HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc990-2
13. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position of safe havens in Iraq; and what consultations have taken place with his United States counterpart on this matter.

14. Mr. Strang

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has about the plight of people in Iraq; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd

To reassure the refugees of their continuing safety once the allied forces have withdrawn, we need, first, an effective presence on the ground. There is better progress now in the deployment of the UN security guards. The UN hopes to have more than 400 in place by mid-July. We need a continuing military presence in the region and clear warnings to the Iraqis that any renewed repression would meet with the severest response. We would see this as a multinational force that could be quickly deployed. Finally, we need to continue the sanctions. We are building up these elements with our allies. Meanwhile, it is too soon to fix a final date for the withdrawal of our forces.

Mr. Winnick

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that I am very pleased about those safeguards? It would be unforgivable for the Kurds, or any other minority group in Iraq—we should not forget the Shi'ites in the south—to be left to the tender mercy of Saddam Hussein. Even if the Foreign Secretary does not agree with me, will he bear in mind the possibility that the people of Iraq as a whole and the international community may have to pay a heavy price indeed for the fact that earlier this year the allies did not complete the job?

Mr. Hurd

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's last point. We completed the job for which we put our service men at risk—the reversal of the aggression against Kuwait. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. We have always made it clear that we did not intend to complete the withdrawal of our forces from Iraq in circumstances which would create again the problem that they went in to solve—the flight of refugees to the mountains.

Mr. Strang

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that sanctions against Iraq must be reconciled with humanitarian assistance? He has said that he does not want to see Iraq swept by epidemics and starvation. Is he satisfied with the efforts being made to prevent more than 100,000 Iraqi children under the age of five from dying of hunger and disease this year?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman talks of hunger and disease, and I understand that, but medicines have never been covered by sanctions. Food for humanitarian purposes can go in, as authorised by the United Nations sanctions committee, which does precisely that, but I do not think that the House would think it right to go beyond that and to allow Saddam Hussein to reconstruct his country when he has not fulfilled all the Security Council resolutions and when his ambitions against the Kurds are all too clear.

Mr. Conway

My right hon. Friend will pay tribute to and recognise the contribution of British military personnel, but will he acknowledge the contribution made by British civilians—and in particular by my constituent, Mr. Floyer-Ackland—in giving humanitarian aid to those citizens in Iraq?

Mr. Hurd

Between 150 and 200 British civilian relief workers have been in action in Iraq, and I pay tribute to them. They have shown considerable courage and perseverance in doing the job for which they are so admirably equipped.

Mr. William Powell

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is bound to be heightened anxiety about the future of the Kurds when allied forces withdraw, because it is still not possible to rely on the benevolence of the Iraqi authorities, not least in the light of their refusal to allow United Nations officials to inspect the suspected nuclear plant in Iraq yesterday?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is right. Security Council resolution 687 places a clear obligation on the Iraqis, but they are not carrying it through. Another item in the accounts that I must mention is the continued detention of Mr. Ian Richter: we are determined to get him out.

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