IRAQ CRISIS – 26 February 2003

Dr Julian Lewis: I profoundly disagree with what the hon. Member for Foyle (John Hume) has just said. To suggest that the lesson of the Second World War is that one should not go to war is to fly in the face of the real lesson of that war, which is that when faced with dictators one should deal with them sooner rather than later.

What we face is, as always, the problem of democracies when dealing with dictators. I subscribe to the ‘paradox of freedom’. The paradox of freedom, sometimes called the ‘paradox of tolerance’, is that one must tolerate all but the intolerant, because if one persists in tolerating the intolerant, then the tolerant will disappear, because the conditions for toleration will cease to exist.

Let me say on the question of weapons of mass destruction the following:

"Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 litres of anthrax, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction. There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date. It might still exist. Either it should be found and be destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision, or else convincing evidence should be produced to show that it was, indeed, destroyed in 1991."

Those are not my words. They are the words of Dr Blix in his report to the Security Council as recently as 27 January this year. They did not come from a dissertation. They did not come from a student thesis. They did not even come from a Government dossier. They are fact.

I was rather sad about the refusal by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson), who I am sorry to see has already vacated his place, to let me intervene when he was talking about the presence in North America of a biological plant, a plant that he said produces and deals with substances that are banned under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. He compared that to the situation in Iraq. I have interesting news for hon. Members. There is a plant like that in this country. It is called Porton Down. Under the provisions of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention it does what such plants are allowed to do, which is to work on minuscule amounts of toxic substances in order to develop antidotes to them.

Llew Smith: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the United States refuses to allow international inspectors into some of its chemical plants, and is therefore breaking the Chemical Weapons Convention?

Dr Lewis: I am not aware that the United States is breaking any such convention. I should be very happy to hear specifics from the hon. Gentleman. What I can say is that it is wholly inappropriate and irresponsible to take a legal, permitted ability of countries that have signed the BW Convention, which is to carry out research on small amounts of deadly weapons in order to develop antidotes, and compare it with what Saddam Hussein has done, which is to produce huge quantities of such weapons, use them, lie about them and, even when forced to admit that he had them all along, fail to account properly for what he did with them.

I am surprised by some of the remarks that are made by people who profess to support Resolution 1441. In a debate like this I would have expected Resolution 1441 to be quoted time and again. I do not think that it has been quoted at all, so I shall briefly quote it now. The resolution decides that Iraq

"has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions"

and provides the

"final opportunity to comply" –

Alex Salmond: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: No, I will not. I am very happy to give way to people who have given way to me.

Mr Salmond: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: No. Not the pre-final, not the pre-pre-final, not the opportunity before the opportunity before the opportunity before the opportunity that might one day, in 12 years' time, be the final opportunity, but the

"final opportunity to comply".

The resolution requires

"that Iraq co-operate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA".

What is meant by active co-operation? It is a recognition that there is no prospect whatsoever of inspectors detecting the quantities of chemical and biological weapons that Saddam had to admit were manufactured unless he actively helps them to find them. There is no prospect of more time enabling greater discoveries.

Glenda Jackson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: No. The question is whether Saddam will actively assist the inspectors in finding his unaccounted stocks, and the answer to that is clearly in the negative. That is why Saddam is in breach, and why we have to look very carefully at the recommendation that we should continue to give more time. The comparison is made between 11 weeks now and 12 years in the past. The fact is that during every conflict in which this country has engaged, one could have heard arguments analogous to those that we have heard today. Plenty of people argued that it was wrong to take action against the Nazis, until it became so late that the action that had to be taken proved much more costly than that which could have been taken earlier. Had such action been taken earlier, it would have been denounced as unwarranted and pre-emptive.

It must be said that in subsequent conflicts and confrontations, many of the very same people who are arguing against action now were arguing against it then. Those who said, in advance of the action that was eventually taken against the Hitlerite regime, that no action was justified get a bad press, because they are now regarded as having had no reasonable arguments. Let me assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if we could revisit the debates that took place in this House in the 1930s, we would hear arguments for appeasement just as sophisticated as those put forward today. Those arguments were wrong then, and they are wrong now. It will be a grave mistake if people think that the cause of peace is served by always avoiding conflict. Sometimes, the only way to bring about peace is to face up to the need for conflict, and this is one of those occasions.