In the light of the UN Inspectors' Report to the UN Security Council on Monday and the ten years of Iraq's deception, evasion and non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, it should be clear to all that we are facing a very grave situation in the Gulf.
The starting point in this whole debate must be that we are representatives of democratic nations. Saddam Hussein is a dictator who has no respect for democracy, the rule of law or the demands of the United Nations itself. As democrats, we have a responsibility to explain fully the reasons why it may be necessary to take action in order to uphold the will of the international community which is that Saddam should unconditionally disarm. This issue is not simply about the work of the UN Inspectors, rather it is about disarming Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction. These weapons were there when the Inspectors had to leave in 1998. Where are they now? There has, to date, been no evidence of disarmament. The burden of proof must be with Saddam.
The British Prime Minister has a special responsibility to explain clearly the reasons why we must confront the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. To date, his Government has not been united and clear on the issue. Mr Blair's inability to persuade public opinion of the need to be prepared to take action in the face of a very real threat to the security of our people, constitutes a failure of leadership and diplomacy.
A collective failure to confront the gravity of the situation with unity and determination gives Saddam only succour. Not to be prepared to take action if he continues to obstruct and lie, would be an open invitation to any rogue state that they can do anything and still not face serious consequences. It would also leave the United Nations itself weak and impotent.
Clearly, should the situation not improve in the weeks ahead, a second UN resolution may be required. That is the optimum option ahead of any military engagement in the Gulf. However, I take the view that the international community has the right to act without such a new resolution as I believe the powers are already vested in earlier UN resolutions.
The position of the French and German Governments in recent days has demonstrated that any prospect of a Common Foreign and Security Policy is fallacious. I make no partisan political point on this, but we would be fooling ourselves as European parliamentarians to believe that we are anywhere near developing a CFSP or anything like it. We clearly are not.
Mr President, in the days and weeks ahead we need steady nerves and an effective United Nations. We must ensure Saddam understands that his failure to comply with the will of the international community will result in serious consequences. Equally, we must also ensure that public opinion in the West, and elsewhere, understands and appreciates why we must be prepared to take action in defence of the international interest. Political leaders must have the courage to face up to the threat, otherwise the credibility of the United Nations itself will be at stake and Saddam will have prevailed.
If the western nations had sent a strong, unified message to Saddam from the start and maintained their resolve, then perhaps today we would not have to be contemplating military action.