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House of Commons

Friday 27 November 1992

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

The Arab World

9.34 am

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

That this House calls for a reassessment of relations with the Arab world, in particular supporting the lifting of sanctions by the United Nations against Libya, encouraging the re-establishment of direct air-flights and diplomatic relations between London and Tripoli, discussions on the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 bombing, and the 1986 bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi, by Crown Office and Libyan lawyers, the lifting of sanctions by the United Nations against Iraq and the establishment of a United Nations Conference on the supply of arms across frontiers ; and calls on the Minister of State at the Foreign Office to make an interim response on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to the allegations broadcast on the Dispatches programme on Channel Four on 25th November relating to Sarkis Soghanalian, Wafic Said, Prince Banda, Nhad Ghadry, Howard Teicher and Mark Thatcher.

A Friday in Parliament can be a day for dissenting and unpopular opinions to be heard.

I shall present my credentials for being entitled to such views--something that I have never done before in more than 30 years as a Member of this House--because the motion contains propositions that may be as ill-received by some Members on the Opposition Front Bench as by Ministers.

Both my parents spoke fluent Arabic. Fred Pearce, the author of a remarkable book "The Dammed", has written :

"Only early this century did Sir William Willcocks, Britain's top imperial Victorian water engineer of the day, attempt to recreate the ancient irrigation systems, and in so doing fashioned much of modern Iraq. Central to his plan was the Hindaya barrage, completed in 1914."

My father was Willcock's military secretary and I have childhood memories of being taken to see my dad's friends, such as Freya Stark, the intrepid traveller, and Sir Leonard Woolley, the archaeologist of Ur of the Chaldees and excavator of the ziggurat at Ur. My father subsequently worked on the staff of Sir Percy Cox, who set up Kuwait.

On my honeymoon, when I was lucky enough to go to Egypt, I was invited to the private house of President Nasser--as was his wont--at midnight. I confess to being charmed by him. Sadly, he said, "We know that your mother and father spoke Arabic. Don't you think that you ought to learn?" My excuse is that British politics did not allow it. Albeit a non-Arabic speaker, with the perspective of having been influenced by the Israeli- oriented Dick Crossman, when I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary, I shall gently offer some proposals in keeping with my lifelong knowledge of, respect for and friendship with Arab people.

First, we should seek a new relationship with Libya, or rather return to our traditional friendship.

Yes, the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher was a crime. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T.

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Taylor) in the House--on this occasion I shall call him my hon. Friend because his relationship with Libya has been entirely honourable and potentially to the great benefit of our country. I look forward with extreme interest to his speech.

Yes, the destruction of Gaddafi's home in Tripoli, the killing of his three -year-old daughter and the bombing of working-class homes in Benghazi in 1986 by bombers based in Britain was also a crime. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant)--whom I am especially glad to see in the House, as he has done so much good for Britain in many areas of the third world--will have more to say about that.

Yes, Lockerbie--as David Leppard put it in his book, "On the Trail of Terror"--was the biggest crime against western civilians since 1945. I went there.

Young policemen from the Lothian and Borders police, from my area, helped to clear up the human horror. I would not wish to be told that I underrate Lockerbie in any way.

But we should ask ourselves the mirror image question : would we British hand over to the Libyan judicial system--which, incidentally, has impressed those hard-headed Edinburgh lawyers involved--two Britons accused on evidence that has never been presented and which, in relation to Malta, has raised doubts in the minds of such men as Dr. Jim Swire and Father Patrick Keegans, of Sherwood crescent in Lockerbie, the men who have lost most?

If Jim Swire can go and meet Colonel Gaddafi and they can talk movingly about their lost daughters, so can the British Government proffer the hand of reconciliation. I ask the Minister of State to say something about his meeting with Dr. Swire on Monday, which I greatly welcomed.

The leader in The Scotsman of 14 November put it succinctly when it said :

"The other major concern has been the way in which blame for the outrage has been pinned exclusively on Libya. There are well founded suspicions that Syria and Iran were implicated in the plot and that Iran may indeed have instigated the bombing. Yet officially the role of these two countries was swept under the carpet. It is therefore a step forward that the US president-elect, Bill Clinton, has told the family of an American victim that he intends to ensure that the question of Iranian and Syrian involvement will be addressed and fully answered."

What will the Government say to the new American Administration on this subject? The leader continued :

"There will be an opportunity to broach the subject of tightening the UN sanctions after next month's meeting of the sanctions review committee ; but any attempt to harden the economic stranglehold on Libya should be resisted until Clinton has had time to act on his promise and the role of Syria and Iran has been properly exposed."

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham) : Hear, hear.

Mr. Dalyell : I note my hon. Friend's reaction. What is the Government's reaction to this? The leader also stated :

"Libya, with friends, makes a convenient scapegoat--rather than stirring up trouble with two Middle Eastern states who are of greater importance to Western policy in the region. One can argue that this is realpolitik but that is no answer. Britain and the US owe it to the victims and their families to attempt to uncover the real circumstances and call the culprits to account. Clinton is right to want the truth--the whole truth-- surrounding the Lockerbie bombing to be uncovered."

As was said at great length on Wednesday in European Standing Committee B, when my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) was present on the Front

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Bench, there are grave concerns about the role of Iran and Syria in this matter. We should remember that one of the two accused, through his wife, has far more close relations with the terrorist gangs of Beirut than he has with Tripoli. There is a big question as to whether the Libyan state was involved at all.

I want to refer to another article in The Scotsman under the byline of Alan Hutchison--I have checked it with Father Keegans himself, the Catholic priest in Lockerbie, who has just been to the United States. The article states :

"Fr Keegans claimed : The British and American governments want it all finished and parcelled up neatly. They have no real intention of bringing the Libyans to trial. I think they are just making noises. The cat does not want to catch the mouse because the mouse would not just squeal, but scream and implicate Syria, Iran, Bush and Thatcher.' "

s Father Keegans' quote, not my gloss on it. If that is what the priest at Lockerbie thinks, I think that there should be an explanation of the agreement that has been widely reported, attributed to March 1989, between Mrs Thatcher and the United StatesPresident, Mr. Bush, to play Lockerbie down. What is the truth or otherwise of that? What was said between those two? Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : Would it not be much easier to get at thetruth if the Libyans were willing to send those who have been accused of this crime to the United Kingdom? It is all very well for the Libyans to shield them and then for the hon. Gentleman to weave his story, but it would be much better if those men faced British justice, which is known throughout the world to be impartial.

Mr. Dalyell : One answer to that question was given in European Standing Committee B on Wednesday. There are complications because if that was done Colonel Gaddafi might well be toppled in favour of militant Islam, because one of those accused is a member of the tribe of Major Jalloud, Colonel Gaddafi's very powerful second-in-command. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham knows what I am on about. The other answer to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) is possibly a much easier one. If evidence were not presented, what would the hon. Gentleman say if two of his London constituents were dispatched by the British Government to Tripoli in the circumstances of the mirror image ? I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has made as powerful a point as usual.

I believe that the Crown Office, about which, as the longest serving Member representing Scotland, I am pained to be deeply, deeply critical, should initiate a dialogue with Libyan lawyers on neutral territory. A year has passed since I went to see the then Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, to urge that action, but we are no further forward.

As my motion says, I believe that we should re-establish diplomatic relations with Tripoli. The Libyans, whose ancestors were among the greatest artists of the Roman empire and builders of the incomparable Leptis Magna, are a cultured people, yearning for contact with Britain, where many of them were educated.

If we had treated the Libyans with greater understanding and dignity in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it was my impression from the visit that was organised through the good offices of my hon. Friend the

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Member for Tottenham last year that the Libyans might never have been so misinformed as to become involved with the IRA in the first place. That would not have happened if we had remained, sensibly, on good relations with them.

We should re-establish direct air flights between London and Tripoli, both on the basis of medical need--about which my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham may talk, because he has raised the matter in the House frequently--and the needs of the 5,000 British citizens working in Libya. I do not just quote my opinion, because I telephoned and talked with Viscount Weir, the head of G and J Weir and Company Pumps, not exactly a pillar of the Labour party. The quote that we agreed that I should read out in the House from William Weir reads as follows :

"I find little merit in posturing where trade is concerned and --in common with many exporters--prefer taking, as you do, a pragmatic and practical line in cases like Libya. Given our present balance of trade, little purpose is served in cutting off important markets of that kind when foreign competitors will supply them if we don't." That is the view of one major industrialist.

I spoke about the matter last night with Gordon Law, managing director of Babcock and Wilcox. I have also raised with the Prime Minister the views of John Lacey, Babcock's managing director. So it is clear that yet another major British engineering firm other than Weir believes that we should re- establish relations and gain at least something from participating in some of the great projects that are taking place there, such as the great, ecologically sound man-made river project.

As the motion says, we urge the United Nations and the United States Administration to lift sanctions. I hope that next week, with the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) being first on the list, we shall return to the subject of the position of the United Nations.

I come to the question of Iraq, as raised in the motion. I begin from a totally different departure point from my Front Bench, though not from some of my hon. Friends who are here today and who care and know most about the issues of which I speak. I knew perfectly well that we were exporting considerable quantities of arms to Iraq. I knew from a UN official, for example, that he had to queue for his breakfast in the restaurant of the Rashid hotel in Baghdad, so packed was the place with arms salesman from Europe, including Britain. I have been concerned for a long time with the question of arms sales. I recall the occasion in December 1979 when, on the Consolidated Fund Bill at 5.12 in the morning, I raised the subject of the joint centrifuge project at Almelo. I began my speech by saying :

"Remembering Alan Nunn May, Bruno Pontecorvo, the Rosenbergs and even Klaus Fuchs, with his overall grasp of the concept of the physics of the atom bomb, it is arguable whether any of them, or, indeed, all of them together, jeopardised world peace to a greater extent than the activities, in the second half of the 1970s, of Dr. Abel Qader Khan.

Certainly the effect of anything that Anthony Blunt may have done pales into trivial insignificance compared with the probable results of Dr. Khan's handiwork.

We now have the real threat of regional nuclear confrontation in Asia or the Arab world, laying a powder trail to a possible world holocaust.

So-called vertical proliferation is one thing. More nuclear weapons in the same hands do not necessarily increase the likelihood of nuclear war.

That is why, even at 10 minutes past 5 o'clock in the morning, I do not apologise to an Under-Secretary, who has

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been very good-tempered and had to wait a long time for this Consolidated Fund debate, for keeping him out of his well-deserved bed and rest."

The then Under-Secretary of State for Energy, who replied to me at 5.47 in the morning, was one Mr. Norman Lamont, who began : "The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) certainly need not apologise in any way for keeping the House up at this late hour. He has raised an extremely serious matter. I assure him that the Government share the concern that he has expressed today. We consider that the consequences of what has happened are potentially very far-reaching.

The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give me a copy of his speech--in advance."-- [Official Report, 18 December 1979 ; Vol. 976, c. 565.]

I refer to that debate not so that I can say "I told you so," but to show that I am not a Johnny-come-lately on this subject. I am anxious to recall that 13 years ago the Government said that they were concerned about the matter.

Throughout the 1980s I used to chat about such matters with my friend, then and now, Alan Clark--hardly the most secretive of parliamentary colleagues. I say bluntly that nobody in the House--of any party, on any Bench or in the Press Gallery--has an excuse for saying, if he or she claims to have a modicum of interest in Arab affairs, that we did not know what was going on.

A particular aspect of the whole situation puzzles me. If one does not want to export arms and arms-making material to a country such as Iraq, one does not have in the Government, let alone anywhere near the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Trade and Industry, a man like Alan Clark. What on earth could anybody believe he would do? He has never made any secret of what he thinks. The fact that he was there at all seems absolutely to undermine any excuse that any Minister, be he the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister, might have for saying that he did not know.

I did not know what I understand to be the now held view of Dr. Ekeus that exports reinforce one's capacity to make chemical weapons. Can the Minister say whether the Iraqi capacity to make chemical weapons was reinforced? While I do not know the answer to that question, I must make the general point that if I and many others knew all that, how on earth can the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister now say that they did not know?

In particular, what about 29 September 1989 when the Prime Minister had a meeting with Tariq Aziz? What explanation does the Foreign Office have for its apparent failure to brief the Prime Minister? A wry, informal Foreign Office explanation is that "We were so busy trying to teach the new Foreign Secretary where Africa was that we may not properly have briefed him." But that will not do. Frankly, the Prime Minister is quick on the uptake and I cannot believe that what we have been told represents any sort of convincing explanation.

How could such competent people--I refer to private secretaries in the Foreign Office private office--apparently not do what they clearly should have done ? It must have been regarded as a crucial briefing, and not to have briefed the Foreign Secretary seems a dereliction of their professional duty. One does not send a Foreign Secretary to see Tariq Aziz without telling him of the various problems, especially problems of such a sensitive nature.

Will the Government comment on the allegations published in The Sunday Times on 22 November by Mr. Mark Higson, a former Iraq desk officer in the

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Foreign Office, who described how he and other Government officials connived at the export of arms-making equipment to Iraq ? Will the Minister confirm that Mr. Higson worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1989 and that among his responsibilities was the vetting of licence applications for exports to Iraq by British companies, including Matrix Churchill ?

Will the Minister confirm that that happened while the present Prime Minister was Foreign Secretary ? Why was he not aware that the exporting of arms-making equipment was going on ? Mr. Higson is quoted as saying that the export of munitions-making equipment to Iraq in which he connived was unacceptable. Was it the view of Ministers and other officials at the time that, as Mr. Higson says : "The whole system was deeply flawed. The policy was bent to facilitate the export of machine tools" ?

An explanation must be given about what the current Foreign Office thinks about the views of its own desk officer.

Alan Clark has played ducks and drakes with my parliamentary colleagues on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. Much of his evidence was simply not true and not what he knew to be the truth. That view is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Hoyle), a member of the Select Committee and the present chairman of the parliamentary Labour party. I have his authority to say that we are both extremely curious about the Government's view of Mr. Clark's evidence to the Select Committee.

Will the Select Committee do anything about being flouted ? Indeed, has it the power to do anything about it ? It at least owes it to the House to invite Mr. Clark back and tell him that he owes it an explanation and to ask him how he accounts for what he told it. The sad conclusion that I have drawn is that the Select Committee system--I know that this is the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who is present--is totally inadequate in such situations.

Alan Clark, like Leon Brittan, was relaxed about cocking a snook at the Select Committee. A properly constituted court of law, however, even for the buccaneering Alan Clark, was a different kettle of fish and he seems to have thought it prudent not to commit perjury. Reluctantly, I concede to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he is right to say that Parliament cannot do the necessary job and that we need a council of tribunals under the 1921 Act. I say "reluctantly" because the setting up of an inquiry is too often a parliamentary cop out for a job that we ourselves should be doing. However, when one looks at what happened over Westland and what Alan Clark has done to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, one must ask whether Select Committee powers should be extended and whether Parliament should look at how we operate in those crunch cases.

Ministers are being so coy about what they knew for a basically simple reason. If all that arms-making equipment was going to Iraq, did it not give Saddam the wrong signals? Why did they not approach their excellent customer on the basis of dignity before threatening war over Kuwait?

One of the reasons why 37 of us voted on the Adjournment against the war when the House was recalled was, as I put it at the time, because the Nelson eye had

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been turned on arms sales to Iraq. I shall believe to my dying day that a settlement could have been arrived at over Kuwait and the Gulf war could have been avoided had there been a proper approach to Saddam.

Mr. Bernie Grant indicated assent .

Mr Dalyell : I register the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham assents to that.

The tragedy was that on 9 and 10 August the former Prime Minister was at Aspen, Colorado, and was able to contact President Bush and say something along the lines--there was evidence of this on the front page of the Daily Express of 10 August--"George, don't be a wimp. George, be a man!" The dithering Americans--or the uncertain Americans, because I do not wish to be critical of them as they were not sure what to do--reacted along lines on which they could not go back and we were plunged into what became the Gulf war.

Coming to the final part of the motion, I had many criticisms of the former Prime Minister about Zircon, the miners' strike, Westland, and aspects of the Falklands, but I never once raised the question of Mark Thatcher and Oman, partly because I did not know and partly because I found it distasteful to bring a person's family into the argument.

However, on Wednesday night, an important "Dispatches" programme by Box Productions was shown which must have been watched by more than 2 million people. The issues that it raised go to the heart of Government. The matter cannot be left hanging but must be cleared up. I cannot believe that the programme was broadcast without a tooth-comb of libel lawyers having gone through it.

It is not simply a question of getting at the former Prime Minister. The Iraqis might have been forgiven for being surprised at the west's reaction when they knew that Mark Thatcher was up to the neck in selling them arms- making equipment. There is a good deal of circumstantial evidence that they jumped to the conclusion that, if Mark Thatcher was involved, the general policy had the imprimatur of Prime Ministerial approval.

I should like to ask, therefore, some specific questions. First, are the Government aware that an executive of the defence company, United Scientific, introduced Mark Thatcher to the arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian in the autumn of 1983 as part of its efforts to win a contract to sell night vision devices, ultimately to be used by Iraq?

Secondly, will the Government confirm or deny that Prince Banda, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, personally presented a letter to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in 1985 and that that letter made it implicitly clear that commissions would be paid as part of the Al-Yamamah deal between Saudi Arabia and Britain, involving the sale of Tornado jets and other defence equipment to Saudi Arabia ?

Thirdly, will the Government explain the purpose of that letter from King Fahd to Prime Minister Thatcher ? Will they explain why Mrs. Thatcher dealt with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and not the Saudi ambassador to Britain while negotiating the Al-Yamamah deal ?

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Fourthly, will the Government confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher received approximately £10 million soon after the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the Al-Yamamah deal in September 1985 and that the agreement on the deal specified that he would receive a further approximately £10 million subsequently ?

Fifthly, will the Government confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher and a Saudi Arabian middle man involved in the deal, whose name was Wafic Said, paid income tax on money which they earned from the Al-Yamamah deal ?

Sixthly, are the Government aware that, for some time in 1989, Mark Thatcher lived in a house at 34 Eaton terrace while that house was owned by Formugul, a Panamanian company linked with Saudi Arabian business man, Wafic Said, who played a role in the Al-Yamamah deal ? Finally, can the Government confirm or deny that Mr. Christopher Prentice, a Foreign Office official working in the British embassy in Washington in the mid-1980s, was aware that Mark Thatcher was involved in the Al-Yamamah deal ?

Those are serious and carefully-thought-out questions. Anyone who watched the programme cannot possibly suppose that the matter can simply be left in the air.

It must be remembered that, at the time, many people in the Foreign Office and in Britain saw Saddam Hussein as, in a sense, the successor of the Shah and as the gendarme of this country's and the west's interests. I quite agree that it is against that Khomeini background that my questions should be addressed, but addressed they must be. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am an apologist for Saddam Hussein, may I say that, at the time, it was thought that Saddam Hussein was better than President Assad of Syria. When we consider what the Al-Sabah family has done to the Palestinians in Kuwait, we see that we should not rush to make moral judgments.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : I had not realised that my hon. Friend had finished the Mark Thatcher saga. I think that he may have missed one question. If someone finishes up making £10 million in commissions, might it not be reasonable to ask whether he was trained for the job and served an apprenticeship for it ? The thing that puzzles me, as I am sure it does my hon. Friend, is that Mark Thatcher was an erstwhile rally driver. He got lost in the desert, then found himself in another part of the desert making loads of money out of arms dealing as a result of his mother being the Prime Minister. That looks odd

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is going on far too long. I think that he has made his point.

Mr. Skinner : It seems odd

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order.

Mr. Dalyell : I am an extremely cautious man and I think that I had better stick to my careful questions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has made his point, and I shall leave it at that. But there must be answers to my questions, and to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. It simply will not do to pass by on the other side of the road. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country have seen the film. If Box Productions has it wrong, heaven help it in the courts. But if no legal action is taken, what are our fellow people to think ?

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I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover will excuse me if I do not pursue his line of argument but merely say that I do not think that those issues can simply be left to Lord Justice Scott. There is a suggestion of the problem being kicked into touch. I thought that it was profoundly unsatisfactory when, on this Wednesday, during Foreign Office questions, the Foreign Secretary did not answer direct questions about the right hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) which, had he the will to do so, he could easily have answered. They were questions of relatively simple fact. One issue was most succinctly put by the chairman of the Bar Council, Anthony Scrivener, QC, who, writing in The Independent , said :

"There remains one simple unexplained fact in the Iraq arms case. Whoever read the confidential documents would have known that it was improper to proceed with the prosecution.

Why was the prosecution then not dropped instead of it being pursued, presumably in the hope that the judge would not allow the documents to be disclosed at the trial ?"

Many of our fellow countrymen are extremely puzzled and want an urgent explanation as to how three men from Matrix Churchill were faced with the serious threat of imprisonment.

The motion calls for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and for discussions in the United Nations on that issue. I rest my case on two submissions, one of which is from Mohammed Arif, the secretary of the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation. He said :

"Nearly two years have passed since the Gulf war, yet the region remains as turbulent as ever and the toll of human suffering continues to mount.

In particular, Iraq continues to be subject to an almost unprecedented regime of sanction and blockade. Whatever the rights and wrongs of previous actions by any side to the dispute, it is our view that sanctions can no longer be justified on political, moral or legal grounds. There is no mandate for the removal of the Iraqi regime by outside forces and, moreover, no evidence has been produced to suggest that the regime's internal position has been weakened, and furthermore, the United Nations appears to be of a view that there have been efforts by Iraq to comply with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The real victims of the continuing sanctions against Iraq are the most vulnerable members of that society--the old, the sick and wounded, the poor and, above all, children. According to various sources, up to 250,000 Iraqi children may have died. Civilian dwellings, schools, hospitals, sewage works and water, electricity and telecommunications facilities all suffered from war time bombings. Sanctions are preventing the restoration of these facilities, contributing in turn to the spread of hunger and disease. The environment in general has been severely damaged. The lack of medicine, drugs, anaesthetics, water purification materials and so on are leading to countless unnecessary deaths. In September this year, the renowned Norwegian child psychiatrist Professor Magnei Raundalen reported that he had found in Iraq a traumatised child population beyond any that he had ever seen.'"

Much of what I have said has not merely come with hindsight. I had a Commons debate on the "ecological consequences of the gulf war" before it ever happened.

The British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation continued : "Those suffering from the sanctions are not the strong but the vulnerable members of society who have no say in political matters, including those of war and peace. We call for the immediate lifting of sanctions against Iraq, with priority to helping ensure the supply of food, medicine and other humanitarian requirements. We also call for the right of Iraqi children who cannot be adequately treated at home to be

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enabled to receive hospital and recuperative treatment in countries where the relevant specialised resources and facilities are available.

It is now clear that there were times when the members of the government were not averse to supplying Iraq with the instruments of war and death. Now is the time to help enable the Iraqi people to receive some of the tools of life and peace."

That is the view of members of our society who take such matters extremely seriously.

Mr. Bernie Grant : Is my hon. Friend aware that I went on a trip to Iraq, before the war started, with the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation and with Mr. Mohammed Arif? While we were there, we met members of the revolutionary command council and various organisations in Baghdad. All those organisations were keen for a negotiated settlement. Is not it strange that, two years after the war, the people of Iraq are still suffering? There seems to be little impact on the Government of Iraq, although that was supposed to be the point of the policy of the western forces. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the British Afro- Asian Solidarity Organisation on its steadfast work in the area?

Mr. Dalyell : Certainly I congratulate that organisation. My hon. Friend talked to me about his visit before and after he went, and I think that it was an extremely important visit.

I have friends in the Shia community. I will not name them, for self- evident reasons, but I will talk privately to the Minister about them. Those friends say that, although they have cause not to love Saddam Hussein, they realise that the imposition of sanctions entrenches rather than weakens the hold of the hard-liners of the Baathist party and of Saddam Hussein on the Government of Iraq. If the object is to remove Saddam Hussein, consideration should be given to the lifting of sanctions.

I now turn to the recommendations of Christian Aid as presented by David Hampson, who is responsible for Gulf matters and for the Kurdish situation. Christian Aid says :

"The picture is complicated, but Christian Aid would recommend the international community should :

Separate issues of humanitarian aid from the military, economic and political issues unresolved at the end of hostilities.

Separate international claims for war compensation from humanitarian relief.

Direct humanitarian relief to Iraq on the same basis of need employed in other countries.

Urgently review all sanctions which disproportionately and dangerously harm vulnerable sections of Iraqi society.

Invest urgently, and under emergency budget lines, to meet the immediate needs of the agricultural, infrastructural and administrative sectors of the de-facto autonomous areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. The alternative is annual winter disaster amongst the Kurdish, Christian and Turcoman population."

I hope that thought will be given to the lifting of sanctions. The motion refers to a United Nations conference on the supply of arms across frontiers. I will truncate a lot of what might be said by referring to the speech on Monday by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) in which he urged action on arms sales.

The United Kingdom remains hopelessly dependent on defence production. In round terms, the figures are that defence supports 50 per cent. of the aerospace industry, 40 per cent. of shipbuilding and 30 per cent. of electronics. The Office of Public Service and Science suggests that a

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