Iraq

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1998.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 12:00 am, 7th April 1998

Pursuant to his oral answer of 18 March 1998, Official Report, column 1266, if he will assess the advantages of lifting the embargo on the export of pumping equipment to Iraq; and what proposals he has to assist Iraq in improving the quality of water for domestic consumption. [36546]

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Paragraph 12 of Security Council resolution 1153 requests the Secretary-General to establish a group of experts to assess Iraq's ability to export sufficient petroleum or petroleum products to finance the expanded oil-for-food programme. On the basis of the group's recommendations, authorisation may be given for certain equipment to be imported to enable Iraq to increase oil output. Some of the proceeds under the expanded oil-for-food programme, which was set up by resolution 1153, will be available for rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructures.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

In view of the likelihood of the havoc that could be created by waterborne disease among the children of Iraq, is not it a matter of great urgency for pumps to be repaired? What is the perceived danger in the export of pumping equipment?

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I remind my hon. Friend of the answer that I have just given, which is that, under the new procedures of resolution 1153, it is possible to satisfy some of the needs to which he refers. The matter will be controlled and regulated under the Security Council resolution. My hon. Friend may also be keen to know that, as part of its EU presidency, the United Kingdom is organising a conference on humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq. That will take place later this month and will give us the opportunity to bring together organisations from various countries which are working under the auspices of the United Nations. Hopefully, they will address some of the issues to which my hon. Friend refers.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is highly desirable for the embargoes to be lifted as soon as that is conveniently and suitably possible? Does he also agree that the Annan agreement on the weapons inspectors has meant that, because of the burden of work, the weapons inspectors will take longer than before to do the deal which, the Minister rightly says, needs to be done thoroughly? What steps can he take to assist Richard Butler and his weapons inspectors to speed up their inspections so that the embargoes may safely be lifted?

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I have every confidence in Richard Butler and his team. They are getting on with their work to the best of their ability and at the speed at which they are allowed to proceed by the Iraqi regime. We shall certainly encourage them to move as quickly as possible, but the objective for all of us is to ensure that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction. That is the responsibility of the UNSCOM inspectors. The simple truth, which the hon. Gentleman recognised in his question, is that had Saddam Hussein complied with Security Council resolutions many years ago, all of these issues would have been resolved, and Iraq would have been free of sanctions and of weapons of mass destruction.

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

What checks are in place to ensure that invoices relating to equipment imported by the Iraqis under the resolutions reflect the real export value from the countries of origin? Is not there a danger that unless proper checks are in place, over-invoicing of equipment will simply lead to moneys effectively being pooled by Iraqi business men and Ministers abroad?

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. If the system is working in the way he fears, we would certainly wish to hear evidence to substantiate his concerns. We are keen to make sure that the sanctions regime is fair and efficient—it should be fair to the ordinary people of Iraq, but should also allow the United Nations to meet its objectives and targets. Certainly, we do not wish to see the system bypassed in the way that my hon. Friend fears or in any other way. Again, if he has any useful information, I would be delighted to see it.