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Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have made it absolutely clear that Monday's report is part of the process in which the inspectors are engaged. The inspectors have only recently reached full strength. It will be for the Security Council to discuss the content of the report and to make decisions on next steps.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to the theory widely aired in the United States that an attack against Iraq would in some way ease the Palestinian problem. Does the Minister share that view? If so, can she explain why logically that might be the result? Secondly, can she tell us the view of the other participants in the recent London conference?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, there has been no decision to take military action in Iraq. That has been said a number of times in this House and in the other place. Therefore, the question being raised is entirely hypothetical.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is possible that the public have heard the Government's case very clearly but are not convinced? Therefore, if the Government and the United States are to win over public opinion, they need to put forward a far more substantial and evidenced argument. Does she accept that there is a widespread anxiety which may be misplaced but which needs to be addressedthat is, with all the troop movements
Does she further accept that, with the level of power that the United States manifestly exercises in the international scene, people wonder why it is necessary to be drawn into military conflict in relation to issues such as this?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I repeat what I said earlier in answer to questions from the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Wallace of Saltaire. The Government feel it is very important that we take the British public with us and we are engaged in a debate and a discussion on these issues. I believe that the polls show clearly that there is significant support for going down the UN route. Following that route remains the cornerstone of this Government's policy. But it is important that we remember that we would not have inspectors in Iraq if there had not been a visible and credible threat of force, which took us to the position of obtaining the UN resolution. It is most important that we remember that.
There are anxieties. No one wants us to go to war but, as my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary made clear in his Statement yesterday, no decision has been taken with regard to military action. However, we are well aware that our work in going down the diplomatic route must be matched by a visible and credible threat of force. That is the only thing that is moving us forward.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, with regard to Al'Qaeda and Iraq, does the noble Baroness recall that in a statement that he made to the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, Mr Richard Butler, the former head of UNSCOM who left Iraq in 1998 or 1999, said that members of Al'Qaeda had attended a terrorist training school in Iraq at a place called Salman Pak? If the Government agree with that statement, why have they never made more of it?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, again, I believe that our position has been made absolutely clear. We have certainly seen no evidence of a link between the Iraqi regime and Al'Qaeda. However, there is clear evidence of a link between the Iraqi regime and other forms of terrorism and other terrorist organisations. That is the Government's position and it is one that we have repeated on a number of occasions.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, can the Minister say which countries provide the main source of finance for the terrorist movement and also for the strategic military ambitions of Iraq and North Korea? Are any efforts being made to curtail those sources of finance and, if so, with what success?
With regard to the other element of the noble Lord's question, I am not able to give that information. Some of it comes from intelligence sources which I cannot reveal. But the sources and the endgame of some of these rogue states are not always clear.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, is it not the case that the Prime Minister correctly diagnosed the situation that we are in as being a battle for hearts and minds? With regard to the state of public opinion in both this country and Europe, is it not fair to say that the majority of that public believes that "weapons of mass destruction" could be represented by the air force of the United States and by our own RAF if they were to proceed to an aerial bombardment of Iraq? That would have devastating humanitarian consequences and, in terms of the battle for hearts and minds, could have devastating consequences for the spread of the very terrorism which it is our avowed intent to combat. Consequent upon that, does the noble Baroness accept that any support by this country for a physical assault on Iraq which does not have the support of a second resolution of the United Nations cannot but be against our interests and against the war against terrorism?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, again, my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made the Government's position clear. We have worked very hard in going down the UN route. We must ensure that the British public understand the arguments that we are making, the serious threat posed by weapons of mass destruction and the possible proliferation of those weapons. That would particularly be the case if those weapons were to get into the hands of terrorists and especially into the hands of Al'Qaeda.
These are arguments we have to make. It is clear that the British public support us going down the UN route. We shall continue to do that. We have worked extremely hard at that through diplomatic channels. We shall continue to give a great deal of priority to working in that way.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, as my noble friend knows, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister addressed these issues in another place this morning in speaking to the Liaison Committee. I am sure that if he thought it appropriate, he would at that point make a statement to the nation.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, having been involved in the resolution more than 10 years ago which Saddam Hussein has continued to flout ever since, I strongly support the argument she put? Unless there is credible
If we are to maintain a credible military force, the other need is for strong public opinion in support of the action the Government are taking and of the United Nations. In that respect, is the noble Baroness aware that, in dealing with terrorism, it is important, first, to get right the balance between encouraging proper vigilance by the public and an undue sense of alarm? I am very concerned indeed at the suggestion made today, and which has also come from intelligence agencies, that there is a certainty of attack by Al'Qaeda. There is not such a certainty. We have substantial defences against such occurrences. I hope that people will recognise that. There is a need and a call for vigilancenot a call for panicin this country at this time.
If this Statement is the Government's start on improving their presentation to the public, it is not sufficient for Iraq to win at hide-and-seek with the UN inspectors until 27th January. The inspectors have to report that they are genuinely satisfied that there has been total compliance by Saddam Hussein and a totally honest and palpably open presentation of Iraq's capabilities in that respect.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King. The threat of visible and credible force has been an important element backing up our diplomatic efforts. I also agree that we need strong public opinion. I am encouraged by the fact that public opinion is supportive of action through the UN route. I also agree with the noble Lord about getting right the balance between proper vigilance and creating an undue sense of alarm.
This is where I disagree with the noble Lord. The Statement is clear, as I repeat, that the terrorist threat to Britain and our citizens is real. There is no reference to that threat coming from one particular group. The reference is to the fact that Britain cannot become an island of security in the face of the global dangers of terrorism and rogue states. That is a fact to which we must alert our public. I agree with the noble Lord that at the same time we have to ensure that there is not an undue sense of alarm. As someone who has been dealing, for example, with travel advice to the public, I am well aware of that.
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