HL Deb 13 November 1990 vol 523 cc197-8

2.46 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, if a military attack is launched by United Nations forces on Kuwait, the object of the exercise will be to reinstate the regime ejected by Iraq whether it is expected that this will be accomplished by killing or disabling Iraqi soldiers who resist; and whether any estimates have been made of probable casualties.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (The Earl of Arran)

My Lords, the United Nations has called for the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces and the restoration of the legitimate government of Kuwait. The Government hope that Iraq will comply and leave Kuwait, but, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear, we shall have to take the military option if they do not. The number of casualties which might result from any military action could vary considerably, depending on a wide range of factors.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for that informative Answer. Will he address himself to the Question and particularly that aspect of it which asks for an estimate to be made? He said that it depends upon the circumstances, but is it not possible for him to answer more fully than that?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, it is not possible. We do not care to speculate on the number of casualties. All I can say is that if we must go to war, we hope that the casualties will be as few as possible and we are determined that that should be so.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, is it not remarkable, in view of the solicitude expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for Iraqi casualties, both those killed and those disabled, that nothing is said regarding British casualties or those of their allies? Presumably they will be working either under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations or under Article 51.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, my noble and learned friend is correct. I was under the impression that I was answering on behalf of British casualties, if any should occur.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will answer the middle part of the Question, to which he has not yet addressed himself. Is it the objective of Her Majesty's Government, through the United Nations, to restore the particular regime that was in Kuwait at the time of the Iraqi invasion? Alternatively, are there any moves to make a more democratic regime acceptable, and for that regime to be reinstated after the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I must make it clear that it is the purpose of the United Nations to restore Kuwait to its rightful owners.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, can the noble Earl bring us up to date regarding possible future discussions that may take place in the Security Council on military action in the Gulf? Are such discussions envisaged in the near future? Can he explain the attitude of Her Majesty's Government regarding the seeking of Chapter 7 clearance for military action rather than relying on Article 51?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, those are currently hypothetical questions. If the events envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, transpire, they will be dealt with at that time.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is it not strange that we are discussing this topic now when there are 41 people wishing to contribute to this very subject in a few minutes?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, it is your Lordships' wish. I understand what the noble Lord says.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, was not the noble Earl somewhat ambiguous in his reply to my question? Who does he consider to be the rightful owners of Kuwait?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the answer is the legitimate government.