§ 14. Mr. Wilshire
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current military situation in the Gulf.
§ Mr. Tom King
Following the defeat of the Iraqi army in Kuwait, the coalition suspended offensive combat operations, subject to clearly laid down conditions. These included the immediate return of our prisoners of war and of the remains of those who lost their lives. In advance of any agreement on a final ceasefire, coalition forces have been clearing the battlefield; naval forces have been continuing their mine-clearing operations; and air forces have been maintaining defensive air patrols. At the same time, we have begun the phased withdrawal of some of our forces.
§ Mr. Wilshire
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Saddam Hussein's barbaric use of force against his own people proves that he still cannot be trusted? In the circumstances, does he also agree that there can be no lasting peace in the middle east until the coalition forces have satisfied themselves that there are no chemical or biological weapons left in Iraq?
§ Mr. King
I certainly accept that we cannot trust Saddam Hussein. We have made that very clear and by the use of force we have now liberated Kuwait. I assure my hon. Friend that the importance of eliminating Saddam Hussein's nuclear, biological and chemical capability is something to which we attach the greatest importance.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke
Did the Secretary of State see the excellent but disturbing report by Charles Wheeler on "Newsnight" last night? Does he agree that the oppression of Palestinians in Kuwait is totally unacceptable? Does he agree that any oppression in Kuwait is completely unacceptable and that that was not the reason for the presence of British troops in the Gulf?
§ Mr. King
In response to an earlier question, I paid tribute to the role of our reservists in the Gulf and their ready willingness to play their part in that important conflict. I should like to welcome back my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) and thank him for the contribution that he made, like many of his colleagues, who so gladly responded to the call for reservists.
To answer the hon. Gentleman's question, when I was in Kuwait I made the strongest representations to the Kuwaiti Government about the need to ensure justice and fairness for all the people in the area. I said that we went to liberate Kuwait, to free it from intolerance and cruelty, and that we do not want intolerance and cruelty perpetuated there in any way.