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Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, could the Minister clarify whether that information was available to the Butler committee when Mr Scarlett gave evidence?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No, my Lords, I cannot at the moment but I will try to clarify that point and write to the noble Lord accordingly. I shall place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
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The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, asked for assurances that the Government accepted the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we do. He has laid out four ways in which we are moving forward on the report. The one which involves Mr Ehrman as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee has attracted some criticism today. I stress that this is a temporary appointment. The Cabinet Office will make a permanent appointment to take effect during 2005 and that will be done fully in accordance with the criteria of the noble Lord, Lord Butler.

The other points raised by the noble Lord in relation to the operation of important committees discussing such matters as Iraq operating as ad hoc committees of the Cabinet in future, the points about the SIS appointing a senior officer to work through the findings and recommendations of the Butler review, focusing on resourcing and organisation of SIS validation process and the relationship of the intelligence services and the future presentation of the intelligence reports have all been accepted. But I point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in response to her thoughtful contribution, and to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in his spirited contribution, that in respect of machinery of government the noble Lord, Lord Butler, says at paragraph 611:

"Still less"—my emphasis—

I turn to the contributions of the right reverend Prelates. I join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford in his praise of the work of Canon Andrew White and the Iraqi Institute of Peace. Canon White is safe. We have raised the incident with the Interior Ministry in Iraq. I agree with the right reverend Prelate that the work of the institute is a force for unity and healing. I note his point, powerfully expressed, that the future Government of Iraq has to be seen through an Islamic prism, and not solely in western secular terms.

I agree very strongly with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that democracy is not a western luxury. Ask any Iraqi; ask Iraqi women: they want representative and inclusive government. I agreed very strongly with the very strong points made by my noble friend Lord Gilbert in that respect. The right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Portsmouth and of Liverpool were right to remind us in their thoughtful contributions about the overarching nature of Abrahamic faith and the importance of dialogue between faith groups.

I was grateful for the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in relation to the Kurds. I am struck that the Kurdish leaders often express support for our efforts to promote a political process that will ensure free and fair elections for a representative government. I doubt that the noble Lord was able to share all his views on what has
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happened in Iraq with his Kurdish interlocutors. But I point out to him that Kurdish members of the Iraqi Cabinet include six individuals, including the deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and, of course, a vice-president.

Many of your Lordships raised questions on reconstruction, including the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. In relation to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, which was echoed by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, KPMG is currently auditing the development fund for Iraq for the period from 30 January to 28 June 2004. The International Advisory and Monitoring Board is carrying out a special audit of the development fund for Iraq on sole-sourced contracts. The results of those audits will be available shortly, which I hope will answer some of the very important points raised by the noble Baroness.

The main use of the development fund for Iraq money has been to meet recurrent costs under the Iraqi budget, including the running of health and education programmes and paying public sector employees. The noble Lords, Lord Selsdon and Lord Garden, thought that post-war planning had been a failure. The noble Lord, Lord King, asked about achievement in terms of Iraq's future. My noble friend Lord Tomlinson also concentrated his helpful remarks on economic issues.

As regards the economy, sanctions have been lifted and the foundations of a market economy have been laid. There has been a successful country-wide currency exchange from the two currencies under Saddam Hussein to the new Iraqi dinar, which has been a remarkable success. The Central Bank has become independent of government with the task of controlling inflation. The tax system is simplified. The IMF expects growth of 33 per cent this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, was concerned about oil. Crude oil production remains at more than 2 million barrels per day and, security permitting, is on track for reaching 3 million barrels per day by early 2005. Revenues total more than 7.5 billion dollars so far this year, which are primarily used to finance ministry operating budgets. Unemployment is still high but there is a great effort to put money in to create some 500,000 jobs. DfID is providing a further £50 million for a UN job creation programme currently under way in southern Iraq.

Long-term rehabilitation of the energy sector continues. Power generation now exceeds pre-war levels of 4,400 megawatts. Water and sanitation have been improved—I am sure that my noble friend Lord Rea will be pleased to hear that. My noble friend also raised the issue of healthcare. All 240 hospitals are now functioning and the Iraqi Ministry of Health has established 24-hour operation centres to co-ordinate health issues.

Turning to schools, there are 6 million students and 300,000 teachers in more than 20,000 schools. There are 70 million new text books. Transport is improving; the media is flourishing; and, of course, there has been a great deal of work on justice. I have extensive details
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on all those points. I propose to write to all your Lordships who have taken part in today's debate to give further details on those points.

My noble friend Lord Bach, who is in his place beside me, has noted the points made by the noble Lord, Lord King, on pay and tax of the Armed Forces and the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, on service cuts. He will write to them in respect of those issues.

The noble Lord, Lord King, referred to the news blackout. In fact, there was widespread media coverage of the difficulties to which he referred. I regret that the Iraqi Government decided that they wanted to close down Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office for 30 days, which they are reopening tomorrow. We have made clear to the interim government that we think it is very important that there is an open and free press operating in Iraq.

My noble friend Lord Judd raised points in relation to casualties. It is only fair to say to my noble friend that I hope he was not ascribing to the Government any lack of compassion on those issues. We seek at all times to minimise the impact of military action on civilians and of course to avoid civilian casualties, but there are no reliable figures for Iraqi civilian casualties not because we do not care, but because so far it has proved impossible to collect them. I shall be frank and say that I regret that enormously. I believe that it is a shortcoming that needs urgently to be remedied.

The noble Lord, Lord Owen, raised a number of points about the FCO's United Nations department. I shall write to him on those, but I do assure him that things are not quite as dreadful as perhaps he has been led to believe.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and, I am pleased to say, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, all spoke about the legal basis for war. The noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Goodhart, know that we have discussed these issues over and over again. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Truscott for his lucid and accurate account of this issue. However, let us be clear. Nothing I found in the Butler report calls into question the legality of the war. The view of the Attorney-General that the military action taken in Iraq was lawful remains his view, as it was then. The Government have acted in accordance with his advice at all times.

On the question of the publication of legal advice raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I hope that he will agree that the Government have put more into the public domain than has ever been done before on an issue of this nature. Equally as unprecedented is our openness over publishing intelligence, much as my noble friend Lord Gilbert may regret that, and as unprecedented as the vote in the Commons before we committed our troops.

The noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, was concerned that the conflict in Iraq diverts attention from the Middle East. I recognise that concern, but I can assure him that it has not diverted my attention,
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although I suspect that that is not quite enough to satisfy the noble Lord. I look forward to his tabling a debate on these issues so that I can bring the House up to date on the Middle East peace process. I look forward also to pursuing the points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon.

To be frank with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, there are many in the Middle East who are really delighted to see the back of Saddam Hussein. They believe that the coalition was right to ensure his demise. It is the Middle East conflict that remains the principal source of anger and frustration in the region—or at least that is what I have found during my recent very extensive travels in the area.

What I find remarkable about many of the contributions to the debate has been the way in which so few noble Lords have mentioned the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. In asking us to consider the alternatives to military action, some noble Lords have asked us to believe that more time would have made a difference. However, do noble Lords really believe that? We know already about 259 mass graves, and the 300,000 bodies in those graves.

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