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House of Lords Debate

This is from the House of Lords yesterday

7.34 p.m.

Lord Islwyn asked Her Majesty's Government: 

       Whether they will give further consideration to the removal of
sanctions against Iraq.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, sanctions imposed on Iraq under UN Security
Council Resolution 661 of 1990 constitute the most wide-ranging regime of
economic sanctions ever adopted by the UN. The embargo affects the import
and export of all commodities and products, including oil, weapons and
other military equipment, but does not extend to supplies for medical
purposes and, in humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs. However, those
are subject to scrutiny by the Security Council Resolution 661 Committee. 

Draconian measures of this kind soon led to serious humanitarian 
problems. In 1996, the oil-for-food scheme was introduced. Later, in 1998,
the amount of oil which Iraq could sell every six months was increased
from 2 billion dollars' worth to 5.2 billion dollars' worth. This measure
highlighted a further major difficulty. The oil industry of Iraq was in a
very rundown condition and consequently the required oil capacity could
not be realised. As a result, the Security Council authorised the import
of oil industry spare parts. Nevertheless, there is now grave concern
about the safety and working of Iraq's oil installations. 

The principal concern I wish to raise is that of the humanitarian
situation. Most neutral observers confirm that economic sanctions are
undermining the whole fabric of Iraqi society. In October 1998, Mr
Denis Halliday, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Chief
UN Relief Co-ordinator for Iraq, resigned. He stated: 

       "The sanctions were failing in the purposes they were set up for
back in 1990-91. They weren't leading to disarmament and, second, the cost
of sanctions was completely unacceptable--killing 6-7,000 children a

What an astonishing figure that is. For me, it brought back memories of
the horror of Aberfan over 30 years ago. Mr Halliday went on to say that
the policy was: 

       "Sustaining a level of malnutrition of about 30 per cent for
children under five leads to physical and mental problems. It's 
incompatible with the UN Charter, with the Convention on Human Rights,
with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and probably many other
international agreements. I just found that impossible to accept as the
head of the UN in Iraq". 

There was more to come. In a speech at Harvard University on 5th November
1998, Mr Halliday said that, 

       "sanctions were causing significant disruption to Iraqi society and
family life. The devaluation of the Iraqi dinar had wiped out savings and
fuelled corruption and begging". 

What is more, the sanctions regime is not affecting the Iraqi leadership,
which remains isolated from the humanitarian plight of the general 
population. Sanctions have not brought about any positive change of a
political nature in Iraq. However, they are isolating Iraq from the rest
of the world, leading to political fanaticism and a deep-seated resentment
of the west. 

23 May 2000 : Column 712

Mr Halliday stated his belief that to continue economic sanctions would be
       "disregard the ... very moral leadership and the credibility of the
UN itself". 

That is pretty strong language to come from a senior and impartial 
international civil servant. 

I turn now to Hans von Sponeck, who until recently was the UN's 
humanitarian co-ordinator in Baghdad when he, too, resigned. According to
the BBC World News on 8th February, he called for an end to UN sanctions
on Iraq, saying that they have created a "true human tragedy". He said
that the United Nations oil-for-food programme was not meeting the minimum
requirements of the Iraqi people. 

       "As a UN official",  he said, 

       "I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognise as
a true human tragedy that needs to be ended". 

Sarah Graham-Brown has reviewed the situation for Christian Aid. In an
address to British parliamentarians on 29th February, she said: 

       "A critical factor in the impact of sanctions has been the 
impoverishment of large sections of the population. This has been combined 
with the erosion, and in some cases virtual collapse, of services on which
most people depend, including water and sanitation services, healthcare
and education. The living standards of the middle class have been
seriously undermined, while those who were already poor live on the edge
of survival". 

In January 1999, the Security Council's approved panel was asked to assess
the current humanitarian situation in Iraq. The panel reported on 30th 
March in the same year. It concluded that, 

       "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is
indisputable and cannot be overstated". 

According to the report, infant mortality rates in Iraq are now among the
highest in the world. Only 41 per cent of the population have regular
access to clean water. Amnesty International, commenting on the report,
said that, 

       "the Security Council must take appropriate action ... with a view
to ensuring that human rights considerations are fully taken into

The report also noted that the population's dependence on humanitarian
supplies has, 

       "increased government control over individual lives". 

Saddam Hussein and his regime remain firmly in power. 

The anomaly of the situation is that conditions are slightly more
favourable in the three northern governates which are under Turkish
control. But it must be taken into account that the north receives more
per capita--13 per cent of the population gets 19 per cent of the 
aid; that the programme started earlier there; that smuggling has 
benefited the economy in the north much more; that the programme in the
north allows for a cash component and also for training; and that the
agricultural economy there is much stronger. 

23 May 2000 : Column 713

In conclusion, I have recently read the pamphlet by the writer and
commentator, Geoff Simons, entitled The Scourging of Iraq, which states,
at page 131: 

       "Women suffer, as do men, at the pain of their children. And women
suffer also in unique ways. Only the desperately hungry pregnant woman can
experience the anguish of knowing that her foetus is already malnourished,
that her baby will stand a greater chance of being born disabled or
dead, and that if it survives it is destined to suck in vain on shrivelled

That is the position of Iraqi women today. Surely it is time to end the
sanctions. Then, in line with the UN's own reports, the international
community should provide additional funding for humanitarian efforts in
Iraq. The Government of Iraq should urgently expedite implementation of
targeted nutritional programmes. All priority should be given to contracts
for supplies that will have a direct impact on the well-being of
children. This is not an issue about saving face; it is about saving

7.44 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, I apologise to the House for not
being in my place when the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, began his speech. I
want to express our thanks to him for introducing this timely debate. 

The Iraqi regime is an evil one, guilty of the grossest violations of
human rights, of international aggression and of the use of weapons of
mass destruction which are internationally unacceptable in any 
circumstances. It is cynical and ruthless in using the suffering of its
own people as a political bargaining counter--a despicable and utterly
immoral tactic. Let us be clear about that. 

However, there is widespread and deep concern about the sufferings of the
Iraqi people, which have been presented to us graphically by the noble
Lord, Lord Islwyn. The concerns have been reinforced by the visit to Iraq
earlier this month of a group of Anglican bishops and others to assess the
humanitarian needs and to make contact with Christians, who make up about
5 per cent of the population of Iraq and as many as 25 per cent of
teachers and doctors. The Middle East Council of Churches has been active
since 1991 in many kinds of relief work, so the Churches really do know
what the needs are, even making every allowance for the fact that
restrictions are placed on visitors. 

There is real dilemma between the arguments in favour of maintaining
sanctions against this odious regime and the strong conviction of many
good people that, according to any doctrine of proportionality (which has
undergirded the traditional concept of the just war and ought to continue
to undergird any doctrine of a just sanctions regime) the sufferings of
the civilian population are disproportionate to any good purpose that the
sanctions have achieved or may achieve. There has been a systematic
degradation of Iraq's infrastructure and the vast majority of the
population have been reduced to poverty. Meanwhile, the regime is, if
anything, more firmly entrenched than at the end of the Gulf War. 

23 May 2000 : Column 714

There are those who argue for a complete separation of the sanctions
policy, which has had such a devastating impact on health and welfare,
from military and political considerations--in other words, the sanctions
should be lifted because they have not worked and they have become
ethically untenable. The overwhelming argument against such a policy is
that it would in effect be saying: "If you persist in wickedness long
enough, we shall give up and call it a day and let you get on with it". 

I do not believe that this is an acceptable policy. I agree with the
Government that the weapons inspection process under the newly constituted
organisation UNMOVIC must be pursued as part of the process set in motion
by UN Security Resolution 1284 of December last year. If the Iraqi
Government were to comply with Resolution 1284, there could be a
transition to the proper rehabilitation of the civilian infrastructure and
the social and economic development of the country. The terms of the
resolution are generous and reasonable and, set alongside the now
unconditional oil-for-food programme under which Iraq can sell as much oil
as it likes or can to meet humanitarian needs--potentially 12 billion
dollars' worth this year--the way really is open for a solution to the
suffering and distress among the Iraqi people, which every decent person
must deplore. It is up to the Iraqi Government. 

However, there are some serious questions about the way in which 
Resolution 1284 is working. The Church delegation was alarmed by the
delays and the bureaucratic procedures that it discovered. Even allowing
for the fact that it is the fault of the Iraqi Government that a quarter
of the food and medical goods delivered since the start of the 
humanitarian programme have still not been distributed, and even allowing
for the fact that there has been proper and rigorous scrutiny of dual-use
goods such as chlorine, I wonder whether the figure of only 1 per cent of
contracts put on hold quoted by the Minister in another place during a
debate on 24th March, or 2 per cent quoted by the noble Baroness the
Minister to me this afternoon in this House, is accurate. 

The Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England has 
information to the effect that on 14th April of this year there were 1,180
contracts on hold, together worth 1.7 billion dollars, covering such
matters as water, sanitation, electricity, education and agriculture. If
that is so it is a scandal. I hope that the Government will address the
matter of bureaucratic delays with great urgency. 

The question of proportionality, and the ethical and moral considerations
which lie behind it, must be taken with the utmost seriousness. 
Humanitarian considerations must be central, not peripheral, to the
workings of the sanctions regime. Possibilities exist to impose further
financial sanctions against the Iraqi elite, who so far have escaped the
effect of sanctions. Care needs to be taken to correct the imbalance
between the impact of sanctions on the centre and south of Iraq compared
with the north of the country. I hope that the Minister will be able to
give assurances on these matters. 

23 May 2000 : Column 715 7.50 p.m.

Lord Rea: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Islwyn for
tabling this Question. As noble Lords may be aware, I have asked similar
Questions intermittently for the past six or seven years. My noble friend
and the right reverend Prelate have spelt out the humanitarian 
situation. We can accept as a fact that the infant mortality rate in Iraq
has greatly increased. A number of reputable international bodies,
including UNICEF, confirm that the rate has approximately doubled since
1990. Malnutrition lies behind the high child death rate. Malnutrition
makes them more susceptible to common illnesses, especially diarrhoea. 
That in turn is made worse because of damaged or obsolete sewage and water
treatment plants and pumping stations, spare parts having been virtually
unobtainable under the sanctions policy until very recently. 

Although since last December there has been no real restriction on Iraqi
oil exports, there is still a huge backlog of infrastructural repairs to
be completed. There is no doubt that, if accepted, SCR 1284 will result in
an improvement in the humanitarian situation, but there remain many items
for civilian use which will have to be approved by the UN Sanctions
Committee before they can be shipped. Many more have been put on hold than
the figure of 1 or 2 per cent which has been attributed to my noble

The position of the Government has always been that the humanitarian
disaster in Iraq has been due more to Saddam than to sanctions. I agree
that Saddam should certainly have used the oil-for-food programme earlier,
but the main result of sanctions has been the undermining of the economy,
with hyper-inflation, extreme poverty, high unemployment and the general
collapse of civil society. As my noble friend pointed out, Saddam and his
group have escaped all this. The question is whether the original aim of
the sanctions has helped to eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass
destruction. I suggest that whatever has been achieved has been due to the
work of UNSCOM before it was forced out of Iraq rather than the sanctions
themselves. Most of UNSCOM's work had been done by the time it left in
December 1998. 

The regular bombing of installations in the no-fly zones is the only
control that we now have over Saddam's weapons. According to the RAF
demonstration in Church House on 28th March, those operations are 70 per
cent on target. However, Russia's Ambassador to the United States, Sergei
Lavrov, claimed in a debate in the Security Council on 24th March that, 

       "the United States and Britain, since December 1998, had invaded
Iraqi airspace nearly 20,000 times, hitting food warehouses, oil pipeline
stations, and last year killing 144 people and wounding 466 others". 

French correspondents have come up with similar figures. 

23 May 2000 : Column 716

We need to watch and control Saddam's conventional military capacity, not
only his weapons of mass destruction. I suggest that sporadic bombing from
a great height is an ineffective and inhumane way to achieve that.
Although SCR 1284 is likely to lead to some improvement in food and drug
supplies, it is cumbersome to operate and does not allow the full funding
necessary for the country's rehabilitation. There is a strong possibility
that the lifting of sanctions, with the exception of military equipment,
and the cessation of bombing may be matched by Saddam with the acceptance
of the new UN inspection team UNMOVIC to replace UNSCOM. Perhaps my noble
friend can tell us whether that commission will be able to operate in Iraq
as matters stand. 

With possible discussions between Iraq and Israel reported in this week's
Observer, it may be that the time is ripe for further thoughts on the
scrapping of the sanctions as they stand and their replacement with much
more focused sanctions on arms, together with permission for UNMOVIC to
operate inside Iraq. I suggest that that would result in better arms
control as well as the recovery of Iraqi civil society. 

7.55 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn,
for this opportunity to revisit the subject. In our previous debate I
outlined some of the problems that faced the Iraqis and the 
responsibilities of the NGOs involved. I shall not repeat the details. I
simply remind the Government that they have a humanitarian commitment
which in some cases overrides their other objectives. Since the previous
debate we have the benefit of the report of the Select Committee on
International Development and the Government's response two weeks
ago. That committee reached one major conclusion: 

       "Sanctions have clearly failed to hurt those responsible for past
violations of international law. The deterioration of infrastructure, the
limited supply of food, the absence of drugs all affect the poor to a
disproportionate degree". 

The committee went on to say: 

       "The responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must
ultimately lie with the Iraqi leadership. This does not, however, entirely
excuse the international community from a part in the suffering". 

During evidence given to the committee by Mr Peter Hain, the late Bernie
Grant, MP, put the following question to the Minister: 

       "Do you not think that you have some responsibility in relation to
the effect of these sanctions on the people? ... By pressing these
sanctions you are totally ignoring the fact that Saddam Hussein cannot
change and at the same time you are not taking any action to get rid of
Saddam Hussein. Therefore I would say that you are not totally, but you
are partly, culpable for the situation in Iraq". 

The Government must face up to this question. The mantra of "Saddam
Hussein is responsible" is really not good enough considering the evidence
before us. I do not deny that sanctions can work in the broadest sense of
international isolation, but surely it is now beyond doubt that they hit
the people hardest and even give comfort to a regime which is well placed
to turn them to its advantage. 

23 May 2000 : Column 717

I have just visited the Channel Islands and been reminded of the wartime
occupation and the fear and terror which tyranny inspires. We on this
island have almost no experience to help us identify with the Iraqi people
today. It is only through personal stories that we can appreciate the
suffering. But we add to the injustice if we do not at least admit that in
our efforts to contain the regime we also indirectly harm the ordinary
population and fail to make every effort to reduce the suffering through
carefully targeted sanctions aimed at the political elite. I believe that
the Government have tacitly admitted this. There has been some improvement
under the terms of the latest resolution, but I doubt that the Iraqi
people would agree with that. There are acute shortages, delays in the
delivery of essential supplies and inequalities in distribution. I have
said before that almost always consignments arrive incomplete and
equipment is without spares or ancillary parts. 

The delay in applications may be part of the normal process of sanctions,
but in the case of humanitarian aid it is intolerable. I know of one
charity, Medical Aid for Iraqi Children, that has had to wait several
months for essential medical equipment for paediatric hospitals. For
example, heart-monitoring equipment for an intensive care unit ordered
last June was approved only in February. That is quite unacceptable. The
DTI still routinely takes three to four months to process these
applications. If this Government genuinely distinguish between political
and humanitarian objectives, then they must improve the flow of
humanitarian aid. They must also speed up the reform of UN committees to
enable exemptions to work and, where possible, put in place pre-exemptions
of individual items and bona fide charities. There also needs to be some
mechanism for monitoring and assessment. 

I have studied the government response to the IDC under paragraphs 39 to
40 on exemptions which sounds reasonable as policy but lacks conviction
and provides no timescale for improving exemptions. Under paragraph 16 on
monitoring, all the Government can do is agree. One reason given in the
case of the Iraqi children's charity was that, whereas equipment came from
Siemens in Germany, the fact that some components derived from the US
meant that approval had to be obtained not only from the UN but from three
US government departments. When are we likely to see real progress in the
implementation of SCR 1284? There are still acute shortages in Baghdad. 

Finally, I have three questions which are of concern to the 
non-governmental agencies involved such as Save the Children and Care
International. Will the Government press for a more transparent procedure
in the administration of sanctions? Will the Government join the new UN
working group and enable NGOs to make suggestions? What were the findings
of the UK mission to New York in March 1999, expressly sent with the aim
of strengthening the capacity of the UN sanctions committees? 

23 May 2000 : Column 718 8.1 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful
to my noble friend for initiating this debate. It is right that we should
consider the humanitarian consequences of the present situation in Iraq as
none of us can feel comfortable when confronted by evidence that children
are suffering and dying in that country. 

I listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord Islwyn said. I read the
Hansard report of a debate in another place on 24th March, initiated by
Tam Dalyell MP. I was recently in the Middle East, in Jordan, as one of
the UK delegates at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference where the
subject of UN sanctions against Iraq was hotly debated in the conference
chamber and at fringe meetings outside. We were left in no doubt about the
strength of feeling in parts of the Middle East against the sanctions
policy. But missing from each consideration of the issue has been the
answer to one simple question: if not sanctions, what? What is the
alternative, short of simply withdrawing sanctions and abandoning the
proposed arms inspection arrangements and the military activity that backs
them up when necessary? 

Like the right reverend Prelate, I believe that Security Council
Resolution 1284, which was a British initiative, offers the way
forward. It offers Iraq suspension of sanctions provided it 
co-operates. It also allows Iraq to pump as much oil as it likes under the
oil- for-food programme--up to 10 billion dollars should be available for
the humanitarian programme this year to allow food and medical supplies to
get through. 

Noble Lords may have seen recent television documentaries made by John
Pilger or have read articles by him. He seeks to show that sanctions are
responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people. Other noble Lords have
made the same point in this debate. This is effective propaganda. It is
hard to think of a more harrowing sight than that of children suffering in
a hospital cancer ward because they are not receiving the necessary
treatment. It is a scandal that doctors cannot get the drugs they
need. But why is that? Earlier this year the UN Secretary-General reported
that one quarter of all medical goods delivered to Iraq since the
oil-for-food programme started have remained undelivered in government
warehouses. Basic items such as antibiotics remain in short supply. Iraq
claims that the problem is caused by lack of vehicles. But thousands of
vehicles have been authorised by the Sanctions Committee since the start
of oil for food. The real problem is the lack of commitment on the part of
the Iraqi regime. 

It is not only that. Iraq is exporting humanitarian goods. It has sold
food to Syria and tried to sell food to Jordan; and several vessels
exporting goods from Iraq have been intercepted in the Gulf. There is
also evidence that Iraq is exporting oil outside the oil-for-food
programme--oil which could and should have been exported under the
oil-for-food rules. By exporting it illegally the regime is depriving the
programme of revenue and thus the Iraqi people of 

23 May 2000 : Column 719

humanitarian relief. The revenue from these illegal exports goes straight
into the pockets of Saddam Hussein and his friends. The Iraqi people see
none of it. 

Is it any wonder that there are sick and malnourished children for Mr
Pilger to film? Saddam Hussein, who understands about political
propaganda, will make sure that they are there in their thousands, if
necessary. To argue that sanctions are not working is to deny the
evidence. They have successfully contained a brutal dictator for 10 years
and have significantly reduced the threat from his weapons of mass
destruction. If sanctions were not making any difference, why does
Iraq and its friends put so much effort into trying to have them lifted? 

Resolution 1284 shows that the Security Council is prepared to look
creatively at the Iraq issue. It provides for suspension of sanctions in
return for progress by Iraq short of full compliance. It represents
an opportunity for Iraq to make quick progress on sanctions. If Iraq has
nothing to hide, as it often claims, then it has everything to gain from
co-operating. The resolution also calls on Iraq to prioritise its spending
under the programme in line with the needs of the Iraqi people, in
particular the most vulnerable. 

It may not be very palatable, but we have no choice but to stick with the
United Nations policy. The alternative--to lift sanctions--would reinforce
Saddam Hussein's regime and allow him again to build up a military threat
against other states in the region. I do not believe that the international 
community could contemplate such a course of action. 

8.6 p.m.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I have just returned from Baghdad after an
independent assessment. Time-constrained remarks reflect my evaluation
beyond distressing humanitarian issues and sensitivity to the deep
concerns about the Iraqi leadership. 

There will not be a comprehensive peace or stability in the Middle East
without an Iraqi solution. Differing ends of the spectrum include those
with a conciliatory pragmatic approach and some in Washington extolling an
open-ended massive operation tied to Iraq's acceptance of unconditional
international inspections. I believe that anything would be preferable to
the continuing creeping strangulation of Iraq. 

We are on a treadmill to nowhere and the inability to achieve policy
objectives or continuing containment after 10 long years is not
sustainable. Iraqi containment and the provision of humanitarian aid to
the Kurds have cost the United States Defense Department about 8 billion
US dollars since the war. What are the estimates of UK expenditure? 

While wishing to emphasise that Kuwait's concern remains one of deep
scepticism, I left Baghdad with the firm perception that we are no more
likely now to achieve policy objectives than we ever were; that Saddam
will not be pressurised into compliance by dangling the suspension of the
sanctions carrot; but, 

23 May 2000 : Column 720

most worryingly, that the Western quandary of failure to sustain the moral
high ground of ceasefire terms and Security Council resolutions will
continue as a result of Iraq's continued exclusion, imposed peace and lack
of sensitivity to the Arab mind-set. 

The participants must urgently devise a pragmatic exit strategy to unlock
the impasse beyond Resolution 1284 which, while addressing outstanding
legitimate concerns and creating incentives beyond the perceived American
containment-plus agenda, also offers--and here is the key--direct
third-location dialogue, a device hitherto not used. A good starting point
would be a discussion on the "major concerns" referred to in Resolution
1284. Discussions should extend to de-linking military embargo from
economic sanctions, with Iraq reverting to a spirit of "immediate,
unconditional and restricted" monitoring. 

A range of confidence-building measures should also be put in place. 
First, there should be the removal of civilian travel restrictions, 
allowing medical and academic exchange. Secondly, management of and
responsibility for financial resources should be returned to the 
Government of Iraq, a point to which I shall return. Thirdly, we should 
allow unfettered access to the UN and OPEC arenas. Fourthly, we should
encourage the private sector to re-engage. Fifthly, we should permit an
early overhaul of the oil industry. A quid pro quo should include the
re-establishment of inspectors at the borders and within Iraq,
implementation of a smart monitoring sanction of post-sanction 
racketeering and urgent rebuilding of the education system. 

One essential inclusion in a compromise has to be to devise a formula to
ensure that future Kurdish autonomy is not jeopardised. Iraq need not shy
away from that. During discussions, however, with Tariq Aziz, he
emphasised that anything short of direct financial management was an
invasion of sovereignty. 

I would suggest to him that an acceptable formula could be found, however,
to allow Iraqis to manage their own money, ensuring responsibility yet
being accountable, with control mechanisms in place not far removed from
the accountable methods of the World Bank and the IMF. 

Then and only then, all else failing, should default and hidden agendas
result in punitive actions, but it should be remembered that the erosion
of the former allied coalition constrains many further military options. I
remain uncertain that the political will exists for the United States and
its allies to allocate more assets, incur greater risks and so deal with
further challenges by Iraq. 

Opposition is too fragmented and lacking in support within the Iraqi
heartland to be effective. The United States Iraqi Liberation Act has
failed and generally provided insufficient support and missed key opportunities. 

Arab initiatives, which are to be encouraged, include the Egyptians' call
for an Arab League summit at year's end and Kuwait, Saudi and Iraq should
attempt to stay the course. It also should be noted that 

23 May 2000 : Column 721

a Qatari Foreign Minister called for reconciliation in Kuwait last week,
supported last Friday in Paris by the French Foreign Minister. 

But what about the Iraqi leadership and its intentions? With or without
Saddam--and in reality it is more likely to be with--globalisation, and
with it the empowerment of the individual, would prevail. So in 
conclusion, while not calling for an unconditional lifting of sanctions,
rather devise urgently a pragmatic package beyond Resolution 1284 whereby
sanctions can indeed be dealt with, I believe a policy review could
present an achievable road map. And should participants have the will, I
believe that we could be out of this mess in 12 months. 

8.11 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord
Islwyn, for bring forward this serious matter and for the way in which he
did so. All of us are conscious of the great strains on the policy that
has been pursued. Not only has it continued for 10 years, but it is clear
that there is less solid support for it among those who were involved in
the Gulf War than was the case a few years ago. The United States--and
increasingly Russia, France and other countries--are beginning to pull
away from that policy. Another reason that I believe that the policy
cannot last forever is the level of smuggling, in particular over the
Russian, Turkish and Jordanian borders. That goes a long way to undermine
the effect of sanctions. 

I share some of the points raised about the humanitarian agony that is
being suffered by the ordinary people of Iraq. It is difficult even to
read the accounts of some of the dreadful things that are happening to
children in hospitals and in homes. I want to associate myself with what
was said by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, about some of the unacceptable
delays in making available supplies of humanitarian goods. 

However, I most closely identify with the speech of the right reverend
Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. He put his finger on an acutely difficult
moral dilemma. He pointed out that simply to walk away from the sanctions
and effectively to hand a victory to Saddam Hussein would do nothing to
strengthen the rule of law and the rule of morality in the world. Those
who advocate, as did the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, in a powerful
speech to which I shall return, the complete abandonment of sanctions must
seriously consider what that could mean for the standing of the United
Nations and, more broadly, for the standing of any attempt to establish a
moral rule in the world. 

Even while we observe that sanctions have become, to a great extent,
blunted, it is also the case that without hindrance and according to the
evidence of Max Van Der Stoel, the UN representative on human rights in
Iraq, Saddam Hussein has continued with capricious executions, the killing
of political opponents and the arbitrary imprisonment of large numbers of
people. That is why the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, correctly says that
one can have little 

23 May 2000 : Column 722

hope of an opposition arising in Iraq. We must be clear why. It is not
because there are no opponents of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but because the
terrible things that have happened to them and their families have
undermined whatever moral courage those brave people have shown. 

Resolution 1284 was a step forward. It would be reasonable to say to the
noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, that if the 120 days condition of that
resolution were to be taken up--and it is open to Iraq to proceed along
those lines--the lifting of sanctions that we are seeking would
occur. However, the condition is the difficult issue. It is the
condition of accepting that UNMOVIC can move into installations which it
wants to inspect without let or hindrance from the government. 

I want to ask the Minister a few questions about what might be done in
this desperately stalemated position. First, can the Government consider
including representatives of at least some Arab states in the inspection
teams? Countries such as Jordan and Tunisia leap to mind. It is 
unfortunate that there is not a single Arab state among the list of
representatives on the UNMOVIC group. It is vital to keep the Arabs on

Secondly, can the Minister tell us how far we have tried to involve Russia
in making representations to the government of Iraq with regard to the
possibility of being willing to accept UNMOVIC's surveillance? Russia has
an important role to play. 

Thirdly, it would be worth considering the postponement of reparations to
Kuwait until such time as the most desperate humanitarian needs can be
met. I refer not to the waiving of reparations but to a postponement of
their payment. 

Finally, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred to the long delays
experienced by the sanctions committee in so far as it is consulted. It
may be that only 1 or 2 per cent of the delays are caused by us.
However, with respect to the Government's loyalty to the United States, is
it not the case that the United States has delayed a number of the
provisions which should be going to Iraq under humanitarian aid? Can the
Government tell us whether the United States would be prepared to consider
a more generous approach to the issue? 

8.18 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, has done
us all a service by raising the issue as we approach the 10th anniversary
of the sanctions and embargo. The issue must be revisited again and again
and it has prompted a balanced short debate. The questions are simple,
but, unfortunately, the answers are complex, deep and difficult. The noble
Lord, Lord Faulkner, put his finger on many of them. Are the sanctions
working? It depends on what one means by "working". Could they be further
modified beyond the expanded oil-for-food programme and Resolution 1284,
which is a generous resolution? Should they be suspended or scrapped
altogether without launching Saddam on new powers of evil in 

23 May 2000 : Column 723

the region? Above all, and it is the central dilemma, how do we go about
rebuilding the democratic and prosperous Iraq that could exist one day
without helping this evil man, this tyrant, and his hideous little clique
back to their bad ways. 

What does "working" mean? I must agree that the sanctions are leaking in
every direction. They are being bypassed. They have not brought Saddam
down; he has stood entrenched. If the aim was to bring Saddam off his
perch, the sanctions have not worked. However, I do not believe that that
was the aim. Surely, the aim was always containment and the prevention of
further evil. That is what we are talking about. In that sense, there is
no doubt that, painful and tragic though the consequences of the sanctions
regime are, it has prevented a repeat of even greater tragedies. There has
been containment, or containment-plus, as the Americans say, and that has
had some effect. 

Therefore, could the sanctions be modified further? Tam Dalyell, the
Member for Linlithgow, for whom I have enormous respect, has urged again
and again that there are ways through. The matter has been raised again
tonight by noble Lords of great experience. Could we do more on the health
and immunisation side? Could some of the contract screening be speeded
up? Could there be more intellectual and public contact with Iraqis who
want to contact the outside world? And could more be done to repair the
oil fields? To those who talk that language I have to say that if they had
seen, with me, the Burgam oil fields in 1990 as they flamed skywards,
covering the entire area with black dust, which made them look like
Dante's Hell, and knowing that that was done malignly and deliberately by
Iraqi troops at the orders of their masters, possibly they would believe
that there is some hideous justice in the fact that Iraq's own oil fields
are not in ideal shape. 

The truth is that behind all the attempts to get through the problem and
alleviate the suffering of the Iraqis stands Saddam Hussein. As we heard
from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, Saddam has the resources. The UN tells
us that a quarter of all medical goods delivered are sitting in warehouses
and not being distributed. The elite are obtaining vast resources from
their illegal oil exports. I have seen them myself, as I have their food
exports rumbling into Syria off the Euphrates road at night. 

Therefore, enormous sums of money are available in Iraq and in the hands
of the elite. How does one get round the fact that, so long as Saddam
plays this game and pursues his evil policies, it is almost impossible to
bypass him and bring alleviation to the tragic and impoverished Iraqi
people? If he alone is selling outside the oil-for-food programme- 
-approximately 60,000 barrels of oil a day--and the money goes straight
into his palaces, his new cars, his armaments and his equipment, it cannot
be right to say that we should do more of that in the hope that somehow he
will come good and abandon his ways. 

The reality is that it is probably too ambitious to talk in terms of
getting rid of Saddam. What does it mean if we talk in terms of containing
him? Is more evil 

23 May 2000 : Column 724

and cruelty to more children and people in Iraq being carried out by the
present policy of sanctions, as the right reverend Prelate rightly
mentioned? Or will more evil be unleashed if we take the containment
harness away from him? What happens if he goes back to his old ways, as he
has said that he will? What happens to the Kurds? What happens to the
Kuwaitis, who have been so gallant? What happens to the Marsh Arabs and to
the whole of the Middle East peace process if Iraq emerges, not benign and
democratic, but malign and evil and, once again, led by this hideous

That is the agonising dilemma. No doubt the noble Baroness will explain
how this Government are facing it. I have no doubt myself that if there
was a benign, democratic, rich Iraq, it would be of huge benefit to the
entire Middle East peace process and the peace of the world. However, we
have not reached that stage yet and I am not sure that removing sanctions
would bring us to that point. 

8.23 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble
friend Lord Islwyn for allowing me this opportunity to debate the
important subject of Iraq. I say straight away that I agree wholeheartedly
with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. 

I fully share the concern that my noble friend Lord Islwyn set out in
relation to the people of Iraq. The tenderness of that expression does him
honour, as, indeed, do the sentiments expressed by all noble Lords who
have participated in the debate. Would that the tenderness of those
sentiments were shared by the Government of Iraq. I agree with my
noble friend Lord Islwyn that it is not an issue of saving face but of
saving lives. However, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, put his finger on it
when he reminded us that we are talking about containment and considering
which is the greater evil. 

The Government of Iraq prefer--that is what we must face--to use their
people's suffering for propaganda purposes. I also agree with the 
sentiments expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford
and his description of the regime. The regime knows that the pictures of
malnourished children provoke our sympathy, even our outrage, as many
noble Lords have already said. And rightly so. 

However, it is surely an even greater outrage that the Iraqi Government
wilfully deny food and medicine to those children and plays politics with
their suffering. They hope that by doing so they can play on our emotions
and persuade us to abandon the Security Council's resolutions and lift
sanctions. That would leave Saddam Hussein free to redevelop his weapons
of mass destruction and, once again, threaten the region, as I believe the
noble Lord, Lord Howell, outlined. 

It is important for us to recall why sanctions were first imposed,
following Iraq's unprovoked invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Under Security
Council Resolution 687, which Iraq accepted at the end of the Gulf War, 

23 May 2000 : Column 725

sanctions can be lifted only when Iraq complies with its obligations,
including on disarmament. Iraq could have done that at once if it had
chosen to do so. Instead, it chose deliberately to obstruct the efforts of
UNSCOM weapons inspectors to uncover the extent of Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction programme. It chose to hinder efforts to account for the
whereabouts of the 605 Kuwaitis and others who have been missing since the
Gulf War. To date, Iraq has produced sufficient information to close only
three files. In doing so, it has prolonged the sanctions regime for 10

It would be nice to believe that Saddam Hussein wants to put the needs of
his people first. However, he has never done so. In the 1980s he launched
chemical attacks on his own civilians, whose only supposed crime was to be
Kurdish. Thousands of civilians died in those attacks and many more still
suffer from the after-effects of exposure to such weapons. He attacked his
neighbours again with chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. As the noble
Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out, while his people were starving, he sold
food to other countries. Surely there can be few who are now justified in
believing that if sanctions were lifted Saddam Hussein would suddenly
change the habit of a lifetime and start to put his people's needs 
first. I for one have no reason to believe that he would do so. I can
only agree with the analysis set out so cogently by my noble friend Lord
Faulkner of Worcester as to what the likely outcome would be. 

I agree with all noble Lords who say that there is absolutely no need for
the Iraqi people to suffer or starve. The importation of food and medicine
into Iraq has never been prohibited under sanctions. Under the oil-for-food 
programme, billions of dollars have been spent on food, medicine and
repairs to Iraq's infrastructure, including that of its oil industry. The
UK has been at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the humanitarian
situation. Since 1991 we have donated approximately 100 million in aid to
Iraq. Of course, in this respect we are also grateful for the
contributions made by British NGOs and religious bodies. I should tell the
House that my right honourable friend Mr Hain is due to meet Churches
Together in Britain and Ireland next month to discuss the whole situation
in Iraq. 

As many noble Lords have mentioned, our most recent initiative--SCR
1284--which was adopted in December 1999, is a very important step
forward. Throughout the past year we invested huge amounts of time and
energy in securing adoption of that resolution. I can assure the noble
Baroness, Lady Williams, that the resolution provides a new platform for
the UN's dealings with Iraq. All Security Council members are now working
hard on its implementation. 

On the humanitarian side, it provides for significant improvements to the
effectiveness of the "oil for food" programme. It lifted the ceiling on
the amount of oil Iraq can export to fund the purchase of humanitarian
aid, and this, together with the recent recovery in 

23 May 2000 : Column 726

world oil prices, has boosted Iraq's oil revenues back to--if not
above--their peak historical level of around 15 billion dollars a year. 

Iraq's oil Minister has recently announced that Iraq is planning to
increase its exports further by about 700,000 barrels per day, which would
put Iraq among the world's top five oil exporters. 

All of this means that an estimated 10 billion dollars will be available
for the humanitarian programme in Iraq this year. Despite all this, the
Iraqi people still do not see the full benefits. 

The UN recently recommended that Iraq set aside 91 million dollars for
targeted nutrition for groups such as infants and new mothers. Iraq
allocated only 24 million dollars. 

In 1998 the UN Secretary-General recommended a daily food ratio of 2,463
kilocalories. The Iraqi Government, however, sets the current average
ration at just 1,993 kilocalories. 

Kofi Annan's latest report notes that Iraq is ordering insufficient
quantities of pulses and dairy products to make up the food ration and not
including sufficient protein. The Iraqi Government also fail to order
enough medicines and then fail to distribute them properly, as a number of
noble Lords have already said. The latest UN report notes that one quarter
of all medical goods delivered to Iraq since "oil for food" began have not
been distributed. 

Meanwhile, in the northern governorates the people are not starving. In
the north, child mortality rates are actually lower than they were in
1990. Why is there such a difference? It is because in the north the
United Nations implements the "oil for food" programme, and does so in
a manner designed to bring maximum benefit to the people. 

My noble friend Lord Islwyn was not quite right in saying the northern
governorates are under Turkish control. They are not. 

The government in Baghdad could do the same, if they wanted to. Some have
urged here today that we lift sanctions immediately and unconditionally. I
am sure my noble friends would not expect the United Kingdom, a Permanent
Member of the Security Council, to decide to abandon the council's
resolutions, which have the force of international law. 

As I said before, there is no reason to suppose that Saddam Hussein would
give any higher priority to the needs of his people than he does now. 

I can assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and the
noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that our policy is to expedite the supply of
humanitarian goods to Iraq. Under Resolution 1284 the Sanctions Committee
procedures for approving humanitarian contracts have been streamlined to
ensure the contracts are processed more quickly than before. We will not
overlook our responsibility, however, to ensure that Iraq does not acquire
prohibited goods. 

In total the United Kingdom only puts a tiny percentage of the "oil for
food" contracts on hold and it is about 1 per cent overall, and I can
assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that we will continue in our 

23 May 2000 : Column 727

efforts to improve efficiency and transparency. I shall write to the noble
Earl, Lord Sandwich, in relation to the two other questions. 

I will address some of the matters raised by the noble Baroness, Lady
Williams, about the question of UNMOVIC and its staff. Hans Blix, the
Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, is currently in the process of recruiting
and training his staff in this region, and we do look to Russia, as the
noble Baroness suggests, to urge Iraq to co-operate with the
resolution. It is only fair to add that, during the negotiations for the
resolution last year, the UK made the very proposal to postpone payments
for "oil for food" to the compensation fund so that money could be used
for food and medicine and unfortunately other council members rejected
this proposal. We have tried very hard indeed, and we must not
underestimate the success that we have had in getting this new
resolution. We are trying to work with it as effectively and efficiently
as we can, but we accept there is much to do and we shall continue to do
all that we can in that area. 

I can also assure my noble friend Lord Rea that we are not conducting a
bombing campaign in Iraq. The UK and US pilots are patrolling the "no
fly" zones, which were established in 1991 and 1992, in response to Iraqi
oppression of the civilian population. They stop Saddam Hussein using his
aircraft to attack his own people. Since late 1998 Iraq has waged a
systematic campaign to shoot down our aircraft. There have been over 650
direct threats against our aircrew, including missile attacks and heavy
anti-aircraft fire, and our aircraft take action only when they are forced
to do so to defend themselves. 

As regards the package that the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, for which
argued in terms of confidence-building measures to persuade Iraq to resume
co-operation, many of those proposals already exist the form of SCR 1284,
and they offer Saddam Hussein every incentive to co-operate. 

All the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, were very much
to the point, and I think she was right to highlight that Saddam Hussein
has continued to disregard human rights and that Resolution 1284 is a step

The way ahead lies with SCR 1284. This is a real opportunity for Saddam
Hussein, if he wishes to take it, but most crucially SCR 1284 marks out a
clear route out of sanctions by allowing for their suspension. Under the
resolution, if Iraq co-operates with the new disarmament body to a
standard well short of that required for a sanctions lift then sanctions
can be suspended, possibly within months. 

The Iraqi Government are fond of claiming that they have given up their
weapons of mass-destruction and have nothing to hide. If that is so then
they have everything to gain by resuming full co-operation with the
UN. Her Majesty's Government call on Iraq to do so. 

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