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The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, the outbreak of hostilities between nations and the use of deadly force is never anything less than an evil from which we pray

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to be delivered. On occasion, it may be the lesser of evils, when the threat to peace and justice is so concrete, so actual, and so insistent that no more constructive or hopeful alternative exists.

The most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued their own statement urging the importance of clear objectives and well-defined limits in a conflict that is unsought and which the leadership in Iraq has had the means to avoid.

For most of us, the circumstances of modern democracy and the extraordinary reach and penetration of the media give the lay public the illusion of knowing what has driven those who were ultimately responsible for the decision to fight to their sombre conclusion. In fact, so bewildering is the flood of instant comment and opinion that the outcome is, if anything, a deepening of public feelings of helplessness.

However, I still believe that two things are beyond dispute. The first is the fact that our own Prime Minister and his immediate advisers are fully conscious of the gravity of the course upon which they have embarked and they have publicly acknowledged the risk to innocent lives. At this time, he and they deserve our prayers and understanding, as they wrestle in the days ahead with agonising choices. Secondly, it is the case that the men and women in our Armed Forces, committed by our democratically elected Government to serious dangers including the loss of their own lives, deserve our support and prayers. For their sakes, and for the sake of the innocent people who will inevitably be caught up in the outcome of this conflict, I believe that none of us can hope and pray for anything other than that this time may be very short; nor, I believe, are we permitted to suspend the requirement of prayer for those who at the moment are our enemies in battle.

At the same time, we can, and should, be extremely clear about the evils which have been committed by the regime which we oppose and its potential for still worse. Only time will clarify the wisdom of our past policies and actions or of our present decisions, but opposing this evil with courage and resolution commands respect.

I pray--I ask others to join me in praying--that justice and peace will quickly be restored to Iraq and the Middle East and to all who believe in the one God, especially at this poignant season of Advent and Ramadan. Men and women of Christian and of Moslem faith never cease to believe in the ultimate victory of good over evil and to long for the triumph of justice, compassion and peace within human affairs.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that comprehensive Statement and in particular for bringing together the most powerful and persuasive reasons why it was necessary to take effective military action against that odious and threatening dictator.

My noble friend will be aware that a considerable debate will now begin not only in our country but probably throughout the world on whether this was the right thing to do. It would help us to convince people if the Government could marshall in some suitable form

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those very persuasive arguments to which I have just referred and which my noble friend was good enough to put before us.

In putting such material together will my noble friend have in mind three particular targets? The first is public opinion here, which cannot be taken for granted. Secondly, I refer to our friends in Europe who, although I am glad to hear that a number of positive reactions have been recorded, seem to lack a full understanding of, and concern about, what is going on outside the Continent of Europe but in an area which should be of enormous importance to them. Thirdly, and finally, will the Government continue to increase, if they can, the flow of information? I refer not only to our Arab friends in the Gulf and the Middle East because if we could find a way of penetrating the "Iron Curtain" around Iraq and of reaching the Iraqi people I am sure that that would only be to our very great benefit.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, following the remarks of my noble friend Lord Shore, I should like to point out that the Government have already anticipated his requirement for a statement on their position on the subject. A remarkably fair statement was in fact issued a few hours ago. I very much regret that I find myself unconvinced by it, but it is a good statement of the position. It shows that this matter is a pretty close run thing. We have not heard much dissent so far and, therefore, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I enter one or two notes in that regard.

When the Prime Minister announced what he felt to be the position into which he had been forced, I believe that he should have added a few words to his conclusion. He said:

    "We act because we must".
But I believe that he should have added to that the following,

    "in spite of the Russian and Chinese dissent".
If he had done so, because it was being done in that light, the attack could not have taken place. However, it had in fact already started, so the Prime Minister was announcing something that had already happened. Therefore, I think that I am contradicting myself there. Nevertheless, your Lordships will understand what I mean.

The great power unanimity rule would have applied. There is a rule in the Security Council that, in this kind of matter, there must be unanimity among the great powers--and Russia still rates as a great power in the Security Council, although it is only a single superpower now--otherwise the action taken is illegal. That was the original position taken by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. He made it clear during the course of discussions that he needed unanimity from the Security Council. However, he did not get it. The matter was then put to one side, and we are now proceeding on what is basically an illegal operation. That, to say the least, is unfortunate.

I do not know whether my noble friend the Leader of the House was asked about this or whether she volunteered it. I have in mind the question of what will happen after the military operation is over. In effect, my

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noble friend said that discussions would then take place with the Government of Iraq. My view is that those discussions should have taken place before the military action rather than after it. The situation will remain roughly the same after the military action. There was no reason why a further step could not have been taken in an attempt to find a solution.

I join enthusiastically in the descriptions which have been made of the leader of Iraq. Indeed, no words could describe the sheer impossibility of dealing with this man. Nevertheless, certain steps could have been taken before the military action and will have to be taken after it. I shall give your Lordships an example of one thing that might have been done. The Russians and the Chinese could have been asked to provide a force to protect the UNSCOM people. That prospect could have been discussed and this action might then have been avoided. The trouble with war is that, although one knows the point where it starts, one never knows where it will end. We do not know where this one is going to end; it might end in an almost unimaginable disaster.

The Russian ambassador to the United Nations said that he "rejected outright" the justifications given by the US and UK--I am reading from a government document--and declared that no one country could act for the council or,

    "assume the role of a world policeman".

The Chinese ambassador said:

    "There is absolutely no excuse for attacks to use force against Iraq. The use of force not only has serious consequences for the implementation of the security council resolutions but also pose a threat to international peace as well as regional stability".

France was more guarded in its remarks, stating it deplored:

    "the spiral which led to the American military strikes against Iraq and the serious humanitarian consequences they could have for the Iraqi population".

Without much further ado, I have indicated to your Lordships the line along which I think we should have gone. We should not have embarked upon an unannounced military attack; we should have made further attempts, of the type that I have indicated, to reach the peaceful settlement that at some stage in these proceedings will still have to be made.

Lord Munro of Langholm: My Lords, I have heard what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said about the Royal Air Force. May I add, as the Secretary General of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, that the standard of airmanship of the Royal Air Force is the highest in the world and the standard of our ground crew is quite exceptional. We wish all of them the very best over the next few days and weeks and hope that they all come through unscathed.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, will recall, the build-up took rather longer during the Gulf War and that war looked as though it might continue for a longer time. Some of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons were called out then in support of the Royal Air Force, particularly the medical squadron and the movement squadron. As a reserve in the order of battle, all of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons are keen and anxious to fulfil any

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duty called upon them in support of the Royal Air Force. We are keen and anxious to be involved, if required, but I hope that this short, sharp, quick strike over the next few days will make that unnecessary. I hope that we are extremely successful and come through the whole operation with the minimum number of casualties.

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