The Gulf

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 3:14 pm on 6th September 1990.

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Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 3:14 pm, 6th September 1990

May I, first, join the Prime Minister in her tribute to the late Ian Gow? Clearly he was not a political soulmate of mine, but from the earliest time that I met him—indeed, before he came to the House—I recognised him as a very likeable man and a man of considerable integrity. By killing him, his murderers showed not their strength in the face of democracy but their weakness.

I and my right hon. and hon. Friends have, as the Prime Minister said, suffered two very severe blows in recent weeks with the death of Pat Wall, after a long and very painful illness, and the tragic death yesterday of Allen Adams.

Pat was a man of courage and great humour and his ability to show both, even at a time of terrible illness, was an enormous tribute to him.

Allen Adams was a young man who was well liked and well respected in the House, in his constituency and elsewhere. The suddenness of his death has left myself and my colleagues numb. We send our deepest sympathy and our great sorrow to his wife and, indeed, to Pat's wife and to Ian's wife.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the Prime Minister for agreeing to my request that Parliament be recalled to discuss the situation in the Gulf and its implications. This two-day debate will, I am sure, be wide ranging, as Members on both sides will want to raise a multiplicity of genuine and important concerns ranging from the most global to the most personal and local.

For me, in my contribution, the main focus of the debate must be on the most effective ways of depriving the Iraqi dictator and his regime of any military, economic, political or other gain from their aggression and of preventing him from posing any future threat to the stability and security of the region.

Our unrelenting purposes must be to ensure that Saddam Hussein gets out of Kuwait and legitimate government is restored in that country, that the hostages—all the hostages—are released, that our diplomatic staff, who have shown such great fortitude, be allowed to go about their normal business, and that the United Nations resolutions are unconditionally fulfilled and commitments to stability and security in the region are put into effect. There can be no possibilities of concessions on any of those objectives.

The aggression of Saddam Hussein, his treatment of innocents, the record of his regime and his oppression of the Iraqi and Kurdish people over many years forbid anything but that implacable attitude from this side of the House.

As both I and my right hon. Friends have made clear, we consider that in the circumstances arising from the invasion of Kuwait the action taken in the United Nations and in the commitment of forces was right. In the very nature of Saddam Hussein's aggression, slowness or modesty in response would have been an invitation to him to continue over other borders and into greater excesses. If that had occurred, the task of achieving the purposes of the United Nations resolutions would have been even more complex, even more arduous and even more dangerous than it is now.

If the only response of the world community had been economic sanctions and political condemnation, those actions and words, no matter how strong, would not have had the necessary effect in halting Saddam Hussein's military adventure. All that, to us, is self-evident. Cumulatively, it is the reason for the unprecedented firmness and solidarity of the actions of the United Nations and for the equally strong and equally common reaction of the British people.

There is, of course, natural and justifiable anxiety about the crisis. It is felt most deeply—indeed, desperately—by those poor people whose loved ones have been or still are the hostages of Saddam Hussein. The feelings of those people cannot fail to have an effect on the thinking of all of us in the House. I am sure that Ministers and other hon. Members take the fullest account of the requests that we have had from the hostages and from their families that we should all be measured in our approach, careful in our use of language and persistent in efforts to restore the freedom of those people now held by Saddam Hussein.

The feelings of concern among the people very directly caught up in the events, and in the wider public, are deep and realistic, as well they may be when the possibility of war remains and when it is widely understood that such a war could cause horrific devastation—at its worst, devastation on a scale and of a nature that the world has scarcely ever seen before.

There are other pronounced feelings. They are not simplistic, nor are they bellicose, but they are feelings of great determination. First, there is the very deep-seated conviction that aggression must not pay. All personal encounters with the general public and all measures of opinion testify to that. Both the generation that experienced the 1930s and the 1940s and later generations like my own that did not witness appeasement and war are agreed, across the age barriers, on that.

Secondly, there is a feeling that, while no advantages of any description arise from the action of Saddam Hussein, the co-operation between powers that were, until a short time ago, deadlocked in cold war offers a new prospect for international security. I believe that we in the House should not simply recognise these growing feelings—we should lead them by playing a full part in developing a new and practical design for international peace and order.

Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that, in response to Saddam Hussein's aggression, the British people—like the world community in general—share the overwhelming conviction that intense pressure must be rigorously sustained against Saddam Hussein and his regime. Iraq's isolation must be complete. That course is supported not only as a way of avoiding or reducing bloodshed but as the best means of securing an acceptable and enduring outcome to the crisis. The widespread and, in our view, entirely correct approach is that sanctions should be given the fullest possible opportunity of working in order to make Saddam Hussein completely fulfil the requirements of the United Nations resolutions.

There is a widespread and deeply held understanding that the support for securing the objectives, and the action needed to secure those objectives, involve a long haul. Strong sanctions can, of course, have a particular effect against the Saddam regime. Iraq has to rely on imports for well over 80 per cent. of its basic materials. It is dependent for well over 95 per cent. of its export earnings upon the sale of oil, 88 per cent. of which flows through just two pipelines, one through Turkey, the other through Saudi Arabia. In pursuit of the United Nations policy, we have to ensure, with the rest of the world community, that, for the duration, Iraq cannot sell anything to anyone, buy anything from anyone or raise credit from anywhere.

That latter point has not, thus far, had the attention that it properly deserves. The fact is that Iraq, because of its oil wealth, is naturally regarded as a good credit risk. Indeed, so good is it that it is conceivable that—if effective action is not taken—Iraq could have access to substantial credit for a year or even more. That financial tap must be completely turned off. There must be no exceptions.

Clearly, the besieging of Iraq has had and will have grave effects on other economies—most especially on its poorer neighbours and on those who have to rely for a significant part of their income on remittances of their citizens who have been working in Iraq and Kuwait. Substantial and speedy aid must be given to such economies, both for the relief of suffering and to ensure that the force of economic circumstances does not impel them into relaxing the embargo. I hope that, even before that form of support is fully installed, Governments will quickly and generously give help to refugees and private citizens will support Oxfam, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and other aid charities in their efforts in the emergency refugee programmes.

I was gratified to note in what the Prime Minister said this afternoon that additional sums are to be made available. I hope that the matter will be kept continually under review because the prospects of mass starvation and of disease as refugees go to the border must horrify us all.

The need to help the poorer economies cope with the economic effects of the Gulf crisis is clearly an obligation on all the richer countries of the world. Mr. Brady's mission is welcome as a reminder to a variety of economies. I must also say that it is the particular duty of the strongest economies in the world—Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Everyone will naturally understand the increasing pressures in the German economy as unification approaches. Everyone will also appreciate the desire of the Japanese people not to compromise their constitution. But as both countries are most certainly part of the world democratic community, as both have very direct interests in achieving the fulfilment of the United Nations resolutions and as both can take economic action without transgressing their constitutions, that action of support must be taken on a generous scale, and I trust that every opportunity will be used by our Government and by other Governments to press that case and to achieve a constructive response.

In the course of the weeks since the invasion of Kuwait, the issue of the extent of the mandate under article 51 of the United Nations charter has naturally attracted attention and raised important questions. The Prime Minister addressed herself to that question. Clearly it must be right for us to consider those questions in this Parliament. Even as we do so, there will, in the process of discussion, be absolutely no reassurance for Saddam Hussein. On the contrary, as far as I am concerned, the issue of this aspect of the debate is how his aggression can be dealt with most completely and conclusively. It is success that we are after.

In the public discussion that has taken place thus far on this issue, two opinions have had greatest prominence. Some assert that there is no essential need for a further specific resolution of the Security Council because, they say, the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence", specified in article 51 of the UN charter, gives all necessary authority for any future military action. Others say that there can be absolutely no further military action without an additional specific resolution.

I believe that in the current circumstances, it is not wise to approach the matter from either of those two absolutes. Neither by itself fully addresses both the legal and the political issues at stake. It is those political issues which must unavoidably be taken into account by anyone who wants to ensure that the objectives of the United Nations and, I believe, of just about everyone in this House, are fully realised.