Iraqi Refugees

Part of Constitutional Reform – in the House of Commons at 6:42 pm on 3rd July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington 6:42 pm, 3rd July 1991

I shall be brief and truncate my remarks. I found the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) most interesting, although the latter's speech was too long. They addressed the central issue arising from the Gulf conflict of how we deal with the question of article 2·7 which deals with intervention in the internal affairs of nation states. When the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs examines the matter, it should do so from a wide perspective, and it should do a lot of work because it will be making a contribution to the international debate on the matter.

I refer to the implementation of resolution 688 by the United Nations, especially the section in paragraph 2, which deals with ending the repression. Mr. Talabani and his advisers told me and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) in Istanbul only a week and a half ago that the Kurdish leadership had had no contact with the United Nations monitors in the field. It was we who had to advise them to make contact. Even when we asked Mrs. Ogata—the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—yesterday whether that contact had been made, she was unable to tell us. Only when that contact is made will evidence of repression be proven to the international community and especially to the Security Council of the United Nations. Only when that evidence has been proven and reported back can any rapid action force deployed in Incerlik in southern Turkey or elsewhere be used. It is the linkage between the reporting back by the United Nations monitors to the Security Council through Mr. Van de Stoehl, the former Dutch Foreign Minister, and the threat of action by the rapid action force based in southern Turkey which will force Saddam Hussein to realise that the major powers mean business in exercising resolution 688, which refers to the need to end repression.

The second part of resolution 688 which is important to the debate is the part that deals with the need—I think that the word "insist" is used—for the Iraqi regime to give access to the United Nations humanitarian effort wherever in Iraq it is required. Following our meeting with Mrs. Ogata in the House yesterday, it is my view that the resolution is not being implemented. The Iraqi Government are preventing access by United Nations personnel to various parts of Iraq. Furthermore, the United Nations has simply not put in place the number of people necessary to ensure adequate coverage of the whole of Iraq in providing humanitarian relief.

Significantly, whereas the United States was prepared, acting on the basis of paragraphs 12 and 13 of resolution 687 which deal with nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology, to issue the threat of foreign intervention if necessary to secure implementation of those paragraphs, to date it has not been prepared to threaten Iraq on the basis of that country's failure to permit access under paragraph 3 of resolution 688, which deals with the need for Iraq to allow passage to United Nations representatives for the purposes of humanitarian relief. I hope that my comments will be taken on board by Ministers because the debate will turn on both matters in the coming months.

A number of my hon. Friends asked why, at the end of the war, we did not proceed to block off Saddam Hussein's forces and, as many have argued, go as far as Baghdad. The answer is simple, and the British people should understand that answer. As politicians, as Ministers, or as representatives of the American Government, we all had to give undertakings on British television and in the rest of the British media that the war aims of the coalition were confined to getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. I remember the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs being interviewed on television and having to make the point that our war aims were restricted. He referred to the possibility of dealing with the matter in a later Select Committee report. I hope that he does not go further than his comments on British television only three months ago. He could not go further. The pressure did not come only from American public opinion, but in the House, when many of my hon. Friends—and, indeed, many Conservative Members—demanded that a restriction be placed on the war aims. Furthermore, we were conscious of the rioting in major capitals throughout the region, such as Cairo and Tangiers. There were objections even in Saudi Arabia to the way the war was going from some Shi'ite groups. In Pakistan and Iran, there were demonstrations in capital cities. There were demonstrations in Syria. People forget that we were circumscribed by international opinion. That is why we did not go further, and that is why we were correct not to go further. People should not change the debate now that the conflict is all but over—apart from these remaining matters.

Some argue that sanctions should be removed. In my view, they should not be removed; they should stay. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to resolve the problem of humanitarian relief inside Iraq. If the United Nations officers in the field feel that they do not have what Mrs. Ogata described yesterday as "the wherewithal" to deal with the problems, they must report back to the Security Council the needs of Iraq in terms of humanitarian relief. Those arguments should take place in the United Nations. It is not for western Governments unilaterally—or, indeed, for the United Nations—to end sanctions. It is for western Governments, through their United Nations relief programmes, to intervene and provide whatever is required.