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30 Jan 2003 : Column 1070continued
Gregory Barker: That is absolute nonsense. We are asking the Secretary of State to engage with non-governmental organisations and to talk to the people on the ground who are taking the risks and who would deal with the humanitarian disaster on the front line. When we talk with NGO representatives, they scream out that the right hon. Lady simply is not engaging with them, meeting people, holding talks, or undertaking the consultation that is vital if a humanitarian crisis is to be avoided.
Gregory Barker: The Secretary of State knows very, very well what I am saying. She has hidden her head in the sand because she cannot face the possibility that her Labour Government will go to war on the very issue over which she resigned from the shadow Cabinet back in 1990. Political expediency has prevented her from taking on responsibilities that she knows she should fulfil.
Dr. Murrison : Does my hon. Friend share my disquiet at some deeply worrying comments made recently by people in non-governmental organisations? In particular, individuals at Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have commented on the lack of liaison between them and military organisations in this country and elsewhere, particularly following the Secretary of State's remarks that our military preparation for humanitarian aid in Iraq is just getting going.
Gregory Barker: I completely share those concerns and shall allude later to a letter that 500 students and academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have written to two medical journals.
Have the Government made representations to our American allies about the protection of water and sanitation supplies in the event of military intervention in Iraq? What discussions have they had about food security? What evaluation has the Secretary of State made of the continuance of the UN's oil-for-food programme in the event of war with Iraq? If that programme is suspended, what will be the impact on the food needs of the civilian population? It is estimated that 49 per cent. of families in Iraq do not earn enough money to meet basic needs and 20 per cent. live in extreme poverty. According to the World Food Programme, malnutrition is widespread among children outside Baghdad.
This morning, Julian Filochowski, director of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, told my researcher that for the two thirds of the population who depend on UN food rations, there are few, if any, coping
Contingency planning for the prompt delivery of food and the effective restoration of power and sanitation is absolutely vital. If major infrastructure targets, such as power stations, are hit, as they were last time, there will be a sharp increase in the number of water-related diseases, because the Iraqi water treatment system is powered electronically. Two thirds of the rubbish in Baghdad is not collected. Cholera is rife. It will become impossible to store medical supplies, such as blood and vaccines, at appropriate temperatures. As I said, in an open letter to two leading medical journals, staff and alumni of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned that conflict could lead to hundreds of thousands of civilians being killed, as well as sparking famine and epidemics.
Larry Hollingworth, the UN emergency co-ordinator who spoke at the excellent forum organised by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden in November, has said if there is a conflict, hundreds of thousandseven millionsof people could uproot themselves and move to rural areas of the country or try to leave Iraq. During the Gulf war, Iran, Jordan and Turkey took almost 1.8 million refugees. Iran hosts 3 million refugees, the most in the world.
It is ironic that we know more about the contingency plans of the Government of Iran than we do about those of Her Majesty's Government. That is thanks to a recent visit to the Iran-Iraq border by Adam Leach, middle east director of Oxfam, and Paul Sherlock. From them, we know that the Iranian Government, in conjunction with Iranian Red Crescent, believe that as many as 900,000 people may flee towards Iran. What is more, that Government have already set up camps, zones and areas to cater for that contingency.
It is appalling that it is easier to get access to the Iranian Government's contingency planning for a possible humanitarian disaster in which our Government must play a leading role than to extract information from a Minister in the House of Commons. The Iranian Government will need full assistance to cope with a further humanitarian crisis on the country's borders. Successful co-ordination between Governments, international agencies and NGOs such as Oxfam will be key to an effective response.
There is no doubt that the architect of the misfortune of the Iraqi people is Saddam Hussein and that, free from his oppression, Iraq would be an infinitely better place for everyone. However, a heavy responsibility lies on the British Government as they weigh up the possibility of military intervention. A report by the worldwide Catholic network of aid agencies, following a visit to Iraq at the end of last year, concluded:
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I am sorry that the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) is not in the Chamber at present as I entirely agree with one of the points that she made. It is unfortunate, given that we are debating such an important subject, that the reforms of the House mean that many Members leave early on a Thursday afternoon. I hope that supporters of that reform will think again and that we shall have an opportunity to reverse it.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, who is also not in her place at present, has said time after time that the best scenario is that war should be avoided. Everyone in the House would agree with that sentiment; we all want to avoid war if it is at all possible.
Yet no Iraqi official (at least 10 are of extreme interest) has ever been indicted for some of the worst crimes of the 20th century. Efforts to obtain U.N. Security Council approval for an ad hoc international criminal tribunal encountered one obstacle after another in various foreign capitals . . . and even within the Clinton administration"
Even at this late stage, an indictment could bring about the necessary regime change in IraqI believe it is necessaryand would avoid the necessity for military action. Even now, the Security Council could establish an international criminal tribunal to investigate and prosecute the Iraqi leadership. Its indictees would be subject to arrest and its creation could pave the way for UN-authorised military action later to neutralise any weapons and terrorism threats and to bring about regime change with international support.