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3.42 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:

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and to provide,

    'immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted and private access',

to all people whom the inspectors wish to interview,

    "in the mode or location",

of the inspectors' choice; and also to co-operate actively and fully with all the inspectors' demands.

    "Failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and co-operate fully in the implementation of the resolution was said in terms to constitute a further material breach. Eight weeks have now passed since Saddam was given his final chance. Six hundred weeks have passed since he was given his first chance.

    "The evidence of co-operation withheld is unmistakable. He has still not answered the questions concerning thousands of missing munitions and tonnes of chemical and biological agents unaccounted for. Rocket warheads with chemical weapons capacity have been found by the inspectors. They should have been declared. Classified documents of relevance to Iraq's past nuclear programme have been discovered in a scientist's private house. They should have been

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    handed over. Of the first 11 documents specifically requested by the inspectors, only three have been produced. Not a single interviewee has come to an appointment with the inspectors without official minders.

    "As the report which we published at the weekend makes clear, and which I have placed in the Library of the House, there is a huge infrastructure of deception and concealment designed to prevent the inspectors from doing their job. US Secretary of State Colin Powell will report further to the United Nations on this on Wednesday.

    "As Dr Blix, the UN Chief Inspector, reported last week:

    'Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance—not even today—of the disarmament which was demanded of it'.

He said that Iraq's declaration seemed to contain no new evidence; that there are indications that Iraq has weaponised the nerve agent VX, one of the most toxic ever developed; that there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it has declared; and that the discovery of chemical rocket warheads could be the tip of an iceberg.

    "The situation could not therefore be clearer. There is a duty on Saddam to co-operate fully. At present he is not co-operating fully. Failure to do so is a material breach of Resolution 1441. Should Dr Blix continue to report Iraqi non-co-operation, a second resolution should be passed confirming such a material breach. President Bush and I agreed we should seek maximum support for such a resolution, provided, as ever, that seeking such a resolution is a way of resolving the issue, not delaying or avoiding dealing with it at all. I continue to believe that the United Nations is the right way to proceed. There is an integrity in the process set out in 1441 and we should follow it.

    "We, of course, discussed the fact that weapons of mass destruction are not the only threat we face and Iraq is not the only country posing a risk in respect of weapons of mass destruction. Over the past few weeks, we have seen powerful evidence of the continuing terrorist threat: the suspected ricin plot in London and Manchester; Al'Qaeda experiments in Afghanistan to develop chemical, biological and radiological weapons; the arrests of those linked to Al'Qaeda in Spain and France; and further arrests in Italy.

    "What is more, many of these arrests show the terrorist groups actively seeking to use chemical or biological means to cause as much death and injury and suffering as they can. We know from 11th September that these terrorists have no demands that could ever be negotiated upon, no constraint in terms of finance and numbers to carry out terrorist acts and no compunction in taking human life.

    "At the same time, we know, too, that Iraq is not alone in developing weapons of mass destruction; that there are unstable, fiercely repressive states either proliferating or trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, like North Korea.

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    "I repeat my warning: unless we take a decisive stand now as an international community, it is only a matter of time before these threats come together. That means pursuing international terrorism across the world in all its forms. It means confronting nations defying the world over WMD.

    "That is why a signal of weakness over Iraq is not only wrong in its own terms. Show weakness now and no one will ever believe us when we try to show strength in the future. All our history—especially British history—points to this lesson. No one wants conflict. Even now, war could be avoided if Saddam did what he is supposed to do. But if, having made a demand backed up by a threat of force, we fail to enforce that demand, the result will not be peace or security. It will simply be returning to confront the issue again at a later time with the world less stable, the will of the international community less certain, and those repressive states or terrorist groups who would destroy our way of life, emboldened and undeterred.

    "Even now, I hope that conflict with Iraq can be avoided. Even now, I hope Saddam can come to his senses, co-operate fully and disarm peacefully, as the UN has demanded. But if he does not, if he rejects the peaceful route, then he must be disarmed by force. If we have to go down this route, we shall do all we can to minimise the risks to the people of Iraq, and we give an absolute undertaking to protect Iraq's territorial integrity. Our quarrel has never been with the Iraqi people but with Saddam.

    "But Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and the threats they pose to the world must be confronted. In doing so, this country, and our armed forces, will be helping the long-term peace and security of Britain and the world".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.51 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for repeating the Statement made by the Prime Minister in another place. I also join him in offering condolences to the families of the crew of "Columbia" who lost their lives this weekend in so tragic a manner. The actions of those on board have been called by many a selfless sacrifice for scientific progress. Sadness over the tragedy temporarily drew the focus away from our worries over the impending crisis in Iraq. It is to that increasing threat of war that I now return.

We on this side of the House encouraged the pursuit of a second resolution from the United Nations. A second resolution is not necessary, but it is highly desirable. It would give Saddam Hussein a firm opportunity to consider the advantages inherent in co-operation and disarmament. However, it should not be used as an excuse for delay. We should not deceive ourselves that time will be the solution. Saddam Hussein's track record has not shown us that he is a man to be swayed by rational argument; rather one

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who relies on internal oppression, violence and the development of weapons of mass destruction to drive across his own opinions.

For too long, Saddam Hussein's unchecked situation has been an inspiration for "rogue states" and terrorist groups. Any failure to call him to account will provide the influence they crave to sustain their destructive activities; a beacon to those who look upon deadly weapons as the only alternative.

I understand that Hans Blix's main concern is that Iraq is not actively co-operating with the weapons inspectors and that for months his team has been searching as though for a needle in a haystack, when surely it was for Iraq from the very start to account for discrepancies in its weapons declaration and assist fully in the task. It is increasingly obvious that that never was and never will be Saddam Hussein's intention.

When the Prime Minister was briefed by President Bush this weekend on Secretary Colin Powell's evidence on Iraq to the Security Council, was he told precisely what the content of those documents would be? No doubt they will expose the dangers that Saddam Hussein poses to the United States, but does the noble and learned Lord agree that it is not only the dangers to the United States that need to be spelt out, but all those specific to the United Kingdom? We are entitled to as much information as is available and relevant, and that is vital when a substantial number of British troops have already been deployed to the Gulf and we hear that more are to follow later this week.

Is a new UK dossier being prepared? If so, when will it be published? How does that fit in with the report which the Statement said had been placed in the Library today? Can the noble and learned Lord confirm that the report is also in the Library of this House? I have not had sight of it. However, what is the difference between it and the dossier published some months ago?

Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will also agree that we need to encourage a debate in this House on the unfolding situation with respect to Iraq. Perhaps he will indicate when he thinks the best time for that would be. It is in any case all part of making the case against Saddam Hussein to the British people.

Does the noble and learned Lord agree that the Prime Minister's consistent support of the UN route shows an inherent belief that this is not just an American war but a united stand against the forces of terrorism? The fact that the United Kingdom is now one of seven European countries that have written in support of Resolution 1441 is without doubt an important step forward. Is it right that the Germans and the French were not in fact asked to sign that document? When the Prime Minister meets President Chirac tomorrow, will France's required support for a second resolution be at the top of their agenda? Will the Prime Minister make it clear to the President that blocking defensive forces to Turkey under the auspices of NATO would be unacceptable?

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Does the noble and learned Lord agree that the only thing that can now stop military action is disarmament by Saddam Hussein? He has been given a second chance once too often and it is now time for him to suffer the consequences of his repeated failure to disarm. Our threats toward his regime have been voiced too long and too loudly now to be allowed to appear empty. No one wishes to go to war, but the dangers of stopping now may be greater than going ahead.

3.57 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I should like to apologise on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who cannot be here today. I am taking the Statement in her stead. We on these Benches associate ourselves also with the sympathy for the astronauts who very sadly lost their lives at the weekend.

We on these Benches support the efforts that the Prime Minister has been making to ensure that the containment of Iraq continues to be managed multilaterally by the United Nations and that, as far as possible, Iraq should be disarmed through inspection and multilateral action. We note the very careful balancing act in which the Prime Minister has had to balance the unilateral language which is unfortunately the way in which the Bush administration present their case and the much more multilateral language which we hear from our own Prime Minister and a number of others. Will the Leader of the House just confirm that President Bush has now agreed that there will be a second UN resolution and that the inspectors will be given the further time that they need, although we are not yet sure how long that will be? Can he also reassure us that the Government and the United States have now provided as much intelligence and advance equipment as they possibly can to ensure that the inspectors know as much as they can about what they may be looking for?

How does the Prime Minister intend to manage the balance between a critical co-operation with the United States and ensuring as far as possible that European governments manage to stay together? It has been said very many times that British influence in Washington depends in the long run on Britain being seen to speak for Europe. Over the past few days, Europe has spoken with a number of different voices. Those of us who deplored the unilateralism of which the German Government spoke some months ago were not entirely happy that Mr Aznar, with our own Prime Minister, repeated that mistake by explicitly dividing the European Union again. We very much hope that the summit at Le Touquet will manage to achieve a rather greater commonality of view between the French and the British Governments.

Can the noble and learned Lord say a little more about the phrase at the beginning of his speech, in which he said that we hoped to have parallel progress again with the Arab-Israeli conflict? On the first page we are told that:

    "I hope we can take further steps",

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on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Again, we are told that that will take place "soon". It is difficult to see what those further steps will be or, indeed, how soon they will be taken. It is important that the matter is not left until after whatever military action there may have to be in Iraq.

What worries us most on these Benches is the extent to which the questions of rogue states, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism are conflated, as they are again in this Statement. Terrorism is a real, long-term problem, and it will not be resolved by military intervention in Iraq or by disarming Iraq. What worries many of us about what we hear from Washington at the moment is what we perceive as a lack of understanding about the long-term nature of the terrorist problem in the Muslim world. We need to be sure that we are standing up for universal values and not simply Western values, let alone American values. As we know from our own experience, "pursuing terrorism across the world" is only part of how one copes with the long-term terrorist threat. An upsurge of terrorism after an invasion of Iraq is a possibility for us. Therefore, how we manage our relations with the Muslim world as a whole and how we present the rationale for intervention in Iraq is clearly of great importance.

Was there a discussion between the Prime Minister and the President about how Iraq is to be handled after any military intervention, given that the odds on such an intervention occurring are now very high? I was told by a group of Americans whom I met yesterday that they are confident that the British will take a leading role in rebuilding Iraq after the invasion because we are so good at nation-building. That may have serious implications for public expenditure in this country. It would be useful to know something about how far Britain has committed itself to rebuilding Iraq after any intervention.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Wallace, not least because of the unity of purpose that they described. It is necessary at this time that our enemies recognise that this is a united kingdom. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that there is no difference in approach between us. It is highly desirable to have the second resolution. Both noble Lords asked about that and I can answer their questions best by returning to my Statement. For the assistance of your Lordships, I repeat:

    "Should Dr Blix continue to report Iraqi non-co-operation, a second resolution should be passed confirming such a material breach".

In response to the specific question of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, I said:

    "President Bush and I agreed we should seek maximum support for such a resolution".

That is pretty unambiguous. The tributes paid to the Prime Minister and Jack Straw were generous but well-deserved. The efforts that they have made and the satisfactory consequences that have resulted are not fully understood. In fact, the Prime Minister and the

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Foreign Secretary have followed a policy that is in the interests not only of the United Kingdom but of the wider international community, including the United Nations. Without being unduly divisive or contentious, I hope that I can say that they have done so much more effectively than some of our colleagues in Europe.

So far as concerns the evidence on Iraq, there is a dossier in the Library, available to all. I am told—I should not say this—that the noble Lord, Lord Roper, has just been down to get a copy. I do not think that I can usefully encapsulate the difference between that new document and the earlier dossier—it is better to let your Lordships read and compare them. However, there is more material in the updated document because time has passed since the publication of the original. I agree that, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, this is not simply the United Kingdom's business.

The noble Lord asked a question about debates. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, wrote to me. I received her letter this morning and have replied today. I am sure that she will not mind if I share with the House what I said in my letter to her. I wrote:

    "We recalled the House on 24 September last year for a Statement and debate on Iraq. We made a further Statement on 7 November. We had the foreign affairs day in the Debate on The Queen's Speech on 14 November, and a further full day's debate on 28 November. We made further statements on 18 December, and on 7, 20 and 21 January . . . The situation is moving very fast . . . The Government is committed to keeping both Houses informed and we will keep the situation under constant review, and will arrange time for debate at an appropriate moment".

It is probably better that both Houses have a debate on the same day. Jack Straw has been absolutely scrupulous in keeping the House of Commons informed—returning from the United States to keep them fully briefed and then going back there again. Therefore, I do not believe that anyone could say that he has not taken Parliament's interests into account.

I think that it is true that the Germans and the French were not invited to sign. Perhaps telephone communications between Berlin, London and Paris were not marvellous—I am not quite sure. However, we should consider those who did sign. The fact that they did so is an indication of the powerful success that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been enjoying. I do not know what the Prime Minister will say to M Chirac tomorrow, and it would be better if I did not speculate.

The final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is right. There is no way out of this impasse unless Saddam Hussein disarms, as he is required to do by the obligations laid upon him in international law and by the United Nations. Disarmament will have to come about one way or another. No one wants war, and no one wants terrorism and unrestrained activity of the sort with which we are now becoming familiar.

I dealt with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, about President Bush. We are sharing intelligence with the inspectors as appropriate. The

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noble Lord asked what is to happen with regard to the Middle East peace process—a question that I know to be of interest to many of your Lordships. At the moment, the Israeli elections have only just been concluded; no government have been formed in the state of Israel and circumstances are shifting and changing. I repeat that the Prime Minister is absolutely determined to push the process forward and hopes that we shall be able to take further steps on the issue soon. The United States is an extremely important player in that scenario. That is not to say that we should blindly follow the United States, but we need to recognise today's realpolitik.

The noble Lord is right—we cannot simply attempt to bomb terrorism out of existence, whether by bombing a state, a camp or a training organisation. We must use diplomatic, political and financial methods, which are very important. We must also use military and police methods. As the noble Lord rightly said, we must examine the causes of terrorism, which seems to be becoming almost nihilistic and anarchistic in the sense that some terrorism was in the latter part of the 19th century.

I hope that I have dealt with the questions that were put. This is a House, not a government, matter and I shall keep carefully in mind the necessity of having a debate when it is appropriate to do so. I hope that your Lordships think that when requests have been made to me in the past I have done my best to meet reasonable requirements.

4.8 p.m.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I apologise for coming in late during the Statement, but I have read it and heard the responses. As one who regards war as a very untidy resort, and the necessity of making it the last resort, I would like to know whether the Leader of the House can add to the force of the argument in favour of war by being more open about what I regard as the crucial question of the missing munitions. It is stated that thousands of tonnes of munitions and chemical and biological agents are unaccounted for, but we have never been told at what point their existence was identified and at what point they disappeared. I believe that if people were better aware of the extent of the threat posed by Iraqi intransigence they might be better prepared to take offensive action against it.

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