HC Deb 29 November 1995 vol 267 cc1183-4
6. Mr. Robathan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Iraq. [857]

Mr. Hanley

The situation in Iraq remains poor for ordinary people. This is the direct result of the regime's failure to implement UN resolution 986, which would permit the sale of oil in return for humanitarian goods, or to meet its other UN obligations.

Mr. Robathan

The House will note that this matter is to be discussed in an Adjournment debate later today. Has Iraq the ability to be a prosperous country and has it good natural resources? How much is the present regime spending on armaments and internal repression? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there will be no move by the Government to relax sanctions because, far from encouraging democracy, liberty or prosperity in Iraq, that would be an endorsement of Saddam Hussein's evil regime?

Mr. Hanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question because it helps to expose the true nature of the Iraqi regime. It is within Saddam Hussein's power to sell up to $1 billion-worth of oil every three months to provide humanitarian aid and medical supplies for his people. The relaxation of the import embargo depends on Saddam's complying with all relevant resolutions, but many matters remain cause for concern: Kuwaiti detainees, who are still unaccounted for; the human rights record, which is appalling; the internal economic blockade on Kurds and Shi'as; the mutilation of army deserters. Iraq is also involved in state-sponsored terrorism and has failed to account for more than 600 missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals.

Mr. Dalyell

The Minister's description of the situation being "poor for ordinary people" just does not do justice to the appalling nature of the position. The Foreign Office has a full briefing of my visit to the children's hospital in Baghdad—two years ago, admittedly—when I saw rows of infants expiring, and the same was found at Um-Kasr. In its preparation for tonight's Adjournment debate on sanctions on Iraq, will the Foreign Office at least read carefully the letter that the Foreign Secretary has had from a much more recent visitor, Riad El-Taher, in which he describes the position and outlines Iraq's difficulty in complying with a United Nations resolution that is impossible for the people to accept, regardless of whether they support Saddam?

Mr. Hanley

The hon. Gentleman's views on Iraq, on Saddam Hussein and on his regime are known to the House and, no doubt, we will hear more of them tonight. All I can say, however, is that we are conscious of the suffering of ordinary people in Iraq. Saddam, not the UN, is responsible for that suffering. Food and medicines are not subject to sanctions and, therefore, we ask again for Saddam Hussein to adopt United Nations resolution 986 and to allow Iraq to export some oil in return for humanitarian goods. He can do so. It is not impossible for him to do so. He could receive at least $2.5 billion net in the next 12 months, after charges for the resolution. He does not do so. I urge the hon. Gentleman to spend some of his time urging Saddam to help his people.