28 Nov 2002 : Column 857

House of Lords

Thursday, 28th November 2002.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.

Standing Orders (Private Business)

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Very briefly, these amendments fall into four categories. The first is consequential on Welsh devolution. The second is the consequence of references to definitions of local authorities and government departments. The third makes House of Lords practice consistent with that of the House of Commons. The fourth makes a number of minor amendments resulting from recent experience with the procedure.

Moved, That the Standing Orders relating to Private Business be amended as follows: Amendment No. Standing Order 4A 1. Line 3, after "London" insert "and, if it affects Wales, at an office in Cardiff" 2. Line 14, leave out "or community" and insert ", or (in Wales) in the county or county borough in which the community," 3. Line 35, after "district" insert "or (in Wales) in the county or county borough," Standing Order 24 4. Line 1, after "notice" insert "under the preceding orders" Standing Order 26 5. Line 4, at end insert "(see also Standing Order 201 (Time for delivering notices and making deposits))" Standing Order 27 6. Line 75, leave out "Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions" and insert "Office of the Deputy Prime Minister" Standing Order 27A 7. Line 34, leave out "Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions" and insert "Office of the Deputy Prime Minister" Standing Order 29 8. Line 8, leave out ", Local Government and the Regions" Standing Order 34 9. Line 12, leave out ", Local Government and the Regions"

28 Nov 2002 : Column 858

Standing Order 37 10. Line 10, leave out "Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions" and insert "Office of the Deputy Prime Minister" 11. Line 18, leave out "Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions" and insert "Office of the Deputy Prime Minister" Standing Order 39 12. Line 5, leave out ", the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions" 13. Line 6, after "Industry" insert ", the Department for Transport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister" 14. Line 18, leave out "General Register Office" and insert "Office for National Statistics" Standing Order 45 15. Line 17, leave out ", Local Government and the Regions" Standing Order 47 16. Line 12, leave out "Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions" and insert "Office of the Deputy Prime Minister" Standing Order 98 17. Line 1, leave out "not be read a first time earlier than" and insert "be read a first time on"

(a) 22nd January or, if the House is not sitting on that day, the first sitting day after that, or

(b) the day given by paragraph (1A), whichever is the later.

(1A) The day given by this paragraph is" 18. Leave out line 16. Standing Order 127 19. Line 8, leave out "an officer of" and insert "a person nominated by" Standing Order 139 20. Line 11, leave out ", Local Government and the Regions" 21. Line 27, leave out ", Local Government and the Regions".—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I should like very briefly to make a slight plea. When we are being asked to do this sort of thing in future, may it be made quite clear to us without our having to look at more than one document what it is we are seeking to amend? The Standing Orders relating to public business were themselves amended in July 2001, I believe, and we are now required to amend further that amended version. That seems to make for undue complexity. I hope that the noble Lord will make appropriate representations to Ministers, who wish to have their papers correctly addressed to them, kindly to make it more convenient for us to do their will.

Noble Lords will have noticed—I can hardly bear to miss this chance opportunity—that the substantial figure of the Deputy Prime Minister figures rather largely in these amendments. I am holding a book outlining the functions of government in which the

28 Nov 2002 : Column 859

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister takes up no fewer than 40 pages and 120 columns. It is a substantial entry. However, we can hardly call that joined-up government—it is overgrown government. It would be appropriate if we could persuade the Deputy Prime Minister to change the name of his office, as he calls it, to those of a number of departments. He has a huge empire, and simply to call it an office is stretching language too far.

I do not wish to take up more of your Lordships' time, but I would be very grateful to the noble Lord if he would convey that message to the appropriate quarters.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I wonder if I may ask the Chairman of Committees to elucidate a little further the first section to which he referred, which relates to Wales. I should be very grateful if he would expand on what he said and tell us precisely what this "consequence of devolution" actually means.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, we do our best to keep up with the changes that occur. The most recent book was printed in May 2001. Sadly, by July that year, we had to make a number of changes to mark the demise of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the environment bit was hived off to agriculture, leaving the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. Now, one year later, we have to make amendments which recognise the split of the Department for Transport from that department and the creation of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. For the time being, I cannot agree with the noble Lord that we should press for another change because we have not yet had even these changes printed. Nevertheless, we do our best to keep up.

As for the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, under Standing Order 4A, the first one referred to, copies of Bills have been made available at an office in London, at an office in Edinburgh if the Bill affected Scotland, and at an office in Belfast if it affected Northern Ireland. The difference is that if the Bill affects Wales, it will be made available at an office in Cardiff as well. I hope that that clarifies the position.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House of Lords Reform

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Commons message of yesterday be now considered, and that a committee of 12 Lords be appointed to join with the committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on issues relating to House of Lords reform;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the committee:

28 Nov 2002 : Column 860

L. Archer of Sandwell, V. Bledisloe, L. Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Carter, L. Forsyth of Drumlean, B. Gibson of Market Rasen, L. Goodhart, L. Howe of Aberavon, L. Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, B. O'Cathain, E. Selborne, L. Weatherill;

That the committee have power to agree with the committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the reports of the committee from time to time shall be printed, notwithstanding any adjournment of the House;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the proceedings of the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform in the last Session of Parliament be referred to the committee;

And that the committee do meet with the committee appointed by the Commons on Tuesday 3rd December next at 10 o'clock in Committee Room 4.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to; and a message was ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.


11.11 a.m.

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean) rose to move, That this House takes note of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on 7th November, I repeated a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary about the negotiations on a new United Nations Security Council resolution. I said then that I hoped that a large majority of the Security Council would vote in favour of the resolution. As your Lordships know, the following day, on 8th November, Security Council Resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously.

The resolution was supported by all five permanent members of the Security Council, and by countries as diverse as Mexico, Cameroon, Ireland and Syria. Resolution 1441 represents the considered and unanimous view of the international community that Iraq must end its defiance of the United Nations and comply with its obligations.

28 Nov 2002 : Column 861

Negotiations on Resolution 1441 were long and intensive. It took eight weeks of unrelenting high-level diplomatic contacts. Its unanimous adoption is a tribute to the efforts of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. It is also a tribute to the expertise and professionalism of many British diplomats and officials in New York, London and around the world. Noble Lords have recognised that in previous deliberations on this topic in the past few weeks; and I reiterate that commendation now.

Resolution 1441 gives the Iraqi regime a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations. When we discussed that on 7th November, some noble Lords were concerned that the resolution was not one with which Iraq could comply. I assure your Lordships that it is not designed to trick or trap the Iraqi regime. It is designed to achieve the peaceful disarmament and destruction of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction through an effective inspection regime. It sets out a path to achieve that peacefully if the Iraqis choose to follow it.

We should be under no illusion about Saddam Hussein's ability to obfuscate and evade. He has been doing just that for a decade. Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei have a difficult and sensitive job ahead of them. They must be allowed to do the work that the United Nations has mandated them to do, and we wish them well. In passing, let me add that we reject recent ill-founded criticisms of the inspectors' records. The Iraqis were able to exploit loopholes in the previous inspection regimes in order to confound the inspectors; it is not correct to blame Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei for those deficiencies. One of the new resolution's merits is that it has significantly strengthened the hand of the inspectors. So Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei have the complete support and confidence of Her Majesty's Government and the international community. It is now up to the Iraqi regime to recognise its responsibilities and give its full co-operation to UNMOVIC and the teams in Iraq.

We have heard only this morning of allegations that the Iraqi regime is bugging the weapons inspectors' accommodation. Any interference with the inspectors would be a serious matter but it would hardly be a surprise, given Saddam's record of dishonest dealings with the international community.

I know that noble Lords have questions about how Resolution 1441 will be implemented. Your Lordships have asked about what would constitute a material breach, about who will decide if a material breach has taken place and about the possibility of a second Security Council resolution. Questions have also been raised about the process of continued consultation of noble Lords and those in another place. I want to take this opportunity today to set out the Government's view on those questions. But I should also make it clear at the outset that I agree with the points already forcefully made by some noble Lords. I do not believe that it is sensible to speculate on all the circumstances that might arise and how the Government might react to all Iraqi actions. Surprise may be a key advantage to us.

28 Nov 2002 : Column 862

Resolution 1441 makes it clear that Iraq,

    "has been and remains in material breach of its obligations",

under existing Security Council resolutions, in particular through its,

    "failure to co-operate with United Nations inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency".

The resolution sets out the demand that Iraq confirms within seven days of the resolution being passed its intention to comply fully with it. Iraq has now sent two letters in response. Both letters have been grudging in tone and long on denial of the legitimacy and legality of UNSCR 1441. However, we are treating them as positive responses to the demand of the Security Council.

The next deadline is 8th December. By that time, under operative paragraph 3, Iraq must have provided to UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the Security Council an,

    "accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other delivery systems".

Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei have already given clear advice to the Iraqi regime on what is expected of it. The Government of Iraq must account for large stocks of WMD, which the previous UNSCOM reports, the last of which was prepared in January 1999, recorded as unaccounted for. That material included up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; up to 360 tonnes of bulk CW agents, including 1.5 tonnes of VX nerve agent; more than 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents; and large quantities of growth media acquired for the use of the production of biological weapons—enough to produce more than three times the amount of anthrax that Iraq admits to having manufactured.

Inspections by UNMOVIC and the IAEA resumed in Iraq yesterday, four weeks ahead of the Security Council deadline. The inspectors will be required to update the Security Council on progress by 25th January.

Operative paragraph 4 of the resolution says that a further material breach arises where there are,

    "false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq . . . and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and co-operate fully in the implementation of, this Resolution".

That defines in general terms what a further material breach will consist of. As I have already said, it is never possible to give an exhaustive list of all the conceivable behaviours that would be covered. That judgment must be made against real circumstances as and when they arise. Those circumstances are by their nature unpredictable and it would be wrong to second guess or hypothesise. But I can assure noble Lords that a material breach does not mean something trivial. It means something significant: some behaviour or pattern of behaviour that is serious; deliberate and concerted attempts to obstruct or impede the inspectors or to intimidate witnesses; behaviour or patterns of behaviour that show Iraq's intention to defy the stated will of the international community in the shape of Resolution 1441.

28 Nov 2002 : Column 863

Some noble Lords have been concerned about who decides what constitutes a material breach. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, raised her concerns about that point. If there is evidence of attempts to mislead the inspectors, to conceal information, or failure to comply with a resolution or to co-operate with the inspection teams, that can be reported to the Security Council either by a Security Council member or by the inspectors themselves. Under the resolution the inspectors are required to report to the Security Council any Iraqi interference or failure to comply with its disarmament obligations, and the resolution makes it clear that these include all the other relevant UNSC resolutions as well as 1441. But whoever reports a material breach, it is inconceivable that the Council would act on such a report without seeking the opinion of the inspectors.

If we reach such a situation—I hope that we do not—an immediate meeting of the Security Council would be called to consider the situation. Operative paragraph 12 requires the Security Council to convene,

    "immediately upon receipt of a report under paragraphs 4 and 11 to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council Resolutions in order to secure international peace and security".

At that point there would be a discussion about the most suitable response by the international community. Those deliberations would precede any remedial action, including military action, to enforce the Security Council's will.

Let me at this point move on to the question of a second resolution. As I made clear to your Lordships on Monday, the preference of the British Government in the event of a material breach is that there should be a second Security Council resolution authorising military action. The issue of whether Resolution 1441 should stipulate that there should be a second resolution to authorise such action was discussed among the members of the Security Council but a proposal to that effect was never tabled. Resolution 1441, which was adopted by unanimity, does not say that there must be a second resolution to authorise military action in the event of a further material breach by Iraq.

We place our faith in the United Nations to shoulder its responsibilities should a material breach be reported to it. The Security Council's record to date has potently demonstrated the international community's collective will on this issue. Kofi Annan has said:

    "If Iraq's defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities".

But, as my right honourable friend said in another place on Monday, we must reserve our position on whether or not to have a second resolution in the event that the Security Council does not do so. As Resolution 1441 states, the

    "Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations".

28 Nov 2002 : Column 864

Saddam Hussein should be in no doubt of that. The Government stand foursquare behind Security Council Resolution 1441. We do not believe that it should have conditions imposed upon it by insisting on a second resolution before military action can be authorised. That is not what the resolution says and we are sticking with the resolution.

Let me go forward on the question of military action. No decision on military action has yet been taken by Her Majesty's Government. There is no inevitability about military action. We are not seeking a confrontation with Iraq, although we shall not shirk it. The resolution provides a peaceful pathway for the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Saddam has it in his power to avoid military action and to start his county back on the road to a normal position in the international community. But we must remember that we have got this far in terms of Saddam's compliance only because our active diplomacy has been backed by the credible threat of the use of force. For that threat to remain credible, it is crucial that we make proper preparations.

Your Lordships would be right to criticise the Government if, at the same time as vigorously pursuing peaceful disarmament through the United Nations, we did not look at our preparedness for military action in the event that that process fails. So it is right that the Ministry of Defence should make prudent preparations to ensure that we have servicemen and servicewomen available in the right numbers and with the right skills and equipment. The more prepared we are, the greater the likelihood of full compliance by Saddam Hussein without the use of force. I am aware that these exceptional times put our Armed Forces under great pressures. But, as the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, said on 20th November:

    "We will maintain a capability to respond to any future requirements falling on the armed forces".

Any decision by Her Majesty's Government to take military action will be put before Parliament as soon as is practicable. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said that he hopes that that would be before any military engagement—if it should come to that. But, as your Lordships will acknowledge, any decision must be taken with the safety of our Armed Forces uppermost in our minds.

In short, the choice is Saddam Hussein's. He can take the pathway to peace set out in the resolution or, by defying the international community's will, he can provoke military action. If he chooses the path of full co-operation, the way lies open to the suspension and the lifting of sanctions and the readmittance of Iraq to the family of nations. That is what he and his people have to gain through the Security Council resolution, and it is an enormous prize. But, if he chooses to frustrate the will of the international community, he will expose his people to the serious consequences cited in Resolution 1441. This position is backed by the European Union, by NATO and by the Arab League. All have made clear statements that Iraq must work with the international inspectors.

28 Nov 2002 : Column 865

Some of your Lordships may be concerned about regime change. Her Majesty's Government's policy is to change the regime's behaviour with respect to weapons of mass destruction. If we can achieve that without using military force to bring about a change of regime, so much the better. But should the regime go as a result of action to remove Iraq's illegal weapons, the United Kingdom will be at the forefront of international efforts to provide a stable future for Iraq.

When we have discussed Iraq before, many of your Lordships have asked why we should seek to ensure compliance of UN resolutions in Iraq's case when resolutions in respect of other countries remain outstanding. As I have said before, we seek the implementation of all UNSCRs. We are working with other countries subject to SCRs to that end, particularly with respect to the dreadful and distressing conflict in the Middle East. Our sympathy goes out to all those caught up in yet another appalling tragedy in Kenya this morning.

Progress towards resolving that conflict and assuring the only workable solution—the creation of a viable Palestinian state, co-existing with an Israel confident of her security within her borders and within the region—is depressingly slow. But there are some positive developments. We now have full international support for the "two states" solution. The process of negotiation has been established under the quartet of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation. Let no one pretend that solutions will be quick or easy—but we are determined to continue to pursue them.

Just as it is high time that the Iraqi regime complied with its obligations concerning the safety and security of its region, it is high time too that it realised its responsibilities to its own people. Their suffering has been immense under a regime which murders, tortures and rapes political opponents, which has used poisonous gas to kill thousands of its own people, and which ignores the plight of its own sick and hungry.

Saddam Hussein accuses the international community of depriving his people of food and vital resources that they need to assure adequate medical treatment. But the truth is very different. The Oil for Food programme has been a lifeline for the Iraqi people, allowing not just food, but billions of pounds worth of goods, including hi-tech medical equipment, to be shipped to Iraq. Saddam's policy has been to frustrate this programme in an attempt to gain ill-deserved sympathy for his regime. The sad truth is that programmes such as the OFF programme would not be necessary at all if Saddam Hussein would only take the path mapped out for him towards lifting sanctions. The choice in this respect too is his.

Iraq's is, sadly, not the only bad regime in the world. But it is unique in combining so many seriously reprehensible qualities. For more than 10 years Iraq has defied the expressed will of the United Nations Security Council. Contrary to its international obligations, Iraq has been amassing weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein has shown that he is, indeed, prepared to use those weapons against his

28 Nov 2002 : Column 866

neighbours and against his own people. Iraq has destabilised its region and, throughout, Saddam Hussein's regime has shown a despicable contempt for human rights.

Resolution 1441 gives Iraq one last chance to rehabilitate itself and to comply with its international obligations. The choice is Saddam Hussein's. He must take it or he must face the consequences. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

11.30 a.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, as I am sure are all your Lordships, for setting out with her usual clarity the scene in relation to the UN resolution and the Iraqi crisis. December 8th, the date of the crucial test of whether Saddam Hussein does, indeed, understand that this is, in the noble Baroness's words, his "final opportunity", is very near.

We have no substantive Motion before us, as there was in the other place on Monday, but the noble Baroness has again raised a number of vitally important questions. I believe that some aspects remain to be clarified. Noble Lords, with an accumulated experience in many of the areas we are discussing, can bring that experience to bear and help to improve the public debate and the public analysis.

I believe that, by now, most people agree that Saddam Hussein is an unprecedented danger—a uniquely dangerous threat both to Europe and the United States. Indeed, he is a global threat. I read a comment this morning from what was called a "Whitehall source"—I fear that it may have been the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—that Iraq is not a global threat but simply a regional threat. I believe that to be entirely wrong. It betrays a state of mind and a perspective which could be very misleading.

The reality is that we are now facing a globalised phenomenon of which the horrors in Kenya this morning are one more example. It is bad enough that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, which we hope will be identified shortly. But the point not always grasped is that when hostile states which dabble in terror conspire with non-state agents—terrorist networks linked to no particular state—the threat is increased not only marginally but exponentially. We are indeed dealing with a global problem: I believe that that Whitehall source is wrong.

I have been surprised all along by the lack of linkage between weapons of mass destruction and the global terrorist threat. In the United States, the State Department has no doubts at all about that. It believes, and I understand has evidence, that Iraq shelters several terrorist groups, including the Mujaheddin e Khalq and several Palestine-sponsored groups. As we know, Saddam finances the families of suicide martyrs, and it is the suicide bombing which most damages the fine and upright Palestinian cause. There is also evidence of extensive terrorist training at the Salman Pak facility.

28 Nov 2002 : Column 867

Therefore, from the US perspective, Iraq and terrorism are the same issue and the moral case is the same—that against unspeakable evil. It is desirable that we emphasise that because it is important. War is dreadful. It is important that, in sending our citizens to war, we back them with a moral case or cause.

As we have previously said on this side of the House, Resolution 1441 is welcome. The work done by our team at the UN and, indeed, by our Ministers was excellent and achieved a remarkable result. But then we come to the question addressed by the Foreign Secretary on Monday and again by the noble Baroness today concerning what is a material breach and who decides whether a material breach has occurred. Someone suggested to me that it was a little like an elephant—it is very difficult to describe in the abstract but easy to recognise when one sees it. Perhaps that is so.

Paragraph 4 of the resolution sets out a list of items, including false statements, omissions and failure to comply. Then there are other items which have already been debated, such as firing missiles at allied aeroplanes in the no-fly zone. Does that take effect as from last week? Does such an act constitute an attack on signatories to the resolution? It does, but is it serious? The noble Baroness mentioned talk of bugging the inspectors so that, when they turn up at the gate of a plant or chemical works, it appears that everyone knows they are coming. Again, as the noble Baroness said, Saddam Hussein is already in breach of a whole string of earlier UN resolutions.

Therefore, considering that this is the point which could trigger warfare, deaths and danger on a massive scale, we are still left with the question of how material is material. On Monday, the Foreign Secretary said that,

    "the actions as a whole add up to something deliberate and more significant: something that shows Iraq's intention not to comply".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/11/02; col. 52.]

As the noble Baroness said, it is very hard to pin that down in advance. Yet, as parliamentarians and as those who will at least approve, if not authorise, a major policy decision, we must be as clear as we can be about that matter. I believe that even more clarity is needed. I know that some of your Lordships will bring great wisdom to bear on that precise issue. Perhaps we can do better than "something deliberate" and "significant".

I was very glad to hear—as I was hoping to hear, having not seen evidence of it previously—the Government's strong endorsement, in the words of the noble Baroness, of the inspectors and of Dr Blix. He and his record have been subjected to much criticism. But our hopes rest heavily on his abilities and energies and on those of his team. Therefore, I believe that the endorsement was needed and was perhaps overdue. It was right that it came this morning.

Next, we have the question of whether the second resolution is necessary or simply desirable. Our view is similar to that of the Government—that it is not necessary or stipulated but that it probably is desirable

28 Nov 2002 : Column 868

if such a thing can be secured. The difficulty is that China and Russia have made explicit their insistence on a second resolution. Perhaps, in that situation, we do not have much of a choice. I believe we must face the fact that there is a possible clash ahead between those who will insist on a second resolution if there is non-compliance and if force is to be used and those who simply want to get on with it and who argue that, under existing resolutions, they have international legal authority to do so.

Either way, I hope that Parliament will have another say—I was glad to hear that confirmed by the noble Baroness—although not, of course, to give prior authority or to tick the box and authorise a decision to launch ourselves into an expeditionary operation. I do not believe that any government could be bound in that way. It would be absurd to try to lay that down as a precise rule. But both Houses of Parliament certainly have an important role. I believe that the Prime Minister has been unfairly criticised for not paying much attention to Parliament these days. That cannot be right because I read somewhere that the Spectator made him "Parliamentarian of the Year". The Spectator cannot be wrong, can it? I shall leave those questions for your Lordships to tackle in due course, as I know the House will.

I want to talk about two aspects of the situation. The first, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, concerns our own preparedness as part of the vital credibility of the threat. Keeping credibility is the key to the whole matter. Secondly, I shall refer to the international response—that is, what NATO is doing and what help we are receiving from our European neighbours. If I have time, I also want to discuss how Turkey fits into the jigsaw. I consider that to be an immensely important part, if not the key.

The noble Baroness said that we must have—I use her words—"proper preparations". At the end of the debate my noble friend Lord Attlee will raise a number of points about equipment, readiness, preparation and the lessons which we did or did not learn from the big operation, Saif Sareea, in Oman. All those matters were raised in debate the other night. Certainly, answers will be needed, including the position as regards the Challenger 2 tanks and whether they are ready to go. There seems to be confusion as to whether the filter weaknesses discovered in Saif Sareea have been remedied, are about to be remedied or are in the process of being remedied.

Our troops are without equal. What they have accomplished even in the past stormy year is fantastic. We should not forget for a moment the role they have played and that of their families, the wives and children who support them. They have done marvellously. Can the Government reassure the House that they will release the funds necessary to see that our superb Armed Forces are properly equipped? Will they refute the worrying stories about the Treasury denying funds; about false economies; and about soldiers having their pay delayed, drawing income support and paying high-rate tax on their

28 Nov 2002 : Column 869

modest income? Those stories are not good and need to be put down if there is any untruth in them or examined if they contain truth.

Yesterday the Chancellor's Statement mentioned 1 billion to help international security, if needed. It will be needed. This is an expensive business, particularly maintaining the credibility of a threat. I should like to hear, as would my noble friend, exactly how that 1 billion fits into the pattern. I assume that it is not just to correct the 1 billion underspend of last year; I believe that that has been corrected. But more will be needed. When we consider the extra sums discussed in the Senate and Congress for just this operation, we realise how even 1 billion, which sounds colossal, is a tiny sum compared to what is contemplated the other side of the water.

I turn to the role of NATO. The Prague meeting, which was very successful, produced a little noticed but milestone declaration. It read as follows:

    "The NATO allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq".

That is an important statement. We are entitled to ask how that will be delivered. It has profound implications. First, starting at the less profound end, it presumably means that our neighbour and friend, Germany, is again on board. Germany stated recently that it wanted nothing to do with the Iraq expedition. Is that right? Are the German Government again refusing to help in Kuwait? I believe they have opened their airspace to the Americans, but that is the least they can do. It is hard to see how that fits in with all the NATO allies performing this high-sounding role.

Secondly, if that is now the role of NATO, it is a large transformation. Someone referred to the meeting in Prague as the transformation meeting. That puts NATO on a completely new path and one which we should certainly debate and analyse. I strongly welcome that. Thirdly, the statement that NATO will throw its weight into the Iraq situation, as it has strongly into the Afghan situation, reminds us that NATO must prepare for this kind of role in a more effective way. That is why we should examine positively the NATO response force, which I understand is to be a smaller, more powerful and much more effective way of shouldering Europe's share of the defence burden than previous initiatives. If the Iraq crisis is in any way to be prolonged I would hope that the proposal, which is very strong, has a part to play and enables NATO to fulfil its commitment.

The proposal is for a fully integrated force totalling around 20,000 but with a core of 5,000 soldiers and 50 bombers, with infantry, air power and naval strength all fused together and backed by the highest and latest American technology with no argument about whether or not it is NATO property. It seems to me that that is far the best way to forge a modernised, military, transatlantic security link, which responds in an era of terrorism. I think it was General Ralston who said the other day that,

    "the key metric of war is no longer space; it is time".

28 Nov 2002 : Column 870

That could apply at any moment in the Iraq case. We need small forces moving with lightning speed. That is the new necessity. That is what the NATO response force provides. It is odd that somehow we have hardly debated that matter in this House. Here is the real way to see burden-sharing working and NATO contributing to the Iraq crisis in a manner that some of the statements of individual NATO allies have not indicated. It is a pity that that kind of thinking and this kind of scheme were not in place earlier and that so much time has been lost.

I planned to say a word on Turkey, but I must be brief with so many noble Lords wishing to speak. I welcome the new regime in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party. That provides a great opportunity for a country which neighbours Iraq, with a powerful army, to be embraced in every possible way and certainly not frozen out from the EU as some of its leaders have suggested.

People ask for a post-Saddam vision concerning what will happen, what is the exit strategy, and so forth. Here is one I offer: an enlightened Turkey, as we see under an Islamist but not Jihadist government; a pluralist Iraq, if we can get there, perhaps not fully democratic in the western sense, but pluralist and no longer tyrannised; and perhaps a reforming Syria, which voted the right way in the UN, but that may be wishful thinking. If those countries begin to turn, I can think of no better context in which to make progress with the Israeli-Palestine settlement—the sore at the heart of the matter—and finally give back the Palestinians their land. I can think of no better way to help the quartet process and turn the spotlight on compliance with UN resolutions by both Israel and Palestine which, as the noble Baroness and many others have said, is the next priority.

That is my answer to those who ask, understandably, "Why don't we put the Israeli-Palestine problem first?" Dealing with an ugly and destabilising Iraq could also mean dealing with a whole culture of terror, which has gripped the Arab world and poisoned the Israeli-Palestine progress. Saddam's state terror interweaves inextricably with non-state terrorism. In the words of the US Under-Secretary of State last weekend, they are two faces of the same evil. No one wants war. In the words of Erasmus:

    "Sweet is war to those who do not know it".

That is why I hope that in the coming weeks Saddam's twisted dream of Middle East domination and anti-free world terrorism will be utterly dismantled and that we will be utterly resolute in going about that task.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page