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Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy not to use cluster bombs in urban or populated areas in Iraq. [108535]

Cluster bombs are only used strictly in accordance with international law. This includes the principles of distinction and proportionality as well as precautionary measures to be taken in planning and conducting an attack, as contained in the First Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The targeting process takes account of these principles in matching the type of weapon used to the target to be attacked. There will be circumstances when it would be considered more appropriate to use other munitions than cluster bombs. These circumstances are more likely to arise in urban or populated areas as cluster bombs engage targets that cover an area. However, a decision on which type of munition to use has to take into account all the circumstances at the time of an attack. It follows that it would be unlikely that cluster bombs would be used in an urban unpopulated area.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will hold an inquiry into the numbers of deaths of journalists during the current campaign in Iraq. [108848]

All reports of coalition action resulting in the deaths of civilians are investigated. The United Kingdom works with coalition partners to verify the facts of such reported incidents. The profession of civilian casualties is not a concern when investigating such incidents.Very careful attention is applied to ensure that in the coalition's campaign the risk of damage to civilian populations and infrastructure is minimised. However, military action is never without risk, and lawful actions against military targets may result in harm to civilians. Any civilian casualties resulting from military action are deeply regretted.The active battlefield is not a benign environment and coalition forces cannot be held responsible for, or guarantee the safety of, journalists who enter such a location independently. This is one of the reasons why we have embedded war correspondents whose activities can be properly co-ordinated with our own forces.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidance he will issue to members of the public who want to collect items and send them to (a) British service men and women serving in the Gulf and (b) Iraqi civilians including children, in order to assist their welfare; to what address items can be sent; what items are most needed by each group; what weight limits would be placed on any parcels; and when such deliveries may be likely to be appropriate. [108903]

I refer the hon. Member to my written ministerial statement of 8 April 2003, Official Report, column 15WS and 10 April 2003, Official Report, columns 32–34WS.The Ministry of Defence is not an appropriate conduit for items intended for Iraqi civilians, which are best handled by charitable organisations.