The Gulf

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th February 1991.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 4th February 1991

To ask the Attorney-General what legal advice he has sought recently from academic international lawyers on legal issues affecting developments in the Gulf.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I give advice on my own responsibility. The question whether I have sought the views of others is normally confidential.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

As a member of the War Cabinet, what advice has the Attorney-General received on the percentage of bombing of military targets in Kuwait, which is significantly less than the pounding of Iraq? What advice has he received about which United Nations resolution justify the bombing for 18 days of Iraq? Has he received any advice on whether certain animal species, such as the dugong, the sea cow and the green turtle, have a right to exist, not to be annihilated by human Front Bench folly?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The hon. Gentleman knows that any advice that I give and any advice I receive as a Law Officer is, for good reasons, confidential. Throughout this affair, Britain has committed itself to acting strictly in accordance with international law. In that context, the principles of international law require that account be taken of two factors when planning attacks on military objectives. First, civilian losses, whether of life or property, should be avoided or minimised as far as practicable. Secondly, we should not cause civilian losses that are disproportionate to the military advantage expected from the attack as a whole. The hon. Gentleman will know, because it has been frequently stated by the Prime Minister and others, that British military commanders have been instructed to comply with those principles.

On the wider question with which the hon. Gentleman concluded his remarks, regrettable though environmental damage is, the responsibility for it lies with President Saddam.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that we wish that the conflict had never been started, but that, as it has been started, it must be finished? Does he further agree that the United Nations resolution on which the war is fought is one of humanity—finishing the war as soon as possible? If we continue with the attitude shown by some—luckily a minority—in the House, all tyrants will always prosper and justice will never be done.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

My hon. Friend recalls accurately that the Security Council's operative resolution, No. 678, calls on member states to take such measures as are necessary to implement resolution 660, which calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait of the Iraqi forces, and to restore international peace and security in the area. That is what this country, together with its allies, are about.