HL Deb 16 September 2003 vol 652 cc760-2

2.53 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions took place with the United States Government about the administration of Iraq in the event of a military victory.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government had a wide range of discussions with United States interlocutors concerning the post-war administration of Iraq. At the Azores Summit on 16th March, the Prime Minister and President Bush set out a vision for Iraq committing the coalition to work closely with the UN, among others, to ensure an appropriate post-conflict administration. UN Security Council Resolution 1493, adopted unanimously on 22nd May, endorsed that approach.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, the Minister will know that most of the discussions between the United Kingdom and the United States took place between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US State Department. Does she now agree that most of the assumptions made by the Pentagon, which turned out to be the main force in the issues of post-war planning, have been proven by facts and events to be largely wrong, that today terrorism and crime are rife in Iraq and that hundreds of innocent civilians are being killed every single month? In the light of that, does she agree that it is now vital that the Government find their voice, call for a much greater role in both the current occupation and the reconstruction of Iraq and recognise that the Pentagon must be persuaded to abandon its continuing loyalty to the concept of a unilateral and overwhelming American influence over the whole of the Iraq imbroglio?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, although we take note of the noble Baroness's great expertise in foreign policy, I must disagree with her that the United Nation's role is in any way marginal in either the preparations for post-war Iraq or the current building, reconstruction and humanitarian efforts there. I agree with the noble Baroness that some mistakes were made about the kind of immediate assistance that a post-war Iraq would need. As she will know from her great study of the matter, that was based on the view that there would be a great deal more solid administration and ministry, as it were, left within the Iraqi government. In fact, there was an administrative vacuum, which had to be quickly dealt with by the coalition. So although I agree that we have lessons to learn, I do not agree that the UN has in any way a marginalised role.

Lord Hurd of Westwell

My Lords, despite what the noble Baroness says, is it not extraordinary that this country, which has at its disposal a wealth of experience about Iraq and the Middle East in general, should have placed our troops, apparently without question, under an American, not a UN, military command which, after a brilliant military victory, seemed to have no idea how the country might then be run? Are the Government surprised that the Governments of India, Pakistan and other potential troop contributors are now clearly resolved not to repeat our experience in that respect?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, a great number of countries have signed up to the economic and administrative reconstruction of Iraq. There are also a number of forces from European Union and applicant countries among the forces now in Iraq. To save time, I shall not go through the numbers, but the noble Lord will know them.

As for the position before the conflict, I think that I made clear the presumptions in front of the coalition partners at the time and how they have been dealt with in post-war Iraq. But good progress has been made. We hear continually about the difficulties. Continually in the media we hear the story of what is going wrong. That is quite right; we have a free media and it is up to them to tell the stories that they want to tell. But in Iraq, an Iraqi Governing Council is being formed, interim Ministers are being appointed and taking responsibility for their ministries, and a constitutional commission is beginning its work.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but will she kindly read the Standing Orders about ministerial Statements at Question Time?

Lord Skidelsky

My Lords, have the Government estimated for how long British forces are expected to stay in Iraq? If so, can the Minister give the House that estimate?

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, as US Ambassador Bremmer has said of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, we will stay as long as necessary and leave as soon as possible.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, although I rather agree with the noble Baroness that the medium-term prospect in Iraq is not nearly as bad as some pessimists and many newspaper reports insist on depicting, she will recall the Prime Minister saying at the time of the invasion that we needed, a humanitarian plan that", works, every bit as…well…as a military plan".—[Official Report, Commons, 3/2/03; col. 36.] Many of us are simply asking, "Where is that plan?".

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the first part of his question. I remind him that an enormous amount of humanitarian and reconstruction work is going on. The DfID budget provides £198 million of reconstruction and humanitarian aid. We know from Questions answered by my noble friend in the House last week that hospitals are now functioning, schools are opening and, in response to electricity and oil supplies being targeted by terrorists, an estimated 10,000 Iraqis are being trained to guard those installations.