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Lord Molloy: My Lords, when Dr. Calman, the Government's Chief Medical Officer, has called together the new group of experts—I believe that the Government made the correct decision and that it will be a great satisfaction to many people—and it has reported, will that report be submitted for examination in the House?

Baroness Cumberlege: Yes, my Lords.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that there are many worried parents who probably need immediate counselling and advice on this subject? We welcome some of the terms of reference of the new committee of investigation; but is the Minister aware that the Royal College of Nursing has set up a helpline on this subject which has already received many hundreds of telephone calls? What other action will the Government take to support that kind of proposal, which offers practical help to worried parents at the very moment when they need it?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness knows that we have a very sophisticated system with health visitors and midwives advising young parents on the care of their babies. We have also issued posters to be displayed in GP surgeries and leaflets on this matter. I should like to commend the Royal College of Nursing on its helpline. It has received 3,000 calls and the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths had 4,000 calls. It was a great pity that that particular programme caused so much anxiety and unrest among young parents.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, will the noble Baroness forgive me if I challenge an assertion that she

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made in her Answer? She said that the previous committee conducted a thorough investigation, and that means a comprehensive investigation. I am stating that that committee did not investigate thoroughly the antimony levels in human tissues. That is the issue before us today. That is what we want the expert group to inspect. Will the Minister therefore consider that specific request? It is very important to the outcome of the whole investigation, to the parents and to other people.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the new expert group will do a very thorough job. It will take into account all the points made in the two television programmes. The original group looked into the hypothesis that toxic gases evolved from chemicals in cot mattresses and cot mattress covers, and therefore could have been the cause of sudden infant death syndrome. However, this group will do an even more thorough job.

Iraq: Sanctions

3.20 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they remain unwilling to lift sanctions on Iraq until they are convinced that Saddam Hussein will respect the rights of the Kurds.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, yes. The United Nations has repeatedly made clear to the Iraqi regime that there can be no question of relaxing sanctions until they comply fully with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, is it her opinion that things have improved for the Kurds in the north of Iraq in the past year or is Saddam Hussein still ignoring Resolutions 688 and 712?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No, my Lords. Things have not improved. In his latest report the UN Special Rapporteur commented that there had been no improvement in Iraq's human rights record. Indeed, the situation has deteriorated even further during the past year. But we are all mindful of what needs to be done and are working to try to ensure that it is done.

Lord Ennals: My Lords, several times the Minister expressed concern for the Kurds and confirmed again just now that their situation in northern Iraq is getting worse rather than better. Is it not possible to negotiate some arrangement whereby the Kurds are not doubly disadvantaged by the sanctions? What attempts have the Foreign Office made to seek some sort of exemption for people who are clearly suffering?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, in seeking any sort of exemption, one must be extremely careful to stay within the limits that we have already set of humanitarian goods being able to reach people in the country. Help is already going to the Kurds and in the

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past month new help has been sent to the Iraqis in the south who have been so terribly treated by the Saddam regime. I shall look into the matter to see whether there is any more that we can do. But Britain cannot do it alone. It must be done by the whole international community. Britain is second to none in its efforts to get help to those people.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is it not painfully clear that the position in this part of the world will not be satisfactory so long as Saddam Hussein is there?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend knows that I have agreed with him on this point many times in the past. It is an easier thing to say than it is to obtain. That is why we have done our best to help the Iraqi people to set up the Iraqi National Congress to give strength to those who are determined to fight. I share my noble friend's view that, as long as Saddam Hussein remains, there will not be an appreciable difference, though we can welcome the fact that there has now been at least the Iraqi recognition of Kuwait, which was long overdue. However, we must remain cautious. Only one month before the Iraqis signed up to recognise Kuwait they had been threatening troops on the Kuwaiti border.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, following the question of my noble friend Lord Ennals, does the Minister agree that, while it is right to continue sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime, we owe it to the Kurds to do all we can to mitigate the effects of those sanctions? Can the Minister tell the House whether the aid that the British Government committed to the Kurds in northern Iraq—I understand that it amounts to £4.7 million mainly for medical assistance and village rehabilitation—is reaching those for whom it is destined?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is certainly true that a high proportion of what is sent is reaching the Kurdish people in the north. Since April 1991 the United Kingdom has contributed over £66 million worth of aid and I have just set aside another £8 million of specific aid to help the plight of the Iraqi people, particularly the Kurds, and the Shia Moslems in the south who are also affected. Aid is getting through, though not 100 per cent. We know that soldiers of Saddam's regime make forages into Kurdish villages to obtain what they can. That does not mean that we shall stop operating and trying to get help to the Kurdish people and to the people from the marshes.

Lord Milverton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, while we are remembering the Kurds in northern Iraq, some other Kurds also need to know that we are trying to help them? I refer to the Kurds in Turkey. Can my noble friend say that they are being remembered for assistance as well as those living under Saddam Hussein?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is no specific programme of assistance to Kurdish people in Turkey. They live in a society where we constantly remind the government of the needs of all the people of Turkey. Turkey is not only a member of NATO, but

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also a member of other organisations. If there is deprivation, it must be handled with the Turkish Government, and that we shall seek to do.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us which, in the Government's opinion, is worse in its handling of the Kurdish people—the Iraqi Government or the Turkish Government?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is no comparison between the way in which Saddam Hussein treated innocent Iraqi people—Kurds and Shias—and others who are not Kurds or marsh people. There is no comparison. I am amazed that the noble Lord should ask such a question.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, the noble Baroness is correctly pointing out Saddam Hussein's attitude to anybody who is opposed to him. But is she prepared to accept that those of us who have visited that country and know that what she said is absolutely true also know that some Kurds are in the pay of Saddam Hussein and are willing to betray their fellow Kurds to any innocent western journalist with whom they may be in contact?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, in some isolated circumstances the noble Lord may be right. But the majority of Kurds, particularly those who form the Iraqi National Congress, are fighting for their own people and trying to stabilise the Kurdish parts of Iraq.

Defence Cuts

3.28 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what basis they justify defence cuts of £2.5 billion (in constant prices) between 1993-94 and 1997-98 as announced in a "note to editors" accompanying the Budget Statement of 29th November.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, the 1994 settlement is sufficient to maintain in full the front-line force structures set out in the 1993 and 1994 Defence White Papers. The reductions in the defence budget over this period principally reflect implementation of the final stages of the Options for Change restructuring programme; expected savings from the implementation of Front Line First and the effects of efficiency improvements.

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