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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I join the right reverend Prelate in the tribute that he paid to the most reverend Primate, who is returning from Qatar as we speak. We welcome him back and I thank the right reverend Prelate for the warm things that he said. I agree with him. The fact is that we are able to debate war as never before. I believe that that is right. War is a terrible thing. We must see what it entails if we are to make judgments about whether we are right to risk the lives of our own servicemen and women and whether we are right to risk the lives of those in the country where we pursue such military action.
What I have found difficult is not so much the 24-hour coverage as the constant questioning of every decent motive. We were told that this would be a war about oil. I hope that what I have been able to say to your Lordships has demonstrated beyond peradventure that nothing could be further from the truth. It has been about weapons of mass destruction.
I pick up a point made by the noble Baroness. Of course, we should talk with the coalition and the United Nations about the role of the inspectors. However, I say to the noble Baroness that if we find weapons of mass destruction during the course of the continuing military action, I hope that the noble Baroness and others will not question the veracity of those who make those finds. I hope we shall not find that people rush to say that, because the coalition found the weapons, somehow that veracity is undermined. I consider that to be a very important point.
I return to the question of the United Nations. I believe that what was said yesterday at Hillsborough about the vital role of the United Nations chimes in rather well with what President Chirac said. It is important that we establish and re-establish our relationships. The noble Lord questioned whether this was the wrong approach. But I remind him that we have to work in multilateral forums. That is the nature
Lord Fowler: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the action they have taken and in particular on the determination of the Prime Minister. I pay my own tribute to the courage and bravery of our forces. About the need for a wider settlement in the Middle East, I add that in 1967 I reported the Middle East war when the Occupied Territories became the Occupied Territories; 35 years later my stepson has reported this war and is now in Baghdad. So if the House will forgive me, I shall not join in the criticism of the press and television. I endorse entirely what she says. I believe that some of the reporting has been both distinguished and courageous.
My point is that I do not believe that we can afford remotely to waste another 35 years before we reach some fair and good settlement to the Palestine/Israel position. If we do that, the instability in the Middle East will continue and continue.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I shall reply briefly to that last point. Her Majesty's Government agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments noble Lords have expressed about the enormous amount of effort that has gone into the Middle East plans, to the quartet and to the roadmap. We are very pleased that this week there was the Statement from my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States which endorsed that roadmap and gave a commitment to implement it when it is published, which we hope will be after Abu Mazen has appointed his government.
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bach responded very helpfully recently to an inquiry about the more than 600 Kuwaiti prisoners taken by the Iraqis in Gulf War I, who were never accounted for by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Further to the Minister's moving reference today to the regime's "dark secrets", is there anything more my noble friend can say now about the fate of the Kuwaiti prisoners, and will she keep us urgently informed of any development in this deeply important matter?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I associate myself with everything that my noble friend Lord Bach said about the Kuwaiti prisoners. It must be a matter of continuing anguish to the families, parents, husbands and wives of those who are unaccounted for. Sadly, as yet, I cannot give the noble Lord any further information about that, but I assure him that as soon as information becomes available it will be made public, consistent with, of course, anything that has to be said first to the families of those directly involved. I think we owe it to them in the first
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: To be brief, I associate myself with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, both in terms of his gratitude and that of your Lordships' House to all our servicemen who have contributed to the success of this campaign and also in terms of his criticism of the BBC. I was one of the first in your Lordships' House to suggest a wooden spoon for the BBC.
However, I think your Lordships will agree that there are lessons to be learned from this campaign. One of those must be that economic boycotts do nothing to hinder evil regimes. Those economic boycotts that we saw in the case of Iraq did little other than handicap the most vulnerable within a regime such as that of Saddam Hussein.
Have we now learned that we must first of all not rush to mend our bridges with France, which has supported the Saddam regime? In addition, we must look carefully at whether in fact the United Nations is properly gearedI use that word advisedlyto carry out those things that we expect from the United Nations, or whether in fact we need to reform, in terms of the year 2001, that which was put in place subsequent to 1945.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks about our servicemen and women. I have stated my own position about the criticisms that have been made of journalistic coverage. At this stage, that is all I wish to say about that, except to pick up the point that the noble Baroness made about the Towards Freedom broadcasting. I was sorry to detect almost sniggering on the Liberal Democrat Benches about the broadcasting that is beginning. It is important to give the Iraqi people a view, for the first time, of what is happening in their own country and in the outside world which has not gone through the appalling filter of the Saddam Hussein regime. I do not understand why that was thought to be something that should have attracted wry smiles.
As regards Al-Jazeera, I am not in a position to give the noble Baroness any more information on that. We very much regret all civilian deaths which occurred during the conflict. We are investigating what happened to the Al-Jazeera building. I am still not in a position to give her any definitive news on that. Again, I hope that we can return to that matter.
As for the question of not rushing to mend our fences with France, the noble Lord said that it had supported the Saddam Hussein regime. That is going much too far. I must say to the noble Lord that we should not forget that France was with us over United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. We all know that we had differences after that and what those differences were. But constantly to pick away at that wound will not help us to build a better future for Iraq. The role of our friends in France in doing that is an important one. It is a member of the P5. We shall need its support in any future United Nations Security Council resolutions, and I am afraid that we must work with them. For my part, I do not find that difficult. I understand that some of your Lordships do, but it is a matter of fact that working together will be essential if we are to do what we have all said is vitally necessary; that is, to build a brighter future for the people of Iraq.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that, as conquering powers, we cannot be perceived by everyone in the role of the agents of the international community, with the independence with which we might seek to judge our own actions? Does she also recognise that it is reasonable to be concerned that the revelation of weapons of mass destruction is indeed authenticated by an international inspection body, if that is possible? It would hugely support the understanding more generally of the reasons why we were supposed to have gone to war.
More particularly, can the noble Baroness say something more about the position of this Government with regard to Syria? Few things have been more menacing and troubling in the past few days than the utterances of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on that subject. The Statement that she read out stated:
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