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Remaining Private Members' Bills


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 7 April.


Read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).


Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 7 April.

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

2.31 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): From Reuters, Vatican City, 21 March 2000:

That view is shared by Denis Halliday, by Hans von Sponeck and by Jutta Burghadt--the senior, experienced international officials of the United Nations on the spot. It is the view shared by Save the Children, for whom Andrea Ledward gave an excellent briefing to a number of honourable colleagues in the House of Commons on 29 February 2000, a copy of which is with the Foreign Office.

It is a view shared by the United Nations Children's Fund, outlined in its document--also in the possession of the Foreign Office--"Child and Maternal Mortality Survey". It is a view that is encapsulated in "The Water Tragedy", published by the United Nations. Its cover says:

That document, too, is in the possession of the Foreign Office.

On 20 March 2000, at column 422W, my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen)--I am glad to see him here--asked about the cost of Operation Desert Fox and subsequent operations in Iraq, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence mentioned figures of £35 million. The full reply is in the Official Report. I am deeply concerned at the technical report from Mark Hillier from London. He says that

The super-giant field in question is the great oilfield at Kirkuk.

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Mark Hillier reports that the experts

The squandering of valuable, finite resources is absolutely unimaginable.

The report adds:

I wish to concentrate on the visit that George Joffe and I made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I set down our proposals in a letter to my right hon. Friend and I have given a copy to the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), who will reply to the debate. George Joffe was the deputy director of Chatham house and that fact is evidence of the seriousness of the critics. I wrote that we felt that

    there are two areas in which adjustment to present policy should be made, in order to mitigate the effects of the current sanctions regime, without calling into question the policy agreed by the Security Council. The purpose of both sets of proposals is also to try to counter the very adverse physical and intellectual consequences of the sanctions regime amongst the Iraqi population without providing encouragement to the regime itself. You will recall that the underlying thrust of our comments was that current policy, quite apart from discrediting the sanctions regime and its major Western supporters in Arab eyes generally--whatever their governments may claim--is also stimulating extremely hostile attitudes within Iraq and outside the actual structure of the regime itself. This, we feel, augurs ill for future relationships between Iraq, its neighbouring states and the wider world, once the current regime disappears.

    (1) The first batch of measures we would like to propose deal with issues of public health. I realise that this is a contentious area, where there is disagreement between governments in the Security Council and United Nations over the actual situation.

    (a) I do not, however, think that there is much doubt about the fact that the public health situation is very poor. The major cause of this is the dilapidated state of the water supply and sewage systems. These systems require infrastructure repair and equipment replacement, as well as basic inputs for treatment purposes.

    (b) The second component of such an approach would be to improve access to immunisation and vaccination facilities, as well as permitting greater access to anaesthetics and general drugs. I am aware that official sources claim that considerable supplies are held in Iraq, but I also know that other sources dispute this.

    In principle, the sanctions regime permits this, since both reflect "humanitarian purposes". In reality, there are often massive delays in authorisation through the Sanctions Committee because of "dual use" considerations, leading, on occasion, to rejections of the requests. This is surely an area in which a change of approach is essential and would not outrage the principles of the sanctions regime, since it only requires a change in emphasis. Could the British government not use its good offices to soften the rigour frequently expressed in Washington, on the basis that this would be an appropriate investment in the future without allowing the regime to renew its biological or chemical weapons programmes?

    (2) The second area in which I would like to suggest a modification of policy is in that of human and intellectual contact. Even though intellectual material is not expressly excluded by the sanctions regime, in reality, Iraq has been out of intellectual contact with the wider world for almost a decade. The postal services with Iraq are erratic and discriminatory--materials sent are often returned for no discernible reason--and the Sanctions Committee in New York is, to say the least, extremely conservative in its willingness to allow such material through.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a lack of transparency and

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accountability concerning the decisions of the sanctions committee and what this country's representatives are doing on that committee? Is it not a scandal, for example, that money from the oil for food programme can be handed out to the oil companies, but is held up for projects that would help children in Iraq?

Mr. Dalyell: I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend, and I agree with everything that he says. It is precisely those considerations that lead to the greatest resentment against Britain and the United States not only in Iraq but in the streets of most of the Arab world.

I undertook to give five minutes to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who has been so active in this cause.

2.41 pm

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): I rise briefly to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) because he has been a persistent and principled critic of this policy. I rise only because I have heard the Foreign Office reply many times and, if the Minister is to deliver the same answer, I must tell in him advance that it is wholly incredible and untrue.

We are told, for example, that the policy is necessary because one country has invaded another and has weapons of mass destruction. Israel has weapons of mass destruction and has occupied the southern Lebanon. Indonesia has weapons of mass destruction, which we supplied, and killed 200,000 people in East Timor. Turkey has weapons of mass destruction and occupies northern Cyprus, and the Government's policy is that Turkey should be admitted to the European Union. There is no credibility whatever in that argument.

The second argument, which I know that we shall hear because the Minister and the Prime Minister have given it before, is that the entire responsibility for the terrible health crisis and the tragedy in Iraq lies with Saddam Hussein. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, that is not the view of senior United Nations officials who have no connection with Saddam Hussein but who were in Iraq to do a job that they were denied the opportunity to do because they knew that the policy was wrong.

I hope that the Minister understands that the charge against the British and American Governments is that they are applying sanctions that amount to genocide. I use that word advisedly and with great gravity and regret. I repeat: the policy of the British and American Governments amounts to genocide. It is no good talking about the international community because it shares the view that my hon. Friend has put forward with such strength.

Whatever reply the Minister gives, if it is line with what he said before, it is not true and it is not believed anywhere other than in Washington, which dictates the policy that this Government follow. The time has come to take a little more notice of people of the quality of John Pilger, Felicity Arbuthnot and my hon. Friends the Members for Linlithgow, for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen) and for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway), who have made it their business to draw to the attention of the British people the truth of the tragedy and the reason why it has occurred.

This is a short debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow properly put forward his argument, but it will not end with another ministerial reply drafted in the

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Foreign Office but written in Washington because it is really a big, long-term debate about Britain's relations with the middle east and the world and the prospects of the United Nations surviving this century, when it has increasingly been sidelined and dominated by one super-power.

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