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House of Lords yesterday

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government: 

       What benefits accrue to the people of Iraq from United Nations
sanctions; and whether they will take steps to get the sanctions lifted. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, sanctions have contained
for almost 10 years the threat that the Government of Iraq pose to their
neighbours and to their own people, including the Kurds and the
Shia. Resolution 1284, a British initiative which was adopted in December
1999, provided for the first time for the suspension of sanctions if Iraq
co-operates with UN weapons inspectors. It also unconditionally makes
major improvements to the UN humanitarian programme which Kofi Annan said
last week has already provided substantial assistance in addressing the
pressing humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. 

Lord Hooson: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she and
do the Government appreciate that there is great public concern about a
policy which seems to inflict an enormous amount of hardship on the common
people of Iraq, particularly the children, and which at the same time
seems to have entrenched Saddam Hussein and his entourage in power and
prosperity? Surely, those cannot have been the objectives of this
policy. Therefore, is the policy not only flawed but, after all these
years, has it not also failed? Should not the Prime Minister now take the
initiative and seek to negotiate with President Clinton in the United
States and other international leaders to have the policy reviewed

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I acknowledge the concern
expressed by the noble Lord. We must be absolutely clear as to who is
responsible for the suffering. Resolution 1284, which was a British
initiative, was pressed hard and was successful in assisting the suffering
people in Iraq. Iraq now has the advantage of 8 billion dollars' worth of
aid which it can use for humanitarian processes if it so chooses. It is a
matter of deep regret and highly reprehensible that Saddam Hussein has
chosen--that is what it is; he has chosen--to allow his people to
suffer when the means for their relief is immediately available. Sanctions
have contained him for a period of 10 years, and because of the way in
which the Kurds and the Shia people have suffered, we know that he needs
containment. The resolution of this issue is in his own hands. The most 

21 Mar 2000 : Column 141

recent resolution enables him, if he so chooses, to obtain suspension. I
regret to say that it is a matter for him. 

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, pursuant to that answer, and given Iraq's
rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 1284 and Saddam Hussein's
track record of nearly nine years of violation, can the Minister envisage
a scenario in which he will comply with UN Security Council
resolutions? If he does not, as I anticipate, does the Minister agree that
it will be essential to find ways to lift the burden of sanctions from the
Iraqi people so as to prevent Saddam Hussein from using them as political
pawns, while maintaining sanctions on his regime so as to deny him
simultaneously the ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction
and to rebuild his armed forces? 

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have looked at those issues very
carefully. The current resolution enables him to do that. We cannot
legislate for his behaviour. We cannot push him to behave properly. One
has to ask how the suffering of the people of Iraq would be relieved if
the sanctions were not in place. Saddam does not care for his people. That
is the reality of the situation. I draw your Lordships' attention to the
way in which the northern part of Iraq, which is not under his direct
administration, has prospered as a result of the resolution in
comparison with what has happened in the south. Before the war came about,
Saddam's subjugation of the people in the north caused acute suffering. As
a result of the sanctions and the liberalisation of the situation, the
position of the northern Iraqis, who are in control of their
administration, has improved steadily. We have looked at this matter
carefully again and again. The resolution which is currently in place is
the best that can be devised, and it keeps pressure on the administration,
which must change. 

Lord Islwyn: My Lords, will the Minister recognise that the oil quota is
inadequate for humanitarian needs? That is why many thousands of children
are dying in Iraq. Is that not a terrible tragedy? Is that not also the
reason why two senior United Nations officials resigned over this
sanctions policy? Is it not time for the Government to recognise that
sanctions, which have now been in operation for 10 years, simply will not
topple Saddam Hussein and his regime? 

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say again that the purpose of
sanctions is not to topple Saddam Hussein's regime. However, it is
effective in containing him. He has not been able to develop his weapons
of mass destruction over the past 10 years. He has not been able to visit
the kind of horror on the people of Iraq and his neighbours that he did
previously. Sanctions have been mitigated by virtue of the new
resolution. We care passionately about the people who are suffering in
Iraq. For that reason, we put all our energy into making sure that the
most recent resolution was passed successfully. There are opportunities
for humanitarian aid to be delivered, 

21 Mar 2000 : Column 142

and it is being delivered. If Saddam Hussein wants to ensure that that
happens, he can do so. We know, for example, that one-quarter of the
medical supplies sent to Iraq are not distributed. Therefore, although I
empathise deeply with and share the concerns of noble Lords, regrettably
the resolution of the problem is not the removal of sanctions. 

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I fully accept the sincerity and
passion of the Minister. Although we on these Benches have broadly
supported the sanctions policy against Iraq, perhaps I may ask the
Minister if she would be so kind as to look at some of the details. I am
troubled by the fact that in Committee 661 the United States and the
British Government objected specifically to the supply of railway spare
parts. The railways provide the main means of transporting humanitarian
aid throughout Iraq. In consequence, many aid programmes have, in effect,
been stopped at the ports because they have not got beyond them. Does the
Minister accept that many of us, like the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and
others, believe that we are beginning to come to the end of this policy
and need to look at more focused and, perhaps I may say, harsher sanctions
addressed at the ruling elite in Iraq and not at the ordinary people.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I certainly understand the
sentiment expressed by the noble Baroness. I shall of course undertake to
look at the situation regarding Committee 661. However, I make it clear to
the House that Britain has put a stop to only about 1 per cent of the
contracts, usually because of lack of information or a failure to make a
clear division between those matters which are permitted and those which
are not. Non-clearance of contracts is extremely limited. We are doing
everything in our power to make sure that the process is smooth, speedy
and that it directly affects only those issues which it should properly

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