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Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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What the evidential basis was for his statement in the United States on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [109763]

The United Kingdom consistently maintained that Iraq continued to pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction. This assertion was based on the first report by the executive chairman of UNSCOM, Richard Butler. Saddam's regime had not provided, and never did provide, any evidence to support its claims that its weapons of mass destruction programmes were no longer active. Refusing unfettered access to unsupervised scientists and constant changes to declarations relating to relevant materials underlined the Government's belief in the existence of such potential.

Could the Home Secretary forgive a tinge of scepticism, as it appears that all that stuff about weapons of mass destruction was got from a website by Mr. Campbell's young things? It was not even run past the Joint Intelligence Committee, which was only 50 yards up the corridor. It would have been very simple to consult the JIC. What happens now about all the accusations of forgery by Dr. el-Baradei in relation to the yellow cake for which Iraq was supposed to have asked Niger? Just forgive us our scepticism.

My hon. Friend is entitled to his scepticism and we are entitled to address the reality, which is that the uranium that he mentions, which was in the Government's assessment last September, was, according to all the intelligence available to us, being sought in considerable quantities from Africa. We have no reason to believe that that intelligence evidence from several sources was incorrect. The priority since the end of the three-and-a-half week conflict has been, of course, to restore civil society, protect the civilian population, restore medical provision and ensure humanitarian aid. The process of finding what Saddam Hussein has been up to will be long and difficult, but I am absolutely certain that the majority of hon. Members believe that we have brought about a situation in which peace in the middle east, and peace and prosperity for the people of Iraq, can be obtained.

Does the Home Secretary agree that it would not be at all surprising if some of the people responsible for either developing those weapons of mass destruction or harbouring or running them were to apply for asylum in this country now that the conflict is over? Does he also agree that it would be quite wrong for anyone associated with the regime or the Ba'ath party to be granted asylum? Will he ensure that that is the case?

I agree with myself on that. We have made it clear that those who have been engaged in any way with the regime and its actions against its people or its threat to others would be automatically disqualified from receiving asylum. That is true under the 1951 convention and our domestic law. We will stick to that, whoever it is and whatever posts they held in the Saddam regime.