The Gulf

– in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 18th February 1991.

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Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney 3:32 pm, 18th February 1991

With the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement about the Gulf.

The announcement by the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council on 15 February stated Iraq's readiness to deal with Security Council Resolution 660 with the aim of reaching an honourable and acceptable political solution, including withdrawal". The announcement clearly and explicitly links an undertaking by Iraq on withdrawal to a series of conditions. These include the withdrawal of Israel from occupied Arab territory, the withdrawal of coalition troops from the Gulf within one month, reparations for damage done to Iraq, the cancellation of Iraq's debts, the repeal of all Security Council resolutions passed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the guarantee of Iraq's territorial claims.

It is clear that the Revolutionary Command Council's announcement does not commit Iraq to unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, as required by the United Nations Security Council either in resolution 660 or in the later ones, nor to the implementation of the other resolutions passed by the Security Council since 2 August. The announcement was rejected by the meeting of Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Syria and the Gulf Co-operation Council in Cairo. It was also rejected by the great majority of speakers in the United Nations Security Council on 16 February. In the view of Her Majesty's Government, it was totally inadequate as a basis for ending the war. The aggressor cannot expect to set conditions for remedying the aggression.

What the world now requires is an unequivocal commitment by Iraq to withdraw its forces fully and unconditionally from Kuwait. When the Iraqi Government are ready to comply with the mandatory resolutions of the Security Council, they should say so unambiguously and match their words with decisive and irreversible proof. There needs to be clear evidence of withdrawal and of a commitment to repatriate allied prisoners of war.

Today, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mr. Tariq Aziz, is in Moscow. President Gorbachev has made it clear that the Soviet Union stands firmly behind the coalition and the resolutions of the Security Council. I hope that Mr. Tariq Aziz will take back to Baghdad the clear message that Iraq can decide when the fighting will stop by taking the steps that I have described.

The Security Council will continue its debate after the discussions in Moscow. I urge the Iraqi leadership quickly to put to an end the anxiety and suffering which their continued intransigence is causing to the people of Kuwait, to the people of Iraq and to the whole world.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

I thank the Foreign Secretary for responding to our request for a statement. Our determination to insist upon the strict fulfilment of the United Nations resolutions requiring Iraq to withdraw unconditionally from all of Kuwait begins to be vindicated, first, by Iraq's citing of resolution 660, and, secondly, by the fact that Iraq, for the first time since the crisis began more than six months ago, is referring to withdrawal of its forces from Kuwait.

It remains unclear exactly what Iraq meant in the statement issued by Baghdad radio on Friday, and augmented by informal statements by Tariq Aziz and the Iraqi ambassadors to the United Nations and to Paris.

As far as the Labour party is concerned, what is certain is that if the list of issues accompanying the Baghdad statement is a list of conditions to be carried out before or parallel with withdrawal, those conditions are totally unacceptable, since resolution 660, to which radio Baghdad referred, requires unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. If it is a list of the issues which Iraq believes should be discussed after withdrawal, certain of the isues are again unacceptable. Other matters, such as the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, should certainly be discussed at the international conference foreshadowed by Security Council resolution 681, but they are certainly not matters to be negotiated bilaterally with Iraq and cannot be linked to Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

Therefore, we await developments following the Moscow talks and welcome the repeated Soviet insistence upon strict Iraqi implementation of Security Council resolutions.

If the Soviet plan or any other reliable actions and verifiable statements confirm or bring about, without any doubt whatever, Iraqi acceptance of the UN resolutions, and if Iraq then complies with the Baker-Bessmertnykh conditions, by commencing withdrawal from Kuwait in a manner verified by and acceptable to the commanders of the coalition forces, will such action receive a response from the coalition? The United States Secretary of State, Mr. James Baker, and the United States Defence Department have indicated as much and I shall be grateful for confirmation by the Foreign Secretary.

The whole House will deeply regret continuing Iraqi civilian casualties, including the loss of life at Fallujah. We hope that every possible effort will be made to avoid further such occurrences. I think that the Royal Air Force deserves credit for openly acknowledging the tragic error which caused casualties at Fallujah. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if such unhappy mistakes are made, it is better to do what the Royal Air Force has done and admit them and seek to avoid their recurrence rather than seek ways to justify them? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that further casualties on both sides can be avoided if Iraq plainly and simply accepts the Security Council resolutions and, without further delay and without conditions, withdraws from Kuwait? Our support for those resolutions is firm and determined. Let them now be carried out.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the general tone of what he said. On his three specific points, I chose my words carefully as regards compliance. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that Iraq is required by the Security Council to accept immediately and unconditionally the withdrawal of all its forces. That obviously requires not just an assurance but decisive and irreversible proof. I said that there needs to be clear evidence of withdrawal and of a commitment to repatriate allied prisoners of war.

The right hon. Gentleman dealt rightly with the casualties at Al-Fallujah. Every effort is made by the RAF, and indeed by all the allied forces, to minimise civilian casualties. I agree with what he said about the correct handling of the issue by the RAF. I also agree with the third point that he made.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the vast majority of the people want to see a solution which ensures that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi council cannot do again what they have done over the past few months? That needs to be an absolute factor when the war is over. It will receive the support of the vast majority of the people.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said. We receive continuing evidence from all over the country that, despite all the efforts by Saddam Hussein to confuse and divide us, people are clear about the objectives, which are worth while. We are now entering the decisive and most difficult phase. It is a great strength to our forces in the desert that they have the support which is illustrated in the House and in the country.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Should not Her Majesty's Government make clear and repeat their determination to deal with some of the important matters mentioned in the Baghdad statement, and also make clear that the sooner Saddam's forces leave Kuwait, the sooner that process can begin? Should we not at least welcome the Iraqi mention of withdrawal from Kuwait as a change from the rhetoric of its being the 19th province of Iraq and demand that he turns his verbal translation into action?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We made it clear, long before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, that the international community had to return, for example, to the Arab-Israel question. The right hon. Gentleman and I have often discussed that. That remains true. The Iraqis and Saddam Hussein have no particular standing in this. Their attempts to link the two questions have been repudiated by their fellow Arabs. We must not get into a position where we start negotiating with Saddam Hussein on that matter. Our determination, indeed our will, to deal with it is not in doubt.

It is certainly true that the Iraqi statement on 15 February appeared to begin a retreat from the statement that Kuwait is the 19th province of Iraq, but what it does not do is comply with what the United Nations required. Therefore, I believe that it is right for the President of the United States, for our Prime Minister and for all the leading members of the coalition to make it clear that it is not an acceptable basis for ending the war.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

While all the analysis goes on in Moscow, Tehran and, indeed, the United Nations about what Baghdad does or does not mean by its latest statement, is there not one clear way in which Saddam Hussein can indicate his intentions to the coalition and that is by physically withdrawing his forces across the Iraqi frontier, requesting to the allies that. in the light of a genuine withdrawal, he is not bombed, and proceeding to comply in detail and in action with the resolutions of the United Nations?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My right hon. Friend has it exactly right. I hope that that is the message which Mr. Tariq Aziz will take back to Baghdad from Moscow.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Will the Foreign Secretary give a clear assurance that no British forces will be committed to a ground attack on Kuwait or Iraq until all reasonable efforts have been made, and all reasonable time has been given, to ensuring that Iraq undertakes a negotiated compliance with the United Nations resolution?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Reasonable time was given—between the date of resolution 660 that was passed as the Iraqi troops poured into Kuwait and 15 January, the deadline set by the Security Council at the instance of the Soviet Union. No one can argue that that is not "reasonable time". The timing of any ground attack must depend on when those concerned believe that an attack can be made to liberate Kuwait in accordance with the United Nations, in circumstances that create the minimum number of casualties.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Will my right hon. Friend highlight the number of Islamic nations that have committed forces to the coalition? Does not that number give the lie to Saddam Hussein's claim to speak for Islam?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Indeed; and it is notable, as I said in my statement, that eight of the leading Arab members of the coalition—let alone Muslims—who met in Cairo on Friday were quick to declare exactly the same answer to the statement that came out of Baghdad as we did.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that his statement left out some important facts? One is the fact that other countries saw this development in a more positive way than did the President of the United States or the Prime Minister. Secondly, clarifications have come since then, which might have been spelt out but which the Foreign Secretary did not spell out. Thirdly, the President and the Prime Minister gave a summary judgment on the matter without waiting for the Security Council, which is supposed to be the body masterminding the operation. Is the right hon. Gentleman really saying that, with these hopes still being explored in Moscow, a land attack is thought right-at this moment, when there is a possibility of a peaceful settlement?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Part of the aim of the Baghdad statement must have been to divide the coalition; those who issued it must be bitterly disappointed with the result. With one possible exception—Morocco—all members of the coalition, and all who are contributing to the effort, were clear about the fact that the offer was inadequate. Since then, various efforts have been made to qualify it. The Iraqi authorities themselves sent me the text of the statement, with an English translation, in which they referred to Iraq's readiness "to deal with"—not "accept"—"resolution 660 … including withdrawal". They then said that the first step required to implement Iraq's pledge regarding withdrawal will be linked to the following". Any suggestion that there is no linkage, or that the Iraqis have accepted resolution 660, is completely refuted by the Iraqis' own translation of their own document. Any attempt to qualify that is obfuscation.

What we need now is a further clear, unconditional announcement, backed up by the kind of concrete steps—and the decisive proof that the things concerned are actually happening—to which I have referred. I do not think that, in the present circumstances, it would be at all sensible or right for us to be deflected from the operations. This may well be an attempt to gain time—to enable Saddam Hussein to reinforce and re-equip the army of aggression, the military machine now sitting in the desert and occupying Kuwait. I cannot think that even the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) would think it sensible to fall into that trap.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

First, has my right hon. Friend any more news about British military personnel in Iraqi hands, about whom there is much disquiet? Secondly, does he think that it is still appropriate for television correspondents to be in Baghdad when the news that we are receiving from them is clearly influenced largely by Iraqi Government propaganda? That is causing massive disquiet among our constituents.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We are very much exercised by the first point. One of the cruellest things that the Iraqis have done is to give certain information about allied prisoners of war, with no corroboration or information being given through the proper channels in accordance with the Geneva conventions, to us and the relatives of those concerned. We are pressing the president of the Red Cross daily on that subject: we pressed him hard when he was in London a few days ago. It is not his fault that the Iraqis have denied access, but it is a particularly cruel breach of their obligations.

As for journalists, that must be a matter for the broadcasters and newspapers concerned. This is one of the things that distinguishes us from the regime with which we are dealing. It is very important that those broadcasters and newspapers that send journalists to Baghdad should ensure, in the case of anything published—whether in print or on the screen—that the public are fully aware of the restrictions on what they are able to do, of the restrictions on what they are saying and, perhaps even more important, of the restrictions on what they are not able to see and do. The Government have made that crucial point—I think perfectly correctly—to those concerned.

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

May we be, assured that international measures to assure peace and security in the region are absolutely vital before sanctions can be lifted, even if there were to be, thankfully, a total and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait? Would that mean on-site inspection of any nuclear, biological or chemical installations? Would there be a ban on all missiles capable of reaching capitals in the region?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The right hon. Gentleman is moving ahead from the circumstances in which fighting might stop, with which I have already dealt, to the circumstances in which sanctions would be raised and normal relationships re-established with Iraq. However, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right—I cannot give specific details this afternoon—that when we move to the second phase and consider how we might restore relations with Iraq, the questions that he mentioned would have to be considered before we did so.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it needs to be reiterated over and over again that if the war is to end and peace is to come it must be on the clear foundation that aggression does not pay? Saddam Hussein must clearly see and learn that his rape of Kuwait will bring no profit to him whatsoever.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman is entirely right in what he says and the way in which he says it. I entirely support what he says.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

Does the Foreign Secretary at least welcome the Soviet initiative, or is he not looking for a diplomatic solution because he wants the war to spread from Kuwait into Iraq? Is not the bombing of sewage systems, water and medical facilities for Iraqi civilians a breach of the Geneva convention? Will he please reconsider the way in which Iraqi civilians are being denied a decent human life?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I welcome any effort that is designed to bring about an end to this war, through the fulfilment of the United Nations resolutions. We do not have details of any proposals that the Soviet Union may have put to Mr. Tariq Aziz today in Moscow. We are in touch with the Soviet authorities and I discussed the matter with Mr. James Baker just before I came to the House. We do not have those details, but that is the test. It is a test that the Soviet Union has emphasised itself in all its recent exchanges.

As for the second serious point that the hon. Lady raised, the objective of the coalition forces in these operations is to liberate Kuwait, which means weakening and reducing the strength of the Iraqi military forces. That obviously involves communications, logistics, supply lines. Every effort is made to make sure that in attacking those targets—which are perfectly legitimate for the general aim—danger, damage and loss of life to civilians, which cannot be entirely avoided, is kept to a minimum.

Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is an element of absurdity in seeking to negotiate by means of Baghdad radio? Is it not clear, as my right hon. Friend said, that the elements here suggest that delay, or seeking to divide the allies, is the only reason behind this? Are not there ample opportunities to take the matter where it should go—to the United Nations, where the matter could be discussed in direct diplomatic terms?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My hon. Friend is right. I do not think that one can carry the discussion very far, due to the way in which the revolutionary council started it. If it were willing to come forward not just with an assurance but with proof that the resolutions are being carried out, that would change the situation.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

The Foreign Secretary is absolutely right to resist the siren voices of those who want to restrict what journalists in Baghdad publish and transmit. Is he prepared to ask the British media why they are not transmitting more material about the thousands of houses damaged in Israel, the 500 Israeli civilian casualties, the property damaged in Saudi Arabia and the torturing, murdering and crucifixion of Kuwaitis? Is not that what the war is about and should not the British media concentrate on a few more reports on those aspects of the war so that we may have more balanced reports?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, particularly about Kuwait. There was a good deal of publicity about Tel Aviv and Israel, but by far the greatest suffering is being, and has been for many months, inflicted on the people of Kuwait. Plenty of material is available to journalists, even though they are not allowed to go there. They should make it clear that they are not allowed to go there and make the greatest possible use of existing material.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Is it not clear that this frantic fluttering in the diplomatic dovecotes every time Saddam Hussein throws us a crumb can only lead him to suppose that our determination to defeat him is not complete, with the result that the war will continue and even more lives will be lost?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend's realistic assessment of what has happened so far. If Iraq's will to fight is crumbling to the point where it withdraws from Kuwait, the position will change. However, my hon. and learned Friend is right to say that there is no evidence, as of today, that that is happening.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan

Is the Secretary of State aware that, in the past 10 minutes, he has put forward two possibilities for Baghdad's statement on Friday: first, it may have been designed to split the coalition and, secondly, it may have been designed to engineer a ceasefire so that Iraq could re-equip its military forces for a continuation of the conflict? Is there not a third possibility, that the Iraqi regime may be signalling that it wants a way out of the difficulty in which it has placed itself?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The first two possibilities, although not contradictory, are more likely than the third. Let us suppose, however, that the hon. Gentleman is right. In the past few days, to put the matter beyond doubt, the main leaders of the coalition have sketched how Iraq would act.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any person who is uncertain about the imperative need for military action in Kuwait should re-read the Amnesty International report, which makes it clear that the Iraqi Government have been using torture and murder as weapons of state? Will he encourage journalists to re-read that document and give it further publicity?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Indeed. That document is now some weeks old. However, journalists should also go to Taif or the eastern province and listen to Kuwaitis whose cousins and nephews have been shot in the past few weeks for no crime but simply as part of the business of destroying Kuwait and torturing its people. There are plenty of anecdotes that can be checked and proved. Such an element is missing from much of the reporting.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

If we should all be concerned about innocent people being killed in bombing raids on Iraq, as I am, should we not be concerned about the continuing atrocities that have been carried out in Kuwait—deliberately, not by mistake—by the occupying forces since 2 August? Despite the rhetoric from Baghdad, is it not clear that either Saddam Hussein leaves Kuwait with no ifs, buts or conditions of any kind, or the allies will get him out? The choice is entirely up to him, and I imagine that there is little time left for him to make that choice.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

As usual, on this subject, the hon. Gentleman is entirely right.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the vast majority of people entirely support his analysis of and conclusions about the message received last Friday? Does it reveal any split in the Iraqi Government in terms of their attitude towards the war?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

There has been speculation, it is tempting speculation, but I am afraid that we have no evidence to sustain it.

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone , Brent East

Does the right hon. Gentleman have any comment to make on today's statement from the BBC monitoring unit at Caversham that it misinterpreted its first translation of the statement, but today it has made it clear that there is no linkage to conditions? For the first time, Saddam Hussein has recognised the existence of Kuwait and talked about withdrawal. Would it not have been better to seize upon his comment, build on it and widen it rather than to continue the slaughter?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I have tried to help the hon. Gentleman. I prefer to rely on the translation that the Iraqis have given me. It proves two points beyond doubt: first, that the Iraqis do not accept resolution 660—they talk simply about their readiness to "deal" with it—and, secondly, that a pledge by Iraq about withdrawal "will be linked". That is the Iraqi translation into English of their statement. It puts the point beyond doubt.

Photo of Mr Christopher Butler Mr Christopher Butler , Warrington South

Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that, when it comes to repatriation of Iraqi prisoners of war, Iraqi deserters will not be rendered up to Saddam Hussein or to the Baath party?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Yes. When the time comes, that will be one of the necessary complications of the matter.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey , Vauxhall

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Pentagon believes that the Al-Rashid hotel in Bagdad has a military bunker? Is he further aware that that is where the journalists who are covering the war in Iraq, in difficult circumstances, are living? Can the right hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance that the Al-Rashid hotel will not be bombed?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I do not think that the House would expect me to pronounce on that matter. It is clear, and was clear for a long time before the fighting began, that Saddam Hussein has no compunction about placing innocent people in positions of great danger.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

My right hon. Friend may not be aware that a constituent of mine is so incensed by the BBC coverage of propaganda from Iraq that he has described the BBC as the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation. Will my right hon. Friend issue further guidance on this aspect?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The BBC is well aware of the reactions to its reporting. We have drawn the BBC's attention to the point that I specifically mentioned. We have also drawn its attention to the point made forcefully to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Germany by service families about the amount of operational reporting. We thought it right to make those two points to the BBC.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

Is it not a fact that all Saddam Hussein's diplomatic objectives over the past month have resulted in failure? He has tried to involve Israel in the war by launching Scud missiles attacks on Tel Aviv and Haifa. He has tried to detach the forces of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria from the coalition. He has tried to involve Iran by sending his MiGs over its soil. Now he has tried to detach the Soviet Union from supporting the United Nations resolutions. He has failed in all four.

Is it not a fact that, since the beginning, the Soviet Union has been firm in its support of the United Nations and its resolutions? If the Soviet Union now uses its influence on its erstwhile friend and ally, Iraq, so that it complies fully with resolution 660, is that not the best for which we can hope in this situation?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made that point. One of the things that slightly irritates me about several of the commentaries that we must read or listen to is their portrayal of Saddam Hussein as a subtle and clever operator who is constantly outwitting us. As the hon. Gentleman said, he has tried just about every means available to him to divide the coalition, but has failed. I am constantly being told that the coalition is about to split up or dissolve, but it has not done so. I agree with the hon. Gentleman: I do not think that it will.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Members are receiving letters expressing revulsion for the broadcasts from Baghdad which cannot be ignored? There is a war on, appalling atrocities have been committed, and, while we are awaiting Saddam Hussein's withdrawal from Kuwait, is not it possible for the media to give some expression to the relatives of the Kuwaitis who have suffered torture and execution and appalling damage to their property by the occupiers?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. That point has come through strongly in the House today, in letters from our constituents and in our comments.

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble , Upper Bann

Contrary to the view expressed by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), I get the impression that within the Soviet system this weekend there was a certain amount of backsliding on this issue, as on other issues. Will the Foreign Secretary make it absolutely clear that any Soviet initiative that might be forthcoming will be regarded solely in terms of whether it fulfils the United Nations resolutions and that no question of giving help to Mr. Gorbachev to achieve diplomatic success will enter the picture? Given the difficulty that Mr. Gorbachev seems to have had in recent months controlling his military and security forces, I should like to be assured that measures will be taken to ensure that there is no surreptitious aid from the Soviet military to Iraq.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Those are all fair points. At the Security Council, the Soviet Union has been among the most active in bringing about these resolutions, including the last one, and in insisting that they be fulfilled. Clearly President Gorbachev wishes to be active and agile in trying to find ways to peace. He and his representatives at the United Nations have, set the test, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we must apply it.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , South Thanet

What exactly does my right hon. Friend think that Mr. Gorbachev is up to with Mr. Tariq Aziz in Moscow? In this age of glasnost, does not it seem a little strange that the Soviet Union has not sent London or Washington any details of the peace plan that Mr. Aziz is supposed to be taking back to Baghdad? In the absence of those details, is my right hon. Friend confident that they do not involve any backsliding on the United Nations resolutions?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

President Gorbachev wishes to keep the door open for Soviet diplomacy to produce a breakthrough—he certainly has that intention—and is trying all the time to find a way of doing that. The test that my hon. Friend would like to apply is the test that the Soviet Union has set. That is why I am reasonably confident that any proposals that it produces will fall within the Security Council resolutions that it helped to put forward.

Photo of Mr William Powell Mr William Powell , Corby

Although it is encouraging to note that Iraq, a member state of the United Nations, has at last noticed the existence of Security Council resolution 660, which was passed on 2 August, does my right hon. Friend accept that events have moved on and that there have been 11 further United Nations resolutions, the most important of which is not 660 but 678, which lays down the objectives of the withdrawal from Kuwait of the occupying force, the re-establishment of legitimate government and the restoration of peace and stability to the area?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My hon. Friend is quite right. The Secretary Council resolutions have, as it were, built on each other. Resolution 660, which we are still waiting to be accepted, mentioned immediate and unconditional withdrawal.

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

Is not the reality of the situation that we cannot be deflected by nonsensical and absurd peace proposals and statements from Baghdad but must adhere to the UN resolutions, that we must get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and that there can be no linkage? There have been 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 sorties, yet the number of innocent people killed has been minimal. We should compliment the Royal Air Force on its performance.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman is right in everything he said. I do not suppose that there has been any campaign in modern warfare which has been so deliberately and successfully targeted on the objectives, which are those of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Meirionnydd Nant Conwy

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that there is no difference between us in our determination that Iraq should withdraw from Kuwait? The difference is about whether that can be achieved without the casualties that would result from a ground war. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the word "conditions" does not occur either in the Arabic or in the English text of his translation? Would not it be a disaster if troops were committed to a ground battle because of a failure to communicate and a mistranslation?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I do not think that there is any question of a mistranslation. If someone proposes to the hon. Gentleman transaction A and says that it is linked with transaction B, that is a condition.

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

Does my right hon. Friend accept that if Saddam Hussein did not think that allowing BBC, ITN and CNN reporters to stay in Baghdad was a good idea, he would have them out tomorrow? Is it not time that the Government and all Governments of the free world told those so-called news reporters that they should get out instead of being part of Baghdad's propaganda service?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I should not go as far as that, but it is crucial that no one listening to or reading reports from Baghdad should suppose that they are listening to or reading the reports of unfettered journalists. They are not. I believe that it is essential that all those concerned take not just the occasional opportunity but every opportunity to make that clear.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood , Clydesdale

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the American people receive far more factual Gulf information than we do from the BBC and ITN? Some of the hysteria on the Conservative Benches is now also occurring in Congress where they are calling for the banning of CNN and NBC reporting. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be no further pressure on the BBC, as reported in the Daily Mail today, to curtail the provision of factual information to the British people so that they can judge for themselves what is being done in their name?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I think that I have already answered that point. We are winning the argument in this country and throughout the coalition. We have no reason to be frightened of the argument or all the bits and pieces that go into the argument. The people who should be recoiling from the discussion are those who are losing. Those of us who argue in favour of collective security and the operation and against falling into the deceptions practised out of Baghdad are carrying opinion with us. It is because there is an open debate which we are winning that I have confidence in what we are saying.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

When my right hon. Friend mentioned a moment ago what people hear and read, he omitted—I am sure inadvertently—to mention what they see. I do not share the demand for general censorship, but does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to deal with the problem on television would be to invite the broadcasting authorities, whenever they have reports from their reporters in Baghdad, to put the word "censored" in the top left-hand corner of the box so that everyone who is watching will be reminded that they are seeing censored material? That would not prevent the material from being shown, but people would constantly have that reminder before them.

I stayed in room 1311 at the A1-Rashid hotel. Will my right hon. Friend explain to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) that the proposition that merely walking into the basement of the hotel enables one to know whether it is a command bunker is ludicrous? If it is, it is unlikely that the Iraqi military using it would walk through the lobby in uniform.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My hon. Friend was on the right path in the first part of his question. It is not for me or for us to prescribe exactly how the points should be made. Any information from Baghdad should be labelled for what it is, not just occasionally but at all times. I had better not start analysing the bedrooms or other rooms of the Al-Rashid hotel.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

If the Iraqi forces were to commence withdrawal, would they be bombed? Does the Foreign Secretary accept United Nations resolutions 660, which states that those forces could go to the positions that they occupied on 1 August 1990? If so, was not the response of President Bush peculiarly ill judged when he said that the only choice was war and annihilation or the assassination of Saddam Hussein? Does not that show that the war aims go far beyond the liberation of Kuwait and beyond implementing United Nations resolutions?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman is entirely distorting what President Bush said, and I heard what President Bush said as well as the hon. Gentleman. President Bush did not say that at all. The Iraqi troops need to withdraw. That is what the United Nations requires. Therefore, a simple assurance to withdraw is not sufficient. We need what I have described as decisive and irreversible proof that that is happening. We are not in that position yet.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents at least regard with considerable admiration the way in which he is conducting his part in this great effort? Does he accept that, with all his skills, it may be very difficult for someone as decent as him or for people as decent as his colleagues in the coalition to understand fully the mind of a paranoid despot like Saddam Hussein? Can he assure us, therefore, that the mechanisms by which Saddam Hussein can be assured that if he withdraws he will not be bombed are foolproof, even against a man as paranoid as Saddam Hussein?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Exactly. My hon. Friend is quite right. That is why it would have been a mistake for me to be too specific in answering an earlier question. We have to make quite sure that withdrawal is withdrawal and not a pretext for regrouping.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Why does not the Foreign Secretary admit that his statement is three days late? It should have been made on Friday because the decision to withdraw in accordance with United Nations resolution 660 was made at 11.30 am and a statement was made suggesting that the Foreign Secretary would make a statement to the House. One is driven to the conclusion that he did not make a statement because he was waiting for President Bush to declare on the issue. Is it not a scandal that the Government are having to kowtow to the Americans before they open their mouth? The moment that President Bush said that it was a cruel hoax, the Prime Minister of Britain said that it was a sham—following in Bush's footsteps from beginning to end. The slaughter is continuing and the Americans are running the war. The United Nations has been left far behind without any consideration.—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I did not hear what was said, but I hope that no unparliamentary expressions were uttered from below the Gangway.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

There are two reasons why I did not make a statement on Friday. First, I was meeting farmers in my constituency—which is an entirely respectable occupation—and, secondly, if I had made a statement on Friday morning, I would have done so on the basis of very incomplete and imperfect reports. That would have been a foolish thing to do. We now have the evidence, and the House can make a judgment.

Photo of Mr Den Dover Mr Den Dover , Chorley

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, following the completely unacceptable remarks from Iraq on Friday, the allied forces have no intention of winning the war and then losing the peace?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

That is entirely right. My hon. Friend makes the point well.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that he made a serious mistake on Friday by not recognising the statement by Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council as a major step forward? The least that he could have done was to order a halt to the weekend bombing raids which have resulted in even more civilian casualties. He could have shown his true concern for peace in the region by flying to Moscow to meet Tariq Aziz to see whether there was a basis for a political settlement. Did he not do that simply because the war aims have changed to the invasion of Iraq and its total annihilation, as indicated by President Bush at the weekend?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Either the hon. Gentleman lives in a wholly unreal world or he does not want us to reverse the aggression. If any of us had done what the hon. Gentleman suggests, it would have enabled the Iraqis to benefit from a pause in the bombing, and they would have been able to recover and re-equip. How many extra casualties on our side does the hon. Gentleman contemplate we should risk while pursuing this will-o-the-wisp?

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the vast majority of civilian casualties have been caused by the Iraqis, it is nevertheless impossible for us to tackle a war machine the size of the Iraqi army without the risk of some civilian casualties? At this very moment our pilots are taking risks with their lives in order to minimise casualties. Does my right hon. Friend also agree that those in the media who harp on such casualties invite Saddam Hussein to put more civilians into military installations?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My hon. Friend is entirely right on his first point and puts it very well. My reply to his second point is that in pursuit of his wicked objectives Saddam Hussein seems to need no encouragement from anybody to put his own civilians and prisoners of war and others in danger.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

Will the Secretary of State confirm the disturbing report at the weekend that the Americans have used the fuel-air explosive weapon in bombing raids on Kuwait? Does he know that, according to reports, such a weapon had been in the possession of Saddam Hussein and that it had been sold to him by Industrias Cardoen of Chile? If this terrible weapon is used, is not there a danger that the war will escalate and that Saddam Hussein will be tempted to use weapons that have hitherto not been used in battle? Was the dropping of the fuel-air explosive weapon carried out in collaboration with other members of the coalition?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am afraid that I cannot comment on that. I have no information.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

In the event of Iraq withdrawing from Kuwait and returning prisoners of war, is it the position of the allies that the alleged link conditions and others will be discussed without commitment at some international gathering? Does the Foreign Secretary think that it would be appropriate to pay some small tribute to the Government of Iran for their constructive role? They have played that role even though Iran itself was invaded in almost exactly the same bloodthirsty way by Iraq and received precious little help and sympathy from anyone.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The Government of Iran have announced and, as far as I can see, have held to their declaration of neutrality. They are trying, like the Soviet Union, to produce a peaceful solution, but it has been clear that Iraq must unconditionally withdraw from Kuwait. Iran has been anxious to ensure that Kuwait does not of its own volition make any territorial concessions to Iraq.

My reply to my hon. Friend's first point is that we have always said that certain matters in the Iraqi list will have to be considered. Arab-Israel is, of course, the outstanding one, but there are others. Iraq appears to be making claims against Kuwait, but when United Nations resolution 660 is implemented the Kuwaitis for sure will have massive claims to make against Iraq for the terrorising of their country. Of course there are matters which will have to be discussed when the war is over, but that is quite different from the specific linking in the Iraqi document.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

May I ask the Foreign Secretary a question of straightforward fact? Before the American President and the British Prime Minister dismissed the Iraqi proposals, did they consult either the Security Council or the Secretary-General of the United Nations? Are the young men that we on the Green Benches are sending to be maimed or possibly to die part of a United Nations force, or part of a British and American force? Well, was the United Nations consulted before the British Prime Minister and the American President dismissed the Iraqi proposals? The answer is surely, "Yes, it was" or "No, it was not."

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

No, it was not consulted because we are operating under United Nations Security Council resolution 678, which authorises member states——

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will listen to the reply. Resolution 678 authorises member states to take whatever means are necessary to implement the resolution. That is perfectly straightforward. Nobody in New York—neither the Secretary-General nor anybody else—expects the allies, who comprise not only Britain and America, but more than 30 nations, to operate in any other way. The Security Council is now debating the matter. As I said in my statement, most of those who spoke in the debate after the Iraqi announcement reacted in the same way as we have.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

Inasmuch as a mention by Iraq for the first time of withdrawal, albeit hedged about with many unacceptable conditions, was the direct consequence of the allied naval blockade, air operations and the tightening of the allied army's noose around the Iraqi armed forces within Kuwait, is it not the case that rather than being seduced by a will-o-the-wisp of diplomacy, Her Majesty's Government, along with the allies, should intensify operations until they reach a successful conclusion?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We have no intention of being deflected from operations unless or until it becomes perfectly clear that the intentions, wishes and requirements of the United Nations are being met—not simply by an assurance that they will be met, but by decisive proof that they are being met.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

As the BBC has itself said that its correspondents are not approved to go where they want in Iraq when they want and that they cannot enter Kuwait, would it not be a good idea if my right hon. Friend could arrange for the dissenters in this House to go to Baghdad to explain the policy of the official Opposition, the policy of the House and the policy of the United Nations and every member of the Security Council, which is that Iraq must get out of Kuwait unconditionally? To hear that explained to the Iraqis by people such as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and his right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) would be a good propaganda coup which the BBC and others would be free to report.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My hon. Friend has lodged that idea; it is for others to take it up.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

As I have been referred to, may I say that I went to Saddam Hussein and said that, but when I returned the BBC did not even interview me to find out what I had discovered.