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Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend is very experienced in having to deal with secessionist nationalist parties that have completely unrealistic objectives such as the break-
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up of a sovereign state. The way to deal with such a situation is the one that, sensibly, we have in this country.

I can reassure my hon. Friend about the way in which we are dealing with those secessionist tendencies. Like every previous relevant Security Council resolution, resolution 1546 reaffirms the territorial integrity of Iraq—its existing borders. Democracy is about giving people freedom—freedom to argue for any cause that they wish to support—and that is what these people have done. International borders, however, cannot be rewritten by any political party of any one country, and they will not be in this case. The future of Iraq's constitution must lie within the existing international borders.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement. Obviously one wishes Iraq a peaceful future, and he rightly mentioned all the hundreds of thousands who died under the Ba'athist regime in the past. However, in answering the questions from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin), he did not make clear exactly what was the estimated number of casualties in Iraq since the invasion. How many died in Falluja? Indeed, how many tens of thousands of people who are resident in Falluja have been denied the right to return to their own city, and are living in camps under some form of control? Surely, if we are to have openness and transparency, we need to know what estimates his Department and the Ministry of Defence hold of exactly how many people have perished since the invasion.

Mr. Straw: I published a very detailed written ministerial statement in, I think, October, and I will send my hon. Friend a copy.

My hon. Friend speaks as if the casualties that have arisen since the end of the major military action in April 2003 had somehow just happened. The only reason they happened was action by the terrorists. I look forward to the moment when my hon. Friend decides to condemn those terrorists. They are the people who have been doing the killing, and in the many provinces where there has been no terrorism there has been no killing. I think the moral of that is very clear.

Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): The process of the election has indeed been very successful, and I think we can all welcome that, but whether the election has been successful per se is for history to judge, perhaps three or four years down the line.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that transparency must be at the heart of this? We want to avoid suggestions like those that were made after the Ukrainian elections, when it was said—perhaps erroneously—that western political participation funds had been used in a very partisan way. Should not the way in which the £5 million that the Government contributed to the Iraqi political participation fund was disbursed be published, so that everyone can see that it was given out fairly?

Mr. Straw: All the political parties in Iraq were operating under the Iraqi election law, and under the auspices of the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq.
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I am afraid that we must make a judgment about the elections not in three or four years' time but, as we make judgments about our own elections, when the results appear and, in this case, when the observers' findings appear. What we know now is that the turnout was much higher than expected, and the evidence so far suggests that the incidence of electoral abuse was much lower than expected. The legitimacy of the elections is therefore likely to be much greater than expected, and that should be a cause for great celebration.

Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend also pay tribute to the Iraqis in Britain who took part in the election activity over the weekend? Admittedly they did not have to demonstrate their physical courage like millions of Iraqis in Iraq, but they demonstrated their courage over decades, in many ways, when they were persecuted into exile by Saddam Hussein. Friends of mine were working on the election over the weekend, and I can testify to their passionate commitment to the democratic process.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the politics of the diaspora are important here, as elsewhere? Will he do what he can to build on the connections, and ensure that Britain's Iraqi community feel able to be involved, in whatever way possible, in building and deepening democracy in Iraq?

Mr. Straw: Yes to the first question, and yes, very much, to the second.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that an important task for us all now is to support the brave men and women who were elected to the Assembly yesterday? When I visited Basra in December with other members of the Defence Committee, one of the points made by the provincial governor and council was that to travel to the United Kingdom they had to journey to Baghdad for travel documents. Will my right hon. Friend look at providing further facilities to our excellent consulate in Basra, where Simon Collis is consul-general, so that individuals who want to come to this country do not have to travel to Baghdad to get the documents and can have them issued in Basra?

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend raises a fair point and I will certainly look at it.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): We will have to wait only a short while before the new
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Iraqi Government and the new Iraqi Parliament express their views about the withdrawal of troops. I hope that, however uncomfortable their decision is, considered from different points of view, it is accepted and acted upon because it will be a democratic decision.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many commentators are saying that this is the most democratic election in Iraq for 50 years? I was there 50 years ago and it was a feudal monarchical regime that merely had a democratic cover. These are the most democratic elections that have ever been held in the history of Iraq, imperfect as they are and despite all the difficulties that are associated with them. That is an extra reason why we should accept the decisions made by the new Iraqi Government and the new Iraqi Parliament.

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend's intervention speaks for itself and shows the wisdom of his age and of British national service.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): While the people were courageous, is not the reality that this was an election but not as we know it? No press were allowed, for example, in Falluja. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq was not independent. It was appointed not by Iraqis but by Paul Bremer. However, if the election does have legitimacy, as the Secretary of State says, and if the coalition around Ayatollah Ali Sistani wins, as is expected, will not most Iraqis have voted for a timetable for the foreign troops to leave? If so, should not those foreign countries, us and the United States, respect that decision in the name of freedom and democracy and set that timetable to leave?

Mr. Straw: I say gently to my hon. Friend that I am surprised at his discomfort about the excellent result of the election. I have already spelt out that there is widespread acknowledgment that it has gone much better than expected. It is simply untrue that the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq was appointed by Paul Bremer. It was endorsed by the United Nations and is working under the auspices of the United Nations special representative in respect of elections, Carlos Valenzuela, and the authority laid down in resolution 1546. The degree of scrutiny and external supervision of the elections, including 55,000 internal observers in Iraq and 120 foreign observers, indicates the quality of the elections in the special and very difficult circumstances of Iraq itself.
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Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] (Programme) (No. 2)

4.28 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): I beg to move,

      '1.   The Bill shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House.

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