Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1991.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Butler Mr Christopher Butler , Warrington South 12:00 am, 17th January 1991

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 17 January.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Photo of Mr Christopher Butler Mr Christopher Butler , Warrington South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that our troops know that they have the overwhelming support of the House not only in liberating Kuwait but in realising the promise of a newly effective United Nations?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that his views will be echoed throughout the House. I hope that that strong support will be sustained within and beyond the House in the difficult weeks ahead.

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

May I take this opportunity of supporting the feeling expressed by the Prime Minister earlier today that the current conflict was not wanted by those allied against Iraq and is, therefore, regretted? For the sake of our forces and their families, and for the sake of innocent civilians in Kuwait and in Iraq, people everywhere will hope that success in fulfilling the purposes of the United Nations is achieved as speedily as possible. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to make it clear that Saddam Hussein can quickly prevent further death and destruction by fully and immediately complying with the United Nations resolutions, by laying down all Iraqi arms and by respecting international law?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and I am grateful for the way in which he expressed his view. I hope that at an early stage Saddam Hussein will do what he should have done a long time ago—make it clear that he is prepared to leave Kuwait fully, wholly and unconditionally and spare the world the conflict that is at present going on.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the assessment by General Colin Powell of the United States joint chiefs of staff that 80 per cent. of the sorties against Iraq have been effective. Is not that a remarkable achievement and a great credit to the allied forces? Does not the pinpoint bombing that we have seen on the news illustrate that there will not be the civilian casualties in Iraq which some had feared? That is important, because our quarrel is not with the people of Iraq.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I agree with my hon. Friend. Our problem is not with the people of Iraq but with the dictator of Iraq who created the invasion of Kuwait. My hon. Friend is entirely right. I echo what he said about the precision bombing that we have seen thus far. I might add that much of that precision bombing is carried out at low level precisely to avoid civilian casualties, sometimes at risk to our pilots. I think that their bravery deserves acknowledgement.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberal Democrats

We all heard the news of last night's action with deep regret that this war had to be fought. Does the Prime Minister realise that in this House, and I believe in the nation, there is no mood of jingoism for war but a deep determination to see through a job that must be done, to support our forces and to back the United Nations?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We entered this enterprise with reluctance, but we shall pursue it with persistence until the end.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

Will my right hon. Friend accept my warm congratulations on the way in which he made his statement this morning and particularly on the way in which he answered the questions put to him by the press? Does he agree with the commentator on Radio 4 this morning who urged that we should not attempt through the many armchair generals who will commentate on this war to second-guess what the military are doing in Iraq?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I think that it is already clear from what we have seen today that the degree of care in the planning by the allied high command has been very successful. I believe that the conduct of those military operations is in very satisfactory military hands.

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 17 January.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge

Does the Prime Minister recall that many of our hostages, who have now returned from Iraq, spoke of the friendliness and helpfulness of the ordinary Iraqi citizens during their period of entrapment? Will he confirm that this war is against Saddam Hussein and his hencemen, not against ordinary families in Iraq? Does he further agree that ordinary Iraqi nationals, living in this country, many of whom are refugees from the oppression of Saddam Hussein, should not be harassed or held accountable for the actions of the dictator?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. It is entirely true that there are a large number of Iraqi citizens in the United Kingdom who are here precisely because they have been persecuted by Saddam Hussein. I believe that their refuge here will be appreciated and understood by the British people.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we have no quarrel whatsoever with ordinary Iraqi people. As I said a moment ago, it is the dictatorship of Iraq which we are opposing.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Since President Bush this morning said that one of his war aims was to destroy the existing chemical and potential atomic war-making capacity of Iraq, will my right hon. Friend associate the United Kingdom with that war aim? Will he also confirm that, once those installations are destroyed, no British or European company will, in future, assist in their being replaced?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

As my hon. Friend may know, those installations have been attacked, but thus far we are not entirely sure with what success. I hope that that will become apparent later. Subsequently, I certainly hope that firms will take great care in any dealings they may have with those who may recreate that sort of facility.