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House of Commons

Friday 25 September 1992

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Treaty of Maastricht (Referendum)

Mr. Tony Benn, supported by Mr. Peter Shore, Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Mr. Austin Mitchell, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. Bernie Grant, Mr. Ken Livingstone, Dr. Lynne Jones and Mr. Malcolm Chisholm, presented a Bill to provide for the holding of a national referendum, and for the procedure for the subsequent decision of the House of Commons, on the question of British ratification of the Treaty of Maastricht before Her Majesty's Government may lawfully adhere to that Treaty on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ; and for purposes connected therewith : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 23 October and to be printed. [Bill 63.]

Recall of Parliament by Members of Parliament-- Mr. Graham Allen presented a Bill to give a majority of Members of Parliament so requesting to the Speaker the right to require the recall of the House of Commons to discuss a named topic : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 23 October and to be printed. [Bill 64.]

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United Nations Operations

Motions made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]

[Relevant documents : Minutes of Evidence before the Defence Committee on 22nd September 1992 relating to recent and proposed deployments in the Gulf Region and in Yugoslavia, HC 188.] 9.34 am

Madam Speaker : Order. Before we come to the debate on the Adjournment, I must tell the House that I have imposed a 10-minute limit on speeches between 11.30 am and 1 pm. I hope that I shall receive the same co -operation that I had yesterday regarding speeches outside that time, for which I thank hon. Members very much.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The large number of hon. Members in the Chamber today shows the support in all parts of the House for a debate on foreign affairs. There is considerable concern that we do not have more time available. I suggested yesterday that we should continue today until 4 pm.

The terms of the motion are rather narrow and do not allow any debate on the middle east crisis, the position in South Africa or British aid to Pakistan following the flood disaster. We now understand that the debate is to be punctuated by a personal statement by the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor).

Bearing all that in mind, will you, Madam Speaker, display your customary tolerance and understanding if in any interventions--I stress the word "interventions"--the Foreign Secretary is asked for some explanation on the matters that I have raised?

Madam Speaker : Order. This is an Adjournment debate. Although I would not wish hon. Members to stray too far from the words on the Order Paper, I think that I might agree to a limited question or two on the matters raised by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that hon. Members will understand that and will keep to the procedures that we always uphold in the House.

9.37 am

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) on his arrival, if that is the word, to the position of shadow Foreign Secretary. I very much look forward to working opposite him--I am not sure whether with him or against him ; only time will tell--for a long time to come.

I apologise to the House for the fact that I cannot stay until the end of the debate. I have two meetings at the United Nations with the Foreign Ministers of China and Iran and neither meeting is routine, as hon. Members may guess. I have already rescheduled them to a later time today, but I fear that I cannot shed them altogether. Indeed, it would be a pity to do so.

Two years ago, the end of the cold war appeared to promise a better world-- and for some months all the news appeared to be miraculously good. Matters appeared to have taken a change for the better almost overnight. Now, we see matters differently. The world post-cold war is in many ways a better place, but in others it is more unstable.

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International order is threatened by problems left as a result of the cold war--older problems and challenges to the rule of law. The three subjects identified for debate today-- Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia--are, perhaps, the three most tragic examples of that. I want to take stock of developments in all three areas during the summer and to look forward to where we go from here.

Yugoslavia is a crisis in Europe and for Europe. There are few--we have heard a voice or two in the House in the past--who feel that, on the whole, we should pass by on the other side, because our essential interests are not at stake and because our chances of doing anything useful are slim. I understand that point of view, but I do not agree with it. Many more people inside and outside the House, faced daily with the horror of Yugoslavia as presented in the press and on television, say that something must be done but are not specific about it. We must be specific in government and in the House. The killing and the suffering are on our doorstep and I do not think that we can detach ourselves from a sensible, realistic effort to bring that killing and suffering to an end.

Let us step back for a minute and examine the background. Yugoslavia was created in 1919 to cope with a particular problem--the fact that 12 million people with very different histories were mingled inextricably in the north -west of the Balkans.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : It was the common market of its day.

Mr. Hurd : Oh, it was the common market, was it? I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's speech about the common market in 1919, and the creation of Yugoslavia.

For 70 years the problem was not solved, but it was at least dormant--first under the monarchy, then under the communist regime of Marshal Tito. People were not free, but at least during those 70 years--except during the second world war--they were not killing each other. As the communist regime disintegrated, an effort--a worthwhile effort--was made to preserve Yugoslavia by consent. Sadly, that effort failed disastrously. Then the EC was persuaded by others, and by its own instincts, to try to help prevent total civil war and total collapse. The EC, however, is not a military power and it is still not fully equipped for joint action in foreign policy.

How far have we got with that effort? Clearly, not far enough. We have kept at bay the old rivalries between the great powers of western Europe : the rivalries that helped to produce Balkan wars in the first decade of the century and culminated in the bloodiest war in all history--the great war. Now, at least, different European powers are not backing different clients in the Balkans. That is a negative achievement, but nevertheless we have avoided what might have been worse--more killings and more refugees. We have managed so far to prevent the conflict from engaging a wider area than the former Yugoslavia and setting back the clock of history.

As I have said, however, that is a negative achievement. How are we positively helping to achieve peace? I feel that I must put in a realistic word at this point. We cannot dictate peace in Yugoslavia ; none of us-- Britain, France, Germany, the Community or the United Nations--has been in a position to sweep into the different republics, tell

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them what their frontiers are, tell them who should govern them and instruct them in how they should behave to each other. We cannot act as a colonial power in eastern Europe. Bosnia will not be a protectorate of the Community.

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, what remained were the six republics. They were the only surviving political entities. Their boundaries were not perfect, but anyone who looks at the map and sees the way in which people live together in that part of the world will know that there cannot be perfect boundaries. That is why the EC, followed by the UN and the London conference, quickly laid down two principles : no alteration of boundaries by force, and established rights for minorities within boundaries.

It was on that basis that Lord Carrington began, on behalf of the Community, his thankless task as a peacemaker. That task was thankless because he and his team constructed ceasefires, and obtained signatures to ceasefires, that were never honoured. Nevertheless, they carried out a good deal of detailed groundwork, which will certainly be the basis for an eventual settlement. Their work is being continued today and I am sure that in the end it will provide the foundations for peace. During that period a fragile peace was established in Croatia, with the deployment of a UN force --UNPROFOR--containing 14,000 men, of which the British component is a field ambulance of 300.

We cannot be assured about the position in Croatia. Some of my hon. Friends have visited the country recently and they will know that it may become increasingly shaky--particularly as the mandate of UNPROFOR nears its term in the early part of next year. That is why we must press ahead in Croatia with local arrangements and

confidence-building measures.

When I was in Zagreb in July, President Tudjman of Croatia mentioned to me the importance of securing an agreement that would demilitarise the Prevlaka peninsula and raise the siege of Dubrovnik. I pursued the matter in Belgrade and we arranged discussions and negotiations between the local commanders on board HMS Avenger in the Adriatic. There have been setbacks, but it now looks as if that local arrangement may actually take shape. I cite that as an example of what can be done.

We now have 150 EC monitors throughout Croatia, under a British leader. I have seen for myself, as have other Members of Parliament, how effective those unarmed monitors--mostly young ex-army officers--can be in, for example, establishing confidence between village and village so that people can get back to rebuilding their houses and their lives.

I do not need to tell the House how the storm then shifted to Bosnia. I shall not go into it, because we and our constituents have seen, night by night, that storm blow up into tragedy throughout the summer.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : Bosnia was predictable and predicted ; Kosovo is still predictable. What is the international community now doing to prevent the tragedy in Bosnia from proceeding into Kosovo?

Mr. Hurd : I am going to mention Kosovo later in my speech. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear with me until then.

Once again, in the summer, ceasefires were called in Bosnia and once again they broke down or were never

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implemented. The UN and EC therefore decided, with wide international support, to bind their efforts more closely together. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Secretary-General of the United Nations marshalled the support and the machinery of the wider international community in support of the effort.

This was not a once-and-for-all conference. It did not aim at a ceasefire- with immediate effect, because such ceasefires had proved in the past to be illusions. What it did was establish certain agreements and a framework for carrying them into effect. That new process--the international conference on the former

Yugoslavia--continues its work, mostly in Geneva, under the co-chairmanship of Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen. I am sure that the House will join me in expressing thanks to those two particularly energetic gentlemen for assuming what is undoubtedly a frustrating but indispensable task.

The conference is not about something abstract or bureaucratic ; it is trying to do something humanitarian--to alleviate the suffering of victims of the conflict--and something political--to bring the conflict permanently to an end. Contrary to some predictions by the cynical press, it was agreed by all at the London conference that Bosnia Hercegovina should not be partitioned between neighbouring states. It is a country with recognised frontiers and it is entitled to work out within those frontiers how the different communities in Bosnia--Serb, Croat and Muslim--can in future live peaceably together.

A wide range of undertakings were given and published in London, covering such matters as speeding up the delivery of aid, corraling heavy weapons, the cessation of military aggression and the holding of constitutional discussions. There has been some progress in carrying out those undertakings, but it is not adequate.

In such circumstances, diplomacy obviously does not work without pressures. We believe that the main pressures still need to be applied against Serbia and Montenegro. That is not because other participants in the fighting-- either the Croats or the Bosnian Muslims--are free from blame for some of the suffering, but, according to both our analysis and that of the international community, it was the Serbs, with encouragement from Belgrade, who started the fighting in Bosnia. It is they who carry the largest responsibility for the continuation of that fighting. That is why, whereas there is an arms embargo against all the republics, the United Nations mandatory trade embargo is directed against Serbia and Montenegro.

The sanctions are having an effect. We believe that industrial production in Serbia has been roughly halved, overall trade is down by 50 to 75 per cent. and oil imports are down by more than 80 per cent. Those sanctions must be comprehensively applied. That is why we have ships in the Adriatic, including HMS Gloucester, which deter sanctions-breaking by sea.

There has been a specific problem along the Danube. The Governments involved have asked for monitors to be stationed along their borders to help them to apply sanctions, which they say that they are determined to do. During the next fortnight, the European Community and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe will send three teams of experts, including customs officers, to Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania to advise local customs officers, pass on information about any breaches of sanctions to the sanctions committee of the Security Council and, by their presence in key positions, help to deter individuals who might cheat.

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Mr. David Howell (Guildford) : As my right hon. Friend said, it has been agreed that the Bosnian state should be upheld and it has been recognised that its existence should be maintained. Is it also right to uphold the rights of the so-called Bosnian

Government--predominantly, Bosnian-Muslim--in their claim to rule the whole of the district?

Mr. Hurd : They are the legitimate Government of the whole region. We urge them to enter discussions with the groups that are not fully represented in the Government, so that out of the discussions taking place in Geneva may come an agreement on how Bosnia can be governed and how the three communities can live together in peace. The Bosnian Government have replied that they can do that only if efforts are made to bring about a cessation of hostilities. Those two issues must be tackled together, as neither will work without the other. A powerful political debate is under way in Belgrade. I pay tribute to the courage and persistence of Prime Minister Panic in arguing for and taking steps towards a saner policy. I had a long talk with him two evenings ago. I do not doubt his courage and sincerity, but he has an uphill task. I am convinced that we need to maintain and increase the pressures on Serbia and Montenegro until that change of policy is an established fact.

We are also anxious about the position of Kosovo. We accept that it is part of Serbia, but it contains a heavy preponderance of people of Albanian origin whose rights are not properly recognised. We are trying to get people into that part of former Yugoslavia. As the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) knows, the CSCE is in the lead on that and has managed to get some people in. However, I am not at all happy or sanguine about the position.

We have emphasised in Belgrade that the denial of the sort of rights that the Kosovons enjoyed before 1988 creates the danger of another explosion that could set back all the efforts and the progress that is being falteringly made in other parts of former Yugoslavia such as Croatia.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) : Has the Foreign Secretary seen the Financial Times today? It contains a report that the Croations are seizing territory in the south-west of Bosnia and preparing its partition. The Foreign Secretary has not mentioned that issue--will he comment on it?

Mr. Hurd : I have mentioned the principle, which President Tudjman accepted--at Zagreb when I saw him in July, and in London--that Bosnia Hercegovina is a state with established frontiers. There is Croatian military activity in Hercegovina, just as there is Serbian military activity in other parts of Bosnia. There have been previous stories in the press about partition, but both the Governments involved have ruled that out--it is important that that should be so or we face the prospect of endless civil war in Bosnia. [Hon. Members :-- "Answer the question."] I have answered the question twice. I answered it before the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) asked it and I have now answered it again.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East) : The right hon. Gentleman has made no comment on the malign influence of Greece on the non-recognition of Macedonia. Will he comment on that, as it is another extremely dangerous spot?

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Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman is quite right. I cannot cover every aspect of the issue, but he is right about the problem of Macedonia. We came to a conclusion at the Lisbon Council, which was obviously welcomed by Greece, but unacceptable to the Government in Skopje, as I found when I went there in July. I have asked one of our former ambassadors, Mr. Robin O'Neill, to try to work out an agreement that is acceptable to everyone by shuttling between Athens and Skopje. That is what is required, and we have not forgotten the problem. Suggestions have been made for military intervention on a bigger scale and for a different purpose than is now proposed. It is natural that people watching the atrocities on television, seeing the bombardment of Sarajevo and the emaciated figures emerging from the camps, should urge military action by air or land against those responsible.

Personally, I felt and said that such action would have been morally justified if it could have been effective in bringing those atrocities to an end. Air strikes were the option most often put forward, and we and others considered that suggestion more than once. However, given the terrain, the weapons being used for most of the killing--which were not heavy weapons--the way in which civilians and military--Croats, Muslims and Serbs--live side by side and the likelihood that such military action would immediately bring to an end the humanitarian activities of the Red Cross and United Nations agencies, we and our allies and partners have come down against that option each time it has been considered. It would be easy to increase the casualty list without stopping the conflict--something which we must avoid.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil) : I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary and I am sorry to interrupt him in the middle of his speech. However, in view of the continuing use of aircraft by the Serbs for attacks on Sarajevo and other defenceless civilian targets, are the Government at least prepared to support the recommendation put forward, I believe, by the Americans that there should be an enforced no-fly zone over the contested territory of Bosnia?

Mr. Hurd : There should be a no-fly zone. One of the undertakings given in London was that there should not be military flights, but there are. We are considering what sort of no-fly zone would make sense. I believe that Lord Owen and Mr. Vance hope to be in Banja Luka today. I certainly agree that the concept of a no-fly zone must be carried forward. It may be--this is Lord Owen's present view--that the best way of ensuring that is to have monitors on the ground, which is a suggestion that we are pursuing.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside) : I do not think that the objective of those who advocated additional military action was to escalate military war in Bosnia. The objective was to hit lines of communications and munitions factories in Serbia, to leave the Serbs in no doubt that any escalation or extension of their activities into neighbouring Kosovo or Montenegro would bring about an instant and harsh reaction from western powers.

Mr. Hurd : That was the specific proposal made by my hon. Friend, with whom I have been in touch on the subject and to whom I am grateful. At present, we are not seeing huge movements of troops or tanks from Serbia to

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Bosnia. We are seeing in the possession of Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia aircraft and artillery that has been left behind--a different position from that earlier in the year.

In recent weeks there has been some occasional slackening of the level of fighting in Bosnia and Hercegovina. We cannot take much comfort from that, because it has simply allowed the humanitarian problem to emerge in all its bleakness.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has registered more than 1.9 million refugees of the former Yugoslavia. Of those, 1.2 million come from Bosnia Hercegovina. She estimates that there are 700,000 refugees in Bosnia, 600,000 in Croatia and 400,000 in Serbia. Those are merely figures and they do not portray the physical suffering and misery which is being endured and which will worsen rapidly as winter descends.

There has been a discussion and the international community is broadly agreed that refugees should be looked after as close to their homes as possible. That is not a do-nothing policy and it is certainly not a cost- free policy. It is a policy which the agencies, as well as most Governments, consider has the best chance to get people back into their homes to lead normal lives. It is not the absolute and, of course, there are exceptions, as we saw last week with the 68 seriously ill people who were brought to Britain from the camps in Bosnia. In those cases we have to act as swiftly as we can, but in the main we try to help people to stay as close to their homes as possible.

In the past 12 months, Britain has given more than £14 million in bilateral humanitarian help to the former Yugoslavia. Again, that is merely a figure, but the vast majority of medicines being used in Sarajevo hospitals come from supplies sent by Britain. If we add to that figure our help through the European Community, the total figure for British aid to the former Yugoslavia comes to more than £35 million.

However, it is not merely a matter of money and supplies. The main problem has been getting aid through and that is why, after much thought, we have endorsed the extension of the UN forces mandate under Security Council resolution 776. The force now has a mandate to get aid to all the people in Bosnia who need it, and not merely to those in Sarajevo, as in the original mandate. The decision to offer up to 1,800 British troops to help with that task was clearly not an easy decision to take. The British Government should never deploy British troops without careful preparation and assessment of what their role and objectives should be.

That is a humanitarian task to help cope with a humanitarian disaster which will get worse. No one can have seen the pictures from Bosnia of the sieges of Gorazde, Bihac and Tuzla without realising the extent of the suffering and the need, and without realising that some military assistance is needed. For example, while UNHCR was distributing the first consignment of aid to Gorazde the convoy's route back to Sarajevo was mined. French soldiers with blue helmets cleared the path to allow the convoy to complete its mission. It is a sad and a bad thing, but the relief agencies have concluded that they need military help or they will not be able to relieve the disaster. The British contribution will be up to 1,800 strong and that includes about 800 support people.

The Select Committee on Defence has naturally asked questions and received answers this week on the details of

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the deployment. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will say more when he winds up the debate. Command and control and the rules of engagement must be got right. That is why we have a military team in Zagreb sorting out those details. The discussions are rightly in the hands of people who understand what soldiers need. Adequate arrangements have to be in place in advance of the arrival of the main party of British troops in early November.

As we have made clear to the UN, the offer is for convoy protection only. We would not allow our forces to be used for other duties not covered by the present mandate without a pause for further reflection, and on the basis of a clear and effective concept of operations. As my right hon. and learned Friend will elaborate, our forces have to be able to defend themselves. Their guidelines will be clear. The Secretary-General and the Security Council have agreed that, in providing protective support to UNHCR organised convoys, the UNPROFOR troops concerned would follow normal peacekeeping rules of engagement. They would thus be authorised to use force in self defence. In this context, self defence is deemed to include situations in which our personnel are attacked by force to prevent UN troops from carrying out their mandate.

Again after much discussion, NATO is providing many of the necessary assets in personnel and logistics to support the operation. Both NATO and the Western European Union have been involved in contingency planning for those operations, and they have co-operated well.

I would not pretend to the House that we have seen the end of trouble in Yugoslavia or even a sure beginning of the end. Once old hatreds have been aroused, they are hard to put to sleep again. Stories of atrocities--some true, many false--enter deep into the consciousness of all concerned and influence actions.

In the European Community we have recently learnt to reconcile differences in western Europe.

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central) : Is not the most important thing at this time somehow to stop the shelling of towns and villages? My right hon. Friend is right to say that the people of this country are appalled at watching that night after night, with UN observers doing nothing other than count the shells as they are fired. Are we really saying that no matter what happens in European countries quite close to our own, no matter what atrocities occur, there is no military action that we, the Community or the UN can take to stop the daily carnage taking place under our noses?

Mr. Hurd : I have tried to analyse the military options. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that they have been considered often, not merely by us but by the Americans, by our European partners and by the UN. There are several options and I have not been through them all. I mentioned the possibility of air strikes against the hillsides around Sarajevo or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) suggested, in Serbia. The difficulty with all the military options, as opposed to the relentless and increasing pressure of sanctions against a country which is not equipped to endure them, is that in such terrain, with the intermingling of military personnel and civilians and of Serbs, Bosnians and Croats, it is hard to work out a practical scheme which would not merely

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add to the number of people killed without ending the fighting. There is an added difficulty, which has been emphasised to us again and again ; if we began to take that course of action, the humanitarian aid, which is now getting through, would stop and could not be continued. That is a damning factor against all those ideas. I am not saying that those ideas should not be considered from time to time. The position is so bleak that I do not believe that such ideas should be excluded indefinitely, but I have tried to set out the analysis until now. Neither we nor the CSCE nor the UN yet have the aptitude or the powers to sort out problems within central or eastern European countries or the countries of the former Soviet Union, and we must remember that what is happening in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia is being repeated in two or three countries of the former Soviet Union to the east of Europe, where there are no television cameras and only occasional visitors.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Hurd : No, I must get on. The tragedy of Yugoslavia came upon the international community just as it was beginning to realise that the end of the cold war did not mean the end of the problems of eastern Europe ; it was simply the beginning of a new chapter. As I have tried to say, that does not excuse us from the effort to help, and I have sketched out how our country is responding.

Other, older crises are still with us, and show no signs of final settlement. Two years ago the House was recalled from recess to debate our involvement in the Gulf. There the problem was simpler in many ways. Iraq had occupied Kuwait by force. It was a case of one sovereign state obliterating another and its aggression had to be reversed, which of course was done. Other problems remained and recently have escalated.

Saddam Hussein continues to defy the resolution of the UN. He has obligations under Security Council resolutions ; I am thinking of resolution 687, which deals with the inspection and destruction of his weapons. The UN special commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency have made significant progress in finding and destroying Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons programmes, but there is much work still to be done and we believe that significant ballistic missile capabilities remain to be discovered. Therefore, we shall press ahead with those inspections under resolution 687. Saddam Hussein continues to repress his own population. Here again, there is a Security Council resolution--No. 688. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern and been effective in helping with the humanitarian problems in both north and south Iraq. If I single out one hon. Member I do not mean to be invidious, but I should like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson), especially in the south.

I shall return to that subject soon, but I do not wish to leave out the personal tragedies which have befallen two British citizens--Paul Ride and Michael Wainwright--who have been given grotesquely severe prison sentences for minor immigration offences. As far as I know, there was no suggestion at either trial that the men were being accused of anything more than immigration offences--entering Iraq irregularly by mistake. The sentences imposed are out of proportion.

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Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : I thank the Foreign Secretary for his remarks about the prisoner Michael Wainwright who, in my opinion, is being held disgracefully. My colleague the MEP Dr. Barry Seal met the EC ambassador and I raised the matter with the Foreign Secretary when I met him with Michael Wainwright's family. Apparently, nothing will be done about the two men unless we release some assets. Is it possible that funds for the purchase of medicines could be released to the Iraqis so as to allow some form of negotiation for the release of the two men and end the torment of their families?

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Lady made that point when she came to see me with Michael Wainwright's family. There is no problem about sending food and medicines to Iraq. As the House knows those are outside the UN sanctions. However, the problem about releasing assets is that there are many claims on those assets, and we might get into severe trouble if we started authorising the release of assets on which there are British claims. That is a difficult road to tread. Regardless of that, I believe that the House will condemn the way in which the Iraqis have behaved. They will not shift our policy by such action against individuals. That was ascertained and established during the Gulf war. None the less, we are doing everything possible to secure the men's release in different ways. I explained some of those ways to the hon. Lady, but there have been others since I saw her. We are especially grateful to the Russians who, through their embassy in Baghdad, have visited Paul Ride and Michael Wainwright in prison during the past few days and have established that, although the men are unhappy, they are not in poor physical shape.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the extraordinary humanitarian gesture made by my constituent Phil Ride, the brother of Paul Ride, who has offered to change places with his brother, because of his medical condition? Is he also aware of the family's deep gratitude to Her Majesty's Government and to the Russians, for the access visits, which have considerably reassured them about the conditions in which the men are being held?

Mr. Hurd : I am grateful to my hon. Friend ; I know of his keen interest in the matter. Those concerned will have no great cause to be grateful either to us or to the Russians until the men are out of prison. That is our aim, and we shall seek to achieve it. The British have not been singled out for such treatment. Similar grotesque sentences have been imposed on three Swedish citizens who should also be released.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Hurd : No, I am sorry. I must press on.

We continue, with our coalition partners, to keep up the pressure on Iraq to carry out in full the resolutions of the Security Council. Where it seems sensible we back up pressure with action. That is why on 27 August, with our American and French partners, we set up a no-fly zone in southern Iraq. That was clearly necessary because of the risk of a serious humanitarian emergency among the civilian people there. Although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West has said on the radio, the no-fly zone is not a complete answer, we shall continue to operate it as long as it is required. At least it

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inhibits the air attacks on the Shias in the south which have done so much harm in the past. Six RAF Tornados are operating over southern Iraq as part of the no-fly zone exercise. Our business is to monitor what is happening there. We shall not take further action to build on that without returning to the Security Council, but we shall return there if it becomes clear that Iraq has not stopped its campaign of repression. So far, Iraq has not challenged the imposition of the no-fly zone, and so far there have been no incidents. So far, firm action seems to be achieving results. The underlying message that I am sure the House would want to leave is that Iraq, like every other country, must comply with all the Security Council resolutions which bite.

Last but not least, I shall speak about Somalia. All right hon. and hon. Members who have visited that country in recent weeks have come back feeling strongly that what they have seen there is unique, even among all the horrors of a disorderly world. Although I was in Somalia for only a short time, I am glad that I, with the other two EC Foreign Ministers, went there.

The city of Mogadishu shows that it has lived through a war, with rubbish and rubble on most streets, no electricity or other power, no water and no police. Makeshift graves are being dug in open spaces far too close to the wells ; people are digging graves all the time. We were in Mogadishu where the conditions are the best, not the worst. Large numbers of children have been fed there for many weeks now. The city is the centre of heroic efforts by many agencies. We were told everywhere that what was happening in the interior, further up land, was far worse. My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development and many other right hon. and hon. Members have been up land and seen worse.

In Somalia we see the collapse of a state and of a society--a collapse of all the services that we take for granted. In that situation the UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross and all the myriad other non-governmental organisations are doing an herioc job. They are very hard pressed. We spoke to the representatives of those organisations, who talked about the situation elsewhere in Somalia. For example, they told us of the situation in the north, with which Britain has particular historical links. We have already provided help to Somalia's second city, Hargeisa, in the north, which was systematically destroyed and mined by Siad Barre's forces in 1988.

What is happening in Somalia is to some extent a natural disaster shared throughout the Horn of Africa and all the areas of sub-Saharan Africa affected by the drought. However, what makes the plight of the Somali people so tragic is the behaviour of their so-called political leaders, who connive at the murder of their fellow citizens and the looting of their food and property.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : The Foreign Secretary seems to be sleep-walking the House through three ghastly crises. Time and again I am reminded of a senior civil servant giving a report, not a world statesman who has the power to do something about the situation. When will the Foreign Secretary show some leadership and do something about ethnic cleansing and about the tragedy in the Horn of Africa?

Mr. Hurd : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has just come in, but he cannot have listened to what I

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have said. I have explained to the House what is being done in terms of money and men. I have been talking about hundreds and thousands of British people who, with our encouragement, are in all three of the countries which I have mentioned. Volunteers, Army officers and humanitarian workers are implementing the help provided by this country with money supplied by the House. In all three countries that represents a very substantial effort, undertaken with others. I have set out in full the details of what we are doing. Of course the tragedies persist. If the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) believes that suddenly, by voting extra money or sending extra men, we shall solve all those problems in all those territories, it is he who is sleep walking. I set out at some length--and I hope that I have not wearied the House--what we are actually doing in terms not of declarations, words or speeches but by people on the ground, on our behalf. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is not worthy of the Opposition Benches.

Faced with the collapse of a society, it was right for the Security Council to set aside all the traditional arguments against intervening in the internal affairs of a country and to authorise the dispatch of UN forces to protect the distribution of relief supplies. We make it clear that the warlords who impede those efforts cannot be regarded--any of them--as representing the legitimate authority in Somalia.

We have been providing emergency help for Somalia ever since the fall of its former president--long before tjhe situation came to the attention of the media. Since January 1991, British aid has been worth more than £31 million, including our contributions to EC activities and the additional £7.5 million announced by my noble Friend Lady Chalker on 14 September. We were among the first to provide aid. Others have been equally forthcoming. The EC collectively is much the biggest supplier of food, and has made available more than 200,000 tonnes and 15 million ecu in non-food aid this year.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) : The right hon. Gentleman gave the clearest indication of the recognition by the British Government of our special relationship with the north-west, and that is welcome. Earlier, the right hon. Gentleman referred to other parts of the world, where lack of television coverage means that things remain hidden. Will he give the reassurance that is hoped for by Somalis in Britain and throughout the world that the British Government will give special recognition to our special relationship with the north, and that the right hon. Gentleman will take a personal interest in ensuring that the Republic of Somaliland is not allowed to decline into the situation that exists in the south?

Mr. Hurd : I am conscious of the force of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I do not want to give the people who live in the north of Somalia- -in what used to be the colony of British Somaliland--the idea that we favour the country's partition. That is a different point, and not an easy one. As to ensuring that the help given by the international community, including our own, does not forget the people in the north simply because television coverage is centred on Mogadishu, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I undertake to keep a personal eye on that aspect.

I was speaking about the arrival of UN security forces. I welcome the arrival in Somalia of the first detachment of

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UN troops--Pakistanis--to secure the port and the airport. Securing the port is crucial, because the volume of supplies that can be taken in by air, however well publicised, is small compared to that which can be taken in by sea if the port is functioning properly, when it is all in harbour. The trouble is that the goods are looted on the dockside, and to some extent the port has been in the hands of protection gangs. I hope that the arrival of the UN's Pakistani forces will bring that situation to an end.

To those who say that it is simply a matter of bringing in a lot of UN forces as soon as possible--the Security Council has voted for an extra 3,000 troops to go--and of their fighting their way in, I point out that that would completely interrupt the humanitarian effort. That is why it is necessary to introduce more forces into other parts of the country than Mogadishu. I do not doubt that, but it must be done in a way that enables humanitarian efforts to continue rather than disrupt them. That point was strongly made to me by Ambassador Sahnoun, who is the Secretary-General's representative in Mogadishu. In my view, he is a wholly remarkable man-- brave and wise. His judgment of what is happening in the country is one to which we must always pay close attention.

I do not doubt, not just because of the collapse of the state but of the whole system and society in Somalia, that the task of rebuilding the country--not just of feeding the children--after the crisis has passed will rest with the international community for some years to come.

I have spoken too long, and I apologise to the House. I have tried to deal with interventions, but I will now cut short my remaining remarks, except to say this. In all such situations, people look to the UN and occasionally to regional agencies and to others that can help, such as the European Community. The UN is seriously at risk of overloading. Its Secretary- General made that clear, and it is obvious from much that has been going on in New York this week. That is because of the impulse that everyone feels that something must be done. The implications are huge.

The best way of preventing demands on the UN from getting out of hand-- whether one is talking of peacekeeping forces, demands on member states, or money--is to practise preventive diplomacy. I hope that one day the CSCE will be effective in the prevention of conflict throughout Europe, but the UN will still be crucial. Preventive diplomacy is quicker, and brings more help to people about to be embroiled in conflict than the most successful peacekeeping or peacemaking operation that follows the outbreak of violence. That is why I encourage the UN Secretary-General to make more use of the powers given to him in article 99 of the charter.

The international community must get involved earlier as crises develop. We must make more far-sighted efforts to avert crises--and if that fails, to prevent a crisis from escalating and spreading. The international community must learn to be more coherent and serious. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister called a summit meeting of the Security Council in January. The solving of problems that have their roots in centuries past is a slow, frustrating and dangerous business. We do not have all that time when crises arise. We must learn fast and absorb new lessons quickly. As the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) said in his point of order, this subject, in all its aspects, is one to which the House will return from time to time. I know of no subject more important.

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