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Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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3.30 pm

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about Iraq.

Last Friday, the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain informally circulated a draft resolution about Iraq's future to members of the United Nations Security Council. I have placed copies in the Library and the Vote Office. Our aim is to put Iraq in the hands of its people through an open and accountable process, in partnership with the emerging leaders of the new Iraq. The draft resolution sets out the United Nations' role in that process, and calls for the United Nations to
"play a vital role in providing humanitarian relief, in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq, and in helping in the formation of an Iraqi Interim Authority."
That reflects fully the undertakings given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Bush at their Hillsborough meeting on 8 April. I will set out for the House the main points of that draft resolution arid, in the course of doing so, deal with a number of questions that have been asked about it. Before I do so, however, I shall report briefly on the situation in Iraq itself.

After almost a quarter of a century of brutal, authoritarian rule in Iraq, creating a free and secure society was always going to take time. Barely a month has passed since the regime fell. Today, the security situation varies in different parts of the country. The United Nations regards the south as safe enough for its agencies to operate, albeit with significant precautions. The situation is improving in the north. In other areas, including Baghdad, the situation is unsatisfactory, and there are still too many cases of violence and lawlessness. Establishing security within the rule of law is the coalition's first priority.

Let me now deal with the humanitarian situation. Supplies under the oil-for-food programme are getting through. The United Nations' World Food Programme has supplies in the pipeline until September and there are no reports of widespread food shortages. We are urgently tackling the lack of access to drinking water, a problem that has blighted the lives of Iraqis for many years. Urgent efforts are continuing to provide adequate medical supplies and equipment to Iraq's hospitals. The reports of 16 cases of cholera in Basra are obviously a matter of great concern, although fortunately there have been no reported deaths from the disease. To put that in perspective, cholera is endemic in southern Iraq at this time of year. Work is continuing to improve water arid sanitation facilities, and the Department for International Development has positioned in Kuwait cholera kits for 11,000 cases, to be used by the World Health Organisation as required.

The coalition's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance will tackle the huge task of restoring civil administration in Iraq. Increasing numbers of Iraqi public servants are now returning to their jobs. However, results in the early weeks have not been as good as we had hoped. I therefore welcome the appointment of US ambassador Bremer to ORHA. Working alongside the United Kingdom's Major General Tim Cross and forty British secondees, he will bring fresh impetus to ORHA's efforts. On the political front, we have already seen evidence of the exercise of the new-found religious and political freedoms in Iraq. I welcome the peaceful return at the weekend of the Shi'a religious leader, Ayatollah Hakim to Iraq from Iran, and other religious and political leaders, none of whom could exercise any political or religious freedoms under Saddam's regime. The meetings of Iraqi representatives in Nasiriyah on 15 April and Baghdad on 28 April marked the start of a process of bringing together a national conference in which all Iraq's regions and ethnic and religious groups are represented in order to select an Iraqi interim authority.

This body, which will comprise both political figures and technocrats, will progressively take on responsibilities for the administration of Iraq as a whole, as operative paragraph 9 of the draft says,
"until a permanent government is established by the people of Iraq".
It is our hope that the national conference can be held within the next few weeks. In order to assist the process, and as I told the House last Tuesday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has appointed a senior British diplomat, John Sawers, our ambassador to Cairo, as the Government's special representative to Iraq. His task is to work with US representatives and a wide range of Iraqi people to ensure an open process leading to a representative Iraqi interim authority. In the few days in which he has been in Baghdad, Mr. Sawers has already met a number of leading Iraqi political figures. In addition, as I told the House last week, we opened a British office in Baghdad, on the site of our former British embassy, headed by a British diplomat, Christopher Segar, who was deputy head of mission when the British embassy in Baghdad closed in 1991.

Let me now turn to the draft Security Council resolution. The United Kingdom and the United States fully accept our responsibilities under the fourth Geneva convention and the Hague regulations. That point is explicitly recognised in the draft resolution. Neither the Secretary-General nor members of the Security Council are proposing that the UN should run Iraq, but we are all concerned to ensure that the UN plays a vital post-conflict role. The draft resolution gives the UN the full opportunity to do just that. It does not deal with every issue; it concentrates on the main points that need to be settled now for the benefit of the people of Iraq. It sets out important principles for the future of Iraq, including those on territorial integrity and disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction. The resolution also provides, in operative paragraph 5, for member states to prohibit trade in, or transfer of, looted cultural artefacts.

The three key issues in the resolution are, first, the role of a UN special co-ordinator, and the associated political processes; secondly, the lifting of sanctions and the creation of a new Iraqi assistance fund to target resources on the reconstruction of Iraq; and thirdly, arrangements for the sale of oil and the handling of oil revenues. I shall deal with those in turn.

Operative paragraph 8 of the resolution sets out a substantial mandate for a UN special co-ordinator to be appointed by the UN Secretary-General and to play a full part in all aspects of post-conflict activity, from humanitarian efforts through economic reconstruction, human rights, rebuilding police capacity, promoting legal and judicial reform, and, crucially, the political process. On the latter point, the draft provides that the special co-ordinator should work with the occupying powers and those assisting them—defined collectively in the resolution as "the Authority"—for
"the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance".
Operative paragraph 9
"supports the formation, by the people of Iraq with the help of the Authority and working with the Special Co-ordinator, of an Iraqi interim authority as a transitional administration run by Iraqis until a permanent government is established by the people of Iraq".
Like all drafts, this one is open to improvement and we are discussing it constructively with our Security Council partners, but the mandate in the present draft will give the UN the scope it needs to play its full role in all aspects of post-conflict Iraq. One of the reasons why I would like to see the resolution passed quickly is to enable a special co-ordinator, appointed by the Secretary-General, to get cracking on the ground very soon.

The second of the three issues is the lifting of sanctions and the creation of a new Iraqi assistance fund. Economic sanctions relate to Iraq's past and now need to be removed, so operative paragraph 10 provides that all sanctions are lifted forthwith, with the sole exception of the arms embargo, which plainly has to remain in place until a permanent Government is established by the people of Iraq. Ending the economic sanctions regime requires new arrangements for dealing with Iraqi revenues. The wording in the resolution is designed to ensure that all funds from Iraqi oil revenues can be used quickly and effectively for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

The draft resolution gives the Secretary-General authority for a period of four months from its passage to ensure the delivery of priority civilian goods under contracts already approved and for which funding has been allocated.

Remaining funds in the existing escrow account, from what is known as the oil-for-food programme, will be transferred to the new Iraqi assistance fund. That will also receive funds from two other sources: revenues from the sale of oil, and funds of the former regime frozen by banks outside Iraq since 1990 under successive Security Council resolutions. The Iraqi assistance fund will therefore rapidly become the primary source of money for the development of Iraq. The funds will be disbursed by the authority in consultation with the Iraqi interim authority.

The resolution is specific about the purposes for which the money can be spent. Operative paragraph 13 spells out that
"the funds should be used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, for the economic reconstruction and repair of Iraq's infrastructure, for the continued disarmament of Iraq, and for the costs of indigenous civilian administration and for other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq."
The assistance fund will be subject to an international advisory board, including representatives of the UN Secretary-General, the IMF and the World Bank, and will be audited by independent public accountants, again chosen by the board, not by the coalition.

The third issue is the control of oil sales. Operative paragraph 18 requires that sales shall be made
"consistent with prevailing international market practices",
that they too will be audited by independent public accountants reporting to the international advisory board, and that the funds will go to the Iraqi assistance fund, except for a proportion, which will go instead to the UN Compensation Commission for claims relating to the previous Gulf war.

On weapons of mass destruction, a letter to the Security Council annexed to the resolution stresses the obvious and clear importance of this objective. Dr. Blix himself has recognised that the situation is not right at present for UNMOVIC to return, a point that I was able to spell out in the statement that I made to the House just 13 days ago. Separate arrangements may therefore be needed to provide international validation, so the role of UNMOVIC in Iraq is not an issue that needs to be dealt with in this resolution, although we may need to address it in future resolutions.

In the interests of the people of Iraq, the sponsors of the resolution will be working for its early adoption, but it is not a take it or leave it text, and negotiations with our partners in the Security Council are already under way. However, from my discussions with Foreign Ministers of Security Council members, and other discussions undertaken by our permanent representative in New York, I find a strong political will to get the UN back into the business of helping to build a better future for Iraq. This draft resolution gives the UN that very important role.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for giving me advance sight of it. He has dealt comprehensively with the draft resolution before the Security Council, which we welcome. In particular, we welcome paragraph 11, which seeks to lift sanctions, and paragraph 12, which establishes the Iraqi assistance fund and requires the regime's external assets to be frozen and transferred to it.

The resolution also deals with the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq. I have heard what the Foreign Secretary has had to say on the details but, even so, I am still unclear as to precisely what that role is intended to be. The Prime Minister on 8 April in Northern Ireland referred to "a vital role." However, it is hard to discern any task in the resolution that can really be described as vital.

May I ask the Foreign Secretary again what he means by vital? This is important today when the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) resigned from the Cabinet because, as she says, the assurances that the Prime Minister gave her
"about the need for a UN mandate to establish a legitimate Iraqi government have been breached"
arid are contracted by this resolution.

What were the exact assurances given to the right hon. Lady and other members of the Cabinet on establishing a legitimate Iraqi Government? Are they met in the resolution, and if they are, is the right hon. Lady wrong? If she is right, how does that square with the position of the Prime Minister? Who is telling the truth—the Prime Minister or the right hon. Lady? They cannot both be doing so.

Did the Attorney-General give the Government advice on what was required to establish a legitimate Iraqi Government? If he did so, does it support the right hon. Lady's contention or the Prime Minister's position? Would it not be helpful to the House if he were to publish that advice?

On a day when the Government are split on Iraq, warring over the euro and all over the place on foundation hospitals, is it not vital that at least on this, they do not fudge the issue? Does the Foreign Secretary share my regret at this crucial moment that this House will no longer be able to question the Secretary of State for International Development, who will now be in the House of Lords? Is that not a downgrading of this vital portfolio at a most sensitive moment?

Has the Foreign Secretary read reports today that the taskforce responsible for finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down and is likely to be withdrawn? Is that true, and what does it mean in the light of the Prime Minister's assurances that weapons of mass destruction will be found?

It is now the fifth week since Saddam was toppled. The unexpectedly swift conclusion explained the immediate aftermath—the lawlessness, breakdown in public services and damage to infrastructure—but, before the war, the Foreign Secretary assured me and this House that plans for post-war Iraq were in place. Why then, after four weeks, are there still not enough police resources, either internal or imported, to maintain public order and disarm the militias? Why, even now, have not enough engineers and construction experts been seconded to Iraq to ensure electricity supplies, clean water and effective sewage disposal? Why is vital aid and health provision still taking so long to get to the areas that so badly need it? These are not military questions, but questions for the Foreign Secretary who told us that all this was in hand. We have a moral obligation to reconstruct Iraq as we promised to do. We have supported the Government on the principle of reconstruction. I have to say that, on the ground, after four weeks, patience is running out.

Our armed forces won the war brilliantly. It is for the Government to win the peace. They owe it to our forces and to the people of Iraq to do so, and they are not making a very good fist of it right now.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a number of questions about the text and also about some comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short). Let me deal with those matters in turn.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming the statement and the clarification that it gives. He asked me first about the undertakings given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Bush at their press conference on 8 April following the Hillsborough summit and about where they are reflected in the resolution itself. The commitment by the President and the Prime Minister is repeated in one of the opening preliminary paragraphs, so that they provide a template against which the rest of the resolution is measured. The paragraph states that it was
"Resolved that the UN should play a vital role in providing humanitarian relief, in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq, and in helping in the formation of an Iraqi interim authority".
That is an almost exact paraphrase of the words used by President Bush and our British Prime Minister at Hillsborough. I could take the right hon. Gentleman through the 24 operative paragraphs of the resolution—I hope that the whole House will go through them which spell out how that will work.

They include: all the duties that are imposed on the special co-ordinator to be appointed not by us, but by the United Nations Secretary-General; self-evidently, the lifting of sanctions; the future of the oil-for-food programme; the monitoring and supervision that the United Nations will have over Iraqi assistance; the UN's role in respect of oil revenues; and, above all and particularly, assisting and encouraging, alongside the assistance and encouragement of the coalition, the formation—not by the coalition or the UN, but by the Iraqi people themselves—of an Iraqi interim administration followed by a permanent Iraqi Government.

The right hon. Gentleman asks me about remarks that were made earlier today. I should first say how sad I am about the resignation of my right hon. Friend. She served the Department with very great distinction and placed British overseas aid contribution on the map in a way that never happened in the 18 years of the previous Government, from .the moment when they placed the Overseas Development Administration under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am sorry to see her leave as a colleague. I have to say—since the right hon. Gentleman asks me this, it is right that I should give him my reply—that I do not agree with my right hon. Friend's view about the position of the Government. Obviously, I was not present at any discussions that took place between her and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—that is a matter for them—but I can say two things.

I am going to come to that.

First, all the measures in the statement and every action that we have taken in Iraq and in the United Nations are fully consistent with the undertakings that we have given in public about the role of the United Nations. Secondly, it goes without saying—but I will repeat it, as the right hon. Gentleman raises the matter—that all the actions that we have taken have been taken strictly in accordance with legal advice. It would be unconscionable for any of us to believe that any action that we took or contemplated would be unlawful in international law or in domestic law, and it is quite inappropriate for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest otherwise.

The right hon. Gentleman asked several questions about the time that it is taking to get Iraq on its feet—I do not say "back on its feet", because Iraq was not on its feet before the military conflict took place. Yes, it is taking longer than we expected in some parts—not all parts—of Iraq, and, yes, as I said, the situation in Baghdad is unsatisfactory. That is why I welcome the appointment of US ambassador. Bremer and the additional staff from the United Kingdom who are going in to back up ORHA. We have to see improved performance on the ground.

The right hon. Gentleman's last point—an extraordinary one for a Conservative spokesman—was the allegation that a vital Department has been downgraded because a Member of the House of Lords has been appointed as successor to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood. I recall that during our 18 years of opposition there were at least two occasions on which very large and significant Departments of State were represented by a Secretary of State in the other place. One was when the Department of Trade and Industry was under Lord Young, and the other—at a time when the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was an adornment to that Department—was when Lord Carrington was Foreign Secretary.

In addition to the Foreign Secretary's own expressions of regret, does he understand that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) enjoys great affection and respect on both sides of the House?

May I ask the Foreign Secretary what significance we are to attach to the recall of Barbara Bodine and to reports that General Garner may soon suffer a similar fate? Does not that indicate an admission of failure to comprehend the complexity of the reconstruction of Iraq; and what sort of signal or message does it give to the people of Iraq if such changes are necessary so quickly?

On the matter of a vital role for the United Nations, is it not now clear that the Government envisage that that role is one of giving advice and providing coordination, but is neither managerial, executive nor administrative? Although it is correct that sanctions should be lifted, why is it necessary to provide new arrangements for the administration of Iraq's oil revenues, as the oil-for-food programme is already in place?

Finally, on weapons of mass destruction, the Foreign Secretary used a rather delphic phrase when he said that separate arrangements for validation may be necessary. What exactly does he have in mind? Does he have in mind arrangements that will carry credibility because they are not based entirely on the work of those nominated by the coalition forces?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked first about the transfer from Baghdad of ambassador Barbara Bodine and reports of the earlier than expected transfer of former General Jay Garner. The Barbara Bodine transfer is earlier than expected, but, as far as I know, that does not apply to the transfer of General Jay Garner.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked whether there was a failure to comprehend the complexity of the position on the ground. In the case of any military action, the circumstances on the ground are inevitably unexpected to some extent. That is the nature of warfare. In some parts of Iraq, matters have improved more rapidly than expected. However, I have been straightforward about the fact that the position in Baghdad is not satisfactory. We fully understand our responsibilities, as does the United States, to ensure that it becomes satisfactory quickly.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman claimed that there was no direct managerial role for the United Nations. Under international law, the fourth Geneva convention and the Hague regulations, the occupying power is responsible for managing Iraq in the immediate future. It would be wrong of us to try to hive off responsibility to people who do not have the power to undertake it. However, we are increasingly trying to provide a key role for the United Nations and, above all, the people of Iraq. Hon. Members who are worried about the matter should read the language of the text carefully—I do not suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not done so. Of course, colleagues on the Security Council have comments about the draft, but the atmosphere in the informal discussions that took place at the weekend was constructive.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about new arrangements for the oil revenues. They are needed because until now, they were tied into sanctions and the oil revenues were available only for the elaborate and rather bureaucratic oil-for-food programme, which the United Nations has run. We want the oil revenues to be used more widely to benefit the people of Iraq. That will initially have to happen under the direction of the coalition or the occupying powers because there is no one else to do it. However, it will be done under strict supervision and auditing, including by the board with nominees from the Secretary-General, the IMF and the World Bank and, in time, the interim authority. Over tirne—as quickly as we can manage—that will be done by a separate, permanent, recognised Iraqi Government.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's last question was about separate arrangements for validating any finds of weapons of mass destruction. We continue to discuss that matter, not least with our United States allies and other friends on the Security Council. Resolutions 1441 and 1284 remain current and are not affected by the draft resolution. I am clear that any validation arrangements would have to involve external validation for the reasons that the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned.

May I say that I share the Foreign Secretary's view that we have lost a redoubtable Secretary of State for International Development? I served as her deputy for four years and she will be missed in the job. However, she has a worthy successor in Valerie Amos, who was a brilliant Minister in the Foreign Office and will do a tremendous job, whichever House she stays in—[Interruption.]—serves in.

When was the draft resolution circulated in Whitehall? To which Departments was it sent? What comments did the Foreign and Commonwealth Office receive?

I share the preliminary comments of my right hon. Friend. So far as Valerie Amos is concerned, I have seen her as a ministerial colleague in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and also answering for the Department for International Development in the House of Lords. She is a brilliant successor to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short), and someone who is very experienced. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) might recall that, when the previous Conservative Administration were in power years ago, it was possible to give up a title to a peerage in order to transfer down to this end, but I am afraid that a life peerage is now exactly that; it is a sentence for life. But that might change; you never know.

So far as the draft of the resolution is concerned, it was dealt with internally in the same way as resolution 1441 was dealt with. It was tightly held because we were discussing the details with a fellow member of the Security Council. In answer to my right hon. Friend's question, I orally briefed the Cabinet last Thursday—the Cabinet Committee was orally briefed by me last Thursday afternoon—and the draft was circulated at 9 o'clock the following morning.

Beyond the cost of the military engagement itself, can the Foreign Secretary tell us what the estimated cost of the British involvement and presence in Iraq will be for this financial year and the next financial year?

No, I cannot, but I will arrange for the answer to that question to be provided to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and for a copy to be made available to the House.

Whatever the virtues of Lady Amos, at this particular moment the Secretary of State for International Development ought to be in this House and not in the other place.

Can the House of Commons be told why documents held by the Iraqi authorities at the time of the coalition's control of their offices were left unprotected, to be exploited by journalists and others, when those documents might have formed the basis for a prosecution, or been collected or destroyed to deny the probability of a prosecution, or gone unchecked for the insertion of forged documents? Why was there no proper custody of documents of such major potential importance, which might have thrown light on the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, or on possible links between the Saddam regime and al-Qaeda?

On the appointment of my right hon. Friend Baroness Amos, I think that everybody in the House recognises her exceptional qualities. [Interruption.] It is an exceptional appointment. I have said before that, while there may be some reservations on the Labour and Liberal Democrat Benches about having a Secretary of State appointed from the House of Lords, it does not lie in the mouth of Conservative Members to object to that process for a second. Many of us accepted the arrangements under which Foreign Secretaries and Trade and Industry Secretaries were Members of the other place. Perfectly satisfactory arrangements were made for them to answer through a Minister in this place, and the Prime Minister will make such arrangements in respect of the Department for International Development.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) also asked about the protection of evidence and the custody of documents. I cannot give him a direct answer to his specific question, but I can say that we are all seized of the need to protect all documentary and other evidence as far as is humanly possible, with a view to its use in future prosecutions of people responsible for the brutalities of the Saddam regime. If my hon. Friend is in any doubt about the evidence relating to Iraq's holdings of weapons of mass destruction, I refer him to two very public Command Papers that I have already published, including 173 pages of Dr. Blix's final report of 7 March, which sets out in forensic detail the nature of Iraq's holdings of weapons of mass destruction and its failure to answer questions about what has happened to those holdings.

While we are all pleased to hear that progress is being made at the UN, is the Foreign Secretary aware that the situation in Baghdad, which he is only partly right in describing as serious, is in fact potentially catastrophic; that our American friends, after a stunning military victory, have grossly underestimated the very difficult situation that they face; and that extremely heavy-handed policing by American troops will do nothing to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis for as long as there is poor security, the utilities do not work or even look like working, and there has clearly been no real progress on the civilian administration front?

Ambassador Bremer is an extremely competent diplomat, but it may not be enough that he will be the right person to run things. Would it not be sensible to suggest to our American friends that a British brigade should be put into Baghdad, as it would have much greater expertise at such policing, with a view to moving the whole thing forward much more quickly?

The hon. Gentleman is correct to raise concerns about conditions in Baghdad. I do not endorse the specific language that he uses, but I have made it clear that we regard the situation there as unsatisfactory. Our American allies and friends fully understand that it is unsatisfactory, that action has urgently to be taken and that they are in the lead on taking such action. Just before I came across to the House, I discussed that situation, as I do regularly, with the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and I shall continue to engage with him on that, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will with President Bush.

On the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that a British brigade should be put in, we are all very proud of how British troops have operated, not only in the conflict, but post-conflict, and I shall refer it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

May I associate myself with the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) about my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short)?

What obligations are there on the interim Iraqi administration and what obligations will there be on the full Iraqi Government to repay debts—some would say odious debts—incurred by the Saddam regime? Can my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary give the House an assurance that the Iraqi assistance fund may not be used to repay the cost of weapons buying by Saddam's regime and that he will resist pressure from, as well as the case that may be being made by, other Security Council members which are owed large sums of money by the Saddam regime for arms to block or resist a further Security Council resolution until they are repaid? We must consider the needs of the Iraqi people first, and I hope that that is what the Government will take to the Security Council.

Order. Before the Foreign Secretary answers, I have to tell the House that I must have brief questions. We cannot have long questions.

Iaccept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), and I say to him that in the text, not least in operational paragraph 20, there is legal protection against, for example, revenues from the sale of oil, or the physical product of oil itself, being arrested in a third country to provide security for unpaid debts to third parties, which may include some countries that he has in mind. We are certainly seized of that. At the same time, we are also seized of the need to ensure that some compensation claims—for example, in relation to those in Kuwait—are honoured over time.

Does the right hon. Gentleman understand why there is some scepticism on the Conservative Benches as to why he chose to make this statement today? For example, can he tell the House whether he was planning to make it at 9 o'clock this morning? Will he give the House a straight answer to the question posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) from the Front Bench as to what we are to make of the statement of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) that the Prime Minister's assurance on the establishment of a legitimate Government in Iraq has been breached?

As it happens, I decided on Saturday that it would probably be a good idea to make a statement to the House. One was drafted. I spoke to the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip on the telephone yesterday, and suggested that I should make a statement. However, as ever with statements, we decided to wait until this morning to see whether there was a clear demand for one. As it turns out, there was such a demand.

I do my very best to keep the House informed of these matters, as I have done previously.

As for the other point that the hon. Gentleman raised, I am afraid that I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Clare Short). The undertakings given by the Prime Minister at Hillsborough and elsewhere are reflected in this draft in every particular.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have welcomed the comments from the French and German ambassadors to the United Nations. The French ambassador said:

"There are positive elements in this draft resolution in the humanitarian and economic field",
and the German ambassador said that
"this draft does not fight the fights of the past but is looking to the future and trying to deal with the problems that are at hand now".
In welcoming an emerging UN consensus on this issue, will the Foreign Secretary reassure the House that the United Kingdom's commitment to the immediate lifting of sanctions will not be allowed to be diluted in the negotiations on this draft that are to follow?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the welcome that this draft has received publicly in those quarters, which would have been unexpected a few weeks ago. We have worked hard with our partners. We are not suggesting that this is the final word on the matter, but we are pleased about the constructive atmosphere in which the negotiations are taking place.

As for the lifting of sanctions, they were imposed because of the bad behaviour of the Saddam regime and its failure to comply. Now that the Saddam regime has gone, the case for sanctions goes. However, that does not remove the case for us to be satisfied about the disarmament of Iraq, which is another matter.

Baghdad fell into coalition hands on 9 April, and fighting was over five days later on 14 April. After an unexplained delay of two weeks, General Garner finally arrived in Baghdad following his leisurely progress via Kurdistan on 21 April. Five weeks after the fall of Baghdad, there is apparently still no water in large areas of the city. Does the Foreign Secretary understand that many of us, and no doubt many Iraqis, find it incomprehensible that with a magnificent display of military competence we can win the war in four weeks but we cannot get the water switched back on in five?

Iunderstand the hon. Gentleman's frustration. As I said, the situation in Baghdad is not satisfactory. He asks what we are doing about it. We are doing a great deal to turn it around.

What is the legal basis for contracts that the Americans signed with Halliburton and Bechtel before the offer of this new UN resolution? Is not the world's image of what is happening that in reality it is the creation of an American colony in Iraq with British support?

As I understand it, the legal basis of those contracts was US domestic law, because they made use of US tax dollars and not of any Iraqi revenues. The use of Iraqi revenues in that way would be outwith international or domestic law.

Does the Foreign Secretary understand that there will be a widespread feeling on both sides of the House that in the months ahead the Secretary of State for International Development ought to be a Member of this House and answerable to us? As the United States is in the process of dismissing its two most senior administrators in Iraq, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) has just resigned, on whose expert advice is this draft resolution based? Presumably, it is on the basis of the draft resolution that the British Government will try to put things right in Iraq in the weeks ahead?

Highly qualified though those three people are, they are not the only source of advice available to the United States and United Kingdom Governments.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of early-day motion 946, signed by 106 hon. Members, which calls for the reconstruction of Iraq to be built on the broadest possible base? Does he accept that that can be achieved only by securing for the United Nations a leading role in the reconstruction of Iraq? Will he agree to include that amendment to the draft resolution?

Iam not familiar with the full text of early-day motion 946. I apologise for that, and I shall look it up. The leading role in the rebuilding or building of the new Iraq must be taken by the people of Iraq. We seek a partnership in support of that between the United Nations international community and the coalition on the ground.

May I associate myself fully with what the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) said about the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short)?

I welcome the reference to lifting sanctions, but the statement unfortunately made no mention of the Kurdish people. What consideration has been given to preserving the integrity of the northern lands where they currently reside?

Every consideration is given to that. The very first preliminary paragraph of the draft resolution reaffirms the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. Within that, we fully recognise and respect the need for proper autonomy for various peoples in Iraq, including, obviously, the Kurdish people.

Will my right hon. Friend explain how giving Iraq back to the people of Iraq is accomplished by transferring the governance of Iraq to a crony of Donald Rumsfeld, and handing over a contract to a company with which Donald Rumsfeld has been associated? Does he accept that Members who voted in favour of military action did not do so, and the British forces who behaved with such immense decency and dignity did not risk and in some cases give their lives, to turn Iraq into a colony of the United States Republican party and to turn Iraq's reconstruction into the playground of American corporate capitalism?

Iunderstand my right hon. Friend's concerns, but I can give him the reassurance that he seeks. In the initial stages, the authority will be that of the United States and United Kingdom Governments and nation states as the "occupying power" under the Geneva conventions and the Hague regulations. I think I have already dealt with the issue of the contract let to Halliburton. It was, I understand, a domestic contract in the United States, to be paid for with US tax dollars. I can reassure my right hon. Friend that the oil revenues of Iraq and other revenues of the Iraqi people must be used and administered in a very different way.

Will the Foreign Secretary turn his attention to the many UK reserve medical personnel who are still deployed in the Gulf? Many were released from NHS trusts and hospitals where there is great pressure on waiting lists. To what extent are those medical facilities available to the Iraqi people? Has the Foreign Secretary thought of asking our European counterparts whether they might be able to send substitute personnel, so that some of those professionals could be released back into the health service here?

I shall have to write to the hon. Gentleman about the detail of his question, and place a copy of my answer in the Library of the House. As for his wider point, we have been involved in detailed discussions with our European Union partners and others about the contributions that they can make to the military forces and to other facilities. As the hon. Gentleman may know, meetings were held during the force contribution conference on two successive Fridays. A number of EU member countries are contributing to medical facilities as well as to the military forces.

I agree with my right hon. Friend that the humanitarian problem was compounded, not created, by the war. Nevertheless, I think that the situation is serious and should not be underestimated. Anyone who, over the weekend, heard the aid agencies talking about the situation in Baghdad and elsewhere can only feel alarmed by their reports.

I ask my right hon. Friend to increase the number of British staff in Iraq. I think he mentioned the number 40, but that is not enough. I know four of the five interim leaders of Iraq, and they are all calling for more British involvement because they believe that the British understand them much better than the Americans and can handle the population much better.

Will my right hon. Friend's Department please be much more sensitive? When it sent delegates to the conference in Baghdad, the one woman whom it sent was the one woman from the Iraqi community in Britain who opposed the war and demonstrated against it. That, I think, is entirely the wrong signal to give all the other Iraqi expatriates in Britain.

I accept what my hon. Friend says. On the issue of increasing the number of United Kingdom staff, I know that that will be at the top of the agenda of Baroness Amos, the new Secretary of State for International Development. I take my hon. Friend's point, although, since we are trying to create a democratic Iraq, it is important that we have people of every opinion. However, many of them should reflect what was a very widespread opinion—that the military action that we took was entirely justified.

On behalf of many of my constituents and others in Northern Ireland, I join in paying tribute to the work of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short).

May I press the Secretary of State? Is there any news about the missing billion that Saddam's family seem to have gone off with? Since the war was to free the Iraqi people, can he give an assurance that, in the long-term planning, there will be a greater role for the women of Iraq and free elections with a wider electorate than has hitherto been allowed?

On the first point that the hon. Gentleman raises, there are quite substantial sums in bank accounts, which have been frozen. Obviously, we know where those are. Investigations continue in respect of reports of billions of US dollars being taken out of the country by the Saddam family and regime just before military action commenced. On the role of women, we are very committed indeed to seeing women play a full role in the Iraqi Government, as we are in this country.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment that the resolution may still be amended but does he accept that, around the world, many people with whom we would wish to be influential friends still question the legitimacy and motives of the action that was taken? Would it not be in this country's long-term interests to ensure that the UN is given a sufficiently strong role in the reconstruction of Iraq to provide that legitimacy for our future actions?

I accept that there are people who still question the legitimacy of our action. I hope that we deal with that and provide reassurance in the draft resolution. Just to take one example, there are people around the world who believed, and may still believe, that the sole purpose of the military action was in order that the United Kingdom and United States could steal the Iraqis' oil. It was always totally and completely untrue; it was utterly untrue. However, for the avoidance of doubt, the resolution, a mandatory chapter 7 resolution, makes it clear that the revenues from oil and from other sources of the Iraqi people can only be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people, or to compensate other victims of the Saddam regime.