CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – IRAQ & LIB-DEMS – 1 February 2007

[Nick Harvey (Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesman): It is the objective of the Liberal Democrats that after the provinces have been handed over, we then, over a period – we suggest between May and October, but if the handover was delayed, withdrawal could have to be delayed – get our troops out of Iraq. ...

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr Adam Ingram): ... The withdrawal strategy that the Liberals are proposing is going to be conditions-based, which is exactly the Government's position. That being the case, I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support for the Government's position on Iraq.

Nick Harvey: ... Of course any withdrawal from anywhere is going to be conditions-based, but our suggestion was put forward to explain to the public as much as anyone else the sort of time scale that should obtain. I do not really believe that there is much distance between the parties on this point; there are just different ways of putting it.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I would like to assist the hon. Gentleman. There is a difference in concept and we need to know which of the two he adheres to. It is the difference between setting a timetable before the conditions for withdrawal exist and getting to the eventual point, which he seems to refer to, when the conditions for withdrawal are acknowledged to exist so that a timetable to withdraw safely can be set. Which of those two is he advocating?

[Nick Harvey: I say again that hon. Members may have heard what they wanted to hear. It was made perfectly clear – and I make it perfectly clear again – that all actions taken at any given time obviously depend on the conditions. What we were suggesting was an illustrative time scale of what could be achieved – [Interruption.] Be that as it may, let us look at the situation in Iraq.]