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Lord Hoyle: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.


3.45 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement on Iraq which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

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    "We await clarification of the details of the special group. Three things are essential: the commissioner in charge of this group must be properly qualified for the task; the details of the inspection regime must preserve in full the professional and technical nature of the inspections and the inspectors; and there can be no question of negotiating with Saddam Hussein over the integrity of the weapons inspection process. I am confident from our contacts with the Secretary-General that he understands these points.

    "I welcome this agreement and pay tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's achievement in securing it. It has been an important demonstration of the value of the UN and its absolutely vital role in the world. And we should never forget that if we do not stop Saddam Hussein acting in breach of his agreement on weapons of mass destruction, the losers will be not just those threatened by him, but also the authority and standing of the UN itself.

    "The agreement refers to the desire of the Iraqi Government for the lifting of sanctions. No timetable is set for this. The sanctions have always been there for a reason, to ensure full compliance of Iraq with the relevant Security Council resolutions. Once this is achieved, the issue of lifting sanctions can be properly addressed.

    "Let me also deal with one false assertion often made by the Iraqi regime. It has never been our intention to undermine Iraq's territorial integrity, or its security, or the dignity of the Iraqi people. The issue has always been to ensure that there are no weapons of mass destruction left in Saddam Hussein's arsenal. The agreement repeats this and makes it clear.

    "While the agreement signed in Baghdad is welcome, it is not in itself enough. A piece of paper signed by the Iraqi regime plainly cannot be enough. The Saddam Hussein we face today is the same Saddam Hussein we faced yesterday. He has not changed. He remains an evil, brutal dictator. The only thing that has changed is that he has changed his mind in the face of effective diplomacy and firm willingness to use force. Nothing else would or could have brought about this success. Nothing else will ensure that it is followed up by satisfactory implementation on the ground and the total elimination of his capacity to obtain or produce weapons of mass destruction.

    "Let me be absolutely clear. We will not tolerate any repetition of the Iraqi behaviour which has led to this agreement. We are not going to play more elaborate diplomatic games that allow Saddam Hussein to thwart the inspections regime which has now been agreed.

    "That is why there are now two essential requirements in the coming days. First, we need to embody the agreement in a new Security Council resolution. This must make clear that any further prevarication or obstruction by Saddam Hussein of the smooth operation of the inspections, in accordance with previous Security Council

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    resolutions and the latest agreement, will not be accepted by any member of the Security Council and will inescapably be followed by the most severe consequences for the Iraqi regime.

    "Secondly, the implementation of the agreement must be tested soon. This will require inspections by UNSCOM without any Iraqi obstruction--whenever and wherever it wishes to inspect. There will be no immediate change in the readiness of British or US armed forces in the Gulf until this is clear.

    "Throughout the dispute, our aim has been a peaceful, diplomatic settlement. There was no desire on either side of the Atlantic to use force. But it was also clear to us throughout that Saddam Hussein only understands and respects force. Those who have criticised ourselves and the Americans for our willingness to use force in the last resort have to explain how such an attitude could have recovered Kuwait in 1990 and could ensure Saddam's compliance now. I do not believe they can convincingly do so. As Kofi Annan said in Baghdad:

    "You can achieve much by diplomacy, but you can achieve a lot more when diplomacy is backed by firmness and force."

With Saddam, diplomacy plus force equals success.

    "Our task now is to do everything we can to ensure that the agreement reached by Kofi Annan is smoothly, effectively and rapidly implemented. We played a key diplomatic role in the negotiations leading up to his mission. We will continue to play the same role in the follow-up. I have already discussed this with presidents Clinton, Yeltsin and Chirac in the last 24 hours. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is in close touch with his counterparts. We are agreed on the need for a rapid and clear Security Council resolution to ensure that we cannot find ourselves in the same position again in the future. That will be the main focus of our immediate efforts.

    "I have made clear that when Saddam Hussein has complied fully with the Security Council resolutions, the UN inspectors have completed the disarmament stage of their work, and the threat from his weapons of mass destruction has gone, we can consider the lifting of sanctions. If Saddam had not blocked the implementation of UNSCOM's work so systematically, this could have happened long ago. The long-suffering Iraqi people deserve our sympathy and our help. Our quarrel was never with them.

    "We led the way in New York last week in the adoption of a new Security Council resolution more than doubling Iraq's ability to sell oil for food, even though food and medicine have never been subject to sanctions of any kind. I hope that this time Saddam will allow the scheme to be utilised properly for the benefit of all his people. Meanwhile, we will maintain and, if possible, increase the direct bilateral help we give to the Iraqi people through appropriate NGOs.

    "Saddam Hussein has spent seven years playing for time, but has been thwarted by the resolve of the international community. It is now clearer than ever that his games have to stop once and for all. If they do not, the consequences should be clear to all.

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    "Throughout our objectives have been plain: to do everything in our power to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction; to hold out the prospect of relief for the Iraqi people; and to uphold the will of the United Nations. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.58 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and for updating the House on this latest development of the diplomatic efforts of the UN on behalf of the international community to find a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi crisis.

From these Benches, we welcome the prospect of a diplomatic solution and we join the Minister in paying tribute to Kofi Annan for the courage and skill with which he has carried out his mission. From these Benches, too, we continue to remain constant and unwavering in our support for a diplomatic solution underpinned by the military option; to persuade Saddam Hussein to comply with the will of the international community expressed in terms of Security Council resolutions.

A few hours ago I returned from a brief visit to New York and Washington where I spoke at length to our ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations. I take this opportunity to congratulate them and their staff on their professionalism and diligence. I wish also to place on record our strong support for our Armed Forces currently in the Gulf.

I hope that the Minister can give me some further details, first, as regards a number of provisions outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Republic of Iraq and, secondly, on the nature of the assurances obtained from Saddam Hussein, given his past record of trickery and of deceit. In particular, what is meant by the UNSCOM undertaking to respect the legitimate concerns of Iraq relating to national security, sovereignty and dignity? Will the Minister give an assurance that the inclusion of these words will not result in their use by Saddam Hussein as a pretext for further delay and obstruction? Further, will the Minister give her assurance that the inclusion of the phrase "territorial integrity" will not serve to give Saddam Hussein carte blanche to continue his oppression of the Kurdish people? What guarantee do we have that he will not renege on this agreement as he did on the agreement reached last November, and what will the consequences be if Saddam Hussein fails to comply with this agreement?

Further, will the Minister tell the House if there is any division between the position of our Government and that of the United States Government, both in respect of the provisions contained in the MoU and the course of action that will be followed if Saddam Hussein fails to honour his undertakings according to this agreement? But perhaps the most important issue that will tax the United Nations this week is the drafting of an appropriate UN resolution. As to the proposed Security

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Council resolution, can the Minister explain the necessity for this, given her previously expressed view that existing resolutions of the Security Council provide a sufficient basis for military action?

I accept that it will be difficult for the Minister to answer all these questions before the deliberations currently under way at the UN are concluded. However, this is one question which I believe requires an answer today. I refer specifically to paragraph 1 of the MoU which I quote for your Lordships' convenience,

    "The Government of Iraq reconfirms its acceptance of all relevant resolutions of the Security Council, including resolutions 687 ... and 715".

Will the Minister confirm unequivocally that the reference to "all relevant resolutions" contained within paragraph 1 of the MoU includes Resolution 678, which is the one resolution which specifically authorises the use of force? Does she not agree that a widely publicised but unsuccessful attempt to obtain a fresh resolution authorising the use of force would be a profoundly undesirable outcome?

We need assurances that Saddam Hussein will now do what needs to be done to get food and medical supplies to the people of Iraq. Notwithstanding paragraph 7 of the MoU, will the Minister confirm that sanctions will not be lifted until Iraq has been given a clean bill of health in terms of its compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, and that there is no change in the Government's position on this?

Finally, the Iraqi crisis has served to illustrate one thing. There seems to be a unique opportunity for Britain to launch a comprehensive diplomatic initiative and to take a lead in addressing a number of closely-related issues within this region, particularly during our presidency of the European Union. Such issues include the position of the Kurdish people; the stalled Middle East peace process; the thawing of relations with Iran and the geopolitical ramifications of this; and the need for a co-ordinated response to such international crises with our European partners. Does the Minister agree that this opportunity must now be taken?

4.3 p.m.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place and also for copying the Memorandum of Understanding between the UN and the Republic of Iraq, which, I may say, has the great merit of being a good deal briefer than the Government's own Statement.

I welcome the outcome of these negotiations and add to the congratulations given to Mr. Kofi Annan and his team. We also recognise that this outcome could not have been achieved without the strong resolution and determination to use force if necessary on which the Government enjoyed the support of all parties in both Houses of Parliament. Will the Minister recognise that, given the track record of Saddam Hussein, it is right that he should be judged in future by his deeds and not by his words, and therefore we fully understand and support the view of Her Majesty's Government that eternal vigilance is required? Perhaps, unlike the

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spokesman for the Opposition, I therefore understand the need for and desirability of securing a fresh, clear and unambiguous resolution of the Security Council. I wish Her Majesty's Government well in that endeavour.

Will the Minister accept that the few of us who have been to Baghdad since the end of the Gulf War also recognise the importance of the initiative that is being taken, which she mentioned in the Statement, in increasing the quantity of oil for food sales? As the Minister said, there is no quarrel with the people of Iraq but it is they who are suffering terribly under the present sanctions regime.

Throughout the tensions of the past few weeks Her Majesty's Government and other governments have stressed the importance of adhering to the letter of United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular Resolution 687. Will she recognise the geopolitical importance now of turning attention to other Security Council resolutions? I, as a young MP, was present at the UN when the late Lord Caradon so successfully piloted through Resolution 242 on the Middle East peace process. That was back in 1967. Thirty years later we are still not much nearer peace in accordance with Resolution 242. Perhaps more relevant are the more recent resolutions condemning the invasion of parts of Lebanon.

Nothing could be more damaging to the authority of the United Nations, and indeed to our own relations with the Arab world, than to leave the impression that there are two standards of enforcement of Security Council resolutions, one for a hostile dictatorship but another for a friendly democracy. That clearly cannot be allowed to continue. The Minister will be aware that over the past few weeks the Atlantic Accord has quite understandably been much in evidence but there has not been much evidence of the common foreign and security policy to which we are supposed to subscribe. I join with the Opposition spokesman in suggesting that in our presidency of the EU in this six months' period we should use our best endeavours to put back on the rails the Middle East peace process.

4.7 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank both the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Steel, for their support. Like them, I feel enormous relief that we have a diplomatic solution to this terribly difficult problem which we have discussed on a number of occasions recently. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Lord, Lord Steel, for joining in the tribute to Kofi Annan, as expressed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I am sure that all your Lordships will wish to join in that tribute. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for his kind words about our ambassadors in Washington and New York. I shall make sure that they see the appropriate extract of Hansard.

The noble Lords asked a number of specific questions which I shall now try to address. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was concerned about the issues in the

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Memorandum of Understanding concerning the dignity of Iraq and territorial integrity. The territorial integrity of Iraq has been supported by Her Majesty's Government on numerous occasions before. I recall that on several occasions I referred to the importance of territorial integrity. I do not believe that the reference to it now in the Memorandum of Understanding should cause us any difficulty at all. I do not believe that this is so much a question of the Kurdish element, but the noble Lord, and I am sure other noble Lords, will remember that we have had occasion in the past to debate some of the Turkish incursions into Northern Iraq which have caused your Lordships' House a little worry in the past.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked what was different this time as compared with the last occasion; namely, the deal that was brokered by the Russians in November last year. There are three main points. First, on this occasion we have a memorandum of understanding which has been written down. As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said, it has the advantage of being admirably short and clear. It also has the advantage of having been signed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. Secondly, as was set out in the Statement, we are seeking a new Security Council resolution. Thirdly, the forces of Her Majesty's Government and the United States will remain in the Gulf while we are testing whether the Iraqis are committed to this agreement in the way that is implied in the memorandum of understanding. So there are three crucial differences this time which distinguish this round of negotiations from those of last November.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked whether a Security Council resolution was really necessary. The position is exactly the same as when we discussed it last time. Her Majesty's Government have always believed that a further Security Council resolution was desirable. I have made that clear in this House. It remains desirable, to demonstrate the unity of purpose across the United Nations in backing the memorandum of understanding signed on our behalf by the Secretary-General.

The noble Lord also asked whether the first paragraph of the memorandum of understanding covers Security Council Resolution 678. He read out the first paragraph. Perhaps I may read it again. It states:

    "The Government of Iraq reconfirms its acceptance of all relevant resolutions of the Security Council".

That includes Resolution 678.

The noble Lord also asked whether I could give an assurance that sanctions would not be lifted until such time as we are satisfied with the compliance of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps I may repeat what I said in reading the Statement a few moments ago. My right honourable friend said that he had made it clear that when Saddam Hussein has complied fully with the Security Council resolutions, the UN inspectors have completed the disarmament stage of their work, and the threat from his weapons of mass destruction has gone, we will consider the lifting of the sanctions. There are three clauses there. All must be fulfilled before we consider the raising of the sanctions.

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I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Steel, that we now have an opportunity of building our alliances not only across the Atlantic but within Europe. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that, although it may not have received a great deal of publicity in the past few weeks and particularly the past few days, the diplomatic effort behind what has gone on in Baghdad over the past few days has been second to none. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State at the Foreign Office has been tireless, as indeed has his honourable friend Mr. Fatchett, in talking to our friends in the EU and trying to reach understandings. Indeed, we had a majority of our colleagues in the EU moving in exactly the same direction as we were at the time that Mr. Annan went to Baghdad.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, raised again the perplexing and difficult question of what he described as a different standard that is applied in relation to Security Council resolutions and their implementation--in relation on the one hand to a hostile dictatorship, and on the other to a friendly democracy. When I have addressed this question previously in this House, that is not the only distinction that I have made in regard to the ways in which we are addressing the issue. The fact is that we are discussing a Middle East peace process with the Government of Israel. We may not be happy with the way that is moving, but there are still discussions under way. Our problem with the government in Baghdad was that we were unable to negotiate, and in those circumstances had to resort to far more drastic means. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that we are also in the very unhappy position of dealing, in Saddam Hussein, with a man who has an unenviable record of breaking his word and using weapons of mass destruction, not only on his neighbours as he did in Iran, but on his own people as he did in Halabja. So there are a number of crucial differences, not just the one pointed out by the noble Lord.

I hope that we can now look forward to a building process with our colleagues. As my right honourable friend said, that is being discussed this afternoon in the Security Council. We look forward to the resolution that we hope will be forthcoming in the Security Council, and we look forward, I hope, to a period of peace and stability in the Gulf.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend and her colleagues on the skill and resolution that they have shown through this difficult and dangerous period. But of course Saddam Hussein remains in power in Baghdad. His evil purposes will continue. What consideration has been given to successfully prosecuting the battle for hearts and minds not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East, where the image of Saddam Hussein appears to be far different from what we know and see it to be here in the United Kingdom, in other parts of Europe and in America? As I am sure my noble friend will agree, we need a positive attempt to win opinion in those very important lands.

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