HL Deb 13 December 1993 vol 550 cc1113-5

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are satisfied that action by the United Nations is sufficient to prevent further incursions by Iraqi security forces into Kuwait.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, following recent violations of the Iraq-Kuwait border, the Security Council made a statement on 23rd November reminding Iraq of its obligations under Security Council Resolutions 687 and 833, and demanding that Iraq respect the inviolability of the boundary. The United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) will be strengthened by the arrival of a mechanised battalion in February 1994.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that the Iraqi people and their government are grateful to our Government for the mention of their country in the Queen's Speech and for trying to understand what they are going through? Nevertheless, is she further aware that Kuwait is still subject to Iraqi terror raids? Kuwait knows what Iraqi occupation can mean. They are grateful for all that we have done, but they still live in terrible anxiety and a great sense of fear. Is she able to tell the House that something can be done to help assuage those feelings that now afflict the Kuwaiti people?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we agree that the Kuwaiti people are still very nervous. That is why we do not believe that sanctions should be lifted until Iraq complies fully with the relevant Security Council resolutions. We wait for the Iraqi regime to comply fully with those resolutions and to recognise the international frontier. It is up to Iraq to prevent further demonstrations and incursions into Kuwaiti territory.

Lord Rea

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, according to her right honourable friend Sir Edward Heath, who recently returned from Iraq, Saddam Hussein is using the economic chaos and poverty resulting from the sanctions to increase his support base among his own people? Could she ensure that there is some means of allowing a limited amount of Iraq's foreign assets to be released pending full compliance with the sanctions, in order to improve the lot of the Iraqi people and the surrounding nations who are suffering as a result of being unable to trade with Iraq?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am well aware that there are no lengths to which Iraq and particularly Saddam Hussein will not go to try to blame others for the penalties that the people of Iraq suffer because Saddam Hussein will not implement Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712 which permit Iraq to export oil. The proceeds from the exportation of oil would fund the UN operations, including the humanitarian programme. We are still helping in a small way and we shall continue to do so. However, we have to make sure that the facts of the situation are known. The Iraqi opposition takes every opportunity to do that and where there are opportunities to make known the real situation in that country, obviously we should be very glad for the Iraqi opposition to do so.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Question is perhaps somewhat misconceived? Assume that Her Majesty's Government are not satisfied—which is not a difficult assumption—what on earth are they supposed to do without the support of the United States and the United Nations?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. Britain alone cannot change the situation. However, looking through the list of Security Council resolutions, it is interesting how few people—on many occasions no one—voted against the resolutions brought to the United Nations to show Saddam Hussein exactly what is the situation. Therefore we are not alone. We believe it is right to continue with the sanctions regime; our quarrel is with the regime and not with the long-suffering Iraqi people. Food and medicines are permitted under the sanctions regime. The review in November enabled the council to conclude that conditions did not exist for the lifting of sanctions.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, while the Iraqi Government refuse to recognise the frontier of Kuwait, there can be no question of the Government recommending that sanctions be lifted?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I agree absolutely.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that, despite the release of the three British hostages, millions of people in Kurdistan still live in fear of Saddam Hussein crossing their border? Will my noble friend also confirm that the Foreign Office has no illusions that Saddam is a reformed character?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government have no illusions about Saddam Hussein. We are glad that Sir Edward Heath was able to help bring back the three British men who are now reunited with their families. We provided support and advice, but there was no question of a deal to secure their release. However, we are aware daily of the fears of the Kurdish people in Iraq. We hope that they will be secure from the threats, although that is unlikely as long as Saddam remains. On the more general question of detainees, we hope that Iraq will release all foreign detainees, including the Kuwaitis, for whom the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, was concerned.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say whether or not some of the people in Kuwait would like more democracy? And is anything being done to encourage that?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, that is an entirely separate Question. I know that that matter has been discussed privately. It is perhaps best left in private, where matters seem to progress rather better than they do in public.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept from the Opposition that we completely support the continuance of sanctions against the Iraqi regime under the authority of the United Nations? Indeed, the protestations made by Saddam Hussein of "liberating" Kuwait, accompanied by constant provocation on the part of military and others against the Kuwaitis, is totally unacceptable. It shows no change of temperament or mind on the part of that regime. Consequently, we welcome what the Minister said in regard to sanctions.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord and delighted that we should agree so wholeheartedly on the matter.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her replies this afternoon. They were most encouraging. However, is the Minister aware that Saddam Hussein is indulging in chemical warfare, particularly in the Basra Province? He is threatening to liberate Kuwait. Therefore all that the noble Baroness said must be translated into reality by the uniting of our partners in Europe and the Security Council. We must translate words into reality.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, UNSCOM is investigating the recent reports of chemical weapon attacks. We would view the matter seriously were the reports to be confirmed.