HL Deb 13 March 1995 vol 562 cc557-9

2.55 p.m.

Lord Haskel asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to encourage and support British industry to export to Iraq.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, while sanctions continue in force Her Majesty's Government neither encourage nor discourage the supply of those goods which are permitted to be supplied to Iraq by the United Nations.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. However, is he aware of the pressure on some UK companies to engage in sanctions busting on the grounds that, if we do not trade with Iraq, other firms and other countries will get in first? Does not the Minister agree that the two visits made by groups of 25 people to Baghdad during the past few months sent entirely the wrong signals, particularly as some of the companies represented deal in goods unrelated to humanitarian purposes? Those visits were used to great propaganda effect by the Iraqi authorities.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if that is so, it is highly regrettable. I hope that those companies which feel that they are being pressured into sanction busting will have the good sense to reject those pressures. The Iraqi regime behaved in such an intolerable way during the 1990s that all 186 member countries of the United Nations approved the decision to impose sanctions, including Britain. We intend to apply those sanctions rigorously and any company that tries to break the sanctions is doing a disservice both to this country and to the world.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that the Prime Minister yesterday, in his speech in Israel, made it absolutely clear that this country does not regard the lifting of sanctions from Iraq within the near future as being in any way on the table?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Beloff for drawing that point to our attention. He is entirely right. The sanctions will not be removed until Saddam Hussein fulfils all the obligations made upon him. First, he must withdraw from Kuwait—which he did. Secondly, he must recognise Kuwait's borders—which he does. Thirdly, he must recognise Kuwait's sovereignty—which he does not. He must dispose of and destroy all the weapons of mass destruction in his possession, and that is presently the subject of a United Nations report. Finally, he must return the 600 Kuwaiti detainees, which has not yet been achieved. Until all those objectives are satisfied, the sanctions will remain in place.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, does not Saddam Hussein also have to comply with the provisions of Resolution 688 which require him to cease repression of the Iraqi people? Is not the report of the UN rapporteur on Iraq, tabled by the Commission in Geneva, proof that the situation for the people of Iraq has deteriorated in the past year? In those circumstances, will the Government resist any proposals to weaken or remove sanctions? In particular, will they draw to the attention of the Security Council the serious breach of sanctions occurring with the traffic of 1,200 trucks a day crossing between Turkey and Iraq and bringing back oil in contravention of the UN resolution?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that we have no intention of weakening the sanctions regime. We intend to keep those sanctions until such time as it is proved that they should be given up. With regard to the latter point, I shall ensure that the anxieties of the noble Lord are drawn to the attention of my right honourable friend.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that so long as Her Majesty's Government follow precisely the lines indicated by the Minister this afternoon, many of us on this side of the House will support the Government in their stance?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I became rather frightened when the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, stood up; I felt that he was about to disagree with what the Government were doing. I am deeply indebted to him for reinforcing what we are doing in his usual characteristically forthright way and I entirely agree with him.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Official Opposition share the view that for once the Government have made the right decision in relation to this matter? Is he also aware that a carefully orchestrated campaign is being undertaken by the Iraqi Government to which some very ill-advised businessmen, not only here but in France, seem to be subscribing and that the views which the noble Earl has expressed as to the conditions upon which the embargo proposed by the Security Council might be lifted are utterly inconsistent with the views that are being taken by those people? Is he further aware that, in the light of what he said, the view of the French Government that the sanctions might be lifted once the United Nations Security Council representative says that Iraq is complying with resolutions on weapons of mass destruction is wholly inadequate?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that the Opposition Front Bench are in agreement with what the Government are doing.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, it is not just the Opposition Front Bench but the party as a whole which takes that view.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, perhaps the Cross Benches would like to agree to that, too. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for expressing that approval. The point that he makes is a very real one. There are those people, and sometimes those countries, who always try to seek a way round a regulation in order to try to benefit themselves momentarily and personally. I deplore that totally and I think that your Lordships would deplore it totally. It is up to each country to enforce United Nations sanctions as best they can. As far as I know, they are all doing it correctly. If there is evidence that any country is breaking those sanctions, I should be glad to know of it.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the noble Earl acknowledge that many people in countries bordering Iraq were most grateful for the immediate action taken by the British Prime Minister and our American allies which resulted in Kuwait being restored to its people? Are the Government still insisting that those who were taken away by the Iraqis should now be returned? Does he agree that we should not in any way seek any help from Iraq or acknowledge its leadership until those conditions which the British initiated are fully honoured?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. One of the reasons why sanctions were introduced in the first place was to ensure the return of those 600 or so detainees to Kuwait. At present, Iraq has not clone that.

Lord Rea

My Lords, can the noble Earl foresee a way in which some form of sanctions-lifting towards the Kurdish parts of Iraq could be thought about in such a way that an alternative government might be founded there which could offer the Iraqi people a choice against the current murderous dictator?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, there are always ways of trying to get round a position, but we have to see the position as it is. The position is that Saddam Hussein is in control of Iraq. He is carrying out his activities in a way that is totally reprehensible to the rest of the world. Until that is finished and Saddam Hussein approves and agrees to that which the United Nations has suggested, sanctions will continue.

Back to