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20 Jan 2003 : Column 43—continued

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley): How much extra pay will our armed forces get in a conflict such as this? After all, they are putting their lives on the line.

Mr. Hoon: Significant allowances are available to our armed forces when they are deployed. It would not be appropriate for me to go into detail about them at this stage, simply because they depend on the length of any deployment and the time spent away from home. Equally, as right hon. and hon. Members will be aware, we are likely in the short term to receive a report from the armed forces pay review body, stating its recommendations on pay increases for the forthcoming financial year.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): In his statement, the Secretary of State made it clear that there would be a requirement for the call-up of reservists to support the deployment, but he could not say how many or when. Is that because the Reserve Forces Act 1996 is deficient in ensuring that reservists' jobs are maintained while they are called up? Secondly, on air deployment, will the Ministry of Defence need to have recourse to civil air assets—in particular, high-volume aeroplanes such as the Antonov—to augment the C-5 Galaxies?

Mr. Hoon: I am not aware of any specific deficiency in the Act, and that certainly was not the reason for my caution in setting out numbers. On the last occasion that I addressed the House, I said that, at that stage, we were looking to issue sufficient notices to involve about 1,500 members of the reserve forces. Obviously, that figure is likely to increase, but it is not likely to increase to the level speculated in the newspapers. I assure the hon. Gentleman, as I assure other Members of the House, that when a more specific figure is available I shall ensure that those details are made known to the House. We have already used certain civilian aircraft for transport purposes, and I anticipate that that will continue when and if it is necessary to deploy those forces to the region.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): As my right hon. Friend knows, other options can be pursued alongside the threat of military force. One of those, for which I have pressed repeatedly in the House over a number of years, is indicting the Iraqi regime for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary say that they want to do that, and more than 200 MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have said that they want to see it done.

Today, I received a letter from the Attorney-General, who, two and a half years later, is still exploring what can be done. He says that his office, along with the police and counsel, are exploring how they can indict members of the regime. As my right hon. Friend knows, they have the evidence—it was given to them two and a half years ago. If we were using that evidence and if we had arrest warrants, people such as Ali Hassan al-Majeed, who are

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in Damascus at present, could be arrested for killing 100,000 Kurds and for gassing the Kurds at Halabja. Why on earth are the Government not—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I am sorry to stop the hon. Lady, but that does not relate directly to the statement.

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has raised that issue with me on a number of occasions, and she lists the other members of the Government whom she has addressed on the same question. We all admire her determination and, indeed, the principle of what she is setting out, but there is obviously a need for further consideration of whether what she recommends is practically possible and whether it would achieve anything. I rather thought that her answer from the Attorney-General was quite encouraging in that sense. What she advocates is sensible, but it obviously requires further practical consideration.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South): While the deployment will obviously send out a positive message to our allies and, I hope, a message of determination to the Saddam regime, what message does the Secretary of State imagine it will send to the people of Iraq? Is he satisfied that enough is being spent by the US and UK Governments in telling the people of Iraq the true position and what problems they face? Is he also satisfied that our troops, while protected against the possibility of a missile attack, are satisfactorily protected against biochemical or biological warfare being waged against them in the early stages of their deployment?

Mr. Hoon: Let me make it clear that the Government—and, I anticipate, no other Government—have any quarrel whatever with the people of Iraq. It may be that the only Government with any serious difficulty with the people of Iraq are the Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein, who have perpetrated unspeakable horrors on them over many years. Indeed, there is growing evidence to show that the people of Iraq are sick and tired of Saddam Hussein and are ready for a change. That is clearly anticipated by resolution 1441, but it is important that we continue to maintain the pressure on the regime and those who support them without in any way causing unnecessary difficulty for the people of Iraq.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): All of us in the House recognise the professionalism and dedication of our armed forces, but, given what the Secretary of State called the massive deployment of American forces in the Gulf area and, in particular, the commitment over the weekend of more American divisions—armoured, airborne and infantry—will he tell the House what, specifically, those units add to the capability of the massive force already assembled in the Gulf; or do they simply provide political credibility for that American force?

Mr. Hoon: In the planning of any multinational operation, it is always necessary to identify the contribution that individual countries can best make. It may help my hon. Friend if he considered carefully the

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contribution that British forces were able to make in military operations in and around Afghanistan, when exactly the same question could have been asked. British forces provided some excellent assistance to American forces in areas where the Americans required that extra assistance. Should military action be necessary in Iraq, the same principle will apply.

Angus Robertson (Moray): Bearing in mind the role that air power plays in modern warfare and the fact that a high proportion of air service personnel are on 10-day stand-by notices, could the Secretary of State give some certainty to those personnel and their families by telling the House when a statement will be made on any air deployment?

Mr. Hoon: I cannot give a specific date. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that air power can be deployed at much shorter notice than the force that I have set out to the House today. Certainly, the deployment of air power is under active consideration, including the impact on the Royal Air Force and the decisions that will need to be taken in conjunction with our allies.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that no British troops will be used in an invasion of Iraq unless the weapons inspectors have reported back to the United Nations that a material breach has taken place, and the Security Council, having failed to persuade Saddam Hussein to resolve this matter peacefully, makes a decision about what military action is appropriate?

Mr. Hoon: I can assure the House that the process set out in Security Council resolution 1441 will be followed.

Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): If the UN Security Council decides not to take military action over Iraq, will we accept that decision?

Mr. Hoon: That is a matter for the United Nations Security Council and its individual members. That decision has yet to be taken.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley): Did the Defence Secretary know that Kofi Annan said that it was the credible threat of force that had forced Saddam Hussein to allow in the weapons inspectors? Did he also hear Tony Benn on the "Today" programme, who, when asked whether he would support the deployment of force if there were a proven material breach and a second UN Security Council resolution, refused to answer three times? Have the

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critics who find it so easy to criticise the Government suggested to him an alternative way of disarming the murderous dictator?

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's observations, not least about what Kofi Annan has said on a number of occasions. What unites all Members of the House is the need for the support of United Nations Security Council resolutions. It is important that all right hon. and hon. Members of the House and any critics outside recognise that, if the United Nations process is to mean anything, its decisions must be upheld and enforced.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): President Bush senior stopped the first Gulf war when the killing went above 100,000. Is there to be no limit to the turkey shoot this time? The United Nations has said that there are likely to be some 900,000 refugees in the event of war. What would be the policy of UK and US troops if those refugees were in the way of their push towards central Baghdad?

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