|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for those words and for his prayers. This is a matter which should be of concern not only to those who practise the Christian faith, but to British people of all faiths. I hope that there will not be any move to try to drive a wedge between different faiths in the inter-faith community in this country. I thank the right reverend Prelate for his comments.
The Earl of Halsbury: My Lords, am I right in thinking that the destruction by violent means--for example, by aerial bombardment--of biological weapons is without precedent? It could result in the dissemination of those self-generating poisons and lead to the most appalling infection of the entire world. I hope that Her Majesty's Government and the American Government will bear these thoughts in mind.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course Her Majesty's Government and all governments--indeed all people of good will--must bear in mind what the noble Earl has said. However, I would say this to him. It is not the case that this is without precedent. My right honourable friend published a document last week. I have brought 100 copies of the document to the House and I shall be happy to distribute them. The document makes clear that the Al Hakam BW factory, which was 3 kilometres by 6 kilometres in size, was destroyed. The factory was producing 50,000 litres of anthrax and botulinum. The Iraqis claimed that the factory was producing animal feed. That was not so, as UNSCOM discovered. It was destroyed and I am happy
Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that whatever the misdeeds of the Netanyahu government, for whom I am not a spokesman, it is still a fact that Israel is not a threat to the lives of the inhabitants of the cities of its neighbours? It is in Tel Aviv that gas masks are being fitted on children, not in any of the Arab capitals. Is not this threat to the lives of people in a city in the Middle East a greater concern than the details of any ultimate settlement in the Middle East, for which we must all hope?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope I have already made it clear that the comparison between Israel and what is happening in Iraq is not an appropriate one, given the potential involving weapons of mass destruction which is under discussion here. However, I do believe--and Her Majesty's Government believe--that were Mr. Netanyahu able to be rather more constructive over the Middle East peace process, there might be less need to put gas masks on children in Tel Aviv.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, as I indicated last week, I warmly support the Government and congratulate them and my noble friend on the diplomatic efforts being made to solve this problem without resort to bombing? Will my noble friend accept that one of the obstacles in the way of diplomacy is that the people may not know? While it is true to say that the people of the United Kingdom, the people of the United States and the people of the free world know about the joint diplomatic efforts by the United States and the United Kingdom, it is almost certain that the people of Iraq do not know about the diplomatic efforts and the impact that those diplomatic efforts might have on the final outcome. May I enter a plea, simple though it may seem, that before we drop any bombs we might return to what is an old-fashioned idea and, as a final throw of the dice, drop a few leaflets on Iraq in the hope that someone will pick them up and the free world's message might well get through?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point. I expect he is right and that most of the people of Iraq are completely unaware of what is going on. He suggests that leaflets should be dropped on Iraq. Her Majesty's Government and the other governments who are contemplating this appalling situation at the moment are very aware of the dangers to the civilian population of Iraq. As we said in the Statement, our difficulty is with Saddam Hussein and not with the Iraqi people. I stress that point to your Lordships' House. We will do everything we can to minimise the threat to the civilian population.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord asks whether destroying only a fraction of the weapons while securing the exclusion of UNSCOM inspectors would be seen as securing our objective. The answer is unequivocal--no, of course it would not. The objective is to ensure that the UNSCOM inspectors go back into Iraq and that they are able to secure compliance with the Security Council resolution which was the price of the ceasefire at the end of the Gulf War.
The noble Lord asked about Security Council Resolution 687. The Security Council resolution sets out the terms of the ceasefire--the terms for ending the Gulf War. They include unequivocally the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction and the undertaking not to create any more. The fact is that Saddam Hussein has already broken what in effect was the ceasefire agreement for the Gulf War. We therefore do not believe that other Security Council resolutions are, strictly speaking, necessary, but that does not mean that they are not desirable. Of course it is desirable to get maximum unity of purpose in the United Nations to secure agreement that Saddam Hussein should cease from his creation of these dreadful weapons of mass destruction.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I may be wrong, but is not the short answer to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that the ceasefire resolution stands? It has never been rescinded. Until it is rescinded--and there is no prospect, as far as one can see, that it will be rescinded--it is full authority for the action that may have to be taken by Her Majesty's Government.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe I have made Her Majesty's Government's position clear. But I would say to the noble Lord that, while in effect what he says is true, that should in no way detract from the full commitment of Her Majesty's Government to seek a diplomatic solution to this question. I cannot stress that too much to your Lordships' House.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, while many of us appreciate the nature of the dilemma which faces the Government and the American Government in the situation in which they find themselves, it is a matter of doubt whether dropping bombs on Iraq without the support of other Arab countries is a way out of that dilemma?
Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there is a possibility that this most unpredictable of men could perhaps get rather bored at protracted negotiations on the diplomatic front the longer they go on? If he has such an enormous stockpile of chemical weapons, what is to prevent him loosing off some of them in a pre-emptive strike and jeopardising the lives of the very people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, referred? Is there any danger of that?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am unable to second guess the way in which Saddam Hussein may operate. What we are clear about is that we must have unity of purpose on our side and act as much as we can with that unity of purpose with our allies in the United Nations.
Lord Islwyn: My Lords, can the Minister say whether any timescale has been set for the inspections and the destruction of these evil weapons? It is now seven years since the end of the Gulf War. Is it to be 10 years, 20 years or even longer? As regards military action, is that likely to bring about a solution on the creation of an effective opposition in Iraq? It seems up to the present that this situation is having the opposite effect by increasing the grip that Saddam Hussein has on the Iraqi people.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord asks about a timescale. The objective is to secure inspection at all the sites which UNSCOM believes should be inspected as soon as possible. There is no objective to do that within any particular timescale, but it must be done as soon as possible. The noble Lord also asked whether military action will not ensure that effective opposition in Iraq is further subverted. Her Majesty's Government believe that the objective is not whether there is an effective opposition in Iraq, but that Saddam Hussein complies with his obligation under the Security Council resolutions.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page