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Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

Q4. What support the UK Government are giving to develop democratic, independent trade unions in Iraq. (96558)

My special envoy for human rights in Iraq recently met the Iraqi Minister for civil society and reiterated our full support for the right to form free and fair unions. She also made the same point when she met a group of Iraqi women trade unionists on international women’s day. As my hon. Friend knows—I think that he was present at the launch—there is a TUC pamphlet celebrating the life of Hadi Saleh, the international secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, who was murdered in Iraq, almost certainly by former Saddamists, in January 2005. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend and those in the TUC on campaigning for free and fair trade unions in Iraq. I also congratulate all those who continue to strive for free and trade unions in difficult circumstances today.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s words, but is he aware of Iraqi Government decree 8750, which was issued last year and said that the Government of Iraq will

“take control of all monies belonging to the trade unions and prevent them from dispensing any such monies”?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is anti-democratic, and will he do everything in his power to convince the Iraqi Government to rescind that pernicious legislation?

We are indeed making those points to the Iraqi Government. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that it is important that there are no inhibitions on free Iraqi trade unions. I know that he will join me in celebrating the publication of the pamphlet, which shows that despite all the problems in Iraq today, the position of trade unions in Iraq has been absolutely transformed compared with the conditions under Saddam Hussein. That is one of the most powerful things about the pamphlet, which I urge hon. Members to read, and it is a great antidote to all those who say that nothing has improved since the fall of Saddam. The pamphlet makes quite clear the appalling brutality to which people—especially trade unionists and others—were subjected under Saddam and shows how, despite the difficulties, that is changing in Iraq today.