Iraqi Refugees

Part of Constitutional Reform – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 3rd July 1991.

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Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford 7:35 pm, 3rd July 1991

With the leave of the House. I thank hon. Members and my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for the way in which they have received the Committee's report and for the sensible guidance that they have given the Committee for its future work. We shall try to respond as effectively as we can. The debate has been brief but effective, and has helped to begin to reveal some of the monstrous legacies of Saddam Hussein. Those legacies will continue as long as he remains in Baghdad and continues his policy of killing and persecution.

As the House has recognised, there are millions of refugees not only in Iraq but swirling round the middle east, living in misery and fear due to the actions of Saddam Hussein. How we help those refugees and satisfy humanitarian aims, particularly in Iraq, without helping him to commit more monstrosities and evils, and how we combine the need to keep sanctions on him to bring him to heel while at the same time helping those to whom he has caused so much suffering, are dilemmas that face the House and the policy makers. We may not yet have solved them, but we seek to do so.

In the meantime, the House will be heartened by my hon. and learned Friend's firm resolve that the coalition forces will remain in place until and unless an effective UN force is developed. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) reminded us so graphically, winter lies ahead for those suffering people, and action will be needed on the aid and relief front.

I am grateful to the House for responding to the Committee's suggestion that the ODA, which has done extremely well, nevertheless needs to increase the speed and effectiveness of its high quality aid efforts. We also suggested that the role of the UN agencies needs to be rethought, and it is good to hear the proposal that a co-ordinator is now being seriously considered by Ministers here and overseas. I hope that the proposal will come into effect within the next few weeks.

The hon. Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and many others mentioned the fascinating question of when, in the new post-cold-war world, we can expect the UN and its agencies to intervene. How do they override reluctant host Governments when appalling humanitarian tragedies are taking place? Today, the UN is in Iraq in a way that many people thought it would never be. Our coalition forces were also dragged in. Tomorrow, it may be the Balkans—who knows? Those matters are for future debates and deliberations in Committee, and I am grateful to the House for paying attention to our report.

The debate was concluded, and the Question necessary to dispose of the proceedings was deferred, pursuant to paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 52 (Consideration of Estimates).