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Saddam Hussein

Those were the words of the previous leader of the Liberal Democrats, who has a strong track record on such issues. The reality is that Saddam was presented with a justifiable challenge, in resolution 1441, to comply with the international community and the weapons inspectors and demonstrate that he did not have that capacity. He chose not to do that, which was why we went to war.

It is a reality, which I acknowledge, that those weapons of mass destruction were not found. In that sense our intelligence was not accurate, but we were not the only country in the world where that was the case. Even the intelligence agencies of those countries in the international community that took a different decision from the one that we took were telling them the same thing about what they believed to be the case about weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Jenkin: To assist the Minister, does he recall that the Iraq survey group report, which was produced after the invasion, showed that there were strong indications that Saddam Hussein had every intention of resuming his weapons of mass destruction programmes. He had shells with traces of chemical weapons in them and aircraft that were capable of spraying chemical weapons. Those weapons systems existed and were in direct breach of all the Security Council resolutions that had been passed against him.

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Bill Rammell: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. One factor that is never taken into account in the balance sheet is this: what would the situation be had we not intervened and were Saddam Hussein still in power today? I believe that Iraq, the region and the whole world would be in a much worse condition.

Mr. Davey: Let us return to the reason given to the House for war, which was weapons of mass destruction. We argued at the time that we should listen to Hans Blix and Dr. el-Baradei—the weapons inspectors themselves, who were not arguing for war. They were arguing for more inspections and for looking at the situation properly, because they had not found the evidence that the Government and others tried to present in their dossiers.

Bill Rammell: If the hon. Gentleman goes back and reads the words of Dr. Hans Blix very carefully, he will see that Dr. Blix made it clear that there were unanswered questions as a result of his investigations which Saddam Hussein was unwilling to answer. I was a junior Minister at the Foreign Office in the run-up to the Iraq war and I was looking at the raw intelligence, not at a dossier. My biggest fear was that chemical weapons would be used against our troops going into combat. I would not have had that genuine fear had I not believed the intelligence in front of me. There is a myth, which has been going round for years, that we misled people and deliberately manipulated the evidence. That is simply not the case.

Mr. Ellwood: The Minister repeats again and again that life is obviously much better now that Saddam has gone. I do not think that anyone in the House disputes that—at least, not on the Conservative Benches. By repeating that, however, he is avoiding telling us why it has taken so long to get to where we are today. Why, when we went into Iraq in the first place with the 7th Armoured Brigade at a time of relative peace, did things deteriorate to a point at which the 4th Battalion The Rifles had to leave with their tails between their legs? The Minister has not answered those questions, and those are the answers that we want to hear.

Bill Rammell: When the hon. Gentleman described our contribution as a humiliation, I do not think that he was describing the reality, and he did himself no credit. He asked why we did not get to the position we are in today sooner. It is because this has been an extraordinarily difficult situation—

Mr. Ellwood: There was no plan.

Bill Rammell: I acknowledge, as does our former Prime Minister, that there should have been better post-conflict planning and preparation. One of the issues that is constantly flagged up in relation to that planning and preparation is that of de-Ba’athification. In hindsight, we got it wrong on de-Ba’athification, but we did not get it wrong on our own. All the decisions that we took as a coalition were taken in consultation with the Iraqis and the Iraqi Government. Because of their experience under Saddam Hussein, they were the strongest proponents of de-Ba’athification.

Mr. Ellwood: I do not doubt that, but I have to stress the point, which came out in the debate, that while the MOD prepared for an invasion in March 2003, the
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Department for International Development received an instruction to do absolutely nothing. There was no plan. Yes, we can blame things to do with de-Ba’athification on the coalition, but we went in there without any capability for post-conflict reconstruction. That is why we are debating this today, rather than three years ago.

Bill Rammell: I heard the claim that the hon. Gentleman made earlier about what the former Secretary of State for International Development allegedly wrote in that memo. I have to say that she is a Member of the House with whom I do not often see eye to eye, and she is no longer a member of my political party, but I am struggling to believe the veracity of that claim. It is a claim that I have never heard anywhere in the House or in our media in all the course of the past six years, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on that fact.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), who has a huge track record of being absolutely right on Iraq over a long period of time, made an excellent contribution. She rightly highlighted the role of our troops, but she also mentioned the bit that is often forgotten: the role of officials who have gone back to Iraq time and again in very difficult circumstances and given enormous service. She also rightly welcomed the constitutional arrangements that have been set up in Iraq to enable 25 per cent. female representation in the Iraqi Parliament. Like her, I am aware of reports that the published version of the provincial elections law is different from the one that was agreed by the Iraqi Parliament, and that it might reduce the female quota. This is a matter for the Iraqis, but I very much welcome the fact that the Iraqi Parliament, led by its women’s committee, is trying to resolve that issue to ensure that the agreed quota of at least 25 per cent. remains in place.

The contribution by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) demonstrated her experience, knowledge and understanding of military matters. She brought home something that I think we have all experienced over the past few years—namely, the conflicting emotions as Iraq has gone through this change of fortunes. Like her, I very much welcome the fact that we are at the top end of those fortunes at the moment.

Mr. Holloway: Perhaps there will be great benefits for the Iraqi people, but, rather than giving vague assurances about the effects on global security, will the Minister tell us how Britain has been made safer by the debacle of the past five or six years, and what benefits have accrued to the British people from it?

Bill Rammell: Let us look at the situation in Iraq today. The fact that we have a much more stable Iraq that is not actively seeking to develop and export weapons of mass destruction puts us in a much more secure place. That is a very positive development.

I will conclude by directly picking up on a point made by the hon. Gentleman during his speech. He said that the decision to support the United States had been made by Tony Blair alone at Crawford. Whether people agreed with the war or not, we had the most huge debate in this country on it. It was one of the most contentious debates in the House and, rightly or wrongly, people voted for us to go to war. I believe that it was the right decision. Iraq is a much better place. It is now a
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force for good in the international community, and we should build on that fact as we build our relationship with Iraq in the future.

Question put and agreed to.


Business without Debate

Welsh Grand Committee


Delegated Legislation



Betting, Gaming and Lotteries


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Coastguard Services (Devon)

7 pm

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): On 10 August last year, two girls in Hope Cove in south Devon were being swept out to sea and were at risk of drowning. The inshore Hope Cove lifeboat—a service in operation since 1890, which has saved 213 lives since the year 2000—was launched within a few minutes and the girls were saved. Unfortunately, it was against the instructions of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Hope Cove lifeboat.

Now, 3,000 residents have signed a petition to reinstate the lifeboat, which was taken out of service unilaterally by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency some three months ago against the wishes of everyone, including my constituents, those who use the boat, the crew of the boat and the many thousands of people who have enjoyed using the beaches of Hope Cove as tourists over the past few years. Salcombe is some 15 to 20 minutes away in good weather by sea. We need a lifeboat close at hand that can rescue people, as those two girls were rescued on 10 August—otherwise they might have drowned.

The petition states:

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Self-balancing Personal Transporters

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —(Mr. Frank Roy.)

7.3 pm

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): To paraphrase Shakespeare, I come to legalise Segways, not to praise them. The evil that machines do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their cogs, and so it could be with the self-balancing personal transporter. My goal today is to change that. I seek agreement to a pathway to determine how this creative, convenient and eco-friendly device may be formally embraced by the UK.

I declare an interest. Segway loaned and subsequently succeeded in selling me a self-balancing personal transporter. I have since got so versed in its use that I believe I am now the most well-balanced parliamentarian in the UK, albeit with the assistance of gyroscopes—something I would have welcomed in 2008, but I digress.

I have personally converted 120 British citizens to the personal transporter, or PT for short. Converts include those outstanding presenters Penny Smith and Kate Garraway on that excellent programme “GMTV”. All of them have seen how PTs can help with pollution, traffic and even commuter stress levels. In this debate I will explain what a PT is, its benefits and what I hope are reasonable steps for us to take next in pursuit of my ambition.

A self-balancing personal transporter is a celebration of human ingenuity, electrical innovation and the laws of physics. In fact, it appears to defy gravity by mysteriously keeping itself and a passenger of any shape and size upright, with no visible means of support, bar the wheels. But this is no illusion. Twin gyroscopes lie at its heart. The device is controlled by pedals. Without the operator’s assistance, it will not travel anywhere. Once on board, the operator directs it by leaning forwards or backwards on the pedals, and moving the handlebar left or right. It is switched on and off with an electronic key—and that is it. The only transport device that we could think of which is simpler to use is a Space Hopper, the two differences being a smaller choice of colours in the case of the Segway and the fact that one does not hold on to a self-balancing personal transporter by its ears. I have always wondered what the Health and Safety Executive’s view of an underinflated or, worse still, an over-pressurised Space Hopper might be. It surely carries with it the risk of explosion. No such problem exists with the PT.

As I said, one working example is the Segway PT, a specific model, and I invite the Minister to try one outside the Chamber after our debate. The top speed is 12.5 mph, at which velocity a PT consumes around 190 W of continuous electrical energy. They have a range of 23 miles on a full five-hour charge. Segways were invented by a Dean Kamen and are manufactured in Boston, USA.

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): I have had the opportunity to see the Segway in operation in Washington DC in the United States, where there are wide sidewalks. Surely it is not a good idea to legalise the operation of Segways here; I cannot see how they will work safely on our roads or pavements.

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Lembit Öpik: That is a fair point, but I offer a reassuring answer. First, I use a Segway on the United Kingdom’s roads, and indeed the byways of Montgomeryshire, and not once have I come to grief even though I have the road-based model. Secondly, there are off-road models. If the hon. Gentleman’s roads and paths are not as flat and smooth as those in America, he simply needs to get the version with the wider tyres. He could play golf with that as well. I can see that that reassures him. I have another convert.

I have told the House what PTs are, but that does not begin to describe the miracle that they represent. They are not primarily a replacement for bicycles; they are a replacement for cars. At more than £4,000 each they are aimed at people who know that the average speed of city traffic can be 8 mph, which is 4.5 mph less than a Segway’s maximum speed. Their commuting effectiveness was proved by James Brown’s interesting research at the university of Derby, in collaboration with the BBC. Segways are an antidote to gridlock and are parked in the time that it takes to lean them against a wall.

For those whose work requires them to patrol areas, self-balancing personal transporters have already proved their worth. I am told that 750 police forces around the world use PTs. They are also used at Heathrow airport and other locations around the UK. We estimate that a bobby on the beat can cover three times more area using a PT than on foot patrol.

As for the public, some prefer to walk, and that is fine, but others do not or cannot. Those with mobility problems find the PTs, with their powerful gyroscopes, safe and secure. They are almost impossible to fall off. When I investigated the accident record, I found that one President George W. Bush did fall off one. Segway experts analysed the photographic footage of his misfortune and concluded that the probable cause of his accident was that he had not turned it on. Gentleman journalist Piers Morgan ridiculed Bush for that, and then fell off one as well. Probably inadvertently, he attempted to scale a high kerb, rather as one might ride a motorbike over a wall and then be surprised by the ensuing crash. That President Bush and Piers Morgan are the only two notable Segway casualties on earth should reassure normal citizens that, when used intelligently, this technology is safe.

Environmentally, PTs are absolutely in line with Government targets for carbon dioxide reductions. Personal transporter fuel, which is electricity, causes 16.6 g of CO2 per kilometre. By comparison, let us consider human fuel, known more commonly as food. A beef eater, by which I mean an eater of beef not a Yeoman of the Guard, who could of course be vegetarian for all I know, causes about 497 g of CO2 emissions per kilometre by expelling energy from that food. Egg eaters produce more than 105 g per km, and that does not even take into account the 11.25 g per km that people create merely by breathing. It can therefore be revealed, for the first time in British history and the history of the House of Commons, that it is greener to go to work on a personal transporter than to go to work on an egg—even if you hold your breath.

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