HC Deb 31 October 1990 vol 178 cc982-3
14. Mr. Ronnie Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the number of firms affected by the withdrawal of contracts from Iraq.

Mr. Sainsbury

We do not have a complete count of United Kingdom firms affected. The Department of Trade and Industry, the Bank of England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have dealt with a large volume of inquiries since the beginning of the crisis. The Export Credits Guarantee Department is in contact with most of the firms that insured their contracts and it will be meeting established claims.

Mr. Campbell

Is not a year a long time? If I had asked this question a year ago, Ministers would have been falling over backwards to tell us about all the wonderful contracts that we have with Iraq. Those contracts were operating at a time when Iraq was fighting a war against Iran, so what has changed?

Mr. Sainsbury

If the Department and the ECGD had not provided the normal range of export help to what was a very good market—a market for civilian equipment and civilian exports—we should have been open to criticism. Since 1983, £2.7 billion of new exports have been secured for the United Kingdom in that market. That must have meant a lot of jobs.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only way in which we shall have peace in the middle east is to defeat Saddam Hussein? Those who complain about the costs of losing a few contracts fail to recognise the high stakes for which we are playing. They are the sort of people who would have appeased Hitler in the 1930s. The price of appeasement then was war and the price of appeasement today would also be war.

Mr. Sainsbury

I agree that the whole House, or nearly the whole House, is united in the determination to see that Saddam Hussein gains nothing from his invasion of Kuwait and that his withdrawal from it is total and unconditional.

Mr. Flannery

Is not it a fact that a short time ago we were exporting what were called oil pipes to Iraq, and the Government did not seem to know that we were actually exporting long-distance gun barrels? Will the Minister examine his conscience about that, instead of talking so glibly?

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman is well aware, I hope, that that matter is sub judice.