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Hilary Benn: In answer to my hon. Friend's first question, progress has been made in Basra in reaching

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pre-war levels with, for example, the electricity supply, although we need to go further. In Baghdad, progress had been made but the situation worsened last week as a result of acts of sabotage, which reinforces the point about security. A lot of money, investment, time and effort have gone into restoring the electricity supply and some people are setting out to undermine that. We have to deal with that problem to ensure that the electricity supply is constant, because people need it; it is needed to pump the sewerage system and so on.

My hon. Friend's second point, about de-Ba'athification, is important. It is vital that those who played a leading role in the old regime, and all that flowed from that, should be removed from their positions but, at the same time, the de-Ba'athification policy should be sensibly applied because we need to ensure that services can continue to function. The CPA is extremely conscious of the position and needs to reflect on it as it takes the process forward.

Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): In his statement, the Minister stressed the importance of Iraq being seen to be policing itself rather than being controlled by coalition forces. How does he square that with the comments made by Mr. Paul Bremer on Sunday? Mr. Bremer said that

Does the Minister believe that somebody capable of making such clearly inflammatory remarks is fit to lead the civilian administration in Iraq? Is not the gung-ho approach of the Americans, reflected in that statement, becoming the major obstacle to efforts to achieve security in the region? Is not it time to get the US out and the UN in?

Hilary Benn: I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, for the simple reason that, reflecting on the contributions that we have already heard in response to the statement, the overwhelming message has been the importance of security and law and order. Paul Bremer was saying that that, too, is the coalition's priority. The people of Iraq are looking for reassurance that there is the commitment and the will to ensure that security is provided. In part, that is about the work of the coalition forces, but at the same time we must build the capacity of the Iraqi police force; 30,000 of them have returned to work and are being paid twice what they received when Saddam Hussein was in power. We also need to train them, because the type of policing that is required in a country that is heading towards a different and democratic future is very different from the type of policing that one can get away with in a country where order is maintained by fear and terror.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): I pay tribute to the sterling work being done by British troops in Basra and I was interested to hear about the clean-up process. What priority is being given to cleaning up unexploded armaments, most markedly the unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs?

With regard to the interim council that is to be created in Iraq, who will have the last word about who will be the representatives of the Iraqi people? Will it be

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Mr. Bremer or the UN representative? Surely the UN should be in the driving seat during the first step of recreating some kind of democracy in Iraq.

Hilary Benn: My hon. Friend raises an important point about mines and unexploded ordnance. The matter is of grave concern, not only because of those that are to be found following the three-week conflict but because of other unexploded ordnance that is to be found across Iraq from conflicts dating back over a long period. That is why some of DFID's work has been to fund the UN Mine Action Service and the Mines Advisory Group, which is working with both the coalition and local organisations to plot the location of unexploded ordnance and then to carry out disposals.

On my hon. Friend's second question, the process is one of discussion and dialogue between the CPA, those who will serve on the governing council and Sergio de Mello, the UN representative. That is why, when answering the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), I drew attention to the especially important role that Sergio de Mello will play as the guardian, under resolution 1483, of the responsibility for overseeing the transfer to the new political process. It is important that he is happy with, and supportive of, that process as we take it forward.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): Further to the issue of unexploded bomblets, can the Minister tell us what assessment has been made of their total number following the conflict and precisely what progress has been made in clearing them? How many civilian deaths and other casualties have resulted from those that remain? Does the Minister agree that the presence of unexploded munitions represents an additional lethal ingredient in an already highly volatile situation?

Hilary Benn: I accept that unexploded ordnance is a serious problem. To answer the hon. Gentleman's question about an assessment of the total amount of unexploded ordnance, my understanding is that, because the plotting process is continuing, by definition that information is not currently available. However, I

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shall make further inquiries and if I can provide the hon. Gentleman with further information, I shall write to him.

Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham): As one of the two occupying powers, the British Government are responsible for the welfare of the Iraqi population, so will the Minister make a more detailed statement about the provision of clean, fresh water? From the list in the Library that he provided, it would appear that only £4 million of the £100.4 million that the British Government are pledging is being spent on water and sanitation. UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross report an increased spread of diarrhoea, which is taking its toll, especially on the children of Iraq. One in eight children does not even reach the age of eight because they are dying from such diseases, so when will we see real action?

Hilary Benn: Obviously, I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about the importance of water, but I do not accept his suggestion that no real action has been taken. Maintaining clean water supplies has been a primary and principal concern of ourselves, the ICRC and the UK military, in particular, who have done excellent work to repair water and sanitation facilities and build a supply line. The UN has been tankering 800,000 litres of clean water a day to the deprived areas of Baghdad and the south, so it is simply not true to say that nothing is being done. The situation is improving in parts of the country, including Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul. Baghdad's water supply system is operating at about 80 per cent. capacity, although it, too, was affected last week by the act of sabotage to the electricity system.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): On long-term reconstruction, what discussions has the Minister had with his American opposite numbers on their proposal to use future oil export revenue as collateral to enable American exporters to export through the US import ban? Is that not wholly contrary to the assurances that oil export revenue would be used exclusively for the benefit of the people of Iraq?

Hilary Benn: The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that I have had no such discussions with my American counterparts.

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Points of Order

2.9 pm

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you had an indication that the Secretary of State for Health wishes to come to the House to apologise for remarks that he has been reported as having made in today's Daily Mail? It is reported that he has told the Minister for Children, whom I have criticised for her failure to protect vulnerable children when she was leader of Islington council:

That is, at best, tasteless and, at worst, despicable. I understand that my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Health—[Interruption.] I do not know why hon. Members are shouting at me; this is a very serious matter. I understand that my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Health has written to the Secretary of State about this. If the Secretary of State for Health meant that point to be serious, I strongly object, on a personal level, and I ask for an apology. However, if he intended it as a joke—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Lady is developing this into a debate. I can deal with the point of order that she has raised. She asks whether I have had any notification that the Secretary of State for Health plans to make a statement to the House, and my answer is that I know nothing of that.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Many hon. Members will have been interested in the Retirement Income Reform Bill, which I am conducting through the House. Owing to a misprint in the Order Paper, its remaining stages are listed for tomorrow—4 July—but the true position is that it will be considered on Report on 11 July. So I would not want hon. Members to come to the House tomorrow, expecting an exciting time, when they will have to wait until next Friday for that treat.

May I take this opportunity to deal with an issue in relation to the Hunting Bill, which is currently back in Standing Committee? I do not want to open up the arguments about the merits or demerits of the Government's case on hunting, but to draw to the attention of the House and ask your advice about, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the wider abuse of the parliamentary process. Clearly, what is going on Upstairs is not a technical abuse because the House can order its affairs in the way that it chooses, and it has done so, but we are having to deal with a completely rewritten Bill. The Bill that we are discussing Upstairs has very little to do with the Bill that the House considered on Second Reading or in Committee earlier. I accept that the arithmetic—[Interruption.]

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