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7 Nov 2002 : Column 445continued
Mr. Straw: I do not believe that if the resolution is passed it will advance the prospect of war. I think that the prospect of military action will recede. I have always been clear about that. We cannot put a mathematical number on the possibilities, but I have always been clear that the more unanimous we are in the international community and the tougher we are at first, the less likelihood there is of us having to use military action, but we may have to use it.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): What will my right hon. Friend say to the hundreds of my constituents who have written to me because they are concerned that the United States and the United Kingdom are hell bent on war, whatever the actions of the Iraqi leader? Can he give me an assurance that, should Saddam Hussein fully comply with the UN resolution, there will be no military conflict?
Mr. Straw: The answer to my hon. Friend's second question is that I do not anticipate any circumstances in which there would be military action in which we would participate regarding Saddam Hussein's defiance of his obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions if he suddenly decided to comply. Operative paragraph 2 spells out very clearly that this is a final opportunity for Saddam to comply.
Of course I understand the anxieties of my hon. Friend's constituents. We all share them. They believed that the United States and the United Kingdom would go it alone to be unilateral. That has not happened, and now that we have chosen to use the United Nations routeI hope successfullythose who have been calling for it must not now call for something different. I am afraid that one or two colleagues in the Housenot my hon. Friendare changing their tune because the first one has not worked.
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing the resolution. In the debate held during the recall of Parliament, I said that I would find it difficult to imagine a resolution that would be so specific. As an avid reader of UN resolutions, I have never read one as specific as this, and I hope that it goes through in its entirety in New York.
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. He has already heard what I said about the middle east, and I share his opinion on that. The UN resolution is very specificthat is one reason why it has taken such intensive discussions to negotiate. However, we are not there yet. We hope to be, but we have to get the other 14 members of the Security Council to vote for it.
Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that all the work that he and Government colleagues have done over the past many weeks and months has been in the interests of international peace and law, and that it has not been a question of the countries of the west getting their hands on Iraq's oil? Will he also confirm that the action being taken at the United Nations could strengthen its authority and standing? Does he hope that other countries in the middle east that are in breach of UN resolutions will take careful note of the work that has been done to achieve compliance with these resolutions?
Mr. Straw: Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. The issue was the authority of the United Nations and thus the authority of the whole international community. We want Saddam Hussein's compliance with this resolution. We also want compliance with all UN Security Council resolutions. By definition, the United Kingdom, as a permanent member with a veto, has always supported, or at least not opposed, those resolutions, although we have particular responsibilities to see that they are subject to full compliance.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): I congratulate my right hon. Friend and our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on their work in bringing about this multilateral UN approach, which many people would not have thought possible a few months ago. It will come as a huge relief to my constituents, who all express the view not only that this is a last chance for peace but that it affects the credibility of the United Nations.
In respect of that credibility, although I realise that my right hon. Friend does not want to anticipate a situation whereby there has to be an immediate recall if there is action under paragraph 4, and bearing it in mind that in 1991 Saddam Hussein failed to declare any biological weapons, will my right hon. Friend comment in general terms on whether he thinks there is seriousness fully to support the disarmament work of the weapons inspectors rather than the ambivalence that was too often displayed by the Security Council between 1991 and 1998?
Mr. Straw: I hope and believe that there is that seriousness. Under the leadership provided by President Bush, the UN recognised that it faced a serious moment in its history, when its own credibility was at stake. My hon. Friend is right to refer to the fact that Saddam Hussein was able to play games with the international community because the international community was
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Although it was a long time ago, I lived in Iraq for two years, so I have great concern for the well-being of the Iraqi people. Is it not the case that, under Saddam Hussein's regime, the people of Iraq have suffered considerablyfrom the Iraq-Iran war, the Gulf war, economic sanctions, economic collapse, hyperinflation and Saddam Hussein's internal oppression? Should Anglo-American invasion or attack on Iraq be added to that devastating list?
Mr. Straw: I have already said that we do not want military action. I know of my hon. Friend's concern for the plight of the Iraqi people, but everything that he listed was caused by one manSaddam Hussein.
Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): As someone who has expressed concern about Government policy, may I welcome the general terms of the resolution and, in particular, the provision that compliance should be determined by the inspectors and that non-compliance should be reported to the Security Council? Will my right hon. Friend recognise that for many of us it is vital that the appropriate response to any breach is decided by the United Nations and we rely on the Prime Minister's assurances that war will be regarded as a last resort?
Yes, the Prime Minister was right when he said that we see the prospect of military action very much as a last resort. I repeat that if we can pass the resolution in its current form, or close to it, the prospect of military action will recede.
Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan): May I take this first opportunity to thank personally my right hon. Friend and his Department for securing the release of my constituent, Peter Shaw, yesterday? We all hope that the resolution is passed and we understand what the phrase Xserious consequences" means, but is my right hon. Friend confident that the Iraqis and the Arabic-speaking world know what it means?
Mr. Straw: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said about the work of our diplomats in London and in the region in securing Mr. Peter Shaw's release from the terrible incarceration that he has suffered and, through my hon. Friend, I should like to pass on to Mr. Shaw and his family my very good wishes. I heard him on the radio late last night, and he and his daughter were remarkably phlegmatic given the most appalling situation in which he had been.
As for Iraq, I do not think that Saddam Hussein has any doubt at all about the phrase Xserious consequences"; he knows what it means. However, he faces a clear choice: whether to continue down the road of deception and double dealing, which is second nature