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I was born into the Muslim faith and brought up with the guiding principles of Islam, which I now find are in serious conflict with the activities and utterances

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of some of the Muslim extremists. Looking at Islam through its main reference source, the holy Koran, we see a religion completely at odds with the actions of the perpetrators of the vile acts of terrorism committed in its name. The Koran clearly instructs the believers to be tolerant and compassionate and to extend a helping hand to the sick and the infirm. It commands respect for scholars, women and minorities in any land. It also instructs Muslims to respect those of other faiths and to live with them as good neighbours in peaceful coexistence.

I beg your Lordships’ indulgence in using the platform of this noble House to reach the minds and hearts of all people in saying that, along with other faiths, the Koran forbids hurting, harming or killing an innocent person, just as it forbids the taking of one’s own life. I want the radicals and extremists in all faiths, but especially among my own co-religionists, to understand clearly that strapping oneself with explosives to kill others in an act of suicide in search of martyrdom is totally un-Islamic and against the instructions of the Koran—the holy book which all Muslims must obey. For any Muslim to ignore or question the truth of this message is like questioning the right of the sun to shine.

We in the Muslim community must oppose and resist extremists inflicting violence on society in the name of religion. We must raise our voices in protest and we must withhold, as a community, the robe of sanctity when it is sought as a cloak for violence and bloodshed, even if the perpetrators are from our own faith.

We have here in the United Kingdom a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. Dialogue is the only way forward for addressing our differences based on mutual respect and trust for each other. It is imperative that we engage together in a continuing dialogue. Dialogue is no longer a luxury of a few well meaning individuals; it has become a necessity demanding action, and without it only catastrophe stares us in the face.

In conclusion, on a day when war is being talked about in this House, I beg noble Lords’ indulgence by mentioning peace. There is a thought which I hold in great esteem that I wish to share with your Lordships. It is from a Hindu prayer from the ancient Vedas, which, translated from its Sanskrit form, goes thus:

“May there be peace in the celestial regionMay there be peace in our skiesMay there be peace on our earthMay there be peace in the watersMay there be peace in the plants and forestsMay that peace be mine also”.

I conclude with a prayer of my own: may God also bless you all with that peace.

1.59 pm

Lord Rowlands: My Lords, it is a very special privilege to follow the noble Lord. I have heard many maiden speeches but he brought a fundamental and important message to us all with passion, and we welcome him very much. He comes to the House with a distinguished medical career in saving lives. However, as his speech has shown today, he has much wider and more fundamental concerns about society

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and community. The fact that he is a trustee of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute is a perfect illustration of that commitment. He is also a passionate supporter of the Commonwealth and is chairman of the Commonwealth Youth Exchange. He has already been recognised and honoured in many ways. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that he has been honoured by the Order of the Burning Spear. I hope, one of these days, that he will explain to us what that honour involves. I am sure that the House will want to hear him more during the coming months.

As we grapple with this vital issue of parliamentary accountability in war, I briefly follow my noble friend Lord Morgan into a brief historical digression. I want to draw the attention of the House to the peculiar and particular contribution that war itself has played in the development of our parliamentary processes. If we go back to the 17th century, we see that if the king or the crown could avoid war, they also avoided calling Parliaments. It was war that eventually, and fatefully, forced Charles I to summon Parliament, with all the consequences that flowed from that. His son, Charles II, governed the last four years of his life without any Parliament at all; he stayed out of war and conflict. From five years after that—1690—to the present day, this House and the other place have sat every year. That is a unique record of representation.

Why is there such a tradition of representation, meeting and scrutiny? The prolonged conflicts and war between 1690 and 1715 ensured a permanent place for Parliament as a central institution of the state—as opposed to an event, which it had been before. War has played a significant part in the way in which our parliamentary processes have evolved. It was involved in the birth of the demand for scrutiny of estimates, in the beginning of the Public Accounts Commission and, above all, in the introduction of annual Sessions, with which came debates and inquiries. There was no squeamishness in the 1690s about debating war—strategy, cost and conduct of war was debated with vehemence and passion. That was the legacy for us from that post-Revolution Parliament.

Few would now suggest—this is the reason that we are debating an alternative parliamentary mechanism—that the old fashioned methods we adopted, of controlling the Executive by controlling supply, scrutinising estimates and delving into the details of government expenditure, are a relevant means of asserting parliamentary scrutiny in relation to war. I have noticed in my parliamentary lifetime in the other place an increasing lack of interest in or concern about the details of estimates. I am one of the last veterans of the old “jumbo” estimates committee of the Commons, which at least tried to tie its inquiry to a vote. The noble Lord opposite was also a member. All that has gone. We cannot use scrutiny and control of supply as a means of keeping a check on the Executive of the day.

As a number of noble Lords have said, in recent times, the character of armed conflict, and our involvement in it, has changed. The catchphrase is “wars of choice”. Our involvement in recent conflicts has been a matter of choice. Where there is a choice, it behoves the Government of the day to justify

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particularly and thoroughly that decision and seek prior parliamentary approval for it. That was most forcefully expressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall.

The considerable practical issues have been rehearsed today, as was done in considerable detail in the report of the Constitution Committee, which I had the privilege to be a member of. I draw the attention of the House to evidence supplied by the Ministry of Defence. We could not publish it in full, but it is summarised in paragraph 27 of our report. Since 1990, there have been 60 military operations. It would have been absurd and dangerous to suggest that parliamentary approval could apply to each and every one of those operations. When members of the committee analysed those 60 operations, we saw that they flowed from a series of initial mission decisions: repelling the Iraq invasion of Kuwait; the enforcement of no-fly zones in Iraq; the coalition operations in Iraq from March 1993; our contributions to the Balkans in the UN Protection Force and the NATO-led Implementation Force; Sierra Leone; and, finally, Afghanistan.

I was in the other place when a number of those decisions were made—not for the latter two but I was certainly there for the Sierra Leone decision. Neither I nor any member of the committee really believed that if Government had had to seek prior parliamentary approval, that would in any way have jeopardised the military operations that followed. It would have given an additional degree of authority, particularly with regard to international legal obligations, legal rights and so forth; I refer in particular to the need for understanding and appreciating the legal basis of any such decision.

The principle of prior parliamentary approval is good and a good additional discipline for Government to have to go through. I disagree briefly with my noble friend Lord Morgan over his dismissal of the idea of a convention. A parliamentary convention can be created by the powerful all-party consensus that seems to be emerging as a result of discussions and debates. I believe that we will have the force of Parliament behind that. Governments will constantly err on the side of coming to Parliament for approval rather than trying to avoid it. If we established such a convention, that would involve not doing something radically new or dangerous, but restoring and renewing a degree of parliamentary accountability—our predecessors began that more than 300 years ago.

2.06 pm

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, for introducing this crucial debate today. I remind the House of my interest as a serving TA officer and that I served on Operation TELIC 1 in Iraq in 2003.

When contemplating a change in the constitution, the law or conventions, one must ask: what is the mischief that is to be dealt with? How did it come about and will the proposed changes eliminate any possibility of a recurrence? Finally, are there any unintended or undesirable consequences of the proposed changes?



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The mischief is that we invaded Iraq when, according to most current informed analysis, that was not legal and it was not necessary. The post-conflict reconstruction plan was not properly executed or drafted, despite it being the legal responsibility of the occupying power to do so. How did this come to pass? The noble Lord, Lord Butler, in his excellent report tells us that the answer involved sofa government rather than Cabinet government and a dodgy dossier that could be torn to shreds in classified briefings with officials. Will the proposed changes prevent a recurrence? I suggest not, because they would not change the deeply flawed government decision-making process of the sofa government of the time. Also, it is not possible for 650 MPs to forensically examine a dodgy dossier or other classified documents. The fact is we have to rely upon the collective judgment of the Cabinet and the rest of the Government. I am afraid the Cabinet has been a miserable failure. The rest of the Government did not do very well, with the notable exception of the noble Lord the Minister on the Front Bench, who took a very honourable position at the time.

The final question to answer is about the unintended and undesirable consequences of an operation. Unless parliamentarians have seen the grand strategic plan for the operations, which I suspect would be a little bit classified, they cannot possibly know the answer to the question of whether the unintended consequences have been properly dealt with. I recall during the debates in February 2003 that your Lordships, while confident of the military outcome, were asking about post-conflict reconstruction. We asked the right questions. Apparently all had been considered, but of course we now find out that it had not.

I do not believe that the proposed changes will deal with the mischief and I intend to examine some of the other issues in a little more detail. There is an argument that the changes will bring us into line with similar democratic states. That may be true, but many of those states do not engage in military operations to the extent that the UK does and, because of their procedures, do not have the utility that the UK forces have; many noble Lords focused on that. In addition, they normally have secrecy and urgency provisions in their arrangements, which means that a malign or incompetent Government can easily circumvent the requirements.

I do not want to tie the hands of a future Government so that their grand strategic plan is skewed around the need for agreement in Parliament. Incidentally, I agree that these matters are for another place uniquely to make the final decision on; debates in your Lordships’ House must precede debates in another place. If a significant proportion of the Members of another place are against government policy in a crisis, a vote of confidence can be called. An adverse vote would stop any military operation in its tracks. In practice, such a situation would never arise because the government Chief Whip in another place would report the views of Members of the House in confidence to the Prime Minister long before any vote took place. Of course, the view of Her Majesty’s Opposition would be crucial. In 2003, the Government were confident of the support of the

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Opposition and could afford to have a vote in the House of Commons without any risk of it being lost.

If there are to be formal parliamentary procedures, we need to determine when Parliament should decide. I suggest that any authorisation should be far earlier than many noble Lords would expect. When I arrived in HQ 1 (UK) Armoured Division in March 2003, I had the words of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, ringing in my ears that war was neither imminent nor inevitable. I confidently expected a month of intensive exercises before we started operations, so I was a little surprised when I got to headquarters and the question was, “Will we be going this week or next week?”.

When the vote took place in the House of Commons, it caused us a slight delay, which was, as it happens, quite useful. However, the timing could have been a significant hindrance. If the vote in the House of Commons had been lost, the operation would obviously have stopped and our forces would have adopted a purely defensive posture. However, we would also as a nation have experienced immediate, catastrophic and permanent failure in our strategic relations with the United States, which no UK Government could afford to allow to happen. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, articulated similar concerns, but I thought that he was rather muted when he talked about a “stabbing” in the back.

The Government would ensure that Members of the House were aware of the serious consequences of a no vote at a very late stage in the confrontation, so in practice Members of another place would have no choice; they would have to vote with the Government. So why do it? Why have a vote at a late stage?

If there were to be a formal parliamentary procedure, perhaps it ought to occur before any of the following took place: outloading of the ammunition depot other than for training; loading of armoured vehicles on to ships other than for training and for roulements, because that makes us vulnerable to attack by the other state—we are preparing for war; and deployment of combat aircraft overseas other than for exercises. These actions cannot be done easily without our opponent becoming aware of them through other intelligence agencies, but they would be taken early enough in the process not to affect the negotiating position of Her Majesty’s Government and the diplomatic efforts. The difficulty with an early vote is that not all the diplomatic solutions will have been fully exhausted; therefore, it could not be the final decision.

I have run out of time but, speaking for myself, I believe that we should maintain the status quo and return to effective Cabinet government, which has served us so well to the past.

2.14 pm

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I speak as a member of the Constitution Committee of this House, which made the report on war-making powers, so I shall speak only about war making. I do so with the diffidence, which I share with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, of a national service soldier who

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found it a peculiar privilege to have the opportunity of hearing and questioning no fewer than five of our greatest servicemen.

As a member of the committee, I am pleased that the new Prime Minister has reversed the Government’s attitude to our report. The Government have now committed themselves to a requirement that, on the grave issue of going to war, the House of Commons should make the decision, although it is sad that they have not taken my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig with them. I am also pleased that the Government recognise that this House shall have a role, although I accept that there can be only one decision and that must be made by the other place.

The Prime Minister spoke of peace and war, but we are discussing, as everyone has pointed out, the power and the right to involve the forces of the Crown in armed conflict—although I fear that I shall probably lapse back into colloquially using “war”. We all think that we know an armed conflict when we see one, but it would be difficult to define precisely in statutory words the ambit of what was or was not such an armed conflict as to require prior parliamentary authorisation. That is the principal, although by no means only, reason why I was and remain firmly convinced, like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, and many other speakers, that the right way forward is to impose parliamentary control by means of a binding—in my notes I had written “convention”, but in deference to the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, I shall not use that word—resolution based on a clear undertaking, accepted and endorsed by the other party, that the Government will not involve the nation in an armed conflict without a clear vote of the House of Commons. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rowlands, that that can be binding, although I do not mind whether it is binding as a convention or as an undertaking by everyone. This is clearly preferable to a statutory obligation, which would present almost impossible obstacles to drafting and definition and which would afford an open invitation to litigation. Wherever we do or do not want lawyers and litigation, we certainly do not want them on the battlefield.

The other advantage of a convention is that one would not be abolishing the royal prerogative and one would require no legislation. One would be saying that in no circumstances would the royal prerogative be used without a parliamentary vote. I accept that the exact wording of the parliamentary convention or resolution would also require careful drafting, but it would not require the precision or detail of a statute and it would be able to be adapted if circumstances changed. In practice, it will almost always be clear whether a particular deployment of forces is or is not of the kind that Parliament intended to control. If a Government were to go to war without parliamentary approval, they would incur the wrath of both Houses just when they were trying to carry the nation with them.

The Government must, in appropriate circumstances, be able to react to an emergency and to take their adversary by surprise by going to war without prior warning or debate. Like most noble Lords who have spoken, our committee considered that this would in

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fact arise only in rare cases. It was interesting that the majority of the conflicts mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, did not fall in the category of emergency or, indeed, surprise. But if that did occur, what, then, should be required of the Government by way of parliamentary endorsement? Should they, as I strongly believe, be required to get a positive vote of approval or would it suffice if they merely informed Parliament?

In reaching my conclusion that the Government should definitely have to get an actual vote of approval, I recognise that it might be very difficult for Parliament to vote against a deployment if that deployment had actually taken place and our troops were already on hostile territory. But that is not the point. It is probably pretty unlikely, but even if you ask for parliamentary approval in advance, the Commons will vote by a majority against even a prospective deployment recommended by the Government. The Government may well suffer sufficiently hostile reactions from much of the House such as those which, as has been pointed out, brought down Mr Chamberlain.

The point is that the Government will have to ask and, in so doing, will have to deploy facts and papers setting out the basis on which they wish to go to war and the aims and purposes of that war. That will give them real cause for careful thought and reflection. Above all, it will deter them from getting involved in a conflict on the tail of some ally to whom they have chosen to commit themselves in advance and without reference to Parliament or the knowledge of the nation.

Therefore, I am in favour of parliamentary control by means of resolution. That control would be strengthened if we adopted the very wise suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, in his superb maiden speech, that there should also be a need to report on how the conflict has gone after it has ended.

2.22 pm

Viscount Slim: My Lords, I thank the Minister for allowing me to say a few words in the gap. I will not detain your Lordships long. I wish to refer to the Special Forces. They do jobs of strategic significance; they are commanded at the very highest level; they are of interest to a crisis Cabinet or a war Cabinet. They are often deployed before a war or crisis starts and I do not think that they should be muddled up in the business of parliamentary discussion or views. That can come, as has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, in his excellent speech, in the wash-up afterwards. Will the Minister therefore ask his colleagues whether, within the convention and the royal prerogative, the Special Forces cannot have some special treatment so that they are not poured into the whole pot of the military? I hope that the Minister will take note of my words and that something will happen.

2.23 pm

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, this has been a remarkable debate—it is remarkable that it has happened at all. It is a matter of great credit to the Government that they have brought forward this

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important constitutional initiative in the consultative document which was certainly unheralded under the previous Prime Minister.

The debate has been distinguished by the contributions of two maiden speakers. The personal experience of the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, covers a wide range of activities and his years in the palace have given him a peculiarly advantageous multiple point of departure for reaching his wise conclusions. We look forward greatly to hearing him again on many occasions.

The noble Lord, Lord Hameed, made a distinguished maiden speech about the nature of Islam and its proper interpretation, to which the House paid close attention. At this time, his message could not have been more welcome or appropriate, and his wish to see his beliefs extend the processes of peace is something we all took very much to our heart.


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