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

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the British forces are serving no purpose, that is not the view of the Iraqi Government. The Iraqi Government want our support, and not only with respect to the supply routes that we manage at the moment and the re-intervention capability that we have. They want our support to train and mentor the Iraqi troops. We had a responsibility, which we are discharging, to train up 15,000 Iraqi armed forces, and we are helping with the training of Iraqi police. I met many of the people who have come from the United Kingdom simply to train those forces when I was in Basra last week.

I do not agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no purpose served by our presence. What our presence is designed to do is to make it possible for the Iraqis to take over security of their own country. I say this to him: look at the reduction in violence in Basra; look at the attempts that we can now make on economic reconstruction to give people a stake in the peace; look at the progress that has been made over these last few months. If that progress can continue, the Iraqis will not only be in a position to have their security forces in place to take over from ours, but will build, through local provincial elections, a local democracy that is capable of making decisions, based not on violence, but on people coming together to decide what is the common good. I am far from agreeing with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that our forces serve no purpose; our forces are doing an important job—an important job that will end up, I accept, as simply one of training and mentoring the forces of Iraq.