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Iraq

Volume 406: debated on Friday 23 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what role was undertaken by the Royal Marines in preventing the destruction of Iraqi oil facilities during the Gulf conflict. [112256]

Seizure of key elements of the Iraqi oil infrastructure was an early objective for the coalition in order to deny Iraqi forces the opportunity for sabotage, prevent environmental damage and to preserve the oil industry for the Iraqi people. The Royal Marines took the town of Al Faw with its significant oil infrastructure intact as part of a joint operation with United States and Australian Forces. They remained in place securing the peninsula and the associated oil infrastructure until the beginning of May 2003.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of 3 Commando Royal Marines in the seizure of Umm Qasr port during the Gulf conflict. [112261]

The seizure of Umm Qasr port intact was an early strategic objective for the Coalition campaign in Southern Iraq. Three Commando Brigade took the Al Faw peninsula, a key enabler for the seizure of the port as part of a joint operation with United States and Australian forces.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions took place with US military officials regarding the risk of looting from Iraqi museums and repositories of cultural artefacts (a) prior to and (b) during recent hostilities; and what discussions have taken place since the Coalition occupation of Baghdad. [110604]

An important element of the Coalition"s plans was to restore stability in areas they occupied as quickly as possible. In so doing they successfully helped to reduce incidents of looting generally. We are not, however, aware of any discussions with US military officials specifically relating to the risk of looting from Iraqi museums and repositories of cultural artefacts.Since the liberation of Iraq, US and UK Governments have worked together to take steps to help recover any treasures that have been removed, including a US funded reward scheme for the safe return of antiquities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether British Challenger 2 tanks are to be left in Iraq after the return of British troops; and if he will make a statement. [110995]

No. It is planned that all Challenger tanks will leave with their units.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of each battle damage assessment compiled during Operation Telic. [111366]

It would be inappropriate to make battle damage assessments available. They contain detailed information about the pattern and effectiveness of United Kingdom operations. Their public release could jeopardise future UK operations.I am therefore withholding this information under Exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Article V tribunals have been conducted by British military personnel in connection with verification of the status of Iraqi prisoners of war. [112077]

No tribunals under Article V of the Geneva Convention have been convened by United Kingdom personnel in Iraq. A number of screening panels have, however, been convened with a view to determine the status of prisoners of war, as a result of which a significant number of detainees have been released.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 9 April 2003, Official Report, column 298W, regarding the Wafa al-Qaed water treatment plant, what reports he has received on the cause of the curtailment of electricity supply to the plant and who was responsible; whether there were (a) bombing activities and (b) special forces activity in the area; how long the treatment plan has been out of action; whether it is fully repaired; who is taking responsibility for the repair; and if he will make a statement. [112494]

It is likely that the power supply to the Waif al-Qaed water treatment plant was cut off when the southern Iraqi electricity grid was shut down by its Iraqi operators at the beginning of the conflict. The plant was restarted by the operators on 4 April using standby generators, and the mains power supply was reestablished on 11 April. The Iraqi operators continue to be responsible for the operation of the Waif al-Qaed water treatment plant.

The electricity cables supplying the Waif al-Qaed water treatment plant were not targeted by United Kingdom forces, and we have no reports to suggest that they were hit by any coalition air assets.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many bombs were used by British forces in Iraq that had an expiry date in (a) 2003, (b) 2004 and (c) 2005; and if he will make a statement. [113248]

For the purposes of answering this question I have taken bombs to mean large, high explosive air to ground bombs, specifically the RAFs 5401b and 10001b free-fall bombs, and the 10001b and 20001b Paveway bombs.These weapons do not have an expiry date, but are subject to maintenance checks every 10 years and have a finite air carriage life. In addition, they have specified environmental storage limitations that cannot be exceeded. If any one of these criteria is reached the weapons undergo a thorough maintenance programme before being brought back into service again, or are destroyed. All bombs used during Operation TELIC were within their maintenance schedule, climatic constraints and carriage life limits.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has (a) given to and (b) received from the organisation called Iraq Body Count. [114211]

Defence Ministers have had no contact with an organisation called Iraq Body Count.