The Gulf

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:44 pm on 12th February 1991.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 9:44 pm, 12th February 1991

Words have lost their meaning, and values and ideas have been stood on their head by the operation of the war. Those of us who favour bringing British troops home are said not to support the troops, when, in reality, we are the people who wish to save their lives. Those of us who have all along stood by the principles for which the United Nations stands are said to be anti-United Nations because we have voted against the Government, who claim that resolution 678 is a mandate from the United Nations to take the action that they are taking in the Gulf. I object strongly to being called anti-United Nations.

Clause IV(7) of the Labour party constitution spells out our commitment to international principles and stands by the United Nations. It states that its objectives are to co-operate with the labour and socialist organisation in other countries and to support the United Nations Organisation and its various agencies and other international organisations for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international disputes by conciliation or judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights, and the improvement of the social and economic standards and conditions of work of the people of the world. There is no way in which the action taken by the allied coalition forces could be said to be in keeping with any of those principles. I do not believe that allied forces are acting in conformity with the resolutions passed by the United Nations.

Resolution 678 states that in certain circumstances all necessary means can be used. We are using wholly unnecessary and counter-productive means in the present circumstances. Resolution 678 also endorses all the previous United Nations resolutions on the Gulf crisis, including resolution 666, which calls for foodstuffs and medical supplies to be made available in Iraq and Kuwait in certain circumstances. Those circumstances were envisaged to be the application of the sanctions. Sanctions still apply, but in the context of a massive bombardment of the Iraqi people. Those circumstances are endorsed by resolution 678.

I shall quote from and explain the early-day motion on United Nations resolution 666 which I tabled today. It states: That this House notes that the much-quoted Resolution 678 of the United Nations reaffirms all previous United Nations Resolutions on the Gulf crisis, including Resolution 666. Conservative Members may say, "resolution 660", but there are a number of resolutions, and resolution 666 happens to be one of them. The early-day motion calls for particular attention to 'be paid to such categories of persons who might suffer specially, such as the children under 15 years of age, expectant mothers, maternity cases, the sick and the elderly' and recognises 'that circumstances may arise in which it will be necessary for foodstuffs to be supplied to the civilian population in Iraq or Kuwait in order to relieve human suffering', plus medical supplies; and also notes that Resolution 678 is ambiguous about the means it sanctions to ensure that Iraqi Armed Forces withdraw from Kuwait, but recognises that this element of the Resolution has been interpreted by the governments forming the coalition of Allied Forces to justify a continuous massive bombing raid on Iraq and Kuwait and that the situation has thereby been created whereby Resolution 666 should now engage world attention, and that the supply of foodstuffs and medical supplies to the categories of people mentioned above can only meaningfully be undertaken given an end, or at least a pause, to mass bombing. Presumably, resolution 666 is as significant in terms of the Gulf crisis as resolution 678. We should now be forced to find a means of pursuing resolution 666 and looking after the groups of people who have been sorely treated in the massive bombing throughout Iraq—especially in areas in the south such as Basra, of which we hear little, but where ports, docks, marshalling yards and railway stations are intimately linked to residential areas, schools and hospitals and where the destruction must be phenomenal. That should be a matter of the greatest concern to us. We should be finding out what is happening and taking steps to overcome the problems.

Fortunately, the United Nations is doing something at least in that direction. The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organisation have set up a mission to send emergency medical supplies to children and mothers in Iraq. It will start with Baghdad, but I hope that, when its members get there and discover what the position is, they will try to find out what is going on in other areas of Iraq, including Basra—an area in which. I have a specific interest.

Another idea that has been turned on its head is the position that people such as I have adopted towards the British troops. I served for two years in Basra and I hope that I therefore have some sympathy for the British troops and an understanding of their circumstances, as well as some concern for the Iraqi citizens—the people with whom I mixed and with whom I worked while I was serving with an RAF movements unit there. I worked closely with people in the docks and railways and in shipping. It is those people and their children who have been severely hit by the action.