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24 Sept 2002 : Column 145—continued

Mr. Galloway: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is an extraordinary rumour sweeping the Palace that, having failed to table a substantive motion, the Government will not even have the courage to vote for the Adjournment at 10 o'clock. So afraid are they of the large number of Labour Members of Parliament who would not be with them in the Lobby. They are frightened to face—

Mr. Speaker: Order. There are always rumours in the Palace of Westminster.

9.28 pm

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): It has been a long day but an important and interesting debate for the House to have held. I follow the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy). Many of us have service men in our constituencies, and I put it to her that every Member of the House takes seriously the responsibility to our service men. Of course, it is the loneliest and hardest decision for Ministers to make when they determine whether to commit our service men to military action. We share that serious responsibility with them.

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The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) made a different speech from most others in the Chamber. We perhaps heard today the third position from the Liberal Democrats. [Interruption.] Yes, from those on the Front Bench. We originally heard the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who would not comment on whether military action should be contemplated, but I am pleased that those on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench have come in our direction on that question. His colleague the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) made it clear that military action could not be contemplated without another UN resolution, which he regarded as "essential". However, the hon. Member for Hereford used an altogether different form of words and said that action should not be considered unless

not making it clear whether it had to be obtained or not. I leave it to hon. Members on both sides of the House to try to work out the Liberal Democrats' position.

The main purpose of our debate has been to allow the Government to set out their case for the policy that they have adopted in recent weeks on Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. Not only was the Prime Minister broadly supported by the Leader of the Opposition, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) supported the Foreign Secretary. I commend in particular two speeches, that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who set out clearly five points in support of the Government's policy, and that of the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), which Labour Members should take seriously.

Our debate is both necessary and long overdue. It was essential to publish the dossier, for which we have been calling for a considerable time. I join my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) and for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), who all said that the dossier should have come much sooner. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) for pointing out that only a few months ago the Government were trying to shut down discussion of the prospect of military action against Iraq, which has made it more difficult for them to make a clear and unambiguous case.

A broad consensus has emerged on the dossier and the evidence, which is broadly accepted by Members on both sides of the House. The nature of the regime is accepted on both sides of the House and I would even go so far as to say that its mentality and intentions, as well as the potential threat that it poses, are broadly accepted by the House. Differences have emerged about two substantial issues, the first of which is regime change. I shall deal with that briefly as the argument is in danger of becoming one about angels on a pinhead. Obviously, to set out to change a regime as a policy objective is questionable in international law—we agree with the Government's position. To deny, however, that that might be a consequence of one's actions is a completely different matter. I put it to people who cavil about regime change that forcing Saddam Hussein to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction and the means of their production, research and concealment is unlikely to be achieved without regime change. People who talk openly about regime change, like the Prime Minister, are only being realistic. To put it in perspective, President Clinton declared himself in favour of regime change on 15 November 1998.

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The other outstanding difference concerns the role of the UN. The main question is whether a further resolution is required to legitimise military action if Saddam Hussein refuses to comply. It was clear from questions put to the Prime Minister this morning that he is keeping that option open. He is not ruling out moving to military action even if we run into difficulties and are unable to secure unanimity on a UN resolution. The Opposition have no doubt that the Prime Minister is right to make that clear in his military and strategic point of view.

There has been much complaint about the United States attitude and its new strategic doctrine, but it is as incumbent upon the House to try to understand the United States as it is upon the United States to understand attitudes in Europe. One of the most dangerous features of the international scene since September 2001 has been the drifting apart of Europe and the United States.

The United States understands perhaps better than we in Europe do how the strategic environment has changed. That is the link that exists between 11 September and Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We live in a much more dangerous and unpredictable world than we thought we did and unless we are prepared to respond to those new and clear dangers, we are playing into the hands of those who would carry out further terrorist atrocities.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said that surely Saddam Hussein would have to be irrational to use his weapons of mass destruction. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. There are too many conversations going on in the Chamber and that is unfair to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jenkin: I am grateful, Mr. Speaker.

Every dictator in history has acted irrationally—Hitler acted irrationally, Galtieri clearly acted irrationally, and Saddam Hussein acted irrationally when he invaded Kuwait. Given how irrational Saddam Hussein can be, he may well choose to deliver his weapons of mass destruction himself or through some proxy terrorist organisation, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) made clear in his speech.

There has been much talk in the Chamber this evening about the relevance of deterrence, but deterrence no longer works. It is rather ironic that throughout the cold war many Labour Members said that deterrence—mutually assured destruction—was a crazy concept, but now that it no longer works, they all support the doctrine of deterrence. History has moved on.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North) rose

Mr. Jenkin: I have little time. I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I shall be as quick as I can.

Let us study the new Bush doctrine. I beg the House to bear with me while I read out a short part of President Bush's national security strategy. It states:

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It continues:

Those who are unable to embrace a new strategic doctrine for the defence of our own countries are people who are unable to adapt to the reality and objectives of today's adversaries.

The Government are showing every evidence of fully understanding that reality, and although no defence policy document has been produced they are adopting the same policy of pre-emption by supporting President Bush in his attitude towards Iraq. Is that dangerous or is it just common sense? I put it to the House that it is common sense.

How would it be if the Prime Minister came to the House in a year or two's time after a terrible terrorist atrocity had been committed against our own country and said that it was known that there was a threat but the Government did not think that they could take any action because of the state of international law. Of course, that is not the state of international law. International law would never be such an ass.

Are the Government prepared to show the courage expressly to embrace the Bush doctrine on pre-emption? They behave as though they are, and it is incumbent on them to explain the legal basis of it in international law. In 1998, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) expressly stated:

for military action. He went on to say that

The right hon. Gentleman said that in 1998, but we need to know what is the legal basis of such a statement today. That is why we have been asking the Government to produce their legal opinion for the House. That is not unprecedented; it not an unreasonable request. There are other opinions, such as that produced by Rabinder Singh QC and Alison Macdonald, who make it clear that, in their view, any attack against Iraq

or it could be demonstrated that an attack

The Government have clearly not accepted this particular legal advice. What legal advice have they accepted?

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