General Colin Powell

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 Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 17th January 1991

To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions he has had a meeting with General Colin Powell of the United States joint chiefs of staff; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I met the chairman of the United States joint chiefs of staff on 4 December. British commanders, of course, have been in regular touch with General Powell.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

If General Powell were to be instructed either to accept or to offer a call for a cease fire, would we have to wait until Kuwait was occupied by coalition forces? In the light of my letter of yesterday to him, could the Prime Minister clarify the differences between himself on the one hand and Secretary Cheney and General Powell on the other on the use and legal aspects of nuclear weapons?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

On the first point, the conflict can cease when it becomes clear beyond doubt that the Iraqis are moving out of Kuwait and we are certain that that is the case. That has been and will continue to be the position.

On the use of nuclear weapons, I think that I made it clear in the debate the other day that we did not envisage the use of nuclear weapons. To the best of our knowledge Iraq does not have a nuclear capacity. Under the non-proliferation treaty, which has been signed by the United States and ourselves, we would not therefore use them.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , South Thanet

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the vital ingredients in the success of the military operation so far was General Powell's request, courageously supported on 9 November by President Bush and the British Cabinet, to double the number of troops and aircraft deployed to their present high levels? Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate all those responsible on both sides of the Atlantic, from commanders to backroom boys, on this remarkable feat of military logistics and preparedness?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I would certainly be most happy to do that. When I was able to visit Dhahran and some of the military establishments a week or so ago, it was astonishing to see the way in which the sheer logistics of obtaining such a dramatic armada of weaponry, in terms of both land and air forces, had been achieved. It has been a remarkable logistical operation.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

Does the Prime Minister agree that one of the significant achievements of General Powell has been to ensure that this is not just an American dispute with the Iraqi Government—he has also involved the Arab Governments? Should we not all like to pay tribute to the Saudi Arabian Government and the Kuwait Government in exile for agreeing to their aircraft flying into Iraq, in marked distinction to the French?

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I certainly believe that it is entirely welcome that there has been a multinational effort in terms of today's attack on Iraq. My understanding is that it was a four-nation attack in the first wave. But, as the right hon. Gentleman may not yet have heard, France joined in the attack at a later stage. I understand that some of her aircraft have suffered damage.