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4.6 p.m.

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on Iraq being made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place. The Statement is as follows:

    "This reflects fully the undertakings given by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Bush at their Hillsborough meeting on 8th April.

    "I will set out for the House the main points in this draft resolution and, in the course of that, deal with a number of questions which have been raised about it. Before I do so, I should report briefly on the situation in Iraq itself.

    "After almost a quarter of a century of brutal, authoritarian rule in Iraq, creating a free and secure society was always going to take time. Barely a month has passed since the regime fell. Today, the security situation varies in different parts of the country. The UN regards the south as safe enough for UN agencies to operate, albeit with significant

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    precautions. The situation is improving in the north. In other areas, including Baghdad, the situation is unsatisfactory. There are still too many cases of violence and lawlessness. Establishing security within the rule of law is the coalition's first priority.

    "Let me now deal with the humanitarian situation. Supplies under the Oil for Food programme are getting through. The World Food Programme has supplies in the pipeline until September. There are no reports of widespread food shortages. We are urgently tackling the lack of access to drinking water, a problem which has blighted the lives of Iraqis for many years. Urgent efforts continue to provide adequate medical supplies and equipment to Iraq's hospitals.

    "The reports of 16 cases of cholera in Basra are a matter of concern, although fortunately there have been no deaths. To put this in perspective, cholera is endemic in southern Iraq at this time of year. Work is continuing to improve water and sanitation facilities, and DfID has positioned in Kuwait cholera kits for 11,000 cases to be used by the WHO as required.

    "The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) is there to tackle the huge task of restoring civil administration. Increasing numbers of Iraqi public servants are now returning to their jobs. However, results in the early weeks have not been as good as we would have hoped. I therefore welcome the appointment of Ambassador Bremer to ORHA. Working alongside Major General Tim Cross and 40 British secondees, he will bring fresh impetus to ORHA's effort.

    "On the political front, we have already seen evidence of the exercise of the new-found religious and political freedoms in Iraq. I welcome the peaceful return to Iraq from Iran at the weekend of the Shia religious leader, Ayatollah Hakim, and of other religious and political leaders. The meetings of Iraqi representatives in Nasiriya on 15th April and in Baghdad on 28th April mark the start of a process of bringing together a national conference in which all Iraq's regions and ethnic and religious groups are represented in order to select an Iraqi interim authority. This body, which will comprise both political figures and technocrats, will progressively take on responsibilities for the administration of Iraq as a whole.

    "We hope that the national conference can be held within the next few weeks. In order to assist the process, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has appointed a senior British diplomat—John Sawers, our ambassador in Cairo—as the Government's special representative to Iraq. His task is to work with United States representatives and a wide range of Iraqi people to ensure an open process leading to a representative interim Iraqi authority. In the few days he has been in Baghdad, Mr Sawers has already met a number of leading Iraqi political figures. I am also pleased to tell the House that last week we opened an office in

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    Baghdad—on the site of our former embassy—headed by Christopher Segar, who was deputy head of mission when the British embassy closed in 1991.

    "I turn now to the draft SCR. The United Kingdom and the United States fully accept our responsibilities under the Geneva Convention and Hague regulations. This point is explicitly recognised in the draft resolution. Neither the Secretary-General nor members of the Security Council are proposing that the UN should run Iraq. But we are all concerned to ensure that the UN plays a vital role in post-conflict Iraq.

    "The draft resolution gives the United Nations the full opportunity to play that role. It does not deal with every issue. It concentrates on the points which need to be settled now for the benefit of the people of Iraq. It sets out important principles for the future of Iraq, including territorial integrity and disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.

    "The resolution also provides, in operative paragraph 5, for member states to prohibit trade in or transfer of looted cultural artefacts. The three key issues in the resolution are: first, the role of a UN special co-ordinator and the associated political process; secondly, the lifting of sanctions and the creation of a new Iraq assistance fund to target resources on the reconstruction of Iraq; and thirdly, arrangements for the sale of oil and the handling of oil revenues.

    "Operative paragraph 8 of the resolution sets out a substantial mandate for a UN special co-ordinator to play a full part in all aspects of post-Iraq activity from humanitarian efforts through economic reconstruction, human rights, rebuilding police capacity, promoting legal and judicial reform, and, crucially, the political process.

    "On the latter point, the draft provides that the special co-ordinator should work with the occupying powers and those assisting them (defined collectively in the resolution as "The Authority") for the,

    "restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance".

Operative paragraph 9 states that it,

    "supports the formation, by the people of Iraq with the help of the Authority and working with the Special Co-ordinator, of an Iraqi Interim Authority as a transitional administration run by Iraqis until a permanent government is established by the Iraqi people".

    "Like all drafts, this one is open to improvement and we are discussing it constructively with our Security Council partners. But the mandate in this draft would give the UN the scope it needs to play its full role in all aspects of post-conflict Iraq. One of the reasons I would like to see this resolution passed quickly is to enable a UN special co-ordinator to get cracking on the ground as soon as possible.

    "The second key issue is the lifting of sanctions and the creation of a new Iraqi assistance fund. Economic sanctions relate to Iraq's past and now need to be removed. Operative paragraph 10 provides that all sanctions are lifted with the sole exception of the arms embargo.

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    "Ending the economic sanctions regime requires new arrangements for dealing with Iraqi revenues. The wording in this resolution is designed to ensure that all funds from Iraqi oil revenues can be used quickly and effectively for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

    "The draft resolution gives the Secretary-General authority for a period of four months from its passage to ensure the delivery of priority civilian goods under contracts already approved and for which funding has been allocated. This pipeline amounts to some 10 billion dollars.

    "Remaining funds in the existing escrow account will be transferred to a new Iraqi assistance fund. This will also receive funds from two other sources; that is, revenues from the sale of oil and funds of the former regime frozen by banks outside Iraq since 1990 under successive UN resolutions.

    "The IAF will therefore rapidly become the primary source of money for the development of Iraq. The funds will be disbursed by the authority in consultation with the IIA.

    "The resolution is specific about the purposes for which the money can be spent. Operative paragraph 13 spells out that,

    "the funds should be used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, for the economic reconstruction and repair of Iraq's infrastructure, for the continued disarmament of Iraq, and for the costs of indigenous civilian administration and for other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq".

The assistance fund will be subject to an international advisory board including representatives of the UN Secretary-General, the IMF and the World Bank, and will be audited by independent public accountants chosen by this board and not by the coalition.

    "The third issue is the control of oil sales. Operative paragraph 18 requires that sales shall be made,

    "consistent with prevailing international market practices",

that they will be audited by independent public accountants reporting to the international advisory board, and that the funds will go to the Iraqi assistance fund, except for a percentage which will go to the UN Compensation Commission for claims relating to the previous Gulf War.

    "On weapons of mass destruction, a letter to the Security Council, and annexed to the resolution, stresses the importance of this objective. Dr Blix himself has recognised that the situation is not right at present for UNMOVIC to return—a point I was able to make to the House in a Statement on 28th April. Separate arrangements may therefore be needed to provide international validation. So the role of UNMOVIC in Iraq is not an issue which needs to be dealt with in this resolution, although we may need to address it in later resolutions.

    "In the interests of the people of Iraq, the sponsors of the resolution will be working for its early adoption. It is not a take it or leave it text. Negotiations will be necessary. But from my discussions with Foreign Ministers of the Security

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    Council members, I find a strong political will to get the UN back into the business of helping build a better future for Iraq. This draft resolution gives the UN that important role".

My Lords, that completes the Statement.

4.20 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we are all extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating this long and full Statement, of which many aspects will require further careful study. Perhaps I may also take the opportunity personally to express my pleasure, as have other noble Lords, at the new position of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. Although it grieves me to say so from the Opposition Front Bench, there is no doubt that the Government now have a uniquely powerful international team. I think we all feel honoured by that.

This change of position and promotion has come at a crucial moment. Although it is neither entirely clear to us why the previous development Secretary went, nor what Clare Short understood to be the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction, it is clear that those are both entirely relevant matters. It would be interesting to learn at some stage, although perhaps not today, whether assurances about a UN mandate were or were not given to Ms Short. There appears to be a straight division of views on that point.

However, that is not the only matter which is unclear. The role of the UN, about which the Statement has much to say, at earlier stages had been said to be vital, but, after having read the details of the draft resolution, that role is still a little ambiguous. It all depends on what is meant by the word "vital". In this context, does it mean "leading", or just helping through the various agencies, with the many detailed proposals set out in the Statement?

A further aspect not touched on, although it is one which might be said not to be the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, concerns the remarkable recent changes in the American team. Given that we and the Americans are intimate partners in this whole enterprise, why has Barbara Bodine suddenly been recalled after only three weeks? That is a very short time indeed. Were the British Government consulted about it? Were they told the true story behind that development? Furthermore, where does General Garner now fit in with the new supremo, Ambassador Bremer? How does his arrival fit in with the plan for the interim authority to be set up and encouraged to get going by the end of this month? How affected are the plans for the interim authority, which presumably are being pressed very fast despite the changes being made at the top, by the return of Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, the ayatollah mentioned in the Statement, where he is welcomed? Will he be a part of the interim authority?

I turn now to humanitarian issues. There were full plans for civilian order and facilities to be restored, but it is clear that they are not yet in place. We were given detailed assurances that preparations were fully in place, but as the Statement candidly says,

    "the results have not been as good as we would have hoped".

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We would all admit that everything happened faster in Baghdad than the gurus and the experts said. They told us that a siege could last for months, although of course there has been no prolonged siege. As Tim Cross remarked in a newspaper article, the script has moved much more quickly than anyone had expected. But, some five weeks after the end of fighting, we are still receiving reports that the lights are not yet on, policing is not yet operative, running water systems are not working, hospitals are under-equipped, rubbish is not being collected, raw sewage runs in the streets; it was acknowledged in the Statement that cholera has broken out in Basra, while criminal gangs roam freely. However generous one's interpretation and however brilliant was the military operation, it seems a long time since the brave Hillsborough declaration to the effect that there would be rapid delivery of the necessary humanitarian assistance. While some of this may be inevitable—after a war there is always chaos—it is a pity that plans were not put in place to deal with these aspects a little more swiftly.

I turn now to the draft resolution mentioned in the Statement. Has the issue of the legal ownership of oil lifted from Iraq now been clarified? If it has, then that is very good news. However, reports still talk of vast complications surrounding the issue of lifting and the claims of Iraq's former debtors for any of the proceeds from oil revenues.

Can we also have clarification of the reports today that the weapons of mass destruction expert task force is to be withdrawn from Iraq? If those reports are true, it is very difficult to understand why that should be the case. I hope that it does not indicate that the search for weapons of mass destruction is now being given up. If it does, then some serious explanation will be needed as to why so much emphasis was put on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in justifying the campaign in the first place. It was an emphasis which I believed, and said so at the time, to be a mistake.

Lastly, have the Government remembered that modern states work in partnership not only at governmental level, but in a thousand other ways through non-governmental organisations, educational exchanges and many other voluntary and independent efforts? Are plans being laid to open up co-operation on the rebuilding of Iraq not only between the United States and the United Kingdom, but also with other nations such as, for instance, Japan, which stands in readiness and which has vast experience of overseas development that it is willing to share? I mention also, of course, the neighbouring Arab states, as well as the Iraqi people themselves, who must be involved in the rebuilding of their damaged nation. I would greatly value the Minister's response to some of those questions.

4.26 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for repeating the Statement made in another place. I wish also to echo the congratulations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on the promotion of the

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noble Baroness, Lady Amos. She has been a marvellous Minister in this House and has built a sound reputation in those parts of the world in which she has worked so extensively and with such success. We are all delighted to see her promotion.

I shall start, as did the noble Lord, Lord Howell, by saying that the Statement leaves a great many questions to be put to the Government. For reasons of time I shall seek to be as concise as possible. Perhaps I may say, first, that there must be real concerns about the role of the United Nations as set out in the Statement. For example, we understand that a special representative is to be appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, but it is not clear what powers that gentleman or lady will have. References in the draft resolution almost all refer to "co-ordinating", "bringing together" and so forth. But the general impression is that the powers will be substantially less than those conferred on Mr Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan. Will the Minister be kind enough to tell us in what ways the powers of the Iraq special representative will be different from those of Mr Brahimi? It does not look as though he or she will have a central role.

Further in regard to the United Nations and weapons of mass destruction, to which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred, I share his profound concerns. We understand that the US team is to withdraw within the next couple of weeks, while the Statement says rather vaguely that there is no particular point in talking about the role of UNMOVIC, despite the fact that only two weeks ago, the chief inspector, Dr Hans Blix, said that:

    "We could return within two weeks, if asked".

Is the real problem here that the security of the inspectors is in doubt? If that is the case, why cannot steps be taken to protect them along the lines suggested, for example, by the Carnegie Endowment? However, if that is not the case, then why are not the inspectors being brought back to Iraq to confirm the discoveries that so far have not been made with regard to weapons of mass destruction? This point needs to be made loud and clear: without such validation by internationally respected inspectors, the world will simply not believe any claims that may be made by the coalition, however justified those claims may be. That is even more the case given that Dr Blix himself has cast doubt on some of the intelligence reported over the course of the war which subsequently has been found to be, to say the least, very unstable as a basis for the resulting declarations.

I share the deep concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about the present situation of civilians in Iraq. While I do not wish to go over all the Statements that have been made—although the noble Lord was right to point out that we have been told repeatedly that provisions and the basis on which the peace could be won had been put in place—I wish to put a further question. Now that we know how serious is the situation, why does there appear to be no way, for example, to send in emergency teams of engineers—as was mentioned earlier at Question Time—and why cannot the police force be asked to second people to

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Iraq in the same way as was done long ago for Anguilla, Grenada and other parts of the world? It also took place to a great extent in Sierra Leone—and for that I pay full tribute to the troops involved—where lawlessness was quickly dealt with by the British Army and guerrilla forces brought under control. Are steps being taken to deal with this extremely unfortunate situation as quickly as possible? Today's International Herald Tribune states that "Lawlessness is pervasive" and refers, in particular, to the serious situation in Baghdad where large parts of the city are in a state of anarchy.

It is difficult to envisage the Iraq interim authority having the powers it should have unless there is some kind of United Nations validation. Having looked quickly through the resolution, I cannot see any position given to the UN to validate the Iraq interim authority. To put it bluntly—I returned from the United States only last night—that interim authority is now the subject of extreme divisions between the different departments of government in the United States. It is widely speculated there that divisions between the State Department and the Pentagon have already shown up in some of the changes referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in regard to the administration of a peace-making system in Iraq.

The Statement refers to the Iraq assistance fund and the way in which the revenues of Iraq's oil industry will be put into that fund. What then is the role of Halliburton, which received a contract for dealing with oil well fires, of which there are almost none, and oil well break-downs, of which there appear to be few, and which has subsequently moved on to obtaining a substantial contract for the pumping and distribution of Iraqi oil? How is this compatible with the Prime Minister's statement that oil revenues will be put in trust for the Iraqi people. What exactly is the relationship of Halliburton to the Iraq assistance fund and to the Iraq interim authority? Will its contract come under the control of the interim authority once it is recognised?

Extremely serious questions are raised by the Statement. I have no doubt that the Government are doing their best but some of the issues about who is responsible, who is accountable—and to whom—have not been answered. They raise extremely serious questions about how the peace is to be sustained in Iraq.

4.32 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for the way in which they have dealt with the Statement. I join with them in rejoicing at the new position of my noble friend Lady Amos. She is uniquely well prepared for this excellent new appointment. I rejoice not only for my noble friend but for the House. It is a very good thing that there is a Secretary of State from your Lordships' House. She is much to be congratulated on that.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised questions about the vital role of the UN which was referred to in the Statement made by my right

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honourable friend in another place. In paragraph 11 of the Statement my right honourable friend points out that,

    "Neither the Secretary-General nor members of the Security Council are proposing that the UN should run Iraq. But we are all concerned to ensure that the UN plays a vital role in post-conflict Iraq".

We have discussed this issue on a number of previous occasions but it is important to note that at no point has it been suggested that the United Nations itself could run post-conflict Iraq—an agency will carry out that task—but it should be the authority under which such activities take place.

Three key issues in the draft resolution are debated in paragraph 13 of my right honourable friend's Statement. First, the role of the UN special co-ordinator, about which further points have been raised and to which I shall return; secondly, the lifting of sanctions; and, thirdly, the arrangements for the sale of oil. Your Lordships have concentrated on all of those issues during previous questions.

Not all noble Lords will have a copy of the draft resolution but it is spelt out in operative paragraph 8 that the Secretary-General's special co-ordinator's responsibilities will involve co-ordinating activities of the United Nations in post-conflict processes in Iraq, co-ordinating among UN and international agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction activities. It then lists nine different areas, including co-ordination of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance; support for the safe, orderly and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons; working with the authority and the people of Iraq with respect to the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions. There are nine specified points of co-ordination which go a substantial way to answering the noble Baroness's pertinent points on that issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked what was happening on the United States side and about the recall—as it has been described in the press—of Ambassador Bodine. As the noble Lord will appreciate, that is a matter for the United States Government. I have no further details of the circumstances in which the decision was taken.

Jay Garner's role as the head of ORHA continues. His role on the political side is mirrored by Zalmay Khalilzad. The role of Ambassador Bremer is to bring together the political side and the reconstruction side of American activities and, as I understand it, in doing so he will report to Mr Rumsfeld and not to General Franks. I hope that adds a little more substance to what is happening on the American side.

I remind your Lordships that we now have the valuable presence of our, until very recently, ambassador in Cairo, John Sawers, an Arab expert who will bring valuable advice and expertise to the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked me about the assurances given to Clare Short. As your Lordships can imagine, I was not party to any conversations. However, I can tell the House that every action taken in Iraq is consistent with what we have said about the

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role of the United Nations and in accordance with legal advice. That is the basis on which we have operated in discussing the United Nations Security Council resolution. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has expressed his thanks to Clare Short for the valuable work she carried out in the Department for International Development. We can safely say that she raised the profile of aid on the international agenda. She has been a recognisable and very formidable figure on the international scene in relation to aid.

It is quite true—the Statement is unequivocal—that matters on the ground in Iraq have not worked out as well as we had hoped. However, we should look on the positive side of the Statement made by my right honourable friend. There is now access to power and water in 80 per cent of Iraq. Although there are still security problems—about which we have made no secret—they are largely problems of crime and looting. I do not say that those are not serious problems, but they are not so much on the military side.

The noble Baroness made an important point about getting reinforcements to deal with these issues and I agree that we should try to improve expertise. With the additional personnel we are sending to ORHA, which will bring the United Kingdom strength there up to some 40 civil servants collected from around Whitehall, and with the presence of Mr Sawers, we should be able to better target the real needs of the Iraqi people and decide where we can best get added value, whether bilaterally or through EU agencies or United Nations agencies. The noble Baroness has made a valid point which goes to the heart of the advice we expect to receive from Mr Sawers.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the question of the legal ownership of the oil in Iraq. Again, that issue is addressed in the United Nations draft resolution. As did my right honourable friend in another place, I stress that the resolution is a matter for discussion. As he says, no draft resolution has ever been brought to the table that cannot be improved with negotiation. But with paragraph 9 supporting the formation, with the help of the authority and working with the special co-ordinator, of an Iraqi interim authority as a transitional administration, we see the beginnings of moving towards ensuring that Iraqi oil is not only owned by but administered by an Iraqi authority.

Of course it is terribly important that these questions continue to be addressed. We are in an evolving situation and I hope your Lordships will agree that my right honourable friend has been assiduous in bringing forward Statements as and when each new step is taken. No doubt we shall hear more on that in relation to operative paragraph 9.

I understand that the reports of the weapons of mass destruction taskforce are misleading. It is not being run down and those statements have not had any real basis in what is happening on the ground. I hope that we will be able to give your Lordships more information about that. I think the Statement addresses the point about the weapons of mass destruction inspectorate. The noble Baroness felt that it could have been more forthcoming in this respect, but the Statement is

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specifically about the draft resolution in front of the Security Council now. That matter is not addressed here, although, as my right honourable friend's Statement makes clear, it may be covered by future resolutions.

I am always rather afraid when the noble Baroness returns from one of her visits to Washington; she comes back armed with all sort of information and points she wants to raise. It is no secret that there has been a difference in emphasis between the Pentagon and the State Department. We all find, whatever part of government we come from, that different emphases arise. The point is that government should co-ordinate properly across the board. In the changes to ORHA and the arrival of Ambassador Bremer, we have seen the coming together of the two sides, if I can put it that way, from the United States. The points made by the noble Lord about international co-operation being crucial are very well taken.

The only other point is to do with the question raised by the role of Halliburton. I am afraid I shall have to write to the noble Baroness about its role. As I understand it, the oil revenues are not being administered by Halliburton; it is looking at the mechanics of getting the oil out of the ground and not at the issues of the dispersal of funds which arise from the oil revenues. However, the noble Baroness has raised a question which is causing a bit of concern. I shall write to her with any further information that I can raise and put a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

4.43 p.m.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, in all honesty, to tell us that the internal situation in Iraq is not as good as we would have hoped is a gross understatement? Despite repeated warnings over many months that the post-military phase would be a good deal more difficult, it becomes more and more apparent that there has been far too little thought and preparation given to this phase by the alliance. As my noble friend on the Front Bench summed up very clearly, we are faced with a lawless mess, with Barbara Bodine recalled after three weeks and General Garner downgraded after such a short time. Surely Mr. David Kay, the former chief inspector of nuclear weapons in Iraq, was right in refusing to take the job which General Garner subsequently took. He complained that the organisation was not sufficiently interested in promoting democracy and that it was under-financed and poorly staffed. Are not the chickens coming home to roost?

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