The Gulf

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th April 1991.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 18th April 1991

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the latest estimate for the cost of military action in the Gulf so far.

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

Mr. Dalyell—I am sorry; I was thinking of other things. [Laughter.]

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Will you tell the House what you were thinking about, Mr. Speaker. No? I am disappointed, Sir. I shall have to answer the question.

The latest estimate for the addtional defence costs, to be spread over several years, is that they are expected to be of the order of £2½ billion.

However, I expect the bulk of these costs to be covered by cash contributions generously pledged by other Governments. In particular, although the Ministry of Defence's expenditure in 1991–92 is likely to be about £1½ billion above its planned level, I do not expect any significant net claim on the public expenditure reserve in the current financial year. Total cash contributions made or pledged by other Governments now total £2 billion, including the recent most generous pledge—which I am pleased to confirm and welcome—from the Government of Saudi Arabia of $1 billion.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I apologise to the Minister for not having brought the report to his attention earlier. I had to check it because it was so incredible. Given the wealth that is going up in flames, does not the Treasury agree that it is beyond belief that Red Adair is complaining that he cannot get six bulldozers? He asked for a minimum of eight, but only two work. He is threatening to pull out. Do not the British Government have some responsibility— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, they do. Do not the British Government have some responsibility; should not they say to the Kuwaitis that, with such wealth being lost, they should do something about tackling the fires, as that will grow more difficult as times goes on?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

As always, the hon. Gentleman is courteous in phrasing his questions. As he knows, I have no responsibility for that matter. I shall draw it to the attention of the Foreign Office. No doubt, if there is anything in it, it will be looked at. This is not a part of the British Government's responsibilities.