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12.16 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): I have been charged with an almost impossible task--answering an enormous number of questions--and I shall do my best to satisfy the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate.

In introducing the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) argued that it was time to consider a new policy, although my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) intervened to make a valid point. It is worth while reminding ourselves of the chronology of events that have led to this most recent crisis.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kelvin said that the Iraqis deserve an element of light at the end of the tunnel. That is diplomatic language that we have heard on many occasions. My hon. Friend did not mention that the chronology is crucial: the Security Council agreed unanimously that we should seek a comprehensive review of the sanctions system. That announcement was made by the Security Council on a Friday in October; it was unanimous--there were no difficulties and no differences. My hon. Friend's new policy? It was announced.

What happened? In less than 24 hours, Baghdad had announced its refusal to co-operate with that comprehensive review. My hon. Friend has to explain to the House, and to the public outside, how it is possible for him to argue for a new way and a new approach, and then to suggest that the international community has not offered such an approach when the fact is that it has. It offered a comprehensive review, but it was rejected solidly, wholly--and, in my view, totally incomprehensibly--by Baghdad. That is the position that was taken.

Although my hon. Friend did not refer to it, there has been a litany of broken promises from Saddam Hussein. My hon. Friend is a great democrat--a great believer in word and integrity. Let me say to him that his argument, and his emotions, could be construed by those less charitable than me as an argument in favour of the broken word and rewarding the broken word.

Let us not forget that Iraq has promised co-operation on a number of occasions. On each occasion, that word--the word of the Iraqi leadership, not to the United Kingdom or to the United States, but to the international community--has been broken. Let me take four examples: first, the ceasefire agreement at the end of the

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Gulf war. I had a wry smile on my face when my hon. Friend talked about Iraq voluntarily relinquishing Kuwait. At the end of that process--

Mr. Galloway: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Fatchett: No, my hon. Friend spoke for 50 minutes.

Mr. Galloway: What my right hon. Friend has said is false.

Mr. Fatchett: My hon. Friend spoke for 50 minutes.

Mr. Galloway: I did not say that.

Mr. Fatchett: At the end of the Gulf war, the Iraqi regime signed up to United Nations resolutions and made certain commitments. Those commitments were broken.

My hon. Friend knows that Saddam Hussein has broken his word three times in the past 12 months. First, last November, the then Russian Foreign Minister Primakov intervened to say that, with the word and co-operation of Baghdad, we could look forward to UNSCOM delivering what was necessary and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. The Russians invested a great deal in that. The Foreign Ministers of the P5--the five permanent members of the Security Council--met in Switzerland and made a deal with Primakov, but Saddam Hussein broke it within months. Secondly, Kofi Annan, to whom my hon. Friend rightly paid tribute, went to Baghdad and struck a deal with Saddam. On 5 August this year, that deal was also broken. The last agreement, made only 10 days ago, has again been broken by Saddam Hussein.

We are dealing with a man who, time and again, has broken his word and continues to do so. The fact is that, had Saddam Hussein co-operated, sanctions could have been lifted many years ago. The international community does not want sanctions to continue, but Saddam Hussein has simply refused to co-operate over the years.

My hon. Friend asked what the work of UNSCOM is for and challenged its work. Let me remind the House of what UNSCOM has already revealed: more than 38,000 chemical weapons and munitions; 690 tonnes of chemical weapons agents; 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; 48 Scud missiles; a biological weapons factory designed to produce up to 50,000 litres of anthrax, botulism toxin and other agents. That shows the extent of the threat of those weapons of mass destruction, meant for the people not just of Iraq but of the whole region.

My hon. Friend suggests that everything may now have been found. There is no guarantee of that. We know, however, that the Iraqis have a concealment committee, the purpose of which is to ensure that there is no compliance or co-operation. The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe quoted a recent report in The Sunday Telegraph on that matter. The Iraqis are not only reluctant to co-operate, but have deliberately attempted to conceal evidence from UNSCOM. We are dealing with a regime that has used weapons of mass destruction, and I have no doubt that it will use them again.

I share the acute apprehension of the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe about what has happened over the past few days. We have said that

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it is another bad sign of Iraqi non co-operation. Saddam Hussein knows the consequences of continuing that non-co-operation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the legal base for any military action that we take. We believe that we have that legal base. He also asked about the nature of compliance and co-operation. He is right to draw our attention to the fact that it is not just compliance with UNSCOM, however important that may be, but that there are other elements of co-operation and compliance. He is also right to say that the Kuwaiti prisoners of war form an important part of that.

As my hon. Friend said in his opening remarks, human rights in Iraq are another element. We have heard much evidence and many quotes this morning, but the recent report produced by the UN special rapporteur, Max van der Stoel, is the most recent authoritative report. It shows that the number of people assassinated this year for their political views has reached four figures. That is the nature of Iraq, and that is the blood that is running down the streets of Baghdad. If people want emotive language, let them have the truth, which is that the Iraqi regime has used its weapons against its own people and killed tens of thousands of them.

My hon. Friend says that he is a great believer in democracy, human rights and socialism. I believe him; I share those views. However, one of the lessons of the 20th century is that, when one is mealy-mouthed and looks for excuses for a dictatorship, that dictatorship will continue and will create havoc wherever it can. Supporting human rights means standing up for those who will be subjected to violence by that regime in the future. I have no hesitation in doing that. I also have a view on new policy and co-operation by Iraq: we must not allow Iraq to get away with a short period of co-operation now before we undertake a comprehensive review of the sanctions regime; we must see true faith and commitment, and a willingness on the part of Iraq to carry out the commitment that it has made.

My hon. Friend spoke a great deal about the humanitarian position. I remind the House what the international community, led by Britain under this Government and the previous Government, has done in relation to "oil for food", and the effects of that programme. Let me give the correct figures. More than $5.2 billion has been raised through the sale of oil to purchase humanitarian aid; $2.5 billion-worth of foodstuffs have arrived in Iraq; and $440 million-worth of medicines have been delivered to Iraq, leading to a marked improvement in the availability of medicines and the number of operations carried out. Those are the latest figures produced by the UN Secretary-General, which for some reason were not included in my hon. Friend's speech. I shall send them to him if he so requires.

Mr. Galloway: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Fatchett: No. My hon. Friend spoke for a long time, which was unusual in an Adjournment debate.

The UN special rapporteur made a number of other comments about human rights, none of which appeared in my hon. Friend's speech--[Interruption.]

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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) keeps intervening from a sedentary position. He had a long time to put his case and he should now listen to the Minister's response.

Mr. Fatchett: The special rapporteur said that he holds Iraq primarily responsible for the precarious food and health situation in Iraq. His reasons are: Iraq's refusal to take advantage of the "oil for food" programme for five years, while failing to bring about an end to the sanctions regime; Iraq's prevarication in negotiations, causing the regular interruption of oil sales; and Iraq's discrimination against Iraqis living outside Baghdad, in terms of access to medical supplies. Let me add another reason: Iraq's discrimination against ordinary Iraqis who do not form part of the elite in the Iraqi regime.

Many other points have been raised about the Iraqi opposition. Given the short time available, I shall write to the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington on the points that they raised.

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