Skip to main content

Iraq (Humanitarian Situation)

Volume 408: debated on Thursday 3 July 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

1.25 pm

With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to repeat a statement made in another place by my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. She was in Iraq last week, in both Basra and Baghdad, and met representatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the United Nations, the military, Iraqi administrators, non-governmental organisations and UK civilian staff. She also visited a prison and a water treatment plant in Basra, and the British office in Baghdad.

Progress has been made in Basra. Days after the end of the conflict, British troops took off their flak jackets and helmets and talked to civilians, which set the tone for a progressive return to normal life, with the military presence now relatively unobtrusive. Life has regained an air of normality: people are out in the streets; the markets sell fruit and vegetables; cars are on the streets; and shops and restaurants are open.

Quick impact projects, implemented by British forces, together with the UN. NGOs and local authorities, have made a visible difference. Basic services, including water and electricity, have been restored to pre-war levels. The prison has been rehabilitated. The courthouse has been refurbished, and cases are now being heard. Work is under way to clean the city of solid waste and other health hazards. Medical services are functioning, albeit with localised shortages of specialist drugs and oxygen.

The House will, I am sure, want to pay tribute to UK forces for their very significant contribution, often working in difficult and at times dangerous circumstances, as the tragic deaths of the six Royal Military Police in Maysan last week all too clearly demonstrated.

The expectations of ordinary Iraqis are very high. The south suffered particular neglect under Saddam's regime, and was starved of investment for years. We need to do better than just restore services to their prewar levels. People expect and deserve more.

The situation in Baghdad is more difficult. Threats to security remain a significant obstacle to progress. Regrettably, attacks against the US military by ex-Ba'athists and criminals appear to have become more organised, as has sabotage of newly restored infrastructure, and there are worrying signs of threats to international personnel and Iraqis working with the coalition, which could undermine the developing links between the Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi Ministries. Worries over personal safety keep many Iraqis in their homes, rather than at work or school, and impact particularly on women and girls. Cuts in electricity and water supplies also disrupt everyday life. We are working to tackle these.

Some progress has been made on security: 30,000 Iraqi police officers have reported back for duty, a legal system is beginning to be re-established to control criminality, and the CPA has decided to pay stipends to ex-soldiers, which should help. We are working to put in place the conditions for Iraq to be seen, by its own citizens, to be policing itself rather than being controlled by Coalition forces. We attach a very high priority to the effective reform of the security sector.

Rapid and visible progress towards fully representative and democratic government is central to the future of Iraq. Iraqis must regain political control of their country as quickly as possible. While Iraqi-controlled local authorities are already working in a number of provincial towns, the process of establishing an Iraqi-led governing council is much more complex. This has to be done quickly, but it also has to be done right. The governing council needs to be representative, involving all the main parties and religious and ethnic groups, as well as providing for the effective involvement of women. The CPA is making progress on developing consensus among Iraqi representatives on the way forward, and importantly, the United Nations is closely involved in the process.

Much has been made of shortcomings in the CPA. That criticism has in many cases been overstated, but things clearly could improve, and the CPA's leadership, with UK support, is working hard to improve the authority's performance. That includes establishing better communications between headquarters and the regions, and—even more vitally—between the CPA and the Iraqi people. It is essential that the people understand what the CPA is doing and why, and that the CPA can understand their wishes.

Almost 100 secondees to the CPA from a wide range of UK Government Departments are now in partnership with Iraqi ministries, our US colleagues and the humanitarian agencies, helping to get the Iraqi civil administration back up and running. The Department for International Development now has 27 advisers in Iraq, including the CPA's recently appointed director of operations.

DFID is also making a substantial financial contribution to humanitarian agencies working on the ground. Our total financial commitment now stands at £154 million, most of which is channelled through organisations with the capacity and expertise to mount humanitarian operations quickly and effectively. I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses details of the reconstruction work that has been undertaken so far by the agencies that we have been funding.

We are also working to support the longer-term reconstruction of Iraq. Much of the finance for that will come from Iraq's own oil revenues—initially through the development fund for Iraq, and subsequently through Iraq's own budget—but the international community also has an important role to play. In New York last week, informal meetings, which included Iraqi representatives, began preparations for a donors conference that is expected to take place in October. Details were also agreed on the assessment that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations will carry out in the intervening months. DFID will consider how best we can contribute to that longer-term reconstruction effort in the light of this work.

Years of sanctions and mismanagement by the Saddam regime have left the Iraqi economy very weak. Even before the conflict, only about half of the Iraqi work force were in full-time employment. Iraq's oil wealth and its relatively well-educated population should enable it to grow rapidly, once security has stabilised and a representative government are in place who can take long-term economic policy decisions.

Humanitarian agencies, with our support, returned to Iraq quickly after the conflict ended and have helped the country to recover from that conflict and the subsequent looting. The ability to do so was strengthened by good preparatory work, in part financed by DFID, and supported by our armed forces. But continued threats to security, particularly in Baghdad, remain a very significant constraint. The coalition is working urgently to address that in order to build on the progress achieved so far, and to make real, lasting and visible improvements to the lives of the Iraqi people.

Following her visit, the Secretary of State is urgently discussing with the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues what more we need to do to address the key priorities on the ground. We will continue to keep the House fully informed.

Does the statement's sanitised description of life returning to normal really match the reality for ordinary Iraqis? And why is there no apology for the failure to plan properly? On 3 February, the Prime Minister pledged to Members of this House that there would be

"a humanitarian plan that is every bit as viable and well worked out as a military plan."-[Official Report, 3 February 2003; Vol. 399, c. 36.]
But on Monday, the Secretary of State admitted before the International Development Committee that the planning was poor. I understand that in the statement that has just been given in another place, the Secretary of State—how we wish, with no disrespect to the Minister, that she was in this House—said that she blames the chaos mainly on looting, which she said was impossible to predict. Since when, in the aftermath of a war, has looting been impossible to predict? The Secretary of State also denied that the Government were unprepared.

The director of Save the Children said in his evidence to the Select Committee:
"We were told that as much priority would be given to the humanitarian dimension as to the others. That could not have been the case, given where we have ended up."
So what confidence can the public now have in the Prime Minister's assurances? Why do the Government appear to be responding to events, rather than anticipating them? And where is the road map to a stable and secure, self-governing Iraq?

There are humanitarian problems, and it is the serious lack of security that is hampering attempts to return life to normal. Women and children do not feel safe on the streets. People are being forced to drink dirty water because water facilities have been sabotaged. Electricity is still intermittent, hospitals are still short of drugs and people are being operated on without anaesthetic. Yet all that we heard in the statement is that there are "localised shortages".

Can the Minister set out now how the Government hope to mange security in Iraq? Do we need more troops; did our Government support the de-mobbing of the Iraqi army; and what does the coalition plan for ex-soldiers, beyond the provision of a stipend? The visible presence of coalition troops on the main roads may give the impression of security, but the side-streets are still haunted by the shadow of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athist militia. And what of the new threat of 10,000 Iranian-trained Shi'a militia, who are increasingly militant?

What matters from now on is that there is a clear, well-defined road map for how to get from occupation to Iraqi self-government, which needs to be laid out and shared with the Iraqi people. The Minister said that we need to communicate much more clearly to the Iraqi people what our intentions are. Will he set out how he intends to improve communications with ordinary Iraqis? How much money does the coalition administration need to run the country, and what is the strategy for raising it? He said that much will come from oil revenues, so why are there reported plans to sell off Iraqi national assets? Would this even be legal?

This statement does not reassure us that there is a clear plan for securing the future of Iraq. Although the Minister acknowledges that security is a problem, he does not say how it will be addressed. He says that Iraqis should run Iraq, but he does not say when or how this will take place. Aspirations are no substitute for a clear strategy. Does this not leave the UK's armed forces in an increasingly invidious position?

Yesterday, the nation paid respect to the six gallant men of the Royal Military Police, and we do pay tribute to all of our armed forces.[Interruption.]

But if we are to continue to risk our soldier's lives to prevent terrorists and weapons-proliferators from threatening us from that land again, why is there still no clear plan that can show how to bring peace and security to Iraq?

I am sorry that the hon. Lady began her comments by referring to my statement as a sanitised version. I do not accept that description at all; indeed, I regard it as a balanced account of the difficult situation that exists in Iraq, but which also recognises that progress has been made since the end of the conflict.

The hon. Lady makes a very fair point about the question of planning. As she will be aware, DFID, the UN and other agencies made considerable preparations for a range of eventualities, including the possibility of prolonged urban warfare, large-scale movement of the population and considerable disruption to the infrastructure, which in the end—thank goodness—did not transpire. That is one reason why the UN and other agencies, with financial support from DFID, were able to get up and running relatively quickly.

The truth is that we then found ourselves dealing with a different set of challenges as a result of the swift collapse of the regime: looting, and the subsequent initial breakdown in public services. The House needs to recognise and acknowledge that in a society on which the lid was kept for 25 years by fear and terror, a very different approach is required, particularly to policing, to which I shall return in a moment. In this case, the sensible action for DFID to take was to fund the agencies on the ground and support the reconstruction work. As I said, I have put the details in the Library today. What matters is not whose flag is on the activity, but whether the work gets done.

The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) asked specific questions about the water supply. Our funding has helped to pay for repairs to 40 sewage pumping stations across Iraq and for the delivery of drugs and medical supplies to 11 hospitals, 15 health centres and 37 clinics—part of an attempt to get the drug distribution system in Iraq back up and running. Those who visited Iraq and reported what they found told us that part of the problem was an ineffective distribution system to get the supplies from where they are held in warehouses to where they need to go. That is why the Department funds the distribution system. In many respects, the position has improved. Food distribution, for example, is working again. Of course lessons are to be learned from the process, but the most important consideration now is to get on with the task of reconstruction.

The hon. Lady also asked about the political process. She is absolutely right that, to complement the work on security, we need to get the political process working. As she knows, that is a twin-track process. We first set up a governing council that is broadly based and representative. Sergio de Mello, the UN Secretary-General's special representative, will report to the Security Council when the council has been established, after which it will appoint Iraqi Ministers. The second track is to set up the preparatory commission, whose job will be to provide a timetable for the constitutional process that will eventually lead to elections and Iraqi self-government. I accept that that is important, but it is for the commission to decide—[Interruption.] It is not for us or the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) to decide the timetable. The governing council wants it to happen during the course of this month. It must indeed be an Iraqi-owned process.

Finally, on policing, 30,000 Iraqi police are now back at work. As the hon. Lady will be aware, joint patrols have been stepped up and the chief constable of Hampshire led a team and produced a report on security sector and policing reform, which is now being taken forward by the CPA. The hon. Lady is absolutely right and we agree that security is the foundation on which the reconstruction of Iraq will be achieved.

It is absolutely clear to everyone that there was no coherent plan to deal with what is currently happening. The attacks on US troops are seriously worrying. We have heard warnings from two ayatollahs, one of whom issued a fatwa opposing the US plan for choosing who should rule Iraq, because Iraqis should themselves be able to choose. I have spoken to two soldiers who have returned from Basra and been debriefed. Their message to me was that the Iraqi people do not want us there. The Iraqis are utterly bitter about the number of civilians—now estimated at 7,000—who have been killed, with a further 15,000 having been injured. Is it not time for the full involvement of the UN? It is now for the UN to come up with a plan to take over the organisation of elections, which should be solely for the Iraqi people.

I do not accept my hon. Friend's description of an absence of preparation, and the whole House acknowledges the extent of the difficulties that we face. The whole House also fully understands the desire of the people of Iraq to speed up the process that will allow them to take decisions about the future of their country. If we had not taken action, we would not be having this discussion about the possibility of a new future for Iraq, a constitutional process and a governing council, because Saddam Hussein would still be in power. We should acknowledge that fact. Whatever people say about the difficulties in which Iraq currently finds itself, very few wish for the return of Saddam. That should be acknowledged as a starting-point within the process. I nevertheless accept the spirit of what my hon. Friend says about the need for the process to proceed speedily. I accept her point about UN involvement, which is why Sergio de Mello's contribution to overseeing the process of political reconstruction is so important.

I thank the Minister for the statement, even though it was second hand. I share the doubts expressed by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) about the Secretary of State's assessment, following a two-day whistlestop tour of the country, of the position in Iraq. I happily acknowledge, however, that progress has been made in Basra, mainly because of our own armed forces. I saw at first hand in Kosovo how hard our soldiers work to restore services and the whole House should congratulate them on their work in the south of Iraq.

As we have heard, the real position in Iraq is much worse, and it is difficult for those who were against the rush to war from the very beginning not to say, "I told you so". It is all very well for the official Opposition to complain about the lack of progress to date, but, as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, they voted for it all so they must accept the consequences.

The key to reconstruction, as everyone accepts, is security and the establishment of the rule of law. How long do the Iraqi people have to wait for sufficient peacekeepers to bring law and order to their land? The Iraqi people do not trust many of the civilian police. Is it not time for the UN to take over the security function and the building of a civilian Government who will have the respect of the Iraqi people?

When will water and electricity supplies be reliable enough for hospitals to function, and when will those same hospitals become secure enough to be administered under proper management, with proper equipment? Will the Minister comment on the incidence of cholera in Iraq, and on the very disturbing reports, following the looting of the nuclear plant, of radiation sickness among Iraqi people? When will criminal and religious violence against women be controlled, and how many women will be in the governing council of Iraq? Will the Minister also tell us how Iraq's enormous debt is to be dealt with?

Finally, does the Minister agree that the chaos and suffering in Iraq, following the reckless rush to war, was—as suggested by the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) in a written statement on 13 March—due to insufficient planning by the US?

I do not accept the hon. Lady's last point, but I thank her for her acknowledgement of the contribution of UK forces, which is felt throughout the House. She is absolutely right about the primacy of security and the rule of law. Clearly, the release of 75,000 criminals has not helped, and I described earlier the steps taken by the CPA to deal with the problem.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, particularly among those who opposed the action in the first place.[Interruption.] I repeat that, if Saddam was still in control, we would not be having this discussion about the possibility of a new future for Iraq. Let us all recognise the importance of the achievement in removing him. The key point is that this is a very difficult task, and those who tap their watches and ask why it has not been done yet fail to understand the scale of that task. We are dealing with the consequences not of three weeks of conflict, but of 25 years of destruction of the country's politics and culture. That is what created the difficulties with which we now have to deal.

The hon. Lady asked about the cholera outbreak. There was an outbreak, but it has been managed and, thankfully, no deaths have been reported. It was a matter of considerable concern, but the system has responded reasonably effectively to it.

I concur with the hon. Lady about the importance of women's involvement in the political process. She will be aware of the meeting that took place in May in preparation for the women's conference planned for later this month. The British Government continue to press strongly for the view that the position of women should play its proper part in the governance of Iraq—though, in the end, it is for the Iraqi people to determine under the new structures.

On debt, the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) will be aware that the Paris Club has indicated its willingness to look at Iraq's sovereign debts. The assessment being made by the IMF, the World Bank and the UN will feed into the donors conference in October. That will give us the opportunity to take a wider and longer-term view of the debt position in Iraq.

My hon. Friend the Minister was just asked about the civil nuclear facility at al-Tuwaitha. I want to follow up on that question, as 500 radioactive barrels were looted from that site, and used by local villagers for water storage. Is he aware that the US is offering only $3 for each returned barrel, whereas a new barrel costs $15? Will he congratulate Greenpeace, which is collecting contaminated barrels and giving out new ones free? Equally importantly, or even more so, will he press for the International Atomic Energy Agency to be given the full mandate that it is seeking to tackle this serious humanitarian and radiological crisis?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, and I apologise to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) for not responding to her point on the same issue. The House will be aware of the reports that the population in the area of the alTuwaitha nuclear facility had taken drums and containers and that they had emptied low-enriched uranium from them and taken them off for use as water storage. I was not aware of the steps being taken by Greenpeace, although it sounds like a commendable initiative.

To date, the World Health Organisation has not received any reports of suspected radiation sickness in local hospitals, although it has received reports of possible exposure to risk. Consequently, it has sent a team to the area to assess local health facilities and patterns of admission, and whether there have been any reported cases of exposure locally. It would be sensible to reflect on what that teams report, but I shall bear in mind the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock).

I recognise that real progress has been made in difficult circumstances, but is not it worrying that the mood of the average man in the street seems to be changing? It has gone from relief to disillusionment and now—worryingly—to resentment. Will the Minister share with the House the strategy that exists to win back the hearts and minds of ordinary people in Iraq?

I accept the right hon. Gentleman's point. Two things need to be done: we must make progress on security and get the political process moving as quickly as possible. There has to be clarity about the timetable, as the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) noted earlier. Improving people's day-to-day lives and providing clarity about how long it will take for the Iraqi people to have the chance to take decisions about their country's future are the best things that we can do. We must continue to work hard at that to overcome the frustration that of course people feel. There is a great wish, especially after 25 years of trauma, to get on with establishing a new future for the country. The responsibility on the coalition is to make sure that those two things can be achieved.

The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) spoke gently and politely, but I have seldom been so angry with an Opposition statement. What on earth did the Opposition think would happen? The shadow Foreign Secretary and the shadow Defence Secretary goaded the Government into this folly. You are all in it together—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is a long-standing Member of the House. He knows that he must direct his questions and remarks to the Minister who is making the statement to the House today.

My question is very precise. It concerns British troops. The first wave became gradually acclimatised, and that is all very well, but we are now sending members of the services straight into the sweltering heat of Basra, where temperatures reach 52 degrees. Given the security position in which our forces find themselves, how on earth can they be expected to keep their cool throughout? We are asking a heck of a lot of the Army. I ask the same question as my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon): for how long do we delay bringing in the UN? The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) is right to say that things are turning sour. People are moving from acceptance to outright hostility. Our forces are seen more and more as an occupying army, and not as a liberating army. We ought to understand the consequences of that.

My hon. Friend will be aware that there is agreement across the House on the need to make progress as quickly as possible to address the points that he raises. He asks specifically about how the British forces who will be arriving in Iraq shortly are meant to cope. My answer is, simply, that I would expect them to cope with exactly the same professionalism and dedication to their duties as those who will leave shortly have demonstrated. As I think all hon. Members will recognise, their work has made a great contribution to the improvement that has taken place, especially in the south and particularly in Basra.

Does the Minister recall that on 4 June the Prime Minister crowed to this House that those who said that Iraq might turn out to be his Vietnam had been proved wrong? Given the continuing level of allied casualties, would not the Prime Minister have shown less hubris if he had simply said that he did not know what lay ahead in Iraq, but that he would be resolute in seeing the task through to the end?

We certainly do need to be resolute and to see the task through to the end. I believe that those who choose to make analogies with Vietnam are mistaken, principally because the starting point was the overthrow of Saddam's regime. A majority in the House voted for that, although I recognise that there are hon. Members who did not support the decision. I repeat that we would not be having this discussion about a new future for Iraq if the action had not been taken, but the scale of the task facing us is very considerable. We owe it to the people of Iraq to see it through.

Rebuilding Iraq and establishing democracy there would be greatly facilitated if the UN were in charge, but will my hon. Friend say what role the new and developing free trade union movement will play? Trade unionists are united by common interests, rather than being divided into sectarian and ethnic groups. They will form the bulk of voters in a new Iraq, and they will also be the workers who will accomplish the reconstruction and rebuilding of the country. If the unions are to have a role, what will be the attitude of the US towards them?

The UN plays a very important role in the political process, particularly because resolution 1483 has given Sergio de Mello special responsibility for overseeing the establishment of the political process. His contribution and report to the Security Council on that process will be very important in taking the matter forward. I agree about the importance of supporting the establishment, in all aspects of Iraqi life, of the institutions of a functioning democracy. The trade union movement has suffered enormously, and the Government certainly wish to encourage that and other aspects of civil society. They will all contribute to the process of enabling the new democracy to be more than just a constitution and words on a document. We want it to be a living and breathing entity that enables the Iraqi people, over time, to take control of the destiny of their country.

I may be accused of benefiting from hindsight, but the Minister will accept that at an early stage I expressed concern about the consequences of the war. Does he agree that searches need to be conducted sensitively, especially when men burst into houses in which women have normally been sheltered? We must understand the views on Islam on that issue. When the Minister spoke about there being three months before the donor countries conference is held, I could not help but think that that was a bit like the waiting lists in the health service. Given the magnitude of the task they face, is it not possible to call the countries together sooner, so that they can start their planning earlier?

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, he is right about the importance of being sensitive to local culture and custom. I know that UK forces are acutely aware of the need for that sensitivity, and it is something that they hold dear to their hearts when they carry out their work.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, we have already made progress on bringing the donors together for the UN flash appeal. A further meeting was held in New York last week, which included representatives from Iraq who discussed what they felt would be needed for the future of the country. That has brought forth additional funds to support the money that has already been pledged. It is right that we should allow the World Bank, the IMF and the UN to make the detailed assessments. In one sense, three months is a long time, but we are talking about long-term reconstruction, so it is right that we should give them the chance to do that work as we shall have a more informed donors conference in October once that work has been completed.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) that any objective observer must conclude that there was a near total lack of preparation for the post-war needs of Iraqi society. However, I also agree with the Minister when he says that we need to do more than restore services to pre-war levels. When will services be restored to even those minimal levels, to cater for humanitarian needs and, for example, broadcasting and communication? What action is being taken to distinguish between those Ba'athists who are loyal to Saddam Hussein and those who joined the Ba'ath party only from expediency, who do not have a record of corruption and abuse and can, therefore, contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq?

In answer to my hon. Friend's first question, progress has been made in Basra in reaching pre-war levels with, for example, the electricity supply, although we need to go further. In Baghdad, progress had been made but the situation worsened last week as a result of acts of sabotage, which reinforces the point about security. A lot of money, investment, time and effort have gone into restoring the electricity supply and some people are setting out to undermine that. We have to deal with that problem to ensure that the electricity supply is constant, because people need it; it is needed to pump the sewerage system and so on.

My hon. Friend's second point, about de-Ba'athification, is important. It is vital that those who played a leading role in the old regime, and all that flowed from that, should be removed from their positions but, at the same time, the de-Ba'athification policy should be sensibly applied because we need to ensure that services can continue to function. The CPA is extremely conscious of the position and needs to reflect on it as it takes the process forward.

In his statement, the Minister stressed the importance of Iraq being seen to be policing itself rather than being controlled by coalition forces. How does he square that with the comments made by Mr. Paul Bremer on Sunday? Mr. Bremer said that

"we will continue to impose law and order and impose our will on this country".
Does the Minister believe that somebody capable of making such clearly inflammatory remarks is fit to lead the civilian administration in Iraq? Is not the gung-ho approach of the Americans, reflected in that statement, becoming the major obstacle to efforts to achieve security in the region? Is not it time to get the US out and the UN in?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, for the simple reason that, reflecting on the contributions that we have already heard in response to the statement, the overwhelming message has been the importance of security and law and order. Paul Bremer was saying that that, too, is the coalition's priority. The people of Iraq are looking for reassurance that there is the commitment and the will to ensure that security is provided. In part, that is about the work of the coalition forces, but at the same time we must build the capacity of the Iraqi police force; 30,000 of them have returned to work and are being paid twice what they received when Saddam Hussein was in power. We also need to train them, because the type of policing that is required in a country that is heading towards a different and democratic future is very different from the type of policing that one can get away with in a country where order is maintained by fear and terror.

I pay tribute to the sterling work being done by British troops in Basra and I was interested to hear about the clean-up process. What priority is being given to cleaning up unexploded armaments, most markedly the unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs?

With regard to the interim council that is to be created in Iraq, who will have the last word about who will be the representatives of the Iraqi people? Will it be Mr. Bremer or the UN representative? Surely the UN should be in the driving seat during the first step of recreating some kind of democracy in Iraq.

My hon. Friend raises an important point about mines and unexploded ordnance. The matter is of grave concern, not only because of those that are to be found following the three-week conflict but because of other unexploded ordnance that is to be found across Iraq from conflicts dating back over a long period. That is why some of DFID's work has been to fund the UN Mine Action Service and the Mines Advisory Group, which is working with both the coalition and local organisations to plot the location of unexploded ordnance and then to carry out disposals.

On my hon. Friend's second question, the process is one of discussion and dialogue between the CPA, those who will serve on the governing council and Sergio de Mello, the UN representative. That is why, when answering the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), I drew attention to the especially important role that Sergio de Mello will play as the guardian, under resolution 1483, of the responsibility for overseeing the transfer to the new political process. It is important that he is happy with, and supportive of, that process as we take it forward.

Further to the issue of unexploded bomblets, can the Minister tell us what assessment has been made of their total number following the conflict and precisely what progress has been made in clearing them? How many civilian deaths and other casualties have resulted from those that remain? Does the Minister agree that the presence of unexploded munitions represents an additional lethal ingredient in an already highly volatile situation?

I accept that unexploded ordnance is a serious problem. To answer the hon. Gentleman's question about an assessment of the total amount of unexploded ordnance, my understanding is that, because the plotting process is continuing, by definition that information is not currently available. However, I shall make further inquiries and if I can provide the hon. Gentleman with further information, I shall write to him.

As one of the two occupying powers, the British Government are responsible for the welfare of the Iraqi population, so will the Minister make a more detailed statement about the provision of clean, fresh water? From the list in the Library that he provided, it would appear that only £4 million of the £100.4 million that the British Government are pledging is being spent on water and sanitation. UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross report an increased spread of diarrhoea, which is taking its toll, especially on the children of Iraq. One in eight children does not even reach the age of eight because they are dying from such diseases, so when will we see real action?

Obviously, I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about the importance of water, but I do not accept his suggestion that no real action has been taken. Maintaining clean water supplies has been a primary and principal concern of ourselves, the ICRC and the UK military, in particular, who have done excellent work to repair water and sanitation facilities and build a supply line. The UN has been tankering 800,000 litres of clean water a day to the deprived areas of Baghdad and the south, so it is simply not true to say that nothing is being done. The situation is improving in parts of the country, including Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul. Baghdad's water supply system is operating at about 80 per cent. capacity, although it, too, was affected last week by the act of sabotage to the electricity system.

On long-term reconstruction, what discussions has the Minister had with his American opposite numbers on their proposal to use future oil export revenue as collateral to enable American exporters to export through the US import ban? Is that not wholly contrary to the assurances that oil export revenue would be used exclusively for the benefit of the people of Iraq?

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that I have had no such discussions with my American counterparts.