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24 Mar 2003 : Column 41—continued

Clare Short: The hon. Lady says that the military campaign is taking desert, but the plan is to get to Baghdad quickly and take the top off the regime. The people will then feel safe and will soon be able to emerge, and it will be possible to deliver humanitarian supplies throughout the country.

I have already answered the question about the road map, as has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The new Palestinian Prime Minister wants to form his Government before it has been received: it is his choice not to receive it yet. It will be delivered shortly after that, and we must all then make the progress that is essential.

Members are understandably confused about the amount of money involved because there are so many different pockets. The £30 million went directly from the Treasury to our military so that they could fulfil their obligations under the Geneva and Hague conventions. I have made £70 million available from my Department's contingency reserve, much of which we are already deploying. The UN flash appeal will put the UN back in quickly with humanitarian supplies, and I am discussing a possible contribution with the Treasury.

The trust fund is oil for food. It has been going for a long time. All the profits from the sale of Iraq's oil go into a trust fund held at the UN, and provide supplies worth $10 billion a year. That is an enormous amount. The country almost lives on handouts—there is very little economic activity—and that will require reform later. We shall need a Security Council resolution giving the Secretary-General full authority to deploy the funds, and we hope to have it within days. Some $4 billion is in the trust fund.

The hon. Lady asked how soon we could stop blaming the French. As I said in my statement, we need everyone to come together and stop blaming each other.

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I think that blame lies with all the parties that are permanent members of the Security Council—we could have tried to do better—but the job now is to bring the international community together for the reconstruction of Iraq and care for its people. That is what we should all work for.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Over the past 10 years the Secretary of State's Department must have gained a great deal of experience of the effects of depleted uranium weapons on Iraq and, more recently, on Afghanistan. What evidence has the Department of a link between the use of such weapons and cancers in southern Iraq and other parts of the world, and what advice has it shared with the Department of Defence in the United States or the Ministry of Defence here on the continued use of those carcinogenic weapons?

Clare Short: I am not an expert on the subject, but I know that UNEP, the United Nations environmental programme, carried out a study in Kosovo after the conflict there. I think it concluded that there was not a considerable problem, but I will look at the report and tell my hon. Friend the findings. I will also see whether we have any evidence from any of the other conflicts.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): The Secretary of State has wisely said that the implementation of the road map is essential in providing the good will that will help to solve the problems of the middle east. Will she seek to establish from President Bush whether he intends British and American troops to be sent in to implement the road map if either of the parties concerned is unhelpful and refuses to accept it?

Clare Short: I think I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not the intention. It is possible that the international community will need to deploy observers, military or otherwise, when it is implemented, to enable the people of the two countries to feel secure in the knowledge that there will be an end to terrorism, killing and suicide bombers and to give us a chance to give the two states a decent future. There will not, however, be the kind of forces to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): Will my right hon. Friend give a little more detail about the way in which the humanitarian food aid will be delivered while fighting continues? In many cities there are no-go areas for our troops, who might have to deliver that aid.

Clare Short: It is a phased process. In the first phase, as in all conflicts, the military has a duty to take care of the civilian population, and the MOD and our forces have taken that duty extremely seriously. Advisers from my Department are deployed alongside them, and the Treasury has provided them with special resources. The forces are bringing in supplies, and we have smaller, emergency supplies in the region. The forces are highly organised so that pockets of people can move where they need to. As soon as the conflict moves out of any part of the territory, the UN humanitarian system will be deployed, and as soon as there is peace the oil-for-food programme will be up and running.

In the meantime, the ICRC is out there. My hon. Friend will be aware of the quality of that organisation. It is now working in Basra, despite the difficulties, to

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reconnect the water supply. I think that we will cope, but obviously we all want the conflict to be over as rapidly as possible, and our priority is to look after the people of Iraq and help them to restore their country.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): In wishing the Secretary of State well, may I ask her to give the House an undertaking that she will seek to fulfil her extremely onerous responsibilities with the same calm, measured determination that the Prime Minister has shown throughout this crisis?

Clare Short: I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. My personality is rather different from that of the Prime Minister, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all the passion that I have will be dedicated to this purpose.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): My right hon. Friend will know of the great concern expressed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Landmine Action and others about the humanitarian effects of unexploded munitions. What co-ordination exists between her Department and the Ministry of Defence to map the areas where cluster bombs will be dropped in the war? Will she undertake to ensure that money is provided for those who will clear up afterwards?

Clare Short: Throughout the events in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and now Iraq, the relationships between my Department and the Ministry of Defence have become ever closer. The nature of conflict in this disorderly post-cold war era, in which one finds humanitarian crisis and military action side by side, is becoming a pattern, and it means that we must find new ways of organising ourselves. Those relationships are strong and growing ever stronger.

There are absolute duties under the Ottawa convention to record any use of munitions that may damage civilians, and the British military fully adheres to all international treaties and humanitarian obligations. Our troops always de-mine in the first instance, as they are trying to do in the waterways of Iraq now, so that they can bring in humanitarian supplies. Thereafter, we will probably bring in UNMAS, the UN body that looks for mines, because Iraq will have to be de-mined if it is to be reconstructed.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): The Secretary of State told us:

Is not the truth that the Government have known at least since last summer that conflict was at least possible, if not probable, given Saddam Hussein's record of non-co-operation, with the MOD actively preparing for possible conflict, while absolutely nothing has been happening in the right hon. Lady's Department or the Department of Trade and Industry, which will be involved in reconstruction? Is that joined-up government on this most serious of issues?

Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong, unusually for him; clearly he has not been

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listening. My Department has been organising and working with the Ministry of Defence. We have also had a debate, which was initiated by the Opposition, and we have given evidence to the Select Committee. We have been in close contact with the UN, but it was keeping all its preparations private. It did not want them to be published because some of the member states would have attacked it for preparing for a conflict. My Department said throughout that we were preparing for every contingency, including the most attractive one—the possibility that the threat of military force would cause the regime to co-operate, in which case humanitarian aid and reconstruction would still have been necessary.

Similarly, the IMF and the World Bank—I am closer to the World Bank because I am its UK governor—made fuller preparations than I knew. Both kept quiet because of the problem of being seen to prepare for conflict.

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman whether the DTI has been preparing for reconstruction, but I can say that it will not be a major force in reconstruction. The Department will need to facilitate the involvement of any UK commercial companies in making their contribution, after the IMF and the World Bank have put in place their arrangements for reform and ensured transparency in the letting of any contracts. There is probably a little time before that happens, but I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

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