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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am well aware of the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, on that matter which I believe is echoed by many noble Lords on all sides of the House, as we have discussed on many occasions. I remind the noble Lord—I am sure that he does not need reminding, erudite as he is in these matters—that last year President Bush espoused the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. That was an important statement made last year by the President of the United States. The noble Lord may feel that some impetus has gone out of the discussions on the Middle East peace process. I point out that there have been very recent elections in Israel. Only in the past few days the Prime Minister of Israel has appointed a new Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Silvan Shalom. My right honourable friend said in his Statement that he hopes to talk to the new Israeli Foreign Minister tomorrow. The Statement makes clear that we wish to take forward the road map, which is not just an initiative of the United States but also involves the United Nations, the EU and the Russian Federation.

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We believe that it is the best way forward. We shall continue to argue our case vigorously, as the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have done, and as they do, both publicly and privately, with our allies in the United States.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, one aspect that has not been touched upon so far in our discussions is the role of other countries in the region in perpetuating the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The question I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister concerns the build-up of personnel and arms, including, I understand, several hundred short and medium-range missiles, in southern Lebanon on Israel's northern border. Those could, if fired, reach almost every part of Israel. They are put in Lebanon not by the Lebanese but by Syria and Iran. Will the Government exert pressure on those countries to prevent them taking advantage of any conflict in Iraq as a pretext to launch an attack on Israel which would do nothing to help resolve the dispute and could serve only to exacerbate the problem for suffering Palestinians and Israelis?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course, the Government recognise that the role of other countries in the region is enormously important. We certainly did when we invited representatives of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to attend discussions in London in January on the democratic institutions in Palestine. My noble friend's point on the role of other countries is well taken. He asks whether we can exert pressure on those other countries. We make clear our view about the use of weapons in any circumstances not just in circumstances that might involve our military engagement in Iraq. This is a fundamental issue and one to which we return often in our bilateral relations with all these countries; that is, that there needs to be a scaling down not only of the spiral of violence within Palestine and Israel but also the potential for that violence with their neighbours.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, in the Statement that the Minister read to us, the Foreign Secretary said that it was not international law that had changed. Are the Government able to say what advice they are currently receiving on international law? Have they observed the declaration by 17 leading public international lawyers last week, which stated that the use of force allegedly in self-defence against Iraq without an imminent and present threat would not be other than a serious violation of public international law, or the statement by Mr Mark Littman today that the approach would be a personal violation of international world peace, for which individual Ministers would hold responsibility? Can she also say why it was felt necessary to emphasise in the Statement that we cannot have years to ensure compliance although Hans Blix made it plain that he was not seeking days or years but months in order to reach assurance of compliance? The supporting evidence for that was set out in the 173 pages to which the Minister referred, and that is what led Dr Blix to that central conclusion.

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, much as we respect Dr Blix, it is not up to him to re-write the terms of UNSCR 1441. UNSCR 1441 is clear—it demands immediate and full co-operation from Iraq. It is Dr Blix's job to report but he has not taken on the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to decide what to do in the face of a material breach. I repeat to the noble Lord that not a single member of the United Nations Security Council last week was able to argue that Iraq is fully complying, is complying immediately or is doing so with co-operation.

I turn to the legal point that the noble Lord raised. I hope that I answered that in the response that I gave to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. However, for the sake of absolute clarity, I make it clear to the noble Lord that we are committed to ensuring that any military action that we in the United Kingdom undertake, wherever it is in the world, is carried out in accordance with international law.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, will the Minister say a word or two more about the threat of international terrorism? The Statement had little to say about that. Does she also agree that whatever may be one's hopes for and views of the United Nations organisation, where there is a credible threat to international peace and where it is perceived that the security of one's own country is in danger, it is wholly within the sovereign responsibility of the individual country to take whatever action it deems necessary to protect itself?

Finally, I refer to the United Nations organisation generally. Despite what is clearly an internationally orchestrated hate campaign against America and this country, does not the real threat to the United Nations organisation come from Saddam Hussein himself, who is in breach of resolutions, rather than from those who seek to take action to uphold integrity and to protect world peace?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Statement was about Iraq and Israel/Palestine. I take the noble Lord's point that Iraq has a long record of support for terrorism, including support for radical groups such as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian terrorist groups such as Abu Nidal, which we have discussed in your Lordships' House, and the activities of the MEK against Iran. It also makes payments to suicide bombers' families and supported the assassination of political opponents in Iraq and abroad. Saddam Hussein tried to sponsor the assassination of ex-President Bush and the Emir of Kuwait in 1993. As UNSCR 687 makes clear, Iraq threatened to make use of terrorism and infamously held human beings as hostages and shields during the Gulf War. Of course these issues are interlinked.

The noble Lord referred to a hate campaign against the United States and ourselves and went on to say that the real threat came from Saddam Hussein. Yes, the real threat does come from Saddam Hussein; that is absolutely right. What is so difficult about this issue

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is the fact that Saddam Hussein has and will continue to have a pattern of behaviour by which he makes small concessions at the last moment. Those small concessions appeal to good people such as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who said, "Wait a little longer because it is all starting to work. If we wait a little longer, it will all come right in the end". That is the perfidious nature of the way in which Saddam Hussein operates. It is bound to appeal to good men and women who do not want war—none of us wants war—and who argue that if only we waited a little longer, it would all come right. I do not believe that the evidence is there to substantiate that wish.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords—

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords—

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the Minister gave the impression that the only—

Noble Lords: Cross Bench.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, in dealing with the legal position, the Minister referred to the concluding words of Resolution 1441. Is it not the case that the expression "serious consequences" was a compromise formula that falls short of the usual expression "use of force"?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, there are always compromises in United Nations Security Council resolutions. I dare say that if we went through with a tooth-comb, we should find many compromises. I do not believe that when nations signed up to the terminology of "serious consequences", they had much doubt about what they were signing up to.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the Minister gave the impression—

Lord Chalfont: My Lords—

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we should hear from the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and then from the noble Earl, Lord Onslow.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the Minister gave the impression from the answer in which she invoked the name of my noble friend that the only situation that we are now looking at is that of war, which seems to go against the many Government Statements that there is a prospect of peace. Although she will deny that, will she say what an unreasonable use of the veto involves? In an interview, the Prime Minister said that it might be unreasonable for one of the permanent members of the Security Council to use its veto. However, since

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France, China and Russia have considered the use of the veto, on what basis does the Prime Minister make that assertion?


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