§ Mr. Speaker
Before calling the Prime Minister to move the motion in his name, I wish to announce that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
I should draw the attention of hon. Members that no fewer than 58 right hon. and hon. Members have expressed an interest in this debate. I propose—I hope that hon. Members will think this fair—to give precedence to those Members who were not called in either of the last three debates on this subject. Further, I propose to impose a limit of 10 minutes on speeches delivered between 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock. I hope that Members who speak before or after that period will also bear that limit in mind.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
The whole House accepts entirely, Mr. Speaker, your right to decide which amendments should be selected and which should not be selected. I should, however, like to put to you now, Sir, a point that I raised with you privately, concerning the handling of this Gulf war by the House of Commons. It is a matter of great concern, not least because of our anxiety in respect of the troops and their families. We have had three debates on the Adjournment without substance. Today, we are having a debate without choice. As I understand the situation, the Government intend to accept the Opposition amendment—[Interruption.] That is a fact. They will accept it. The overwhelming majority of hon. Members support the military action that is being taken, as do both Front Benches.
But a substantial minority do not take that view—57 hon. Members went into the Lobby to vote against war and, even if the opinion poll in The Sunday Times is right, 20 per cent., or 8 million people, do not support the war [Interruption.] I am putting this to you, Mr. Speaker, because of the handling of this matter in the future. There is no one in the House who supports the invasion of Kuwait and no one who is opposed to the United Nations or who wants to embarrass our troops—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. When the right hon. Gentleman came to see me, he said that he would raise this matter briefly.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have no knowledge of whether amendments have been accepted or not. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Order. The whole House knows that I select amendments on their merits. As to the minority view, there will be plenty of opportunity today for hon. Members on both sides of the argument to express alternative views if they hold such views.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
I know that you have a difficulty, Mr. Speaker, about making a judgment on amendments, but may I point out to you that the Government motion and the Opposition amendment were tabled at 2.15 pm on Friday. One of the factors enabling Mr. Speaker to make a judgment as to whether to select an amendment is often the strength of feeling expressed by supporters of it. However, when a 24 motion is tabled at 2.15 on a Friday afternoon—one cannot table an amendment until the motion is tabled first—the opportunity for gauging support is virtually nil. I hope that you will therefore take that into account in order to give a wider choice to hon. Members to express support for forces in the Gulf, but linked with other important considerations.
In conclusion, I draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order No. 31(3), under which you can, if you think fit,call upon any Member who has given notice of an amendment … to give such explanation of the object thereof as may enable him"—you, Mr. Speaker—to form a judgment upon it.I should be happy to do so during the course of the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
It takes up time in the debate. The hon. Gentleman has previously been called in the debates and I ask him not to cut out those of his hon. Friends who want to participate. Is it a point of order that I can answer?
§ Mr. Canavan
I shall be brief, Mr. Speaker. The amendment that is down in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and myself is the only amendment on the Order Paper that specifically calls fora halt to hostilities to provide for a peaceful settlement.There is a significant body of opinion in this House, albeit a minority, in support of that amendment. Millions of people outside the House also support that amendment, and they fail to understand why the House is being deprived of an opportunity to express an opinion and to vote upon this important matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member will find that, as the debate goes on, the House will have plenty of opportunity for those opinions to be expressed.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)
I beg to move, That this House expresses its full support for British forces in the Gulf and their contribution to the implementation of United Nations resolutions by the multinational force, as authorised by United Nations Security Council Resolution 678.
It is of course essential that the House should be fully informed of events in the Gulf and have the opportunity to debate them. With this in mind, I can assure the House that my right hon. Friends the Foreign and Defence Secretaries will make regular statements as events unfold, and there will be contacts through the usual channels to arrange appropriate debates.
This is the first time that the House has debated the situation since the start of hostilities on 17 January, but it is the third occasion on which I have spoken about the Gulf situation in the past week. I shall therefore be brief. This is an occasion for hon. Members to express their views and then to vote on a substantive motion.
We did not want this conflict. We tried hard, very hard, to avoid it. We failed because—to keep his spoils—Saddam Hussein was prepared for conflict. Because he made his decision, we were thereupon forced to ours. We are determined to give our forces every ounce of support 25 to ensure that Iraq is defeated and the United Nations Security Council's resolutions are implemented in full. Nothing more and nothing less will suffice.
It is as well to be aware what our forces face. They face an enemy that, having invaded Kuwait, is now well dug in; that has established extremely strong defensive positions, manned by many hundreds of thousands of his forces; that is equipped with thousands of tanks and artillery pieces, together with substantial numbers of aircraft and helicopters and anti-aircraft defences; and that has some of the best equipped and most experienced units of Saddam Hussein's armed forces, the Republican Guard, held in reserve on the borders of Iraq and Kuwait. These forces are supported by an elaborate war machine.
Throughout the past decade, Saddam Hussein has starved his country of economic resources precisely to build up that military machine. It has sophisticated military communications. It has missiles, and it has chemical and biological weapons that Saddam Hussein has threatened to use. As we well know, he has not scrupled to use chemical weapons in the past, even against his own people.
The conclusion to be drawn is clear. We should not for one second underestimate the scale and difficulty of the task which confronts our forces. Nor should we underestimate the time which it may take to complete this matter. We have deliberately set ourselves the aims of keeping casualties to a minimum, both among our forces and among the civilian populations of Iraq and Kuwait. and of avoiding damage to sites of religious and cultural significance.
§ The Prime Minister
In a moment, I shall give way to the hon. Gentlemen.
We must recognise that, by introducing these constraints, we are bound to lengthen the conflict. I am sure that that is right. The House should recognise what we are doing: by first destroying his air defences, we seek to save ourselves many casualties in any subsequent land battle. I give way to the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).
§ Mr. Livingstone
Has the Prime Minister had any estimate from his advisers about the level of civilian casualties in Iraq?
§ The Prime Minister
I undertook the other day to give way to the hon. Gentleman and, regretfully, did not. If I may, at the conclusion of this point on casualties I most certainly will give way to him.
We have heard very little from Iraq so far on the subject of casualties. I will tell the House why I believe that is. I believe that it is because our efforts to avoid harm to innocent civilians have so far been successful. The figures of tens of thousands of civilian casualties quoted by some anti-war groups seem to be entirely fictitious. There is no evidence for those claims. The evidence is entirely to the contrary.
§ Mr. Dalyell
While accepting that Saddam Hussein, probably on purpose, placed his missile boosting factory near to Najaf and near Karbala; because of Karbala's associations with the grandson of the prophet and because Najaf is the seat of the Islamic university and the spiritual leader of the Shiahs, the Ayatollah Khoi He Marje, is it not important that, as far as possible, they should not be damaged?
Can the Prime Minister say something about the nuclear destruction? After all that has been said about Chernobyl in this House, when we talk about damage to nuclear installations, do we mean power stations, research facilities, cooling or what? Could we have the facts?
§ The Prime Minister
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will deal particularly with the latter point in his reply. I reassure the hon. Gentleman on the former point that very clear instructions have gone to our troops to avoid sites of religious and cultural interest. That has been so since the beginning of this conflict and remains the case.
If I may, I shall return to the question of injuries. Although injuries on both sides so far have been relatively few, no one should imagine that this war will be an easy or painless business. There may well he times in the days and weeks ahead when we shall all need to bear bad news with fortitude.
Against that background, the first priority of the multinational force has been to engage and destroy military targets in Iraq and Kuwait through a massive air campaign. The targets in Iraq are chosen for one of two reasons—either because they are supporting the military occupation of Kuwait, or because they are of strategic importance. They include the Iraqi command and control system, communications, airfields, aircraft, missile sites, nuclear, chemical and biological sites, and other targets that enable Iraq to make war. Success in this air campaign will make it impossible for Iraq over time to sustain its forces in Kuwait, which will then become far more vulnerable to attack from the air and from land.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Would it not be appropriate at this stage to tell the House that the International Red Cross will be asked by the allied Governments to make urgent inquiries about the position of allied prisoners of war? Would it not also be appropriate for the allied Governments to make it perfectly clear that, if any ill treatment and worse is given to allied prisoners of war in defiance of the Geneva convention, those who carry out such treatment will be held personally responsible and will not be able to get off later by saying that they were given instructions? Nuremberg dealt with that.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. I will be dealing specifically with that point, and with the news that we all heard this morning, later in my speech.
At present, the air campaign is still in progress, and, because there are many targets to be attacked, it will continue for some time. No one expects it to end speedily; certainly I do not. While it is clear that Iraqi air defences have been considerably weakened, in no sense have they been eliminated. As more and more military targets in Iraq are destroyed, the weight of the air campaign will shift increasingly to attacks on Iraqi ground forces in and around Kuwait.
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will make some progress. Many hon. Members wish to speak in this afternoon's debate.
Because of the attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia over the past two days, a particular effort has been devoted to eliminating Iraq's Scud missile delivery systems, both fixed sites and mobile launchers. General Schwarzkopf has assessed that some 16 mobile launchers have been destroyed, but we estimate that a significant number still remain. The hunt for them goes on by day and by night, and will continue.
An especially important part in the air campaign has been played by RAF Tornado and Jaguar ground attack aircraft, supported by VC 1 Os and Victor tanker aircraft. They have attacked large numbers of targets in western, central and south-eastern Iraq and in Kuwait. They have concentrated in particular on low-level attacks at night on highly defended airfields, using the JP233 runway cratering weapon, and have done considerable damage. The nature of these attacks makes them particularly hazardous, and they have been carried out with great skill and bravery.
One striking feature of the air campaign has been the way in which the air forces of seven nations have successfully worked together. The United States has made by far the largest contribution, but the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, France, Canada and Italy have all been involved.
In relation to the number of sorties flown—and by all historical precedents—the number of losses so far has been remarkably small, with 17 aircraft lost. Sadly, these have included three RAF Tornados lost in action, whose crews are missing. The House will be aware that Iraqi television apparently showed seven captured airmen yesterday, among whom seem to be the crew of one of our Tornados. Such broadcasts themselves are wholly objectionable in every respect.
Today, there has been a reported threat to use captured airmen as human shields. Such action would be inhuman, illegal and totally contrary to the third Geneva convention. The convention expressly provides that prisoners of war shall be evacuated as soon as possible after their capture to camps situated far enough from the combat zone for them to be out of danger. It expressly prohibits the sending of a prisoner of war to an area where he may be exposed to fire, or his detention there, and forbids the use of the presence of prisoners of war to render points or areas immune from military operations.
There is no doubt about Iraq's obligations under the Geneva convention. I can assure the House that we have reminded Iraq very forcefully indeed of its obligations under that convention. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, summoned the Iraqi ambassador once again this morning to register beyond doubt what our views are in this matter. I remind the Iraqis that they are bound to give us the names of any prisoners that they take and to notify the International Red Cross and provide it with access. They are also bound to grant those taken prisoner all their rights under the convention. We shall hold them to that completely.
We have already asked the International Red Cross to seek access at the earliest opportunity to the two RAF air 28 crew apparently being held. Meanwhile, I am sure that the whole House joins me in expressing sympathy to the families of those air crews of all nationalities who are unaccounted for. We can only guess at the distress that their families must feel at present.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
Will my right hon. Friend make it absolutely plain that, if war crimes are committed, those responsible will be held to account after the war is over?
§ The Prime Minister
I can absolutely reaffirm that point. That is most certainly the position.
While the air campaign goes ahead, we and our allies have continued to build up our ground forces and ready them for their part in liberating Kuwait. This calls for a massive logistics exercise. On average, over 3,000 tonnes of freight is arriving in the Gulf every day in support of British forces. The way in which these vast amounts of supplies and equipment have been brought to the area and then channelled to our forces can already be credited as one of the remarkable successes of this campaign.
So, too, can the activities of the Royal Navy. It continues to patrol the waters of the Gulf on anti-aircraft picket duty and to play a vital part in enforcing sanctions against Iraq, in escorting shipping and in keeping the shipping lanes free from mines. It has been responsible for challenging more than 2,800 ships and boarding 36 of them, as well as discovering and destroying a number of mines.
I pay tribute also to the many civilians who are playing a crucial part in the support for the multinational force in Saudi Arabia, among them those employed by British companies there. The way in which they have stayed at their posts and continued their work deserves our whole-hearted congratulations.
On Friday, I spoke directly to the commander of the British forces in the middle east, General de la Billiere, and was able to brief him on the tremendous support which there is in this country for our forces. In return, he was able to give me a very good report of their morale and their state of readiness. He left me in no doubt about his confidence in the outcome. Our forces want to get the job done and to get home to their families just as soon as they can. Our thoughts are very much with those families, both here and in Germany. More than any of us, they live with the war, day in and day out, and with the constant worry about the safety of those they love. They deserve and will have all the support that we can give them.
One most disturbing development' in this conflict has been the Iraqi missile attacks on population centres in Israel. Such attacks are deplorable—utterly deplorable and wholly unforgivable. They would be so against a belligerent, but they are even more so against a country which is not even a party to this particular conflict. We know why it has been done. We know what Saddam Hussein wants. We understand the cynical ploy. He wishes to draw Israel fully into the war in the hope of inflaming Arab opinion, breaking the multinational coalition and inciting a holy war. He will fail. He will not break the coalition in the Gulf against his invasion of Kuwait.
I believe that he wholly underestimates the cohesion and resolve of the international forces. There is no indication at all of any weakening of the will of our Arab allies. They remain determined to carry forward and sustain the campaign against Saddam Hussein, until he 29 and his forces leave Kuwait, either voluntarily or as a broken-backed, defeated military machine. It is their choice.
§ The Prime Minister
Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me? I wish to make a little progress.
I do not believe that that will change, because our Arab allies understand the threat that Saddam Hussein represents to the interests of the Arab countries. They know this, too: no one has been responsible for the deaths of more Muslims in Iran, Kuwait and Iraq than Saddam Hussein.
Every Government have the right to self-defence, and no one can take that away. But we have urged on the Israeli Government the importance, if at all possible, of not granting Saddam Hussein his objective of involving Israel in a conflict which is exclusively about his occupation of Kuwait and nothing else. The remarkable restraint which Israel has shown so far is a sign of strength, and not weakness and will be widely recognised as such throughout the world. I hope that the American decision to send Patriot missiles to Israel will be further reassurance to it, especially after the Patriot's splendid performance against the Scud missiles.
§ Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)
It is being widely speculated, especially in the United States, that a deal has been struck with Israel: that, in exchange for it not getting involved in the war, America will soft-pedal on European efforts to bring Israel to the negotiating table after the war is over. Will the Prime Minister give us an assurance that, notwithstanding Israel's decision so far not to retaliate, the British Government's determination that Israel must come to the negotiating table eventually with the Palestinians and must grant them their rights of self-determination is unmoved by current events around that subject?
§ The Prime Minister
There is no such deal, and I shall come to the British Government's position in a short while.
There is one aspect of the conflict to which I want to run —the very real threat from terrorism. We are dealing with a vicious enemy, and we have learnt that his threats must be taken seriously. There is therefore a risk of terrorist action in this country, of terrorist attacks against British premises and communities abroad, and a more general threat to air travellers. We must recognise and take account of that.
To counter that, the Government have taken several steps to protect people. One hundred and thirty members of the Iraqi community suspected of readiness to engage in terrorist acts have been deported or detained. Security has been tightened at airports, Government offices and other public places, as well as at embassies and high commissions abroad. We are also encouraging other countries to improve airport security. The dangers are considerable; everyone will need to be vigilant.
§ The Prime Minister
Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me? Many hon. Members wish to speak.
In the days and weeks ahead, there will undoubtedly be many calls for a pause in military operations to enable 30 negotiations to take place. It will be said that negotiations should be given another chance and that compromises should be explored. We do not wish the conflict to continue a day longer than necessary. We do not wish to risk the lives of our forces if implementation of the Security Council resolution can be achieved by peaceful means, but I must say to the House that the Government do not favour such a pause. A pause in the period up to 15 January was one thing, but a pause after 15 January is quite another. Our forces are now engaged. Our prime consideration must be to protect them and to avoid any unnecessary casualties, and that we shall do.
We cannot agree to any suspension of hostilities, which would allow Saddam Hussein to regroup and strengthen his position, simply in the hope that that might lead to negotiations on the basis of some vague promise about his intentions. Hostilities cannot end—or pause—until we know that all Iraqi forces are out of Kuwait. There can be no other basis on which we can ever agree to explore any proposals for peace: once again, it is in Saddam Hussein's hands.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the country and the House agree that Saddam Hussein must be removed from Kuwait? How much safer will we be if this evil man decides to withdraw his forces from Kuwait and regroups within Iraq's borders? Is it not a fact that our argument is not with the Iraqi people but that, as long as a man as evil as Saddam Hussein stays in power, we can never hope for peace? If we do not beat this regime now, we shall have to beat it in two years' time. Will we chase him out of office, or will we allow him to withdraw when he is beaten in Kuwait?
§ The Prime Minister
We would need, of course, to be perfectly clear that there was no threat to Kuwait. That is absolutely clear under the Security Council resolutions, which we propose to implement in full.
Even while we are engaged in a conflict which may last for some considerable time to come, we are already giving thought to what might lie at the end of it: in particular, future security arrangements in the area, which will avoid any repetition of Saddam Hussein's aggression.
Clearly, it if for the Arab Governments themselves to give a lead in devising such arrangements and in providing the forces to sustain them. The Gulf states are far from reaching conclusions about this yet, but they need to be given attention now, so that, when Saddam Hussein is defeated, the necessary arrangements can be instituted rapidly and effectively.
Those arrangements will almost certainly involve a contribution from countries outside the area: and if the Gulf states wish it, we will be ready to play our part. There are a number of options which will need to be carefully considered. They include guarantees, the pre-positioning of equipment, visits and exercises by military units and the continued stationing in the area of naval and air forces. I see no circumstances in which we would envisage the permanent stationing of ground forces in the area.
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall make a little more progress.
We shall play our full part, too, in the vigorous efforts to solve the Arab-Israel problem which the international 31 community will need to renew once the war is over and Saddam Hussein is out of Kuwait. This will be crucial to the search for stability in the region as a whole. We must recognise that what Saddam Hussein has done by invading Kuwait and now by attacking Israel has made a solution harder to achieve, but I believe that, once the war is won, there will be a general recognition by all parties to the Arab-Israel dispute that the time has come for some new thinking. We shall do everything we can to promote this.
At the end of the first few days of the conflict, we can be well satisfied with what has been achieved. Our forces have performed effectively and bravely. The air campaign has caused significant damage to Iraq's massive war machine. Casualties and losses have been kept down. The international coalition has held together well.
By any yardstick, it has been a good start. There is no doubt about the outcome. As every day passes, it becomes clearer that Saddam Hussein cannot win this conflict, but there is still some considerable way to go before he has lost it. It is important only that he should not doubt our resolve. He should have no such false assurance. What he should have is the absolute certainty that our forces have the total support of the House as they risk their lives in a just and necessary conflict.
§ 4.4 pm
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to addcommends the instruction to minimise civilian casualties wherever possible; and expresses its determination that, once the aggression in Kuwait is reversed, the United Nations and the international community must return with renewed vigour to resolving the wider problems in the Middle East.Let me begin by giving clear support to our forces in the Gulf. We have had recent and, I believe, justifiable argument in the House about the timing and consequences of the use of force in the Gulf, but there can be absolutely no doubt about the legitimacy of the military action against the Iraqi dictator.
Our forces are now engaged in fighting for the lawful purposes set out in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
My party has endorsed those resolutions repeatedly. We consider the fulfilment of those resolutions to be critical to the future authority of the United Nations, and British forces—along with others in the coalition—are being used for the precise purpose of maintaining international law and sustaining the authority of the United Nations. They are doing their duty bravely and will continue to do so. It is our duty to give them our firm backing, and that we do.
The Prime Minister has been right, both today and on previous occasions, to add his voice to those warning that this war is not likely to be a war of weeks, and that the Iraqi forces are very large, well equipped and, in many respects, well protected and dug in. No one is more aware of all that than our forces engaged in the fighting. [Interruption.] That knowledge makes their courage all the clearer—as, indeed, does the way in which they scrupulously make every effort to avoid civilian casualties and damage to holy places. [[Interruption.] Their courage is demonstrated in a particularly praiseworthy way by the 32 way in which they express themselves—as my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) is seeing fit to do, continually, as I speak.
No one can fail to admire the young RAF officer who, returning from his first mission, described himself, without affectation or bravado, as terrified. People like that are certainly worthy of our support. Those of our forces who have been captured thus far, and who may be captured in future, also deserve support, as do their anxious families. The Prime Minister gave fair notice to Saddam Hussein and to the Iraqi forces that we expect full adherence to the requirements of the Geneva convention. But, thus far—on the basis of rumours about the use of prisoners of war as human shields—it has yet again become clear that, although Saddam Hussein may wear the uniform of a soldier, he certainly does not take the risks of a soldier or follow any soldier's code that I know of.
Support for our forces must amount to more than recording our esteem. They are risking all their youth and all their strength, and our support for them must involve a great deal more than cheering them on. It must mean doing everything that we can to ensure that what they are doing in the name of our country and for the sake of the United Nations has worthwhile results.
In giving our support to the services, this House, and all the Governments who have committed forces against Saddam Hussein, must be able to say honestly to the men and women involved in the conflict that the war that they are waging for the liberation of Kuwait is a necessary part of the efforts to free the middle east from tension and from fear. If, in the wake of this war, the powers that be—and the people who, like us, debate—leave the roots of the conflict to grow again or let the middle east continue to be a cauldron, we shall have failed in our duty and we shall have failed those who now fight. No one in the House wants that, and no one would be content with it.
Even now, in these early days of war, when everybody is naturally and necessarily preoccupied with the immediate conflict, it is important for us to look to the future and to try to influence its shape.
In many ways, of course, the future after this conflict will be strongly determined by the way in which the war is fought, the way in which the objectives of the use of force are adhered to by the coalition, and the way in which the conflict is concluded. I am sure that it goes without saying that, at the earliest time that the basic purpose of resolution 660 is properly fulfilled, the Security Council will want to take steps quickly to end the conflict. That is certainly our strong hope, and everything that we hear conveys the message—again this afternoon from the Prime Minister—that it is the Government's hope too.
Of course there are some who want the fighting to stop immediately and renewed efforts then to be made for a peaceful solution. The motives are entirely understandable, especially to anyone who is part of that great majority who did not want fighting to start if it was at all avoidable. There can be no one—at least no one of any humanity—who does not recoil from the dreadful carnage; and there can be no one who does not want it mitigated as much as possible and ended as completely and as quickly as possible.
However, we must ask whether a ceasefire would produce that result. Would it really be likely to reduce the toll of lives? The answer must be that a ceasefire could reduce the toll of lives only if there was certainty that it would definitely produce an immediate and permanent 33 withdrawal from Kuwait and the complete laying down of arms by Saddam Hussein. It is obvious that, in the absence of such certainty, a pause in the attack on Saddam's forces and facilities would simply provide him with an opportunity to regroup, to resupply and consequently to resist even more stubbornly.
In Iraq, a ceasefire by the coalition could not fail to give substance to Saddam's propaganda and to add further to that resistance. The result would be to prolong, not to shorten, the conflict, to postpone, not to promote, the end of fighting and to increase, not to decrease, the slaughter. None of that outcome could conform to any definition of peace or peace-making. It would not fulfil the purposes of mercy, and it would not even promote post-war stability, since it has every likelihood not of mitigating the slaughter but of leading to the increase of slaughter.
Meanwhile, as the war rages, two points must fairly be made: first, Saddam Hussein shows absolutely no inclination to comply with the basic requirements of the United Nations and quit Kuwait. On the contrary, all his words are of fanatical defiance, and all his actions of military offence. Secondly, it must be said that, by withdrawing from Kuwait, Saddam could have prevented any possibility of war. Even now, he can stop the war immediately by withdrawing from Kuwait and laying down his arms. Whatever else may be said or thought about the Iraqi dictator, some things are obvious: he wilfully refused to follow a course that guaranteed no war; he does not as yet want peace, and he will not as yet allow peace. If he does, he will get peace.
On both sides of the House and among the general public there is a general and a strong desire to play a part in influencing the future after the war. It is therefore obvious that, while this debate and those that will undoubtedly follow must be about war aims, they must also be about peace aims.
The war aims of liberating Kuwait from occupation and restoring the legitimate Government are precise and limited, and rightly so. However, the peace aims must be broader. They must relate not just to the crime that Saddam Hussein committed against international law by invading Kuwait last August; they must also relate to depriving him of the ability to commit such a crime again. The war aims do not relate to the dismembering of Iraq, and rightly so. That would provoke instability, not prevent it.
Peace aims must therefore include the purpose of keeping Iraq whole and secure from outside attack after the cessation of this war. The war aims do not include the deposing of a Government or the death of a dictator, and rightly so. They are not fit objectives for the United Nations. But the peace aims must involve the substantial disarming of Iraq by the reduction of conventional forces and the verified and complete removal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the means of making them. Peace aims must relate to ending regional super-power status for Iraq and for every other country in the region if they truly are peace aims. To ignore that is to ignore the fact that great disparities of military strength and conventional and non-conventional armaments are of themselves major sources of instability.
That unavoidably means that, in the wake of this war, the peace aims must be geared to the stability of the whole of the middle east. That requires firm and dependable long-term security structures for the region, as the Prime Minister indicated. It requires freedom from the fear of 34 invasion or attack for nations. For peoples, it requires the recognition of their identity and their right to self-determination in their own homeland. Stability in the middle east demands, in short, collective security operated through a United Nations with the influence to achieve political resolutions to disputes and the power to deter aggression. That influence and power cannot be wielded by one nation or by a group of nations—certainly not a grouping of nations—from outside the middle east.
It would never be wise, desirable or feasible for the United States or any power to attempt the task. Indeed, for reasons of practicality as well as reasons of principle, it is clear that no power has any realistic ambition to assume such a role. Although the United States of America, like Britain, the Soviet Union and other countries, can and must therefore help in providing, through the United Nations, the architecture of collective security in the middle east, the construction—the actual task of building—is really going to have to be done by the countries of that region. For reasons that everyone here will readily and sadly recognise, no task is more challenging to the world community. As the Prime Minister said, that task has in no way been made easier by the events of recent times.
Frankly, in all the years of tension, conflict and deadlock, there has never been a better time to address the question and, more important, there has never been a time when there was more necessity to address the question. The intractability of the continual crisis of the middle east has caused deep concern for decades, but, because the insecurity and the suffering of that crisis was the plight of others, those wars were often merely regretted and even more often tolerated. Surely that cannot continue where instability in the middle east has now pulled half the world into war. Certainly, when men and women from our country are in the midst of that war and in the midst of its perils, Britain, under any Government, must insist upon effective international efforts to overcome that lethal instability.
We not only have a general responsibility to do that as part of the world community; we have a right to do it, and anyone who does not understand that is ignoring the risks being taken and the sacrifices being made now by British forces in the middle east. Their risks provide the right for direct participation and influence—insistent influence—on the achievement of a durable and just settlement of the disputes of the middle east. That new dimension—
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
I find nothing at all in the Leader of the Opposition's speech with which I would disagree, but will he agree with me that the United Nations resolutions must be the basis for the future peace of which he speaks and for which we all pray? Resolutions 242 and 338 must be the basis and we must get cross-party agreement on this. Would the right hon. Member also agree with me that both Lebanon and Syria are entitled to the return of their lands, which have been occupied in flagrant violation of the United Nations resolutions, just as has Kuwait?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the hon. Member. The purpose of the context of an international conference—I will come to that in a moment—is not only so that we get the substance of resolutions 242, 338 and 681 as the basis upon which to discuss the future security structures of the Middle East, but so that there is also a real opportunity for 35 bilateral and multilateral discussions to achieve just those purposes of durable security for which countries throughout the region are searching. I know that, in this House, there is a real readiness to provide energy to that area.
§ Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Before we leave the list of things that we would all like to see happen in order to achieve peace, would he agree that we must not forget the problems of Lebanon? To this end, one of the objectives should be to obtain the release of the hostages, including Terry Waite and others, who have been held for four years.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to say what I intended to say later —to remember those, both from our own country and from other countries, who are being held hostage in Lebanon, and to express the hope that efforts that are being made, both here and elsewhere, to secure their release will bear fruit as soon as possible.
There is this new dimension to the treatment of vexed problems of the Middle East produced by the fact of war and our forces' engagement in that war. That new dimension must be recognised by all the countries in the region, including Israel. Last week, with his terror bombing of Israel, Saddam Hussein hoped to suck that country into the war and by so doing cause a fracture between the Arab and non-Arab members of the anti Saddam Hussein coalition. He also wanted to add to Israeli insecurity and to make Israel even less disposed to participate in an international conference.
Thus far, his first objective has not been realised, partly because of the resilience shown by the Israeli Government in the face of great provocation and partly because of the resilience shown by the leaders of Arab countries in the coalition. Saddam Hussein must continue to fail in his enterprise. Israel's decision not to make a pre-emptive attack on Iraq before 15 January and the conduct of the Israeli Government since, despite Iraqi missiles falling on Israeli territory, has demonstrated wisdom which is worthy of respect from the whole world.
Israel now has every reason to continue with that course. As the Prime Minister said, it is evidence of strength and not weakness. The security, economy and, as others have pointed out, democratic integrity of that country require that Israel become a full part of international efforts to achieve a just and durable solution to the condition of the Palestinian people.
When Israel has been subjected to attack and remains a target, and when the Palestinian Liberation Organisation has such close association with Saddam Hussein, no one can or should underestimate the resistance to change. But the present condition is and has been unsustainable for a very long time. The interests of the region and the world community are direct and urgent, and the war in the Gulf banishes any possibility that there can be a return to pre-war conditions when the fighting ends.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
We all share my right hon. Friend's views that the restraint shown by Israel is very welcome, so that the war does not escalate. I also share his view that we have to look to a just settlement in the Middle East, but would he repeat to 36 Israel our demand that it too should also abide by the Geneva convention and cease to breach it in its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I have put that point not only to the Israeli Prime Minister and other representatives of the Israeli Government but to previous holders of that office. My hon. Friend will be aware that her opinion, which is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, is, remarkably in some ways but certainly commendably, shared by a large section of the Israeli population, the Israeli Labour party, and people associated with the Likud.
It is of this that Abba Eban and others speak when they talk about the democratic integrity of the state of Israel. That has rightly been a source of respect for that state and that is the basis of our demand that the integrity of Israel, and its security and existence, are accepted and recognised. On that basis, we ceaselessly appeal to the Israeli Government and forces to ensure that all international conventions are accepted and applied, without exception.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am anxious to get on. The Prime Minister was commendably brief, and I shall try not to exceed the time he took.
When the war to reverse Saddam Hussein's aggression is over, no effort should be spared in fulfilling those peace aims by convening the international conference and making it effective. As United Nations resolution 681, following resolutions 342 and 338, has as its objective the security of all states in the region, there is another feature of tension in that region that must be addressed in all attempts to solve the wider problems of the middle east. The middle east is packed with weapons. It has been obvious for a long time that there is such a surfeit of weaponry there that armaments long ago stopped being a source of security and became, of themselves, a major cause of insecurity.
Iraq, against which our forces and the coalition forces are fighting, is a terrible case in point. For several years, that country, under Saddam Hussein, has been the second biggest arms importer. Between 1983 and 1989, Iraq bought about $23 billion-worth of armaments from the rest of the world. The Soviet Union was the biggest supplier, providing, among other things, tanks, armoured vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, war planes, artillery, and short and medium-range missiles, including the Scud missiles.
France has provided substantial numbers of fighters, fighter-bombers and helicopters, armoured vehicles, artillery and missiles of various kinds, including substantial numbers of Exocets. China is a major source of tanks, bombers and ground attack aircraft. Brazil has sold armoured vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and multiple rocket launchers. In this arms bazaar, West Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and South Africa have all sold Saddam Hussein weaponry and military vehicles. In our recent history, while we may not have sold arms, we have sold the means to make arms and to build an indigenous weapons industry in Iraq.
While all that was going on, Saddam Hussein and his regime were inflicting the most ruthless cruelty and oppression on the Iraqi people. They are now suffering 37 because of Saddam's aggression against others. They have long suffered because of his aggression against them. The Amnesty International reports have annually reported the murderous details of Saddam's regime. They give details of terrible physical and mental torture. They give evidence of the extermination of whole clans. There are records of children of eight and nine being arrested and then detained for long periods, and of children as young as 14 being executed.
§ Mr. Eastham
The Prime Minister told us that 130 Iraqis had been expelled from the United Kingdom. The north-west has a number of Iraqis who have been living in Britain for a number of years and who fear Saddam Hussein's regime. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must sincerely hope that the Government will see to it that such people are not exported to Iraq and, thus, ultimately, to their death?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that it has been clear from the inquiries that I and my right hon. Friend have made about the treatment of Iraqi citizens in this country that very great care is being taken to discriminate between those who in many respects are refugees from the Saddam regime and who have every reason to fear return to Iraq and those who have associations with that regime. I am sure that the Home Office will be grateful for the vigilance that Members of Parliament can exercise in defence of the appropriate rights of their constituents, and I know that co-operation will be offered on that basis. Certainly it has been in the case of Iraqi citizens who fear Saddam Hussein and who live in my constituency.
All the list of barbarities compiled by Amnesty International have been carried out with a vile deliberation in Saddam's Iraq. While they were, Saddam Hussein, if not regarded as a bosom friend of the democracies, was certainly not regarded as the outcast that he should be. Surely that must change. Surely there must be a readiness to pull issues of human rights in from the margins of policy and to include them as matters that are central to the diplomatic, political and economic relations between countries.
I make that argument partly because it must be at the core of any concept of morality which we share on both sides of this House, but I am also arguing for change in the status of human rights issues in the conduct of policy because they are matters of material importance, too. If the tyrants of the world rehearse their oppression with their own people, if they do it with the power provided by imported arms and with the confidence that comes from being accepted or even courted by democracies, then they are always the leaders most likely to offend against their neighbours and against the world community.
I do not argue for our country to be the world's parson or the world's policeman or the world's probation officer. None of that is feasible. I do say that to supply aggressors or to ignore oppression is, by default, to encourage aggression itself. If that is not recognised—and acted upon —in the wake of this war, much of the talk of a global security order will mean little or nothing. More important in the immediate circumstances, the cause of combating aggression, the cause for which our forces are told they are fighting will dissolve in the cynicism of the men and women who are risking their lives.
38 In his Times article last Friday, the Foreign Secretary wrote:We are acting to uphold collective security and the authority of the UN. We have to prove around the world that the UN is not an organisation that can be discounted when one State is contemplating aggression against another.I believe that that was a statement of conviction from the right hon. Gentleman; I share his conviction. People are fighting and dying for that principle now. It is being applied with force and must be sustained with determination. That is our task. It is the reason that we want the member countries of the United Nations, and particularly the permanent members of the Security Council, to make cogent plans for a durable peace now, and then, when this war is ended, to put it into effect with deliberation.
The result of this war must be part of the foundation of peace. It must be a basis for the structure of security in the middle east. The innocent people now suffering, and the courageous people now fighting, deserve no less.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the first Back-Bench Member to contribute to the debate, I wish to ask hon. Members not to come to the Chair to inquire if they are likely to be called. There have been three debates on the extremely important matter that is being debated today, and I propose today to give priority to those Members who have not spoken in the previous debates. It may be possible later, if hon. Members are brief, to call others who have participated in previous debates on the Gulf.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
It is a sombre fact that the House embarks once more in its long history on a debate against the background of Britain at war. We must be grateful that the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition demonstrate much unanimity and reflect the widespread support that is to be found within the Ho use and within the country generally for the way in which our troops have begun to engage in a conflict which none of us wanted and all of us hope passionately will soon be brought to an end. We all welcome the Leader of the Opposition's support for our forces.We welcome especially the tribute paid by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the bravery of our air crews in the first week of the war.
Many of us over recent years have been deluged with correspondence that has been critical of the disruption that has taken place in areas that have been subjected to a large amount of low-flying training by the Royal Air Force. That criticism has been accompanied by much anxiety. Low flying causes much disruption of and concern to the majority of people in the areas in which it takes place, but they accept it because they understand the need for it. Surely all those people, as well as those who do not accept low flying at all, recognise now how essential low-flying training has been. The Gulf war has demonstrated already how worthwhile that training was. The training of the Royal Air Force and the success that it has enjoyed have led to worldwide acclaim. Its professionalism is recognised generally. Those of us who live in areas where there is a good deal of low-flying are grateful for the way in which our pilots have been trained.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
There is widespread agreement in the midlands, which suffers from much low-flying aircraft, that training to fly at low level is essential. My constituency suffers especially from this flying. I hope that the recognition of the need for low-flying training will lead to a review of public thinking.
§ Mr. Jopling
I am sure that that will be so, and I agree with my hon. Friend. He will probably agree that the Gulf war has demonstrated the importance of training our pilots to fly at night as well as at low level. Undoubtedly that poses a problem for the future in areas of the United Kingdom where low-flying training takes place. If low-level training at night needs to be extended, I guess that many people will have to start thinking about the future. Surely everyone understands that it is essential that our pilots are able to fly at low level at night.
Public relations will be crucial during the war. There has never been a time in the memory of most of us when broadcasters have had a greater responsibility for objectivity and fairness. There have been many occasions when Members have been irritated and infuriated by Ale bias of programme makers. Sometimes those feelings have been justified, and sometimes perhaps not. It is crucial that those in the broadcasting organisations who are in charge of the programme makers are more vigilant than they have ever been to ensure that there is fairness and objectivity.
Ministers have already commendably demonstrated their ability to appear before cameras and microphones in a way that I can never remember being demonstrated before. I do not believe that senior Ministers appeared anything like as frequently during the Falklands campaign as they are doing this time. I pay tribute to all of them for making themselves so readily available to help the broadcasters.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
In this context, "public relations" is an unfortunate term. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that some television journalists and so-called military experts ought to show more restraint and discretion, especially when they use toy weapons with demonstration boards? Perhaps that is what the right hon. Gentleman should be arguing for.
§ Mr. Jopling
There is a good deal of truth in what the hon. Gentleman has said. I was brought up to believe that an expert is an ordinary man a very long way from home. However, that is another matter.
Secondly, I hope that the broadcasters will not forget what else is going on in the world at the moment. If there were no war in the Gulf, the crucially important events taking place in the Baltic states would cause Members on both sides of the House to call for emergency debates. We must never forget that the Soviet Union is still by far the strongest military power in Europe. In recent weeks we have seen a dramatic change in the control of that military power. I read in a newspaper the other day something that, had it not been for the Gulf war, would have received a good deal more publicity. I refer to the Soviet military's proposal that in the forthcoming year there should be a 25 per cent. increase in its budget.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the danger of losing sight of events elsewhere in the world. I put it to him that the media, too, have a responsibility 40 —a responsibility not to harass or pursue families of service men who have been taken hostage. It would be quite improper to put pressure on such families, many of whom have suffered quite enough distress already.
§ Mr. Jopling
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said just this morning that the media really ought to lay off these people. Thus, my right hon. Friend got in before the hon. Gentleman and myself. Anyhow, the point is very well taken.
In the case of the Soviet Union, I know that Governments will keep an ever vigilant eye on what is going on, especially in the Baltic states. But so must the broadcasters. The attention of the public must continue to be drawn to events there as well as to the important events in the Gulf.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we could be better informed if the war were not given non-stop coverage? It is important that coverage should be accurate and regular, but not that it should be non-stop.
§ Mr. Jopling
I do not mind the non-stop coverage, but I am anxious that broadcasters should ensure that the Gulf war does not dominate the news to such an extent that other serious and hugely important situations are excluded.
Finally, I want to make the point that the population of Iraq, as well as the British public, must be properly informed. It is crucial that the Iraqi people, too, be told the truth. We know that Saddam Hussein is not exactly a fountain of either wisdom or truth. We know that what he tells his people is unlikely to help them to understand what is really going on in this conflict. It may well be that what he wants to say is failing to be heard because the allies have destroyed his communications system. I hope so. It is vital that those outside Iraq who broadcast the truth be given every opportunity to speak to the people of Iraq.
That brings me to a mention of the BBC World Service, which at this time has its greatest-ever responsibility and opportunity. I want to refer to some information that I have received from the World Service. I understand that the duration of broadcasts in Arabic was increased by one-and-a-half hours a day immediately after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait last August, and by a further three-and-a-half hours a day from 17 January. That brings the total Arabic boradcasting time to 14 hours, and I certainly welcome that. I gather that transmission in Persian is being increased by 15 minutes and that people in Iraq—especially casual and immigrant workers—are being provided with increased opportunities to find out precisely what is going on.
The World Service tells me:We are being hampered by a shortage of frequencies on which to broadcast both Arabic and English. However, due to resourceful work by the engineers we have managed to direct four frequencies at a minimum in Arabic, with six for the important dawn transmission. This has meant depriving other language streams of power, but this has been kept to a minimum.That is welcome, but I hope that the Government will see that everything possible is done to help the BBC World Service to explain the truth to the people of Iraq, and that all possible facilities will be provided to ensure that transmissions are made at maximum power.
41 Finally—and perhaps most important—the Government must ensure that there is not a shortage of frequencies. I am no expert in these matters, but I have to say that, if at all possible, the Government must make further, more powerful frequencies available to the World Service so that it may present the truth to the people of Iraq. That can only help to bring this war to a close as soon as possible, which is what we all want to see.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
I agree with what the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) said about the Baltic states and about the importance of the BBC World Service. There is another matter on which we agree, but I shall touch on that later.
Today's debate will send our forces a message of united support from the House—and they deserve nothing less. In recent days we have all marvelled at their bravery and their skill. I speak as the Member for a constituency in which there is a very large number of service families, many of whom have loved ones in the Gulf. We admire the very real courage of those families, who have to carry such a terrible burden. They need to know that we are proud of them and that we feel nothing but gratitude for their efforts.
The Prime Minister was right to keep his speech relatively short, and I shall endeavour to do the same. I want to say a few words about the course of the war and about what I think may happen in the next few weeks. Then I want, like the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to focus to some extent on the nature and shape of the peace that must follow the present confrontation and action.
The Government are right to stress that we are in the first phase of this war. Indeed, we are probably in the first part of the first phase. There is no doubt that things are going well, but we ought to recognise that there is still a venomous sting in the tail of the Iraqi war machine and that it will take some time to draw. That has been demonstrated in the past few days. It is right to concentrate on the fact that this operation is not going to be quick or easy. In fairness to all who have spoken from the Opposition and Government Benches, no one has ever claimed that it would be.
In many ways, we are in the easier phase of the war. By saying that I do not intend to diminish the tremendous courage, skill and ability of those who are now flying the air sorties. I have a recurring near-nightmare of a young man in a darkened cockpit hurtling across the desert at 100 ft or less, heading alone towards a target. It must take tremendous courage to do that once, but that is done night after night, after night. We appreciate that courage.
I do not want to diminish in any way the courage of those who are already participating in this war, but we are in the easier phase of what we may face. We are in the remote-control war—the war that is fought at the end of a laser beam and with the newest technology. If we move to the second phase—the war on the ground—it will be fought at close quarters. It will be fought between human beings who can see one another. It will not be fought with the newest technology, but with the oldest technology of all, the brute courage of the ordinary soldier on the ground.
We can expect further desperate attempts by Saddam Hussein to try to widen the conflict as he tries to draw others in and to provoke Israel. The Prime Minister has 42 also alluded to Saddam's attempts to try to provoke the allied nations, the western nations and others through acts of terrorism. That will be his determination, and it is right and proper for us to show an equal determination to stick to our war plan, which is now unfolding. It is on time and it has had a measured degree of success. Part of that war plan is, as the Prime Minister rightly said, the important policy of precision targeting—the targeting of military installations. We should understand that we pay a price for that policy, but it is right to pursue it, whatever provocations are levied against us.
We have seen an example of that provocation today in the disgraceful scenes on Iraqi television of prisoners of the coalition forces. The Prime Minister was correct—we on these Benches support him—that that act itself may be an infringement of the Geneva convention. I recall that article 7 of the convention specifically states that that type of activity is forbidden. Any question of taking our prisoners and putting them in locations where they may be close to military targets would be a clear contravention of the terms of the Geneva convention. Let the word go out from this House that that would be a crime against the rule of law and that those who perpetrate or are responsible in any way will suffer the due process of law as war criminals afterwards.
Let us consider our prisoners of war who are now alone, unsupported, in the hands of the Iraqis. I have had some small experience of interrogation and what it can mean. It is an appallingly difficult process in which one is alone, unsupported, while under the most immense pressures. I hope and believe that the nation and the press will understand the pressures that those young men are now under. I hope that they will be generous and understanding in the way in which they treat them.
I understand from what the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale has said that the families of those involved have made a particular appeal to the press to give them the privacy they now need in their moment of terrible concern. I want to speak to some sections of the press. There is probably nothing that they could do that would do more to "support our boys", to put in in their terms, than to give those families, and the families of others who have troops in the area, the privacy to which they should be entitled.
I hope that a section of our press will have heard my appeal and will honour it by ensuring that they provide that privacy to which those families, under that terrible burden, are now entitled.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if we hear British airmen, soldiers or sailors saying anything on Iraqi radio or television, the only effect that should have on us is to increase our contempt for Saddam Hussein as the war criminal that he is already shown to be?
§ Mr. Ashdown
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend, who is correct.
It is appropriate to move from discussing the conduct of the war to the peace which must follow it—a point to which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have already alluded. There will be those who will argue that it is too early to turn our attention to that, but that is not right. We need to begin now to draw up the framework of the peace that will follow. During the second world war, the allies started to talk about peace as early as 43 1941, four years before that war ended. I believe that making clear the framework for the peace that must follow will not only help the long-term achievement of that peace, but may help us in the short term in the prosecution of that war.
By laying out the terms of that peace, we can and will give justice to our cause now. We can provide reasons that will increase the cohesion of the coalition, particularly in relation to the moderate Arab countries. If we tackle the Palestinian situation with the energy and honesty that is needed, we may undermine Saddam Hussein's capacity to play the Palestinian card. We may be able to reassure Israel that it is the aim of the coalition to assure its security in the long term and that therefore it has no need to intervene in the war. As important as anything else, we may be able to give hope to those moderate forces in Iraq that will replace, or may even overthrow Saddam Hussein, that, in the humiliation of that nation's defeat, there will be no question of carving up that country. We want Iraq to be an integral part of the peace that will follow.
What is the nature of that peace? The Prime Minister has called this a just war, but, frankly, I cannot be an arbiter on such matters. I do not know how one judges a just war, but the right hon. Gentleman has described this as such and I accept that. One thing is certain: if this is to be a just war, it must be followed by a just peace. If we have fought this war to remove instability from the middle east we must establish a peace that creates stability. It must not be the job of that peace to retain western influence or to maintain the supply of oil. The primary purpose must be stability, for that is the cause for which we have fought this war. The Prime Minister rightly said that the war is being fought for the authority of the United Nations and, therefore, the peace cannot be a British peace or an American one; it must be a United Nations peace.
It is right, proper and correct that the conduct of the war should lie with those nations whose troops are at risk in that action. However, the assembly of the peace must lie with the United Nations. When we went to war, the Prime Minister said—most hon. Members agreed with him—that it was a war about preserving the authority of the United Nations. If we were not prepared to back that authority with action today, the United Nations's back would be broken, it would be useless and irreparably damaged just when we need it most. However, unless that rhetoric is backed with action to achieve peace, the United Nations will be equally damaged. It will be seen by others to have acted merely as a cover for western forces, which will inflict terrible damage to future confidence in the United Nations.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but does he agree that the argument that the war is about upholding the authority of the United Nations would be more convincing if more statements were forthcoming from the United Nations through its Secretary-General? President Bush, instead of standing in front of the stars and stripes, should stand in front of the United Nations flag so that everyone clearly understands what is going on.
§ Mr. Ashdown
I cannot support the hon. Gentleman's argument. The United Nations has provided the legitimacy for the war, but those who have troops at risk in it must provide the direction of that war until the peace 44 is delivered. There can be no other way. I know that the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends have argued for a pause in the war. That pause would be folly. It is a seductive argument and one to which many will listen, but I am clear about one fact—given the statements from Saddam Hussein, even as late as last night, a pause would simply provide him with room to regroup his forces. We have the initiative in this war, but not without some cost. If we risk losing it now, it will cost the lives of our troops to regain it in future. Saddam Hussein can have a pause today provided that he withdraws from Kuwait. That is the basis on which a pause can be accomplished.
I fear that unless we begin to map out the ingredients of the peace—I do not for a moment pretend that this is the aim—it will be not like that of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which established regional stability, but like that following Versailles in 1918, when the powers that had achieved victory carved up the spoils and laid the ingredients for further instability and the begetting of another war.
What, then, should be the ingredients of a just peace? I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will address that in his winding-up speech. First, a just peace will inevitably be based on the terms of the United Nations resolutions in relation to Kuwait. It cannot be based on anything else. Nor can there be a compromise on that. Secondly, as other right hon. and hon. Members have said, it must incorporate the other United Nations resolutions that are unfulfilled. Thirdly—it might be useful if the coalition forces could make this clear—a just peace would be based on the maintenance and preservation of existing recognised borders. There can be no question of allowing Iraq or other nations, such as Jordan, to be divided up. We must make it absolutely clear that the peace we seek is based on existing, recognised borders.
The fourth element of a just peace would involve the establishment over time of a regional security structure. The long-term aim should be that regional security should be in the hands of the nations of the region. Hard facts mean that that will not happen in the short term. It will be necessary to maintain troops in the area. I welcome the Prime Minister's statement that he does not foresee those troops being ground troops. However, I am bound to say that in that passage of his speech he did not give me the reassurance that I sought, which was that the troops that must remain to maintain peace until a proper, regional security structure is in place should not be left in the region on any basis other than under the authority of the United Nations Security Council. If that is the authority for our troops to be in the area now, it must be the authority for any troops that remain in the area afterwards. I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will also address that point.
§ Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)
How can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee a just peace for the Palestinians on the West Bank when by the end of the year 1 million Soviet Jews will be occupying their area and the Palestinians will be expelled? How will we achieve a just peace for the Palestinians on that issue?
§ Mr. Ashdown
I wish that I had not given way to the hon. Gentleman. I am coming to that point in a moment.
The fifth element of a just peace is that it should incorporate within it a programme of arms control and 45 arms reduction that addresses the questions of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the sale of arms to nations in this area.
I shall turn briefly to the question of Israel. This is the nub of the problem. It is the irreducible problem which we must sort out in the context of a framework for peace that gives stability in the long term. I can see no way to resolve the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians unless both sides scale down some of their demands. There must be two pillars on which such a peace is based. The first is that Israel should be provided with the means to have security within its recognised borders. In return, the Palestinians must be given self-determination. There is no dodging the fact that self-determination means the right to choose a state of their own. It may well be that those Palestinians will choose some sort of federation with Jordan. That is for them to decide in due course.
There is also the question of the Israeli problem with Syria. The bilateral discussions with Syria about the Golan heights with a view perhaps to creating a demilitarised zone, are now more possible because Syria is part of the coalition. Whatever the bilateral agreements between those two nations, ultimately they must be bounded in and protected by the overall settlement. A bilateral agreement which stands alone cannot be the basis.
Last week, I pressed the Foreign Secretary to tell us the aims of the war. He did so unequivocally, clearly and in a way in which I can fully support. I ask the Government to begin to think about defining the terms of the peace that must follow. The Government have said that the war is being fought for a new world order, and we concur. The Prime Minister has called the nation to arms because international law must be upheld, and we agree. Our service men are now in the field, not for Britain, but to uphold the authority of the United Nations, and we applaud and support them. In due course, and at some cost, they will deliver us a peace. It would be a tragedy if we did not know how to use it. It would be a catastrophe if the reasons for fighting the war were abandoned in the peace which will follow it.
It will help both in the prosecution of the war and in the building of a just peace to follow if the allies begin to lay out the framework for that peace now.
§ 5.5 pm
§ Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey)
I cannot but contrast the fact that we in the House, widely representative of the British people as we are with every one of us having a constituent involved directly or indirectly, are debating within a few days of the outbreak of war the various elements that have brought us to it with what might be happening in Baghdad, where there is no assembly of any representative, let alone elected, kind which has a chance of offering informed opposition to the Government who have ruled Iraq.
§ Sir Giles Shaw
Yes, many other Arab states similarly have no democratically elected institution. In the light of what we are discussing, it is essential that we keep reminding ourselves why the war has been started following the invasion of Kuwait in August, although I do not wish to go into the niceties of the peace, as did the right 46 hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). Obviously, we are here because of the enormous reactions to that invasion.
Never since the end of the second world war has the United Nations produced such a majority in favour of taking action. We are here because we are willed to be a party to this action by nations drawn from all points of the geographical compass, including many Muslim nations. We must remember that although not many Muslim nations are participating in the allied force, their reaction has been amazingly strong. The fact that Gaddafi has shown himself strongly antagonistic to Saddam Hussein's annexation of Kuwait is an interesting, and unique, straw in the wind.
We are here because we are, as we have always been, a firm participator in United Nations activities. We seek to ensure that its resolutions, including 606 and 678, are upheld. We are here, too, because the five and a half months of effort to settle these issues peacefully and the many direct and multiple diplomatic efforts have failed.
Some have suggested that sanctions should have been continued for a longer period. That is possible, but there is no question in my mind that the type of leadership in Iraq would not respond to the threat posed by sanctions. If the large population of 16 million had an elected assembly, the democratic pressures could be observed, but that is not the case. The people of Iraq are used to privation in times of war: it takes much more than sanctions to stir them against their indigenous leadership. Iraq has a large and fertile capacity for food production and, in comparison with other Arab states, can expand it pretty easily.
Above all—as has been said so eloquently today—the scale of the military paraphernalia assembled in Iraq in the relatively recent past would be the last element in that state to be affected by the sort of sanctions that were imposed. It is not surprising that there has been no sign of any real change of mind on the part of the leadership, or of any real advantage in the imposition of sanctions—apart from the time that that has allowed for the preparation of an allied force and its assembly in Arabia as a defender of the UN's endeavour, a deterrent of further aggression and a body that can, if needs must, act as a strong retaliatory unit.
This is called "the Gulf war"; today's Order Paper states merely that the subject of our debate is "The Gulf". That Gulf—a vast and long sea inlet—is certainly a major geographical feature, and is aptly named, but the Persian Gulf is more than that: it is a meeting of civilisations from east and west, Christian and Muslim, Arab and Jew; the Kurds from the north and Nubians from the south; rich states and poor states, slave and free.
Those are all elements in the embroidery of history around this extraordinary area, which has been the historic cradle of several civilisations. The region, after all, includes both Ararat and Eden, both Persepolis and Babylon, both Bethlehem and Mecca. It has a violent and turbulent history, which has left the Gulf notoriously unstable. In that sense, the Gulf is an unfathomable abyss; certainly, it appears dark and full of foreboding to those who unwillingly become involved in it.
"Gulf", however, has another meaning in common parlance. It can signify a divide between peoples; a lack of understanding between man and man; the way in which suspicion and mistrust are so easily bred; religious differences—even within Islam; jealousy and bitterness 47 between the oil-rich states on the one hand and impoverished states on the other. That, too, is a significant element and we ignore it at our peril.
It is for those reasons that the course of the present conflict is so difficult to predict. Like everyone here, I am confident that the war will be won, but I am not confident that it will be short or easy. I very much admire the amazing, awesome technology that has been shown to offer a military precision never before achieved in war: long may it continue to be as effective as we believe it to be now. Nevertheless, it is not necessarily likely to persuade 16 million Iraqis to remove the style of leadership that they have endured for more than 30 years. Persuasion and reason may have all on to win the argument when the Muslim faith is seen as being under attack by the infidel outside and by western imperialists—as it always was.
That is the sort of reaction that we may face: it is the sort of strength that nations of this character may offer to deal with any sort of attack. We must see it through, however, and we must be absolutely firm in our support for those whose task is to prosecute the war.
We must also accept—again, this is in common parlance—that a gulf is there be be bridged. Is this the time, or the opportunity, for that to be done? To win the war will certainly not be easy, but, as the right hon. Member for Yeovil pointed out, to win the peace will be a Herculean task. Yet the allied cause already includes major, significant Muslim countries that are related to the region—Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan. All those states will be hugely influential in the ultimate peace described by the right hon. Gentleman. The allied cause is, moreover, underwritten by all the super-powers, which must give it an even better chance of emerging into a satisfactory peace.
The alliance must hold, and must be cultivated through the efforts that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary can make so well to ensure that it emerges victorious at the end of the day. Then, given United Nations support, the prospect of that satisfactory peace will be possible. The winning of a lasting peace will, however, require the patience and dedication of a saint—in God's name, and in Allah's, too.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
I still cannot believe that a civilised alliance has gone to war. I feel that I am living a nightmare. The most terrifying scenario is being played out nightly on our television screens, as the mightiest and most advanced technological war machine in the world rains down its armoury of death on the people of Iraq. On the other side, the vicious dictator Saddam Hussein—the mass murderer of Halabja—leads his desperate nation into further death and suffering, and terrorises the Saudi and Israeli civilian populations.
During the past five months—along with many of my colleagues and as part of a wide group of people—I have used what energies I possess, and what little talent and influence, to try to prevent the use of the military option. I have been derided for my efforts both in the House and outside—by Conservative Members, but never by my hon. Friends—but I was convinced that sanctions could work if 48 given a chance. It would seem, however, that President Bush never intended them to work; our Government now support his claims, and we have gone to war.
The director of the CIA, William Webster—whose credentials are, I should have thought, impeccable—told the United States armed services committee that sanctions were working: according to him,more than 90 per cent. of imports and 97 per cent. of exports have been shut off",and smuggling across the border was on a very small scale.
We know that Iraq is not self-sufficient in most foodstuffs—it imports two thirds of its grain—and food was therefore a problem. Hon. Members who went to Iraq in a gallant attempt to get hostages out said that food prices were escalating and that great difficulties were being experienced; moreover, spare part shortages would affect the military sooner or later.
Now that we are at war, the debate on whether sanctions were given a fair chance to work will have to be delayed. Nevertheless, the House should hold the Chairmen of the Select Committees on Foreign Affairs and on Defence to account. They should be asked why sanctions were not monitored and why Committee discussions did not take place three or four times a week. If Select Committees cannot undertake such a task, what is their purpose?
We know that President Bush decided on the military option last November, if not before. Now we are in this dreadful war. Perhaps, however, we can learn some lessons from the way in which we behaved in the past. Perhaps we should start asking now why we went into this war. We did not go to war to safeguard human rights. We have traded with Saddam Hussein for a very long time. Today I received information from the Library about the export credits that were agreed bilaterally between the United Kingdom and Iraq up to 1989. In 1988, £200 million was spent on capital goods, £65 million on a power station project and £75 million on pharmaceuticals. I wonder whether it was that power station that was bombed with such precision?
We have been told for many years how evil is the Iraqi regime. For many years, I have supported the Campaign against Repression and for Democratic Representation in Iraq. The Prime Minister said, rightly, that Saddam Hussein starved his country of resources to build up his military machine. We knew that before 2 August 1990. I was one of the 91 Members of Parliament who, in May 1989, opposed the Government's financial support for the 17 British firms which exhibited at the Baghdad arms fair. I presume that senior members of the Government, who now form the war cabinet, knew about that. Eight days after Iraq bombed Halabja with chemical weapons, when 5,000 people were murdered by the butcher of Baghdad, the Government expressed their distress, but that did not prevent them from providing £400 million of export credits to British firms to increase their trade with Baghdad. We shall have to debate that question again and again when the war is over.
I have thought long and hard about whether the United Nations supports the upholding of international law. When I look at the list of abuses that have been committed over the years, I see that there were United Nations resolutions on Grenada, Panama, Cyprus, the occupied territories and Tibet, which could have been implemented, but they were not.
49 Hostilities have now begun, and our service men and women are in grave danger. I do not agree with all that has been said about the press. The Halifax Evening Courier, my local paper, has published pictures of all the young service men and women who are going to and who are in the Gulf. It has set up a support group for parents and relatives who are worried about their loved ones in the Gulf. I carry those pictures with me everywhere to remind myself of their humanity. Some of them probably went to school with my two sons. If the war goes on and on, my sons may be caught up in it.
I support that paper's initiative. I wrote to all of them this weekend—as citizens of Halifax were asked to do—saying, "I want you to come home soon, and I give you my total support." To try to "lift" the letter a little I said, "If you come back home quickly I shall buy you a drink in the House of Commons or in the Brass Cat in Halifax, whichever you prefer." They might think that to come to the House of Commons would be a punishment rather than a reward, but the offer is genuine.
I deeply resent the fact that the Government have not allowed a debate to be held on going to war. I am sad that we cannot vote on the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) which I fully support. The amendment fully supports our brave men and women in the Gulf, but it also refers to the need for a peaceful settlement. It is beyond my comprehension why those who argue for peace and who urged that initiatives should be undertaken so that the killing would not start are derided and abused. I do not understand why it is said that it is wrong to argue the case for peace. If we are accused tonight of not supporting our service men and women, it will be a lie that stands truth on its head.
I shall let the parents of one person who is serving in the Gulf put that argument to the House for me. Many hon. Members received this letter just before the war started in the Gulf. The parents of that soldier say:We wish to register our concern at the way this country is being led into military conflict. We support our young men in the task they may have to undertake and as history shows they will, without doubt, do their duty. The question is, have this Government done their duty? They appear to have been pulled into this situation led initially by America, Mrs. Thatcher and the Government. I fear that the majority of the Labour party have unfortunately followed their example.I do not agree; I do not believe that any of my hon. Friends want war. The letter also said:Surely if the entire world does condemn Saddam Hussein then the combined talents of their politicians could find a better way of bringing him to justice than the sacrifices of thousands of ordinary peoples lives on both sides … Our soldiers may be professionals, but they are also citizens and sons. Historically we have all been prepared to make sacrifices for the defence of freedom and democracy. I fear that these high ideals are not the motivating force in this situation. Our forces in the Gulf are showing skill, courage and loyalty which I am sure all admire. What a tragedy it would be if these talents were sacrificed needlessly on false altars.I refuse to be bullied by the four press barons who own 93 per cent. of the press and who sit in their comfortable offices whipping up war hysteria and using the most foul invective against those who oppose this war. That must not deter any of us who support peace initiatives. The United Nations should be urged to stop listening to the United States and to stop acting solely on its behalf. It should be in permanent session and should examine every 50 proposal, wherever it may come from. I plead with the Government, even now, to listen to the United Nations before the horrendous ground war starts.
After the war is over, we shall have to overcome its bitter legacy. The Arab nations will take stock of the devastation inflicted on one Arab nation. What plans do we have to help the third world if Saddam Hussein carries out his threat to fire the oilfields? Thick black clouds will block out the sun and destroy crops in the subcontinent of India. Those poor people—arguably the poorest in the world—will face even greater hardships if the crops fail. Can we be told how we shall help them if we must carry forward this war? What plans do we have for the millions who will starve and suffer?
If Jordan ends in turmoil, President Assad of Syria—now our gallant ally, who has no better human rights record than Saddam Hussein—may seek his reward by stealing land. The murderous ayatollahs in Iran may extend their influence in a bitter and beaten Iraq. What plans do our leaders have to counter those threats? What guarantee can we give to the Palestinian people that there will be peace?
At the end of this awful bloodshed, people with the right credentials will have to sit down and work out a settlement. How much better for humankind it would have been if that could have been done without this war ever having started.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)
The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) will not, I hope, under any circumstances be derided or abused for the words that she has used. I do not agree with what she said, but she spoke with great sincerity and she doubtless speaks for a significant number of people, including some hon. Members. It is right and proper that those views should be expressed strongly in this House. It is equally proper that those who disagree with her should be able to do so in our democratic forum. That is exactly the purpose of this debate, and that is why I welcome it.
§ Mrs. Fyfe
The hon. Gentleman has not said anything controversial, but given the eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), with which I thoroughly agreed, is it not a pity that hon. Members who thoroughly agree with her will not have the opportunity to vote accordingly tonight?
§ Mr. Latham
It is not for me to legislate on such matters. I support the Government and the Opposition amendment, and I shall say more about that in a moment.
I want to begin by paying two tributes. There are four service bases in my constituency, two of the Royal Air Force and two of the Army. I want to pay tribute to all our service men and women in the Gulf and particularly their families, to whom the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) drew attention. The Tornado pilots who are performing so bravely are trained at RAF Cottesmore in my constituency, as are the pilots of the Italian air force who are engaged in this conflict. It is only proper that I should pay tribute to them.
51 I should like to take up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) about the BBC World Service. I had the honour of visiting Caversham Park last Thursday morning and seeing the monitoring that is carried out there. I pay tribute to that work, which is sometimes regarded as the Cinderella of the World Service. What is done at Bush house is tremendously important, but the monitoring at Caversham Park of everything that is being said and of the political speeches that are being made in this conflict is terribly important. It is right that that work is recognised in the House.
I want to say something about Israel, and I do so having just returned from Israel with a deputation of Conservative Members. We met Labour Members who were there for a similar purpose, and had two joint meetings with Prime Minister Shamir and Defence Minister Arens. I am not a Jew. I have no Jewish relations, no Jewish constituents that I know of and certainly no business interests in Jewish circles or the middle east. I support the cause of Israel because I believe it to be a honourable and inspiring cause, and always have done.
Therefore, the House will understand that, like many other hon. Members, I was deeply moved by the sight of missiles landing on Tel Aviv, on a country that is not involved in the conflict, that has not taken any part so far in the coalition and that has not been asked to do so. I was delighted that the Leader of the Opposition, in a very good speech, strongly stressed his support for the restraint that Israel has shown, and in so doing echoed the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
Israel's restraint has been quite extraordinary. I do not believe that any other country in the world would allow a country to rain missiles for two consecutive nights on its civilian population and not immediately retaliate. Any other country would have done so. Israel has not done so —I am delighted that it has not—despite the fact that no country can be more horrified of being attacked than Israel and no people can be more concerned about the possibility of a gas attack than the Jewish people in a Jewish state. Can we think of anything more emotive than for Jewish people in a Jewish state to be sealing their rooms and doors to keep out gas? The House will immediately realise, whatever its view on the middle east situation, that that position is one of the greatest possible emotion and that it has put immense pressure on the people and Government of Israel. That is why it is all the more remarkable and praiseworthy that they have not retaliated.
Many hon. Members have referred to the need to return to the overall peace settlement in the middle east after the war is over—as does the Opposition amendment, which I accept and support. It is right that that should be addressed. It will have to be addressed, as the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister rightly said, on the basis of Security Council resolution 242 and resolution 338, which in practice is a repetition of 242. We must remember that there are two sides to 242—the relinquishment of territories occupied by armed conflict, which undoubtedly must be discussed in the peace conference, and the security and integrity of all states in the region, including the state of Israel. Let there be no doubt whatever about those two points.
52 Equally, let there be no doubt that, if there is to be a successful peace conference, at the United Nations or in whatever forum is considered appropriate, it must be one to which the participants come willingly and from which they expect a just, honourable and lasting peace to emerge. The parties to the conference must not expect to be the victims of an imposed settlement. Therefore, although we must debate the structure of the middle east after the war has been successfully prosecuted, God willing, we must be clear in our own minds that the outcome must be agreeable to all the parties to the conference and must not be an imposed settlement.
As, unfortunately, the PLO has supported Saddam Hussein, it would be idle to pretend that the present situation is ideal for convincing the people of Israel that they should talk to the PLO. Nevertheless, I have advocated in the House that Israel should talk to the PLO. In his speech in Geneva two years ago, Mr. Arafat was prepared to recognise the state of Israel. However, the PLO's support of Saddam Hussein makes the climate difficult.
There is no doubt that Israel can make peace with Syria. The matters in dispute are clear.
§ Mr. Latham
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) for his indicating assent. They are not easy to resolve, but they can be resolved. The United Nations has done outstanding work in implementing the disengagement agreements between Syria and Israel. There have been no difficulties on the frontier of the Golan heights since the disengagement agreements were reached in 1974. Such agreement could be negotiated directly between Syria and Israel or under United Nations supervision. If it is negotiated, the conflicts in the Lebanon could also be negotiated, as nine tenths of Lebanon is controlled by the Syrian army.
The situation on the West Bank and in Gaza is different and will have to be negotiated differently. Negotiations will certainly have to involve elected representatives of the Palestinians. We must face the fact that democratic elections, in Gaza in particular, may return not a PLO majority but a Hamas majority, and some PLO spokesmen have admitted that that may be so. If the forces of moderation are to emerge, it must be by Palestinian leaders being elected locally, with outside support and the involvement of Jordan. It is very important to address that now.
If there is to be a peace conference after the war—undoubtedly there must be—which resolves peace on the basis of resolution 242, which involves both territories and land, it will have to be one which the democratically elected Government of Israel can sell to their people. That would be impossible in the present circumstances of Israel suffering unprovoked attacks, but the Israeli Government must be able to say to their people, "This brings us a secure future."
There is a slogan in Israel, which unfortunately is linked to one political wing, but which should be the slogan of the whole nation—"Peace now, before it is too late." I say to the leaders of the world that, when they resolve these matters after the war is over, peace now will involve a secure Jewish state. It will undoubtedly involve proper rights for the Palestinian people, the integrity of all states 53 in the region and the Jewish mothers of Israel and of the Palestinian people being able to say to themselves, "Never again are our children going to be sent to war."
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I intend to pick up some of the points made in the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), but I begin by addressing myself to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon). I disagree with some of her points, but she said that when she had been trying to secure peace, she had been derided. It is absurd to deride anyone seeking peace, and anyone who mocks my hon. Friend deserves contempt. It is preposterous to deride such an aim, whatever emerges.
My hon. Friend said that she did not want to be accused of not supporting our service men. Anyone who accuses her of not wanting to support them should be reprimanded. Clearly my hon. Friend passionately supports our service men. If such allegations were levelled at her across the Chamber, they would be outrageous. Of course, I fully endorse her comments about the need to help the third world, especially given the devastation that has been caused.
Nevertheless, I believe that my hon. Friend and people like her are sending the wrong signal to Baghdad in calling for a ceasefire. If there were an immediate ceasefire, it would be the biggest boost to unprovoked aggression since Chamberlain waved his little piece of paper 50 years or so ago. That would send entirely the wrong signal to Saddam Hussein, who would he further encouraged to invade more countries and to dominate the middle east. We do not want a ceasefire that makes it appear as though we are backing off.
There are two vital requirements now: to win the war, backing our service men all the way, and to win the peace, as many people have said. I have a constituency interest in the conflict, because the Staffordshire Regiment is involved. It contains troops from Stoke-on-Trent. They deserve all the encouragement that we can give and I hope that the House will give them overwhelming support. Their efforts, skill and, above all, sacrifice merit more than winning the war; we must move towards winning the peace. The prospects of winning the peace look much less secure now than they did a few weeks ago. We are winning the war, but we do not look as though we are beginning to win the peace. I am less sanguine now than I was.
One day, we must have a conference to discuss a permanent peace in the middle east, but the prospects for that conference will be damaged if commitments about the future are given in the heat of battle. There are reports today in the press that the United States has pledged Israel that it will oppose a United Nations-organised conference after the war. When the Prime Minister was challenged about that this afternoon, he said that there had been no such deal. Fine, but he did not say that there will be no such deal. It may be in the air.
It is vital that no unwise pledges are made by the western powers as a payment for Israeli restraint. Some Israeli spokesmen are already implying that there is a debt to be paid by the western powers for Israel's restraint. Some western spokesmen have said that they are grateful for Israel's restraint. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton said that it was extraordinary.
54 I admire and commend Israel's restraint. However, we should make it clear to Israel that we are glad but not grateful for that restraint. I draw that important distinction, because to be grateful implies that we are indebted to Israel. We are not indebted to Israel. We owe Israel no debt for that restraint. The Israelis are intelligent enough to appreciate that they have been restrained because their intervention would damage the western-Arab alliance, which would damage Israel's interests. Israel is acting with proper self-interest by being restrained.
I hope that the House will not misunderstand me. I am not attacking or criticising Israel; I am commending Israel for its restraint. We owe the Israelis no debt for their restraint because they are acting in their own self-interest. The moral which I would draw from those remarks is that we must have a United Nations-organised conference after the war concludes. Such a conference would help Israel as well as other nations.
It is also essential that we control the sale of arms worldwide. The Arab nations have a long, regrettable tradition of fighting among themselves. Those family quarrels are in danger of becoming a danger to the world if the participants are armed with weapons of mass destruction. To avoid a catastrophe, as distinct from this tragic war, we must not only limit but control the sale of arms to small but wealthy protagonists. It is a big order, but we must aspire to it.
Understandably, we have been preoccupied with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The non-proliferation measures are warmly welcomed, but in the past few days we have seen that the spread of remarkably sophisticated destructive weapons is almost as dangerous, in its cumulative effect, as nuclear weapons.
Two criteria have been associated with any country, however small, acquiring an arsenal to threaten world peace. The first criterion for acquiring that destructive arsenal has been that a country should be an enemy of an enemy of the United States. Those enemies of the enemies of the United States have been given sophisticated weapons by the United States, just as Iraq was given them. The other criterion is that a country should acquire great wealth, mainly through oil. That enables small nations to buy the means of threatening other countries, regardless of their size.
We must deal with this mad, inane system. Great wealth and technology make it possible for national minnows to challenge and threaten international whales. We must transform that system into something intelligent. How? If one thing emerges from this tragic war against Iraq, it must be that nations must demand a new order, under the auspices of the United Nations, to control the sale of major weapons.
During the past few days, the press has repeatedly used the word "Armageddon." It is not Armageddon yet, despite this tragic war, but unless the nations of the world prevent, rather than profit from, the sale of these remarkably destructive weapons—these weapons of death—Armageddon lies just round the corner. Either we control the sale of such weapons or the world perishes. The magnitude of the problem is no smaller and no greater than that.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
The House knows of my Royal Air Force interest and it will therefore come as no surprise to hon. Members to learn that much of what I have to say will concern the contribution made to the Gulf war by the Royal Air Force—the air crew, the ground crew and the senior staff directing. Some of those involved are personal friends, and I sent some on their first solo flights. In addition, like many other hon. Members, I have constituents serving in the Gulf.
I believe that the United Nations force is engaged in a just and honourable task. The future of the United Nations and of the rule of international law are in their hands, and I believe that they are in good hands. Politicians of all parties should demonstrate and declare their support for the British armed forces in their very difficult and dangerous task. Even if some hon. Members did not support the decision to commit our forces to battle, they must recognise that those forces are now in battle. The Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, as well as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, have clearly shown how they feel about the matter, and I hope that their leadership will be followed throughout the House.
The importance of aerial supremacy in reducing the number of casualties to the allied ground forces cannot be overstated. That aim has called for an allied air force composed of many different types of aircraft—aircraft with fixed and rotary wings, jet and propeller-driven aircraft. The aircraft cover many ranges and are engaged in many activities—reconnaissance, command and control, airborne early warning, strike, air supremacy, air defence, spotter aircraft activities, maritime patrol, air transport, in-flight refuelling, anti-submarine activities, close ground support and anti-tank activities.
The destruction of airfields, of enemy aircraft and radar, of early warning facilities, of command and communications facilities, of anti-aircraft facilities and of missile capability, both offensive and defensive—as well as of support capability—has been an essential first priority.
There must be no pause or we shall put at risk our own service men, not least the air service men who would then have to face Iraq's airborne capability. Do not let us forget that, although that capability is already dilapidated and depleted, it still exists in large part. A pause could give the Iraqis the opportunity to do what they could have done on day one had they been properly organised, which is to conduct an aerial battle producing ghastly casualties among the allied air forces.
The first few days of war have graphically demonstrated the awesome flexibility and destructive capability of modern weapons. We have seen the extent to which the forces have obeyed orders to avoid attacking civilian targets wherever possible. The first few days of war have also shown us how RAF and NATO air crews have benefited from many years of close co-operation and shared technology.
Low flying has been the cause of many complaints and a number of political campaigns, not least that conducted by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). I was pleased to hear what the hon. Gentleman had to say the other day. His comments should be remembered by all. The hon. Gentleman believes that, now that our lads are committed, our support is called for. Operational low flying calls for continuous training and a 56 special aptitude and attitude among the crews involved. Today's fast-jet pilot is not a modern Biggles. There is nothing gung-ho in the attitude of the modern fast-jet pilots or navigators. They constitute a special, highly skilled, professional aviation team. Not all fast-jet pilots and navigators are young: some are well over 30, some are in their 40s and at least one is in his early 50s.
We have seen on our television screens just how important it is that our pilots are capable of flying low and accurately—particularly over the Iraqi airfields. We have watched them dropping the JP233—at least, we have seen simulated versions of such operations. We know what the JP233 is capable of. What we cannot imagine is the risk to the crew of a Tornado in the final stages of such an operation. Tornados have to fly down the runway at low heights if they are to drop the weaponry accurately, and are thus exposed to all kinds of anti-aircraft capability. To do it once is demanding. To do it twice is very demanding. To do it continually over a period of days calls for a special kind of individual with a special kind of courage.
Anyone who has served operationally will know what it means when one's best friend does not return from a mission. Families also share in the grief. In hitherto unknown circumstances, the operations are reported on television as they happen. That involves a new kind of grief, which those in my generation certainly did not experience. Indeed, when my colleagues were lost in battle in the middle east, it was some weeks before anyone knew.
I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement on the Front Bench. I realise that "Options for Change" was brought into being before this new high-technology war began and before we saw missiles being shot out of the sky by the Patriot missile. I hope, that in considering "Options for Change", we shall bear in mind the lessons of the present campaign. We should also bear in mind the future of the United Nations and what it may need to call upon us to do. We must recognise the instability of the Soviet Union and the possible threat that that may pose. The need for a European fighter aircraft will grow, rather than diminish, in the light of the recent experience. Air superiority has been shown graphically on our television screens in a way which we have never seen before, and the European fighter aircraft will have a special role to play in the future.
Let me come to a subject that is close to my heart. It will not surprise my hon. Friends to learn that I want to mention the reserve forces and the auxiliaries who are providing a service to the RAF. Throughout my time in Parliament, I have argued that we should be building up, rather than reducing, our reserves. Nothing can have been illustrated more clearly by recent events. Fast-jet pilots are better used sitting in fast jets than behind desks. Reserves can fulfil certain important roles in times of hostility. They can act as air crew replacements. They can carry out many other duties to release pilots at present employed in less onerous tasks for fast-jet activities. In specialist fields, they have much to contribute.
Hon. Members have mentioned media coverage. I will not be critical of the media. What I have seen of the coverage so far has been balanced, informative and in many ways educational. I have not always been a great friend of the BBC, but I have nothing but compliments for what I have seen of the BBC's coverage.
The media have educated the public about the region. I served in that part of the world and I know something about it, but most people do not know about it. The media 57 have also reminded people of the value that they receive from the taxpayers' money that goes towards the United Kingdom's armed forces. By Jove, if people do not think that we get good value, they do not have good judgment.
After the war it will be necessary to establish a stable environment throughout the middle east. Not for the first time in the adult lifetime of many hon. Members, the British armed forces are engaged in battle to preserve the rule of law and the integrity of a nation's borders. Not for the first time, the United Nations has attempted to provide the circumstances in which the international rule of law can be implemented in the middle east.
In 1948 the United Nations mediator, whom I met on a couple of occasions, attempted to provide a resolution to a similar problem. In those days I did not talk the political stuff that we talk today. I was one of those simple chaps present when the United Nations mediator'a aircraft landed at our airfield. By the way, I was sorry that that individual died. He attempted to resolve the problems arising from the creation of the state of Israel and the aftermath of the first Arab-Israeli war. Sadly, as we know, those efforts failed, and the middle east has been in political and armed turmoil ever since.
No matter what side of the divide one occupies in terms of attitudes towards peace in the middle east—there are pro-Arabs and pro-Israelis—I hope no one is anti-peace. The realistic view is that we must sit down after the war and find a permanent solution to the problems facing that unstable region. That will not be easy, but we will owe that to the young men and women who have given their lives this time and in earlier conflicts in attempts to ensure that the United Nations could become what the founding fathers hoped it would be, but has never been—a means of resolving problems between nation states, so removing the need for any nation state to go to war.
Those hopes, aspirations and wishes have been thwarted because of territorial interests and for other reasons. In this post-cold-war era, we have a unique opportunity. I can only hope that politicians of this generation are better at finding answers than were politicians of previous generations who failed the service men in the past and failed the families of those who died or were badly disabled and wounded. This is not the first time that this has happened, but I certainly hope that it will be the last.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I remind the House that the 10-minute limit on speeches is now in operation.
§ 6.3 pm
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) said that no hon. Member is anti-peace. I remind him and other hon. Members tonight we should be debating whether the House is for or against the war which is being waged in the name of the House at this very moment and in which thousands of lives have been lost. It does not really matter whether those lives have all been lost on one side; no life should be lost. I denounce the House for failing to afford hon. Members the opportunity to express clearly either their support for or their opposition to the war.
The Prime Minister said that on this occasion all hon. Members would be given an opportunity to express their 58 views. I assume that he meant that those of us who hold the minority view in opposition to the war would be allowed to express their views as well. I have been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but many other hon. Members have not been so fortunate, and they will not have an opportunity to speak. Their only opportunity to make clear their position on the war would have been to vote in the Lobby tonight.
The Government's motion, as amended by the official Opposition, denies those hon. Members the right to do that. Many hon. Members like me want to vote in support of our troops, but want also to vote in opposition to the waste of their lives in a war which we believe to be unnecessary. It is worse than regrettable that we have been denied that opportunity. That is a denial of democracy itself.
The fact that that is happening in the name of an institution that describes itself as the mother of Parliaments and the seat of democracy makes it even worse. Earlier, a Conservative Member said that he abhorred the lack of democracy in Baghdad. So do I, but I equally abhor the attempt to silence dissent that is taking place in this House tonight. There could and should have been more than one amendment for us to vote on tonight, and I deeply regret the fact that there is not.
Support for the British troops is nearly unanimous in the country, and it is unanimous in the House. There is nothing but admiration for the bravery of those prepared to put their lives on the line at the bidding of elected politicians. There will be nothing but support for them and their families during the days and possibly the weeks and months ahead, when all their waking hours will be haunted by the fear of death or serious injury.
All hon. Members pray for the safe and speedy return of our soldiers. However, as elected representatives, we have responsibilities other than the natural expression of support of that kind for our troops. I do not accept that, because a war is started, we must support it—the principle of "my country, right or wrong". That principle should not be applied indiscriminately, and it has never been supported by the Labour party. It is a matter of deep regret that some of my hon. Friends have tried to use that argument in our debates on the Gulf crisis.
Nor do I accept that, because a war is fought in pursuit of a cause that is just, it must therefore be supported. There are many just causes in this unjust world, not least the oppression of the Palestinians over the past 23 years or the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel, in defiance of United Nations resolutions over that period.
Fighting a war in pursuit of a just cause is a necessary condition for support of a war, but in itself it is not sufficient justification for supporting it. That point is worth making tonight. Before a war can be supported, it must be shown to have been necessary. We must be certain that the decision to send our troops to war was taken when there was no other alternative. I do not believe that that was the case. Not only could the war have been avoided —it should have been avoided.
I believe that the war can still be cut short and that a peaceful settlement can be reached on the condition that the United Nations Security Council is given a central role of influence in the conduct of the war. Hon. Members who have referred to the war as being about backing the authority of the United Nations should explain why the 59 war is being fought not under United Nations control, but under the control of the United States President and United States military.
I do not believe that it is unpatriotic or anti-British troops to hold those views and beliefs, or to give public expression to them. How can I express my beliefs at the end of the debate?
The motion and the amendment actually support the continuation of the war. The motion states:That this House expresses its full support for British troops in the Gulf and their contribution to the implementation of United Nations … Resolution 678.That means support for the war that is now being waged. That is not my interpretation, it is the interpretation of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who told us that he believed that there was no doubt about the legitimacy of the military action that has been taken against Iraq. I disagree with him. I believe that there are serious doubts about the legitimacy of the military action that is currently being taken. I will not be prevented from voicing those doubts by anyone in this House.
Let us be clear what resolution 678 says. It does not authorise war—it merely calls on member nations to use all necessary means to ensure that Iraq leaves Kuwait. There are different interpretations of "all necessary means". Those of us who favoured sanctions being given more time to work did not and still do not believe that war is necessary at this stage. Those who supported the war never made the case that war was necessary before launching the war on Wednesday night. Indeed, the decision was taken by the United States President, and he did not even bother to inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations or arrange for the United Nations Security Council to be convened.
We went to war in the name of the United Nations, without even informing the United Nations that we were going to war. That is not a good enough foundation to support the sacrifice of thousands of human lives. I now face the stark alternative of voting for or against the motion or the amendment. That is not of my choosing. It is the result of choices that have already been made by both Front Benches and by Mr. Speaker. I bitterly regret that, but my position is clear. My support for the British troops is unqualified, but my opposition to their destruction in an unnecessary war is equally unqualified. That may be a minority view in the House, but I sincerely believe that it is the majority view in Scotland. In Scotland, the trade unions, the Churches, the peace movement and the people have made clear their opposition to an unnecessary war.
In a magnificent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) said that she had been derided for taking a brave stand on peace, and that she had been accused of not supporting British troops. Hon. Members on both sides of the House were very quick to dissociate themselves from such condemnation, and rightly so. However, it would be naive to expect anything else from the gutter press in this country than precisely that denunciation of those who speak out against the war.
The essence of democracy is not only the tolerance of dissent but respect for dissent. Precisely that respect has been denied tonight because of the manoeuvring in respect of the motion and the amendments. Those who oppose the war have been treated with disrespect by the House. 60 Others who are less fastidious than hon. Members will build on that disrespect and, in the days and weeks ahead, will begin the process that will bring about the denial of democracy. That should be of concern to hon. Members. Hon. Members have every right to hold views in support of the war and every right to express them in motions and amendments. However, they have no right whatsoever to deny that same right to myself and my hon. Friends. I shall vote against the motion, because I have no opportunity to do anything else. I shall vote against it because I support the troops and I oppose the waste of their lives in an unnecessary war.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
I rise with some trepidation because I never pretend that I am an expert on foreign affairs, nor have I ever professed to be an expert on defence affairs. In fact, I know very little about the middle east, so I suppose that I am speaking very much as the—[Interruption.] It might make a refreshing change to hear from somebody who does not pretend to be an expert. [Interruption.] It might mean that I am uniquely well qualified. Therefore, I cannot speak with the authority of certain right hon. and hon. Members.
I suppose that I am one of the lucky ones. I was too young for the previous war—that may surprise some people—and I am too old for this one. It may surprise people that I was still at school in 1945, when the war ended. When I left school in 1946, I went straight into the Navy to do my national service. That, perhaps, was not the most dazzling part of my career, because I basked under the title of PEM. When I came home on leave one weekend, the doctor came round on a social call—in fact, he came round for a drink—and asked my mother how I was doing. She proudly said that I was a PEM. The doctor said, "Pardon my ignorance, but what it does 'PEM' stand for?" My poor mother said, "Well, I am not sure." She shouted up to me, still languishing in bed, "What does 'PEM' stand for?" I shouted back, "Probationary electrician's mate." My mother never boasted about me again.
No Member in his or her right mind wants war. I must admit that I was rather perplexed by the performance of Miss Emma Thompson, who is apparently an actress, or, as Mr. Paul Johnson referred to her in today's Daily Mail, a showbizibody. There she was, wearing her heart on her sleeve, saying how necessary it was that our boys came back safely. We all want that. People should remember that people gave their lives in the 1939–45 war to give her the right of free speech and the right to demonstrate against war.
That is one of our great assets. We can say what we believe and get away with our views, no matter how unacceptable or unpalatable they are to other people. I have not noticed any anti-war demonstrations taking place in Iraq. I wonder why. Could it be that Saddam Hussein would not permit them?
Never has a war been entered into more reluctantly than this one. The international community has leaned over backwards, ever since 2 August, in an attempt to avoid conflict. We have pleaded with Saddam Hussein to get out of Kuwait, but that has had no effect. Sanctions have been tried. Some hon. Members believe that sanctions should have been given more time to work. That is the theme of the amendment tabled by the hon. Member 61 for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). I disagree with him. I am afraid that I cannot accept what he says. If Saddam Hussein was not put off by the prospect of force being used against his country, with all that that would have entailed, can we honestly believe that a few more months of sanctions would have persuaded him to get out of Kuwait? Last Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly approved the Government's actions.
Tribute should be paid to the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats. They have been extremely supportive and have presented a united front. That is extremely commendable. I approved both their speeches this afternoon—they were excellent. I pay tribute also to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Within weeks of taking over a tremendously important office, he has faced this crisis. He has earned the admiration of the overwhelming majority of people in this country for his coolness, his lack of histrionics and, above all, his determination.
It is not so long ago that cynics in this country were saying that the ties between the United Kingdom and the United States were not strong, that the great rapport between my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and President Reagan had gone, and that President Bush and the Americans were much more interested in getting on to better terms with Germany and France. The crisis has certainly settled that issue.
An editorial in The Wall Street Journal of Friday 18 January states:Britain has played a major role in this remarkable exercise in international peace-making. That raises a question: does this willingness to assert itself in a crisis suggest that Britain, not Germany, is the more natural leader for a Europe aspiring to greater political unity?It went on:Which country is best suited to take the leadership in a European foreign policy? Germany has wealth, but for historic and geographic reasons is reluctant to broaden its military role. France has the desire, but also a long record of contrariness towards the positions of others in the NATO alliance. Britain's performance against Saddam certainly heightens its stature.It is obvious that there is a great rapport between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Bush. I think it is marvellous how, in this country, the right person always seems to come along at the right time. In the last war, we had Sir Winston Churchill. In 1981, at the time of the Falklands, we had my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Lady Thatcher). I noticed when she came into the House last week there were snide comments of, "Rejoice, rejoice," from hon. Members opposite. No doubt what they were getting at was the fact that my right hon. Friend used those words at the time of the capture of South Georgia. What they neglected to remember was that she was telling us to rejoice because no lives had been lost as a consequence of the capture of South Georgia. Now, in 1991, we have my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has inspired great confidence with his handling of the present crisis.
I hope that those who oppose the war will note the difference between the tactics being used by the two sides. The allies are taking infinite care to pinpoint military installations and avoid residential areas, whereas Saddam Hussein has made an unprovoked attack by missiles on Israel, deliberately aimed at centres of population. I believe that Israel has shown great restraint, because the 62 aim of Saddam Hussein has been to try to force that country into retaliation, in the hope that that will split the allied forces and that Syria and Egypt will change sides.
Had Israel responded, it would have fallen into a trap that was deliberately set for it by this evil man. I believe that the allies must retaliate on behalf of the Israelis by seeking out those centres from which the Scud missiles are being launched and destroying them.
I ask those who oppose military action how they would deal with this man. If any country should have learnt that appeasement does not pay, it is this country. We should have learnt the lessons of the 1930s. Had we not acted on the United Nations Security Council resolution 678, Saddam Hussein would have believed that he had got away with it. Then it would only have been a matter of time before we had to face up to this man.
Of course, this man is cunning. He is now saying that the invasion of Kuwait was all part of his aim to settle the Palestinian problem. But I remind the House that there was no mention of the Palestine problem when he invaded Kuwait in August. At that time, the invasion of Kuwait was to glorify Saddam Hussein, and to suggest that Kuwait was part of Iraq and the Iraqis were taking only what was rightfully theirs.
Of course the Palestinian problem is important, and once Saddam Hussein has withdrawn from Kuwait, I hope that there will be a peace conference that will deal with the underlying problems of the Middle East. If only this man would get out of Kuwait, there would be no loss of life among civilians anywhere; there would be no loss of life among military personnel on both sides of the conflict, and all further bloodshed would be prevented. If he would leave Kuwait, even at this late stage, we could have peace in the area.
Until Saddam Hussein leaves Kuwait, I believe that the allies are quite right to continue their attacks on Iraq's military machine. The aim should be to do maximum damage there in order to lessen the loss of life if the conflict continues for any length of time. I hope that the war will be over quickly and that casualities will be kept to a minimum. As the Prime Minister said today, this is a just war, and right is on our side.
I despair for the unfortunate prisoners or war in Iraqi hands. These men have been paraded on television and forced to make statements—obviously under great duress —which I am sure they do not believe for one minute. I agree with the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) who made a plea to the press to leave the relatives of these men alone, because they must be going through a period of great strain and anxiety. The behaviour of the Iraqis is totally at variance with the Geneva convention, and that fact should be brought home to everyone in this country.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I am very glad to have a few minutes to endorse the comments of my hon. Friends the Members for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon). I, too, regret very much that this House of Commons, the mother of Parliaments, has somehow not found it possible to permit a vote which will reflect all the expressions of opinion on this matter. It is not just a problem for individuals who oppose the war and wish to vote accordingly: it also affects those people we represent, particularly in Scotland, who wish to have 63 that vote recorded in the House of Commons. This is an injustice which does nothing at all for the reputation of this Parliament. We are right to condemn the lack of democracy in some other regimes, but in doing so, it would be more fitting if we upheld standards of democracy ourselves. That will not happen in this House of Commons tonight.
Since I voted last Tuesday night, I have had more than 100 letters from people in Scotland, and all but two of them have supported the anti-war position I expressed a week ago. Many colleagues have had the same experience. There have been many anti-war demonstrations in Glasgow. None of these people supports Saddam Hussein and none believes that he should get away with his aggression.
A typical comment that I have heard is, "Who do these people think they're kidding? Do they think we are unaware that Hussein is a ruthless dictator? Do they think we are unaware of the torture that he has inflicted on his own people, particularly the Kurds? Of course not." However, they feel that selective indignation is being expressed here in the House of Commons.
The United States, which has been acting as the policeman of the world, has suddenly discovered a conscience, but in the past it has ignored United Nations resolutions and even rulings of the International Court in the Hague when it came to the question of Nicaragua. It actually supported an extreme right-wing group in order to bring down a democratically elected Government. The United States continually aided and abetted this right-wing group, totally ignoring the cruelty, the violations of justice, the mass disappearances and murders. That sort of thing has happened in other areas across the globe—it is not a new story. We are all aware of such things.
When it comes for standing up for justice, many of us on this side of the House have been trying to stand up for justice and human rights for many years. However, there are people in this House who even went so far as to invite the Contras leader to their party conference in Brighton not so long ago. Suddenly they have discovered that they care about killings, mutilations and all the rest of it. By heavens, I have heard much hypocrisy in my time in politics, but nothing to beat what I have been hearing in this House lately.
It is absolutely vital that we address ourselves to the question of how to end this war. I was opposed to starting it. I am still convinced that sanctions could have been made to work. I ask myself how it is that, in the name of the United Nations, only a tiny minority of countries are at war. The vast majority of United Nations members, who always pay their dues, are not actually at war. Are we to conclude that those nations support Saddam Hussein? Of course they do not, but their efforts have been ignored.
The United Nations should be in permanent session working on every possible way to stop the conflict and bring justice to the Middle East. I simply cannot understand the thought processes of anyone who would disagree with that proposition. It seems incredible that, in order to avenge the invasion of Kuwait, we should kill and maim innocent Iraqis who did not vote for Saddam Hussein and who deplore what is going on but have no say in it. How does it help the relatives of people who have 64 been killed in Kuwait if we murder Iraqis? That point of view is one that I simply cannot accept, and I have yet to hear any justification for it.
§ Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)
When I was very much younger and studied the 1930s, I always found it remarkable that we as a nation seemed unable to learn our lessons. If we allow a dictator who wants to embark on conquest to achieve his aim, in the end we will pay dearly for it. I found it difficult, looking at that period, to understand how men and women of good will and repute, who had served their country well in the first world war, could have believed that somebody else's country, somebody else's principles, and somebody else's interests should be sacrificed in the mistaken belief that that would prevent the horrors of war. Tragically, events not only proved them wrong, but made necessary great sacrifices by the people of this country and by those whose interests were threatened during the 1930s.
Over the past few weeks, we have had a replay of some of the arguments made then. Kuwait in the 1990s has been put in much the same position as Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Distinguished right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who served their country bravely in the second world war seem not to have learnt the lessons of the sacrifices made not only by them but by many of their friends. I am glad to say that this lesson has been learnt by the Government and by most Labour Members and Social Democrat Members as well. The country has learnt it. Ordinary people, with great quietness but determination, are supporting what is being done in their name by the forces in the sand of Saudi Arabia.
The events of the second world war and the sacrifices that had to be made proved to be essential not just to defeat Hitler and all he stood for, but to secure for the continent of Europe the long-term peace and security to which we can now look forward. In the same way, sadly, the sacrifices that are being made by young men and women in the Gulf have proved necessary to lay the foundations for the future peace and security of what is now the cauldron of the middle east.
Those who take an interest in these matters will know that many call on the state of Israel not just to sit down and negotiate with its Arab neighbours, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and those members of it who advocate violence but to take a gamble with its very existence as a nation state. Such people must now understand that, if ever that is to happen, if ever Israel is to sign a treaty with its Arab neighbours, and if ever peace rather than war is to be the norm for the region, Israel must have the certain knowledge that it is secure, that its people are safe from bombardment and attack and that, above all, if any treaty comes about—we all hope that it will—the nations of the world will not stand idly by if that treaty is breached or broken. That is the lesson of today's events.
To call, as some do, for a middle east peace conference while condemning the United Nations and the forces in the Gulf is both short-sighted and illogical. If the community of nations were to fail to reverse, if necessary by force, Iraqi aggression against Kuwait—a fellow Arab country with great oil wealth and great economic force—such a failure would send a clear message to all the states in the middle east, including Israel. That message would be, 65 "Rely on yourselves, do not listen to what the world says, depend on your armies and resources." What hope would there be for those nations and for the state of Israel for years to come?
In the hearts and homes of all our constituents there is a great and understandable anxiety, even fear, and my constituents are no exception to that. Many have sons serving in the third battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, once known as the Lancashire Fusiliers, the courage of which is still remembered in Bury every April at the annual Gallipoli service. Many others have sons serving in other branches of the armed forces. I salute their courage and that of the relatives and friends who wait anxiously at home for news.
My constituency will also have some anxious hearts within its considerable Jewish community. Many in that community have family or friends living in Israel, many in or near Tel Aviv, where those awful missiles came down. They know that, of all the countries in the world not involved in that conflict, Israel is the only one whose citizens daily face a threat to their lives, as they sit in their sealed rooms waiting, irony of ironies, for a gas attack. I pay tribute to the Government and people of Israel. They have been much maligned and criticised in the House, but their restraint, reserve and containment have proved that they can play a valuable part in world affairs.
All my constituents, whether serving in the Gulf, whether having sons or daughters who are in danger there or in Israel, whether sitting, as most of us do, watching the events unfold on television will, I am sure, hope and pray that our victory will come swiftly and surely. Without doubt, all our fates depend on that.
§ Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)
I was one of the small group of Members from both Houses who had the privilege, at the end of November, of visiting British forces in the Gulf. All who took part in the visit were extremely impressed by the morale and professionalism of the forces we saw. If I may be forgiven a brief domestic reference, I pay tribute to the skill of the staff of the Queen Elizabeth military hospital in Woolwich, whom I met in Bahrain before their departure to Saudi Arabia. When I met them, they were busy training but were seriously short of patients. I hope that they stay that way throughout this conflict.
Those of us with any connection with the armed forces are never surprised by their professionalism, but, like other hon. Members, I feel that we should make special mention of the crews of the Tornados and the Jaguars, and particularly those who have been flying a few feet above the ground in pitch darkness, experiencing for the first time real anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles. As other hon. Members have said, the people who do that display a special sort of courage, at which the rest of us can only wonder.
I take the view that there was no alternative to the use of force to secure the implementation of the United Nations resolution. We are entitled to some quiet satisfaction about a number of developments. First, the coalition has stood up to the test. Despite the speculation and the cynical attempts to break it up, it is there, and some would argue that it is a little firmer than it was this time last week. There was some doubt about the French. 66 There were uncertainties in Paris and there has been some wobbling, but the French are now firmly on board and that is most satisfactory for the alliance.
Also, we should be pleased about the degree of public support for this military action. I recognise that a minority of sincere people think that it is totally wrong. They express their point of view, and long may they do so, but the majority of people in this country believe that what is being done, unpleasant though it is, is necessary. That there is so obviously a determination to limit the number of civilian casualties goes some way to explain the fact that there is such a substantial degree of public support for this military action.
There must be a great deal of relief that the high-technology weapon systems have on the whole worked extremely well. There is always some doubt whether a sophisticated system which works in trials and in exercises will work when it is put to the acid test of a genuine battle. When we have seen the operation of electronic warfare systems suppressing Iraqi radars, as well as extraordinary pictures of smart weapons finding their way into buildings through air vents, when we have heard descriptions of cruise missiles flying along streets in Baghdad and turning corners to find their targets, we must feel a considerable sense of satisfaction that high technology has worked—not only because of the military advantages, but because that sophisticated technology has limited the number of civilian casualties.
We should also say a word of thanks about the patience of allied commanders. Clearly they are determined not to commit ground troops until the threats facing them have been substantially reduced. That must be the right strategy. Finally, we should express some satisfaction that the political leaders have not got themselves involved in the day-to-day operations of the war. They have laid down the objectives and very clear ground rules. From there on, it is a matter for the military commanders, and that is a subject of satisfaction.
I am a little less happy about media coverage. There seems to be some strain between the British media and the Ministry of Defence. I understand that military needs have to come first; this conflict has not been put on for the benefit of the media. But there is clearly a limited amount of hard news being provided. As a result, I suggest that far too much media attention is being concentrated on what may be dramatic television pictures of Scud attacks which are totally ineffective in military terms. We are devoting time and attention to them when, apparently, we are ignoring the steady and continuous allied air offensive which will have a very important effect on the conduct of this war. I hope that there will be some improvement in the relations between the Ministry of Defence and our media.
I wish now to deal with the basic issue of middle east security in the future. We all would agree that, unless the Arab-Israeli dispute is resolved, there is considerable risk that these problems will simply recur and recur. It would be futile to go through the present agony and then to walk away and ignore the source of the instability in the region, the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I can say, as others have declared their position, that I have been a supporter of the Palestinian cause since the late 1960s, when it was not as fashionable to be a supporter of Palestinians as it is today. I have no doubt that, over the years, the Palestinians have suffered grave injustices, but the suggestion that the entire Arab nation has been somehow united behind the Palestinians is absolute and 67 total nonsense. The Palestinians have been used by other Arab nations for national self-interest, picked up and dropped when it has suited Arab nations. Saddam Hussein's cynical exploitation of the Palestinian cause is only the most recent example of that trend. Indeed, Arab Governments have not hesitated to use military force against the Palestinians when it has served their national interest. One thinks of Jordan and Syria as obvious examples.
Against that background, we should not be surprised about the Palestinians' frustration. We should not be surprised that the Palestinians will turn to anyone who seems to be able to offer them a way forward when the rest of the world can be portrayed as having forgotten the fact that the Palestinians exist, that they have a cause and that they have rights.
I argue that the Israeli policies over the years have aggravated their own internal problems. The insensitivity of their policing of the occupied territories has built up massive resentment. Their apparent belief that military might solves all problems has won them few friends in the region. But, most of all, the continued establishment of Jewish settlements on Arab lands on the West Bank has added to the despair, frustration and rage of the Palestinians. That is a matter we must recognise.
But I have to accept, too, that Israel has a right to exist. We have to face the fact that there is this need to meet Palestinian aspirations for a homeland—as justified an aspiration as that of any other people on the face of the earth—but those aspirations have to be matched by Israeli rights to security within their own borders. That will be an extremely difficult problem to resolve, as other hon. Members have said.
I understand the case for a peace conference, but that is only a mechanism. It is not a magic solution to the problem. We shall not see a resolution of the situation without, in my view, dramatic concessions by Israel. It is not easy to see those concessions happening. If we are to see them happen, it will require substantial and credible guarantees being given to Israel by the super powers.
One of the problems about the recent events is that they have substantially undermined the position of moderates in Israel—those who do not take the extremist Zionist position, those who are willing to negotiate with the Palestinians. The apparent involvement of Palestinians in the original invasion of Kuwait, the fact that some elements in the Palestine Liberation Organisation have lined up beside Iraq—none of that will make it easier for moderate Israeli opinion to move towards the Palestinians. It will need clear and credible guarantees to Israel if it is to move in that direction. The one glimmer of hope, after the success of the coalition, is that we may now find it just that little bit easier to give those guarantees in a way in which they might be believed.
As I said, I visited the Gulf in November and was impressed by the morale of our service men and service women. More than that, I was impressed by their understanding of the issues at stake. They knew why they were there. They were not looking forward to war, but they believed that what they were doing was both right and necessary. I suggest that such a belief in the justice of the cause goes a long way to explain the dedication and the 68 courage that our service men and service women are now displaying. They deserve our full and wholehearted support.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
I agreed with much of what the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) said—particularly his point about the importance of the relationship between the Ministry of Defence and the press, of which I hope my colleagues will take particular note.
I have not spoken in any of the debates in this crisis, but I have attended them virtually totally throughout. I have been proud to have been a servant of this House since I first joined it in 1955, but never more so since last September. The manner in which the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have conducted themselves and have risen to this crisis, not least in their sensitive treatment of this House and public opinion at home and abroad, is beyond all praise. But also, as a House of Commons man, I have been profoundly impressed by the contribution of the Opposition Front Bench—not least by that of the Leader of the Opposition and also of the leader of the Liberal Democratic party.
I have been impressed by the burning sincerity of those hon. Members who oppose what the Government are doing and who oppose the majority feeling in this House and outside. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) said that she had been derided for her attitude, but I can assure her that nobody in this House or in our democracy who stands up for what they believe in will ever be or should ever be derided.
I include very much in that my hon. Friend, as I call him deliberately, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), who is one of the finest and most honourable Members of this House. He takes an opposite view from that of the Government, and indeed an opposite view from that which I take. I have never accepted the view that is held by one or two people on this side, that the Conservative party has the prerogative of patriotism, because I know that is nonsense.
In and around Cambridge, there are many anxious service families, both British and American. There is no anti-Americanism in East Anglia. We shall never forget the young men who came to our cause during the second world war. So many of them are buried or commemorated in the American war cemetery in Cambridge. Recently, thanks to a special Act of Congress, a cemetery was reopened especially for a young American who was killed in the Gulf. That was much appreciated by his British widow and British parents-in-law, who are my constituents.
Service families are proud of their men and of their confidence in their equipment and their commanders. They are, of course, anxious for their men. As a member of a service family that has been through wars, I know how they feel. Until they were abolished, I dreaded the arrival of a telegram. For a service family in the second world war, a telegram was invariably bad news. Waiting for news at any time in such circumstances is a grim business, and one which I remember only too well.
I remember also what it was like to be bombed and, on one occasion, machine-gunned. These experiences gave me a great hatred of war. They did not make me a pacifist, but 69 they were one of the factors that led me to work for the United Nations for several years. That was a cause in which I believed and in which I continue to believe.
My father was a professional soldier. He took his platoon into the first winter of the first world war and was severely wounded. Curiously enough, after he had recovered he won his fame, glory, promotion and medals in exactly the area in which the Gulf war is taking place. He was an opponent of the Munich betrayal of 1938. That is my first political memory, at the age of five years.
My father was a fine and brave soldier, who lost many of his friends and contemporaries. He had, however, an intense hatred of war, knowing it to be foul, bloody and terrible. Having spent his childhood in Germany, he was in no way anti-German. In fact, he spoke the language fluently and loved German culture and music. He recognised, however, that sooner or later Hitler, an avaricious tyrant, had to be stopped. My father believed, I am sure rightly, in 1938 that Hitler should be stopped sooner rather than later.
I accept entirely that there are no exact historical analogies, but I am bound to say that, over the past five and a half months, I have reflected very much on my experience and on my father's advice and views. He as a soldier, and my brothers as soldiers, were aware of the price that would have to be paid if war occurred. Looking back over the past five and a half months, I cannot think what more our Government, the American Government, the European Community, our allies, our Arab friends and the United Nations could have done to prevent the Gulf war. That is extremely important for our service families. I believe that there was nothing more to be done beyond surrender that could have been done in the past five and a half months. I think that the majority of our people, including our service men, know that.
The House knows of my association with Israel, a country of which my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) has spoken movingly. I do not always agree with the present Israeli Government. Indeed, I have come often to regard them as an irritating but candid friend, which we all dislike having. I am bound to say, however, that over the past few days I have never been more proud of my Israeli friends. With my many Israeli contacts—they are not only political or ministerial—I have done whatever has been possible to urge restraint, while recognising, as do the Government and other Governments, what I would feel if rockets fell upon my constituency. That is something about which hon. Members should think carefully. It is all very well for us sitting safely in this place. Let us think what it would be like and of the political pressures that would be placed upon us if that which has happened in Israel were happening to us.
The Israeli Government and people have shown an example of statesmanship, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, as well as one of political and physical courage. For that I salute them, honour them and thank them. I am sure that, in the long run, given the response of the other Arab members of the coalition, Israel will have gained a new stature and respect, not least in the middle east. So perhaps good will come out of evil.
I say sincerely that I am proud once again to be British. We are a peace-loving people, perhaps on occasion excessively so. We are also a people of courage and of principle. A great principle is at stake, and the British people well know that. They know that our cause is a just 70 one. Those who wish us ill or consider that we are of little account have not read our history and do not understand our admittedly complicated national character.
I believe that our history and character was admirably summarised in 1940 by Dorothy L. Sayers in a deeply moving poem entitled "The English War". It ended as follows:Please God, give us an English peace,But if another tyrant comesThen we shall fight again.I believe that that says it all, and that is all that I wish to say.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
During the lunchtime BBC news, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) said that anyone w ho voted against the motion was not fit to be a Member of this place. I shall explain why I shall be voting against the motion, along with many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Those of us who vote in that way will not do so because we are against British troops. We are not in favour of any injury or ill coming to any of the women or men who serve in the Army or in the other services in the Gulf. We are not against British troops, but we are against the Government's policy of sending our troops to the Gulf and committing them to a war in which, tragically, many hundreds, if not thousands, of them will lay down their lives.
Conversely, we do not support the Iraqi regime—something which Conservatives Members may try to imply. In May 1989, 90 Opposition Members tabled a motion urging the Government not to give any money to British Aerospace, GEC, Racal and other firms that wanted to be present at an arms fair in Baghdad and to sell arms to Saddam Hussein. Not one Tory Member signed the motion. So a few Opposition Members have tried to undercut support from Britain and other countries to the despotic regime of Iraq, and we tried to do so for quite a few years.
Perhaps the Republican Guards division is feared because its officers were trained at Sandhurst. Iraqi pilots were trained in Britain. Companies in Coventry have supplied equipment over the past couple of years which has gone to help the war effort of Iraq. When it came to dealing with the Kurds within the boundaries of Iraq, at Halabja, and in the marshes north of Basra, during 1988, terrible chemical weapons were used. The Secretary of State for Health, as he now is, told the House in October 1988 that the Government disapproved of that. Nine days later, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced an extra £440 million worth of credits to British companies to build up trade with Iraq. When hands are supposedly clean or otherwise in that sort of business, it is those on the Government side of the House who should examine their consciences when considering whom they have supported.
One thing has worried me during the past few days. Like many other people, I have stayed up till the early hours to see what has been happening. I have seen press conferences in which American generals and the American media have treated the events of the last five days as though they were a cross between an American football match and a video arcade—the Scuds versus the Patriots. One almost feels that the next thing to come on will be a 71 "bomb of the day" competition, so often does one see replays of videos showing bombs going through front doors or down air shafts. It is unreal—
§ Mr. Nellist
The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) says that it is pathetic. What discussion has there been on the effects of those bombs so that decisions taken here tonight or decisions taken in the country might be based on reality? Let me tell the House where they may be found. They may be found buried in page 14 of the Sunday Times of yesterday, which quotes Pentagon experts as having said that, within the first 36 hours, about 20,000 tonnes of high explosive were dropped on Baghdad and other towns and that it is estimated that between 100,000 and 250,000 people will lose their lives or be severely injured, suffering internal bleeding as a result of concussive forces. When have television programmes presented that sort of discussion? It is usually only after 2 o'clock in the morning that Bruce Kent or Air Commodore Alistair Mackie appear.
§ Mr. Nellist
The hon. Gentleman knows that I have only 10 minutes. I cannot give way.
This is unreal. The war in the middle east is not clean and clinical. The reality is that it is a horrible experience for many—and not just for civilians. Iraq's large army consists mainly of conscripts. If they do not serve they are hanged. I draw little distinction between Iraq's armed forces and its civilians when deciding whether our compassion is justified. Perhaps the Sunday Times article to which I referred may be false, but it is hard to believe that Murdoch would purposely do something to help the Iraqi regime. But if it is true it should have been on the front page so that everybody could have seen and discussed it.
If it were not so sick, it would be ironic to think that people whose relatives have been tortured, murdered, and imprisoned by that regime could be "liberated" in 36 hours by the use of more than 20,000 tonnes of high explosive, causing death and disfigurement.
Soon the land battle will begin, and I believe that casualties of that order will occur on the side of the allies. We are told that it will be the biggest land battle since 1943. The Government are prepared for it. They are requisitioning 7,500 national health service beds to supplement the 11,000 military beds. If that is a real reflection of the expected level of casualties—the Secretary of State for Defence and others have never answered my direct questions on this matter—it means that for every two soldiers in the Gulf one is expected to suffer some sort of injury: 18,500 beds and 36,000 personnel.
Why are we not reopening some of the 10,000 national health service beds that have been closed in the past four or five years? Why, instead, are we having an auction, a competition between civilian patients and possible military casualties? Already in some parts of the country people's back and hip operations have been postponed indefinitely so that beds may be made available for military casualties.
We have been told that this debate is about supporting the troops. The best way to support the British troops 72 would be to vote against the motion and to bring them home as soon as possible to avoid loss of life and disfigurement.
This is supposed to be a war for democracy—a war arising from annexation and colonisation of another country. Why then did not the Government demand or take action when Turkey went into Cyprus, Israel went into Lebanon, Syria went into Lebanon, China went into Tibet and the Soviet Union went into the Baltic states? Why did not they take action about Indonesia's killing of one third of the entire population of East Timor—200,000 people out of 700,000—over the past 15 years?
What is the answer? The answer came from a former American Secretary for Defence, Lawrence Korb, when he said that it was all about the great powers looking after their interests. He said, "If Kuwait grew carrots, we would not give a damn." It is about oil; it is not about genuine democratic rights.
The Government talk about having the legitimate Government of Kuwait restored. Last week, the New York Times quoted someone as having said that the Emir, once back in his palace, would still be a dictator. Who had that insight? It was Richard Nixon. He should know all about dictators—he propped up many of them in Latin America and in other parts of the world. Are thousands of young men and women to die for an Emir who abolished his own Parliament four years ago and who never allowed women to have the vote? Indeed, only 8 per cent. of men in Kuwait who can trace their ancestry to the period before 1920 had the vote.
Is it democracy that is being defended in Saudi Arabia, a country where people have their hands cut off for shoplifting, where political parties and elections are forbidden? How many mothers in this country want their sons to die on the sands of Saudi Arabia, a country that does not even allow women to drive cars? Outside the pre-1967 boundaries of Israel—indeed, even within those boundaries the Arabs do not have many rights—not one of those countries has democracy as we understand it.
Every one of them bans trade unions and political parties. They execute—Interruption.] It is absolutely true, as is borne out by publications like The Economist and Amnesty International reports, from which the Government like to quote. What happens in the Emirates, in Yemen, in Jordan and in Syria, where, under our "friend", 20,000 Muslims were murdered eight years ago in the city of Horns and where the bombers of Lockerbie remain today? That is the country with which we have just restored diplomatic links. Those countries are not democracies; they are not regimes for which our young men and women should die.
I am conscious of the time limit, but there are two more points that I want to make. Why should not the cost of this war be a matter for discussion? By last Wednesday, this country had spent £900 million on it. Every day, America spends $500 million on bombs and on Tomahawk cruise missiles. Last week, the United States congressional budget office—not a left-wing organisation—admitted that, at the end of the war, the cost to America could be $86 billion. That is more than the gross annual income of over four fifths of the countries of the world. It is twice the annual income of New Zealand or Portugal, and three times the annual income of Ireland. It is six times the aid that was given to sub-Saharan Africa last year. With that 73 sort of money, we could remove all famine and disease in the world. But, of course, that is not important in these schemes.
When the war was launched, one of the tabloid newspapers carried a headline about a 17-year-old boy—a boy not old enough to vote or to be a Member of this House—making his will before being sent to the Gulf by the Government. Let us not allow the young men and women of this country to die for oil or for America's strategic interests. Bring back the troops.
§ 7.8 pm
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
My greatest sympathy goes to the people of Kuwait, who have suffered at the tyrannical hands of Saddam Hussein—to those who have lost their lives or been tortured, and to the women who have been raped. The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) should reflect on that.
I listened with the keenest interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James). I have great sympathy with what he said. He has experienced war, as I did at the time of Suez. I detest war every bit as much as does the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East. I also detest the failure of politicians and of intelligence to resolve differences and thus avoid war.
However, when one reaches the point at which there is no turning back, and when one knows that right and justice are on one's side, one must support the troops in the forefront of battle. They have my fullest support. Indeed, I should be with them if I were to be called. I am a reservist; if I were called up I would go and join them, and should be glad to do so.
Many tributes have been paid to our service men. I add my tribute to them for their skill, their courage and their daring. That goes also for the forces of the United States. The way in which the forces have worked together has been quite remarkable, as has been their conduct in this war. Nor do I want to forget the Saudi Arabian forces and the others that are taking part. I believe that they match our own people in efficiency and calibre.
I have always regarded that efficiency as based upon back-up. I pay tribute to the men and women—the civil servants—of the Ministry of Defence, because it is they and others involved in various organisations, in research and in the dockyards and elsewhere, who have made it possible for our troops to fight.
I have always taken the view that this would not be a short war which would be over in weeks, if not days. I believe that it will be a long war, but I hope that it will last in terms of months rather than years. Undoubtedly, if the war continues for a number of months—I fear that it shall—we must, as the Prime Minister has already said today, brace ourselves for the losses that will occur. In common with all hon. Members, I am so thankful that the number of casualties have been so few. Again, that is a tribute to the way in which the weapons have been targeted and the skill with which the service men have directed those weapons. Each and every casualty is, to all of us, a son. The families who must sustain themselves with a great deal of courage at this time deserve and get our fullest support.
The level of support in this country—I understand that research has shown that it is about 80 per cent. of the population—is in no small measure due to the leadership, honesty, integrity and sincerity with which the Prime 74 Minister has expressed his views in our debates and on television. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Defence and for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs have also shown a wonderful sense of clarity, sincerity and honesty when answering questions from the press and presenting the facts to the people.
If there is a longish war, I have no doubt that reservists will be called up—some already have been. There is a feeling in the country, however, that not all reservists are quite so keen to serve. Obviously, they have commitments that make it difficult for them to leave and we recognise that. I do not doubt for one moment, however, that reservists will respond with pride and will render the services for which they have been trained.
I would not want there to be any inclination in the country to suggest that our reservists are not willing and able to be called up should that need arise. I hope that companies and organisations will keep places open for their employees who are called up and will also make up the shortfall, if there is any, between the service pay that they will receive and their present pay. I hope that that message is taken on board by the affected companies.
There are two purposes behind the debate. First, it will reassure our service men in the Gulf—if that were necessary. I am not at all convinced that the speech or the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East would give any reassurance to our service men. We have had two debates on the Gulf and if one loses the argument, as has happened to those who want our forces brought home, one has a duty to support our service men out in the Gulf. One cannot ignore the fact that they rely on full-hearted support for the decisions taken. I hope that there will be no vote tonight. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was excellent and he said what a lot of us feel, particularly about the motion that has been tabled.
Secondly, the debate should also reaffirm the cohesion of the alliance of nations taking part in the war. Reference has already been made in the debate to the Scud attacks on Israel and we know that those attacks were purely and simply an attempt to provoke Israel into hostilities. If that had happened, Israel would have done exactly what the Iraqi President wanted. I am full of admiration for the maturity of statesmanship of the Israeli Government in withholding retaliation. Their position is greatly respected and we understand how difficult it must be for them, given the provocation they have suffered.
Turkey has a border with Iraq and I admire Turkey for her resolve. I ask my Front-Bench colleagues to do all they can to sustain Turkey's defences. The Turkish economy has been gravely affected by the costs with which it is now involved—I do not believe that those costs are disputed. I hope that we shall do all that we can to play our part in securing economic help to Turkey, which is already labouring under huge economic problems due to inflation. That country has guts and has shown it in the way in which it has resolved to stand firm against Iraq should it invade.
The debate has taken a constructive turn in that it has considered what will happen after the war, which is right. I would not dispute anything that has been said about how we are to achieve a new order in the middle east. However, it will be up to the Arab countries to reassess their relationships and to work to achieve a lasting peace. I certainly agree with those who argue that the war is a consequence of too many arms in the possession of one 75 country. We have learnt that lesson before, but we are now learning it again to our cost. We must put our minds to that problem when peace has been proclaimed.
At the end of the day, this action is entirely right, because it gives strength to the United Nations. This is one occasion when war is being conducted in response to UN directions and resolutions. By giving strength to those resolutions, we can look forward to a greater and stronger UN role in the future. If nothing else, that is what we need to achieve when settling the problems in the middle east.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
It is extremely sad that economic sanctions were not allowed to operate for longer—not only because that would have saved human lives, but because it was an opportunity for the UN to prove that there were circumstances when, if the world community so willed, sanctions could be made to work.
The inevitability of war against Saddam Hussein has, however, always been at the back of my mind. We are dealing with a vile dictator who cares nothing about the hardship of his people and who has already proved that he was ready to turn chemical warfare against his people in Kurdistan. I lived in Liverpool during the second world war, and I learned then that weakness was not the way to deal with a dictator, that one had to stand up to him. For that reason, I shall support the Opposition amendment tonight, because we must show our armed forces that we support their valour, as it is that which will contribute to the defeat of the vile dictator in Iraq.
It was interesting to listen to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery), although I did not agree with everything he said, particularly about the former Prime Minister. I remember living night after night after night for 14 months, without cease, in an air raid shelter at the bottom of my garden in Liverpool, the second most bombed city outside London. I remember that my parents and other people used to ask whether it could have been prevented. It could have been prevented if people had stood up to Hitler much earlier than in 1939.
Incidentally, when we went to war it was not in defence of a democracy because at that time, Poland was close to being a military dictatorship. When, in 1940, we went to the aid of Greece and fought the Italians there, it was to defend not a democracy but an independent Greece under the rule of the Metaxas dictatorship.
As my hon. Friends have rightly said, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Arab subcontinent are not democracies. I admit that things have gone sour in eastern Europe, but if Mr. Gorbachev can successfully bring democracy to those countries, one of our war aims must be to bring democracy to the countries of the middle east.
The war aims should look forward to a middle east peace conference. Although I certainly would deny Saddam Hussein linkage of this conflict with the Palestinian problem, the problems of the middle east must undoubtedly be addressed by any conference at the end of the war. Not only the problem of Palestine but the problems of the Kurds and other minorities of the region and the lack of democracy in so many countries are at the root of many difficulties.
76 It is essential that we win the war and carry out the United Nations resolution, which calls for Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait by all necessary means, and for the restoration of international peace and security in the area. Resolution 678 also calls for international peace and security in the area. So long as Saddam Hussein rules in Iraq, peace cannot be maintained. The defeat of the Iraqi forces also means the demise of Saddam Hussein.
Some of us on this side of the House have fought for a long time to draw attention to the Iraqi dictatorship. On several occasions I have stood with many of my colleagues on platforms at fringe meetings at the Labour party conference under the auspices of CARDRI—the Campaign against Repression and for Democratic Representation in Iraq—speaking about the horrors of the dictatorships of Iraq and Iran. Our repesentations have fallen largely on deaf ears. Tories have not been interested, but we cannot maintain peace in the middle east or elsewhere through market forces.
If anything is more important than the control of the sale of arms, I have yet to hear it. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition drew particular attention to the supply of arms and equipment to Iraq and other countries. It is right that there should be some discussion and decisions in the United Nations on the whole question of arms to rotten, repugnant dictators, such as the one in Indonesia. It is right to draw attention to this now, because in future a dictatorship elsewhere may cause us trouble. We need a UN resolution that all arms sales should be under UN control. There should be no arms sales without UN sanction. That is the most important issue that needs to be addressed by a conference at the end of the war.
Although arms have not been sold by the British Government, perhaps even by British firms, to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, unfortunately the Government have certainly connived at training military personnel who might be launched against our forces now. In answer to a question, I was informed by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces:A total of 430 places on MOD training courses were allocated to Iraqi students between 1981 and the cessation of training, following Mr. Bazoft's execution, in March 1990." —[Official Report, 16 January 1991; Vol. 183, c. 501.]As late as March 1990, less than a year ago, we were training military personnel who are no doubt in the desert waiting for our troops to attack. They will use the skills which they learned here in this country against our forces, or "our lads" in the desert, as The Sun likes to call them.
Not only that, but in answer to a question to the Department of Education and Science, the Under-Secretary of State gave me information about the number of Iraqis at universities, polytechnics and other institutions of higher education. Between 1981 and 1989, there was an average of 952 Iraqis studying at our higher education establishments. Perhaps they were innocently studying sociology, social anthropology or philosophy, but I bet that, when I get an answer from the Minister about the breakdown of subjects, we shall find that they were studying chemical engineering or even nuclear engineering. It is an absolute disgrace that our trade in training people for service in dictatorial, military organisations should continue.
I hope that we shall learn the lesson from this war. I hope sincerely that we shall come to the end of the war rapidly, defeat Saddam Hussein, sweep him from power 77 and learn that, in future, we must ensure that there are no more sales of arms and there is no more training for countries under such vile leadership.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
On behalf of the overwhelming majority of my constituents in Uxbridge, some of whom have sons and daughters serving in the armed forces and, doubtless, in the Gulf, I support the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
If anyone had told me 12 months ago that we would be fighting a major war with Iraq, I would have been incredulous. I had hoped and begun to believe that, after the encouraging events in eastern Europe last year, British forces would never again be deployed in a major conflict. I was looking forward, as I believe every hon. Member was, to a period of peace and co-operation with the people of eastern Europe and to moving forward into a new era when we would spend less on defence and more on things we need at home, such as education and the health service. Suddenly, in a matter of months, all those hopes were dashed and we found ourselves at war with Saddam Hussein and his military machine in Iraq.
My constituents recognise, as I do, that, unwelcome and desperately unhappy though the conflict is, there is unfortunately no alternative to armed force to liberate Kuwait and to prevent further aggression by a dictator who has made it clear to every hon. Member that his intentions would not have stopped at Kuwait, but would have gone much further if he had not been stopped.
The town of Uxbridge and my constituents have a special concern in addition to those that every hon. Member shares about the loss of human life in this conflict. The Royal Air Force is an integral part of our community. RAF Uxbridge is at the centre of my constituency and RAF Northolt and RAF West Drayton, in which my hon. Friends the Members for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) share an interest, are on the constituency boundaries.
My thoughts today, and those of many of my constituents, are with the courage and skill of our airmen and women who are engaged in sorties against military targets, and with those who provide back-up to make their operations possible. Some of those people are not mentioned much in the media: I mean the men and women who keep the aircraft flying, transport vital supplies and provide administrative support. All that is vitally important to the war effort.
I pay tribute to our aircrew, to their professional approach to their task and to the skill that enables them to bomb their targets so precisely as to destroy the Iraqi military machine, and to do so with virtually no civilian loss of life. This morning I heard John Simpson, the BBC's admirable correspondent, tell the British people on television that he thought it probable that fewer than 100 civilians had been injured in Baghdad, with virtually no deaths. What a contrast that is with the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian populations of combatant countries in the second world war, when I—like the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) and others—spent my boyhood in the shelter, hearing enemy bombs rain down on home and country.
I endorse the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and his admirable handling of the whole dispute. 78 We British—and, indeed, our allies—have no quarrel with the civilian population of Iraq; our quarrel is with one man and a few of his henchmen, for the totally unacceptable occupation of Kuwait. It is in that light that I express my concern for the RAF aircrew who are now prisoners of war in Iraq.
I am deeply concerned by reports that Iraq is to use prisoners of war as human shields by locating them at military targets in Iraq, in clear contravention of articles 3 and 13 of the Geneva convention. Today I obtained a copy of the latest version from the Library, and I commend it to any hon. Member who has not read it—as I had not until today. It is extremely revealing, and sets out very clearly the obligations that rest on Iraq. If the reports now appearing in the media are correct, Saddam Hussein is guilty of a serious war crime in contravention of the convention.
Hon. Members will remember that, in his broadcast on 20 January, Saddam Hussein said that Iraq would observe the Geneva convention in its treatment of prisoners of war. If Iraq is now seeking to attach its own conditions before observing the convention, it must be a matter of grave concern. That is entirely unacceptable to our country: using British prisoners of war as a human shield, or parading them on television, is a clear breach of the convention. Article 3 of the third Geneva convention requires that prisoners of war should be protected against insults and public curiosity; in all circumstances, they are entitled to respect for their persons and their honour.
Article 122 requires that Iraq should notify the central tracing agency of the International Red Cross within the shortest period of the names of all prisoners of war, whether or not their capture has been acknowledged. I hope that, when he winds up the debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be able to tell the House the extent to which the central tracing agency has informed the British Government of the names of our prisoners of war in Iraq. I hope that he will also be able to tell us what assistance is being given as a result of representations made to the International Red Cross, and what action Iraq is taking to aid the wounded and sick in accordance with article 3(2).
As I have said, I am proud—as, I know, are many other hon. Members on both sides of the House—of the skill and courage of RAF aircrew, and of the skill and courage of all our allies in the seven countries to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred at the beginning of the debate. Like all my constituents and all hon. Members, I devoutly hope that Saddam Hussein will recognise the inevitable and withdraw from Kuwait and that a lasting peace can be achieved in the middle east. I am confident that, if Saddam does that, a lasting peace can be achieved; but, if he does not, our country will see the conflict through to the end, despite the difficult times and the bad news that we may have to face. We shall do so because of the overwhelming support of the British people and because of the courage and excellence of all our armed forces. I am very proud of them.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) was right to draw attention to the skill and potential sacrifice of our service men and women—as have many Conservative Members—but I hope that that praise will also take account of the 79 facts mentioned by my hon. Friends. Some of those facts are not very pleasant. Let me, for once, be very outspoken in the House about Members' interests, and say that I hope that all Conservative Members who have any relationship with arms sales firms, whether or not they have been involved in Iraq, will think twice about the compatibility of that role with their duties as politicians.
The hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) was right to say that peace, and the prevention of war, were the profession of politicians. All the bravery of our service men and women can only provide an opportunity for politicians around the world, whatever label they bear, to make the peace. A just war requires a just peace, and preparations for a just peace.
Conservative Members have spoken about the last war. Fifty years ago the second world war was just beginning, but for the home front, as it was then called, the watchwords were "post-war reconstruction at home and international rehabilitation abroad". In June 1941, nearly 50 years ago, the Minister responsible for post-war reconstruction, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, appointed the then Sir William Beveridge and his committee; in August 1941, President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill met dramatically in mid-Atlantic and signed the Atlantic charter, which was the international basis for what later became the charter of the United Nations.
I believe that at this time we should take similar action. We should think about a "new deal" to amend the injustice and lack of security in—on this occasion—the whole of the middle east and consider how the United Nations can shape itself to meet the challenges that must surely come in whatever one has been calling a new era.
At home, for many people, there was not that much security before the war. Conservative Members have talked of the need for security for those in Israel, among others, but security is double-edged: as President Gorbachev has said, one state cannot obtain security by trying to undermine that of another state. We all understand that. The middle east needs the new security—the "new deal"—that this country obtained through the last war.
I suggest that the Government now put aside three separate teams. Although we may have different views about whether a war should take place and whether we should be fighting it, I think that the whole House should agree with such a suggestion. This country has a long history of relations with the area. A large number of Arabists, both active and retired, have served or are serving in the diplomatic service. The United Kingdom had a mandate from the League of Nations to administer Mesopotamia. We ought to put together a team of people with multidisciplinary skills and with knowledge of the area to consider the terms of the post-war settlement. That will not depend on the conference; it will depend on the conversations, analyses and suggestions that are made before any conference takes place.
The United Kingdom can take advantage of opportunities that are not open to the senior partners in the enterprise, the United States of America. The United States of America faces domestic, political and democratic difficulties that are causing problems. We want all the 80 United nations resolutions to be spelt out. That has been done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and others.
At the end of the last war, a British middle east office was established. It included both a political division and a development division. The development division was concerned with rehabilitation and supplying the needs of people in want. The Gulf war will lead to tremendous physical destruction. Much reconstruction must come after it. Later, in Cairo, the development division became the first development division of the Overseas Development Administration. It was, alas, destroyed in 1980 by this Government. The middle east development division was dismantled, despite the fact that it was the only body that had comprehensive knowledge of arid and semi-arid areas.
The middle east development division ought to be re-established. A think tank should be established in Whitehall, consisting of those both outside and inside the ODA.
Another multidisciplinary team should be set out to deal with the physical needs of rehabilitation. After the last war, the United Nations established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. We need something similar to that, or a re-formed United Nations agency, to deal with want and distress in the middle east, of which there will be a great deal.
The future United Nations surely ought to be a different organisation from the mark I version that we have had so far. I regret the fact that Conservative Members of Parliament and their leaders have occasionally unduly criticised the United Nations. I remember what Lord Home of the Hirsel and the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said about it. Of course the United Nations was imperfect. Its agencies did not do all that they ought to have done when and how we should have liked. I have always kept the United Nations charter in my letter rack. If people say to me, "Why do you have it there, Nigel?" I reply, "Because it represents the standing orders of world peace."
§ Mr. Spearing
It does. We have nothing else. I think that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) will agree with me that the United Nations was established to prevent war but, if war broke out, the United Nations' objective was to ensure that it was conducted justly. That is why this motion is before us. All we have is the charter on which to build. I hope that Conservative Members will look again at the history of their lack of support for the United Nations during the last few years.
§ Mr. Spearing
As the rule is that speeches must last no longer than 10 minutes, I regret that I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. He will be able to make his own speech later, and we may also be able to correspond about the matter he wishes to raise.
The Government must give a moral lead by creating a team of people with experience of the United Nations agencies. It should include many distinguished civil servants, both active and retired, and politicians with 81 knowledge of the United Nations agencies. We must also remind our partners across the Atlantic that its record in respect of the United Nations is not impeccable.
§ Mr. Spearing
Yes. The people of the United States are great-hearted and generous. Once they recognise the plight of people in the middle east, I am sure that that great nation, which shares many of our democratic ideals, will say that it ought to have placed greater emphasis on the role of the United Nations in peace—indeed, as much emphasis as the United States now places on it in war.
The United Kingdom and the United States of America did great things together in the last war. Their inspiration came from different quarters. I am sure that hon. Members and, I hope, the Government will provide similar inspiration now. We must remind our United States friends of the challenges that face them. We must make a peace that is worthy of this House and the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
Before I comment on the conflict, I wish to refer to what was said by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). He referred to the lack of hospital facilities in this country. It has already been made perfectly clear that additional money will be made available to the regional hospital authorities if extra wards have to be opened to accommodate casualties from the middle east. So those who are waiting for hospital treatment should not have to wait any longer. I should have respected what was said by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East about casualties, had he made a similarly forceful and emotional speech during the past five months about the atrocities, casualties, deaths and deportations in Kuwait. His lopsided view of the conflict says it all.
No one who has watched or listened to the news reports about the Gulf conflict during the past few days can have anything but admiration for the aircrew who have flown continuous missions into Iraq and Kuwait, or be anything but stunned by the accuracy of the weapons and the technology they have had to back them up. In every sense, this is a high-speed conflict. I was fortunate enough to fly in a Tornado as recently as last May. It is an incredibly high-speed aircraft. Everything happens so fast. The aircrew and personnel on the ground have to react very speedily to any threat. Moreover, the results of an operation can be seen very quickly on our television screens.
There is little doubt that the quick and effective harnessing of modern technology to the Gulf war had a great part to play in the element of surprise last Wednesday evening when Iraq was attacked. That surprise led to Iraq's air force being badly damaged in the first few hours of the conflict. Since then, it has not been an effective force and I believe that it will be even less effective in the future.
Royal Air Force Tornados have played a critical role in achieving that objective. Their task, successfully accomplished, was to attack some of the most heavily defended targets in Iraq—notably, major airfields. Tornados were deployed mainly because they are fitted with the allies' most effective weapon, which incapacitates runways. Their 82 success in achieving their objective was also because Tornados are able to fly at such high speed close to the ground, both day and night and in almost any weather.
That explains the number of Tornado losses. Although that number is very low, it is none the less greater than the number of other allied aircraft that have been lost. It is worth putting on record the fact that, but for the low-level training that crews receive in peacetime, they would have been unable to attack their targets with such success and with such effect during the past few days. I welcome the comments made last Thursday by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who now understands the necessity of low-flying training in the United Kingdom. I trust that we can count on his support to maintain that low-flying training in the future.
The devastating accuracy of the weapons being used by the allies is undoubtedly resulting in fewer civilian casualties than would have occurred in such a conflict in the past. I hope that Opposition Members who have commented on civilian casualties will note the huge amount of attention that is being paid by allied commanders to minimising civilian casualties when targets are selected. That compares favourably with the attitude of the Iraqis in the use of Scud missiles against cities and civilian populations in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Apart from the accuracy of allied weapons, another important feature of the conflict has been the value of reconnaissance in assessing the effectiveness of attacks and in finding the targets for further missions. The view of the Royal Air Force has always been that that role should be a specialist one and separate from the ground attack roles of many aircraft, with specially adapted aircraft being used to carry out dedicated attacks. Our American allies have not placed the same emphasis on that separateness of functions. That partly explains the video cameras in some American attack aircraft and the excellent media coverage that has resulted from them, but it equally explains why the specialist reconnaissance Tornado was successfully tasked to seek out the Scud missile sites.
That weapon, which has been important politically and which, with the highly effective Patriot missile, has given a good performance for television news crews in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia, is of marginal significance in military terms and cannot affect the outcome of the conflict. What can affect its outcome is the extent to which allied air forces can destroy Saddam's ground forces before our troops are called on to take part and retake Kuwait. I am convinced that we are only beginning to see the effectiveness of high-tech weapons against ground equipment, and because of that I am equally convinced that the air campaign should continue for some time.
I should like to mention the men and women who are supporting the air campaign. Many of my constituents help to build the Tornado and many others from Lancashire are employed by British Aerospace to keep the Saudi air force in a first-class state of servicability. In that context, I was fortunate enough to visit Saudi Arabia under the auspices of British Aerospace as recently as last September. It is clear that many civilians from this country are doing an excellent job in Saudi Arabia supporting both the Saudi air force and the Royal Air Force.
I am particularly conscious of the attitude of the media to dependants of service men in the Gulf because both my brothers are serving there. I direct my remarks particularly at those parts of the media which, in their legitimate desire to sell newspapers or to get an interview first for their 83 television channel, overstep the line between what is acceptable and decent and what causes great personal anguish to the combatants and their families. There is clearly a need to provide the media with as much information as possible without compromising our military planning. In that respect, the Ministry of Defence and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence are doing a very satisfactory job. Equally, it is the responsibility of the media to use that information sensibly.
Many hon. Members have dwelt on what sort of peace should follow the conflict. I have not done so because I believe that all our attention should be on expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. If we are successful in that, Saddam Hussein's days, and those of the bandit state that he has created, are numbered and I look forward to an Iraqi regime that is more acceptable to the world community.
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)
At Prime Minister's Question Time last week, I drew to his attention the fact that the need to know should be paramount in any statement made to the House. He gave me what I thought at the time was a satisfactory answer. The hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) will no doubt remember some of the stories that he and I were told when we visited the Falklands two years ago. I have been haunted by some of the things that we were told on that occasion.
This is a high-tech war—some people have described it as an arcade game, rather too accurately. I say to the House and the news media that in such a war even the tiniest pieces of information can be of use to the enemy, who will use it to kill our soldiers, sailors and airmen on the ground in Saudi Arabia. We, especially Ministers and military spokesmen, should be careful about what we make public.
I have no doubt that, as soon as we try to conceal things that should be concealed, we shall face howls of fury from the media, but I would sooner have them howling than see one unnecessary death among our service men in the Gulf or anywhere else. In any case, it can all be told when the war is over. No doubt it will then look even more different than the news does an hour after we first see it on the television. I am sure that every hon. Member who has watched the blow-by-blow accounts has been horrified by how often words have had to be eaten within a hour or two, not least when Scud missiles were being launched.
Our self-interest in this war is not perhaps as great as it might have been in 1939, or even in the Falklands. We have an interest in ensuring that there is a rule of law in international affairs and that small nations enjoy their right to exist. We did not want this war, but we came up against a calculating individual who had set out to become a major force in that area by gaining control of a vital world commodity—oil—not by democratic will but simply by the use of brute force.
When I hear people discussing ways in which we could have avoided war, I wonder whether they understand the mind of the thug whom we are up against, because this is a naked demonstration of pure thuggery on a large scale by a man who, as far as I am aware, has practised it throughout his life. He is not an individual whom any hon. 84 Member would want as a close friend, but for that matter many other leaders of that part of the world would fall into the same category.
The reality is that most middle east countries are not in the slightest democratic. There are differing degrees of sheer awfulness, right up to bare acceptability. The sooner we realise and accept that, the better for all of us. We are not choosing between two goods, but are choosing the least of the differing evils. We hope that eventually things will improve in that part of the world. I do not expect any quick improvement, any more than I expect it in other parts of the world.
People in the news media and outside the House have lamented the possible consequences of attacking Iraq. They say that Saddam Hussein is so determined to get his own way that he will use any means that come to hand: that he will burn oilfields, use violence against people by torturing them—he has been dong that for years—and will resort to nuclear weapons, if he has them, and biological weapons. Some people say that, because Saddam Hussein is capable of such awfulness, perhaps we should deal gently with him and try to talk to him. We were told in this debate that some of his people who refused to serve were hanged. Those are not reasons for leaving this individual alone. They are good reasons for removing him from any position of authority as quickly as possible before his evil spreads.
I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) about the Israelis' self-interest in not responding to the Scud attacks. Anyone who believes that that was not self-interest should look at the matter again. The Israelis would have been mad to carry out any attack. Self-interest is also important to the Syrians, who see the prospect of a dangerous person having his power removed. I take a jaundiced view of some of the praise that has been heaped on folk who have an enlightened self-interest for following a course of action which they have apparently been persuaded to follow. It has been in their self-interest to follow that course; any other would do them much more damage.
Many other hon. Members want to take part in the debate and, although we are no longer governed by the 10-minute rule, I shall try to restrict myself to it. Saddam Hussein has called for terrorist action in support of his actions. I hope that that has been taken on board in this country. Northern Ireland Members are aware of what terrorists can do. We have no doubt that Saddam Hussein has tried to call in the bills that are owed to him by the Irish Republican Army through the Palestine Liberation Organisation and other organisations.
There has not been much terrorist activity by those organisations, any more than there has been much reaction from the Iraqi air force. We are not sure whether the efforts of the security forces in the western world have prevented such attacks, just as we are not sure whether the efforts of the air forces attacking Iraq have prevented the Iraqi air force from getting into action. We should all be alert. These people are not stupid. They are clever, devious and dangerous and, if they get a chance to butcher some people in pursuit of their aims, they will certainly do it. That applies no less to the Province which I have the honour to represent than to anywhere else in the world.
I fully support the Government's motion, which says all that needs to be said. I have some difficulty with the amendment tabled by the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. and hon. Friends. There are some rumours that 85 a deal has been done and that there will not be a vote if the Front-Bench spokesmen can avoid it. I understand that, because they want to present a united front.
The motion moved by the Leader of the Oppositioncommends the instructions to minimise civilian casualties wherever possible".A few words are missing. The motion should read, "wherever possible, without placing our service men's lives at unnecessary risk". That may be the sense of the motion, but it is not what it says.
The motion refers to returningwith renewed vigour to resolving the wider problems in the Middle East.Hon. Members should remember what I said about the thug. This individual will seize on even the slightest crack to claim that he has secured linkage with the Palestinian issue. It is in the interests of the world, especially of the middle east, that people should know that Saddam Hussein is being opposed for his wickedness alone and that the issue should not be tied to another serious, enduring problem which we all hope will be resolved, for the good of the world in the long term.
§ 8.4 pm
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
One of the pleasing, major features of the war into which we have entered is the lack of jingoism shown by the majority of hon. Members and of the world community. Everyone accepts the necessity to deal with Saddam Hussein and all his works in Iraq.
The most important factor about the war is that it is the United Nations war. It is not a war between Iraq and the United States and Britain. For the first time since 1948, a unified United Nations—the family of nations—is standing up against an international bully and saying, "You cannot take over a sovereign state and be allowed to get away with it". We must take that sovereign state back and re-establish it. [Interruption.] I hear what Opposition Members say and I respect their right to say that they do not support the war. Democracy would fail if they were not allowed to express that view. However, I would say to them, especially to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), that it does not make any difference, under the principles that we wish to uphold, whether the sovereign state being taken over is a democracy.
As the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) rightly pointed out, during the last war we went to the assistance of Poland and Greece, which were not democracies. We are in the same position now. We have gone to the assistance of Kuwait, which is not a democracy. That is not the principle; the principle for which we are fighting is the right of sovereign states to run their political life without interference from their neighbour and without aggression.
We must look carefully at the man at the helm. As a student of history, like many other hon. Members, I see many parallels between Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. If we had not appeased Hitler in the 1930s, we might not have been involved in such a widespread world war between 1939 and 1945. The world has learned from that. Members of the United Nations have been drawn together and the organisation has been given strength because members have recognised that we cannot appease dictators and that we must deal with them.
86 We need only consider the man with whom we are dealing. He used chemical weapons on his own people in Kurdistan. For eight years, he invaded a neighbouring country, Iran, and thousands of his citizens were killed in the battles between the two countries. This man has no respect for human life or for human rights. Some abuses of human rights in Iraq over the past few years have been appalling: torture and the lack of what we in the House take for granted—freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Basic freedoms which we champion have been trodden all over by this man.
Saddam Hussein is doing exactly the same thing in this war. One of the saddest parts of the war is his use of service men from the allied air force as shields against the bombing. That is a clear breach of the Geneva convention, of the basic rules of human rights, of all the decent things for which we in the House stand. We cannot allow this to happen. At the end of the conflict, Saddam Hussein must be brought to account.
I believe that, regrettably, sanctions were not going to work. The scientific evidence shows that Saddam Hussein was far too close to having nuclear weapons which he could have used. Imagine a man who is not bothered about world opinion and who is prepared to fight for eight years, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives, having the capacity to use nuclear weapons. Having to deal with Saddam Hussein 18 months from now, following the failure of sanctions, would be an entirely different matter. It was right to attempt to do so, and to prevent him from going further, following the 15 January deadline.
The big issue for the House and for the whole world is how far we should go. Should we stop if and when Saddam Hussein withdraws from Kuwait? Should we turn round and say, "This man is a war criminal; we must deal with him"? Should we take the war all the way to Baghdad and destroy Saddam Hussein in his capital city? Or should we turn to the people of Iraq and say, "You have put this man at the helm; you must now remove him"? Should we leave it to the Iraqi people? At the moment, those issues are being blurred in the House and in the alliance. But we will have to take a decision. We cannot merely live in the hope that Saddam Hussein will somehow be destroyed.
We must also consider the involvement of Israel. I agree with those of my hon. Friends who have said that Israel has shown remarkable restraint and courage in refusing to respond to Iraq's attacks. Saddam Hussein wants to break up the international alliance. He wants to involve Israel and move us towards universal war. The Israelis have shown respect for world peace and great discretion in seeking to prevent that. We must have great respect for that attitude and we must help Israel in every way that we can. That does not mean that, at the end of the conflict, we should ignore Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but at this stage we should separate the two issues. There can be no linkage between the Palestinians' problems and the occupation of Kuwait. The two are entirely separate. This war is about the freeing of Kuwait and about ensuring that Kuwait remains an independent sovereign state.
The major issue today is what happens at the end of the conflict. The peace is a vital factor. The end of the first world war brought the treaty of Versailles. Anyone who has studied the period will know that the causes of the second world war were firmly rooted in the treaty of Versailles. Hitler's writings in the 1920s and 1930s show 87 how he thrived on the dissatisfaction caused by the treaty and how that eventually led to the rise of the Nazis and to the second world war. There are lessons to be learnt.
If we go so far as to remove Saddam Hussein from the leadership of Iraq, we must ensure that we establish democracy in that part of the middle east. Perhaps that will be the beginning of the process in the surrounding states that Opposition Members seek. Perhaps the example of eastern Europe may be followed in the middle east and more democratic states will develop.
I fully support the motion. Nothing worth striving for has ever been achieved without cost. What we are striving for in this just war is lasting world peace. That is worth fighting for. It will necessarily entail the loss of life, but it is to be hoped that we shall end up with a United Nations newly empowered, with new strength and new respect, and so with peace in the world for generations to come.
§ Mr. Calum MacDonald (Western Isles)
Now that our forces are committed, there can be no question of a pause or of a ceasefire until we receive a clear, credible, irrevocable message from the Iraqi Government that they are ready to withdraw from Kuwait. It is hard to imagine that that message will come now and we must therefore be willing to pursue the war until the terms of the United Nations resolutions are fulfilled.
Despite all the technological wizardry that we have seen in recent days, we should have no illusions: the burden of the task ahead will fall upon the all-to-human shoulders of ordinary troops. It is to be hoped that the Iraqi Government will recognise the futility of their cause, but if they do not, we must expect the fighting to be bitter.
Is the cause for which this war is being fought right? Without doubt, it is. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) pointed out that Kuwait was not a democratic or particularly likeable or savoury regime. The Polish regime in 1939 was not a democratic or particularly likeable regime; it was an authoritarian and anti-semitic Government. That was not the point then, and the nature of the Kuwaiti regime is not the point now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East was right to stress the cost of the war that the allies expect to have to fight. Is the expected cost commensurate with the potential gain? So far as we can reasonably foresee, the cost will indeed be commensurate, because the political gain could well be—indeed, it has to be—a general settlement that will secure peace, stability and the opportunity for progress for all states and all peoples of the middle east. The ultimate gain will be an unprecedented victory for the rule of international law as enforced by the United Nations.
It is because of the importance of establishing the rule of international law that the Foreign Secretary has been absolutely right to stress that it cannot be one of our aims to change the Government of Iraq. That is why the Opposition were right to oppose previous United States actions in Panama and Grenada. We did so not because we supported the dictatorships in those countries or because we doubted that a change of regime in those countries would constitute an improvement but because once dislike of, or distaste for, the regime of another country becomes 88 an acceptable pretext for attacking that country, there can be no such thing as the rule of international law. Any state can use that pretext to justify an attack upon any other state. Indeed, Iraq has tried to use it in this instance. I hope, therefore, that, in future, the Foreign Secretary will be more ready than his predecessors to remind American Governments of the basic rule of international law and of the fact that that law, if it is to be law, can have no exceptions.
I have said that I believe that the war is being fought for a just purpose. I have said that we must see it through. But was war inevitable? Personally, I do not believe that, had Iraq continued to be unwilling to withdraw, sanctions alone would have worked. Iraqi tank divisions could have been made immobile by the lack of oil and spare parts, but they would still have been sitting in Kuwait. Certainly, a more prolonged period of sanctions could have weakened the Iraqi military further and made things easier for our troops, but sanctions alone could never have restored the sovereignty of Kuwait. I return to my question: was war, then, inevitable? I am not sure that it was, and that is a truly dreadful thought.
There has been a great failure in the tone and substance of American diplomacy as regards Iraq. Without doubt, there is now greater urgency to search for a general middle east settlement than there was before the crisis began. We saw evidence of that urgency in the speeches from both Front Benches. It should have been possible for diplomats to portray that urgency, before 15 January, in a way that might have allowed the Iraqi Government a face-saving back door out of Kuwait. That should at least have been attempted. But, time and again, the Americans insisted that they were not in the business of allowing Saddam Hussein to save face. I believe that that was an error, and I fear that it shows a continuing immaturity in American diplomacy. It is certainly right to go to war, if necessary, to protect small states from aggressive and vicious neighbours, but it is abysmally foolish to end up at war simply because one is not willing to allow one's opponent to save some face.
That chapter is now closed, however, and it will be for the historians to pass judgment on the failures of western diplomacy, both before and since the invasion of Kuwait. Our job now is to turn our attention to the diplomatic task after the war is over. I see that task as twofold. First, for the west, there has to be a sustained and unyielding effort to bring about a genuine middle east settlement. American sloth and subservience to Israel have contributed greatly to the present tragedy. It must not be allowed to lead to another. Of course we congratulate the Israelis on their restraint in the face of recent missile attacks. However, a settlement that allows the Palestinians self-determination is as much in Israeli interests as in the interests of the international community.
Secondly, there is a special lesson to be learned by the countries of western Europe. My views here might be a little unfashionable at the moment. I believe that there must be a renewed effort to integrate political co-operation into the framework of the European Community.
Community foreign policy must become subject to majority decision making within the Community. In recent weeks, some have drawn the opposite conclusion. They claim that the scenes of division and disarray within the Community in the run-up to war prove that we can never achieve the aim of majority decision making in that context. On the contrary, that experience is a reason for 89 saying why we must act in that way. Unless we have an institutional framework for ensuring a unified response, we are doomed to repeat these European displays of disunity and disarray.
The French were right in the substance of their solo diplomacy in the last few days before war. However, they were quite wrong to believe that they could carry it off by themselves. If Community foreign policy continues o be a policy of competing amid jealous individual states, American Governments will continue to dominate and dictate the agenda to us. Europeans have too much to offer in terms of policy and too much to lose in terms of self-respect to allow such scenes to be repeated.
The allied forces are acting under the authority of the United Nations, and they are not simply fighting for little Kuwait: they are fighting for a new international order. That at least is the promise made by the west, and that is a promise that we must strain every sinew to fulfil after this tragic war is over.
§ Mr. Michael Irvine (Ipswich)
Over the past decade, Saddam Hussein's regime has been one of the prime causes of the chronic instability affecting the middle east. If, through lack of resolve on our part and that of our allies, Saddam Hussein had been allowed to get away with his seizure of Kuwait, that instability would have been made worse; a solution to middle east problems would have been made more remote; the arms race in the area would have intensified, and the potential for conflagration would have become even greater.
Saddam Hussein's taste for aggression and reckless militarism is appreciated only too well by Iraq's neighbours. It is significant that even Syria, for so long the arch-enemy of the west, is now lined up with us as a military ally in opposition to Saddam. That shows above anything else just how deep runs the fear and distrust of Saddam Hussein in many Arab countries. Iraq's expulsion from Kuwait and Saddam Hussein's defeat, particularly if it is accompanied by his overthrow, could be a powerful force for stability in the middle east.
At the moment, the war must seem of precious little benefit to the people of Iraq. However, there could be benefits for them, as well as for their neighbours, if the war —directly or indirectly—leads to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. They could obviously reap considerable advantage from that.
Presumably the Kurds would welcome Saddam's removal after the terrible sufferings that he has inflicted on them. We should remember that the Kurds account for no less than a quarter of Iraq's population. I believe that the hatred and resentment of Saddam in Iraq extends beyond the Kurds.
A regime as repressive, corrupt, nepotic and as idiosyncratic as Saddam Hussein's is likely to be hated and loathed by many of those who have the misfortune to live under it. I can see the destruction of Saddam's military machine ridding neighbouring countries of a threat and the Iraqis of a tyrant and also providing, if properly exploited, a better prospect than has existed for a long time of an overall peace settlement in the middle east.
A great deal will depend on three factors. The first is the extent to which we respect Arab sensitivities and the extent to which we and our allies are successful in keeping civilian casualties to a minimum and avoid damage to Muslim 90 holy places. It is immensely reassuring that great efforts are obviously being made by our pilots and the other allied airmen to ensure that that is the case. Having said that, we should recognise that precision bombing of the kind necessary to achieve those aims enormously increases the risks that those airmen must face.
The second factor on which the successful peace settlement will depend is the speed with whch Americans, British and other western ground forces are withdrawn after the conflict. Obviously we will need to retain a presence in the area, but that should be a discreet presence, in the background, consisting of support by air and sea. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of that aspect and said that he believed that it would be unwise for us to retain ground forces in the region once the conflict is over.
The third crucial, and perhaps most important, element is that there must be a determined, thorough effort in the immediate aftermath of war to solve the Palestinian problem. It was right to avoid linkage of the Palestinian problem in the context of the invasion of Kuwait. That invasion was clearly wrong and it needed to be put right promptly. The Palestinian problem is a very different and much more complex issue which should be addressed with more time and care.
A thorough effort of the kind that I have in mind would involve putting pressure on Israel to come to terms. In saying that, I do not take an unfriendly attitude towards Israel. A solution to the Palestinian problem involving some significant concessions by Israel is in the long-term interests of Israel itself. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) that any middle eastern settlement must at its heart involve a secure Jewish state.
The impact of the war will self-evidently be greatest in the middle east. However, it will also have a powerful effect on American relations with the European Community and with Japan. At the moment, American minds are concentrated on military objectives and the task of winning the war. However, when the war is over and the Americans count the cost and consider the impact on their finances, there is a risk that some resentment will arise in the United States at the lack of support—financial, military and moral—from Japan and all too many countries in European Community.
That could be very dangerous indeed. It could worsen still further the prospects of successful trade negotiations, and it could also imperil the necessary continuing defence co-operation between America and the other countries of the west both inside and outside Europe. If we need any reminders of just how important that continuing defence co-operation is, we need only consider recent events in Estonia and Latvia.
In that context, Britain will have a special role to play. It is recognised in America, and especially by the American Government, just how considerable is our contribution to the war in the Gulf. Numerically, our contribution may be significantly less than that of the United States, but it is significantly greater than that of any other European Community country. Its quality is unsurpassed.
That fact means that we should have particular influence with the United States when it comes to dealing with trade negotiations and defence issues in and outside Europe. There lies ahead for us an important role in that 91 context, acting as an invaluable bridge between the United States and the European Community in the aftermath of the Gulf war.
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
This is a remarkable debate from several perspectives. The most important is the incredible degree of unity, if not of consensus, that exists in the Chamber and, far more important, outside. There will never be consensus on many issues in the House. Those who dissent are not pacifists, neutralists, fifth columnists, agents of international communism, or agents of Saddam. In any democracy, it is healthy for there to be scepticism among the Opposition towards the war aims of a Government. That is the virtue of our system.
I was in the United States 10 days ago. One of the many things that struck me was the absence of high enthusiasm on the part of congressmen and others for a war that we now know was absolutely inevitable. Some people believe that the United States is filled with warmongers who are hell-bent on establishing American domination throughout the world and who, given half a chance, will send forces anywhere at any time. Anyone who knows the United States and takes an interest in defence matters will be aware of the enormous impact that the humiliations of the Vietnam war still has on every aspect of society. That is why the Americans have moved with some reluctance to the major role of contributing to the forces against Saddam Hussein. They did so not with high enthusiasm but with moral rightness. There was and is an almost total absence of what we on this side of the Atlantic have historically called jingoism. That characteristic can be seen in this House, too. There is a sober reflection and analysis of the task to be undertaken.
That is very different from what happened during the first world war. I recall reading Kenneth Morgan's biography of Keir Hardie and the enormous anger and sadness that he felt when war was declared. He found that his party totally disagreed with him. He, Ramsay MacDonald and a handful of people were opposed to the war. He was mortified when Members of the House of Commons burst into English patriotic songs, led by a Labour Member of Parliament. He was even more mortified when he went home to his constituency. A meeting in Aberdare was disrupted by the singing of Welsh patriotic songs. He was barely able to get out of the meeting without physical violence.
We do not have the intense fervour of those days in 1914 or of some other wars. There is a resignation that war is inevitable—a resignation that no amount of negotiations with Iraq would have succeeded. The overwhelming majority of the population accepted the inevitable conclusion of this conflagration—a war that we did not seek but a war that must be successfully prosecuted. Therefore, I hope that hon. Members appreciate that others who disagree with their views do not disrespect them—they respect them. I hope that that respect will be reciprocated and that hon. Members will not regard us as bloodthirsty imperialists who are intent on re-establishing imperialist hegemony over a part of the world which, for far too long, has been subjected to external influences.
There is not much point in going over all the arguments 92 about why British, American, Muslim and United Nations forces are engaged in the Gulf. I would have much preferred it if sanctions could have worked. I should have liked it if sanctions could have been applied for longer. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) referred to William Webster of the CIA who said that sanctions were working. That report was based on Les Aspin's three White Papers that were submitted to Congress and the public two weeks ago.
However, my hon. Friend cited only part of the testimony. The analysis is generally that sanctions were working but that they would take much longer to be effective. Most important, there was no bridge between sanctions working and decision-making on the part of Saddam Hussein that would be consequent upon sanctions working. His military would get the majority of the declining source of food. They would have ample opportunity to dig in if sanctions were applied longer. They would be able clandestinely to rearm and to replace worn-out or defective equipment.
The fatal weakness of sanctions was that it would take 18 months or two years for them to be effective, and then there would be no guarantee that the suffering of the Iraqi people would have been translated into the demise of that repugnant regime. It is important to bear that point in mind.
The euphoria of the first day or so of the war has been dissipated. Not only will the war be longer rather than shorter, but there will be many setbacks. No doubt ships will be sunk and many lives will be lost. We must appreciate that, if our goals are to be achieved, we cannot throw in the towel simply upon the receipt of news of setbacks. Another important development has been that in the past few days we have seen the coalition holding together.
According to information so far available, a further factor of great importance has been the relative limitation on loss of life on both sides, which must be welcomed. That is partly due to the fact that we are deliberately not targeting the civilian population. It must be hoped that that policy will continue. Another important factor in the past few days has been the incredible success of precision-guided munitions. They are good, very good, but not all that good. One thing that is absolutely apparent, but which was not apparent a day or two ago, is that the overwhelming superiority of the allied air forces in zapping every airfield in sight and chasing Scud missiles has been only partially successful. It is now obvious that airfields —probably many airfields—are still operational. The large majority of the Iraqi air force is probably still intact. Therefore, it is rather utopian to think that, by themselves, smart munitions will win the war. That will not happen.
Another matter of some concern to me, which is based on my knowledge of and interest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is that ammunition is not in such supply as to enable us to fight a war in perpetuity. I just hope that the ammunition storage sites are properly activated in NATO and that we will be able to prosecute the war to its conclusion, whatever that conclusion may be, with adequate supplies of ammunition and adequate storage. I desperately hope that any misgivings that one might have about limitations of stocks in this regard prove to be unfounded.
I wish to raise a point about the Scud missile and its derivatives. I have great sympathy for the Palestinians, but there is no reason why that should exclude sympathy for 93 the Israelis and the right of Israel to exist as a nation. However, I must confess that I was rather alarmed and surprised about the debate in Israel which emerged at the time of the bombardment of Tel Aviv and some other cities by Scud missiles. Although there was no loss of life, there was a distinct likelihood, because of public opinion and for historical reasons, of which I am fully aware, that the action might precipitate the Israeli Cabinet into military action.
I am thankful that those fears have been allayed, but I wonder for how long. I am sure that my voice and even the voices of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will not have an enormous impact on the decision-makers in Israel, but I can only hope that combined pressure will ensure that Israel does not retaliate in a limited form or in a form which it is very capable of exercising. To those who argue that the Arab nations will say that Israel can respond, but only in a proportionate manner and the alliance will hold together, I say that we must reject that theory. I would much prefer that the Israelis did not respond in any way.
I believe that it is important for the Ministry of Defence to sharpen up its act in terms of public information. The Select Committee on Defence conducted an inquiry after the Falklands war, when it was pointed out how dreadful the public information network was in the Ministry of Defence. It is better than it was then. I am not arguing the case to bring back Ian McDonald because all is forgiven, but I am emphasising that it is very important for the Ministry of Defence to sharpen its act in its presentation of information. Much more must be done on that front and I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence realises it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does not my hon. Friend think it odd that the Ministry of Defence has chosen the chairman of a private organisation, Shandwick, Mr. Peter Gummer,—I make no particular complaint that he happens to be the brother of a Cabinet Minister—to present the case? Does he agree that that needs some explanation?
§ Mr. George
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. I was thinking more in terms of the actual presentation within the Ministry of Defence and the realisation by everyone concerned that the United States has presented its case infinitely better. There are lessons to be learnt.
Success in war is the result of many factors. It is the result of good quality equipment in sufficient quantity; of political and military leadership; of political goals and military strategy. Success is the result of the dedication of personnel, of political support and of luck. I very much hope that all those factors exist and that success will be guaranteed. However, I warn the House that there are some who feel that success is inevitable just because of numbers, legitimacy of cause and the fact that we are largely a first world nation taking on a second or third world nation which has aspirations to being a first world nation. But success is not necessarily guaranteed and things could go wrong. I hope that public opinion is sufficiently mature to appreciate that there may be setbacks and failure to achieve objectives in a short time. But such is the legitimacy of our cause and the desire to create a better world minus Saddam Hussein that I hope that any setbacks will be absorbed so that we can go on to 94 eventual victory and the creation of a more equitable and better world, not just in the middle east but throughout the globe.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)
The fact that I agree with virtually everything that the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) has said indicates the degree of unanimity across the Floor of the House. It also makes the task of finding something new to say rather difficult. Therefore, I will be as brief as possible. Many points have been covered during the debate. As one who had the privilege in October last year of meeting some of the Royal Air Force crews deployed in Saudi Arabia, I was able to witness that tension which they felt and the calm, steely resolve that has been displayed for all of us to see on the television in recent days.
Like other hon. Members, I pay tribute to the aircrews of the Royal Air Force for their sheer guts and professionalism in the way they have performed their task. When I woke up on Thursday morning, it was to the sombre realisation that an awesome war had been embarked upon. However, I felt a sense of pride that squadrons of the Royal Air Force were participating in some of the most difficult tasks in the battle to liberate Kuwait. I do not believe that pride to be in any way misplaced. It was a perfectly honourable and noble response to the actions of those crews flying alongside the equally brave American, Saudi and other air forces. As my own late father served with 31 Squadron RAF in the last war, I felt some personal pride that 31 Squadron was among the first in action last week.
I do not think we should be under any illusion that this has been an easy ride for the Royal Air Force. It certainly has not. As we know, there have been casualties, but the fact that the number of casualties has been so low as a proportion of the number of sorties undertaken must not lead us to believe that these aircrews have not met any opposition. They have met opposition, and they have been more than equal to that task. They have acquitted themselves with considerable courage and effectiveness.
Much of this has its origins in the training they have undertaken. I suppose that all of us have at one time or another received complaints from constituents about low flying and the intrusion that this has caused. I hope that all those who have written to us with such complaints will now reflect that their tolerance of the Royal Air Force in its low-flying exercises over all parts of the United Kingdom has played no small part not only in the successful military operations that have been undertaken but in ensuring that our crews, as they undertake such operations, have a much better chance of coming through alive than they would if they had not been allowed to engage in low-flying sorties. Yet now the Germans have imposed restrictions on crews serving in Germany.
Every life lost is a family's tragedy and one should not minimise that in any respect. However, one must acknowledge that the training itself undertaken by these pilots over many years has not been without hazard. Between 1987 and 1989 no fewer than 40 Royal Air Force lives were lost as a result of accidents.
I also pay tribute to the manufacturers of the equipment. I do not think that anyone has mentioned them. We all have constituents who work in the defence industries and they also have acquitted themselves well. I 95 also pay tribute to civilians who are serving with British Aerospace and other British and foreign companies in Saudi Arabia who are playing their part in this heroic enterprise. We all hope that the air strikes will bring the Iraqis to their senses. If they fail to do so, the land forces will be committed and many of my constituents serving with the Staffordshire Regiment will be involved. We all hope, not only for their sake but for the sake of the people of Iraq, that these air strikes will be successful in inflicting maximum military damage on Iraq in order to bring its leader and its people to their senses.
We have all been stunned by the sophistication of the equipment deployed, and riveted by the capabilities of the Patriot anti-missile system. The fact that a reporter can talk about a Tomahawk missile threading its way, at eye level, down a street shows the advances that we have made. However, there is a lesson for my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench in this. It is that we have to recognise that, without some of this sophisticated equipment, we might have been seeing different pictures, and the reports that my right hon. Friends have brought to the House would have been different.
I hope that we will learn the lesson that "Options for Change" must be reviewed in the light of this conflict. We owe it to our forces never to send them into battle with second-rate equipment. I hope that we shall continue the process of modernisation and updating, particularly as we do not know what is happening in eastern Europe. There are two new systems—the multi-launch rocket system, which is not yet in use, and the air-launched anti-radar missile, which is undergoing a baptism of fire.
Journalists have also shown great bravery. Although it is invidious to single out individuals, I feel that John Simpson of the BBC has distinguished himself in his presentation of cool and dispassionate reports. An enormous burden of resposibility rests on the shoulders of journalists, and I hope that they acknowledge that. Ministers and commanders in the battle are operating in a goldfish bowl. It is important that journalists recognise that they are, first and foremost, British and that they must use great discretion.
For example, one of my constituents complained that the Israelis were being hounded to say where the Scud missiles had fallen and that Israeli Ministers were being hounded about why they were not going to retaliate. That should not be the job of British journalists. They should not harry people engaged in this exercise. It may be necessary for my right hon. Friends and military commanders to give out disinformation. They may need to employ that tactic so as to save lives, when they are conducting this war in a goldfish bowl.
As has been said, we all have constituents with families involved in this business. I hope that journalists on both national and local papers will make it their business to ensure, before they go knocking on the doors of the families whose sons, husbands and daughters have been involved in action, that the visiting officers of the Ministry of Defence have been there first. I also hope that they will respect the privacy of these families.
I have a technical point for my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. There is some concern about reinforcements. Young men who are queuing up in my constituency to enlist in the armed forces, particularly 96 the Army, are being turned away because there is a cap on recruiting. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reassure us that there will be sufficient reserves, should it be necessary to call on them.
This will not be a swift business, and there could be setbacks. We owe it to our armed forces to remain united in a common resolve to remove this evil tyrant from the world. It is only right that the chemical and nuclear capabilities of Iraq should be taken out, and we should not flinch from removing the principal villain, Saddam Hussein. As a nation, we have every right to be proud of our soldiers, sailors and airmen, who deserve unstinting support. In turn, they have good reason to be proud of their country's political leaders, on both sides of the House. They have served our forces well. I congratulate my right hon. Friends and the leaders of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats. I hope that we shall be able to continue the enterprise in the spirit in which it started.
§ Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)
I think that all of us would have preferred to be able to vote in a way that expressed our support for our troops and our concern for our civilians who are in Saudi Arabia, including some of my constituents who work with British Aerospace, and who cannot come back. However, the procedures of the House do not allow us to vote in that way, so we are particularly keen on making it clear that our concern for these people drives us to continue our protest that this war is not necessary, and was not inevitable. It is questionable whether it is even properly authorised by the United Nations. We should feel more confident about the United Nations aspect had we not seen for ourselves that the Secretary-General was not consulted in any way, shape or form about the timing of the action.
In December, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) gave us some wise words of warning. He said:What concerns many of us here and in the United States is that President Bush, by his words and deeds, is making it more difficult to use the necessary means that will restore peace and stability to the middle east. He is threatening to commit us all to a course that will destroy the possibility of peace and stability for at least a generation."—[Official Report, 11 December 1990; Vol. 182, c. 858.]That was as true as what my right hon. Friend said last week, which was that the British and American Governments have showna quite stupefying lack of proportion."—[Official Report, 15 January 1991; Vol. 183, c. 770.]Many people are protesting about the situation that we are in, and are not willing to be drawn into saying that this is out of our hands. Some 106 Members of the European Parliament said a week ago that they wanted "no part" in the proposed war, and they solemnly denounced itbefore the peoples of the world.They showed that the conditions laid down by the United Nations simply have not been abided by or complied with. They said:a collision between one million-plus armed men using the most fiendish modern military equipment, will restore neither peace nor security.The objective of the United Nations is supposed to be to restore peace and security. How will the launching of this conflict do that?
People have said that sanctions would have been too difficult, as if war somehow is an easier option. Every one of the reasons given to show the difficulty of pursuing the 97 sanctions option applies even more to war. To say that Saddam Hussein is very powerful is equal to saying that it will be very difficult to defeat him in war. It has not been established that, however despotic a ruler, he could pursue his aims with a bankrupted economy.
The Catholic Primate of all Ireland yesterday said that it is impossible, because of the destructive power of modern weaponry, to talk in terms of a just war. The Primate said:a great opportunity to defeat Iraq through international sanctions had been missed … The saddest thing is that in modern war there are no victors; everyone is a loser.If it would be difficult to conduct a protracted campaign of sanctions, how much more difficult will it be to conduct a protracted war? An American military doctor, reported in The Independent today, said that he thinks people do not appreciate the scale of the problem. He said;You're going to have a million men fighting each other here—think about that, a million, that's thousands of dead, tens of thousands of wounded. There will be Iraqi wounded coming in with British and American wounded and unidentified bodies. I've read about what happened in the Second World War. Many corpses, you just never find out whose they are. They all become unknown warriors.We are here today solemnly discussing this matter as politicians. We are facing a Government who have not shown by a single word that they recognise the crime that was committed by the developed countries in arming Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein would not have been able to invade Kuwait or anywhere else had he not been armed by the developed nations. There has not been a word from the Government to show that they have understood that lesson. There has not been a word of apology to our forces for the fact that, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition reminded us, there were means of making arms sold until recently by this country to Iraq.
My right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary reminded the parliamentary Labour party this morning that, until March last year, Iraqi troops were being trained in this country. There has not been a word of apology or explanation from the Government about that, nor any assurance that such matters will not recur. It is Saddam Hussein this time. Which other dictator will it be next time, and which other forces from our country and our constituencies will face him?
I have no confidence that these lessons have been learnt. That is why I do not accept that the Opposition amendment is sufficiently strong or specific. It is not enough to say that theinternational community must return with renewed vigour to resolving the wider problems in the middle east".What does "return with renewed vigour" mean? There has been no vigour shown. It cannot be returned to and there is nothing specific in the amendment, which is precisely why the Government can accept it. It is precisely that which undermines its value.
I would dearly have liked the Opposition to table an amendment which would have allowed us all to rally, to look for a future negotiated settlement—a peace settlement for the whole of the middle east. There is no sign of that at all. Therefore, very regretfully, I feel that I can show my concern for those Britons who are likely to be trapped in tanks and fried in the new trench warfare only by going into the Lobby against what is happening.
§ 9.3 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
What is quite clear, after the hostilities have now been going for several days, is that this is a war that no one wanted, except for Saddam Hussein. This war would never have taken place if Saddam Hussein had not invaded Kuwait on 2 August. It would never have taken place if, at any time between 2 August and 16 January, Saddam Hussein had withdrawn from Kuwait.
We in the Labour party argued that it should not even have taken place on 16 January. We argued that more time should have been given for sanctions and diplomacy to work. But it has to be said that, in the end, Iraq rejected diplomacy. The last-minute French initiative was turned down out of hand on the very last available day. Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, declared that he was not interested in any further diplomatic efforts.
Now that the war is on, we in the Labour party give our full support to British troops as they go into action. The whole country will have been impressed with the feelings expressed by the members of our armed forces. They do not voice any "Boys' Own Paper" or Biggles relish for the fight. They are patriotic, but not jingoistic. They admit their fear but express their determination.
We mourn those who have lost their lives, and our heartfelt sympathy goes to their families. So far, casualties among our service men are not as many as must have been feared. So far, according to both Iraqi and allied sources, casualties among Iraqis are far fewer than might have been expected at the beginning, taking into account the ferocity and intensity of the conflict. However, every individual casualty on both sides is one too many, and that includes Israeli civilians. So far, by sheer chance and nothing else, none of them has been killed, but they have been targets for unprovoked terroristic missile attacks on civilian populated centres.
The most dominant reason why we want the war to be over as soon as possible is that we want the killing to be over as soon as possible. These deaths are the most unacceptable price paid by the people of the world, including the people of Iraq, for the aggression of Saddam Hussein.
If there is to be any justification for the payment of that price, we must be clear about three things. First, we must be clear about precisely why the war is being fought. Secondly, we must be clear about what we must do when the war is over.
For us in the Labour party, the reasons for fighting this unwanted war are clear and simple. For us, the war is not about oil. I would not condone the sacrifice of one human life in exchange for a billion barrels of oil. Oil may have been Saddam Hussein's objective in consuming Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, but it is not our objective.
Nor for us is the war about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. We know that Saddam Hussein is a thug who has murdered men with his own hand and brought misery to millions of his own Iraqi people, to the Kurds and now to the Kuwaitis. If he were to be deposed by his fellow Iraqis, I would rejoice. Getting rid of him personally, however, is not the objective of the war.
For us in the Labour party, the only aim of the war is the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions 660 to 678, all of which require the removal of Iraq unconditionally from all of Kuwait. When that 99 specific United Nations objective has been achieved, the war can and should end. Until that objective has been achieved, to end the war would make the war itself, and the loss of life, completely pointless. Just as we must be entirely clear about why the war is being fought, so we must be equally clear about the circumstances in which it can be ended.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Saddam Hussein is responsible for the war—no one else is responsible, only he—and that he is responsible also for continuing the tragedy? It is clear that once his forces leave Kuwait the war can be brought to an end.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I shall come to that in a moment. I agree fully with my hon. Friend.
There are some, including some hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, who advocate that the war should end immediately, at least in a ceasefire, to enable us to explore the possibilites of a diplomatic solution. Indeed, King Hussein of Jordan has already put forward a detailed plan for such a diplomatic solution. I have the utmost respect for King Hussein. I understand the geographical and political predicament in which he finds himself and his country, and I sympathise with him.
But there is no diplomatic settlement on the agenda today that was not on the agenda last Tuesday, when Tariq Aziz made it clear that Iraq was not interested in any diplomatic solution that had been proposed so far or in any diplomatic solution that might be proposed. Indeed, this very evening we learn that Saddam Hussein has rejected a peace plan put forward by President Gorbachev, who proposed that there should be a ceasefire followed by an Iraqi withdrawal. Saddam Hussein has rejected that as well.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has said, Saddam Hussein could bring the war to an end very speedily in one of the two ways in which it is possible to bring it to an end: he could announce without any delay that he accepts the United Nations resolutions requiring him to withdraw unconditionally from all of Kuwait, and he could then withdraw under the supervision of the armed forces now operating in Saudi Arabia. I believe that at that point, if it should come, the Security Council ought to have a role in supervising compliance with its own resolutions, in enforcing the withdrawal, and in policing it after it has taken place.
The war need not go on after withdrawal has started to take place to the satisfaction of the Security Council. Such withdrawal would prevent the loss of any more lives, including Iraqi lives.
§ Mr. Hind
May I postulate a position that we may yet have to face? If the allies drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait—let us bear in mind his lack of reasonableness in response to every diplomatic and humanitarian approach that has been made—and if he continues to fight even when we have control of Kuwait, what will be our position? Shall we seek to remove him by driving the land forces to Baghdad, or shall we remain in Kuwait and fight him off from there?
§ Mr. Kaufman
If we have to fight to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, it will have to be a matter of defeating him conclusively. There would be no other way: otherwise, he would continue to fight.
It has to be said that, if Saddam Hussein does not withdraw, it will be possible to bring this war to a close only with the military defeat of Iraq. That is what I have just said to the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind).
§ Mr. Kaufman
Of course we would. If a new regime came to power in Baghdad, and if it were seen to be in control of the country, it would in those circumstances be complying with United Nations resolutions. On that basis, provided that withdrawal were properly carried out and supervised, there would be no further need for war to continue. Certainly that would be a way of operating.
I repeat, however, that, if the military defeat of Iraq is the only way in which Iraq can be removed from Kuwait, that will be the way in which Iraq is removed. That removal, indispensable though that is, will not be enough, because this crisis has demonstrated, if it ever needed to be demonstrated, that other wars could break out in the middle east unless the United Nations seizes this moment in which its authority has been manifest to exert that authority to bring about an overall and comprehensive middle east settlement. That is why we put on the Order Paper the amendment that will be decided at 10 o'clock.
I supported the United Nations insistence that a peaceful withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait could not be linked to a middle east settlement, or even to self-determination for the Palestinians. I agree that Saddam Hussein should neither be seen to be rewarded nor even claim to have been rewarded for his aggression against Kuwait with a conference on the future of the middle east.
That question of linkage, however, ended with the first air raids on Baghdad. Just as the United Nations will get its way on insisting that Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait must be unconditional so, once the war is successfully concluded, the United Nations must pursue its other resolutions relating to a middle east settlement.
The Security Council made its position clear a month ago when it unanimously passed resolution 681. That resolution refers to an accompanying statement of the president of the Security Council concerning, as the president put it,the method and approach for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict.The statement from the president referred to the reaffirmed determination of the council membersto support an active negotiations process in which all relevant parties should participate leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict through negotiations which should be based on resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the Security Council and which should take into account the right to security of all states in the region, including Israel, and the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people.101 The president of the Security Council went on to draw attention to the agreement of the members of the Security Council that those objectives should be sought through what he calledan international conference, at an appropriate time, properly structured.There are reports that President Bush has assured the Israeli Prime Minister that, in recompense to the Israelis for their self-restraint in not making a military response to the wanton and unprovoked attacks on their civilian population, the United States will not agree to the convening of such a conference. I am glad that, in response to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), the Prime Minister made it clear that those reports are not accurate—he repudiated them.
What has been inflicted on Israel since Friday morning makes the convening of an international conference more essential than ever and in the interests, above all, of Israel herself. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Irvine) were right to point that out.
Israel is the strongest military power in the middle east and, proportionately to her size, is probably the strongest military power in the world. Up until Lebanon, she had never lost a war—she has never lost a war in which her existence has been threatened. She would almost certainly win a war against her strongest neighbour, Syria, and she would be equally likely to win a war against Iraq. Israel may remain invincible, but she is not invulnerable. Such a victory would be bought at a terrible price. In this new era of missile warfare even Israel's control of the skies would not spare her civilian casualties far beyond anything that she has suffered in wars so far—indeed, probably far more than all the casualties of all the wars she has fought put together. Israel is particularly sensitive about casualties.
What is more, such a victory would not bring her security. However strong her defences, some missiles could get through. Indeed, it is recognition of this bleak fact that has compelled the Israeli Government to abandon a previously inflexible principle and accept on her soil the help of foreign military personnel, accompanying the Patriot missile launchers which have been sent from the United States. The present Government of Israel have taken the view that if forced to make a choice, they would choose security without peace over peace without security. However, the Scud missile attacks on Israeli population centres have proved that such a choice is no longer available, if it ever was. The fact is that Israel cannot have security without peace.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
Will my right hon. Friend urge the Israeli Government to supply gas masks and other protective equipment to Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territories who are the subject of permanent curfew and face great dangers? Will he do what he can to persuade the Israeli Government to ensure that gas masks and other protective gear are issued immediately and that the curfew is lifted to enable Palestinian Arabs to try to obtain food and go about their other daily activities?
§ Mr. Kaufman
I shall certainly urge the Israeli Government to do that, but I must also tell my hon. Friend that Palestinians would not need gas masks if Saddam Hussein was not threatening gas warfare against Israel and other people, and if he did not have missiles which could be launched against the population and which are so 102 indiscriminate that they are liable to kill Israeli Arabs or Palestinians as much as Israeli Jews. The solution is For Saddam Hussein not to send the missiles.
Proof of this entire situation and of Israeli vulnerability was vividly illustrated when old friends of mine, living in a village at the foot of Mount Carmel, looked out of their window in the early hours of Friday morning and saw a Scud missile going by. A few moments later, they could feel their window panes tremble as the missile exploded six miles away.
That experience and the experience of other Israelis now show that only peace can bring security to Israel. Certainly territory cannot bring that security. The Scud attacks took place even while Israel continued to occupy the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Israel would be more secure without those territories in a middle east where all the countries of the region recognised their common vulnerability and common interest in a peace settlement.
The Syrians, whose poverty-stricken economy is burdened with a huge defence bill, are realising that. The Palestinians need no persuading. Nor, I am sure, do the stricken Lebanese. Recently, Mr. Shamir has said that, once the Iraq-Kuwait crisis is over, he would be willing to talk peace, even to the Iraqis. He has offered talks to President Assad of Syria and even said that he would talk to Palestinians. He must be persuaded to accept that such talks should be conducted not bilaterally and piecemeal, but at a conference organised under the auspices of the Security Council, which would have as its basic agenda resolutions 242 and 338.
Those resolutions have been accepted as a basis for a settlement by Israel, the PLO and the League of Arab States, which made an historic declaration in accepting de facto the existence of the state of Israel at its Casablanca summit in May 1989. Six months ago in Damascus, the vice-president of Syria told me that Syria would wish to negotiate with Israel on the basis of resolutions 242 and 338.
Resolution 338 simply calls on the parties concerned to implement resolution 242 in all its parts. Resolution 242Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
- (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
- (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for the acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force ….Affirms further the necessityThat agenda has waited to be discussed for nearly 24 years, and should wait no longer; but it cannot be the complete agenda. The complete agenda must include self-determination for the Palestinians, as called for in resolution 681. Although I would not have chosen the precise words that he used, I agree with Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan, who said in a letter published in today's edition of The Guardian: 103
- (a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
- (b) for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
- (c) for guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment. of demilitarized zones".Had the Palestinian Question, which stands on its own merit, been addressed before August 2 1990, no justification could have been found for the attack on Israel.The agenda must include ridding the middle east of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and action to prevent any further nations in the region from acquiring nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capability. It must include measures to limit and control arms sales in the region—arms sales that have been an almost criminal self-indulgence by too many avaricious countries jockeying for power.
It is the Soviet Union that has made possible the Iraqi missile attacks of Israel and Saudi Arabia; it is the French who will have supplied the weapons if there are Exocet attacks on naval vessels of the coalition. And, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) pointed out, it was the British Ministry of Defence that, throughout the 1980s, provided military training for Iraqis. Not only would Iraq not be able to wage war if outside Governments had not supplied her with weapons; if she had not been sold those weapons, she would not have been able to invade Kuwait in the first place.
It is not enough for us to be grateful to our service men, although we certainly are. It is not enough for us to feel concern and sympathy for civilian populations that are under attack—and we certainly do feel such sympathy for the Saudis in Jeddah and Dhahran, and for the Israelis, so brutally exposed to attack and so apprehensive that Jews may once again be the victims of killers using gas, as so many were not so long ago. I hope that the House will understand when I say how deeply it grieves me to see, on television and in the newspapers, pictures of Jews as victims once again.
Our sympathy also goes out to the Iraqi civilians who have been the victims of Saddam Hussein for longer than any other people in the middle east. However, gratitude to our service men and sympathy for Saddam Hussein's victims will be empty if we are complacent enough and indolent enough to leave the middle east, after this war, as riven with hostility and strife as it was before 2 August 1990.
This war is a tragedy. This crisis is an opportunity. We must honour the tragedy and grasp the opportunity. The United Nations must use its newly established authority to lay the basis of a permanent peace in the middle east.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom King)
First, may I apologise to a number of right hon. and hon. Friends whose contributions I missed. I hope that they will forgive me. They will understand that although I wished to respond fully to the debate, due to the military situation I have other heavy commitments at the moment. Nevertheless, I assure all right hon. and hon. Members that I have been kept very well posted about the speeches that I did not hear.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) wants BBC World Service broadcasting to be increased. When the crisis began in August, the BBC increased its broadcasts in Arabic from nine to ten and a half hours a day. Since hostilities began, 104 that has increased to 14 hours a day. I know that the BBC will take account of my right hon. Friend's comments and will consider extending its broadcasts, if it can.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth) referred to the background to the hostilities in the Gulf—the proposals in "Options for Change" and the annoucement that I made on 25 July, about a week before the invasion of Kuwait. We are continuing to study the proposals, in consultation with our NATO allies. We intend to proceed with rationalisation and other support changes in areas that do not affect our efforts in the Gulf. We shall make further announcements about our proposals in due course. I must emphasise, however, the obvious condition that I have just mentioned.
This is the fifth day of the counter-attack for the liberation of Kuwait. It is the fifth day of what my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) rightly said is an unwanted conflict. He referred to the fact that the Government and the House could not have done more in an effort to end this dispute by peaceful means and that the only other course left open to us was surrender to the aggression against Kuwait.
The feeling that we should go that extra mile, and that extra mile again, to try to achieve a peaceful solution to the dispute was the broad wish of the House; it felt that there should be the widest possible agreement among United Nations members to achieve a peaceful outcome. I respect those who hold a contrary view, but they will be the first to recognise, as I believe the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) recognised in his point of order at the beginning of the debate, that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members—reflected by the agreement between the leaders of the two main parties—agree that the course on which we embarked with great reluctance, because none of us wanted conflict, was the only one left to us in the interests of a safer world.
The hon. Members for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) and for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) all reflected that approach. Just as there is agreement in the House, it is agreed in the United Kingdom and throughout the world that such gross aggresssion cannot rest unchallenged and that such a challenge to order in the world and the United Nations cannot go uncorrected.
I should like to report to the House on events to date. I repeat that this is the fifth day of this unfortunate conflict; so much has happened in recent hours and days that it is difficult to recall how recently it started. It has been marked by the start of the air campaign. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) mentioned the vital need to reduce Iraq's military capability so that the liberation of Kuwait can be achieved with the minimum of casualties among our forces. He also mentioned the need to prosecute the campaign against Iraq's military capability while ensuring the minimum number of civilian casualties.
§ Mr. King
I shall carry out the undertaking that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave the hon. Gentleman, if he can contain himself, and shall answer his question. Instructions were given to ensure the minimum civilian casualties and to avoid damage, wherever possible, to religious and cultural sites. The hon. Member for Linlithgow asked what damage had been done to nuclear 105 insulations, power stations, research facilities or cooling stations. He may know that General Schwarzkopf made it clear yesterday that the attack had been on nuclear research and development facilities. He believed that those reactors had been thoroughly damaged and would not be effective for several years. The House will understand that given the activities of Saddam Hussein in recent times, given some greater awareness of the preparations that he had made and given some of the weapons that he had been developing, it must have been sensible, in the interests of regional security, to try to halt his progress to acquiring nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. King
I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would resume his seat. I have done him the courtesy of ensuring that he received a reply to his question. It gives us no incentive to seek to respond to his questions if he is going to continue to intervene in that way. I ask him to show greater courtesy.
The overall level of sorties that have been flown—
§ Mr. King
I am not giving way. I must respond to several hon. Members. The hon. Member has taken up a fair time in this debate and in others.
Some 8,000 sorties were made during these five days. As the House knows, they were conducted with cruise missiles, precision-guided bombs and bombs against military installations and involved airfield cratering. Against the background of several questions about the effectiveness—
§ Mr. King
No. Against the background of questions which were asked previously about the effectiveness of command and control arrangements, the House will have noticed the remarkable efficiency and co-ordination of the allied air campaign in which those sorties were flown, involving—as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out—no fewer than seven countries. The United Kingdom contributed to some 350 sorties. The House is now familiar with the use of the JP233, the air-launched anti-radar missile and bombs, the Jaguars, Tornadoes, F3s and fighters, as well as the GRls for the low-level attacks and now the GR1A reconnaissance aircraft for attacks in the west, the south and south-east of Iraq and in Kuwait.
106 I was not surprised to note my hon. Friends the Members for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), for Wyre (Mr. Mans) and for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth), with their close interest in the RAF, taking understandable pride in the remarkable achievements of that service.
I must report to the House that since we last met and debated these issues, three Tornados have been lost in action and a further one was lost shortly after take-off. This has raised questions about the role of the GR1 in terms of its airfield denial capability, low-flying night attacks and the challenge that they pose. I do not think that it is any secret to those who follow these matters that the Tornado GR1 has a unique capability. We provided it for this campaign at the special request of the allies, because of that unique capability and the vital need in the early stages of the campaign to ensure that the rest of the air campaign could be carried forward with the minimum chance of interdiction or of threat from an Iraqi air force. That campaign has been carried out with the greatest courage.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) referred to the low-flying activity and training in this country that have made possible that capability which has been shown to such good effect now. We recognise the extraordinary courage shown by the aircrews in the recent campaign.
I do not know whether the House realises that last night an assessment was made for me showing what happened when a sortie of GR I s attacked one particularly significant airfield in Iraq. The assessment was that those aircraft had to face no fewer than 25 tonnes of ammunition from conventional anti-aircraft guns, through which they successfully passed without any loss. That is a measure of the courage and determination of those aircrews. They are a vital component in ensuring that the rest of the air campaign can go forward with the minimum of casualties. That courage, which was also shown by the pilots of Jaguar aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft, backed up by the tankers, has attracted the admiration of us all.
We must remember that part of the desert shield which is in place is well represented by the Navy in the northern Gulf. HMS Gloucester and HMS Cardiff are in the front of the picket line, helping to protect the United States carriers providing the strike aircraft and the United States battleships with their Tomahawk cruise missiles which are proving so effective and accurate. The first armoured division is now preparing to move forward and is completing its final training. All those factors, backed by round-the-clock work by the ground crews, make up the team effort required to ensure that we make the most effective contribution.
Let me join my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the quality of support from industry. I do not know whether hon. Members realise how many representatives of the companies supplying equipment to our forces are out there in the Gulf at the moment. They are in the front line, within the range of Scud missiles, helping to keep the engines of our Challenger tanks going and our aircraft in the air. A very considerable number of civilians—from the constituencies of almost every hon. Member—are working, and staying at their work, despite the threats they face.
I wish to discharge my duty to the House by giving the clearest possible assessment of the progress of the campaign to date. That is especially difficult because, almost since the campaign started, we have been severely 107 hampered by the weather. It is most important to have an accurate image and an accurate way of identifying how many of our objectives have been achieved. I have to tell the House that, at the moment, that is extremely difficult. The whole House has seen the pictures of spectacular achievements in terms of accuracy. We have reason to believe that, contrary to some of the claims that have been made, civilian casualties have been kept remarkably low in relation to the scale of the attacks that have been made.
§ Mr. King
I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman has had a chance to make his speech and I wish to respond as clearly as I can to the contributions that have been made.
For all the remarkable achievements of the initial days of the air campaign, the House, the country and the world are starting to get a clearer picture of the scale of the war machine that has been created in Iraq and of the size of the task that still lies ahead of us. It is true that we believe that we have now achieved air superiority, but there is a clear distinction between air superiority when ones opponent's air force does not choose to fly and air supremacy in which we can be sure of our control of the skies. It is worth recognising that, although we have had considerable successes, our only certainty at the moment is that, of the 800 or so aircraft that Iraq possesses, some 20 have so far been destroyed. That clearly underlines the scale of the task that lies ahead.
§ Mr. King
I am very short of time.
Should a further reminder be needed, let me say that the Scud missile clearly represents a challenge to us all. I agree with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) about the deliberate attempt to provoke Israel, and the strength of Israel's response. We are making every effort to identify and destroy Scud missles. It is difficult to be sure of the figures. I have been criticised for not giving accurate figures so far, but nobody is quite sure exactly how many Scud missiles and missile launchers the Iraqis have. We believe that they have some 30 fixed missile launchers and more than 20 mobile launchers. General Schwarzkopf believed that we could have destroyed as many as 16 so far, but only today we identified between eight and 10 further mobile launchers, of which we believe three were destroyed. As the House knows, I have had reports of another Scud launching tonight—at 7.19 pm—although we believe that the missile landed in the sea off Al Jubayl without causing any casualties.
The events of the past two days reveal a deliberate attempt to provoke Israel into retaliation to undermine the cohesion of the alliance. We must be very impressed by the strength of the Israeli response. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) and others drew particular attention to that and to the fact that the Israelis have been willing not to retaliate immediately and to recognise the allies' efforts to deal with the Scud missiles.
That provocation through the use of Scud missiles is probably only the first in a series of attempts by Saddam Hussein in one way or another to split the alliance or to otherwise provoke responses that will make the cohesion 108 of the alliance more difficult to maintain. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) referred to the threat of terrorism and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set that threat in context. We are taking serious precautions about that.
Another sign of the nastiness of the regime that we face is to be seen in the announcements that have been made in the past 24 hours. Only yesterday, Saddam Hussein reassured his troops that, if they were captured in conflict, they would be treated under the terms of the Geneva convention. A man who can stand up and give his people that assurance and then treat our prisoners of war as he does is beyond contempt.
I do not know whether I was the only person, when looking at the pictures, to get the strong impression that those people were reading a prompter. There cannot be many people who believe that that was the free expression of free men able to express their own thoughts.
We have made the strongest representations again today to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the representatives of which have been here today seeking access to Iraqis who have been detained to ensure that they are receiving proper treatment. Of course, they were granted access and of course we gave them every opportunity, to which they are entitled, to visit Iraqis to see whether they are receiving proper treatment. We absolutely insist that as we make those facilities available in this country, so similar facilities must be available to representatives of the International Red Cross in Baghdad.
We have seen gross breaches of the Geneva convention. Breach No. 1 was putting prisoners on display. Coercion to say things that they might not otherwise have said freely was breach No. 2. Perhaps the most obscene breach was the use of those prisoners as human shields and their being placed at possible targets.
I am absolutely convinced that the sight of our prisoners being treated in that way does not undermine public morale. That sight reinforces the morale of people in this country that they will not give in to someone who treats our service men like that.
We are anxious to consider the future provisions for any service men and women who may be injured or killed during the current conflict. We provide for them and their families through the armed forces pension scheme and through war widows pensions. However, I know that many people, businesses and organisations may wish to show their appreciation for the men and women in our armed services who are risking their lives in this vital task.
I am therefore today setting up a Gulf Trust to which donations can be given. The Trust will be operated by the united services trustee and it will channel donations to the three service benevolent funds which, working within charity law, will distribute moneys to those in need. I have decided to adopt that approach so that there can be a single point for donations which will enable the great experience of the service benevolent funds to be used.
My overriding aim is to provide the most helpful support on a long-term basis for any people who are wounded and the families of any who may be killed. I know that many people may wish to contribute, depending on circumstances, through the trust. I am grateful to have the opportunity to make that announcement tonight.
One of the biggest challenges that we face in giving the necessary support to our troops in the Gulf is the problem of the unique circumstances that we all knew that we 109 would face—the first war by television. It poses very real challenges in ensuring that we have effective communications and that we keep people in this country as well informed as we can.
The hon. Members for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and for Walsall, South (Mr. George) drew attention to some of the problems that we are having in the Ministry of Defence. We have made mistakes. We will try to learn from them. The hon. Gentlemen understand that it is uniquely difficult, when we have CNN actually showing pictures of the missiles coming in and of the Patriot anti-missile missiles going out, when it is another six hours before anybody can work out whether we are seeing a successful interception, the explosion of a missile, or the successful defeat of a missile. Some of the communications challenges are very serious. I take seriously the criticisms that were made, and we shall do our best to improve.
I express my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) for what he said about the work of the people of the Ministry of Defence. It is very easy to write up the present conflict in terms of the brave boys in the front line and a lot of dundering bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence—[Interruption.] Ministers can take the flak—they have to take the flak. I want to pay my tribute to the teamwork that is going on round the clock, right through the whole organisation at present to make sure that it is not done just by magic. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, 3,000 tonnes of supplies a day are arriving. It is not just by magic that the troops in the front line are actually able to say that they believe that, compared with the other forces there, they have the best equipment and the best organisation for the job. I should like to pay my tribute to them.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil said at the end of his speech that this is perhaps the easiest part. My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Sir G. Shaw) echoed that thought. We undoubtedly recognise the challenge that we face. After the first few hours of the air campaign, the first excitement and recognition of the power, sophistication and amazing skill of some of the new weaponry fooled a number of people into thinking that this would be a short and easy expedition. I think that there is now a more sober recognition in the House of the scale of the challenge to our forces and of our responsibility.
I give fair warning to the House that there may be difficult times ahead. There may be times when our fortitude will be tested. Yet I remind the House why we are here. We must show the same fortitude as was shown tonight by those pilots and those aircrew who had been out yet again—another night on another mission. All returned safely, I am happy to say. They can expect the courage that they are showing of us as well.
It is a time, as Secretary of State for Defence, to have to decide on deployments and to have to determine which units, which men and women will be sent out to the Gulf, an area of danger, and an area of great uncertainty where there is a serious threat of new weaponry and danger. I could not do that if 1 did not believe that the cause was just. I could not do it if I did not profoundly believe that it was right. That is why I commend our motion and the amendment to the House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question put, That the main Question, as amended, be agreed to:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 563, Noes 34113
|Division No. 40||[10 pm|
|Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.)||Burns, Simon|
|Adley, Robert||Burt, Alistair|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Butler, Chris|
|Alexander, Richard||Butterfill, John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Caborn, Richard|
|Allason, Rupert||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Allen, Graham||Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)|
|Alton, David||Campbell-Savours, D. N.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)|
|Amess, David||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Amos, Alan||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Anderson, Donald||Carrington, Matthew|
|Arbuthnot, James||Carttiss, Michael|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cartwright, John|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Cash, William|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Ashby, David||Chapman, Sydney|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Chope, Christopher|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Churchill, Mr|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Atkins, Robert||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Atkinson, David||Clark, Rt Hon Sir W. (Croydon|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||S)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Baldry, Tony||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Clelland, David|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Barron, Kevin||Colvin, Michael|
|Batiste, Spencer||Conway, Derek|
|Battle, John||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Beggs, Roy||Cope, Rt Hon John|
|Beith, A. J.||Corbett, Robin|
|Bell, Stuart||Cormack, Patrick|
|Bellingham, Henry||Couchman, James|
|Bellotti, David||Cousins, Jim|
|Bendall, Vivian||Cox, Tom|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Cran, James|
|Benton, Joseph||Critchley, Julian|
|Benyon, W.||Crowther, Stan|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Cummings, John|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Blair, Tony||Curry, David|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Darling, Alistair|
|Blunkett, David||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Boateng, Paul||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Boswell, Tim||Day, Stephen|
|Bottomley, Peter||Devlin, Tim|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Dewar, Donald|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Dicks, Terry|
|Bowis, John||Dixon, Don|
|Boyes, Roland||Dobson, Frank|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Doran, Frank|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dover, Den|
|Brazier, Julian||Dunn, Bob|
|Bright, Graham||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Dykes, Hugh|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Eadie, Alexander|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Eastham, Ken|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Eggar, Tim|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Buckley, George J.||Evennett, David|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||Henderson, Doug|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Fallon, Michael||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Favell, Tony||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Fearn, Ronald||Hill, James|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Hind, Kenneth|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Holt, Richard|
|Fisher, Mark||Home Robertson, John|
|Flynn, Paul||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Forman, Nigel||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Forth, Eric||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Foster, Derek||Howells, Geraint|
|Foulkes, George||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Franks, Cecil||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Freeman, Roger||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|French, Douglas||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Fry, Peter||Hunter, Andrew|
|Galbraith, Sam||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Gale, Roger||Illsley, Eric|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Ingram, Adam|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Irvine, Michael|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Irving, Sir Charles|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Jack, Michael|
|George, Bruce||Jackson, Robert|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Janman, Tim|
|Gill, Christopher||Janner, Greville|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Jessel, Toby|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Gorst, John||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Gould, Bryan||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Graham, Thomas||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Kennedy, Charles|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Key, Robert|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Kilfedder, James|
|Gregory, Conal||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Grist, Ian||Knapman, Roger|
|Grocott, Bruce||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Ground, Patrick||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Grylls, Michael||Knowles, Michael|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Knox, David|
|Hague, William||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Latham, Michael|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Hannam, John||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Hardy, Peter||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Leighton, Ron|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Harris, David||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Lewis, Terry|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Lilley, Peter|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Livsey, Richard|
|Hayes, Jerry||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Haynes, Frank||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Hayward, Robert||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Lord, Michael|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|McCartney, Ian||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|McCrindle, Sir Robert||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Page, Richard|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Paice, James|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Patchett, Terry|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Maclean, David||Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)|
|McLeish, Henry||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Maclennan, Robert||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Pawsey, James|
|McMaster, Gordon||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Pendry, Tom|
|McNamara, Kevin||Pike, Peter L.|
|McWilliam, John||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Madel, David||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Portillo, Michael|
|Malins, Humfrey||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Mans, Keith||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Maples, John||Prescott, John|
|Marek, Dr John||Price, Sir David|
|Marland, Paul||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Marlow, Tony||Radice, Giles|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Raffan, Keith|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Randall, Stuart|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Redwood, John|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Martlew, Eric||Reid, Dr John|
|Mates, Michael||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Richardson, Jo|
|Maxton, John||Riddick, Graham|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Meacher, Michael||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Meale, Alan||Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Robertson, George|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Michael, Alun||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Rogers, Allan|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Rooker, Jeff|
|Mills, Iain||Rooney, Terence|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Mitchell, Sir David||Rost, Peter|
|Moate, Roger||Rowe, Andrew|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Rowlands, Ted|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Ryder, Richard|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Salmond, Alex|
|Morley, Elliot||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Moss, Malcolm||Sheerman, Barry|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Shelton, Sir William|
|Mudd, David||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Murphy, Paul||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Neale, Sir Gerrard||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Shersby, Michael|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Short, Clare|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Sillars, Jim|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Sims, Roger|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Norris, Steve||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|O'Brien, William||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|O'Hara, Edward||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Snape, Peter||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Vaz, Keith|
|Soley, Clive||Viggers, Peter|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Speed, Keith||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Speller, Tony||Walden, George|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Squire, Robin||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Wallace, James|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Waller, Gary|
|Steel, Rt Hon Sir David||Walley, Joan|
|Steen, Anthony||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Ward, John|
|Stem, Michael||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Stevens, Lewis||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Stott, Roger||Watts, John|
|Straw, Jack||Wells, Bowen|
|Sumberg, David||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Summerson, Hugo||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Whitney, Ray|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)||Wilkinson, John|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Wilshire, David|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Wilson, Brian|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Winnick, David|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Thorne, Neil||Wood, Timothy|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Thurnham, Peter||Worthington, Tony|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Yeo, Tim|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Tracey, Richard||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Tredinnick, David||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Trippier, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Trotter, Neville||Mr. John M. Taylor and|
|Turner, Dennis||Mr. Tom Sackville.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Livingstone, Ken|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||McAllion, John|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||McFall, John|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||McKelvey, William|
|Clay, Bob||Madden, Max|
|Cohen, Harry||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Mullin, Chris|
|Dalyell, Tam||Nellist, Dave|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Parry, Robert|
|Fyfe, Maria||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Galloway, George||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gordon, Mildred||Strang, Gavin|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Hinchliffe, David||Wray, Jimmy|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Lambie, David||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Lamond, James||Mr. Dennis Canavan.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House expresses its full support for British forces in the Gulf and their contribution to the implementation of United Nations resolutions by the multinational force, as authorised by United Nations Security Council Resolution 678; commends the instructions to minimise civilian casualties wherever possible; and expresses its determination that, once the aggression in Kuwait is reversed, the United Nations and the international community must return with renewed vigour to resolving the wider problems in the Middle East.