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7 Nov 2002 : Column 436—continued

Mr. Straw: My right hon. Friend should not worry about being sycophantic for a second. It is a perfectly honourable position to adopt.

I know that there is some scepticism about this among some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but it is right to applaud the work of President Bush and his colleagues in the US Administration. They had the power to go down the unilateralist route, and there was nothing that the international community could have done about that. They made a choice to stick with the multilateralist UN route, and we should applaud them for that and for what President Bush has done to enhance the system. As for my hon. Friend's specific question, Xserious consequences" means serious consequences up to and including military force.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon): The Foreign Secretary has brought us welcome news, but I think that the House should face the high probability that military action will be needed to enforce the resolution. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that those who oppose military action should recognise that the risks of doing nothing in these circumstances probably outweigh the risks of doing something? However, there are risks involved in military action of exacerbating the terrorist threat that we face. It seems to me that there are two things that we could do to reduce that threat. One is to put renewed efforts behind getting a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I realise that Israeli politics make that difficult but we need to be seen to be doing more. Secondly, whatever interim Government are imposed on Iraq after military action is taken should be not just a western Government but should involve as wide an international coalition as possible.

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman speaks with great wisdom. The resolution is good news but I emphasise

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that it has not yet been passed. I am making a statement today rather than after the Security Council resolution has been passed because the House will be prorogued and there will not be another opportunity this Session.

As for military action, we are working on the basis that the resolution will prove effective. I have always said that the best chance of a peaceful solution to the crisis is through unanimity of the international community and a clear and credible threat of force if there is not compliance. Of course we must plan for the possibility of military action, but I remain quite optimistic that if we get unanimity, or near unanimity, the process can work. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need to push forward with the middle east peace process.

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I am absolutely delighted that the work of the Government whom I support has given the world at least an opportunity to remove peacefully what I regard as a serious threat. However, for the avoidance of doubt, will my right hon. Friend assure me that under paragraph 3 Saddam Hussein is required to make a complete disclosure? If, subsequently, inspectors prove that he lies in making that disclosure, will that be taken as indicating serious intent to deceive the international community, requiring further action?

Mr. Straw: The simple answer is yes. The words mean what they say.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I join the Foreign Secretary in his warm remarks about the United States Administration. I hope that the United Kingdom Government will continue to act constructively with the United States irrespective of the criticism that they may receive from those on the Government Back Benches. I have not yet seen the text. Does it define precisely what is meant by Xmaterial breach"? Who, in the event of a discussion about what is or is not a material breach, will have the final say?

Mr. Straw: The text does not define Xmaterial breach", because it is a term of art familiar in international law, equivalent to the breach of a fundamental term, which the hon. and learned Gentleman and I are familiar with from English law of contract. It amounts to what it says: a material breach. There has been some discussion about who is to decide. It will become patent whether there has been a material breach, and what follows will in the first instance be a matter for discussion inside the Security Council.

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein is being given a final chance to disarm through the United Nations route. Will my right hon. Friend consider the situation facing the Iraqi people? No one has done more than Saddam Hussein to visit misery upon misery on them. Will the Foreign Secretary comment on reports that the resolution holds out some prospect that sanctions might eventually be removed? Under what circumstances might that happen?

Mr. Straw: Of course we have very great concern for the plight of the Iraqi people—a concern not shared by

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Saddam Hussein. Millions of people are in poverty and worse as a result of his totalitarian, fascist dictatorship. As my hon. Friend suggests, the resolution provides the last best hope of a peaceful solution. The position on sanctions remains as in UNSCR 1284, which sets out procedures for the lifting of sanctions and the resumption of normal commercial and social relations, provided that Saddam Hussein complies with all his obligations under Security Council resolutions. It is very simple. It remains to be seen whether he will accept those obligations.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): I, too, congratulate the Government and the American Government on the work that they have done on the resolution. Will the Foreign Secretary be clear about the process? If Iraq is in material breach of the resolution, will UN-authorised military action require a new resolution?

Mr. Straw: The processes set out in the resolution are complicated, because this is a complicated matter and we have had to try to nail down all kinds of possibilities of what the Iraqi regime might do, bearing in mind how it has twisted and wriggled out of its obligations in the past. False statements or omissions or failure to comply, as set out in operative paragraph 4, will amount to a material breach, and any reporting by the inspectors may turn out to show a material breach. Then, under operative paragraph 12, the Security Council will meet to discuss the matter. Any member of the Security Council can table a resolution, and it remains to be seen whether the Security Council or individual members judge that a further resolution is necessary to deal with the material breach that is presented to them. It is complicated, but it is clear.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend, the Government and the American Government on providing a realistic prospect of a tough Security Council resolution being passed in the near future. Will he confirm that the time for Saddam Hussein to play games is now rapidly running out?

Mr. Straw: Yes, time is running out. If the resolution is passed unanimously, there will be clear deadlines for compliance, and that will serve the interests of the Iraqi people, as much as those of the security of the international community.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the issue that previously divided the United States from other members of the Security Council and the UK Government from many Members of Parliament is whether action in the name of the United Nations can be explicitly sanctioned by the Security Council alone? Will he tell us, clearly and unambiguously, whether the proposed resolution is a mandate for weapons inspections and a report back to the Security Council on non-compliance, or whether it is in itself a mandate for war—and does the American Administration share his interpretation?

Mr. Straw: I ask the hon. Gentleman to read through the resolution. We have always made it clear that any action that we take will be taken within the context of

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each of our obligations in international law, and the same applies to the United Nations. That remains the position. I have already said to the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) that the Security Council resolutions form part of international law but not the total corpus, and whether military action is justified in international law, with or without a second resolution, depends on the circumstances. I cannot predict those circumstances; moreover, I do not particularly want to, because what I want to see is a peaceful resolution of the crisis. The best way of getting such a peaceful resolution is, yes, by threatening force—we have to, because of the nature of Saddam Hussein—but also by backing that threat of force with a credible effective weapons inspection regime of the kind laid down in the draft resolution. If we do those two things, as we in the United Kingdom and the United States Government have been doing, we can have a peaceful outcome to the crisis.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): It is clear to many commentators, and I too believe it, that this is a war resolution. The United States, with the help of our Government, shamefully, appears to have bullied and intimidated people into coming on line, and, perhaps, also promised the spoils of war—oil. The resolution is mined with trip wires to trigger a war. It should be named after the film XWag the Dog", because if Iraq does not trip up soon, I am pretty certain that the United States will make sure that it does.

I have two questions for when we go to war. First, can we have an absolute assurance that our Government will have nothing to do with the use of nuclear weapons, bunker busters or depleted uranium? Secondly, can we be told the truth about civilian casualties this time? Whenever there is a statement on Afghanistan, nobody in the Government seems willing to tell us how many civilians have died there.

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