HC Deb 24 October 1990 vol 178 cc335-47 3.32 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on developments in the middle east since the emergency debate on 6 and 7 September.

In that debate, the House endorsed the Government's policy, which is that of virtually the entire international community: Saddam Hussein must leave Kuwait and the legitimate Government of Kuwait must be restored. Iraq must release our hostages.

Since the House met, at the United Nations we have applied growing pressure to Iraq. Negotiations are under way in New York for a further resolution to hold Iraq liable to pay compensation for the damage resulting from its actions, including the maltreatment of foreign nationals and property.

Sanctions have been enforced, in particular by the effective blockade by allied ships that are operating in the area. More than 100 ships from 12 countries are on constant patrol enforcing the embargo. The Royal Navy has challenged more than 1,100 vessels and has taken part in 10 boarding operations. The House will want to pay tribute to the courage and professionalism of the Royal Navy.

The United Nations must continue to tighten the screw of sanctions. We cannot relax our determination to ensure Saddam Hussein's complete and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Since the House met, there have been many more examples of his tyranny. All the available evidence suggests that, far from being under strict orders to behave with discipline in Kuwait, Iraq's soldiers have been allowed complete licence. The House will be aware that many Kuwaitis who have been able to escape their occupied country have testified to wanton destruction of property and to cruel and inhuman treatment of Kuwaiti citizens, including several murders carried out in front of wives and children, rape and torture. We must remind the Iraqis once again that at all levels of authority, whether they be military or civilian, they are personally responsible under the Geneva convention for illegal acts committed as occupiers in Kuwait.

In those circumstances, one of the first concerns must be the welfare of the 800 British people still in Iraq and of the substantial British community remaining in Kuwait. In Kuwait, our embassy—now one of the last to stay open—is staffed by the ambassador and one colleague. They will continue, through the warden system, to help Britons in Kuwait as long as that is physically and practically possible.

We welcome the release of British nationals in response to the humanitarian appeal by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). But I must add that I find it grisly and repulsive that the Iraqis should set about deciding who is so sick and who is so old that he or she should be released from a position in which no human being should ever be placed and in which hundreds of human beings remain. All our nationals—all foreign nationals—should be allowed to leave Iraq. I admire the courage of those of our people who are detained or hiding in Iraq and Kuwait and of their families here. Our embassies have helped to organise the evacuation of more than 900 women and children and we are doing what we can to ensure that those who remain in Iraq have the money and comforts that they need.

The situation is particularly agonising for families here at home. We are working closely with the Gulf Support Group to provide as much help and information as we can. We cannot work miracles, but the staff in the Foreign Office and the staff at the embassy in Baghdad are working round the clock on these problems. Where complaints have been made, we are investigating them urgently, and where there is room for improvements, we are making those improvements as quickly as we can. We should not forget that the plight of these people—of our hostages—has been caused by Saddam Hussein. It is Saddam Hussein who is playing cat and mouse with them, and the British Government and this Parliament would not wish to be blackmailed.

On the other side of the question, the United States and Britain, in particular, moved fast immediately after the invasion of Kuwait to protect Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries from the threat of attack. Since then, a unique coalition of forces from 25 countries has been established in the Gulf. On 14 September, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced the deployment of the 7th Armoured Brigade and of more Tornado aircraft. This will bring the total number of British service men committed to the Gulf to about 16,000.

I believe that President Hussein will seek to cling to the country that he has acquired by force, or perhaps to negotiate his way out so that he can claim some gain for his aggression. He has tried, and is trying, to sow disunity in the coalition ranged against him, with a variety of bogus peace plans, delaying tactics and smoke screens. One of them is his presentation of himself as the champion of the Palestinian cause. In fact, the Palestinian cause has been set back by Iraq's aggression and the credibility of the PLO has been damaged by its ambivalent—to put it politely—response to that aggression.

Some have suggested that Saddam Hussein should be persuaded to withdraw from Kuwait in exchange for an international conference on the middle east as a whole. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the other countries of the Gulf and the Government of Kuwait have all firmly rejected that suggestion—because Iraq's withdrawal must be complete and unconditional. Hon. Members and British Governments have long argued the urgent need to find a lasting settlement in the middle east—including the Arab-Israel dispute. Once Iraq is out of Kuwait, we must return to that issue. The policy of the British Government is clear. It has been restated today and was restated during my recent visit. It involves self-determination for the Palestinian people and the right of Israel to live in peace behind secure borders.

The killing of 21 Palestinians on the Dome of the Rock, or Temple Mount, on 8 October and the later murder of Israelis underlines the tragedy of the Arab-Israel dispute. The cycle of violence is now repeating itself. I hope that the Government of Israel may yet agree to accept the Secretary-General's mission to investigate those killings because to do otherwise would risk diverting the Security Council from what ought to be its main task—getting Iraq out of Kuwait—and will give Saddam Hussein a cause which he will exploit ruthlessly.

Our aim remains as it was when we debated the matter: Iraq's complete withdrawal from Kuwait and the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate Government. At a meeting of the Kuwaiti ruling family and their people in Jeddah earlier this month, there was an impressive display of the loyalty of all Kuwaitis and of the unity which the crisis has produced. The Kuwaitis announced at the conference their intention, when the legitimate Government is restored, to implement in full the 1962 democratic constitution. Many will welcome that decision which was taken freely by Kuwaitis.

In the meantime, the pressures on Saddam Hussein remain diplomatic isolation, the economic blockade and the threat of forcible expulsion from Kuwait. Saddam Hussein has a simple choice—retreat or defeat. The Government and the House strongly hope that the restoration of Kuwait will be achieved without further bloodshed, but the daily destruction of Kuwait and the murder of its people continue. We are tightening the screw of the peaceful pressures, but we cannot shirk our part in the alternative course if that course finally becomes necessary.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

I am glad that the Foreign Secretary confirms that the Government continue to share the objective that we in the Labour party also uphold: that all the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kuwait must be implemented and that Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait unconditionally.

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the first of those resolutions, No. 660, provides for negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait to resolve their differences, but that those negotiations can take place only once Iraq has withdrawn unconditionally from Kuwait and the hostages have been unconditionally released? We are glad that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) has been able to bring home some hostages with him from Baghdad. However, I share the Foreign Secretary's view that it is a degrading spectacle to witness Saddam Hussein haggling and bargaining over misery that he has created.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that unconditional withdrawal by Iraq from Kuwait does not mean partial withdrawal and cannot be conditional on a change of Government in a freed Kuwait? The internal government of Kuwait is a matter for the Kuwaiti people and we welcome the indication of greater democracy in a free Kuwait.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is our objective that sanctions should achieve the liberation of Kuwait, with force an option to be invoked by the international community only if there is clear evidence over a sufficient period that sanctions cannot achieve that United Nations objective? Will he confirm that there should be clear United Nations authority if force was to be invoked and that that authority must be obvious not simply to legalists invoking article 51 of the United Nations charter, but to the judgment of the world community? In that connection, will the Secretary of State explain what he meant on BBC radio on Sunday when he said in connection with the possible invocation of article 51: We have requests from the Government of Kuwait"? It is important that the Secretary of State clarifies what he meant by those words.

Will the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the United Kingdom in the Security Council, lay stress on the implementation of existing resolutions rather than be tempted to pursue distractions such as war crimes trials, which are neither relevant nor pertinent at this stage?

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that I do not join those who criticise him for having gone to Israel, as I believe that it is essential that all possible efforts be made to resolve this tragic and increasingly lethal conflict? The Opposition condemn the shootings by Israeli security forces on Temple Mount the week before last. We deplore the killing of other Palestinians and also of Israelis in recent weeks. Did the Secretary of State tell the Israeli Government that the use of live ammunition to deal with disturbances is not only wrong, but, as the former Labour Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Mr. Rabin, has said, ineffectual as a means of quelling such disturbances? Will the Secretary of State continue to emphasise that, if others are expected to observe Security Council resolutions, Israel cannot ignore them?

Did the Secretary of State meet leaders of the Israeli Labour party? They represent the other Israel—the Israel that advocates receiving the Secretary-General's mission, the Israel that wants to talk to the Palestinians and to trade land for peace, and the Israel that accepts that the Palestinians must have the right of self-determination and that that right does not exclude a state.

The Secretary of State says that he was misrepresented in Israel about this attitude to a Palestinian state. Will he therefore take this opportunity, which he did not take in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) at Question Time, to state with the utmost clarity the Government's attitude on a Palestinian state? Does self-determination include or exclude the right of the Palestinians to choose a state?

Will the Foreign Secretary endorse the wise words yesterday of Teddy Kollek, the Labour mayor of Jerusalem? He said that security and peace can come about only through peace negotiations. Mr. Kollek declared: When there is not even a faint light at the end of the tunnel, there is despair. Finally, does the Foreign Secretary agree that everyone killed in Israel and the occupied territories—Arab and Jew, Israeli and Palestinian—is paying the unacceptable price of the failure to advance the peace process, and that anyone who refuses to participate in that peace process must accept a share of responsibility for those deaths?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. He stated exactly the position that we all take. It is a great strength to our foreign policy and to the Foreign Secretary that, on all the basics throughout these anxious months, there has been a degree of national consensus. I confirm in particular that partial withdrawal, such as is floated from time to time, perhaps through misinformation from the Iraqis or by people of misguided goodwill, is not acceptable.

I confirm also that our aim is to increase pressures, including the pressure of sanctions, and to review the effect of those pressures before there is any question of the military option, the existence and importance of which the right hon. Gentleman also endorsed.

On 6 and 7 September we discussed the legal position. The right hon. Gentleman asked me not to dwell on that, so I will not, except to say that we are satisfied that the combination of article 51 and the repeated appeals for help which we have had from the Government of Kuwait would provide an adequate legal basis. If it were decided that the military option was inevitable, how that would be implemented and what the timings and procedures would be is obviously not decided. But, as I said, I believe, in September, and as the Leader of the Opposition confirmed then, it would be important to do it in a way that maximised the support that the international community and the coalition that I have mentioned are giving to the enterprise against aggression. Meanwhile, we want to increase the peaceful pressures to ratchet up the strength of the Security Council resolutions. We are considering a new one, as I said.

The point about the individual responsibility of Iraqi officials and officers for acts that they may be ordered to carry out is important, and should not be lost sight of, as the matter is considered.

It was right to go to Israel. One of the things that I discovered there was the strong feeling in Israel that too many people neglected to visit the country as they swung around the middle east. I had an awkward and difficult time last Wednesday, for reasons that have been amply but not always accurately described. I was able to achieve a serviceable relationship with Israeli Ministers of a kind which I have not had before, but I was unable to balance that, as I hoped, with listening to the views of authoritative and respected Palestinian leaders. I met Mr. Peres who, as always, spoke as a wise Leader of the Opposition. I realised again that there is a healthy debate in Israel on matters that perplex us and make us anxious here, including the nature of the regime in the occupied territories.

We believe in the right to Palestinian self-determination, as I have stated for some time. We have never advocated a specific outcome and we have never specifically advocated a Palestinian state, as opposed to other outcomes that are conceivable and have been canvassed, such as a confederal link with Jordan. It is not for us to specify that. We say that that right exists and will have to be respected as part of a comprehensive and negotiated settlement, which must also include provision for the security of Israel.

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman's last point. After the killings in Jerusalem and the renewed cycle of violence, it is unfortunately inevitable that the Security Council will need and will be determined to devote time to this matter in the remaining days of our presidency of the Security Council and thereafter. It will be necessary for the Security Council to deal with both those issues in tandem for the time being. We must riot allow the international community to forget that anyone who is seriously interested in peace and tranquillity in the middle east must place the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait at the top of the agenda.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House knows that we have two other statements this afternoon and an important debate on European legislation. I propose to allow questions on this statement to continue until 4.20 pm. I shall not call today those right hon. and hon. Members who spoke in the emergency debate, but shall give precedence to the 56 hon. Members who were unable to be called on that occasion. It would help me if hon. Members who were called to speak in the emergency debate did not rise now.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Will my right hon. Friend take his mind to the situation that might exist if the United Nations resolutions were acted upon? A leader who would have feelings against the west and against America and who would probably be willing to use atomic weapons as a bargaining counter in the years ahead would be unsatisfactory for peace in the middle east. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only way of bringing Iraq back into the international concomitance of nations would be a major change of regime within Iraq——

Mr. Speaker

Briefly, please.

Sir Peter Emery

—and that the people of Iraq should consider that most carefully?

Mr. Hurd

They may well consider that, but it is riot a matter on which we can be decisive. My hon. Friend is entirely right to say that even if Saddam Hussein or Iraq were to comply fully with the Security Council resolutions, we would not have solved all the problems, and that when considering matters such as the retention of sanctions and the retention of forces, we would have to take into account the dangers that my hon. Friend has described.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that some misguided people are coming close to awarding medals to Saddam Hussein for releasing some of the hostages, whom he should never have seized in the first place? Is not it intolerable that people should suggest negotiations about territory that was seized illegally?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with both the right hon. Gentleman's points, which he put clearly.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

As a result of Iraq giving away overnight to Iran all the things over which they fought wars for years and lost hundreds of thousands of lives, is my right hon. Friend certain in his mind that the border between Iran and Iraq will not become an area of sanctions busting?

Mr. Hurd

I discussed this with the Iranian Foreign Minister in New York who said, realistically, that there will always be a certain amount of traffic over those mountains. It is clearly not in Iran's interests that Saddam Hussein should succeed in this adventure. It is in Iran's interests that the adventure should be checked and reversed, and I believe that Iran will act accordingly.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

The Foreign Secretary has spoken throughout his statement of the necessity for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, but he has not gone as far as several others in his party, including the Prime Minister, who have said that it is also necessary to destroy Iraq's nuclear weapons bases, chemical weapons and biological weapons. Has that part of the determination been dropped? How would we carry that out if Iraq withdrew from Kuwait?

Mr. Hurd

Our commitment is to the three requirements of the Security Council, which the Prime Minister and I have often enumerated. I have already dealt, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), with the situation that would arise and the steps that would have to be taken if the three requirements were peacefully accepted by Saddam Hussein. Even if that happened there would remain a job ahead of us.

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one weapon that may have been underdeployed so far in the area is the weapon of information? Has he observed the reports that some Iraqi soldiers appeared to think that hostages were there as volunteers? The lack of information appears to go right to the top. The leadership of Iraq may underestimate the determination of the allies to use force if necessary. Therefore, will he work with the BBC and other such news agencies, which have a unique integrity throughout the world, to see whether more can be done to promote truths in the area in the right languages?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is entirely right. We are doing precisely that. We are also working with friendly Arab Governments. When I went to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and when I discussed these matters again with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, I stressed exactly my hon. Friend's points. It is particularly important that Kuwaitis should bear witness to what is happening in Kuwait. I do not know about the House, but British people do not seem to have absorbed the nature of the horrors taking place in Kuwait. It would come best from eye witnesses and from Kuwaitis, with whom we are in touch. The Kuwaitis are conscious of the need to put the information across to us and to their Arab brethren.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

Is the Secretary of State fully aware that there are now almost 500,000 Iraqi and allied service men in the region and that there is a high risk of accident and possible action? Is he satisfied that the rules of engagement are strictly understood, bearing it in mind that engagement might be the final option, and the subject of a determined decision by the forces' commanders? To what extent does he see signals that give more hope that sanctions are beginning to work?

Mr. Hurd

The rules of engagement are always important, for the reason that the hon. Gentleman stated. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and his colleagues in other countries are working the matter out satisfactorily.

Sanctions are creating shortages. The hon. Gentleman will have seen the announcement about petrol rationing. Shortages are building up. I cannot say that those shortages will be decisive in the short term. However, the sanctions have been effective in the sense that the oil trade has stopped. I gave the figures for the Royal Navy. Other trade is down. Sanctions are effective and shortages will build up. I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman at what stage they are likely to be decisive.

Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the extremely vulnerable yet crucial position of Jordan in the particular problems of the Gulf? Is he satisfied that there is sufficient support for the Hashemite monarchy to remain a staunch ally of the west as it has been for many years? Would he care to comment on the risk should the mob in the streets take over and Saddam be invited in?

Mr. Hurd

That has caused us a great deal of anxiety for the reasons that my hon. Friend gave. The Jordanian Government are making strenuous efforts to enforce sanctions. I believe that they accept and impress upon the Iraqis the need for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. There is a great deal of misunderstanding and, indeed, bitterness between Jordan and the Arab states in the coalition against the aggression. However, I believe that the two facts that I stated were accurate. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is hard to imagine anyone ruling Jordan better and more effectively than King Hussein does.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The Foreign Secretary has provided us with a welcome opportunity to reaffirm the determination of the British people that the withdrawal from Kuwait by Iraq must be complete and unconditional. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the unanimity of view expressed by the international community in the resolutions of the Security Council is the most hopeful development for peace as it can betoken further healthy developments in the middle east?

Although the right hon. Gentleman is entirely right to emphasise the primacy of the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, the Palestinian question is also a proper subject for the attention of that international consensual approach.

Can the right hon. Gentleman also report to the House on the visit of the Russian spokesman, Mr. Primakov, to Baghdad? Has he had any helpful information on the progress of those discussions?

Mr. Hurd

I agree that the coming together of the Security Council, particularly of the permanent members, offers a more general hope for the future. We want to keep that unity going on one subject after another, provided that that is realistic.

Mr. Primakov has spoken to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about his visit to Baghdad and also spoke to me about it on Saturday. The Soviet Union respects sanctions and its Government have spoken clearly and strenuously to the Iraqi Government about the need for withdrawal. There is no ambiguity about Mr. Primakov's stand on either matter.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that outside this House the public fear that the western nations are losing the propaganda war? Saddam Hussein has freed 33 very sick and old hostages, or what I would call prisoners, but as he holds about 10,000 people, that is scarcely an achievement about which we can be proud.

My right hon. Friend has spoken of the terrible tragedies that have occurred in Kuwait and one must ask what type of Kuwait we shall liberate. Will it be back to the desert? Will the Iraqis have scattered everyone and taken advantage of the weakness in the west to face up to responsibilities?

Mr. Speaker

Briefly, please.

Mr. Hill

We must know from my right hon. Friend how long he believes that it will take the sanctions to bite so that Saddam Hussein capitulates.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend's first point and that is why I commented as I did earlier on the release of the hostages and the promised release of French hostages, about which we heard this morning.

My hon. Friend will be aware that our Government, together with the President of the United States and all his allies, must keep under review the working of sanctions. We must make a judgment about whether those and the other peaceful pressures will be effective or whether we must have recourse to the alternative. It is neither possible nor sensible to start setting deadlines for that—one must exercise continual judgment.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Why is there such a transparent contrast between the immediate condemnation of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which has resulted in 25 countries sending their armies to that region so that the force now totals a quarter of a million men and women, and the passive acceptance of the occupation of Jerusalem, the west bank and the Gaza strip for 23 years? In the past three years alone more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and tens of thousands have been injured. How is it that, after all that, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has sent only three assistants from his office to inquire into such matters? Could it just be that the difference is that the Palestinians have no oil?

Mr. Hurd

The difference is that the two matters are different. Kuwait is occupied by Iraq as a result of an Iraqi act of aggression against Kuwait. The occupied territories are occupied by Israel as a result of an attack upon Israel. The occupation is wrong and does not provide a basis for Israel's legitimate request for security. However, the historical background is different and the Security Council resolutions are different.

In the case of the Arab-Israel question, when the suitable time comes we must reconcile the two things that arise out of geography and history, but for now we must get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. In the future, however, we must reconcile the rights of the Palestinians, which the hon. Gentleman rightly champions, with the natural anxieties of Israel for security that arise from her geography and history.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

While not seeking to make the same mistake as the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East, (Mr. Nellist), may I say to my right hon. Friend that many of us would like the Israeli Government to realise how many friends they have lost during the past few years? Will he take every possible opportunity to impress on the ambassador here and the Government there that they can help to isolate this madman Hussein by acting honourably with regard to the Palestinians?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is a matter of wisdom, which would involve some flexibility in the attitude of the Israeli Government, for example to the Secretary-General's decision to send a mission. I hope that that wisdom and flexibility will appear.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

What is happening with regard to the United Nations' inquiry? We know that it is not going into Israel because that Government will not co-operate, but will the Foreign Secretary say whether there will be an inquiry? I ask that question because I am aware that a party of 16 black social workers, lawyers and others witnessed the shootings at Temple Mount. They have film and recordings of it and would like to submit them to the United Nations' inquiry.

Mr. Hurd

They should do so, because whether or not the Secretary-General's mission gains entry to Israel, he will certainly wish to present a report to the Security Council. Discussions and ideas about how representatives of the Secretary-General might visit Israel are still going the rounds, so the idea is not a lost cause, which is why I made my appeal. The hon. Gentleman should advise his friends to submit their evidence to the Secretary-General.

Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Will my right hon. Friend tell us something about the measures that have been taken in relation to the financial aspect of sanctions? At the beginning of the debate on this subject reference was made to the importance that we all attach to ensuring that Iraq does not gain financially, and that credit and other financial measures are withdrawn from Iraq. What international co-ordination has there been to ensure that Iraq is totally cut off financially?

Mr. Hurd

I believe that the stringent financial measures are effective and right across the world, particulary in the financial centres, Iraqi accounts are frozen. She does not have access to foreign reserves or other resources, although she took a certain amount from Kuwait which is keeping her going for the time being. If my hon. Friend or any other hon. Member has evidence of attempts by financiers of any kind to get through the regulations I hope that they will let us or the United Nations sanctions committee know.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to place on record the praise of the House for the humanitarian and generous way in which the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has responded to the plight of Kuwaitis forced to flee from their country by providing free accommodation, food and clothing for them? Those of us who met the Association for Free Kuwait yesterday were told by its members that it was impossible to find adequate words to thank the Saudis for their help. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that when Kuwait is finally restored to the Kuwaiti people it will, through punitive reparations on Saddam Hussein, be in the same physical state as it was before the invasion?

Mr. Hurd

That second point is the main reason why we are pressing ahead at the United Nations with the specific draft resolution on compensation. I agree with my hon. Friend's first point and saw evidence of it when I visited the Kuwaitis in Taif last month. The Saudis are practising the genuine version of Arab hospitality as compared with the ghastly distortion of it practised by Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that some—albeit a minority of us—in the Labour party are, quite simply, dismayed at his statement? Supposing military victory were attained, what would happen in the long term, after thousands of casualties and the oil fields burning from Basra to Kirkuk? What long-term assessment has been made of the number of casualties and of the effect in the rest of the Arab world, not least in Egypt, if blood were spilled? Some of us are profoundly unhappy, and frankly think that there should be diplomacy and talking and that peace plans should not be dismissed as necessarily bogus.

Mr. Hurd

Diplomacy and talking have been going on for some time, and I suppose that I am in charge of that on behalf of Britain. It is crucial to build up the peaceful pressures, a lot of which is diplomacy and talking, to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and there is still a possibility that that will happen, provided that among those peaceful pressures is the knowledge that if he does not go in peace, he will be forced out. The hon. Gentleman would take away that certainty. He is blurring it, and if he were to blur it from a position of authority, such as that of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), he would be diminishing the peaceful pressures on Saddam Hussein, which he does not want to do. I put this point seriously to a serious intervention. It is important that there should be a growing certainty in Saddam Hussein's mind that, one way or the other, it is either retreat or defeat; either he goes in peace or he is forced out.

Of course, the military option would bring destruction, dislocation and suffering, but the hon. Gentleman is not facing the alternative, which is to allow a simple, clear act of aggression to prevail and the aggressor to benefit from it. Behind all his talk, that is what he is prepared to contemplate. That is not safe. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Egypt, but if he talked to President Mubarak about that exact point, as I did last week, he would find that the President of Egypt's view is my view, not his.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

How close are we to war in the middle east? What will be the military and political consequences, and what estimates have been made of the potential loss of human life, if such a war takes place? If it was unseemly for Saddam Hussein to haggle about hostages, will the Minister at least grant that it was as not unseemly for the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) to haggle, because he achieved something?

Mr. Hurd

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present when I made my statement, but I did cover that point. It is not possible for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence or for me to give specific estimates of what the course or consequence of the military option might be. I have stated the general considerations and why it is clear in my mind, and that of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), that the military option cannot be discounted. It exists—it must exist in reality—and that fact is a crucial part of the peaceful pressures to reverse the aggression.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that all the forces in Saudi Arabia are on a high level of alert because there is no assurance that Iraq will not invade? If my right hon. Friend were to respond to the call from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) by telling Saddam Hussein that we would not use military aggression against him until we had gone back to the United Nations, would not that allow the Iraqi forces to relax until such a resolution was passed by the United Nations?

Mr. Hurd

I have been careful to give no such assurance, as my hon. Friend knows. He is right to say that all the forces in the Gulf have to be in a high state of readiness. The immediate danger which existed in early August of a further attack on Saudi Arabia is now, obviously, less likely, but one cannot rule out any action by this man.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets members of the Kuwaiti royal family, will he obtain from them a commitment that the children who were illegally adopted by Kuwaiti citizens before Iraq's occupation of Kuwait will be returned? Although they are small in number, and appear to have been forgotten about, the mothers of those children are distraught because they see no hope, even after the Kuwaiti Government has been re-established, of their children being returned to Britain. Will the Secretary of State secure a commitment from the Kuwaiti royal family that one of their first actions, in return for freedom being restored to their country, will be to return British children who were illegally adopted by Kuwaiti citizens before the invasion?

Mr. Hurd

I am not familiar with the situation to which the hon. Gentleman refers. If he has not already written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I shall be grateful if he will do so.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Since full and effective enforcement of the economic embargo is important in achieving a satisfactory outcome to the crisis in the foreseeable future, and as front-line states such as Jordan, Egypt and Turkey are vital to that purpose, can my right hon. Friend bring the House up to date on the further steps taken, notably by Japan and Germany, to increase financial contributions to the front-line states, to which such support is vital if they are to play an effective part in applying economic embargoes?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is quite right. On 1 October, the European Community decided to make provision from the 1990–91 budget for 1.5 billion ecu of support for Egypt, Turkey and Jordan—always provided that Jordan continues to make strenuous efforts to apply sanctions. I expect that additionally Germany will make an individual contribution. It has already announced that it will. When I visited Japan, I urged that country's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to do more, and a few days later they announced a doubling of Japan's contribution. Germany and Japan are barred by law from sending ships, aircraft or men,, but are now making substantial financial contributions.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Many of my Bangladeshi constituents have relatives who fled Kuwait, and who are now destitute in transit camps on the Jordanian and Turkish border. Has the Secretary of State visited those camps, and are there any plans to aid the people who remain in them? My Bangladeshi constituents feel that all the attention has centred on European refugees and that their relatives are being ignored.

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Lady's constituents may have that impression, but it is not an accurate one. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, at my invitation, visited the frontier and the camps a few weeks ago. Britain was among the first to give help—particularly to the International Office of Migration, which has been co-ordinating flights out of Jordan of the refugees to which the hon. Lady referred. A substantially smaller number of refugees remain, and the movement of people homeward to countries such as Bangladesh has been speedy. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the burden of Saddam Hussein's aggression on Bangladesh and other poor countries is very great.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his skilful and robust handling of the crisis, which has greatly enhanced our country's standing in that important part of the world. Although I appreciate that my right hon. Friend cannot set a timetable for how long it will be before economic sanctions are deemed ineffective and the military option will have to be exercised, he will be aware of the high state of readiness of British forces in the Gulf—whom I and a number of my hon. Friends have visited. Does he agree that the situation cannot be allowed to drag on, and that, although Saddam Hussein must be given the shortest possible time to do the right thing, we must then exercise the military option?

Mr. Hurd

I agree that the situation cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely, which is why the President of the United States and the British Government, among others, will have to take stock of the effectiveness of the peaceful pressures to which I referred and then take a decision, which will not be easy. Nevertheless, it is not a decision that can be shirked.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

How does the Secretary of State react to the evidence that Saddam Hussein has developed terrifying weapons against which our allies have no defence? I refer to the fuel air explosive weapon, whose effect has been described as being as devastating as that of a small-scale nuclear weapon, and to biological weapons whose effects cannot be confined to the battlefield and will continue for decades. Will he investigate as a matter of urgency whether the assistance given by China in supplying lithium hydride to Iraq, by the firm of lndustrias Cadoen in Chile, which has been helping Iraq with the FAE weapon, by our country, by Holland and by Germany has finally come to an end, and assure us that, when the crisis is over, he will make it a main plank of his new campaign to build a new world order to try to banish these terrifying weapons from the face of the earth?

Mr. Hurd

We take this very seriously and we follow up all reports such as the one that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. He will know of the precautions that have been taken in this respect. He will also have heard the answer that I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), who tackled me on this in a more general way in the first supplementary question on this statement.

Supposing that Saddam Hussein complied with the three existing Security Council resolutions, withdrew from Kuwait, let the hostages go and restored the Kuwaiti Government, we should still have a problem on our hands.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry that it has not been possible to call all hon. Members who have been rising, but I think that every one of them was called during Question Time——

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Not my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan).

Mr. Speaker

He was called on Question 16 and also in the emergency debate. We shall undoubtedly return to this subject.

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