HC Deb 30 October 1990 vol 178 cc855-7
4. Mr. Roy Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the latest estimated cost of British forces in the Gulf to the end of the financial year.

Mr. Tom King

The full operating costs of the operation in the Gulf to the end of the financial year are, in current circumstances, expected to exceed £600 million.

Mr. Hughes

Whatever the cost, will the Secretary of State ensure that it is not paid for in human lives? Will he stress to all concerned the need for patience, to give sanctions a full opportunity to work? Will he also seek to ensure, bearing in mind public opinion, that no pre-emptive strike is made by forces under United States command?

Mr. King

We are seeking to end Iraq's aggression by peaceful means, which is why we, together with many other countries, are throwing our efforts fully behind the United Nations embargo. In that way, we hope that the aggression can be ended without conflict. But, as was said by the leader of the hon. Gentleman's party, the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), in our debate on the Gulf crisis, it would be extremely unwise to discard the military option. It is important that the message is borne in every day on Saddam Hussein that, one way or another, he will lose. His understanding of that reality offers the best hope of the matter being settled peacefully.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

In view of the fact that the Treasury funded the Falklands conflict separately from the defence budget, what success is my right hon. Friend having in persuading the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a similar arrangement in meeting the cost of our troops in the Gulf?

Mr. King

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury for their help. I made it clear that we do not know at this stage precisely what will be the additional cost over our continuing defence budget, but I outlined the gross cost in answering the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes). I have made it clear to my right hon. Friends that we shall seek to cover what we can in the defence budget, but they have assured me of their sympathetic consideration of the extra costs involved in our essential defence of freedom and our stand with other allies against aggression.

Mr. Denzil Davies

We are pleased that the Secretary of State can meet the extra cost from within his existing budget.

Mr. King

indicated dissent.

Mr. Davies

Or if not, that the right hon. Gentleman will bring a supplementary budget before the House. Has the Secretary of State held discussions with any countries that have an equivalent interest to ours, both within the Gulf area and outside it, as to what contribution they will make?

Mr. King

To avoid any misunderstanding, I must make it clear that I shall cover what costs I can from within the defence budget, but I certainly anticipate that it will be necessary to bring a supplementary budget before the House, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested.

I confirm that discussions are continuing with other countries about their contribution. We have already received certain help, such as assistance with training from the German Government, and food, fuel and water from host Governments in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf. We are looking for contributions from other countries towards meeting some of our costs.

Mr. Marlow

I share my right hon. Friend's desire for the crisis to be resolved diplomatically, but obviously it could turn into a conflict. What contingency plans has my right hon. Friend made for what he anticipates will be the likely level of casualties in the event of a conflict?

Mr. King

I shall not answer the second part of my hon. Friend's question, but we are making appropriate arrangements for medical facilities. Some are already established because we have a substantial number of troops in the Gulf, and they never travel without having appropriate medical facilities. We are seeking to ensure that adequate facilities exist to meet any situation that may arise.

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