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Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): I have three reflections to make on the debate.

It is helpful to consider how this all started. In the second or third debate after 11 September, I remember getting very angry because Conservative Members were then suggesting that we should perhaps attack other countries rather than just going into Afghanistan. I said at the time that an invasion of Iraq would be wrong. However, support for broadening the scope of the attacks came from more than just the odd Conservative Back Bencher. Conservatives launched a broad attack on the Government, saying that they were not doing a proper job because they were not backing America—not fully behind Uncle Sam. They argued that we should support Uncle Sam whatever he wanted to do. If the Government made the mistake of thinking that they would easily persuade the House of the case for a war in Iraq, they did so because they were not just helped but pushed into taking that stance by the official Opposition.

The Secretary of State for Defence spoke at length about contractors and gave a long list of all the good works—much good work has certainly taken place—and projects that have been completed.

I noticed one significant omission—the electricity supply—which surprised me. The oil supply was not mentioned, either. I was part of the armed forces parliamentary group that visited Basra a year ago. We saw at first hand how important it was to get the electricity supply up and running. It is not simply a case of providing electricity so that people can turn on lights and watch television. Electricity is not an optional extra for Iraqis; it is an essential. The water is not necessarily safe to drink and has to be boiled, which is generally done on an electric ring. Without electricity, the Iraqis have to scavenge timber, which we saw when we were there, so that they can make a fire to boil the water so that it is safe. They were so desperate to find wood that they went to the munitions stores and emptied mortar shells out of wooden boxes and on to the ground so that they could have the wood to boil their water.
 
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I hope that, in his response, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will remedy that omission and give us a full detailed briefing on the electricity supply. In particular, perhaps he can tell us what repairs have been undertaken, and to which power stations. The one thing that puzzled me when we were there was that no work was being done on the power stations, which were designed and constructed by the Russians. Surely we could have said to the Russians, "Why don't you come and help repair the power stations? You've got the parts. It's all your technology. You can get them up and running fast."

When we left the country, the contracts had not been let. Indeed, I do not think they were let until the end of last year. It will be interesting to know how many of the power stations are up and running. To complicate matters, the Russian design is complex. It is based on interlinked power stations and it only takes one of them to be down to have a knock-on effect on the others. So getting just one up and running is not enough. They all have to be got working to an extent to guarantee the electricity supply.

Why was there a delay in granting those contracts? Perhaps one of our problems is that we have lost the peace and have spent a long time trying to put in the resources necessary to build the infrastructure. There is a lack of planning. Last September, we asked Ministers from the Department for International Development about the number of police who were in Iraq to help. At that time, I think we had managed to send two police officers out to help build up the police force. Even though that is now being done, the fact is that valuable time was wasted—yet we wonder why we are struggling with the peace today.

We have heard much about the abuse of prisoners. What is remarkable about the Secretary of State's remarks earlier today; about the response by the Minister of State to questions asked by myself and others last Thursday; about the Prime Minister's response to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) on Wednesday; and about the debate at the beginning of last week is that whenever the abuse of prisoners is raised, Ministers' reply is, "We knew all about it. It's okay. We didn't need to see the report. It was all being dealt with." The questions are not simply about what is happening in the British-controlled area, but about what the Government knew about the abuses carried out by the Americans. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can categorically tell us when the Government were advised of abuses by American forces in their detention centres. When the Government became aware of those abuses, what did they do? The Minister of State said:

We heard the "we" word from the Secretary of State: "We are doing this, we are doing that, jointly, as the coalition."

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a coalition is occupying Iraq and has command? There is an administrator and a British
 
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deputy administrator, both of whom apparently did or did not see, and did or did not read, the report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Richard Younger-Ross: Yes, it is a coalition. That is why the Secretary of State used the "we" word. In the light of that, why did the Minister of State say that he would not respond to questions on what the British knew about the American abuses? If we knew about those and the Minister is concerned, as he stated in Hansard he was, how were those concerns expressed to the Americans? Was there a memo? Was there a telephone call in which someone said, "George, what's going on? There's something wrong. Can you let us know?" Perhaps the Under-Secretary will advise us on that.

6.15 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): May I have this opportunity to talk quietly on one subject to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs? It is about America. There are two Americas, whatever the Foreign Secretary said, and the view of one on this subject is very different from the view of the other. I spent the past 16 days not in Washington, which is a sort of cauldron, but in the middle west, in Kentucky, Missouri and Kansas, where there has been a tectonic shift—I think that that is the expression—in opinion. I do not know what information the Foreign Office is getting from its embassy in Washington, although the ambassador was one of the architects of the policy on Iraq, but there is a striking change of opinion in the middle west. It is not only the American dead who are coming back, but a massive number of those who have been wounded, either severely or not so severely, and who have possibly been saved by the skills of modern medicine, whereas in previous wars they would have died. The numbers are significant.

There is also growing and massive discontent in the United States about those who have been sent to Iraq who are members not of the regular forces, but of the national guard. They never thought that they would see service outside Oklahoma, Nevada or wherever. Those people—untrained—are being sent into the blistering heat and difficult, edgy conditions. Those of us who have been in the services can imagine what it must be like, and my heart goes out to the troops.

Much has been said about how we should stay the course. I just wonder whether the Americans will stay the course. I do not normally quote from newspapers in the House, but on the plane coming back I saw the Saturday leader in The New York Times. Under the headline "America Adrift in Iraq", it states:

Many others in the United States are far more critical than we in Britain have seen them to be. They have watched interrogations by Senator Kennedy and Senator Carl Levin. One gets the feeling in the United States that they are not going to last the course.
 
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It is my candid view that we must get out as soon as possible. If I am asked by the Government Chief Whip or anyone else why I am voting for the Liberal Democrat motion, it is simply because I listened carefully to every speech in the debate.

6.19 pm

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): It is a matter of record that I am one of only two Members who has served in Northern Ireland as a Minister for over six years. During that time, particularly when I was the Minister responsible for security, I had the opportunity to observe closely the work of the British Army, and I yield to none in my admiration for the work that they do. I saw them when they were fighting, and I saw them relating to local people who did not want them to be there.

I say that by way of background to the two points that I want to make. I stand in this debate as someone who has become very confused. I take comfort from the fact that I am probably a pretty good representative of the people in that regard. I want to pinpoint two confusions, both of a fundamental nature, because until they are resolved it is difficult to envisage the nation gathering together around a policy.

The first confusion is that we are now being told that we went into Iraq to get rid of a bad man. There is no debate about the fact that Saddam Hussein is a very, very, very bad man, so to the extent that that is true, there is some substance to the statement. Yet I do not ever remember a debate in the House in which we were asked, "If we are going to go to war to get rid of a bad man, who votes for Saddam Hussein, and who else might we consider having a go at?" My personal view is that, had there been such a debate, Robert Mugabe would have been pretty high on the list, but there was no such debate. So to be told now that what we are really doing in Iraq is getting rid of a bad man adds a layer of confusion to public opinion, but the Government do not appear to understand the confusion that they are creating.


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