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24 Mar 2003 : Column 47—continued

Clare Short: I am not aware of that request or of what has been done, but I take seriously what the hon. Lady says. I will look into it and get back to her.

Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley): Given that the UN co-ordinator Ross Mountain gave evidence to the Select Committee on International Development suggesting that it would take four to six weeks to obtain the necessary resolution to restart the oil-for-food programme, and that last week the Foreign Office Minister was not sure whether it would take days or weeks to restart the programme, can the Secretary of State tell the House exactly when the UN Security Council will vote to restart the oil-for-food programme?

Clare Short: I can tell my hon. Friend, that Ross Mountain is a fine humanitarian, but he does not work around the Security Council. He has now gone to New York because the liaison between Geneva, Larnaca and New York was getting too complicated, so he is in place and working. I have never heard the four to six weeks' time scale for the resolution. That must be a guess, and it was a judgment about the bitterness and division that existed in New York and in the international community. Things are proceeding much better. I think it will be days—I do not think it is reckless to suggest that it will be days.

Sandra Gidley (Romsey): What lessons have been learned from post-conflict Afghanistan and Kosovo,

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and what steps is the Department taking to ensure that in post-conflict Iraq there is full recognition of UN resolution 1325?

Clare Short: I am sorry—I do not carry in my head a list of all the UN resolutions, so I do not know what 1325 is about.

Sandra Gidley: Women.

Clare Short: Thank you very much. On post-conflict Afghanistan, I think that progress has been better than is generally thought in the international community, but it is a desperately poor, wrecked country that has also had years of drought. As the International Development Committee said, the big push that we need now is order outside Kabul so that the country can move forward. A big effort is under way in Afghanistan on equality for women in the constitution, as well as getting girls back to school. Obviously, it is not easy, but the UN is standing by that and brings its authority; similarly, it does so in Kosovo. It is essential that we do the same in Iraq and I assure the hon. Lady that I will do everything in my power to make sure that we do.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): As my right hon. Friend knows, Human Rights Watch issued a strong statement today criticising the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan. It says that the UN has left local authorities with the keys to buildings and no means of transporting two months' worth of food supplies, tents or whatever it may be, and that the Kurdish local authorities are unable to cope. There are 800,000 displaced people already inside the country, as my right hon. Friend knows, and thousands of people have crossed the borders in the past few weeks from the south of Iraq to the north of Iraq. Will she pay particular attention to the situation there? I do not understand why the UN walked away from there in the first place. There is no conflict with Iraqi Kurdistan, so why should the UN just pack up and go home? It has had months to organise for this eventuality.

Clare Short: I understand my hon. Friend's concerns. According to the figures that I have, 300,000 people have been displaced, and they are largely going to families. It is urgent that more supplies come into the area, because families who take in family members will need more food and supplies. I understand that there is not a crisis at present, but that there would be if we did not act quickly. We are looking into the situation. I will come back to my hon. Friend with full details. I take her point about the UN system. I know that in the preparations to return, the UN will look for areas that are safe and go there first, and I hope it will go to Kurdistan early. I will make fuller inquiries and get back to my hon. Friend.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Once it is made safe, is it the intention that Basra and southern Iraq should have the capacity to take in a large number of displaced people, in addition to the indigenous population? Apart from the Sir Galahad, which is welcome but of limited capacity, what other ships of the royal fleet auxiliary does the Secretary of State have at her disposal? Does she have bulk supply ships?

Clare Short: There is no intention that Basra should take large numbers of displaced people. Let me repeat:

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the UN is preparing various contingencies for movements of people, possibly to the borders of all the surrounding countries, and has pre-positioned supplies, but the numbers of people who move would depend on how the conflict develops. We hope that it will be over so quickly and cause so little disruption to civilians that there will be very limited movement of people, but we have to be ready for all eventualities and all possible movements. There was not ever a suggestion that people would move into the cities, so much as a fear that they would move to the borders. Food and supplies have been pre-positioned around the country by the UN system in order that they can be delivered to wherever the people move or to their homes if they remain there.

Supplies are on HMS Sir Galahad in order that in very early stages our military forces adhere to their duties under the Geneva and Hague conventions to ensure that any people in the areas that they are protecting are fully supplied and equipped. I hope that there will shortly be more peace across the territory and that the UN will return. The military will then no longer be in the lead in providing humanitarian supplies.

My Department will not operate separately. We will put resources and people and effort into getting the UN system to work efficiently right across the territory. I will not then need ships. The oil-for-food programme ships in enormous quantities of food all the time, and I know that it is preparing to keep its orders coming, although it will have to pay higher insurance, and so on. The quantities of supplies will be very large, but once the port is secure we should be able to cope.

Alan Howarth (Newport, East): Has my right hon. Friend explained with her characteristic passion to the European Commission that the humanitarian needs will be no less whatever views may be taken of the legality of the conflict, and that a contribution will be expected commensurate with the wealth of the European Union?

Clare Short: Poul Nielson, the Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, has already proposed a contribution of Euro20 million, which he is able immediately to deploy on his own authority. Speaking

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from memory, he is also able to ask for the authority to make available another Euro100 million from the budget. There was general support at the EU summit on this matter. Of course, the UK provides 20 per cent. of such funds. Despite the differences, he is moving on that question.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside): What we on this Bench want is to be shocked and awed by the scale of the humanitarian effort. We will be satisfied only when the humanitarian effort starts to equal the military one. Will the right hon. Lady say something more to assure us that the Kurds in northern Iraq will not be overlooked and that they will get the humanitarian aid that they require? What discussions has she had with the Turkish authorities to ensure that the human rights of Kurdish people will be maintained and secured by the 30,000 or so Turkish troops on the Iraqi border?

Clare Short: I can say honestly to the hon. Gentleman that the carefulness of the targeting is greater than in any previous conflict of which I am aware, and I am proud to say that the humanitarian preparations—certainly for our armed forces—are greater than ever before. The UN system is well organised, but that has not been publicised. I hope that there is a reasonable response to the appeal that is about to be made. That will be very important, and I shall try to mobilise an international effort to ensure that countries do not hold back owing to differences over how we got to this point. Of course the Kurds must not be overlooked, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). We are watching what is going on there and will ensure that supplies continue to flow, as they were also dependent on the oil-for-food programme.

I have not personally been in touch with the Turkish authorities, but my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been repeatedly, and the United States Administration are in pretty continuous communication with them in order to try to ensure that all remains calm in Kurdistan, so that people can prepare for maintaining their level of autonomy and for taking forward their Government in that part of a liberated Iraq.

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Orders of the Day

Licensing Bill [Lords]

5.8 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill has plenty of potential for controversy because it encroaches on how we live our lives. It is concerned with the central issue for all of us: the quality of our lives; the peace and contentment of our communities; and how we as individuals and as a nation use our leisure time—the choices available to us. The four broad objectives of the new licensing policy are to reduce crime and disorder, to encourage tourism, to reduce alcohol misuse and to encourage self-sufficient rural communities.

To put that in context, nine in 10 of the adult population consume alcohol; there are more than 150,000 licensed premises in England and Wales; and the alcohol industry is worth a massive £30 billion a year. Pubs and clubs are at the heart of our nation's social life. It is probably no accident that Britain's two most popular soaps are both centred on a pub.

The Bill proposes a modern framework for regulating that industry, but getting the regulation right is just one of the many social issues thrown up by the use and abuse of alcohol. Alcohol-related disease is a growing problem, which puts huge strains on our health services. The cost of alcohol-related accident and emergency attendances has been estimated at more than £300 million annually. Alcohol-related violence can blight neighbourhoods and spoil a good night out.

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