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30 Jan 2003 : Column 1060—continued

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): The hon. Lady may have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) say from the Front Bench that there are $4 billion in oil revenue reserves unspent in UN accounts, and that those funds were earmarked for aid but have not been spent. Will the hon. Lady speculate about why that money has not been spent on aiding Iraq?

Dr. Tonge: It is my understanding that there are two reasons. One is that the contracts are so incredibly bureaucratic that the money has been left—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We have had enough interventions from a sedentary position from various parts of the house. Perhaps we can get on with the debate in a sensible way.

Dr. Tonge: The first reason is that the process is very slow moving. The contracts that need to be set up so that

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the money can be used to buy products, food and so on are extremely slow, so the money stays where it is. Secondly, Saddam Hussein does not want to feed his people, and we get the blame for it.

Iraqis are also dying because they have no clean water: 70 per cent. of infant deaths are caused by diarrhoea and respiratory infection linked to water pollution. The River Tigris receives 500,000 tonnes of raw sewage every day. Hon. Members should remember that when they are next on the Terrace with their visitors, admiring the view of the Thames.

Mr. Kerry Pollard (St. Albans): Does the hon. Lady understand that raw sewage is going into that river because the Iraqis do not have sewage treatment plants? They do not have them because the United Nations will not allow the pumps to be bought because they can be put to dual use. That has nothing to do with the Iraqi regime. The UN will not allow the pumps through, and that is because of the Americans. I have visited Iraq twice and I know—I have seen it.

Dr. Tonge: The hon. Gentleman has made my point well for me. One of the saddest things about economic sanctions on Iraq has been the decay of the infrastructure, which has led to the terrible plight of the people there, with no clean water or proper sewage systems because they cannot be repaired.

During the war on Iraq, water treatment equipment will be needed for 5.4 million people directly, to give them some clean water. Have we planned for that? Electrical supply is needed to power water and sewage plants, and that, too, has been affected by economic sanctions. A third of the power supply is still down after the 1991 war, and those essential plants have never been repaired. Does the Secretary of State have assurances that her Government and that of the USA will not do further damage to what is left of Iraq's infrastructure, as was the case in Serbia and Afghanistan? For heaven's sake, let the people of Iraq have the water and power that they have left.

Has the Secretary of State assessed the likely flow of refugees? The hon. Member for Meriden spoke about that at length. Already, there are 700,000 displaced people within Iraq. That number will increase. Thousands will flee across heavily mined areas, adding to civilian injury and casualties. Iran has estimated that 900,000 will go there, and it already has 3 million refugees, many still there from the Afghanistan wars. Iran has no capacity to take any more. Will that country receive help when it requests that, or will it suffer from being one of George Bush's "axis of evil" countries and be totally ignored? If so, innocent people, including many Iraqis, will suffer.

Is UNHCR prepared? Will the United States and its allies use land mines and cluster bombs? We need to know that as a matter of urgency. Must we add to the destruction and horror that will go on in Iraq by adding even more explosives, which will affect the civilian population, not the military? Have plans been made for safe havens within Iraq? That needs to be done early on in hostilities so that people know there are safe havens, particularly around Basra, so that people from the south can get to them. That is essential if there is to be a war.

Mr. Simon Thomas: The hon. Lady mentioned cluster bombs and land mines. We bear in mind what the

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Secretary of State said on the matter, but we must remember that depleted uranium was used in the previous Gulf war. The response of the Prime Minister during Prime Minister's questions yesterday to the leader of the hon. Lady's party, when he suggested strongly that there would be US control over British forces in Iraq suggests to me that we may see weapons being used of which the British Government do not approve. That should concern all of us in the House.

Dr. Tonge: The hon. Gentleman makes one of the most serious points made this afternoon. Do we really want to go to war with our forces under the control of a Government who, over the past few years, have withdrawn from almost every international treaty one can think of? Will we subject our troops to such activity?

Past experiences are not good. In Afghanistan, it took a great deal of publicity from NGOs and others—the House will remember that I called for Afghanistan to be bombed with food, to much ridicule from the boys on the Benches, but never mind—to highlight the humanitarian situation there. Food aid eventually got through, but not without immense difficulty. The west promised not to forget Afghanistan.

Clare Short: I have said before that I admire what the World Food Programme achieved in Afghanistan throughout the crisis, from the pulling out of all UN international staff before any military action got going. Right through the military action and ever since, the UN has been feeding people there. The figure went up to 9 million and it is still 5 million people daily. The World Food Programme managed to keep that going. For the record, that was a fantastic achievement and very important.

Dr. Tonge: The right hon. Lady leads me to my next point. We all remember the Prime Minister pledging not to forget Afghanistan once the bombing was over. Of the money that has been pledged and delivered for the reconstruction of that country, 70 per cent. is still being spent on humanitarian aid. That will happen in Iraq in the event of a war, so reconstruction will be very slow.

Ann Clwyd: The Prime Minister has argued all along for an expansion of the international security assistance force in Afghanistan to avoid having to spend so much on humanitarian aid and to allow more to be spent on reconstruction. While there is insecurity in that country, that will be the case.

Dr. Tonge: I entirely agree with the hon. Lady, but I suspect that we are drifting away from the humanitarian situation in Iraq. It is useful to reflect on what happened in Afghanistan. I was about to report similar failures in the Balkans. The aid pledged for that region is dwindling year after year. The middle east is a running sore and getting worse. In Kashmir, where I have just been for a few days, there is terrible suffering among people caught up in an impasse between nuclear powers. I have not even mentioned Africa, to which the hon.

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Member for Meriden referred. The world is forced to look at Iraq because America says so, but there are far greater problems.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dr. Tonge: No, I will not give way again. I have nearly finished my remarks and I want others to have a chance to speak.

If war is waged on Iraq, a humanitarian catastrophe could spread all over the middle east and not be confined to Iraq's borders. How much money will be needed to deliver aid and reconstruction to Iraq during and after the war? What proportion of that—the Secretary of State touched on this—will once again have to come out of the DFID budget? I say this every time these things happen. That budget is bled for reconstruction and aid once a war is over. Why does the Ministry of Defence not pay for cleaning up its own messes? DFID's money is supposed to be used to meet the millennium targets on health, education and clean water for the poorest people of the world, and not—I repeat, not—to clean up the mess of yet another war.

The Prime Minister was fond of telling us during the run-up to the bombing of Afghanistan that, following much pressure, he had a two-pronged approach: military and humanitarian. I believe that it was a three-pronged approach at times, with diplomatic efforts being made too. He has been only too ready this time, backed by the official Opposition, to use the military option, paying scant attention so far to other issues. The Opposition motion recognises the humanitarian crisis, and we will of course support it.

Destruction is so easy. The USA and its allies can perhaps annihilate Iraq and Saddam Hussein, but at what cost? We will risk alienating Muslims for ever. We will certainly increase the risk of terrorist attacks here at home. We must not make war on the Iraqi people—only on their Government. Massive humanitarian aid, backed by patient diplomacy to encourage co-operation with the weapons inspectors, must go hand in hand with the threat of military action.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next speaker, I inform the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, and that starts now.

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