The Gulf

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th June 1991.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South 12:00 am, 4th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he last discussed the situation in the Gulf with General Colin Powell.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

I met General Powell with Secretary Cheney in Brussels last week, when a number of current topics, including our co-operation in the Gulf, were discussed.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

When the Secretary of State was pouring scorn on those of us who took the view that sanctions rather than war would be the best way of coping with Saddam Hussein, was he aware that General Powell took the same view? With the oil wells still blazing, a tyranny installed in Kuwait, untold misery being inflicted on millions of people and Saddam Hussein still in power, does the Secretary of State agree that General Powell might have been right after all?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

The hon. Gentleman attributes those comments to General Powell, but he knows perfectly well that General Powell made clear his support for the actions of the President of the United States. The hon. Gentleman is seeking, after the event, to rationalise the totally impossible position that he himself adopted. I do not think any serious observer of the scene would doubt that if we had taken that view Saddam Hussein would still be sitting in Kuwait, willing to impose on his people whatever suffering sanctions might bring, and the intolerable persecution of the Iraqis would still be continuing.

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

Are we not paying the price of a job half done in the Gulf war? Will my right hon. Friend comment on General Powell's recent statement to the effect that the United Nations forces will be withdrawn from northern Iraq sooner rather than later? In those circumstances, how is the security of the Kurds to be assured against Saddam Hussein's forces and what will the role of the British be?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

Without anticipating the next question on the Order Paper, may I say that in our humanitarian work for the relief of the Kurds we have sought to work closely with the United States and our other allies. We shall continue to do that and seek to concert our actions with them.

Photo of Cyril Smith Cyril Smith , Rochdale

When the Secretary of State had discussions with General Powell, did he discuss the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the fusiliers killed in the Gulf at the end of February? Did he, for example, suggest to General Powell that the result of the inquiry, which we understand that the Americans have had, should be made public to the relatives of those killed, who included a 17-year-old boy in my constituency? Do the Government have any plans to release that report, which could be the subject of legal action once it is produced? Does he know that the mother of that 17-year-old boy was visited this weekend by her son's colleagues who were present when the accident involving the Americans took place? Those boys told the parents that the officers had instructed that they must not discuss this matter with them—[Interruption]

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

Order. It is a very long question. Perhaps it is a subject for an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a serious and tragic matter. I know that the concern of General Powell and the allied commanders about the events is real. The hon. Gentleman will know that a formal board of inquiry has been set up. He will also know that the United States has promised to give all the help that it can. I do not wish to comment further now on this serious and tragic matter.