HL Deb 26 February 1991 vol 526 cc861-3

3.4 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, having regard to the heavy loss of civilian life in Iraq, they will now respond to the Pope's call for an immediate cease-fire in the Gulf.

Lord Reay

My Lords, the Pope has called for an end to hostilities rather than for a cease-fire. His Holiness has also said: we are not pacifists and we do not want peace at any price; peace and justice is our aim". It is in the pursuit of peace and justice that Her Majesty's Government joined the coalition forces to implement the Security Council resolutions aimed at the liberation of Kuwait, the restoration of its legitimate Government and the establishment of international peace and security.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, the Question has been overtaken by events. However, is it not the case that in the present situation it is even more right and proper that there should be a cease-fire now? Have the Government considered that matter and, if so, what is their answer?

Lord Reay

My Lords, no. We now need a public and authoritative statement by Saddam Hussein setting out his commitment to comply fully with all the Security Council resolutions.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is nothing in the Catholic theology of a just war that requires an immediate cease-fire in the Gulf? Is he also aware that, while the opinion of his Holiness should always be treated with the greatest respect so should the opinion of other Catholics? The opinion of this Catholic is that the evil man Saddam Hussein and his henchmen should be pursued resolutely by the allies until he is defeated.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his support.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the vast majority of the British public, including those who live in Putney, are convinced that there should be the following three conditions for a cease-fire: first, Saddam Hussein and his cohorts must get rid of all their weapons of destruction; secondly, some of them must return to Kuwait and repair the appalling damage caused by their murder and rape of that country; thirdly, Saddam Hussein and all that he stands for must be taken before a tribunal and asked to account for his crimes?

Lord Reay

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. The subject of war crimes must be addressed in the context of the United Nations Security Council resolutions as part of the post-hostilities settlement.

Lord Elton

My Lords, in conveying their views to the coalition on when a cease-fire should take place, will Her Majesty's Government bear in mind the importance of winning the peace as well as winning the war?

Lord Reay

My Lords, my noble friend has raised a good point and, of course, we must try to achieve that. We are in close touch with our coalition partners and with our allies.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, may I return to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Mellish about the appalling treatment of Kuwait and its people? Can the Minister say how many Kuwaitis have been taken to Iraq as hostages? Will Her Majesty's Government ensure that when the war is over action will be taken against those responsible so that they are dealt with in accordance with the Geneva Convention and are not allowed to get away with it?

Lord Reay

My Lords, we take most seriously the point made by the noble Lord. At present I do not have figures showing how many Kuwaitis have been rounded up and taken back to Iraq.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, following the question asked by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, will Her Majesty's Government ensure that, as a pre-condition to a cease-fire, prisoners of war and hostages are returned?

Lord Reay

My Lords, we seek the return of our prisoners of war as soon as possible. We shall honour our obligations under the Geneva Convention and hope that other countries will do likewise.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, am I right in believing that the subject will be covered by a Government Statement to be made later today? If so, is it not true that anything said now will be overtaken by events long before the Statement is made?

Lord Reay

My Lords, the situation is fast-moving and it is continually evolving. Events occurring at one moment are overtaken by events occurring the next. The noble Lord is right in saying that a Statement will be made later today and I am sure that it will address some of the issues that have been raised.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, does the Minister care to say whether the Question on the Order Paper is helpful or unhelpful to those citizens of our country at present on active service in the Gulf?

Lord Reay

My Lords, I am not sure that it is for Members on the Front Bench to comment on the helpfulness or otherwise of Questions on the Order Paper. However, I am sure that all noble Lords wish our troops in the Gulf well and congratulate them on their magnificent performance.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, in view of the comments made in answer to my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney, will the Minister say specifically whether Her Majesty's Government still stand totally and completely by the United Nations resolutions as regards this war? In view of the fact that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has described it as a US war and not a UN war, will the Government state categorically that their war aims are only those covered by United Nations resolutions?

Lord Reay

My Lords, the forces of the coalition are in the Gulf in order to carry out the United Nations resolutions. Our aims are those set out in the resolutions; namely, to get Iraq out of Kuwait, to restore the legitimate government, to re-establish peace and security in the area and to uphold the authority of the United Nations.

Lout Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord the Leader of the House will bring this Question to an end. It seems to me an abuse of the House when a Statement is to be made on the subject this afternoon.