Tony Blair

Statements by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2002-2003 at Westminster during PMQs, which takes place every Wednesday when the House of Commons is sitting.


4 December 2002


Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): Does the Prime Minister accept the assessment of the intelligence service that whatever else Saddam Hussein is guilty of, he is almost certainly innocent of the charge of associating with al-Qaeda?


The Prime Minister: What I have said is that we have no evidence directly linking the Iraqi regime to the attack on 11 September. That is true. I would also say, however, that I believe that the issues of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism are linked indirectly. I believe, however, that unless we tackle that issue they will at some point be directly linked. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world today is a test for the United Nations and the world community. We have laid down a clear demand to the Iraqi regime. If we were to give up on that demand at this moment, that would have a serious impact on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As I said, that issue is linked indirectly to international terrorism at the moment, but I believe that it could be linked directly to international terrorism.


11 December 2002


Mr. Charles Kennedy(Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): On Iraq, given that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has criticised the style and approach of the American Administration in its handling of the Iraqi dossier, does the Prime Minister share the Secretary-General's criticism?


The Prime Minister: I am not aware of the circumstances to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but I can tell him that the United States and the Secretary-General are agreed on the key issue: that there is a United Nations resolution, that it must be obeyed, and that if there is a breach, action must follow.


Mr. Kennedy: Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to reaffirm that the perception should be that the United Nations is the sovereign authority in all this business, and that that underpins the international coalition of interest against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism in general? If that perception becomes misguided or misinformed internationally, it is the worse for all of us.


The Prime Minister: It is, of course, important that in all circumstances the integrity of the UN is upheld. I believe that it is being upheld. The resolution was passed unanimously by the Security Council. All those who backed the resolution are sovereign nations. I believe that it is right that we study the dossier provided by Iraq and see what is contained in it. The basic point remains that that declaration has to be honest and transparent, and if it is discovered not to be honest—in other words, if there is a breach of the duty to co-operate—action must follow.


12 February 2003


Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): May I return to the dossier—the one that Colin Powell said was a fine document and the one that the Prime Minister tells us is accurate? Does the Prime Minister accept that it is not just a question of plagiarism but of changing key phrases? The phrase "Iraqi aid for opposition groups" in the original becomes "Iraqi support for terrorist organisations" in the Government's Downing street document. What possible motivation is there for making these changes apart from propagandising to war? If the Prime Minister cannot be trusted on that, how can he be trusted on anything?


PM: First of all, let me just tell the hon. Gentleman, as I said a moment or two ago, that the part of the document that Colin Powell referred to about intelligence is, indeed, taken from intelligence sources and is entirely accurate, as is the document as a whole. Secondly, in relation to Iraq's support for terrorist groups, he may not believe that Iraq supports terrorist groups, but its support for such groups is well known and well documented quite apart from any intelligence information that we put out. I am only sorry that he does not recognise that.


26 February 2003


Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Does the Prime Minister agree that any country that supported resolution 1441 should support the second resolution that naturally flows from it?


PM: Yes, I certainly do agree with that.


Mr. Duncan Smith: The Prime Minister recently said he would support action without a second resolution only if there was an "unreasonable veto" in the Security Council. Given his answer to my first question, is not the logic of his position now that any veto would be unreasonable?


PM: It certainly would be an unreasonable veto if Iraq is in material breach and we do not pass a resolution, because resolution 1441 made it absolutely clear that Iraq had a final opportunity to comply. If it is not complying, it is in breach. Therefore, that is why I believe that a second resolution should issue and it is also why I believe that, in the end, it will issue.


Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): Does the Prime Minister accept that the manipulative media operation that he installed at No. 10 Downing street after 1997 has eroded the electorate's trust in him? Does he also accept that that loss of trust in him personally is now carrying a huge price as it is partly to blame for his inability to convince the British people over Iraq?


PM: The case that we have set out in respect of Iraq is a good one. I hope that if people listen to it and study it in detail they will accept that if we do have to act and go to war it will not be because we want to, but because of the breaches by Saddam Hussein of the United Nations resolutions. I believe that the more people hear that argument and understand it, the more they will accept it.


5 March 2003


Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): When the Prime Minister says that he hopes that there will be a vote at the United Nations on a second resolution, is he implying that if no vote is held, Britain will still go in with the United States and military action against Iraq will follow?


PM: No. I simply say that it depends on Saddam's compliance. If he is not complying, a resolution will undoubtedly be put to a vote.


Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Would at least nine affirmative votes in the Security Council for the so-called second resolution tabled by the US, UK and Spain give clear—I emphasise the word "clear"—legal authority for war against Iraq? What difference would the use of what my right hon. Friend describes as the unreasonable veto make?


PM: First, let me assure my hon. Friend that we will always act in accordance with international law. Secondly, in relation to the resolution, we are confident of securing the votes for that resolution and we will carry on working to that end. We are doing that because we believe that it is important that the UN, having declared a position on Iraq, follows through and maintains that position. I know that my hon. Friend opposes our position on the matter, and I do not disrespect that—she is perfectly entitled to do so. However, I know that we both agree that the authority of the UN is important. If that authority is to be upheld, it is important that what we said last November is implemented. If it is not, the effect on the UN—apart from the effect on the international situation—would be disastrous.


12 March 2003


Peter Bradley: Which is the lesser threat to global security: allowing more time for Iraq's disarmament or, in disarming Iraq—particularly in view of the French President's commitment to exercise his veto—dividing the international community? Will the Prime Minister give an assurance to the House that so long as there is a prospect of rebuilding an international coalition under the authority of the United Nations, he will resist US pressure for precipitate action?


PM: I will certainly do everything I can to make sure that the international community stays united at this time and that we achieve a second UN resolution. The reason why we should have such a resolution, as my hon. Friend's question implies, is that, for many months now, we have been waiting for Saddam Hussein to come fully into compliance with the resolution that was passed unanimously by the UN. It is time that he did so. If he does, even now conflict can be averted. But the worst thing that could happen is for the will of the UN to be expressed so clearly, for him to defy that will and for no action to follow at all.


Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Can the Prime Minister guarantee what he said to me last week: that there will be a vote in the UN on a second resolution?


PM: Yes, it is our intention to put a vote to the UN on a second resolution. We continue to work for that, flat out, and we will do that in a way that most upholds the authority of the UN.


Mr. Duncan Smith:   If such a vote takes place, it may not be carried or it may even be vetoed. The House of Commons and the British people have a right to know now where the Government stand in that event. Is it now the case that if there is no second resolution, the United States will go to war without the UK?


PM: In respect of the latter part, where the right hon. Gentleman asks about the United States going it alone, let me say this to him and to the House. It is true that the United States could go alone and, of course, this country should not take military action unless it is in our interests to do so. It is the British national interest that must be upheld at all times. But I believe that it is important that we hold firm to the course that we have set out because what is at stake is not whether the United States goes alone or not, but whether the international community is prepared to back up the clear instruction it gave to Saddam Hussein with the necessary action. That is why I am determined to hold firm to the course that we have set out.


Mr. Duncan Smith:   The Secretary of State for International Development said that she would not support military action without a second resolution. I remind the Prime Minister that, amazingly, she called him "reckless". The Prime Minister can either have Cabinet collective responsibility or his Secretary of State for International Development. Which will it be?


PM: I agree that it is an embarrassment to find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman, or him in agreement with me, on the issue of Iraq, but we are agreed. Rather than scoring points, which are perfectly acceptable and which I understand, at this point, when we are facing momentous decisions for the country, it is probably better that we discuss the substance.


Mr. Charles Kennedy: Has the Attorney-General advised the Prime Minister that a war on Iraq in the absence of a second United Nations resolution authorising force would be legal? What advice has the Attorney-General given?


PM: I have said on many occasions that we as a country would not do anything that did not have a proper legal basis to it.


Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland): In these momentous times, by his heroic efforts to seek a second resolution in the United Nations, I believe that the Prime Minister has the overwhelming support of Members on both sides of the House. Are there not two great prizes for all his activities? The first is the credibility of the United Nations in seeking to enforce its resolutions because without that it will lose all credibility. The second is the ability to continue to persuade the President of the USA to go down the multilateralist route.


PM: The point that my right hon. Friend made at the end is very important. We all agreed to take the multilateral route last November. Let us be clear, not everyone in every part of every Administration may have wanted to take the multilateral route, but we did so, and on the basis that Saddam had a final opportunity to disarm and that if he did not comply fully, unconditionally and immediately with UN inspectors, he would be in breach and serious consequences would follow. Not a single person—not a single person in Europe; not a single person in the rest of the world—believes that he is co-operating either fully or unconditionally, and certainly not immediately. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. What is at stake is the integrity of the multilateral process. Unless we uphold it now, we are never going to be able to uphold it in future times.


19 March 2003


Mr. Duncan Smith:   As Saddam Hussein has rejected every single offer to disarm or leave the country, is it now a reality that the removal of Saddam Hussein has become an explicit war aim?


PM: It is the case that if the only means of achieving the disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is the removal of the regime, then the removal of the regime of course has to be our objective. It is important that we realise that we have come to this position because we have given every opportunity for Saddam voluntarily to disarm, but the will not only of this country but of the United Nations now has to be upheld.T