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Iraq

Volume 402: debated on Friday 4 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether UK forces will seek to deliver humanitarian relief in disputed territory in Iraq. [106844]

Until the security situation in Iraq stabilises enough for civilian aid agencies to deploy fully, United Kingdom forces will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq where it is needed and where they are able to do so. However, we cannot deliver that assistance if doing so poses unacceptable risks to British soldiers. By disguising his militia as civilians, Saddam Hussein is disrupting the provision of aid. This is entirely consistent with the disregard he has always shown towards his own people.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what responsibilities under the Geneva Convention coalition forces have to deliver humanitarian relief in disputed territory in Iraq. [106846]

The United Kingdom is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and will comply fully with its obligations under that Convention. The application of the provisions of that Convention depends on the progress of the conflict and may differ across the country. The provision of humanitarian assistance by United Kingdom forces has already begun in towns in southern Iraq where the situation has stabilised enough to make this possible. That effort will continue until civilian aid agencies can deploy fully.In other areas where United Kingdom troops are present, we are monitoring the humanitarian situation and stand ready to provide whatever assistance is required once local elements of the regime collapse and a secure environment is established.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to parachute aid into urban areas meeting fierce resistance in the Iraqi conflict. [107123]

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what instructions have been given to the Royal Mail regarding parcels and mail to the armed forces involved in action in Iraq. [107142]

Advice given to Royal Mail Group on the subject of mail to personnel deployed in the Gulf is as follows:

A surface parcels service is not available, and parcels should not be accepted.
Airmail letters and packets up to two kilograms in weight should be charged at the BFPO European rate, which equates to first class inland postal charges.
Forces Free Air Letters ("blueys") are available free of charge.
The BFPO numbers applicable to deployed forces and HM Ships have been specified.
I refer my hon. Friend also to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 2 April 2003,

Official Report, column 912, to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his oral answers to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) and the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) on 31 March 2003, Official Report, columns 651 and 660, if he will make a further statement on his Department's policy on postal services to Her Majesty's forces in the Gulf.[107380]

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 2 April 2003, Official Report, column 912, to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the potential environmental impact of the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the current operations against Iraq. [107140]

It is not possible to carry out environmental impact studies in Iraq at the present time. However, we accept the Royal Society's assessment of the potential effects of depleted uranium (DU) on the environment, as detailed in the two reports on "The Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium Munitions" (2001, 2002).DU particulate remains highly localised to the points of impact where DU munitions have struck hard targets: only in these small areas would DU levels be significant enough to necessitate precautions to prevent or reduce possible intakes. This view is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme as well as the Royal Society's DU Working Group.The Royal Society's report on "The Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium Munitions" Part II states that

"Modelling of the amounts of DU re-suspended from soil in the years following a conflict indicates that the estimated inhalation intakes will not lead to any increase in the incidence of lung cancer or any other cancers among children or adults. Nor are they likely to lead to any significant effects on kidney function."