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Mr. Hoon: I will certainly pass on the hon. Gentleman's congratulations to the RAF crews involved, who conducted the operation with considerable skill and precision and very great bravery.
With regard to the hon. Gentleman's observations about the sanctions regime, I invite him to study carefully Security Council resolution 1284. It is a long, detailed statement by the international community setting out the points that the hon. Gentleman makes--the opportunity that is available to Saddam Hussein to have sanctions lifted, in the event of his allowing a proper inspection regime into Iraq. I believe that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied by the terms of resolution 1284, and I hope that he is not suggesting that we should further dilute 1284 by attempting to draw up a new resolution.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On my way to the House from Heathrow airport this morning, I called at 16 Princes Gate, which is the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian ambassador confirmed that his Government--who, heaven knows, have more reason than anybody else on the planet to loathe Saddam, after the million lost in the Iran-Iraq war--are against sanctions and are against bombing, partly on the ground that, far from weakening Saddam, they strengthen him.
May I put a direct question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who referred to the bullying of neighbours? With the exception of the al-Sabah family in Kuwait, can he name one organisation or Government in the Arab world who support the recent bombing and the sanctions policy?
Mr. Hoon: It would be sufficient that the one Government of the one country that has been subject to an invasion in the past 10 years still remain fearful, given Saddam Hussein's recent remarks about his territorial claim to Kuwait. I am sorry that my hon. Friend does not recognise that. I am sure that he did not condone the invasion of Kuwait, and I am sure that he would not condone it if it were repeated. Without the policy of containment of Saddam Hussein, which has operated successfully over the past 10 years, there would be the fear that the atrocities perpetrated against the people of Kuwait would be repeated.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): So long as the no-fly areas exist, it must be right for military action to be taken to safeguard allied aircraft. I have no criticism of what was done in that regard. However, as one who played a modest part, as Minister of State, in the formulation of policy with regard to sanctions, I am becoming very uneasy about their moral base.
The sanctions were put in place to get rid of Saddam, or at least to contain him. If we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that they have not in any way damaged Saddam, but have substantially damaged the people of Iraq. I would like to think that it might be possible for us further to examine the sanctions regime so
Mr. Hoon: I understand the proper way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made his point, not least given his responsibility formerly for developing the sanctions regime, but he will know the difficulties of precisely targeting an effective sanctions regime, as he suggests, and explaining to people the effect of the sanctions. For example, since the end of the Gulf conflict, food and medicine imports have never been prohibited at all by sanctions, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows. Saddam Hussein and his regime have been responsible for preventing food and medicine from being properly distributed among the Iraqi people.
I accept a degree of responsibility, in the sense that it is important that Governments who are successfully policing sanctions should explain the effect of those sanctions and make it clear that the responsibility for the suffering of the Iraqi people lies firmly in the hands of Saddam Hussein, not in the hands of the international community, which is seeking to do what the right hon. and learned Gentleman describes: to ensure that sanctions target military equipment and do not affect the people of Iraq.
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Is not the real reason why Saddam Hussein has the resource and the confidence to attack coalition military equipment the fact that the coalition powers, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States of America, have failed properly to enforce the sanctions regime? For the past six years--some of us have protested about the matter for six years, in both London and Washington--oil revenues, illegal under the terms of the United Nations resolution, have been raised through the export of oil into Turkey and through the Gulf under the watchful eyes of the Americans and the coalition powers.
Is not that money which Saddam Hussein has raised now funding the attacks on our resources and his programme to develop weapons of mass destruction? We are to blame. It is our responsibility. We did not properly enforce the sanctions regime. We have been telling Parliament that for the past six years, and the same has been said in the US Congress, but nothing has been done.
Mr. Hoon: I do not accept responsibility in quite the way that my hon. Friend sets it out, but I agree with him that there are difficulties about the enforcement of the sanctions regime. That is why, as I told the House earlier, it is important that we continue to monitor and review the effectiveness of the sanctions and find more successful ways of making them bite on the regime, not on the Iraqi people.
I do not accept that there has been a lack of resolve on the part of the United Kingdom or the United States in seeking to enforce sanctions. Indeed, tribute has been properly paid to British service personnel for their bravery in flying over the no-fly zones. Equal tribute ought to be paid to British service personnel who are responsible for the enforcement of the sanctions. They, too, conduct difficult operations, sometimes in awkward circumstances, and it is right that they should be praised for their efforts.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): Many of us greatly admire the courage and professionalism of the RAF and
Mr. Hoon: On the endgame, I again refer the hon. Gentleman to Security Council resolution 1284, which was concluded after months--at times it seemed like years--of negotiation and careful, thoughtful and considered diplomacy. It sets out an opportunity for Iraq to return to the international community should Saddam Hussein and his regime choose to accept it. Allowing inspections can lead to a suspension of sanctions leading ultimately to their removal, but that depends on Saddam Hussein's willingness to co-operate with the international community in allaying our understandable suspicions about his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. That is, indeed, an endgame--it provides a perfectly proper way for Saddam Hussein to end the present stalemate.
Caroline Flint (Don Valley): May I declare an interest, as I was in Kuwait a short while ago with an all-party delegation? When we visited the RAF base in Kuwait, we were presented with clear information about how seriously RAF personnel take their responsibilities in identifying legitimate targets and carrying out their activities, for which they are accountable when the Tornados return home.
While I was in Kuwait, Uday, the son of Saddam Hussein, released a press statement to the media in the Arabic world, saying that all the maps in Iraq were being redrawn to include Kuwait within Iraqi borders. More than 600 prisoners of war, including women and children, were seized from Kuwait and taken into Iraq. Saddam Hussein has refused to ease the suffering of the parents and families by telling them whether their relatives are alive or well. Is there anything that we can do in terms of sanctions? I understand that there is a freeze on Iraqi assets abroad, but if we are to make sanctions bite, can we do anything more to uncover the whereabouts of the tens of billions of pounds that I understand to be held overseas? Can we take action to find that money and ensure that it is frozen?
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments and I congratulate her on making the effort to go to Kuwait to see our aircrew, who, as other hon. Members have said, perform a remarkable task in very difficult circumstances. I encourage hon. Members to go and see for themselves the efforts that are made by our aircrew in support of the policy of the British Government and the coalition. A determined effort is being made to make sanctions more effective, especially with the new US Administration, who are carefully considering ways of targeting sanctions still more effectively. I shall certainly