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24 Sept 2002 : Column 69—continued

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch): Sack him.

Ann Clwyd: That was not a helpful contribution at this point.

Indict is concerned about the continued suffering of hostages, whose lives have been ruined by those crimes. We have interviewed hundreds of victims. I shall not begin to describe to the House the circumstances that they endured. They deserve redress, apart from any other consideration. If the best efforts of the UK Government and Indict cannot secure a prosecution, the fact should be openly acknowledged and debated, because I believe that that debate might also provide an impetus for an international tribunal.

I cannot believe that, once it knows the facts, this House will not add its support to the call that I am making. Hostage-taking is a grave breach of the Geneva convention. All signatory states, including the United Kingdom, have not only a right but an obligation under international law to prosecute or extradite offenders. If Tariq Aziz were to visit a country that had signed the Geneva convention, that country would have an obligation to arrest or extradite him if a UK arrest warrant were sent to it.

Given that there is a war on terror, why would not the UK wish to arrest a war criminal, or at least send a message to the world that war criminals and those who perpetrate acts of terror should no longer be allowed free movement internationally?

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4.5 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): The House will be amazed at some of the issues taken up by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). I am sure that we are all concerned about them and will play our necessary part in putting pressure on the people who can act in these matters.

Today we have a very serious issue before us—whether the threat from Iraq is of such a nature as to warrant the intervention of British armed forces. However, the debate takes on a greater significance: we must determine whether, as a free and democratic nation, we are prepared to face up to the threat of international terror and violence emanating from Saddam Hussein.

William Tyndale, a great martyred reformer of Reformation days, who gave our nation the priceless gift of the Holy Scripture in our mother tongue, stated a basic principle:

His power has to be limited.

We have to say today how far we shall allow terrorism and Saddam Hussein to go. It is all right to put up reasons and to worry about the future, but what will the future be if he gets his way and can release on the world what he no doubt has in his mind?

I was amazed by the statement of the Prime Minister, who said that we should read not just about the 1 million dead in the war against Iran. Our country was not without blame in that war. There was substantial backing from the United States and our own country in that war, so we are responsible for a degree of the blood-shedding.

Today, we come up against the great problem of credibility. If this House, our Government and the Governments of other countries are not consistent in the war against terrorism and choose whom they want to prosecute and with whom they want to enter into agreements, the other countries of the world will say, when we take a stand against Iraq, "What business is it of yours? You are not even consistent. When certain decisions suit your policies you enter into judgment, but when they do not suit your policies you do not enter into judgment."

Iraq must not be allowed to continue to conceal weapons of mass destruction. It must not be allowed to continue to stockpile such weapons and prepare for their use. When, four years ago, the Iraqi weapons arsenal was investigated to a degree, the inspectors had to withdraw. Would any of us like to put a figure on the immense gathering of arms that has now gone into that arsenal? How much power has Saddam in his hands today, as we meet here?

In those circumstances, I welcome the fact that the British Government are facing up to their international responsibilities. It saddens me, however, to have to say that the Prime Minister appears ready to challenge terrorism in the middle east—and rightly so—but refuses to challenge the activities of terrorists who are operating in a part of this United Kingdom. It is hypocrisy to join President Bush in upholding the causes of freedom and democracy, while continuing to support the retention of IRA-Sinn Fein in the Government of Northern Ireland.

I have raised the matter personally with the President of the United States. He was dumb when I said to him, "What if I suggested that you invite the bombers of

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Oklahoma to the White House and give them tea and buns and jam, because they were not really bad men?" But I, a democratically elected person, am being told that I must sit down and enter into government with the very person mentioned today by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth)—a man who brought one of the aliens put out of our country home to Londonderry and told his mother "Nothing will happen to the boy." When the boy came home he was sent for by the allies of that same gentleman, and murdered.

We must be consistent. The world is looking for consistency, and the Prime Minister can only strengthen his hand by being consistent.

The House should know that IRA-Sinn Fein Members who refuse to take their seats, although they have offices here, are keen supporters of Iraq. Repeatedly, day after day, facts are leaked concerning the alignment of IRA-Sinn Fein with world terrorist organisations in, for instance, Colombia. Yet we say that these people are fit to be members of the Government of part of the United Kingdom.

I welcome every step that has been taken. I welcome what the Prime Minister has done. I welcome the fact that tonight we have at least an opportunity to put our feelings on record. I believe that the Prime Minister needs to be encouraged; but I say to him and to President Bush, "Until you be of one mind and, without expediency, consistent in your opposition to terrorism throughout the world, the world will not turn and listen to you when you want to put up a coalition to fight terrorism."

All terrorism does the same thing. I have attended too many funerals in my own country, of both Protestants and Roman Catholics, not to know what terrorism has done. I also know the dread of people who cannot leave their homes in the morning certain that they will return in the evening, because of terrorist strikes. All terrorism is wicked, and it has to be dealt with. When a man like Saddam gets arms together, we can only have a terrible nightmare about what could happen if he unleashed those weapons on innocent people. We have a duty to take a stand in the House today, and I trust that we will take that stand.

4.14 pm

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): I can at least thank the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) for allowing us to return to the essence of the debate. We have travelled a long way from this morning's statement by the Prime Minister, and the opening speeches of the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). We are talking about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction—about Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons, and the possibility of nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister made it clear that those weapons could pose a threat not just to the region but to our own interests.

Many years ago, in the 1930s, Winston Churchill complained—on a very cold and quiet night in the House—that the Government were putting the cart before the horse. He made gestures depicting the cart and the horse, and he was so eloquent that those present could see them proceeding through the Chamber. We have done a lot of putting the cart before the horse today. We are

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talking about the prospect of a new United Nations resolution, not about a declaration of war. A declaration of war is not imminent. It is not the policy of either Her Majesty's Government or the Government of the United States of America. There is no point in our discussing numerous possible scenarios that do not yet exist.

The hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) said, very pertinently, that there had been a policy change in the United States. There has been such a change. Until 1941, the policy of the United States was one of isolation; between 1945 and the fall of the Berlin wall, it was a policy of containment and deterrence. There was no clear policy between the fall of the wall and the events of 11 September. Those are what Condoleezza Rice calls the bookends of American foreign policy. Now the United States has a new foreign policy, enunciated by its President and supported by its Congress: the policy of the pre-emptive strike, based simply on the fact—the lethal fact—that 3,000 individuals died on 11 September. Incidentally, they came from 50 nations, not just America, and 100 British people died. That brought about a policy change in the United States, and the focus of the change is Iraq.

I agree with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). No one here will say that Saddam Hussein is other than an evil man. No one will say that he does not possess biological and chemical weapons, or that he is not on the way to acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) said that this was not a debate about human rights, but I think that it is: it is about the human rights of those who live in Iraq.

To my right hon. and hon. Friends who seem somehow to think that President Bush might be more evil than Saddam Hussein, I say that international socialism does not stop at the borders of Iraq. We have an interest in the people of Iraq. We have an interest in the 60 per cent. of the Iraqi population who are Shi'ite Muslims. They have suffered terrible oppression during the years of Saddam Hussein, and they are still being oppressed, in the south and in the north. How many Members have mentioned the no-fly zone today? How many have mentioned that British airmen fly over those zones every day to protect Marsh Arabs in the south or Iraqi Kurds in the north?

Why should the population of Iraq suffer under sanctions when, as the Prime Minister said, $3 billion worth of oil a year is being exported on the black market and is illegally going into the pocket of Saddam Hussein, who does nothing to relieve the poverty of his own people? Why should those people have to suffer for ever under a regime of sanctions?

In the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I detected no confidence whatsoever in the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary spoke of the failure of the League of Nations to act at the time of Abyssinia. We saw the consequences of that, in the form of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. As the Foreign Secretary said, the United Nations was built on the ashes of the second world war, and to prevent a failure similar to that of the League of Nations, a Security Council was created. According to my reckoning, it has passed 16 resolutions on Iraq since resolution 1901, nine of which—according to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram)—have not been respected.

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The first resolution, the ceasefire resolution, called for not just the sending in of weapons inspectors but the repatriation of Kuwaiti and Arab prisoners of war. That has not happened to this day. It also called for the return of confiscated Kuwaiti property, which has not happened either. There has been no respect for any UN resolution up to now.

We have had six crises concerning Iraq in recent years. The Foreign Secretary said that a new UN resolution would be tabled in the next few days. That resolution should be clear and precise and should come under chapter 7, making it mandatory on the Iraqi regime. All the earlier resolutions, including those on the confiscation of Kuwaiti assets, on the return of Kuwaiti prisoners of war and on giving the inspectors totally unrestricted access, should be rolled into the new resolution, which should have a strict term of compliance with a fixed deadline.

Why should such a resolution not be accepted by the Security Council, which exists under a mandate from the United Nations, which itself exists to promote international peace and security? Why should we be pessimistic and assume that the UN will not do its duty? Some Labour Back Benchers think that the focus of the debate will go to the Labour party conference next week, but it will not: it will go to the Security Council. If the Security Council wants to uphold international order, peace and security, it will roll the resolutions of the past 11 years into one and force Iraq to comply.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary said that we, as a nation state, will not act outside international law, so let us have more confidence in the UN than has been demonstrated today and let us not put the cart before the horse, talking about military action and what will happen after it. Let us stick with the UN and see what the resolution is and how Saddam Hussein responds. Whatever action takes place will follow a UN resolution, not a resolution of the House.

If I were a pilot patrolling the no-fly zone or a soldier going into action on behalf of the British Government, I wonder how I would feel about sitting around waiting to see which Members voted in which way. Many young men from Middlesbrough join up. They go into the armed forces voluntarily. Their parents have an interest in them, and so do we. Why should they sit around waiting for a vote in the House? It is for the Government, acting with the United States of America on the back of Security Council resolutions, to tell the House what action is to be taken if the resolutions are not complied with.

Let us not get carried away with matters of organisation, administration or procedure. These are major issues. As the right hon. Member for Devizes said, the House can rise to the occasion when it has to. The time may come for that, but for now we should send the focus to the United Nations and see what the Security Council has to say next week.

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