HC Deb 28 January 1991 vol 184 cc639-41
4. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make available the detailed evidence on which he dismissed the scientific warnings given by Professor Paul Crutzen, head of the atmospherics physics department of the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, and Dr. Abdullah Toucan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, principal scientific adviser to King Hussein of Jordan, about the carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbon and photo-chemical smog results of the war in the middle east; and if he will place his detailed technical evidence in the Library.

Mr. Wakeham

I did not dismiss the warnings of possible fires at Kuwaiti oil fields or criticise particular scientists, but I thought it right to make available the advice that I received on the environmental implications of such fires. That has been followed up by a study by the Meteorological Office which has been placed in the Library of the House.

Since then Saddam Hussein has set on the course of deliberately polluting the waters of the Gulf, which is a gross act of environmental terrorism, and I believe that the whole civilised world will deplore that action. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be making a statement about it later this afternoon.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Secretary of State put the detailed evidence that he had from his Department in the Library? Is not it the case that the Government cannot say that they were not warned of the pumping of oil into the water to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? During the Consolidated Fund debate on 19 December, at column 403, I spoke for 55 minutes and gave a specific warning. Surely it is negligent of Ministers not to have taken precautions. As a senior member of the War Cabinet, will the Secretary of State consider the activities and the frivolous answers from that silly little boy, the hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who masquerades as a Minister of State at the Foreign Office—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is spoiling his question.

Mr. Wakeham

I think that these matters deserve more serious treatment than the hon. Gentleman appears to be giving them. I am sure that no one has ever underestimated the possibility of serious environmental terrorism. In the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I made accessible the best advice available to me on the environmental consequences. The report of the Meteorological Office has been put in the Library.

It is absolutely clear that the fact that Saddam Hussein is capable of environmental terrorism of this kind—

Mr. Dalyell

The Government were warned, but did nothing. Why did not the Government do anything?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government were well aware of the threat. The fact that Saddam Hussein is capable of such environmental terrorism shows, once again, how essential it is that Kuwait should be freed from his grasp. It is because of that man that we have taken our action.

Dr. Michael Clark

Does my right hon. Friend know whether Saddam Hussein was given such warnings and information about environmental pollution? Does he know whether Saddam Hussein submitted himself to questions on this matter in the Iraqi Parliament? What evidence exists to show that Saddam Hussein took notice of those warnings or the concern of his parliamentary colleagues?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend makes his point well. I add only that Saddam Hussein is well aware of the damage that he is doing to the world. That is why his actions are even more criminal than they would be if he were ignorant of such matters.

Mr. Simon Hughes

As the right hon. Gentleman represents his Department in the War Cabinet, can he tell the House what advice and consultations he and his colleagues have had with European Community Commissioners and Ministers and the United Nations Environment Programme so that the full implications of the environmental risk in the middle east is at all times in the forefront of not only politicians' minds, but those of the military?

Mr. Wakeham

There have been discussions and consultations among the allies, as well as wider discussions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will come to the House at 3.30 to make a proper statement.