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Peter Hain responds to Sheffield Delegation to Iraq request

Sheffield Delegation to Iraq now to go in November

The delegation has been postponed, and will now depart on Saturday 11 November, returning two weeks later. So far, five people have decided to join the Delegation. another five people have stated they’re seriously interested in coming, and we have received several requests from outside of Sheffield. Felicity Arbuthnot has confirmed that she will act as guide.

The new date has several very great advantages over 10th September, which will be straight after the dead month of August, making it difficult for the delegation to achieve much momentum or profile. The new date gives us two more months, a period which will include the US Presidential election and very likely some further developments in the Iraq crisis.

Most important of all, the delegation is still open! The deadline now is early September, the date by which visa applications must be submitted.

Government responds to Sheffield Delegation to Iraq

On May 26, we handed a letter to Sheffield Central MP and DTI Minister Richard Caborn, which stated:

The Sheffield Delegation to Iraq intends to deliver some desperately-needed items, namely surgical gloves and analgesia, donated by the people of Sheffield. …
We understand that your Ministry, the Department of Trade and Industry, plays an important rôle in enforcing the UN sanctions régime. You are therefore in a position to help the Sheffield Delegation obtain the necessary permission …We ask you to ensure that the necessary permission is granted.

We’ve just received a response, dated 12 July 2000:

From The Minister of State
Peter Hain, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

To Richard Caborn, M.P. for Sheffield Central

Thank you for your letter of 29 June concerning the proposed visit to Iraq by the Sheffield Delegation to Iraq.
If the delegation wishes to deliver surgical gloves, sterile dressings and analgesia to Iraq it must obtain a UK Export Licence from the Sanctions Licensing Unit (SLU) which forms part of the Export Control Organisation of the Department of Trade and Industry.  The export would have to be notified to the Iraq Sanctions Committee established by United Nations Security Council resolution 661.  The SLU will be able advise the delegation on this and all other licensing matters in relation to Iraq.  Its address and telephone number are as follows: -
Sanctions Licensing Unit
Department of Trade and Industry
3rd Floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street
London SWIP 2HT   Tel:  020 7215 0594 Fax:  020 7215 0593

Although UK sanctions legislation does not prohibit travel to Iraq, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice Unit advises against it.  The UK has no diplomatic representation in Iraq and is therefore not able to offer consular assistance if a UK citizen gets into difficulty.

[signed: Peter Hain]

The day after its arrival, an official at the Sanctions Licensing Unit, Christine Sumpter telephoned to discuss the Sheffield request.

She offered some further information.

She stated that, provided the Delegation wished to take “simple items” like surgical gloves and analgesia, getting a license should “not be a problem”. She said the procedure was that first our proposal would be circulated to “other government departments”, to see whether anyone had any objections. This “might take a month or so”.
Then, the United Nations Security Council “661 Committee” (after the UN Resolution of August 6 1990 which began the sanctions) would have to be notified, to give each of the fifteen countries with seats on the UN Security Council an opportunity to veto the Sheffield Delegation’s plans to take a few boxes of medical supplies to Iraq. This “could take several months”.

Ms Sumpter was therefore concerned that the September date stated in our May 26 letter did not leave enough time. It is anyone’s guess whether they’ve got enough time before the new November date of the Delegation.


A few things to consider…
No mention is made of any fee for this license. My own feeling is that in no circumstances should a single penny of campaign funds be given to the Government, which they could use to buy bombs to drop on Iraq.
Applying for this license does not mean that we submit to the sanctions legislation. We could decide to take other items, without asking for permission. We make no commitment that we will not take the stuff anyway, if the 661 committee fails to give an answer.
Ms Sumpter’s reference to “simple items” (basically, over-the-counter stuff) is important: all kinds of drugs are vetoed because they could allegedly be used as a precursor for some weapon or other. For instance – get this!, a medicine used to treat angina was recently vetoed, because it contains traces of nitroglycerine. Anyone like to donate some for us to take?

Following the July 25 campaign meeting, the following letter was sent to the Sanctions Licensing Unit:

July 25, 2000

Dear Ms Sumpter,

Further to our telephone call of last week and to the letter from Peter Hain dated 12 July 2000, I am writing on behalf of the above campaign to request a UK Export Licence from your office, which would permit the Sheffield Delegation to Iraq to take £1000-worth of analgesia, sterile dressings and surgical gloves to Iraq for donation to the Iraqi people.

Please can you answer one important question: will the Iraqi government be charged for the expenses incurred by a) your department, b) the UK government and c) the UN Security Council 661 Committee in processing our request for an export licence? If so, could you please supply us with an approximate estimate for the size of the bill?  I ask this because I understand that the UN sequesters some of the proceeds of Iraq oil sales to cover all costs associated with administering the sanctions regime.

Yours Sincerely…

The 25 July campaign meeting also reaffirmed that it is for the delegates themselves to decide what to take.

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