HL Deb 15 February 1993 vol 542 cc893-5

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, and to what extent, they are maintaining liaison with the Government of the USA regarding threats to the safety of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, particularly from Iraq.

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

My Lords, we are in close touch with the US Administration about all issues of international security, including the Gulf. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be discussing such issues during his forthcoming visit to Washington.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Is she aware that the allies—that is, the Americans, the British and the French—have been compelled yet again to punish Saddam Hussein, as he has completely ignored United Nations resolutions? He has also behaved in an appalling manner to his own people in Iraq. Should we not now seek strong support within the United Nations from other nations as well as the allies to ensure that this dictator does not literally get away with mass murder?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am well aware of the tremendous damage that Saddam Hussein has perpetrated on his own people in Iraq. I should make it clear beyond peradventure that the Iraqi regime could ease the suffering of the Iraqi people by immediately agreeing to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions Nos. 706 and 712 which specifically permit Iraq to export oil in return for humanitarian supplies. I can only conclude that the Iraqi regime will not do that because it does not care about the Iraqi people.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is it not a fact that, so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power, it will be necessary for ourselves, the United States and others to make it quite clear that any move against either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia will be met with full military resistance?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, that is exactly what we have sought to show the leaders of Iraq in recent events. The way in which the Iraqis have behaved as regards the Kuwaiti border and the difficulties that they are causing the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south make it clear that we must remain ready and vigilant and that we must ensure that the Government of Iraq comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions. If that does not occur, we must take action to ensure that Iraq complies with those resolutions.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall that the previous time Iraq invaded Kuwait the British ambassador was on holiday and the staff in the Foreign Office were asleep, as they were confident that nothing was about to happen? That occurred when Iraq had massed troops on the border some three weeks before and had declared that it was about to invade Kuwait any day. If the staff in the Foreign Office had not been asleep, the whole ghastly matter might have been avoided, for we could have sent troops in time to avoid it, as we did once before when Iraq made similar threats.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I hope that it will be rare for me to use my following words in this House. I believe that what the noble Lord has just said is a travesty of the truth. I have known staff in the Foreign Office over many years and they were certainly in no way unprepared for the events that occurred in the Gulf. However, it is not as simple as the noble Lord makes out to react in those circumstances when one needs the full backing of the Security Council to do so.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, does the Minister accept that more than ever the activities of Saddam Hussein justify this Government being ready and prepared for action and having adequate armed forces?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we are and shall be prepared. We have no intention of letting Saddam Hussein get away with any of his exploits.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that when the six-month period concerning the 36th Parallel and the 32nd Parallel is due to be renewed—it is the only protection that the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south have —this Government will renew it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it is our intention so to do. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, for all he has done to push the case of the people of Iraq during these difficult years.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm that it remains an essential component of United Kingdom policy to enforce Security Council Resolutions 706 and 707, to which she referred, and Resolutions 687 and 688, and also to ensure Security Council support for any other steps which may prove necessary? Can she say when the Security Council is likely to meet next to consider the issue?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I have four pages of Security Council resolutions here on the subject of Iraq and Kuwait. We shall continue to work in support of all those resolutions. We have supported them in the past and will do so again. I am told that discussions are held every week, but I cannot tell the noble Lord when the matter may formally arise again on the Security Council agenda. I shall seek to find out and let him know.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned the appalling suffering of the Kurds and Shi'ites in Iraq. Is she also aware that Saddam has prevented any form of international aid entering his country? For those reasons alone ought we not to take advantage of United Nations Resolution 668 which provides that, where it is thought that a government are behaving horrendously towards their own people, the UN may order intervention by other countries which may be prepared so to do? We have done that once, and we did a very good job, but in my judgment we failed because we did not go all the way through, see Saddam off and arrest him to stand international trial. Does the noble Baroness not consider that that resolution would help all those involved, both our own allies and the people of Iraq?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord may have twisted the numbers around. He may have meant Resolution 686 or perhaps Resolution 688. That is not important. The point is that we shall do our very best at all times to make sure that the repression of the civilian population is ameliorated by that aid which we continue to get through. I very much hope that the memorandum of understanding, which expires in March, will be renewed, but it can only be renewed provided that reasonable conditions apply.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, in the light of her welcome reassurance that we shall not allow Saddam Hussein to get away with anything, will the Minister tell the House what action the Government propose to take against a government which openly use two British citizens held in Iraqi jails as instruments of diplomatic blackmail?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, having met Mrs. Ride and Mrs. Wainwright only last night, I am only too well aware of what they are suffering and the way in which, not for the first time, Saddam Hussein is prepared to treat any foreigner who comes from a country he dislikes and is determined to fight. The situation is difficult. Saddam Hussein has sought to make us provide assistance when, simply by agreeing to the implementation of Resolutions 706 and 712, Iraq could have all the humanitarian supplies it needs in return for permission to export its oil.

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