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Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, no expression is to be found upon my face. I simply repeat that our Prime Minister has acted on the basis of principle and expedience.

The noble Baroness asked whether incentives in terms of increased aid were legitimate. Of course they may be in some circumstances. If some countries feel that they will be damaged financially or in other ways—Turkey may be one—it seems to be a legitimate weapon of international diplomacy to seek to give financial assistance to those from whom we seek mutual assistance. Not all inducements are financial, of course. Sometimes pressure on a historic, traditional or cultural basis—even on a post-colonial basis—may be deployed. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked about the Turkish Government. My understanding, which may be imperfect but which I think is right, is that the Turkish Parliament will be coming to a conclusion on the governmental proposals in the next few days.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness both asked me to offer a view. The noble Lord asked whether a further resolution was needed and the noble Baroness kindly referred to my previous activity. But I gave that up two years ago and, seductive though her invitation is, on this occasion I must decline it. I remind the House of the convention that the Attorney's advice is not disclosed, nor is it disclosed whether that advice has been taken. I

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repeat what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said. The British Government wish to act in conformity with the rules of international law.

The Middle East peace process was also referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Jack Straw made a full statement on 20th February this year calling for the early publication of the Quartet road map. He said:

    "There is an urgent need for progress towards a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. I am glad that the UK has been able to contribute . . . The Quartet, Task Force on Reform and AHLC"—

ad hoc liaison committee—

    "meetings addressed the essential requirements for a renewed peace process: publication of the roadmap on which the Quartet envoys are engaged; Palestinian reform, on which the Task Force has built on progress made at last month's London Conference; and economic support for the Palestinian Authority and people, on which the AHLC has a vital co-ordinating and facilitating role".

He was very much echoing the theme behind the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, earlier this afternoon. It is a lengthy statement—I have given the point of reference to it, and I do not read any further from it.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, again generously pointed out that my noble friend Lady Symons will be dealing with these matters tomorrow. She will be dealing with command structures in particular, if that is convenient to your Lordships.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked about the U2 surveillance—quite an interesting text for the next part of my sermon. Saddam has agreed in principle. It would be unfair to double glazing salesmen to make any invidious comparisons. He agrees in principle, but it has not begun. He is a deceitful, deceptive man. It is idleness and folly to believe that a proved liar will change his spots according to his present convenience. When we see the intelligence data from any successful U2 overflights, I will be a little more content to rely on his alleged bona fides.

The noble Baroness asked about the future administration. At the moment, I must repeat—I hope without undue caution—that the Prime Minister has said quite unambiguously, as has the Foreign Secretary, our purpose, aim, hope and plan is to avoid a war. Our duty, however, is to support 1441 and any necessary consequences. It is not simply the supporting of a resolution which was passed, I remind your Lordships, unanimously, including the vote of Syria; it is to support the principle, concept and continuing virtue and value of the United Nations. There is no alternative to international governance through the United Nations as our preferred policy objective. I reiterate that as strongly as I can.

We shall have the opportunity to debate these matters tomorrow. I think, as it happens, that our debate will be longer than in another place. I look forward, as does my noble friend Lady Symons, to the contributions and value that will come from tomorrow's debate.

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3.45 p.m.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that apparently eminently reasonable Statement. Although it may not be strictly the job of the inspectors to find these weapons—to sniff them out, as the Statement says—does he agree that if they were to do that, based on all the intelligence that we can give them, this would be much the easiest and cheapest way of disarming Saddam Hussein?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord makes a good point. If Saddam co-operated, would not that be the best way forward? My Lords, abundantly yes. Over the past 12 years there has been no effective sign of willingness to co-operate at all. Iraq is a country the size of France. Any intelligence report will demonstrate the ease with which weapons and components are dispersed. In the very nature of things, the precursor chemicals are a first step towards the manufacture of a particularly vile chemical weapon.

No one would be happier than the British Prime Minister and the British Government if the inspectors were able to detect, but their job is not to act as detectives. Their job is to see that 1441 is complied with. 1441 insists, through the legitimate organisation of international government—the United Nations Security Council—that there should be substance, not simply process. If I remember rightly, Dr. Blix's first report said that there had been rather grudging acquiescence towards process, but virtually none towards substance. So I think the noble and gallant Lord and I are absolutely at one. My conclusion, however, is that, lamentably, Hussein has had no intention of complying with substance.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I have two questions for the noble and learned Lord. First, has he any news of the two Iraqi ships which were reportedly sailing round and round the Indian Ocean incommunicado, carrying a cargo of goodness knows what? Is it proposed to take any action about this? Secondly, I have been informed by a source which I prefer not to name at present, until I have cleared it with them, that during the time sanctions were imposed on Iraq as regards exports of oil, the Iraqis were signing contracts with the French, the Germans and the Russians to export oil to them, and were doing so. Does the noble and learned Lord have any information about that?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I have also received the reports that Iraqi vessels are sailing in the Indian Ocean. I do not know what is aboard them—I know what the suspicions are—and I have no detail about any imminent action to be taken in respect of them. I simply do not know whether the reports are accurate.

In respect of the sanctions regime, I agree with the noble Lady that those sanctions have been evaded. The vast income that Saddam has been in receipt of—I earlier mentioned the 3 billion dollars—has plainly come in significant part by sanctions breaches.

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Regarding the particular documents relating to exports—I do not have any precise details. If the noble Lady feels able to provide them, either to me, or perhaps more helpfully to my noble friend Lady Symons, then of course we will investigate.

Lord Richard: My Lords, can my noble and learned friend tell me specifically what is the present and immediate threat to the United Kingdom posed by Saddam Hussein, which cannot be dealt with by a policy of containment and deterrence? If one looks back at the history of this dispute in the United Nations over the past decade or so, one sees a mass of resolutions in 1990 and 1991. Then there are no resolutions for a short while. Then there is one, I think, in 1995, and then three or four years with no others. In 1997 there may have been one—and then another three or four years with no resolutions. I do not understand. If it was such a great threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom or the peace of the world, why did it become apparent only when President Bush won the election?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it did not. The United Kingdom's national interests are irretrievably and rightly bound with the construction and the maintenance of international governance. My noble friend knows much better than I of the part that the United Nations has had to play over the past 50 years or so. If the United Nations fails because it is treated with effective contempt, without consequence or sanction, that is to my mind self-evidently a significant, grave and continuing threat to the interests of the United Kingdom.

The alternative is to do effectively nothing—to shake Saddam Hussein metaphorically by the hand, or at least look the other way. The time for looking the other way has passed.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House's Statement the decisive reason why action has to be taken? Have the reasons that have been given of co-operation with Al'Qaeda, a moral duty, or regime change now been completely set aside? After 12 years, and a hiatus of four years, Iraq has not, as far as anyone can see, attacked its neighbours or been a threat to them. Why is it suddenly so essential that we should attack Iraq within the next few weeks? After 15 years why can we not give the inspectors more time?

Finally—in relation to failing to agree or comply with United Nations resolutions—why is only Iraq apparently going to be punished? There are other nations, particularly one in that area, which have consistently ignored strong United Nations resolutions over a long period.

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