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Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for giving me advance sight of it. He has dealt comprehensively with the draft resolution before the Security Council, which we welcome. In particular, we welcome paragraph 11, which seeks to lift sanctions, and paragraph 12, which establishes the Iraqi assistance fund and requires the regime's external assets to be frozen and transferred to it.

The resolution also deals with the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq. I have heard what the Foreign Secretary has had to say on the details but, even so, I am still unclear as to precisely what that role is intended to be. The Prime Minister on 8 April in Northern Ireland referred to "a vital role." However, it is hard to discern any task in the resolution that can really be described as vital.

May I ask the Foreign Secretary again what he means by vital? This is important today when the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) resigned from the Cabinet because, as she says, the assurances that the Prime Minister gave her

and are contracted by this resolution.

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What were the exact assurances given to the right hon. Lady and other members of the Cabinet on establishing a legitimate Iraqi Government? Are they met in the resolution, and if they are, is the right hon. Lady wrong? If she is right, how does that square with the position of the Prime Minister? Who is telling the truth—the Prime Minister or the right hon. Lady? They cannot both be doing so.

Did the Attorney-General give the Government advice on what was required to establish a legitimate Iraqi Government? If he did so, does it support the right hon. Lady's contention or the Prime Minister's position? Would it not be helpful to the House if he were to publish that advice?

On a day when the Government are split on Iraq, warring over the euro and all over the place on foundation hospitals, is it not vital that at least on this, they do not fudge the issue? Does the Foreign Secretary share my regret at this crucial moment that this House will no longer be able to question the Secretary of State for International Development, who will now be in the House of Lords? Is that not a downgrading of this vital portfolio at a most sensitive moment?

Has the Foreign Secretary read reports today that the taskforce responsible for finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down and is likely to be withdrawn? Is that true, and what does it mean in the light of the Prime Minister's assurances that weapons of mass destruction will be found?

It is now the fifth week since Saddam was toppled. The unexpectedly swift conclusion explained the immediate aftermath—the lawlessness, breakdown in public services and damage to infrastructure—but, before the war, the Foreign Secretary assured me and this House that plans for post-war Iraq were in place. Why then, after four weeks, are there still not enough police resources, either internal or imported, to maintain public order and disarm the militias? Why, even now, have not enough engineers and construction experts been seconded to Iraq to ensure electricity supplies, clean water and effective sewage disposal? Why is vital aid and health provision still taking so long to get to the areas that so badly need it? These are not military questions, but questions for the Foreign Secretary who told us that all this was in hand. We have a moral obligation to reconstruct Iraq as we promised to do. We have supported the Government on the principle of reconstruction. I have to say that, on the ground, after four weeks, patience is running out.

Our armed forces won the war brilliantly. It is for the Government to win the peace. They owe it to our forces and to the people of Iraq to do so, and they are not making a very good fist of it right now.

Mr. Straw: The right hon. Gentleman asked me a number of questions about the text and also about some comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short). Let me deal with those matters in turn.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming the statement and the clarification that it gives. He asked me first about the undertakings given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Bush at their press conference on 8 April following the Hillsborough summit and about where they are reflected

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in the resolution itself. The commitment by the President and the Prime Minister is repeated in one of the opening preliminary paragraphs, so that they provide a template against which the rest of the resolution is measured. The paragraph states that it was

That is an almost exact paraphrase of the words used by President Bush and our British Prime Minister at Hillsborough. I could take the right hon. Gentleman through the 24 operative paragraphs of the resolution—I hope that the whole House will go through them—which spell out how that will work.

They include: all the duties that are imposed on the special co-ordinator to be appointed not by us, but by the United Nations Secretary-General; self-evidently, the lifting of sanctions; the future of the oil-for-food programme; the monitoring and supervision that the United Nations will have over Iraqi assistance; the UN's role in respect of oil revenues; and, above all and particularly, assisting and encouraging, alongside the assistance and encouragement of the coalition, the formation—not by the coalition or the UN, but by the Iraqi people themselves—of an Iraqi interim administration followed by a permanent Iraqi Government.

The right hon. Gentleman asks me about remarks that were made earlier today. I should first say how sad I am about the resignation of my right hon. Friend. She served the Department with very great distinction and placed British overseas aid contribution on the map in a way that never happened in the 18 years of the previous Government, from the moment when they placed the Overseas Development Administration under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am sorry to see her leave as a colleague. I have to say—since the right hon. Gentleman asks me this, it is right that I should give him my reply—that I do not agree with my right hon. Friend's view about the position of the Government. Obviously, I was not present at any discussions that took place between her and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—that is a matter for them—but I can say two things.

Mr. Ancram: What about the Attorney-General?

Mr. Straw: I am going to come to that.

First, all the measures in the statement and every action that we have taken in Iraq and in the United Nations are fully consistent with the undertakings that we have given in public about the role of the United Nations. Secondly, it goes without saying—but I will repeat it, as the right hon. Gentleman raises the matter—that all the actions that we have taken have been taken strictly in accordance with legal advice. It would be unconscionable for any of us to believe that any action that we took or contemplated would be unlawful in international law or in domestic law, and it is quite inappropriate for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest otherwise.

The right hon. Gentleman asked several questions about the time that it is taking to get Iraq on its feet—I do not say "back on its feet", because Iraq was not on its feet before the military conflict took place. Yes, it is

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taking longer than we expected in some parts—not all parts—of Iraq, and, yes, as I said, the situation in Baghdad is unsatisfactory. That is why I welcome the appointment of US ambassador Bremer and the additional staff from the United Kingdom who are going in to back up ORHA. We have to see improved performance on the ground.

The right hon. Gentleman's last point—an extraordinary one for a Conservative spokesman—was the allegation that a vital Department has been downgraded because a Member of the House of Lords has been appointed as successor to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood. I recall that during our 18 years of opposition there were at least two occasions on which very large and significant Departments of State were represented by a Secretary of State in the other place. One was when the Department of Trade and Industry was under Lord Young, and the other—at a time when the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was an adornment to that Department—was when Lord Carrington was Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): In addition to the Foreign Secretary's own expressions of regret, does he understand that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) enjoys great affection and respect on both sides of the House?

May I ask the Foreign Secretary what significance we are to attach to the recall of Barbara Bodine and to reports that General Garner may soon suffer a similar fate? Does not that indicate an admission of failure to comprehend the complexity of the reconstruction of Iraq; and what sort of signal or message does it give to the people of Iraq if such changes are necessary so quickly?

On the matter of a vital role for the United Nations, is it not now clear that the Government envisage that that role is one of giving advice and providing co-ordination, but is neither managerial, executive nor administrative? Although it is correct that sanctions should be lifted, why is it necessary to provide new arrangements for the administration of Iraq's oil revenues, as the oil-for-food programme is already in place?

Finally, on weapons of mass destruction, the Foreign Secretary used a rather delphic phrase when he said that separate arrangements for validation may be necessary. What exactly does he have in mind? Does he have in mind arrangements that will carry credibility because they are not based entirely on the work of those nominated by the coalition forces?

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