The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

House of Lords exchange

The following is brief exchange which took place between a Foreign Office
representative and the House of Lords yesterday. It covers why the FCO
declined to meet with Denis Halliday while he was in the UK, and how the
lifting of the food-for-oil ceiling would help the situation in Iraq.

Notice the FCO rep. says "the Government is well aware of Mr Halliday's
views", but when questioned in more detail says "We have not seen the
details of the source of Mr. Halliday's claims.", something they could
presumably have asked him had they agreed to meet him. She is also clearly
unaware of the irony of using the example of the Iraqi govt. spending
money on a bank-note counting machine given the hyperinflation caused by
sanctions!  With regard to her other example of Iraqi mis-spending,
"telecommunications":  is the Iraqi government expected to run a food
distribution system for the majority of its 22million population without


source: Hansard : House of Lords, 4th Feb 1999

Dennis Halliday: UK Visit

3.26 p.m. 

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government: 

     Whether any Minister or other representative of the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office met Dennis Halliday, the former United Nations
Assistant Secretary-General and Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, during
his recent visit to the United Kingdom; and, if not, why not. 

4 Feb 1999 : Column 1613

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): 
    My Lords, the Government are well aware of Mr. Halliday's views as he
is of the Government's. We did not believe that a meeting between Mr.
Halliday and a representative of Her Majesty's Government would bring our
positions any closer. We share Mr. Halliday's concern for the well-being
of the Iraqi people, but we do not share his view that sanctions are the
cause of their suffering.  Rather, Her Majesty's Government agree with the
Gulf Co-operation Council communique of 9th December which held the Iraqi
government fully responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people. 

We continue to discuss possible improvements to the oil-for-food programme
in the UN Security Council with Mr. Halliday's successor, Mr. Hans von
Sponeck, and we are pursuing a possible humanitarian initiative with our
EU partners. 

Lord Rea: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which is very
much as I expected. Might it not have been useful and indeed courteous for
Her Majesty's Government to have heard the testimony of Mr. Halliday, who
is a former high official of the United Nations and a man of great
integrity?  His views contest with considerable evidence the explanation
that my noble friend has given. Is she aware that the oil-for-food
programme, even when it is working effectively, is still insufficient to
reverse the serious malnutrition and high mortality of Iraqi
children--that has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation--let
alone repair the wrecked state of the civil infrastructure in Iraq? Is it
not time to review our policy towards Iraq, which has now reached
stalemate, and join with the rest of the world in favouring a policy that
will reach a solution which will involve lifting sanctions in return, it
is to be hoped, for a carefully policed arms limitation treaty affecting
the whole of the middle east?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that I have explained to
the House why Her Majesty's Government did not think that such a meeting
would get anywhere and why it was not appropriate. My noble friend raises
two issues. One is the question of the suffering of the Iraqi people. We
have not seen the details of the source of Mr. Halliday's claims. We know,
from the UN Secretary-General's report in November 1998 that infant
malnutrition is decreasing in the northern governorates and that 2.5
billion dollars' worth of foodstuffs has been arriving in Iraq. But that
still begs the question, even if there is suffering in Iraq, as to why
that is the case. I am afraid that Her Majesty's Government take a
different view from that expressed by Mr. Halliday, which I suspect is
supported by my noble friend. The Government take the view that it is
because of the intransigent position taken by the Government of Iraq.

Let us consider that the latest distribution plan put forward by Iraq on
the oil-for-food issue includes an allocation of 25 million dollars' worth
to a machine that will count banknotes and 100 million dollars' worth for
the purchase of telecommunications. That does not strike me as a regime
that is interested in the suffering of its own people.

4 Feb 1999 : Column 1614

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, since we cannot force Iraq to sell oil and buy
food and medicine--a fact so clearly demonstrated by the Minister--given
the current oil-for-food programme, under which Saddam Hussein plans to
order less food and medicine for the Iraqi people than in the previous
phases, and given the large amount of medicine that is still sitting,
undistributed, in ministry of health warehouses, how does the Minister
anticipate that the expansion of the oil-for-food facility, which would
eliminate the 5.2 billion ceiling on funds from oil exports, will succeed
in easing the humanitarian situation in Iraq, which must be our first

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his
support on the matters of fact in relation to the reductions that the
Iraqis want and the calorific content of the food. Iraq is selling food to
its neighbours--it is certainly selling to Syria and attempting to do so
to Jordan. How can we address the matter? An important step was taken at
the UN Security Council on 30th January in the setting up of three panels,
one of which will examine the humanitarian considerations; another the
problem of the missing Kuwaiti prisoners of war; and the third the issues
of weapons of mass destruction. Those issues are being considered, not
only at United Nations level with the support of the full Security
Council, but also with our EU partners. We are alive to the difficulty and
are attempting to address it in the fora that are open to us.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, will the Minister accept that the
whole House agrees that Saddam Hussein is, by any standards, one of the
most evil and dangerous men in the world? That said, will she also accept
that, up to now, our sanctions policy seems to have affected the ruling
government in Iraq very little and the people of Iraq very much. In the
light of that, in the negotiations that are to take place will she bear in
mind ways in which sanctions could be more directly targeted at the elite
group in Iraq, thus avoiding some of the suffering of the people?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords, I hope that I have
addressed those concerned by pointing out to the House ways in which Her
Majesty's Government are endeavouring to do this, both through the
European Union and the panels set up on 30th January by the Security

We should not, however, write off some of the successes of the
oil-for-food programme. For example, the sewerage system in Baghdad has
directly benefited from the programme. Improvements of some 20 per cent.
have been recorded. We have seen 56 million dollars' worth of food and
goods arriving in the agricultural areas of the country. We have also seen
an improvement in some of the very distressing infant mortality rates in
the northern governorates. Those reports came from the UN
Secretary-General as recently as November last year. So, while improvement
is needed, it is not all bad news in relation to aid getting through in
the oil-for-food programme.

This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT the
whole list. Archived at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]