§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Madam Speaker, you gave me permission to raise under Standing Order No. 24 the dangerous situation in Iraq. This is not a kite-flying statement, but a genuine request to you to consider whether or not the House of Commons should have its say before any blood is spilt, rather than react to horror. I acknowledge the presence of the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who has responsibility for the middle east.
I must persuade you of three things: that the matter is definite, urgent and important. It is definite in that Iraq has refused American observers and investigators. Iraq has threatened to shoot down surveillance aircraft. There are moves in Washington to take unilateral action, and not only the extreme views of Newt Gingrich but those of others make this a dangerous cocktail.
I argue that the matter is urgent in that, by the time the House of Commons meets tomorrow, this country could be supporting military action, if not participating in it. In the public print, we read that 10 Downing street staff have agreed British support with their White House equivalents. This is still a parliamentary democracy, not a presidential country, and the House of Commons ought to be consulted before one British soldier, sailor or airman is committed to armed conflict.
The matter is important because Saddam Hussein may not be averse to military action. In 1993, like every other visitor to Baghdad, I was taken on the first morning there to the Amariya—the shelter where hundreds of women and children were charred and scorched to death by a cruise missile. That is used by the regime—possibly understandably so, but nevertheless used—to support its own view of the world.
When one sees, in the children's hospital in Baghdad, hundreds of infants—I exaggerate not—expiring in one's presence as a result of sanctions, it leads one to think that at least one should talk to the Iraqis about the imposition of sanctions. If not to the Iraqis, one should certainly talk to the French, the Russians and the Chinese, as well as the Arab League. Military action could have reverberations, and the Government ought to hear what the Commons thinks—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman has been allowed the time allocated to him under Standing Order No. 24. I have, of course, listened carefully to what he has said. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I must give my decision without giving any reason for it. I regret that I do not consider that the matter raised is appropriate for discussion under the Standing Order. I therefore cannot submit the application to the House.