Iraq

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 8th October 2007.

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Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party 3:30 pm, 8th October 2007

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman about our obligations to our armed forces—I am pleased that he said that both at the beginning and the end of his remarks—but we also have obligations to the international community, and I would have thought that the Liberal party, with its Gladstonian inheritance, would recognise the obligations that we have internationally, particularly in relation to UN resolutions that have been passed, calling on us to support the democracy of the Iraqi people.

On the specific questions about interpreters, let me give the House the information. There are probably 200 who would immediately qualify as past staff members. There are 250 who are staff members at the moment. There may be others who will join that list once they have done a year's service. We will discharge our obligations that they will either gain help to go to a country of their choice or be able, in agreed circumstances, to come to the United Kingdom. We will provide the support that is necessary for that to happen.

On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument about force protection, I am acting—as are the Government—on military advice when I give the figures that I have given to the House today. If we are to move to the second stage of overwatch, which is primarily a role in respect of which we are giving training and support to the Iraqi security forces to operate in Basra with the police and armed forces themselves, then the figure that we have decided in consultation with our allies, and after taking military advice, is the figure of 2,500 that I am able to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That figure will be reached in spring next year, subject to military advice; then we will look again at the situation. But I want to dispel any suggestion that he makes that that number is insufficient for the force protection that we are talking about. The decisions that we make are made on military advice.

Sometimes, the right hon. and learned Gentleman criticises us for having too few forces; he then criticises us for having too many. The correct position is this: we owe obligations under the United Nations to the Iraqi community. We will discharge our obligations. The Iraqis will take responsibility for their own security, and we will support them in doing so. Despite our disagreements about the decision to go to war, I hope that he will support us in the support that we give to the Iraqi people.