HC Deb 30 October 1990 vol 178 cc863-4
12. Mr. Benn

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

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes).

Mr. Benn

Has the attention of the Secretary of State been drawn to the estimates emerging from Washington of 30,000 service casualties within the first 12 days of conflict? Has his attention also been drawn to the statement by Jean-Pierre Chevênement, his French opposite number, that in event of war 100,000 people might be killed? Is the Secretary of State also aware that if the American and British Governments reject the rising world demand for a peaceful settlement—which was echoed by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—and decide to launch a pre-emptive strike, the responsibility for those deaths will rest on the American and British Governments who launched the attack?

Mr. King

The right hon. Gentleman was sitting here when I answered the previous question. He knows perfectly well what I said then, which was that we want to see this matter settled by peaceful means. No sane person wishes to see conflict and casualties if they can be avoided, but the responsibility that has been recognised by an overwhelming majority in this House—and which was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—was that it was right to send forces to the Gulf and that it is right to give the clearest possible warning to Saddam Hussein that, one way or another, he will lose. That message, clearly delivered, without prevarication and without uncertainty, is the best possible hope for a peaceful resolution of this matter.

Sir Jim Spicer

In reply to an earlier question, my right hon. Friend said that he expected and hoped that if it came to an overrun on defence costs, the Treasury would give sympathetic consideration to such an overrun. Can he assure us that our service chiefs will not be inhibited in spending whatever is necessary to ensure that our troops in the Gulf have the best equipment available to them?

Mr. King

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to reply in this respect on behalf of the Government. The Government are clear that we shall make whatever contribution is appropriate to freedom and justice in the Gulf, and that we shall make our contribution to the ending of the aggression. We see that as the overwhelming priority. We shall also ensure that our armed forces who go there have the equipment that they need to do the job that we ask of them.

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