The Gulf

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 11th December 1990.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs) 4:09 pm, 11th December 1990

It is now 19 weeks, more than four months, since the Gulf crisis broke. In the Labour party, we have been guided by two principles during that period. The first is that the House of Commons must regularly have the opportunity to discuss the crisis and the role of the United Kingdom in it. That is why we asked for the recall of the House in September. That is why we have asked for and obtained a series of statements from the Government. That is why we have tabled a series of private notice questions and that is why we asked for today's debate. The debate is being held at the request of the Opposition. We thought that it was especially important that the House should have the opportunity to discuss the situation before we rose for the Christmas recess, bearing in mind the date of 15 January contained in United Nations resolution 678, which was carried by the Security Council the week before last.

Our second principle—of paramount and overriding importance to us—is that the role of the United Nations shall be central to all actions taken to resolve the crisis and that the decisions and policies of the United Nations must at all times be upheld and supported. That is all the policies and all the decisions. That includes the authorisation, in resolution 660, of negotiations between Kuwait and Iraq, following unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait by Iraq, and it includes the insistence, in resolution 660 right through to resolution 678, of complete and unconditional withdrawal by Iraq from Kuwait. It is important to bear it in mind that the international coalition responsible for those resolutions is supported by the League of Arab States.

The League of Arab States made a specific declaration, after the first United nations resolutions were passed, supporting those resolutions calling for the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait.

Four months after the outbreak of the crisis, it is important to recall how it began. Many right hon. and hon. Members will wish to discuss the issue of force— whether it is right to use it and, if so, at what point and with what justification. It is understandable and right that the House should consider so grave a possibility. Further, it is right to remember that force has already been used in this crisis. Force started this crisis, with the unprovoked military invasion by Iraq of Kuwait, an innocent and peaceful neighbour.

There has been killing in Kuwait, as newly returned hostages have confirmed and described. Kuwaiti refugees, whom I met when I visited the Gulf, described to me how babies had been torn from incubators. There has been rape. There has been looting on perhaps an unprecedented scale. When the House, in a sober mood, considers how best to respond to the crisis, it is right that we should remember how it began and why the United Nations Security Council responded as it did.