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Lord Bach: My Lords, there will be no war by stealth. The noble Lord, who speaks with great experience on these matters and is greatly respected by all in this House, knows that very well. What I have mentioned today are, I repeat, prudent preparations: first, to put up a credible threat of force against Saddam Hussein, but also in case war is necessarywhich is something that is neither imminent nor inevitable. I know from previous debates the noble Lord's strong feelings about a second resolution of the Security Council before any further steps are taken. It would be the Government's preference that there should be a second resolution, if that is necessary, before any force was used. But I have to tell the noble Lord that any decision on further action by the Security Council will be taken in the light of the circumstances at the time and that all options are open. Let Saddam Hussein be in no doubt that full compliance is the only option that will avoid serious consequences for Iraq.
It is important to state that it is up the Security Council to uphold its authority and to take whatever action is necessary to ensure full compliance. Kofi Annan, no less, has said that the Security Council must be prepared to face up to its responsibilities. Historical parallels can be dangerous, but it is perhaps worth noting that the Kosovo campaign was not one that was supported by the Security Council. I think that very few Members of this House would say that that was not a campaign that deserved to succeed or that it was not in the interests of humanity.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is no prospect whatever of successful inspection activity unless it is backed up by the credible use of force? As to any suggestion that sanctions can do the job after 11 years of failed sanctions, I should have thought that that was a lesson that we had now well and truly learnt. But if there is to be success based on the credible use of force, it is important that the language on both sides of the Atlantic does not suggest that war is inevitableor there will be no pressure on Saddam Hussein; there will be no benefit in terms of the compliance that he is willing to give when hoping to avoid military intervention.
If we are to have United Nations resolutions, there must be some real belief that the members of the United Nations are prepared to support them and make sure that they are carried out. The most depressing aspect of the present situationwhich will impact to an extent on the morale of our own Armed Forces, a very important factor to which a number of speakers have referredis the feeling that there is
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his questions and comments. He has vast experience of these matters. I entirely agree with him concerning sanctions. It is abundantly clear that we should not be in this position had sanctions worked over the course of the past 11 years. I agree that war is not inevitable. It is the British Government's view that war is neither imminent nor inevitable. The noble Lord is quite right: to suggest that it is inevitable in some ways takes the heat off Saddam Hussein himself. It is the credible threat of force that is so critical.
I want to make it clear that the Government's policy is to give Saddam Hussein every opportunity to comply with the obligation placed upon him in the United Nations resolution. However, as the Prime Minister has made clear, if he does not disarm, he will be disarmed.
Lord Judd: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that on these Benches as well there are those of us who are very glad that a message is going out to our Armed Services as to how much we feel for them and their families at this juncture? It must be a time of great anxiety and stress. We are fortunate to have the calibre of people that we do have in our services.
Does my noble friend agree that among those of us who look for specific authorisation for any military action by the Security Council, should it become necessary, there is nevertheless an understanding that in the present context if the threat of military action, if need be, is to be credible, the kind of action that has been spelt out today is essential and well appreciated? In that context, will my noble friend assure the House that the Security Council and the Secretary-General are fully appraised of what we are doing; and that what we are doing is being done in co-ordination with other members of the Security Council and indeed with other member nations of the UN? Or is it being done by ourselves alone, or simply with the United States?
Can my noble friend reassure the House on one point which troubles me greatly? We are putting all this effort into ensuring that the military threat is credible. Are we putting as much effort into ensuring that the UN inspection has all the resources, personnel and back-up that are necessary to ensure that it is a success and does not prove to be an inadequate operation?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his support for our argument that it is essential, if there is to be a credible threat of force, to behave in the way that we have. What we are doing in
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, it is reassuring to hear that equipment and supply lessons from recent deployments are being learned. There is no shortage of them. However, can we have the simple undertaking that whatever formations or units are warned for operations they will not be denied the equipment that they may need, and in ample quantity, on grounds of expense alone?
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that both Saddam Hussein and the British people will be made aware that it would be better to send out our forces now so that, in the event of Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with the international position, our troops could take action well before the very hot weather? Such weather would place them in uncomfortable, if not intolerable, conditions, were Saddam Hussein to achieve his aim of delaying matters for as long as possible.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I must answer my noble friend in this way: nobody can predict whether, or when, military action might become necessary. It is pointless to speculate. We are engaged in what I described as sensible planning and preparations at a pace that we judge to be right. As for the concept of a window of opportunity that some commentators mentioned, Saddam Hussein would be very ill-advised to work on the assumption that he need only make a show of co-operation for the next few months. The requirement to disarm will not go away; nor will the threat of military action.
Those who say that military operations during the Iraqi summer would be impossibleI know that that is not what my noble friend saysare perhaps those who said that military operations during the Afghan winter would be impossible. It is common sense that extreme environmental conditions present particular challenges, but those challenges apply to the Iraqis as well as to us.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, regardless of the international politics of going to war, does the Minister accept that many of us believe it would be unacceptable to commit our forces in action in the Gulf if the armoured vehicles were to be fitted with the unreliable and insecure Clansman radio system? That would make the forces vulnerable to an extent that would make their commitment unjustifiable. I do not know whether the Minister shares my opinion.
As my noble friend Lord King said, it appears that only the British are standing with the Americans on this military operation. Must we pay the entire cost of our military commitment, or are we discussing with our allies in NATO and the EU, who are not prepared physically to commit forces, the possibility that they will at least contribute to the cost?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am afraid that it is much too early to answer the final part of the noble Lord's question accurately. We have the matter in mind. I hope that that will satisfy him for the moment at least.
I cannot give the noble Lord the assurance that he seeks about Clansman. It has been in service for a long time. We believe that it is still capable of meeting the requirements against which it was delivered. Of course technology has moved on, and we look forward to the introduction of Bowman, when that happens. He can rest assured that we will ensure as best we can, if it comes to it, that those in Army vehicles are well protected.
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