Iraq

– in the House of Lords at 4:06 pm on 12th May 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO) 4:06 pm, 12th May 2003

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on Iraq being made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place. The Statement is as follows:

"Last Friday, the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain informally circulated a draft resolution about Iraq's future to members of the UN Security Council. I have placed copies in the Library and the Vote Office.

"Our aim is to put Iraq in the hands of its people through an open and accountable process, in partnership with the emerging leaders of the new Iraq. The draft resolution sets out the United Nations' role in that process. It calls for the United Nations to,

'play a vital role in providing humanitarian relief, in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq, and in helping in the formation of an Iraqi Interim Authority'.

"This reflects fully the undertakings given by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Bush at their Hillsborough meeting on 8th April.

"I will set out for the House the main points in this draft resolution and, in the course of that, deal with a number of questions which have been raised about it. Before I do so, I should report briefly on the situation in Iraq itself.

"After almost a quarter of a century of brutal, authoritarian rule in Iraq, creating a free and secure society was always going to take time. Barely a month has passed since the regime fell. Today, the security situation varies in different parts of the country. The UN regards the south as safe enough for UN agencies to operate, albeit with significant precautions. The situation is improving in the north. In other areas, including Baghdad, the situation is unsatisfactory. There are still too many cases of violence and lawlessness. Establishing security within the rule of law is the coalition's first priority.

"Let me now deal with the humanitarian situation. Supplies under the Oil for Food programme are getting through. The World Food Programme has supplies in the pipeline until September. There are no reports of widespread food shortages. We are urgently tackling the lack of access to drinking water, a problem which has blighted the lives of Iraqis for many years. Urgent efforts continue to provide adequate medical supplies and equipment to Iraq's hospitals.

"The reports of 16 cases of cholera in Basra are a matter of concern, although fortunately there have been no deaths. To put this in perspective, cholera is endemic in southern Iraq at this time of year. Work is continuing to improve water and sanitation facilities, and DfID has positioned in Kuwait cholera kits for 11,000 cases to be used by the WHO as required.

"The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) is there to tackle the huge task of restoring civil administration. Increasing numbers of Iraqi public servants are now returning to their jobs. However, results in the early weeks have not been as good as we would have hoped. I therefore welcome the appointment of Ambassador Bremer to ORHA. Working alongside Major General Tim Cross and 40 British secondees, he will bring fresh impetus to ORHA's effort.

"On the political front, we have already seen evidence of the exercise of the new-found religious and political freedoms in Iraq. I welcome the peaceful return to Iraq from Iran at the weekend of the Shia religious leader, Ayatollah Hakim, and of other religious and political leaders. The meetings of Iraqi representatives in Nasiriya on 15th April and in Baghdad on 28th April mark the start of a process of bringing together a national conference in which all Iraq's regions and ethnic and religious groups are represented in order to select an Iraqi interim authority. This body, which will comprise both political figures and technocrats, will progressively take on responsibilities for the administration of Iraq as a whole.

"We hope that the national conference can be held within the next few weeks. In order to assist the process, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has appointed a senior British diplomat—John Sawers, our ambassador in Cairo—as the Government's special representative to Iraq. His task is to work with United States representatives and a wide range of Iraqi people to ensure an open process leading to a representative interim Iraqi authority. In the few days he has been in Baghdad, Mr Sawers has already met a number of leading Iraqi political figures. I am also pleased to tell the House that last week we opened an office in Baghdad—on the site of our former embassy—headed by Christopher Segar, who was deputy head of mission when the British embassy closed in 1991.

"I turn now to the draft SCR. The United Kingdom and the United States fully accept our responsibilities under the Geneva Convention and Hague regulations. This point is explicitly recognised in the draft resolution. Neither the Secretary-General nor members of the Security Council are proposing that the UN should run Iraq. But we are all concerned to ensure that the UN plays a vital role in post-conflict Iraq.

"The draft resolution gives the United Nations the full opportunity to play that role. It does not deal with every issue. It concentrates on the points which need to be settled now for the benefit of the people of Iraq. It sets out important principles for the future of Iraq, including territorial integrity and disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.

"The resolution also provides, in operative paragraph 5, for member states to prohibit trade in or transfer of looted cultural artefacts. The three key issues in the resolution are: first, the role of a UN special co-ordinator and the associated political process; secondly, the lifting of sanctions and the creation of a new Iraq assistance fund to target resources on the reconstruction of Iraq; and thirdly, arrangements for the sale of oil and the handling of oil revenues.

"Operative paragraph 8 of the resolution sets out a substantial mandate for a UN special co-ordinator to play a full part in all aspects of post-Iraq activity from humanitarian efforts through economic reconstruction, human rights, rebuilding police capacity, promoting legal and judicial reform, and, crucially, the political process.

"On the latter point, the draft provides that the special co-ordinator should work with the occupying powers and those assisting them (defined collectively in the resolution as "The Authority") for the,

"restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance".

Operative paragraph 9 states that it,

"supports the formation, by the people of Iraq with the help of the Authority and working with the Special Co-ordinator, of an Iraqi Interim Authority as a transitional administration run by Iraqis until a permanent government is established by the Iraqi people".

"Like all drafts, this one is open to improvement and we are discussing it constructively with our Security Council partners. But the mandate in this draft would give the UN the scope it needs to play its full role in all aspects of post-conflict Iraq. One of the reasons I would like to see this resolution passed quickly is to enable a UN special co-ordinator to get cracking on the ground as soon as possible.

"The second key issue is the lifting of sanctions and the creation of a new Iraqi assistance fund. Economic sanctions relate to Iraq's past and now need to be removed. Operative paragraph 10 provides that all sanctions are lifted with the sole exception of the arms embargo.

"Ending the economic sanctions regime requires new arrangements for dealing with Iraqi revenues. The wording in this resolution is designed to ensure that all funds from Iraqi oil revenues can be used quickly and effectively for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

"The draft resolution gives the Secretary-General authority for a period of four months from its passage to ensure the delivery of priority civilian goods under contracts already approved and for which funding has been allocated. This pipeline amounts to some 10 billion dollars.

"Remaining funds in the existing escrow account will be transferred to a new Iraqi assistance fund. This will also receive funds from two other sources; that is, revenues from the sale of oil and funds of the former regime frozen by banks outside Iraq since 1990 under successive UN resolutions.

"The IAF will therefore rapidly become the primary source of money for the development of Iraq. The funds will be disbursed by the authority in consultation with the IIA.

"The resolution is specific about the purposes for which the money can be spent. Operative paragraph 13 spells out that,

"the funds should be used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, for the economic reconstruction and repair of Iraq's infrastructure, for the continued disarmament of Iraq, and for the costs of indigenous civilian administration and for other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq".

The assistance fund will be subject to an international advisory board including representatives of the UN Secretary-General, the IMF and the World Bank, and will be audited by independent public accountants chosen by this board and not by the coalition.

"The third issue is the control of oil sales. Operative paragraph 18 requires that sales shall be made,

"consistent with prevailing international market practices", that they will be audited by independent public accountants reporting to the international advisory board, and that the funds will go to the Iraqi assistance fund, except for a percentage which will go to the UN Compensation Commission for claims relating to the previous Gulf War.

"On weapons of mass destruction, a letter to the Security Council, and annexed to the resolution, stresses the importance of this objective. Dr Blix himself has recognised that the situation is not right at present for UNMOVIC to return—a point I was able to make to the House in a Statement on 28th April. Separate arrangements may therefore be needed to provide international validation. So the role of UNMOVIC in Iraq is not an issue which needs to be dealt with in this resolution, although we may need to address it in later resolutions.

"In the interests of the people of Iraq, the sponsors of the resolution will be working for its early adoption. It is not a take it or leave it text. Negotiations will be necessary. But from my discussions with Foreign Ministers of the Security Council members, I find a strong political will to get the UN back into the business of helping build a better future for Iraq. This draft resolution gives the UN that important role".

My Lords, that completes the Statement.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:20 pm, 12th May 2003

My Lords, we are all extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating this long and full Statement, of which many aspects will require further careful study. Perhaps I may also take the opportunity personally to express my pleasure, as have other noble Lords, at the new position of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. Although it grieves me to say so from the Opposition Front Bench, there is no doubt that the Government now have a uniquely powerful international team. I think we all feel honoured by that.

This change of position and promotion has come at a crucial moment. Although it is neither entirely clear to us why the previous development Secretary went, nor what Clare Short understood to be the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction, it is clear that those are both entirely relevant matters. It would be interesting to learn at some stage, although perhaps not today, whether assurances about a UN mandate were or were not given to Ms Short. There appears to be a straight division of views on that point.

However, that is not the only matter which is unclear. The role of the UN, about which the Statement has much to say, at earlier stages had been said to be vital, but, after having read the details of the draft resolution, that role is still a little ambiguous. It all depends on what is meant by the word "vital". In this context, does it mean "leading", or just helping through the various agencies, with the many detailed proposals set out in the Statement?

A further aspect not touched on, although it is one which might be said not to be the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, concerns the remarkable recent changes in the American team. Given that we and the Americans are intimate partners in this whole enterprise, why has Barbara Bodine suddenly been recalled after only three weeks? That is a very short time indeed. Were the British Government consulted about it? Were they told the true story behind that development? Furthermore, where does General Garner now fit in with the new supremo, Ambassador Bremer? How does his arrival fit in with the plan for the interim authority to be set up and encouraged to get going by the end of this month? How affected are the plans for the interim authority, which presumably are being pressed very fast despite the changes being made at the top, by the return of Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, the ayatollah mentioned in the Statement, where he is welcomed? Will he be a part of the interim authority?

I turn now to humanitarian issues. There were full plans for civilian order and facilities to be restored, but it is clear that they are not yet in place. We were given detailed assurances that preparations were fully in place, but as the Statement candidly says,

"the results have not been as good as we would have hoped".

We would all admit that everything happened faster in Baghdad than the gurus and the experts said. They told us that a siege could last for months, although of course there has been no prolonged siege. As Tim Cross remarked in a newspaper article, the script has moved much more quickly than anyone had expected. But, some five weeks after the end of fighting, we are still receiving reports that the lights are not yet on, policing is not yet operative, running water systems are not working, hospitals are under-equipped, rubbish is not being collected, raw sewage runs in the streets; it was acknowledged in the Statement that cholera has broken out in Basra, while criminal gangs roam freely. However generous one's interpretation and however brilliant was the military operation, it seems a long time since the brave Hillsborough declaration to the effect that there would be rapid delivery of the necessary humanitarian assistance. While some of this may be inevitable—after a war there is always chaos—it is a pity that plans were not put in place to deal with these aspects a little more swiftly.

I turn now to the draft resolution mentioned in the Statement. Has the issue of the legal ownership of oil lifted from Iraq now been clarified? If it has, then that is very good news. However, reports still talk of vast complications surrounding the issue of lifting and the claims of Iraq's former debtors for any of the proceeds from oil revenues.

Can we also have clarification of the reports today that the weapons of mass destruction expert task force is to be withdrawn from Iraq? If those reports are true, it is very difficult to understand why that should be the case. I hope that it does not indicate that the search for weapons of mass destruction is now being given up. If it does, then some serious explanation will be needed as to why so much emphasis was put on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in justifying the campaign in the first place. It was an emphasis which I believed, and said so at the time, to be a mistake.

Lastly, have the Government remembered that modern states work in partnership not only at governmental level, but in a thousand other ways through non-governmental organisations, educational exchanges and many other voluntary and independent efforts? Are plans being laid to open up co-operation on the rebuilding of Iraq not only between the United States and the United Kingdom, but also with other nations such as, for instance, Japan, which stands in readiness and which has vast experience of overseas development that it is willing to share? I mention also, of course, the neighbouring Arab states, as well as the Iraqi people themselves, who must be involved in the rebuilding of their damaged nation. I would greatly value the Minister's response to some of those questions.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 4:26 pm, 12th May 2003

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for repeating the Statement made in another place. I wish also to echo the congratulations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on the promotion of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. She has been a marvellous Minister in this House and has built a sound reputation in those parts of the world in which she has worked so extensively and with such success. We are all delighted to see her promotion.

I shall start, as did the noble Lord, Lord Howell, by saying that the Statement leaves a great many questions to be put to the Government. For reasons of time I shall seek to be as concise as possible. Perhaps I may say, first, that there must be real concerns about the role of the United Nations as set out in the Statement. For example, we understand that a special representative is to be appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, but it is not clear what powers that gentleman or lady will have. References in the draft resolution almost all refer to "co-ordinating", "bringing together" and so forth. But the general impression is that the powers will be substantially less than those conferred on Mr Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan. Will the Minister be kind enough to tell us in what ways the powers of the Iraq special representative will be different from those of Mr Brahimi? It does not look as though he or she will have a central role.

Further in regard to the United Nations and weapons of mass destruction, to which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred, I share his profound concerns. We understand that the US team is to withdraw within the next couple of weeks, while the Statement says rather vaguely that there is no particular point in talking about the role of UNMOVIC, despite the fact that only two weeks ago, the chief inspector, Dr Hans Blix, said that:

"We could return within two weeks, if asked".

Is the real problem here that the security of the inspectors is in doubt? If that is the case, why cannot steps be taken to protect them along the lines suggested, for example, by the Carnegie Endowment? However, if that is not the case, then why are not the inspectors being brought back to Iraq to confirm the discoveries that so far have not been made with regard to weapons of mass destruction? This point needs to be made loud and clear: without such validation by internationally respected inspectors, the world will simply not believe any claims that may be made by the coalition, however justified those claims may be. That is even more the case given that Dr Blix himself has cast doubt on some of the intelligence reported over the course of the war which subsequently has been found to be, to say the least, very unstable as a basis for the resulting declarations.

I share the deep concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about the present situation of civilians in Iraq. While I do not wish to go over all the Statements that have been made—although the noble Lord was right to point out that we have been told repeatedly that provisions and the basis on which the peace could be won had been put in place—I wish to put a further question. Now that we know how serious is the situation, why does there appear to be no way, for example, to send in emergency teams of engineers—as was mentioned earlier at Question Time—and why cannot the police force be asked to second people to Iraq in the same way as was done long ago for Anguilla, Grenada and other parts of the world? It also took place to a great extent in Sierra Leone—and for that I pay full tribute to the troops involved—where lawlessness was quickly dealt with by the British Army and guerrilla forces brought under control. Are steps being taken to deal with this extremely unfortunate situation as quickly as possible? Today's International Herald Tribune states that "Lawlessness is pervasive" and refers, in particular, to the serious situation in Baghdad where large parts of the city are in a state of anarchy.

It is difficult to envisage the Iraq interim authority having the powers it should have unless there is some kind of United Nations validation. Having looked quickly through the resolution, I cannot see any position given to the UN to validate the Iraq interim authority. To put it bluntly—I returned from the United States only last night—that interim authority is now the subject of extreme divisions between the different departments of government in the United States. It is widely speculated there that divisions between the State Department and the Pentagon have already shown up in some of the changes referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in regard to the administration of a peace-making system in Iraq.

The Statement refers to the Iraq assistance fund and the way in which the revenues of Iraq's oil industry will be put into that fund. What then is the role of Halliburton, which received a contract for dealing with oil well fires, of which there are almost none, and oil well break-downs, of which there appear to be few, and which has subsequently moved on to obtaining a substantial contract for the pumping and distribution of Iraqi oil? How is this compatible with the Prime Minister's statement that oil revenues will be put in trust for the Iraqi people. What exactly is the relationship of Halliburton to the Iraq assistance fund and to the Iraq interim authority? Will its contract come under the control of the interim authority once it is recognised?

Extremely serious questions are raised by the Statement. I have no doubt that the Government are doing their best but some of the issues about who is responsible, who is accountable—and to whom—have not been answered. They raise extremely serious questions about how the peace is to be sustained in Iraq.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO) 4:32 pm, 12th May 2003

My Lords, I thank both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for the way in which they have dealt with the Statement. I join with them in rejoicing at the new position of my noble friend Lady Amos. She is uniquely well prepared for this excellent new appointment. I rejoice not only for my noble friend but for the House. It is a very good thing that there is a Secretary of State from your Lordships' House. She is much to be congratulated on that.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised questions about the vital role of the UN which was referred to in the Statement made by my right honourable friend in another place. In paragraph 11 of the Statement my right honourable friend points out that,

"Neither the Secretary-General nor members of the Security Council are proposing that the UN should run Iraq. But we are all concerned to ensure that the UN plays a vital role in post-conflict Iraq".

We have discussed this issue on a number of previous occasions but it is important to note that at no point has it been suggested that the United Nations itself could run post-conflict Iraq—an agency will carry out that task—but it should be the authority under which such activities take place.

Three key issues in the draft resolution are debated in paragraph 13 of my right honourable friend's Statement. First, the role of the UN special co-ordinator, about which further points have been raised and to which I shall return; secondly, the lifting of sanctions; and, thirdly, the arrangements for the sale of oil. Your Lordships have concentrated on all of those issues during previous questions.

Not all noble Lords will have a copy of the draft resolution but it is spelt out in operative paragraph 8 that the Secretary-General's special co-ordinator's responsibilities will involve co-ordinating activities of the United Nations in post-conflict processes in Iraq, co-ordinating among UN and international agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction activities. It then lists nine different areas, including co-ordination of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance; support for the safe, orderly and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons; working with the authority and the people of Iraq with respect to the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions. There are nine specified points of co-ordination which go a substantial way to answering the noble Baroness's pertinent points on that issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked what was happening on the United States side and about the recall—as it has been described in the press—of Ambassador Bodine. As the noble Lord will appreciate, that is a matter for the United States Government. I have no further details of the circumstances in which the decision was taken.

Jay Garner's role as the head of ORHA continues. His role on the political side is mirrored by Zalmay Khalilzad. The role of Ambassador Bremer is to bring together the political side and the reconstruction side of American activities and, as I understand it, in doing so he will report to Mr Rumsfeld and not to General Franks. I hope that adds a little more substance to what is happening on the American side.

I remind your Lordships that we now have the valuable presence of our, until very recently, ambassador in Cairo, John Sawers, an Arab expert who will bring valuable advice and expertise to the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked me about the assurances given to Clare Short. As your Lordships can imagine, I was not party to any conversations. However, I can tell the House that every action taken in Iraq is consistent with what we have said about the role of the United Nations and in accordance with legal advice. That is the basis on which we have operated in discussing the United Nations Security Council resolution. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has expressed his thanks to Clare Short for the valuable work she carried out in the Department for International Development. We can safely say that she raised the profile of aid on the international agenda. She has been a recognisable and very formidable figure on the international scene in relation to aid.

It is quite true—the Statement is unequivocal—that matters on the ground in Iraq have not worked out as well as we had hoped. However, we should look on the positive side of the Statement made by my right honourable friend. There is now access to power and water in 80 per cent of Iraq. Although there are still security problems—about which we have made no secret—they are largely problems of crime and looting. I do not say that those are not serious problems, but they are not so much on the military side.

The noble Baroness made an important point about getting reinforcements to deal with these issues and I agree that we should try to improve expertise. With the additional personnel we are sending to ORHA, which will bring the United Kingdom strength there up to some 40 civil servants collected from around Whitehall, and with the presence of Mr Sawers, we should be able to better target the real needs of the Iraqi people and decide where we can best get added value, whether bilaterally or through EU agencies or United Nations agencies. The noble Baroness has made a valid point which goes to the heart of the advice we expect to receive from Mr Sawers.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the question of the legal ownership of the oil in Iraq. Again, that issue is addressed in the United Nations draft resolution. As did my right honourable friend in another place, I stress that the resolution is a matter for discussion. As he says, no draft resolution has ever been brought to the table that cannot be improved with negotiation. But with paragraph 9 supporting the formation, with the help of the authority and working with the special co-ordinator, of an Iraqi interim authority as a transitional administration, we see the beginnings of moving towards ensuring that Iraqi oil is not only owned by but administered by an Iraqi authority.

Of course it is terribly important that these questions continue to be addressed. We are in an evolving situation and I hope your Lordships will agree that my right honourable friend has been assiduous in bringing forward Statements as and when each new step is taken. No doubt we shall hear more on that in relation to operative paragraph 9.

I understand that the reports of the weapons of mass destruction taskforce are misleading. It is not being run down and those statements have not had any real basis in what is happening on the ground. I hope that we will be able to give your Lordships more information about that. I think the Statement addresses the point about the weapons of mass destruction inspectorate. The noble Baroness felt that it could have been more forthcoming in this respect, but the Statement is specifically about the draft resolution in front of the Security Council now. That matter is not addressed here, although, as my right honourable friend's Statement makes clear, it may be covered by future resolutions.

I am always rather afraid when the noble Baroness returns from one of her visits to Washington; she comes back armed with all sort of information and points she wants to raise. It is no secret that there has been a difference in emphasis between the Pentagon and the State Department. We all find, whatever part of government we come from, that different emphases arise. The point is that government should co-ordinate properly across the board. In the changes to ORHA and the arrival of Ambassador Bremer, we have seen the coming together of the two sides, if I can put it that way, from the United States. The points made by the noble Lord about international co-operation being crucial are very well taken.

The only other point is to do with the question raised by the role of Halliburton. I am afraid I shall have to write to the noble Baroness about its role. As I understand it, the oil revenues are not being administered by Halliburton; it is looking at the mechanics of getting the oil out of the ground and not at the issues of the dispersal of funds which arise from the oil revenues. However, the noble Baroness has raised a question which is causing a bit of concern. I shall write to her with any further information that I can raise and put a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Photo of Lord Jopling Lord Jopling Conservative 4:43 pm, 12th May 2003

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, in all honesty, to tell us that the internal situation in Iraq is not as good as we would have hoped is a gross understatement? Despite repeated warnings over many months that the post-military phase would be a good deal more difficult, it becomes more and more apparent that there has been far too little thought and preparation given to this phase by the alliance. As my noble friend on the Front Bench summed up very clearly, we are faced with a lawless mess, with Barbara Bodine recalled after three weeks and General Garner downgraded after such a short time. Surely Mr. David Kay, the former chief inspector of nuclear weapons in Iraq, was right in refusing to take the job which General Garner subsequently took. He complained that the organisation was not sufficiently interested in promoting democracy and that it was under-financed and poorly staffed. Are not the chickens coming home to roost?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO)

My Lords, I was with the Foreign Secretary while he was drafting the Statement, and he chose his words very carefully. He is at pains to be as accurate as possible about the situation in Iraq. The fact is that the situation is very different in different parts of the country. There has been less difficulty recently in Basra and probably more in Baghdad. There has been less difficulty in the south of the country and in some parts of the north of the country, but we know that there are pockets where law and order, and the writ of law and order, does not run. I do not think, therefore, that I can agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, that this is a gross understatement. I think he has exaggerated, although the situation is serious in some parts of the country. I think my right honourable friend has been as accurate as he can be in putting forward the Statement.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, is quite right: we always knew that post-conflict Iraq would be extremely difficult. I am not sure whether his criticism is directed at both the British and American governments or just the American Government. However, we gave this a great deal of thought. He will be aware, given his excellent contacts with the military, of the care that our military have taken in the way they have conducted themselves in Basra, with their emphasis on getting out of their helmets and into their berets or tam o'shanters as quickly as possible and the sympathetic policing they have carried out in the British sphere of operations. So although a great deal of care has been taken, this has been an honest Statement. Things have not worked out as well as we wished. The Statement puts forward ways in which we hope these issues will be addressed not only by ourselves but through changes the Americans have made in the last few days—changes which I hope and believe will bring rather better results.

Photo of Lord Richard Lord Richard Labour

My Lords, the present state of Iraq and the success, or otherwise, of the occupying powers is perhaps a rather larger matter which the House should debate and not solely on a Statement.

My noble friend said that the United Nations should be the authority. I am not quite sure what she meant by that, and I would be grateful if she could expand on it. Secondly, on the actual role that the UN co-ordinator is supposed to play, is the UN meant to be part of a triumvirate—a partnership of equals between the two occupying powers and the United Nations? Or is the UN merely there to sit and listen and then gently advise and assist, as the occupying powers might think that it could be of some assistance?

It is no secret that many people—I am one of them—believe that the UN is being pushed to the margins on this issue. If my noble friend can breathe some vitality into the role that the United Nations is supposed to be playing, I would be very grateful. But she and the Government have to do it in severely practical terms. We want to know exactly what it is proposed the UN co-ordinator should do. Merely to say that there are nine points upon which he could co-ordinate does not take us very much further.

Finally, what reaction are the Government getting to these proposals from the Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat? Does Kofi Annan welcome the proposed role of UN co-ordinator, or would he be reluctantly prepared to do it if he were pushed into it?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO)

My Lords, may I pick up that last point first? As I understand it, the Secretary-General has made it clear that he does not believe that the Security Council should run Iraq. I hope I made that point explicitly in answering the previous questions. Indeed, it was made explicitly in my right honourable friend's Statement. The Secretary-General, I understand, is discussing the draft not only with our friends in the United States and ourselves but with all members of the Security Council to whom it was circulated towards the end of last week. I cannot recall whether it was late Thursday or early Friday. However, it has been discussed in a number of capitals by British diplomats as well as United States diplomats.

Let me turn to the point that my noble friend raised about the co-ordinator. I did not go through all nine points because I did not wish to try the patience of the House and I know that a number of your Lordships will want to raise individual questions. However, I hope that I read out enough of the draft resolution to make it clear that the role suggested for the co-ordinator is substantial.

I read out three of the nine points. The remaining are as follows:

"facilitating the reconstruction of key infrastructure, in co-operation with other international organisations . . . promoting economic reconstruction and the conditions for sustainable development, including through co-ordination with national and regional organisations . . . civil society, donors and the international financial institutions . . . encouraging international efforts to contribute to basic civilian administration functions", and "promoting human rights".

The resolution also refers to,

"encouraging international efforts to rebuild the capacity of the Iraqi civilian police force"— a very important point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams—and,

"supporting international efforts to promote legal and judicial reform".

The role being discussed for the special co-ordinator is very substantial. As my noble friend may recall, my right honourable friends were concerned that so far Kofi Annan only has an adviser, and not a particular representative or co-ordinator. It was felt that the role of the person particularly responding to the Secretary-General needed beefing up. There is a substantial response to that in the draft resolution.

As regards the authority, we are trying to spell out the vital role referred to in the Hillsborough declaration. We are talking about the authority to lift sanctions and create a new Iraqi assistance fund to target resources, as well as to make arrangements for the sale of oil and handling oil revenues. Your Lordships have been clear that the authority, particularly for those matters, should come through the United Nations. That is clearly recognised in the draft resolution.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, in giving evidence to the International Development Select Committee just before hostilities commenced, Miss Clare Short predicted that as many as 8 million people could become refugees as a result of the hostilities. It is a great mercy that such apocalyptic scenarios have not come to pass and that the kind of problems outlined in her Statement today are the ones with which we are actually having to deal.

Does the Minister agree that the support given her and to the Government from many sides of your Lordships' House was predicated on the basis that we would work, in the aftermath of the hostilities, for a civil society and the creation of a democratic Islamic country in Iraq? Resources now must be piled into that objective, because it will be on the basis of our success or failure in creating an alternative for the 30 years of tyranny that preceded it that our actions in Iraq will finally be judged.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO)

My Lords, that is an entirely right and sensible statement from the noble Lord, Lord Alton. The fact is that there were predictions of some pretty appalling outcomes flowing from any military action in Iraq. I do not for one moment underestimate the grief and suffering of many people in relation to the military action, but it has been nothing like as widespread or long-lasting as many feared. They really believed that such terrible consequences would flow from military action, and it is an enormous mercy that that has not been the case.

We have always said that the tests that would be applied by history to the outcome of the conflict would relate to the sort of Iraq that emerged. It should be a democratic Islamic country, as the noble Lord said. A country under the rule of recognised law, living in peace and harmony with its neighbours, would be very much welcomed.

Photo of Lord Sandberg Lord Sandberg Liberal Democrat

My Lords, we had much publicity before the war started about co-ordination between Britain and the United States. We saw a lot of meetings between the Prime Minister and President Bush, all of which made the prosecution of the war very successful. Since the war, however, there seems to have been very much less co-ordination between this country and America. Given our experience of looking after countries that have been under despotic rule—in Malaysia, to mention only one example—are we having much dialogue with the United States? If we are, it seems to be less publicised.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO)

My Lords, a great deal of dialogue is indeed taking place with the United States. The noble Lord is right in saying that there was a great deal of co-ordination before military action, for a very long time. Efforts were made to resolve the issue through diplomatic means, principally through the United Nations. A good deal of discussion took place about military action. However, I do not believe that he is right in saying that there is less co-ordination. I remind him of the declaration at Hillsborough, which was extraordinarily important.

Although it is a separate issue, hand-in-glove with trying to resolve the future of Iraq, there has also been a good deal of discussion between this country and the United States about the Middle East peace process. Your Lordships will acknowledge that that is a separate and different issue, but none the less it is related in the minds of many people to the regional unrest.

There is continuing dialogue, such as on the running of ORHA. My right honourable friend Patricia Hewitt has had discussions about that. My honourable friend Mike O'Brien, who is the Minister with responsibilities for the Middle East, has also been co-ordinating. Your Lordships may also be interested to know that I, too, have played a small role in these matters. I am hoping to go to Washington towards the end of this week to discuss some matters in my portfolio that have a bearing on the situation.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness can help us a little. It appears that the administration in Baghdad is all over the place. One cannot have a mayor who is here today and gone tomorrow. The rumours that Jay Garner is going to be replaced by somebody else does not look like joined-up government.

Can the Minister give us an undertaking that the Americans really are thinking about joined-up government, given that this is an imperial situation, faute de mieux? We cannot get round that. If we are going to do imperialism, let us do it properly.

Secondly, it is essential, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, to have a proper police force. What steps are being taken to raise, recruit and officer a proper new Iraqi police force? We could surely get assistance from the Pakistanis and the Arabs. There are lots of people other than PC Plod from Scunthorpe who could go and do it. We need a proper police force that can be new and separate from the old police force. That is the first essence of governing a country—that its citizens can go from A to B without being kiboshed, ambushed, or anything else. Police force, police force, police force—what steps are being taken towards that?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO)

My Lords, the noble Earl struck an interesting note when he said that if we were going to do imperialism we should do it properly. Rather than spend a happy moment or two debating that point, which I am sure we shall have an interesting time discussing later, let me put him straight on a couple of points.

The fact is that Jay Garner is not being replaced. As I understand it, he remains at the head of ORHA, and therefore at the head of the organisation dealing with reconstruction. His role is mirrored by Zalmay Khalilzad, who is looking at the political side. The Americans have brought the two together under the lead of ambassador Bremer who, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, will report directly to Mr Rumsfeld in the Pentagon. Nobody has been dismissed, got rid of or put on one side. Nobody is here today and gone tomorrow—or whatever phraseology pleases the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. That is not what has happened. A more senior figure has been brought in to co-ordinate the reconstruction and political side of American activity.

I agree with the noble Earl that the issue of the police force is enormously important. I think that the points made by the noble Baroness were well taken. When we discussed the issue before, I was able to report to your Lordships that some of the Iraqi police force are returning to their posts. I hear what the noble Earl says—that he does not think that that is quite what is needed and that he wants to start all over gain. However, I think that it is actually rather important to use indigenous police where they can be trusted. It is enormously important not simply to put in outsiders, but to use those parts of the police force who are willing to work for a new order in Iraq.

The 40 people from around Whitehall whom we have sent into Baghdad have a whole range of expertise. They have not all come out of DfID or the Foreign Office. What we have sought from right across Whitehall is real expertise in the areas that we think need particular attention in the Iraqi administration, particularly in Baghdad.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Labour

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend to elaborate a little further on one aspect of the draft resolution, the text of which has very kindly been provided for us in the Printed Paper Office? When she spoke on the central commercial and, indeed, legal issue of the moment—namely, who is to make title to Iraqi oil when sales recommence—she referred to paragraph 9 of the draft resolution. As I understand it, that refers to the role of the interim Iraqi authority in administration. The question of who can make title is, of course, not a question of administration; it is now a delicate matter of international and domestic law.

Can my noble friend tell us what the draft resolution means as it stands at the moment? Paragraph 18 refers to the,

"export sales of petroleum . . . and natural gas", which will be,

"consistent with prevailing international market practices".

As I understand it, that is as far as it goes. Do the Government envisage that the resolution should be a little more specific about what those "market practices" would entail in terms of who can make title on the market? That is doubly important for us in view of paragraph 20, with which—unless I missed it; I apologise if I did—I do not think my noble friend dealt. In substance, paragraph 20 states that all member states are to take steps to amend their domestic legal systems.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but we are nearly out of time.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Labour

My Lords, I am very sorry if we are out of time, but it seems vital that we have further information on this matter. We are to amend our legal system in all respects necessary to ensure that the sales of petroleum products and natural gas products originating in Iraq, and the proceeds of sale thereof, are,

"immune from judicial, administrative, arbitration or any other proceedings (including . . . attachment, garnishment, or execution or other action".

The Government must have some idea of what changes in our law, both statutory and at common law, that would need. So can my noble friend say more on those changes which the Government now see as necessary? If not, what amendment will the Government make to paragraph 20? If none, who can make title to Iraqi oil?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO)

My Lords, if I may, I shall be as brief as I can on this. I think that the noble Lord will find that part of the answer to his question is in paragraph 13 of my right honourable friend's Statement, which refers to "the lifting of sanctions" and, crucially,

"the creation of a new Iraq Assistance Fund to target resources on the reconstruction of Iraq".

The authority has passed to that new assistance fund. If the noble Lord looks at paragraphs 17 and 18 of the draft resolution, I think he will find more information on the role of the Iraqi assistance fund in providing for the urgent needs of the Iraqi people.