DEFENCE – IRAQ, TERRORISM & NATO – 17 October 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: Opponents of the war have alleged that we may face a war on two fronts – one against al-Qaeda and one against Iraq. Will the Secretary of State [Geoff Hoon] share with the House his view of the extent to which the resources that one uses in a war against terrorists and those that one uses in a conventional war against a military power like Saddam overlap?

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Dr Lewis: Will the Secretary of State at least agree that those of his Back-Bench colleagues who are so opposed to taking action against Saddam Hussein, and who feel that Saddam should be left at liberty to go on developing ballistic missiles, should at least experience a belated conversion to ballistic missile defence? That might make their other recommendations a little more credible.

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Dr Lewis: Surely, the point of even considering pre-emption is that it should be undertaken before the threat becomes so severe that we dare not take any action. On the very important passages that my hon. Friend [Bernard Jenkin] read out about possible links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, if such links exist, is there not a strong possibility at this very moment that the wave of al-Qaeda atrocities that is building up is designed precisely to try divert the west from attacking Saddam Hussein?

[Mr Jenkin: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on that last point. That is why I am appalled that some people argue that we are fighting two different problems and say that the problem of Iraq is in a separate box. Such people argue that we should leave the Iraq problem – this is Liberal Democrat policy – and fight the war on terrorism. That is exactly what the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Menzies Campbell) said and I have debated the matter with him. The idea that those problems are completely different is mistaken. They may be different theatres, but they are the same war, and in practice, the idea that we should allow two bombs in Bali to be an excuse for allowing the United Nations to let Saddam off the hook would be a disaster. What an invitation to terrorism that would be. The bombs in Bali must stiffen our resolve to confront threats wherever they emerge in the new security environment, and we should not be listening to the likes of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.]

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Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend gave us a long list of new offices and institutions that have been created on behalf of the EU rapid reaction force. Has the new EU rapid reaction force led to the addition of a single soldier, warship or aeroplane to Europe's defence capability?

[Mr Jenkin: I do not think so, but no doubt someone will try to tell us that it has.]

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Dr Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman [Malcolm Savidge] for giving way; he is typically generous. Surely the point is that Saddam Hussein was within two years of getting a nuclear weapon before the last war against Iraq, and that suicidal terrorist movements have grown up recently that might work in conjunction with him to undertake actions that were not so great a threat in the intervening years.

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Dr Lewis: May I give the hon. Gentleman [Paul Keetch] a scenario to consider? Let us suppose that the Prime Minister is in possession of top-secret intelligence information that he cannot share with the House. What would then happen in the situation that the hon. Gentleman has described?