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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have already made it clear that the imposition of the climate change levy on British Energy is not being done because we think that British Energy produces by-products that damage the climate. That is not the purpose of the climate change levy. The levy is an energy efficiency incentive for the whole energy industry and for all its customers. It is one of a range of possibilities that can be considered in helping the Government and the country to achieve our objectives under the Kyoto arrangements.

We have not ruled out the alternatives such as the carbon tax or energy trading permits. We will consider those matters in full in the White Paper that will be produced early next year.

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, the gravity of the Statement is underlined by the fact that, as I understand it, the Government have just taken on a further commitment of 2 billion over the next 10 years. The costs in other areas may be substantially greater.

Has any agreement been reached to change in any way the previous programme for the closure of ageing or obsolete nuclear power stations, including, in particular, advanced gas-cooled reactors? Are there

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any proposals on that, or is the policy of maintaining nuclear power in this country on the programme of British Energy to be sustained?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, existing programmes for closure of nuclear installations are not affected by the proposals in the Statement.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, I listened carefully, but I am not sure that I heard the Minister explain how the Government would underwrite the arrangements for the proposed solvent restructuring. What is the limit of the underwriting commitment, expressed in an amount and in time?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the figures are contained in a statement made by the company and the Government to the Stock Exchange, which is available in the Library of the House. I think it better that I should rely on that rather than seek to find the figure and run the risk of making a mistake.


4 p.m.

Debate resumed.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I rise to support the Security Council Resolution 1441. That a unanimous resolution of this character was passed on 8th November is a tribute to the efforts of the Prime Minister, for which he deserves great credit, which has been freely given from all sides of politics.

Furthermore, our position in international law is much more secure than it was in the case of Kosovo. As Saddam Hussein ignored a succession of Chapter VII resolutions before the Gulf War, calling on him to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction, he is in "material breach" of the obligation imposed on him after his ejection from Kuwait, which, as the noble Lord, Lord King, pointed out, was the condition of his political survival. He is being given a "final opportunity to comply". All that is straightforward.

I want to ask a slightly different question, which is in the nature of a thought experiment. Why is it so necessary and urgent to disarm Saddam Hussein now? It is in my approach to this question that I fear I shall diverge from most views hitherto expressed in this debate. It is important to give a convincing answer to that question, because on that answer hinges the question: how big a failure of Saddam Hussein to comply fully with Resolution 1441 would justify resort to a war to remove him?

So far, the debate has proceeded on the assumption that anything less than total compliance would justify the most extreme measures. The Shadow Foreign Secretary said in another place that to leave Saddam Hussein in possession of the arsenal he is believed to have would be inconceivable. Why? Not only is it conceivable, but it has been the actual situation for the past 10 years. It seems to me inconceivable that

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Saddam Hussein will launch another foreign adventure of the kind that he launched in 1991. Not only are his conventional capabilities much reduced, but he can be in no doubt about the response of the international community were he to try. As matters stand at the moment, he is thoroughly trussed up. Had Hitler been certain that the whole world would unite against him, I doubt whether even he would have risked war in 1939.

The badness of Saddam Hussein is not in issue; he is a bad man. But evil is a quality of human character. Evil acts depend on opportunity. We have already cut away his opportunities. The argument must then go one step further. It must be that Saddam Hussein sees nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as the means of his liberation from the pen in which the international community has placed him. He could either allow non-state terrorists access to these weapons or spread death and destruction by using them himself. I suggest that there must be considerable scepticism on both counts. In particular, some of the alarmist scenarios conjured up by germ warfare verge on science fiction.

What are the facts? To take nuclear weapons, unlike Israel, Saddam Hussein has no nuclear capacity and is probably some years away from developing it; that will depend on his getting access to enriched uranium and other substances. But let us take the worst case. Suppose he does develop nuclear weapons. Why does the theory of deterrence, on which we were all brought up, not apply to him? The argument must be that he is mad, but no one has suggested that.

Chemical agents, such as nerve gas, can inflict great localised damage to health and life, but they are useless over large areas and cannot be delivered in bulk to distant places. I am told that it takes one tonne of nerve gas to affect one square kilometre. In addition, there has been no successful instance of biological warfare. The scientists to whom I have talked are extremely sceptical about whether effective means of delivering biological agents exist or can be developed or how destructive their effects would be. The anthrax scare in the United States following 11th September resulted in one death. Except for nuclear weapons, therefore, the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" seems to be a misnomer.

We must always remember that 9/11, horrendous though it was, involved no use of the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein is required to eliminate. Therefore, the logical link between terrorism and those weapons, either in the particular case of Saddam Hussein or in general, is actually quite weak.

In short, I suggest that by accepting without question the assumption that life with Saddam Hussein possessed of his "weapons" would be inconceivable, we would be guilty of worst-case thinking, based on faulty science. I had hoped that the eminent scientists we have in your Lordships' House would have chosen to take part in this debate, either to contradict or reinforce what I am saying.

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I conclude by repeating my welcome for the resolution. I sincerely hope that Mr Blix and his team will be able to report success. Both Iraq and the rest of the world would be better off without this man, without this regime and without these weapons in his possession.

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He said that he wishes Mr Blix success. Will he define "success"?

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I am about to do so. I was about to say that I am not persuaded that the world would be a significantly safer place if Mr Blix and his team achieved complete success. The conclusion that the world would not be a significantly safer place has to be balanced against the risks and destructiveness of war.

That leads me to my final thought. If, as I expect, the inspection regime is able to report only partial success in the form of the elimination of some weapons but not others, should this automatically be the occasion for war? I say that it should not. In those circumstances, we should be prepared to explore intermediate forms of coercion short of full-scale war. I do not believe that partial success would constitute failure. It would constitute failure in terms of Resolution 1441 and would be a possible trigger for war, but I suggest that it would not necessarily constitute failure. We could live with partial success. If we felt that we could not live with partial success, we should be prepared to pursue intermediate means of coercion short of full-scale war.

It would be immoral to make war on a foreign state unless it presented a clear and present danger to other states. Unless it did so, it would not be a just war. That is why the determination of peace, and war in this case, should be left to the Security Council and why we should continue to oppose any unilateral action by the United States.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, I speak as an historian, of whom there are too few in this House, although I have the honour of following a most distinguished one. I am not an historian of the Middle East, although I once wrote of Suez, a book published by my dear noble friend Lord Weidenfeld who will speak later in the debate.

As an historian, I cannot forget the role of Britain in helping to break up the old Turkish Empire, a lamentable error, as it would now seem, as often used to be argued by the late Eli Kedourie, an historian whose family originated in Baghdad. We ought now also to remember our role in creating the new state of Iraq after 1918 and our part in establishing there our Hashemite friends as kings. Furthermore, we ought not to forget that the tragic Suez expedition of 1956 helped to create the conditions for the overthrow and murder of King Feisal and of Britain's best friend in the Middle East, Nuri-el-Said.

Going further back, it is not quite irrelevant to recall that at the 1920 Cairo conference on the Middle East, the then Colonial Secretary suggested the creation of

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an autonomous Kurdish state as a buffer between Iraq and Turkey. The idea was mentioned, not favourably, in our debate today by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. However, I am sure that a Kurdish state will come about in the long run.

In 1920, the Colonial Secretary was, as we all can guess, opposed successfully by Sir Percy Cox and Dr Gertrude Bell. Those two civil servants had what used to be called "Alpha minds" and were well informed. But the Colonial Secretary, who had a premonition of the long-term future, was, if not an Alpha mind, a genius. His name was Winston Churchill.

I do not believe that in this House today we should entirely forget the work carried out by a great British scholar and archaeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley, in what is now Iraq but which was once Babylon, Nineveh and Ur. In any war in what used to be called Mesopotamia—Mespot to the British soldier in 1915—we should do whatever we can to avoid further ruin of the little which remains of those ancient civilisations.

To speak of the campaign of 1915 is not quite irrelevant since, if the regime of Saddam Hussein is overthrown, I hope that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will give every help to restore the cemetery of Basra where so many of General Townshend's unfortunate expedition of 1915 lie in graves which, according to The Times recently, have been desecrated.

One final point about the past. I am against appeasement in general, but I do not believe that invoking the examples of the 1930s is always helpful in the 21st century. Sometimes, I remind noble Lords, appeasement has worked. We appeased the Soviet Union, for example, for 40 years between 1945 and 1990 and in the end we won the Cold War.

Coming to the present, I, like perhaps most noble Lords, find it most satisfactory that any attack on Iraq (if there is to be one) will now take the form of something emanating from the United Nations. The fact that the Security Council voted for the severe United States draft resolution represents a victory, it would seem to me, for the US Secretary of State, for our ally France, for the British Prime Minister and the British delegation to the United Nations headed by the admirable Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

Victory over what? It must be said to be a victory over those who believed in the desirability of a direct attack—a pre-emptive attack—on Iraq without previously obtaining the support of the United Nations. The idea of a pre-emptive attack had an attractive simplicity. Perhaps to some it still has. For no one can put forward coherently any defence of the regime in Iraq and few of us have any doubts about Iraq's willingness to use the chemical and biological weapons which it has—its regime has used them previously—even if there must be some doubt about its possible use of nuclear weapons.

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But such a pre-emptive attack, mounted by the United States and perhaps supported by ourselves, surely would have been at variance with the policies and practices of this country since 1945. The only possible justification for such a direct attack would have been—might have been—if there were a proven connection between Iraq and Al'Qaeda. But no such proof has been forthcoming. I know that one should not endanger the forces of intelligence, but, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord King, would agree, intelligence must always be made to serve politics and not politics to serve intelligence.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, will not take it amiss if I say that the support known to be given by Iraq to suicide bombers in Israel is not quite the same as approved support for Al'Qaeda, whose ambitions are global, as we saw only again this morning. As the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, if there is such a connection between Iraq and Al'Qaeda, it must be explained before any combat is embarked on which assumes the connection. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, could be right in saying that one can take the connection for granted or on trust, as he implied.

Even if such evidence were forthcoming, it would be reasonable to demand that it be presented to the United Nations, as President Kennedy, for example, presented the information about the establishment of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962.

The United Nations, as all noble Lords, know, is a far from ideal body, but it does have many uses. Action under its auspices offers still a precious framework of law between states which, feeble though that law may sometime seem, is what our country, our European friends and the United States have been patiently trying to build up since 1945.

In 1945—I know I do not have to remind noble Lords—the UN was the achievement of the wartime coalition led by the very president whose condemnation of appeasement the noble Lord, Lord Black, so eloquently invoked earlier, and it was also the product of much hard work by the British wartime coalition led by the Colonial Secretary of 1920, Winston Churchill.

Surely, so far as the UN is concerned in the present crisis, the critical pass was crossed this month. The states members of the Security Council, named by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will surely, if necessary, vote again in favour of a strong resolution. Of course it is possible that UN approval may again be difficult to achieve and may be necessary to seek patiently, meticulously, as regards words, and carefully, as was done in respect of the resolution which we are discussing today. But that patience, that meticulousness with regard to words and that care is something which our Government, the United States Government—in general anyway—and our allies have shown we possess, making November 2002 a month in which the United Nations, often reviled, has been revived in an unexpected and positive way.

The noble Lord, Lord King—I hope that I do not misrepresent him; I am sure that he will tell me if I do—implied, also eloquently, from the heights of his long

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experience in defence matters, that in our modern dangerous circumstances the spokesmen of western civilisation—the United States, Britain and our allies, or any allies that can be found—should be willing to act without UN approval if necessary. That could have been the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Powell of Bayswater, and probably was of the noble Lord, Lord Black. I believe that those noble Lords are being too pessimistic, too negative. Surely if a report of the inspectors finds Saddam Hussein in breach of obligations which he assumed in 1991 and a case is presented for military action, it will be supported by the Security Council.

Action against Iraq's nuclear weapons programme is essentially a continuation of the uncompleted business of 1991. Iraq agreed to abandon that programme after its defeat in Kuwait. To possess, or to seek to possess, such weapons is not in itself—yet—an international crime. The Iraqi case is, in this respect, a matter apart.

So, in the long run, we should surely consider our long-term attitude to all these weapons. Until the end of the Cold War in 1989, we were, after all, committed to securing nuclear disarmament, even if we were not optimistic about the possibilities of achieving it. Thus, as I suggested in the Spectator last week, when this crisis is over, we, the United States and all our allies should give priority again to consideration of what we want in future in relation to all nuclear weapons, not only those of Iraq.

The United States is now able to assert itself as the most powerful state the world has ever seen. Richard Haas, who is now in the Bush Administration, wrote in the 1990s of the United States as a "reluctant" world sheriff. Perhaps, as I heard the former mayor of New York say only this week, the adjective "reluctant" is now, after September 11th last year, not quite so relevant.

But his country, the United States—our great ally—could justify what sometimes seems almost imperial—

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