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24 Sept 2002 : Column 23—continued

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker: Order. We will now move on.

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Points of Order

12.57 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise to seek your help about the procedure in today's debate. I understand that the Government will open the debate by moving a motion that this House do now adjourn. Such a motion is debatable and allows a vote so that hon. Members who believe that the House should continue to sit can express that view in the Lobby. However, such a vote does not permit those who will be voting to give their reasons, and it is on that point that I seek your help.

As you will know, many Members of all parties are opposed on various grounds to military action against Iraq, and many others who represent service men and women in their constituencies who may be called to fight in such a war have anxieties on behalf of them and their families. Therefore, I am asking you to accept a manuscript motion worded as follows:

Only in that way can hon. Members discharge their responsibilities to their constituents. Such a motion would not preclude a motion to adjourn, which would follow at the end of the day's business in the usual way.

I know of no ruling by previous Speakers that would bind you to rejecting this request, and submit that your responsibility is to the House as a whole and that your authority on procedure is unchallengeable by anyone. For those reasons, I appeal to you to allow my motion to be moved, debated and voted on in parallel to the motion to adjourn.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before you rule on the point of order made by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), would you look at the precedents and precisely those related to Iraq? Will you bear it in mind that when the House was recalled on 6 September 1990 when Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait, the debate was on a motion for the Adjournment moved by the Government of the day? Will you further note that, when a second debate was held on this issue on 11 December 1990, it once again took place on a motion for the Adjournment moved by the Government of the day? Will you also note that, when another debate was held on 15 January 1991, it again took place on a motion for the Adjournment of the House? No manuscript amendment was moved or accepted and those debates on the Adjournment did not prevent the official Opposition from voting alongside the Government, as the official Opposition are not doing today, and did not prevent my hon. Friend from voting against his own party on every occasion?

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) rose

Mr. Speaker: Order. Please sit down.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) would make a good Clerk of the House, but there are no vacancies.

I am grateful to the Father of the House for giving me notice of his point of order. He is seeking a debate on his proposed manuscript motion before the House begins a

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debate on the motion on the Order Paper. Our rules do not allow this to happen. Under Standing Order No. 14, Government business has precedence over other business except in certain defined circumstances. This is not one of those circumstances. When the House is recalled under Standing Order No. 13, the only business to be debated is that of which the Government have given notice. In this case, that is the motion for the Adjournment of the House which is set out on the Order Paper.

If the hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) wishes to raise another point of order, I must advise him that he will take time out of the debate in which many Members wish to speak.

Paul Flynn: I shall be extremely brief. My point of order is that my constituents—and many of them have spoken to me—will not understand why I cannot vote today against following the Bush agenda.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It may interest Members to learn that the applicant for Clerk of the House has a faulty memory. Two substantive debates on the Gulf war were held on 21 January 1991 and on 21 February 1991. One took place under a Government motion and the other under a Scottish National party motion. In television and radio interviews, the Leader of the House has indicated sympathy for the idea of a substantive motion, so would it be in order for him to make a statement to tell us when that might be?

Mr. Speaker: We must move on.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 25 (Period adjournments),

Question agreed to.

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Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Caplin.]

Mr. Speaker: We now come to the Adjournment debate. As I have already said, many Members wish to speak so I have put a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches. Furthermore, it would not be appreciated if any hon. Member were to approach the Chair while I or any of the Deputy Speakers are in it. That would be most inconsiderate.

1.4 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke for an hour and a half and took 25 interventions about the case that we make for effective action in respect of the threat posed by Iraq. In view of that, I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible.

I suggest to the House that the issues before us come down to four. First, is the Iraqi regime the threat that we say it is? Secondly, are there not other countries that have developed equally dangerous arsenals of weapons of mass destruction? Thirdly, is not the international community guilty of double standards? Fourthly, even if Iraq is the danger that we claim, is the threat of force, or its use, justified? Let me deal with each of these questions in turn.

First, how much of a threat is the Iraqi regime? My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out very clearly the nature of the threat, and that was well endorsed by the House as a whole. The dossier that we have published today sets out a forensically argued case about the nature of the regime.

The main focus of the questions to my right hon. Friend was about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but I want to detain the House briefly on another aspect of the Iraqi regime—its record on human rights. That record speaks volumes not only about the way in which the regime deals directly with its own people, but with the way in which it would seek to operate in respect of other countries and territories beyond its borders. Taking both the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its human rights record, Iraq is in a league of its own—uniquely evil and uniquely dangerous.

On human rights, no other regime now in power anywhere in the world has Saddam's record for brutality, torture and execution as a routine way of life and as the principal means by which the elite stays in power.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Straw: I will in a second.

Page 48 of the dossier spells out starkly the number of Iraqis recently executed under Saddam Hussein. However, individual human stories sometimes better bring home the true bestiality of this regime. For example, in October 2000, Amnesty International reported the beheading of dozens of women by the Saddam regime allegedly for prostitution. The victims were executed in front of their homes by a militia created by Saddam's son, Uday. Among those executed for "prostitution" was Dr. Najat

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Mohammed Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad's leading hospital whose only alleged crime apart from prostitution was to be critical of corruption in the Iraqi health services.

As the dossier shows, the Iraqi security apparatus and weaponry are not incidental extras to be used in extremis. They are fundamental to the regime's exercise of power. The Iraqi regime has systematically persecuted and oppressed ethnic and religious groups. No group has suffered more than the Iraqi Kurds. In one year, Amnesty International estimates that more than 100,000 Kurds disappeared or were killed. The world had a glimpse of the genocide in 1988 when Iraqi planes used poison gas to kill 5,000 Kurds in Halabja. By then, Saddam had already shown his appetite for chemical weapons in the war with Iran. Halabja confirmed that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction would be turned against his own people as well as the outside world.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) rose

Ann Clwyd rose

Mr. Straw: I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd).

Ann Clwyd: Given the awful atrocities committed by the Iraqi regime, will my right hon. Friend consider a non-violent option for dealing with it? It would involve bringing indictments against leading members of the regime for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. I believe that such an approach should be considered. In Norway this week, we talked to the Attorney-General there about Uday Hussein, whom my right hon. Friend has just mentioned. We took a complaint about Uday Hussein to Norway, because some of his victims are there. There are also victims in the United Kingdom, so why are we not following this approach?

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