HC Deb 27 November 2003 vol 415 cc449-50W
Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many representatives from her Department are in Iraq; how many representatives of her US counterparts are in Iraq; and if she will make a statement on the effect on UK industry of the numbers. [140534]

Ms Hewitt

There are five staff from my Department working in Iraq. Three are seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority, including one responsible for trade development. Two are based in the British Office to promote trade relations with Iraq. A further staff member will go to Basra early in the New Year to promote trade. We have had positive feedback for my Department's work to support British firms in Iraq and we will continue to work with all interested British firms as well as with trade associations and other industry bodies. I am not in a position to comment on US Government staffing for Iraq.

Mr. David Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the level is of Iraq's debt to the UK which was accrued up to the point of the fall of Saddam Hussein; how much has been written off; what the nominal repayment due each year is; and what debt repayments were made in each year since 1997.[141557]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

ECGD has unrecovered claims of around £623 million arising from contracts with Iraq signed prior to the first Gulf conflict in 1991. This amount does not include interest, which it is estimated could bring the figure to some £1 billion. The only monies recovered by ECGD since 1997, all through the United Nations Compensation Commission were £2.68 million in 2001—02 and £320,000 in 2003—04.

No debt has been written off but the Paris club group of creditors, including the UK, has announced that it intends to agree a comprehensive treatment of Iraq's debt problem by the end of 2004. In the meantime no payment of these arrears of debt will be sought.

The Government have made it clear that it is seeking a fair and sustainable solution to the Iraqi debt problem. We believe that the debts should be dealt with under the new Paris Club 'Evian approach' which offers a long-term solution for countries with the most serious debt problems, including debt reduction where the need is clearly demonstrated.

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