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24 Sept 2002 : Column 151—continued

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am reluctant to speak to the hon. Gentleman again, but the Minister is clearly not going to give way. The hon. Gentleman would do better to remain in his seat.

Mr. Galloway: Coward.

Mr. Speaker: Order. Sadly, I heard that remark. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw it. I strongly advise him to do so.

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Mr. Galloway: Is it not the case, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I say to the hon. Gentleman that he must withdraw that remark. I will listen to a point of order, but he must withdraw that remark.

Mr. Galloway: I do withdraw that remark.

Mr. Speaker: Has the hon. Gentleman a point of order?

Mr. Galloway: My point of order is this, Mr. Speaker. Is it not custom and practice for a Member who is attacked by another, by name, to be allowed to rise and answer the point?

Mr. Speaker: That is not a matter for the Chair. I call the Minister.

Mr. Ingram: The British Government have long made clear their firm commitment to containing the very real threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime to the stability of the middle east and, potentially, the wider international community. That is not a new stance.

As I have said, there is unanimity in the House on the brutal nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. What we must now ask ourselves is whether the threat has increased in recent times. As the dossier demonstrates, we have significant evidence that Saddam Hussein has brazenly flouted United Nations resolutions—resolutions to which he agreed to adhere after the Gulf war in 1991. He has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons; tried covertly to acquire technology and matérials that could be used in the production of nuclear weapons; sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear programme that would require it; recalled specialists to work on his nuclear programme; commenced a comprehensive weapons development programme across a range of capabilities to deliver his future and current weapons of mass destruction; and there is clear evidence that he has used his experience of previous UN weapons inspections and already begun to conceal sensitive equipment and documentation in advance of the inspectors' return.

With such evidence, I am surprised that there are hon. Members who continue to argue that Saddam Hussein does not now pose an increased threat both to the stability of the middle east and on a wider international scale. I fear their opinion is based more on an entrenched position than on a cool analysis of the facts.

Of course, how we deal with the new threat level remains at the heart of today's debate. The Prime Minister made clear in his opening statement the Government's approach to the way forward. Over the years, we have consistently supported the various UN resolutions targeted at the removal of Saddam's WMD capability, which if implemented could have helped in bringing Iraq back into the international fold. Year on year, Saddam Hussein has ignored each of those constructive approaches. There are 14 different UN demands on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein is in breach of all of them.

I have no doubt that the country at large will recognise why we have to confront this issue with a new determination. By all means every effort must be made to achieve a diplomatic solution—indeed, that must be our

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prime driver—but, as the Prime Minister made clear, the choice is Saddam's: he can comply willingly or be forced to comply. There is no middle way. The threat has to be removed or it will continue to grow.

Several hon. Members have expressed doubts about our course of action. They should ask themselves this: if there is a new UN resolution and mandate, will they support it or will they find some other reason, some other excuse, to oppose the international resolve to deal with Saddam Hussein? If they support it, how do they envisage its being effectively enforced?

Those are fundamental questions, and I have heard nothing in the debate from the doubters to suggest that they have faced up to the answers.

Mr. Dalyell rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Main Question put accordingly:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Tellers for the ayes to be counting out the Aye Lobby and for the Tellers for the noes to be counting out the No Lobby?

Mr. Speaker: It is not quite in order, but I wonder why the hon. Gentleman has raised the point of order.

Mr. Hughes: As a former Whip, it is not difficult for me to notice that both the no Tellers are counting out the No Lobby and that both the aye Tellers are counting out the Aye Lobby.

Mr. Speaker: Given that the Tellers are rather new and inexperienced, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman let me use my discretion in this matter. Accuracy is what is most important.

Mr. Hughes: Can we rely on the fact that the figures declared will be accurate?

Mr. Speaker: I am sure that we can.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman should come closer to the Chair.

Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You are aware, as we all are, of the matter of precedents in the House. Although I am sure that, on this occasion, you and the House may be prepared to accept the integrity of the process, even though our normal procedure for counting votes is not being adhered to, you may wish to give some thought to whether this creates a precedent. You may wish to give the House some guidance about the fact that, should this happen again, you might not be prepared to accept the outcome.

On this occasion you have said that you believe that there can be no querying of the Vote, despite the fact that our normal procedures are not being adhered to.

Mr. Speaker: Let me put it to the right hon. Gentleman that this evening I am worried about accuracy. There are

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Clerks in the Lobbies, so I am in a position to check the vote against the numbers reported by the tellers. Of course, I always have the opportunity when the House returns to clarify whether there has been accuracy in this matter.

Alan Simpson: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have already made reference to the interesting configuration of those doing the counting on this vote. You will be aware that the tellers for the Ayes wanted to vote in the No Lobby, but agreed to do the telling for the Ayes in order to secure a vote. Given that many Members were uneasy about not being able to vote on a substantive motion, can you advise the House as to how we can ensure that in future at the very least we are able to vote on a technical motion?

Mr. Speaker: I am just trying to get through this evening. I am not too worried about the future.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would not the best way to resolve the matter be to have the vote again and organise the tellers in the correct place, with an Aye and a No teller together so that there would be no doubt about the vote? Could it be that this is a secret Government plot to make sure that the House does not adjourn?

Mr. Speaker: As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes), the House should let me use my discretion in this matter. Will the tellers now come to the Table?

The House having divided: Ayes 6, Noes 64.

Division No. 319
[9.58 pm


Beggs, Roy
Burnside, David
Donaldson, Jeffrey M
Paisley, Rev Ian
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Trimble, Rt Hon David

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins and
Mr. Paul Marsden.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Allan, Richard
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Bennett, Andrew
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Buck, Ms Karen
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cox, Tom
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Dalyell, Tam
Doughty, Sue
Drew, David
Ewing, Annabelle
Flynn, Paul
Galloway, George
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McCafferty, Chris
McDonnell, John
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Morgan, Julie
Perham, Linda
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Price, Adam
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Salmond, Alex
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Weir, Michael
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Mike Wood and
Mr. Kerry Pollard.

Question accordingly negatived.

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Mr. Speaker: Order. I have a statement to make. That vote has served its intended purpose, demonstrating the

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strength of feeling in some quarters of the House on this difficult issue, but because of the rules of the House it does not have any procedural effect. As it is now past 10 o'clock, the debate on Iraq has concluded. It is now the duty of the Government Whip to move formally that this House do now adjourn to bring the sitting to a conclusion, and I must put the Question forthwith.



24 Sept 2002 : Column 155

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