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House of Commons

Friday 15 March 1991

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

The Gulf (Ecology)

9.35 am

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : I beg to move,

That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to display the same effort as they injected into military combat in fighting oil slicks in the Gulf, burning oil fires, and as soon as possible cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and other diseases arising from open sewers and related destruction in Kuwait, Baghdad and other cities ; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to send a task force of environmental experts to the Middle East.

Were proof needed of the proposition that "Modern war creates more problems than is solves", the events in the Gulf from 15 January to 15 March 1991 would provide ample evidence. We have opened a Pandora's box without any clear idea of solutions. Yet, however we sleep-walked into war and however that war was conducted, particularly after it was clear that the Iraqi forces in Kuwait had become a rabble of looters on their way north, the necessary parliamentary inquest is more appropriate to a two or three-day mid-week debate than to a private Member's motion on a Friday. [Interruption.] Last night in the debate on the Easter Adjournment, I spoke about the Basra bombing. I do not propose to regurgitate what was said then, but I hope that there will at some time be answers to the serious questions that were raised.

It is profoundly unsatisfactory, to the point of being a cause for shame on us, that the opportunity for the first debate since 21 January--excluding the truncated debate initiated by the Scottish National party in late February--as opposed to ministerial statement, should have had to be as a result of my extraordinary luck in the ballot.

The reality of the human and ecological catastrophe in, let us call it, Mesopotamia is apparent for all who have eyes to watch television. Let me therefore deal with the motion, which concentrates on three problems, in perhaps ascending order of important. The first problem is that of the oil slicks. What is their latest known position? What is their status? What is the forecast about their possible dissipation, given the Nowruz experience during the Iran-Iraq war? What assessment has the Natural Environment Research Council, acting for the Department of the Environment, now made of the biological effects of oil spillage in the Gulf, particularly of the likely effects of oil on the coral ecosystem?

If I ask in particular, as I did on 7 February, about the coral islands of Qarah, Umm Al Maradim and Kubbar, it is because Dr. Nigel Downing--about whose work I contacted the Department of the Environment in late January and whose phone number I gave to the Prime Minister's office nine days ago- -told me, speaking from his eight years' experience working for the Kuwait science institute, that they are crucial for the protection of fish

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larvae and the replenishment of fish throughout the northern Gulf. The islands support the lesser-crested tern, ospreys and many other birds.

I am sure that all hon. Members present understand that we are about to embark on the major fish breeding season, that fish are starting to spawn and that the perturbations caused by oil slicks could break the food chain, perhaps causing famine in fish-dependent communities in the Gulf states and Iran. There is a major concern : what is being done to protect the mud- flats, which affect so much of the primary productivity of the Gulf and the plankton? If the desalination plants constitute an understandable priority, will protective booms for the mud-flats be considered? We must also consider the mangroves and the salt marshes. I understand that in some salt marshes the oil is 2 m thick.

It was extremely courteous of the Minister to send me the Conservative central office brief. The key points on the first page include the following information :

"The Government has ordered 3 oil recovery skimmers worth £300,000 which will be sent to Bahrain.

90 tonnes of anti-pollution equipment--mostly booms--from industry stocks held in Britain were flown out to the Gulf on the 28th, 29th and 30th January."

Is there any shortage of equipment? Mr. David Olsen, the technical adviser on pollution to the Saudi Government, suggests that there is. I refer to my question on 19 February, when I asked :

"Why should Mr. David Olsen, the consultant adviser on the environment to the Saudi Government, complain about a shortage of equipment?"

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces said :

"I cannot answer for Mr. David Olsen. However, we have done our bit by sending about 90 tonnes of equipment which has been held here by the Department of Transport to help clean up the problems in the area."--[ Official Report, 19 February 1991 ; Vol. 186, c. 134.] That is nothing like the scale of the operation that is clearly needed. Can the Minister persuade the House that the mechanism for getting scientists and experts out to the Gulf to examine the database has been co-ordinated by the United States, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and others who have a contribution to make? What financial support has been given to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and to the International Council for Bird Preservation? I understand that the Saudis have asked for the team to monitor the spring migration and the numbers of breeding sea birds. I refer again to the brief from Conservative central office from Rachel Whetstone. It says :

"The Government has supported the RSPCA team which is in the Gulf training volunteers to clean oil drenched birds."

The brief continues :

"Despite international efforts, some 10,000 to 20,000 off shore birds, particularly socotra cormorants and grebes, are thought to have died as a result of oil drenching. In the last week, a number of early migratory birds, for example mallards, have been found covered in oil. These numbers will undoubtedly rise as the migrating season advances. In addition, the livelihood of local communities dependent on the sea has come under threat."

Rachel Whetstone's figures are grossly underestimated.

I should like to refer to the problems of the humped-back dolphin and dugongs, the sea-cow of the Gulf, green turtles and hawksbill turtles, socotra cormorants and a host of other species which are once again the victims of the inconceivable barbarity of the human brain.

I put on record a letter from the Bahraini ambassador, who writes :

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"I believe that the serious ecological disasters of the Gulf war need an expert international effort and action to combat the devastating immediate and long term ecological consequences not only in the Gulf region but worldwide. The unprecedented magnitude of the oil slick and burning oil wells will, no doubt, have dangerous consequences on the global environment. Therefore, I whole heartedly support your timely initiative to raise this question with a view to calling on Her Majesty's Government to send a task force of environmental experts to be despatched to the Gulf region to help extinguish the hundreds of fires at oil wells and preserve the human environment in general, and the marine environment in particular." That was the view of the Bahraini Government.

What recommendations on wildlife have Ministers received from Roy Dennis of the RSPB and from Burr Heneman, the director of the United States section of the International Council for Bird Preservation? There are a number of comparatively small decisions and actions that could save species. For example, the rare bridled tern which breeds at the height of summer needs vegetation or shade to keep cool. I am told that a little provision could be made to create substitutes for destroyed vegetation in the traditional breeding ground.

My experience is that there are officers and other ranks in the services who know and care a great deal about wildlife. At least those who are known to have an interest might be approached to implement the type of recommendation that Roy Dennis and Burr Heneman will almost certainly make. As with every other question, I have given notice of the issue to relevant Ministers.

I refer to a matter that I raised as an example yesterday on the Scottish Natural Heritage Bill. It concerns the red-necked phalarope which nests in Shetland--there are about 30 pairs--and winters in the Indian ocean. It comes to us to breed, but in a few weeks it will be passing through the Gulf. Perhaps none of them will get through if they land in the oil slicks. That is a concrete example that concerns those of us who wish to find an answer.

In their report Roy Dennis and Burr Heneman say that to understand how migrant waders use the coast, detailed counts will be carried out in April and May. Data will be collected on species, numbers and percentages oiled at a selection of sites representing oiled and unoiled areas. Four teams of two ornothologists will undertake field work in four main areas. The daily monitoring will include the mapping of bird distribution through tidal cycles in April and May as well as collecting data on species, numbers and ages and state of migration. If possible, an attempt will be made to catch and ring waders as well as to collect biometric data. The main questions to be dealt with are how many waders use the coast on their spring migration, do different flocks of waders choose particular bays to feed in before making their long flights or do they trickle up the coast, and what percentage of birds get oiled? I have put the Department in touch with Michael Rands, and I hope that some reference will be made to these problems.

Before moving to the next part of the motion which is in ascending order of importance, I must say that I do not wish to give the impression that birds are the most important issue with which we must deal, but that is the way the motion is structured.

Before moving on to the next part of the motion on oil fires, I have one further question and it contains an element of recrimination. Why was little or no thought

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given to deliberate oil spills by Iraq as an instrument of war? In a 55-minute speech--I shall be briefer today as many colleagues wish to speak--in column 403 of the Official Report of 19 December 1990, I warned of oil spills. It took no great prescience to do so on my part as Saddam Hussein was making precisely those threats. May I ask why, before the war was started--it is not simply a matter of hindsight-- booms and other equipment were not in position or at least available?

I refer the House to an answer given by the Secretary of State for the Environment on 7 February 1991 to my question about the islands in column 221 of the Official Report. I challenge whether the scale of the problem was sufficiently understood. In an answer on 11 March 1991, the Secretary of State for the Environment said :

"In my Department, which has had the lead in environmental aspects of the Gulf conflict, around 20 civil servants have been involved to some degree in responding to these issues, including requests for assistance from the Gulf states. For about 5 staff, this has been a major part of their work. In other Departments closely involved the position is similar."--[ Official Report, 11 March 1991 ; Vol. 187, c. 369. ]

Does that represent the scale needed to tackle the greatest ecological disaster of our time? Criticism about the oil spillages is as nothing to the anger that some of us feel about the oil wells. We have continued to nag at every parliamentary opportunity--and every other opportunity--on

"flames such as Mother Earth has never witnessed."

We nagged during Prime Minister's questions on 13 November and on 11 December. At the scientists conference we were dismissed and told that we were exaggerating and being alarmist and we were rubbished. I am especially distressed at the Secretary of State for Energy's response to figures given by the King of Jordan and, subsequently, to the warnings of photo-chemical smog given most prominently by Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck institute. I wish to put on record part of a letter of 23 January from the Secretary of State for Energy. It states :

"Since your letters of 24 December and 6 January, my private office have sent you a copy of the Meteorological Office's report on the possible environmental impacts if Saddam Hussein should set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells. The report suggests that, in the worst case scenario, there would indeed be environmental harm but that the only possible longterm effect is the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on global warming which would be almost negligible."

It is the word "negligible" that some of us question. The Energy Secretary went on :

"There is no indication of global environmental catastrophe. The Met Office, as you know, have an excellent reputation in this field and their report should now ensure that these issues are seen in a proper perpective."

Who on earth wrote the final draft of the Meteorological Office report? I have given notice of that question, so I hope for an answer. Was it really Dr. Keith Browning FRS, with whom I spoke on the telephone at Christmas, but who was understandably inhibited in what he said to me? It would be one thing to say, "We don't know", but another to play down the worst possible scenario and to write a report that allowed the Secretary of State for Energy to dismiss our fears as "negligible".

If, by chance, the document produced by the Met Office on the possible environmental impacts of burning oil wells, and which I am about to go through, was not Dr. Browning's original report, but doctored by Whitehall, the Commons should be told. The first paragraph of the Met Office document states :

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"The Meteorological Office has been asked by the Government to assess the environmental consequences of burning Kuwaiti oil wells. The estimates given below are based on preliminary calculations and on limited information."

That is strange wording for a fellow of the Royal Society. The paragraph continues :

"There are uncertainties due to lack of knowledge in many areas, ranging from the characteristics of the smoke emitted, to the chemical reactions which would take place and the nature of the weather conditions."

If there were uncertainties, how did Dr. Browning reach the conclusions that he did? Paragraph 2 of the report states : "For the purposes of estimating environmental impacts, the Meteorological Office was advised to take the following worst case scenario : the quantity of oil burnt would be equivalent to one year of Kuwait's pre-invasion production of 80 million tonnes (Mt) per year spread out over one year. This would give rise to approximately 2 Mt of sulphur in the form of sulphur oxides, 0.5 Mt of nitrogen in the form of nitrogen oxides and 60 Mt of carbon as carbon dioxide gas. A further assumption is that 6 of the oil would be converted to black smoke, yielding 5 Mt. Other assumptions could lead to different emissions and the amounts, in particular, of smoke could be significantly less. There are several possible effects, as considered in the following paragraphs."

Paragraph 3 states :

"The only possible long term effect is the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on global warming. This will be almost negligible." Did Dr. Browning really write about,

"the only possible long term effect"?

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham) : Can the hon. Gentleman tell us the difference between the emissions and consequences of the flaring of oil and gas in an uncontrolled way and some of the uncontrolled emissions that occur when oil and gas are used commercially? Surely that results in the same combustion. I ask my question in the spirit of genuine inquiry.

Mr. Dalyell : I shall have a go at answering that on another occasion. My blunt answer must be that my speech is long enough and others want to participate

Mr. Bottomley : It was a genuine question.

Mr. Dalyell : I am sure it was. It is an important question, but I would rather not be diverted.

Paragraph 4 of the Met Office document states :

"Acid deposition from sulphur and nitrogen compounds could be significant close to Kuwait, but would probably not have serious widespread long-term consequences."

Did Dr. Browning write that? The paragraph continues :

"Close to and downwind of Kuwait, the concentrations of ground-level ozone could be comparable with those typical of photochemical smogs in major cities."

If Dr. Browning was talking about photochemical smogs, how do we draw the general conclusion that scientists warnings can be dismissed? Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Met Office report state : "Close to Kuwait, the plume could cause a considerable reduction in daylight and daytime temperatures.

Emissions of black smoke could produce effects in areas remote from Kuwait, if the smoke were sufficiently dense and reached the upper atmosphere."

Did Dr. Browning really use the words "if" and "could"? The paragraph continues :

"Whether or not the smoke reached the upper atmosphere would depend critically on the absorption of sunlight by the smoke, which depends on its physical characteristics, and hence on details of the combustion. Other relevant factors are the efficiency with which rain and other processes remove the smoke from the atmosphere."

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The effect of the smoke on global temperatures is likely"--I stress "likely"--

"to be small. Downwind of Kuwait, the obscuration of sunlight might significantly reduce the surface temperature locally".

Was the word "might" really Dr. Browning's? The paragraph continues :

"This in turn could locally reduce the rainfall over parts of SE Asia during the period of the summer monsoon. The uncertainty of these estimates, and the great natural variability seasonally and locally in the monsoon, are emphasised."

As far as I am concerned, the document has the fingerprints of Whitehall all over it. It has played down the consequences. For 24 years I have been a weekly columnist for the New Scientist and I am used to reading heavyweight articles from scientists. The document does not appear to be the kind of paper to be produced by a scientist. If I am wrong, I shall be told.

Paragraph 8 of the document states :

"If the smoke reaches the ozone layer, the smoke particles and nitrogen oxides could lead to small reductions in ozone concentrations within the northern hemisphere. However, any effects at a given location on the ground would be short lived."

Was that really the considered conclusion of the scientists? I have dwelt on that document at some length because the tragedy is that if the truth, as it was known to many scientists, had been acknowledged, Saddam Hussein-- given his knowledge of what might happen to southern Iraq--might not have ordered the ignition of the oil wells. When we were playing down the ecological catastrophe, doubtless, the Iraqis were listening. If we had told the truth about that ecological catastrophe, other events might have been different.

Dr. John Cox, who was the most prominent in his warnings, is the scientific equivalent of the Birmingham Six. John Cox, Tim Eiloart, Penny Kemp and others who campaigned at the conference in time to avoid the ecological disaster are owed a bit of an apology. I hope that the Minister is rather more gracious than the Home Secretary was to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). I must also pay tribute to Mr. Ormerod, Mr. Ron Huzzard and others of Labour Action for Peace. In its most recent pamphlet it stated : "Scientists at the conference organised by the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons"--

it has an honourable record in this matter--

"on 14 November estimated that one million civilians could be injured and over 100,000 killed in a Gulf war. A Washington think tank gives a military casualty list of 210,000, with 40,000 dead. Dr. Hugh Middleton, a psychologist said : We believe it would be an irrational response, akin to mass mental illness, to go to war in the Gulf, in the face of all these potential casualties'."

It makes no difference that the casualties were mostly on one side because there has been nothing like it in terms of casualty ratios since the Conquistadors. I fear that the numbers, as predicted, have turned out to be true.

One must be fair and I want to draw attention to what the Green party has said about the environmental consequences of the Gulf war. That may or may not meet with the approval of my Chief Whip, who is courteously present. However, in the past few months a number of us have shared platforms with members of the Green party. I quote from a letter by Roger Giles of Exeter :

"As you know the Green Party co-organised the symposium on the environmental consequences of the Gulf war which was held in London on 2 January.

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As a result John Wakeham, Energy Secretary, immediately sought to play down the conclusions reached by many eminent people present at the symposium, using the device of writing to John Hannam (Exeter MP and Energy Committee Secretary), and releasing the letter to the media, the purpose being to head off any public opposition to a war which such consequences might prejudice.

I have seen the various papers emanating from the Department of Energy, including the letter from John Wakeham to you dated 7 January in which he refers to your anonymous caller'. Presumably this refers to the DoE official who disputed the scientific basis for Mr. Wakeham's attempted put- down.

I should say that I recognise it is not usual to correspond with an MP from another constituency, but I must say that I am unhappy with how Mr. Hannam has dealt with this matter.

Exeter Green Party's Suzanne Dunstan took part in the original symposium on 2nd January (and subsequent gatherings) and was also a member of the Green Party trip to Baghdad in January. The matter is clearly, therefore, one that concerns us greatly.

I am aware of your considerable efforts in this area, and have followed reports of your endeavours in Hansard. I note that you have managed to secure a debate in the House of Commons on Friday 15th March.

Exeter Green Party feels particularly aggrieved about this matter. We warned before the war commenced that environmental catastrophe was probable. The Government disinformation machine sprang into action to counter this. Sadly the predictions have become reality. As I have said I have taken this matter up with John Hannam. The best service he has been able to offer is that of a post office from the Department of Energy. I have enclosed a copy of the correspondence for your information. Remarks such as any action taken by Saddam Hussein to blow up oil wells in Kuwait will not pose the environmental disaster which your party are forecasting' are a pretty damning indictment. It occurs to me that we have an environmental disaster on a vast scale. Apart from seeing the world's largest ever oil spill, and all the horrific consequences of burning oil wells, we have a Gulf equivalent of Chernobyl and also the unknown effects of bombing chemical plants.

It does concern us greatly that a Government Minister can see it as his duty to distort the facts as Mr. Wakeham has done. I hope that you will manage to expose the untruths that have been promoted during the last few months. Hopefully the truth will out, even if it is only reluctantly, belatedly and as the result of persistence on the part of yourself and other determined individuals.

The priority now, as we see it, is for the co-operation on the part of the allies to conduct a destructive war, to be channelled into making good the environmental catastrophe which has taken place. I made this crucially important argument to Mr. Hannam recently. He was so moved by my arguments and the need for urgent action--that he sent me a standard acknowledgement thanking me for my thoughts!" I have seen that letter from the secretary of the Conservative party energy committee, in which he says :

"the advice is that any action taken by Saddam Hussein to blow up oil wells in Kuwait will not pose the environmental disaster which your Party are forecasting."

The environmental harm is clearly colossal. Vipin Gupta of Imperial college, London, who is the analyst of the images, said that by 21 February black smoke covered 11,000 sq km. Since then, there are pictures of darkness at noon in Kuwait, with 3 million to 6 million barrels a day going up in flames. After 30 days, the area covered by soot cloud could be 4 million sq km. The earth's surface temperature is already 10 deg lower than normal. Kuwait's oil is rich in sulphur and 3 million barrels a day, burning for a year, will pour out about 4 million tonnes of sulphur

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dioxide into the atmosphere. Together with nitrogen oxides in the smoke, that will produce millions of tonnes of acid rain. Frank Barnaby says that the smoke cloud seems to be affecting the region's climate, dramatically increasing the amount of rainfall. However, the rain is not the healthy, life-giving rain of Britain but sinister, black and oily--of a kind last seen after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The Minister cannot dispute those facts because the Conservative party brief says :

"Satellites have also detected smoke 750 miles downwind of the war zone in Iran and black rain' has been reported as far as away as southern Turkey."

Rachel Whetstone's report also says :

"The fires have resulted in dark, twilight' skies at mid-day within a 50 kilometre radius of the burning wells. Temperatures have fallen below the average for this time of year. In the heavily affected areas photochemical smog is developing, which may cause sore eyes and throats and create breathing difficulties for the elderly and newly born."

On 28 February, James Meek, of The Scotsman, wrote : "The southern Kuwaiti desert was like the day of judgement. Not a nuclear winter, but a petrochemical autumn. The consequences of the Iraqis burning of the oil wells was tongues of flame all round the compass and the ground vomiting black, stinking smoke. Rain lashed down the faces of the US marines, to make them look like coal miners, and a strong wind rushed across the dunes. Long before the sun went down, its light was soaked up by a dense, unnatural twilight." On 4 March, Gordon Airs, of the Record, wrote :

"I drove north to the Iraqi border, and saw the price that Kuwait has paid to be freed. It is a ruined land. I passed 50 oil wells blazing fiercely, turning the blue sky into a giant blackness." What effort has been made to monitor hydrogen sulphide and what can be done? I return, yet again, to Paul Krutyen of the Max Planck Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Mainz, who investigated the North sea potential danger in the early 1980s when there was a possibility of attack. Professor Krutyen told me to contact Russell Seitz. The ever-helpful science section of the Library has provided the following note on the eco-consequences of the Gulf :

"I am now writing to you with the results of my telephone call to Mr. Russell Seitz in Massachusetts.

As you indicated, Mr. Seitz has suggested that measures could be taken to improve the combustion of the oil burning in Kuwaiti wells and installations. Mr. Seitz told me that he has submitted his views in a letter to the journal Nature for publication on 21st March. As you may know, Nature normally insists that ideas and material it has agreed to publish must not be aired elsewhere beforehand. Both Mr. Seitz and the editor of Nature (John Maddox) have agreed that, in this instance, the following information may be used by you in the debate and attributed to Mr. Seitz provided that it is made clear that the full details will subsequently be published in Nature. The essence of this proposal is that oxygen (in practice, air) could be inserted into the Kuwaiti oil fires in order to aid complete combustion, thereby lowering the volume of carbon (soot) and partially combusted hydrocarbons being released into the atmosphere. Mr. Seitz pointed out the difficulties of fire-fighting under the present conditions in Kuwait, as much of the country's infrastructure has been destroyed and water is in extremely short supply. In particular, he raised the possibility of a shortage of transport for the heavy equipment needed to fight the oil fires, such as earth-moving machinery. Air is obviously not in short supply, but there is the question of how the equipment needed to blast large volumes of air into the fire columns will be moved to the sites of the fires. Finally, Mr. Seitz highlighted that the current situation is unprecedented and that unconventional combustion engineering may therefore be needed to tackle a problem of this scale."

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I am in no position to judge whether that is a sensible suggestion. However, if Professor Krutyen, with the backing of the Max Planck institute, says that it is a constructive way to proceed, the Government should consider that constructive suggestion. The crisis is of such a magnitude that it cannot be left to contracts with firms that operate on the say-so of Red Adair and have never tackled anything on such a scale. I shall not criticise the apparent dependence on a man who is now in his mid-70s, with a stroke behind him, because he is backed by an organisation. Instead, I ask, should the world think it sufficient to leave the problem in the hands of Red Adair, Boots and Coots, the Bowden Wild Well Control, and a Canadian firm, Safety Boss, which are geared through their experience to tackling one or two blow-outs at a time?

The motion calls for a massive multinational civil engineering project on the scale of the military operation. Nothing less will do. There has been no experience of dealing with such a huge conflagration. I do not expect the Minister to dispute that because Rachel Whetstone's brief to the Conservatives concludes : "Any action is impeded by unexploded mines and booby-traps. Many of the wells in the Saudi/Kuwaiti neutral zone require pumping to bring the oil to the surface, and these fires have, or soon will, die through lack of fuel. The problem lies with the 500 odd wells in northern Kuwait that will produce a self-sustaining fire that could burn indefinitely."

That is the problem that we face.

We must be practical and ask who will clear the mines and booby traps in temperatures of 200 deg C. I heard on the excellent Radio FM coverage, the young Paul Wayne, Mr. Adair's grandson in the firm, state that he needed two dozen water pumps per well and ask where the water was to come from. Raymond Henry, vice-president of Mr. Adair's firm, talked about 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of water being needed per minute on each site. It will take two months to lay pipes to bring sea water 100 miles from the sea. That is absolutely out of the range of firms such as Mr. Adair's, however brave and technically skilled they may be. We need an international operation. I have given Energy Ministers notice of that question, and look forward to hearing their thoughts.

Another related question is how the 0.5 tonne cranes will get near enough to their task in substances where the sand is so hot that it is like melting glass. Hon. Members may have heard Mr. Adair say : "No one can tell how long it will last--I don't care who it is--if we can do this in three years, we'll be lucky."

It is not known how long it will last and the costs involved are mind- boggling. Each support person is paid $700 a day and the fire fighters receive $1,500 to $1,700 a day.

When the Prime Minister saw what he called

"the depressing and appalling sight of smoke clouds over Kuwait", I wonder whether he recollected the exchange that we had when I asked oral question 1 on 11 December :

"To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) of 13 November, Official Report, column 446, if he will specify those figures which he possesses relating to oil stocks, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, which differ from those given by the King Hussein, showing in each case the comparable figures and the source for those which he uses."

The present Prime Minister replied :

"No, Sir. The calculations rest on assumptions about the consequences of a conflict in the Gulf which, by nature, are

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