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Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the source was for the allegation at Paragraph 2, Page 19, of the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction of September 2002, that the Iraqi military were able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so; what attempts were made to verify the source of this information prior to deciding to include it in the dossier; on what date this information became available to British intelligence sources; whether details were passed on to the intelligence agencies of the United States and other allies for comment prior to publication; and whether protection has been offered or provided to the source since receipt of the information. [128519]

I have been asked to reply.As the ISC has reported, based on the evidence of the Chief of SIS, the source of the report was a senior military officer in a position to comment on the deployment of chemical and biological weapons. The source was regarded as reliable. The report was issued on 30 August 2002. The dossier which included the information about the 45-minute claim was passed for comment to the US Government. It has been the practice of successive Governments not to comment on issues relating to the validation or protection of intelligence sources. The security and intelligence agencies are not within the scope of the Code of Practice to Government Information.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the basis for the assertion made by the Director of the Joint US-UK Iraq Survey Team, that Saddam Hussein had given orders for his commanders to fire chemical shells at forces invading Iraq. [128806]

It is not the Department's policy to comment on remarks allegedly made in a classified briefing to United States Congressional Committees. Coalition forces continue actively to pursue intelligence leads, documentation and individuals connected with Iraq's WMD programmes through the Iraq Survey Group.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what total additional amount has been spent by his Department on operations in Iraq in each month since 1 January; [130282](2) what the cost was of deployment of troops to Iraq's neighbouring countries in the build up to the invasion of Iraq; [130281](3) if he will estimate the total additional monthly cost of British operations in Iraq; [130280](4) if he will estimate the extra monthly cost of one member of personnel in the occupation force in Iraq. [130277]

The Ministry of Defence identifies the costs of Operations in terms of the net additional costs it has incurred. The costs which the MOD would have incurred had the operation not been undertaken— expenditure on wages and salaries or on conducting training exercises, for example—are deducted from the total costs of the operation.Calculating all the costs of military action will take some time since they will include the cost of ammunition, bombs and guided weapons consumed in excess of peacetime levels and the cost of repairing and replacing equipment destroyed and damaged. We do however estimate the cost of preparatory activities in 2002–03 at around £700 million, less than the £1 billion set aside at Spring Supplementary Estimates 2002–03. This estimate includes the procurement or modification of equipment, increased maintenance and stock consumption, civil sea and air charter and provision of infrastructure in-theatre. A figure for total costs in 2002–03 including the cost of operations up to 31 March 2003 will be published in the Ministry of Defence's Resource Accounts.It is too early to estimate the costs likely to arise in 2003–04. Once these are known, additional funding will be sought in the normal way through Supplementary Estimates.

Accounting records and costs are not maintained on a daily basis while force levels have fluctuated considerably during 2003–04. As a result, to provide daily or per person average costs would be misleading.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department has made of how long it will take to clear unexploded ordnance in Iraq. [129863]

The United Kingdom and other Coalition Armed Forces and Non-Governmental Organisation teams have been engaged in Explosive Ordnance Disposal tasks since before the end of the conflict in Iraq. To date, UK and other Coalition Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams in the UK Area of Operation have completed over 1,500 tasks and destroyed over 500,000 individual munitions. Those munitions include not only those dropped or fired by Coalition Forces, but also many from the Iraq-Iran war as well as mines laid, ordnance fired or dropped, and stores of ammunition and other ordnance left by Iraqi military and paramilitary forces. It is not yet possible to say either what percentage of unexploded munitions have been cleared nor when all the work will be completed.