of Saddam Hussein on 31st October reunited the Security Council behind the willingness to take military action, after a long period during which members of the Security Council were profoundly at odds.

We must now examine the strategy that lies beyond the success that the United Kingdom and United States Governments have undoubtedly had in compelling Saddam Hussein once again to accept the UNSCOM inspectors. For we cannot see this scenario repeated time and again.

Therefore, will the Minister look beyond the present situation and ask whether the satisfaction of UNSCOM inspectors' right to enter any areas they choose to investigate any weapons that might be used for mass destruction--as they had so successfully done until the breach in relations occurred--could be linked to a willingness to see food for oil as a gradually expanding programme and to address the desperate humanitarian plight not of the government of Iraq but of the people of Iraq?

Will the Minister and her department give further consideration to a matter which I raised many weeks ago; namely, the necessity to focus and shape sanctions in such a way that some at least are directed at the political ruling class of Iraq and not so much at the ordinary people who have carried the great burden of suffering over the past eight years? In that context, might further sanctions on the travel of Iraqi political groups and on their financial holdings, and sanctions which would specifically involve their interests, be considered by members of the Security Council with a view to focusing the effects of what has happened on those who are responsible for what has happened and not on those who are not?

5.50 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, for their support. In particular, I thank them for their tributes to the British servicemen who were so ready to go into action over the weekend, the courage and professionalism of whom is second to none. It is important that there is this cross-party support in your Lordships' House over such a crucial matter of foreign policy. My right honourable friend this afternoon expressed his thanks in another place to both the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats for their support. It is essential that at this time we in the United Kingdom should stand shoulder to shoulder. Nothing could please Saddam Hussein more

16 Nov 1998 : Column 1025

than to see a fragmentation in the response of parliamentarians in the United Kingdom to what happened over the weekend.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that we have been as good as our word over this issue. When dealing with a Statement in your Lordships' House about 10 days ago, I was able to tell the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that our fire power in the region, though not exactly the same, had been maintained.

Of course, we are aware that Saddam Hussein has blatantly broken his word on a number of occasions. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, indicated, the way in which he broke his word to the United Nations' Secretary General Kofi Annan brought a degree of unity of purpose to the Security Council, which was most welcome. The Security Council has been remarkably united in this respect, particularly in contrast to the attitude on previous occasions, as the noble Baroness pointed out. Security Council Resolution 1154 spoke of the severest consequences which would follow a breaking of the Kofi Annan memorandum of understanding and Security Council Resolution 1205 described Iraq's most recent attitude as a flagrant violation of that understanding.

Experience has taught us that there can be no assurances in relation to what Saddam Hussein has said. That is why we must continue to be vigilant. If air strikes are necessary, we must be clear that they will be used to bring Iraq back into compliance, to strike at the weapons of mass destruction, which are, after all, the issue between Iraq and ourselves, and to degrade Iraq's ability to strike at its neighbours. It is very important to get to the weapons of mass destruction and to ensure that Iraq's capability to use military force against its neighbours is as low as we can make it.

With regard to humanitarian aid, it is important to stress that the blame for the privations in Iraq must be laid fairly and squarely at the door of Saddam Hussein. The elite in Iraq are not suffering from want of food or medicines. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, Saddam Hussein is building palaces, not hospitals. At one point he even tried to use some of the oil-for-food money to purchase liposuction medical aid. That is the kind of thing that has been going on in Iraq.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked some important questions about our support for the Iraqi opposition. Of course we want the Iraqi people to be governed by a regime other than that of Saddam Hussein. Of course we agree with President Clinton and are looking at ways of supporting the Iraqi opposition. But it is up to the Iraqis to decide who their leaders are. Since the end of the Gulf War we have consistently supported the Iraqi opposition. It is important that people hear alternative Iraqi voices, not just the propaganda put out by Saddam Hussein's regime. Opposition helps to expose the truth about life under Saddam Hussein in Iraq and it is very important that those voices are heard.

The noble Baroness asked about the possibility of targeting sanctions at the elite in Iraq rather more than at the moment. We shall look carefully at that issue over the next few days. She asks me to look beyond the present situation. It is the present situation which we

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must bolt down. Let us not think that the crisis period of the past few days is safely behind us. We hope that it is safely behind us, but, as my right honourable friend's Statement in other place made clear, we must "bolt down every detail". It is important over the next couple of days to achieve absolute clarity with regard to what was said in the letters that we saw over the weekend from Iraq and also with our neighbours and allies in the United Nations.

Finally, the noble Lord asked me what the real objective was. The real objective is to ensure that Saddam Hussein's Iraq comes into compliance with United Nations' resolutions, to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and to reduce Saddam Hussein's capability to threaten his neighbours in the way that he has done in the past.

5.57 p.m.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, my noble friend deserves congratulations, as do the Prime Minister and the President, on their firm and resolute handling of this latest crisis. I particularly like the threat that we have made, with the Americans, that if Saddam Hussein plays cat and mouse again and tries to interrupt the work of UNSCOM there will be no further warning; there will be action. That is a threat which we have never used before and I believe it will be one of great importance in the future.

Perhaps I may put a point to my noble friend and raise a question. We need to win the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East generally, in the Gulf area and in Iraq. Yes, we support the Iraqi opposition, but can we not find some way of reaching more directly the people of Iraq, through radio or other means of communication, so that they are made aware not only of the monstrous behaviour of their ruler but also of the humiliation that he has brought upon himself? It would be an enormous asset if we could bring that about.

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