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House of Commons

Below are the full exchanges between George Robertson and MPs yesterday.
I note two things.  Firstly, that only two government MPs supported  
government policy, while five objected.  No Opposition MP, except the
official spokesman supported the government either.  Secondly George
Robertson said "It is not part of our policy to remove Saddam Hussein from
office. That will be done by the Iraqi people in their good time." -a
quote which may be useful to note.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (by private notice): To ask the Secretary of
State for Defence if he will make a statement on changes to the rules of
engagement in relation to military action over Iraq. 

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson): Madam Speaker,
our aircrew, carrying out the vital humanitarian task of enforcing the
no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, face almost daily attempts
by Saddam Hussein to kill them. He is making every effort to shoot down UK
and US aircraft--even offering bounties to air defence units. 

Since the end of Operation Desert Fox, there have been more than 100
violations of the no-fly zones. Coalition aircraft have been fired on by
Iraqi surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, and have been
otherwise threatened more than 50 times. Typically endangering the safety
of his own people, Saddam is even using heavy surface-to-surface rockets
as improvised anti-aircraft weapons. 

Let us be clear that there is still a pressing need to maintain these 
patrols and the no-fly zones. Saddam's brutal repression of his people is
well documented--including by the UN. That is, of course, why the no-fly
zones were established in the north in April 1991 and in the south in
August 1992. His internal security organisations continue to persecute all
opponents of the regime on the ground. Without our continued presence, he
would be free to do so in the air as well. We are not prepared to
countenance that. 

Saddam's latest campaign against coalition aircrew is sustained and
direct, and leaves us with a stark choice: to give up, and let him do his
worst to the Iraqi Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south, or to
act to protect those flying these legitimate humanitarian patrols. We
cannot simply ignore these attacks. 

We have, therefore, tailored the rules of engagement to reflect the
escalation by the Iraqis of their systematic attacks and threats to our
aircraft. I hope that the House will understand that I am not prepared to
go into detail, as neither we nor the US would wish to provide Iraq with
information that could be used to increase the threat to our people. 

I can assure the House that this adaptation of the rules of engagement in
no way represents a change to either our policy towards maintaining the
no-fly zones or the purpose of our long-standing patrols. The tailoring of
the rules of engagement merely reinforces our position, which we have made
clear all along--that we will take robust and appropriate defensive
measures to prevent Saddam from endangering the lives of our brave
Of course Saddam's propaganda machine is quick to exaggerate the effects
of coalition action on the Iraqi people. I can assure the House that the
only targets attacked are legitimate military ones. They include the
communications facilities targeted by the United States over the weekend,
which now appear also to have carried part of the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline
control network. Damage to the oil pipeline control system is regrettable,
but the pipeline itself was not damaged and we understand that the oil
flow resumed in less than three days. 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1214

Furthermore, there was no interruption to the export of oil because
significant stocks are held at the Turkish end of the pipeline. 

We have limited ourselves strictly to proportionate responses to threats
against coalition aircraft, using precision-guided weapons to minimise
casualties. Of course such action is regrettable, but Saddam's attacks
leave no alternative, other than to abandon our patrols, with all that
that would mean for the Iraqi Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. If he stops
attacking our aircraft, we will stop acting against him in response. 

Just as in Operation Desert Fox, the responsibility for the military
action lies firmly at Saddam Hussein's door. 

Mr. Dalyell: Where is all this to end? Is it not a fact that more ordnance
has rained down on Iraq since Desert Fox than during it, and that more
bombs and missiles were used during Desert Fox than in the whole of the
Gulf war? How can the rules of engagement be changed to that extent
without a declaration of war? In the absence of such a declaration, what
would be the position of a pilot, British or American, who had to bale out
of an aircraft that was hit or had malfunctioned? 

How does my right hon. Friend respond to President Demirel of Turkey,
whose statement was that the strikes against the pipeline were

My right hon. Friend refers to the Shia. Those of us who visited Basra and
the marshes in 1994 cannot conceive that bombs will do anything but
strengthen the position of the regime, rather than weakening it. The
Foreign Minister of Iraq is himself a Shia. Reference may be made to the
brutal murder in Najaf of Ayatollah Muhammad al-Sadr, but there are grave
doubts about whether the regime was in any way responsible for something
that would have been against its own interests. 

Is the so-called threat against the Shia, the Marsh Arabs and indeed the
Iraqi Kurds--the Health Minister, Dr. Mubarak, is a Kurd--such as to
justify the traumatisation of children, old people and a whole society?
Where is all this to end? Can we have a precise statement of the objective
of bombing following the change in the rules of engagement? 

Mr. Robertson: To answer my hon. Friend's clear question about where this
will end: it will end when Saddam Hussein complies with the
resolutions to which he signed up at the end of the Gulf war and stops
being a threat to his neighbours and to the region. That is the simple
answer. I understand my hon. Friend's attention to this subject, and I do
not for a moment question his sincerity, but I find it extraordinary that
he could make so lengthy a contribution without once mentioning the threat
to our aircrew, who are patrolling the no-fly zones for purely
humanitarian reasons and put their lives in danger every day they carry
out the duty that we have placed on them. 

I do not think that my hon. Friend is right to draw a comparison between
Operation Desert Fox, which was a 72-hour campaign designed to diminish
and degrade Saddam Hussein's military capability and his ability to
threaten his neighbours, and the purely defensive operation which is
involved in the no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq today. We are
engaged in defensive operations to ensure that Saddam Hussein's objective
and ambition, which is to kill our pilots,

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1215

is frustrated. I made that clear in what I said. We have only one option,
which is to stay and protect the people whom the no-fly zones were put in
place to protect. 

My hon. Friend asked how we could make alterations to the rules of
engagement without a declaration of war. We are not at war with Saddam
Hussein or with the Iraqi regime. Our planes are acting strictly in accordance
with international law and they are taking defensive steps to prevent them
from being attacked by the Iraqis. My hon. Friend asked about the position
of a pilot who might be downed over Iraq, and, indeed, bounties are being
offered to anti-aircraft crew by Saddam Hussein to achieve that. The lack
of a declaration of war in no way relieves the Iraqi regime of its
obligations under the Geneva conventions to anybody who may be involved in
a situation such as that which my hon. Friend describes. 

My hon. Friend mentioned the comments yesterday by President Demirel about
the attack on the communications centre beside the oil pipeline. I
understand that President Demirel has now been briefed on the fact that
that was in response to a precise attack on coalition aircraft and that
the Turkish Government fully understand that the action was taken not
against the pipeline, but against the control and communications centre,
which appeared to have a dual-use function. 

My hon. Friend seems to imply that the Arabs in the south of Iraq are safe
and, without the coalition aircraft, they would come to no harm. He
suggests that, because there is a Shia Muslim and a Kurdish Minister in
the Government of Iraq--which is almost a contradiction in terms--that in
some way protects the people of the south and north. It does not. The
systematic, brutal attacks that took place in 1991 and 1992 have not left
my memory, even if they have left my hon. Friend's. Those attacks would
return if we were to cease maintaining the no-fly zones. I say to my hon.
Friend that we will stop our responses if the Iraqis stop attacking our
planes. Saddam Hussein is trying to kill our pilots, and we are acting in
self-defence. At some point, he will have to wake up to the fact that he
will have to comply with the will of the international community and the
resolutions to which he has signed up. At that point, the violence can

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): I thank the Secretary of State for his full
answer. Nothing that the Government or the Opposition say or do should
hinder the operational effectiveness of our forces or the forces of our
allies. That is why we understand the need for caution in pressing Defence
Ministers to reveal the rules of engagement and to tell the House whether
they have been varied. Parliament has learned in recent years that in
military conflicts it is crucial that all allied forces operate with the
same rules of engagement. We have heard and seen much of the Secretary of
State on radio and television in the past 24 hours, but he should not be
dragged to Parliament to account for his actions by the hon. Member for
Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). We would like to hear more of him on the issue
and have the opportunity to question him on it. 

We agree that it is necessary to police the no-fly zones to help to
protect the Shia Muslims and the Kurds from the excesses of Saddam
Hussein. Will the Secretary of State tell us why there appears to be a
divergence between United States objectives and those of the United 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1216

Kingdom? The United States has made it clear that its policy objective is
the removal of Saddam Hussein from office; that is also the Conservative
position. Today, we have heard nothing about the long-term objectives of
UK Government. The Prime Minister has spoken of putting Saddam
Hussein back in his cage. Does the Secretary of State understand that, if
he is to retain public support, as well as the support of the whole House,
he must develop, and share with us, a long-term strategy on Iraq? 

The Opposition agree with the United States Government position, reported
yesterday to the US Congress, that the objective should be to help Iraq
resume its rightful place in the region, which can be achieved only under
new Iraqi leadership. We know that Saddam Hussein is able to sell as much
oil as he wants for food and medicine for his people, but that he will not
do so. Yesterday, the Prime Minister told the House that the Government 

       "will not allow him to get round the sanctions and use that oil
money to build up a weapons arsenal."--[Official Report, 3 March 1999;
Vol. 326, c. 1074.] 

Therefore, why does it appear that we are allowing the illicit export of
oil from Iraq to Turkey through Kurdish areas, by road, with thousands of
tankers trading in cash which appears to be helping to keep the Saddam
regime afloat? 

Today, the Secretary of State tells us that our aircrew are under renewed
threat and are acting in self-defence. Will he assure the House that the
forces that we are deploying over Iraq have enough equipment, ground
support and medical services to sustain those brave men? 

I have explained why we are cautious in pressing Ministers to share rules
of military engagement with the House; that was the subject of the private
notice question tabled by the hon. Member for Linlithgow. However, the
House should be aware that, this morning, US sources have told me that the
US rules of engagement are a matter of public record, and that, in the
United States on 1 March, Defence Secretary Cohen announced a variation to
those rules. If that is true, will the Secretary of State also publish the
rules of engagement that our forces are following, which presumably are
identical to those followed by America? If the rules of engagement for the
United States and UK forces are the same at the tactical level, surely the
time has come for our strategic objectives to be the same. 

Mr. Robertson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for what I thought, at the
beginning, was a supportive statement. I appreciate that the Government
have received support from the Opposition on both the purpose and the
method of operating the no-fly zones. 

The hon. Gentleman contends that I have been dragged before Parliament and
presses me to announce our rules of engagement, but I remind him that
our rules of engagement abide strictly by international law. Rules of
engagement are a routine and detailed operational matter; they are not
normally discussed or published, so as to ensure the safety of our
personnel. It has, therefore, been the practice of successive Governments
never to notify Parliament of changes in the rules of engagement; nor is
there a requirement to do so. 

I do not stand at the Dispatch Box to explain a different situation. There
has been a sustained and increased level of attacks on coalition aircraft.
The attempts by Saddam 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1217

Hussein to kill our aircrew continue and increase all the time; indeed,
this morning, there were incursions into the southern no-fly zone and
attacks on coalition aircraft. That situation continues. However, I refuse
to give information of an operational nature that will allow the Iraqis
better to target the aeroplanes of the Royal Air Force that are flying at
the moment. 

The hon. Gentleman asks whether there is a divergence on policy between
the United States and Britain. There is not. I have regular communications
with my opposite number, Defence Secretary Cohen, and we are absolutely
together in our views on this mission, and on the rules of engagement that
apply to both countries. 

The hon. Gentleman asks why the Government do not state our long-term
strategy for Iraq. The House has been informed as to that matter on many
occasions. Although the private notice question is on the rules of
engagement in the no-fly zones, let me point out that, ultimately, our
objective is to ensure that Saddam is not a threat to his neighbours.
Since the end of Desert Fox, he has threatened Kuwait and Saudi Arabia;
and, only a few weeks ago, he went to Tariq Aziz to threaten the Turkish
Government. We intend to ensure that he is not a danger to his own people
as well. 

As for illicit sanctions breaking, ships of the Royal Navy and the Armilla
patrol are engaged in that operation. As my right hon. Friend the Prime
Minister said yesterday, we will, whenever we can, tighten the screws of
the sanctions on that country. 

I will agree with the hon. Gentleman on one point: Saddam is responsible
for the miseries of the Iraqi people. He has in warehouses $275 
million-worth of medicines and medical supplies which he refuses to
distribute. Only 15 per cent. of the medical equipment purchased by the
Iraqi Government has been distributed and only 2 to 3 per cent. has been
installed. Although wheat and barley production has increased by 15 per
cent. this year, Saddam Hussein has not given those crops to his people,
but is selling them at cut-rate prices to Syria. Saddam has an obligation
to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and he is
also responsible for the misery of the Iraqi people. 

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): Is the Secretary of State aware 
that--whatever words he may have used--he has, in effect, announced today
a state of war against Iraq with the Americans to remove Saddam when there
is absolutely no United Nations authority for that action? Is he aware
also that we now know that the United States used the United Nations
Special Commission to spy in order to identify current targets? Government
policy towards Iraq over the years has failed absolutely, but, although
the Government have announced a very important change today, Ministers
have been reluctant to come to the House and allow us to debate the
matter. This is a state of war, and British pilots are at risk because of
the decisions taken by the American and British Governments, which, as I
have said, have no legal authority. 

Is the Secretary of State aware that, regardless of the statements that he
makes in the House, the use of depleted-uranium bullets during the war
with Iraq and the suffering in that country have engendered a legacy of
hatred which will probably last for generations? We need a middle east
peace conference that will address a clutch 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1218

of issues, including the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Turkey's invasion of
northern Iraq and Cyprus, the Palestinian question and the position of the
Kurds. That is the way forward. The Government demand ceasefires whenever
wars break out elsewhere in the world, but they have renewed their
attacks on Iraq when we should be looking at all the problems of the
middle east--including the need to lift sanctions for humanitarian
reasons. I beg the Secretary of State to ask his colleagues to allow the
House to debate those issues in a manner that will allow more exchanges
than are possible in the context of a private notice question. 

Mr. Robertson: I refute absolutely my right hon. Friend's allegation that
this amounts to a declaration of war. If Saddam Hussein stops threatening
the lives of our aircrew, we will not need to respond--it is as simple as
that. Saddam Hussein's forces are attacking our aircrew and our planes.
They are seeking to kill pilots of the Royal Air Force and we are taking
defensive action. 

It is absurd for my right hon. Friend to suggest that this is in some way
a declaration of war or that we are acting without United Nations
authority. He will remember the attacks on the Kurds in the north--I saw
him on the television standing in solidarity with some of those Kurds a
few weeks ago--and what happened to the Marsh Arabs in the south of Iraq.
The no-fly zones were put in place in response to those attacks, and they
rightly remain today because the threat has not gone away. 

Our pilots are at risk. They have a humanitarian mission: they willingly
fly every day because they believe in international law and order. They
should be applauded and congratulated on their efforts. When I visited
them last month, I recognised their bravery and the risks that they are
taking. I must remind my right hon. Friend--in all comradeliness--that, if
we had listened to his advice in 1990, Kuwait would still be occupied by
Saddam Hussein and the gross violations of human rights that we witnessed
then would be continuing. 

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I do not doubt the need to
maintain the no-fly zones or the bravery of Royal Air Force aircrew and
the risks that they run. However, does the Secretary of State understand
that those of us who supported the use of force as a last resort to compel
Saddam Hussein to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions
none the less feel unable to give the Secretary of State the blank cheque
to which he alluded today? Is there not a substantial distinction to be
drawn between a defensive response to the threat of attack and, as is now
apparently taking place, the systematic destruction of Iraq's air defence
system? Is that not an escalation that goes far beyond the mere tailoring
of the rules of engagement, as the Secretary of State has suggested? 

Mr. Robertson: No, it does not. I say bluntly to the right hon. Gentleman
that what we are doing is proportionate. It uses precision-guided
weapons; it is directed only at military targets. There is no escalation
that is not mirrored by the increased threat to coalition aircrew. The
decision is taken with a heavy heart, and with regret. I take no pleasure
in ordering young men--those on the ground who support them suffer the
deprivation of being away from home, too--into battle in these
circumstances, but we do it because the threat 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1219

is increasing. Daily incursions have increased dramatically since the end
of Operation Desert Fox. What we do is robust, but we are conscious at
every stage of the fact that, under international law, it must be
proportionate. There is no blank cheque. If attacks stop on planes that
are policing the no-fly zones and protecting helpless people who have
already been attacked, the responses will stop exactly at that point. 

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Is my right hon. Friend aware
that his comments today have the overwhelming support not only
of the parliamentary Labour party but of the British people? Is he further
aware that some of us greet with nausea the comments of apologists for
Saddam Hussein, who seem to take no account whatever of the fact that all
these actions derive from the annexation of Kuwait and the looting and
murder of Kuwaiti people? All these actions arise from thisman wanting to
dominate the middle east with non-conventional poisonous weapons
through persistent violations of United Nations Security Council
resolutions, which, despite the inaccurate and illiterate niggling which
has occurred, fully authorise the action that is being taken today--and

There would be no need for military action or a no-fly zone if Saddam
Hussein did not massacre his people, as he has again recently. The
Government should continue with the action that they have bravely
undertaken in collaboration with the United States Government. It can end
only when Saddam Hussein either at long last complies with the Security
Council resolutions or is turned out. 

Mr. Robertson: I thank my right hon. Friend for his support, which has
been consistent down the years, as has his support of the Iraqi people and
his opposition to the regime that has visited so much misery on them and
their neighbours. He is right to point to the annexation of Kuwait and the
renewed threat in the past two months to the borders of Kuwait. 

I keep hoping--perhaps it is a vain and naive hope--to hear some of my
right hon. and hon. Friends plead with the Iraqis to release the prisoners
of war, the disappeared, who were taken from Kuwait following the Gulf war
and have not been heard of since. I am glad that the UN Security Council
has set up three panels--one on disarmament, the second on the
humanitarian needs of Iraq and the third on the Kuwaiti disappeared. It
would be nice to hear some of those who express an interest in this
subject, and who may even have back channels with the Iraqis, saying a
little more about that.
To reinforce my right hon. Friend's point about the regime, what kind of
leader watches his children die and his hospitals operate without drugs,
but keeps $275 million-worth of medicines and medical supplies locked up
in a warehouse? 

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): The Secretary of State has talked about the
risks that RAF pilots are taking, and he has rightly drawn attention to
the dedicated efforts that the RAF makes in the area. However, will he
answer the specific question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for
Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who asked what the status 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1220

of RAF pilots would be if they were downed on Iraqi territory? Would they
be prisoners of war, or would they come into another category? 

Mr. Robertson: I answered the question, and I will answer it again. The
obligations of the Geneva conventions apply to Iraq, whether there is a
declaration of war or not. The mission of those pilots is humanitarian in
its purpose. Iraq would have to, and would be, obliged to adhere to the
Geneva conventions. 

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): A few moments ago, the Secretary of
State spoke of his ordering of British pilots into battle against
Iraq. A few minutes before that, he said that there was no declaration of
war against Iraq. Will he make absolutely clear the state of relations
between Britain and Iraq? What are the long-term objectives of the bombing
missions and the deployment of aircrew over Iraq? At what point would he
be prepared to send in ground troops? Many people wish to know--not as
apologists for Saddam Hussein, but as supporters of the Iraqi people--the
exact long-term objectives of Britain and the United States in the region. 

Mr. Robertson: The objectives are absolutely clear: to get Saddam Hussein
to comply with the terms of the resolutions that were adopted by the
United Nations after the Gulf war, to which Saddam Hussein subscribed, and
to ensure that Saddam does not represent a continuing threat to his
neighbours in the region and, through that, to international stability. 

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Is my right hon. Friend aware how
sickening it is for the vast majority of us in the House to listen
literally day by day to those who echo the views of the murderous regime
in Baghdad, who use every opportunity in the House of Commons--an
opportunity which people in Iraq do not have--to express the views of
Saddam Hussein?
As my right hon. Friend said, the people who opposed the liberation of
Kuwait nine years ago are the ones who now echo the views regarding the
no-fly zones. 

Has my right hon. Friend noticed one difference, however, in the
contribution from the critics today? Has he noticed that whereas,
previously, they said, "All that is happening is due to President Clinton
trying to save his job," they do not say that today? No doubt, however,
other smears and innuendo will be used to try to prevent the humanitarian
work which my right hon. Friend has described, and which is undoubtedly
supported by a large majority of people in this country. 

Mr. Robertson: My hon. Friend is right. I believe that what we are doing
is not only right but supported by the vast majority of people in this
country. When, at times, I feel intemperate and feel that this man's
threat to the countries of the Gulf that I visited last month should be
better appreciated by more people in the House and throughout the world, I
reflect on the fact that this is a democratic House--that this is a
Parliament in which people are allowed to say what they want, however
repugnant it may be, however unfashionable it may be, but at the end of
the day the people will decide. In Iraq, no one has any such liberty.
Anyone who does not agree with Saddam, even on details, is unlikely to
stay alive for long. 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1221

Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch): I wonder whether I can press my right hon.
Friend on the exact objectives. He said that one of the objectives was
to bring Saddam Hussein to the point at which he was no longer a threat to
other countries in the region. At what point do we judge that that point
has been reached? After all, Saddam Hussein is a butchering psychopath who
slaughtered his own people; at what point does he cease to be a threat to
the other countries of the region? Does what my right hon. Friend said
imply that an objective of policy is to remove Saddam Hussein from office? 

I should have thought that most hon. Members would agree that any influx
of weapons into that volatile region would not be the best idea. I wonder
whether my right hon. Friend could tell us why, in those circumstances,
Britain recently gifted--not sold--missiles to Saudi Arabia. 

Mr. Robertson: My hon. Friend asks what we mean by "when Saddam Hussein is
no longer a threat". The resolutions passed following the Gulf
war clearly set out the terms that he was expected to adhere to. The
disarmament that is laid out there is the matter that has been the source
of so much controversy. UNSCOM was the means by which the United Nations
sought to find out what weapons Saddam had, especially weapons of mass
destruction, and to destroy them. UNSCOM found out an immense amount and
destroyed a lot of the weapons, but the United Nations believes that he
still has those capabilities and some of those weapons of war. Compliance
is the standard set for Saddam. 

It is not part of our policy to remove Saddam Hussein from office. That
will be done by the Iraqi people in their good time. What we can do is
point out to them through every available channel that he is, as my hon.
Friend rightly says, a butcher, and a butchering dictator. 

My hon. Friend says that we should not sell weapons, apparently, to the
region. However, the Gulf countries are friendly countries, they are
allies of ours, and they have every right to self-protection, especially
as they live in the close neighbourhood of the Iraqi regime. My hon.
Friend mentions a specific gift, which is a technical description, of some
precision-guided weapons. Those have been given to Saudi Arabia to replace
the JP233, which we previously sold to Saudi Arabia, but is not compliant
with the Ottawa convention which we have signed. The weapons are simply a
substitute for weapons that that country bought. That seems to be in the
interests of Saudi Arabian self-defence and our commitment to abolishing
all forms of anti-personnel land mines. 

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1222

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): I have no problem condemning
Saddam Hussein or associating myself with the remarks of my
hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer) that Saddam is a
"butchering psychopath", nor do I have any difficulty calling for the
release of the disappeared, although I do not have any avenue of
expression into Iraq, other than views expressed in the House. However, is
it not one thing to engage in bombing and economic sanctions, and another
to imply that that is problem free and that no moral difficulties attach
to it with regard to the condition of the Iraqi people? 

The major blame is with Saddam Hussein and has been since the start of the
Iran-Iraq war, but our response to that evil also creates adverse
conditions for the Iraqi people. That should be seen by the Government as
a problem. They should not treat the matter with glib answers and put all
the blame on to Saddam Hussein all the time, as though our response to the
situation did not create secondary problems. 

Mr. Robertson: I do not know where my hon. Friend is directing his
accusation of glib responses. My responses are far from glib. Foreign
Office Ministers--the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd), is
present--and we at the Ministry of Defence spend a great deal of time
considering precisely the problems that my hon. Friend outlines. 

That is why the Government convened a humanitarian conference last year
which was directed specifically at examining ways in which we might be
able to help the people of Iraq, while making sure that the isolation of
the regime continues. That is why this country is the second largest donor
of humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and why we sponsored the resolution
that doubled the amount of oil that could be sold for food. 

That is also why I remind the House and the country that, at a time when
Saddam Hussein says that his children are dying because there are no
medical supplies, he has $275 million-worth of medicine and drugs locked
up, which he will not distribute. He cannot skate away from his
responsibilities by saying that sanctions have been imposed, because he
will not comply. If he complies with the resolutions and the will of the
international community, the sanctions will be removed and the Iraqi
people will be allowed to get back to a life of normality. I doubt,
however, whether there will be full normality until Saddam has gone. 

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