HL Deb 18 September 2003 vol 652 cc1050-2

11.15 a.m.

Lord Dubs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect full electricity and water supplies to be available in Baghdad and Basra.

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, the Coalition Provisional Authority aims to bring electricity generation up to pre-conflict levels by the end of this month. Water supply is improving with the repair of facilities and installation of emergency generators at pumping stations. The provision of full electricity and water supplies will require significant additional investment in the medium to long term. The coalition is also improving security to prevent sabotage and theft of public utility infrastructure.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her Answer. Does she agree that it is essential that the quality of life for the people of Iraq should quickly represent an improvement on what it was under Saddam Hussein?

Perhaps she will say more about the sewerage system, given that it is affected by electricity supplies. Will she comment on the latest information that I have been able to find to the effect that, fairly recently, the sewerage system in Baghdad was operating at 17 per cent of its normal capacity? When can we expect a significant improvement for the people of Iraq in those essential services?

Baroness Amos

My Lords. I agree fully with my noble friend that it is important that we improve the quality of life for the people of Iraq, particularly in the south, where people were robbed over many years of investment in essential infrastructure.

I cannot endorse the percentage given by my noble friend with respect to the sewerage system. I shall write to him on that point. Emergency work is in hand to repair the Baghdad sewerage system. The CPA and the UN have each allocated 10 million dollars for the clean-up. My noble friend will know that water supplies more generally have been disrupted by sabotage and looting.

Baroness Northover

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that news organisations sending journalists to Iraq must now pay more for their insurance than they did at the height of the conflict? Is that not a barometer of how unstable things are in Iraq? Surely we will not see real improvements in services until Iraq is more secure. What are the Government doing to persuade the Americans to enable the international community to play a larger part in Iraq so that security will be improved?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, noble Lords will know that the security situation remains extremely fragile. We are doing all that we can to improve it. It is a combination of criminal activity with the involvement of terrorist elements.

With respect to the wider involvement of the international community, the noble Baroness will be aware that other nations are already involved with the coalition in Iraq. I think that there are some 30 nations, but I shall happily write to the noble Baroness with the details. We are engaged in discussions in the Security Council for a further UN Security Council resolution, which, we hope, will mean that a more international force can come into play in Iraq.

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, a close relation of my wife has been in Baghdad with the World Health Organisation. He had telephoned and e-mailed me regularly until he was evacuated temporarily to Amman because of the security situation. The last report that I received from him, about 10 days ago, was that electricity supplies in Baghdad are on for the general population for only about two hours a day, despite the fact that it has been an exceptionally hot summer. In the light of that information, how does the noble Baroness really think that we will get electricity—and, therefore, water and sewerage systems—working in the time-scale that I thought she indicated in her Answer?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, it is true that in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq there have been times when electricity supplies have operated for only three or four hours per day. Noble Lords can imagine how much electricity cable there is in a country the size of Iraq: the opportunity for sabotage is enormous. When infrastructure that has been starved of investment is repaired or improved, there is often sabotage on the cables overnight. Clearly, the security situation must improve, but we must also deal with overnight sabotage.

With respect to electricity more generally, we are planning to increase the supply of electricity by the end of September. Last week, a note from my department was placed in the Libraries of both Houses giving an update on the situation as regards electricity, water, food and health. The note will be updated on a regular basis, so that noble Lords are kept informed of any change.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell the House whether these two cities had full electricity, water and sewage services before the recent conflict?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the situation in Baghdad was different from that in Basra; for example, vital infrastructure in Basra had been starved of investment. While there was access to services in Basra, it was not available at the full levels found in Baghdad. We have been trying, particularly in the south, not only to bring services back to pre-conflict levels but also to improve on that. When I was in Iraq I saw the terrible state of some water treatment plants, for example. As I said, we are not only trying to bring those services back to pre-war levels; we are also trying to raise their availability beyond those levels.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, have we managed to halt the movement and export of copper scrap in the UK area of operations?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I am unable to answer the noble Earl's question. I am aware that, immediately after the conflict, a great deal of copper scrap was leaving the country as a result of criminal activity. I know that we have made some improvement in the situation, but I do not know the extent to which we have been able to halt such activity. I shall therefore write to the noble Earl.

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, we are substantially over time.

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