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MS 1 - Iraq
#1
Mr Speaker I beg leave to rise and offer the House the following statement on the goings on regarding the Gulf and broader Middle East concerning the illegal invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq.

Mr Speaker this Government views these actions as absolutely appalling, an affront to international law and diplomatic norms, we will not tolerate them and we are acting with the international community to ensure that they are reversed. Earlier today I was in talks with our Permanent Representative to the United Nations to put the wheels in motion for a resolution of the United Nations Security Council authorising the use of force to liberate Kuwait from Iraq’s illegal occupation if they do not comply by midnight on the first day of January 1991. As I’m sure many in the House are aware Iraq have failed to comply with a binding resolution of the UN Security Council putting them in further breach of International Law and, per the resolution passed last month, liable to endure the use of military force by a coalition of nations including ourselves and our European friends and allies (such as France), the United States of America, and regional partners in the Middle East.

Mr Speaker it is with a heavy heart that I must inform the House of Commons today that our engagement in Kuwait and Iraq has begun via air assault and other ranged bombardments focusing on destroying Iraq’s capability to hold Kuwait and force their withdrawal from the country. I will of course keep the House updated regarding developments in this matter and pray for the protection of Almighty God on our servicemen. No Government relishes the thought of sending our boys into battle but if that is what is required to ensure that our values are upheld, values of freedom and self determination that I’m sure all sides of this House subscribe to, then we must not hesitate to foil the most evil schemes of the most despotic dictators.
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#2
((Questions bolded, plus one tag-line))

Mr Speaker,

I thank the Right Honourable Gentleman, the Foreign Secretary, for bringing this matter before the House today. I will note for the record a thanks, Mr Speaker, for his gracious conduct in this matter for following convention and giving advance notice of his statement.

Mr Speaker, I rise to outline the response of the Opposition in this matter and, if I may, to ask a series of questions to the Foreign Secretary that will, I hope, go some way in outlining the Government's thinking on this matter.

It is absolutely right and proper, Mr Speaker, that decisions of diplomacy, foreign policy, military action and humanitarian mission go beyond simple gut instinct or opinion. They must be based on both evidence and principle. Disliking a ruler is insufficient grounds for sanctions, for isolationism, for military action or for withholding aid. Instead, Mr Speaker, these decisions in these matters must be based on three concurrent measures; legitimacy, efficiency and morality. Whether it is legal, practical or possible, and the right thing to do.

Mr Speaker, we all know that the regime in Iraq faces serious questions of morality. Between the matters of democracy, civil liberties, social justice and equality, there is not much morality to judge. I don't think you would be hard pressed, Mr Speaker, to find any serious objection from any member of this House, to challenging the rule of Saddam Hussein on those grounds. Mr Speaker, the morality in this case, however, is about the morality of this particular action. The outlined moral reason the Right Honourable Gentleman has given to the House is that the Government of Iraq have illegally invaded another country. Now, whatever our moral considerations for Kuwait, and there are many Mr Speaker, we recognise that illegal invasion is immoral. Mr Speaker, the Labour Party therefore finds no objection to the morality of military operations on this basis. However, on the matter of the regime in Iraq, moral questions still remain. 

Mr Speaker, I want to ask the Right Honourable Gentleman; has he an update for the House on how Iraq procured the technological and operational capacity for this invasion? Can he outline for the House, for instance, where the armaments came from that the regime is using? 

If, Mr Speaker, it turns out, as I suspect it may well do so, that some of these armaments were procured through agreements with the British Government, British companies, or those of our allies, will the Right Honourable Gentlemen commit to reviewing our international trading, procurement and arms sales practices to account for this?

Mr Speaker, on the matter of legitimacy in international affairs, there is disagreement between nations on where the source of that legitimacy comes from. Legally speaking, nations have some degree of sovereignty over their own destinies and foreign policies. However, when it comes to matters between nations, the United Nations must be our first and foremost body for resolving disputes. That is not only a matter of law but a matter of values. The Labour Party are an internationalist party. We value cooperation with other nations to further the aims of our movement, from social justice for every person in every land, to promoting democracy, equality and fairness abroad. In doing so, Mr Speaker, the United Nations must serve as our principle vehicle for furthering those aims, which are not just Labour Party values but British values.  Now, Mr Speaker, the Right Honourable Gentleman has outlined for the House that the United Nations Security Council has sanctioned a collective military operation in Iraq. That gives the mission credibility but also legitimacy. The Labour Party recognises this, Mr Speaker, and accepts the legitimacy of the operation. However, we do have further questions on this matter, too. 

Mr Speaker, in this statement, the Right Honourable Gentleman outlined that he instructed our Permanent Representative to push, successfully, for UN mandate on use of force. He then goes on to say that there will be a coalition of nations involved including France and the US. Mr Speaker, can he confirm to the House that this is a UN-led and not a US-or-other-led coalition? 

Mr Speaker, will the UN be taking a leadership role in commanding the mission and if not, can he outline for the House why not?

Finally, Mr Speaker, is the matter of practicality. It is important that military operations abroad are based on very limited, clearly-defined mission objectives and aims. Mr Speaker, the Right Honourable Gentleman has outlined that the purpose of this mission is to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The Labour Party are satisfied that this is a practicable aim however could the Right Honourable Gentleman now outline for the House the specific mission objectives that have been allocated with this deployment?

Mr Speaker, the role of the Opposition is to provide scrutiny of Government policy. In this matter, we find that according to the measures of legitimacy, morality and practicality, this mission has our support. However, I add the caveat that this is dependent on clear mission objectives before the House, thorough investigation into the procurement of armaments and capability for invasion by Iraq, and a UN-led approach to mission control. Mr Speaker, I thank the Right Honourable Gentleman again for this statement and I look forward to a further discussion.
Gruffydd Rhys Morrison MP
Labour and Cooperative
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Member for Easington
Biography  | XP: 3 | Traits: Safe pair of hands
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#3
Mr Speaker I thank the Honourable Gentleman for joining me in the Chamber today and for his cautious support for our action against what I am sure was immense pressure from his boss and fellow Shadow Cabinet Ministers. I am pleased to see Labour swinging behind the Government on this issue of international importance and I will endeavour to keep the House, the Honourable Member, and indeed the whole country as informed as I can throughout the course of this conflict in the name of transparency and bipartisan international relations in the national interest. I wish to associate myself with the comments made about the morality of Iraq's actions, a consensus on this issue is welcome and I look forward to more of it on this issue.

Turning specifically to the questions as posed Mr Speaker I will be as open as I can be, as the Honourable Gentleman knows it was my Right Honourable Friend the Member for East Surrey who laid down the export guidelines in 1985 with regards to exports to Iraq and Iran during the then conflict between the two nations. For the benefit of the House I can reiterate those guidelines: We should maintain our consistent refusal to supply any lethal equipment to either side; Subject to that overriding consideration, we should attempt to fulfil existing contracts and obligations; We should not, in future, approve orders for any defence equipment which, in our view, would significantly enhance the capability of either side to prolong or exacerbate the conflict; In the line with this policy, we should continue to scrutinise rigorously all applications for export licences for the supply of defence equipment to Iran and Iraq. Mr Speaker I believe that these guidelines are sensible guidelines and will continue to enforce them.

The Honourable Gentleman's next two questions can be dealt with together I believe Mr Speaker so I say this to the Honourable Gentleman, it is our belief that many of the arms used by the Iraqi Government are supplied by third parties, particularly China and the Soviet Union, allow me to reassure the Honourable Gentleman that we will be continually reviewing our own practices at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that regulations, guidance, and guidelines are both sufficiently tough so as to ensure that they are fit for purpose and, crucially, followed.

Mr Speaker this operation is not an operation being led by the UN it is an international coalition. Due to the nature of events I cannot fully brief the House on the precise nature of the leadership but I can say that there is international alliance of forces encompassing many of our nearest and dearest allies in NATO, multiple regional allies and partners, in total indeed there are at least 35 nations contributing to the operations that are underway or soon to begin spreading across all corners of the World. I can update the Honourable Gentleman confidentially as there are mission-sensitive aspects to his question which for obvious reasons we do not want our enemies to find out about. In terms of mission objectives I can confirm to the House that we have them, but again so as to not endanger our troops I will not be disclosing them publicly except in so far as I can say that the overarching aim is to see Iraq forced out of Kuwait so that it may resume as an independent and sovereign nation in accordance with the resolution that we were able to pass through the United Nations Security Council.

Mr Speaker as I have said I am more than willing to write to the Honourable Member about the topics I have not been able to address in response to his questions if he would like, he can find me through the usual channels.
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#4
Mr Speaker,

I wish to rise today to speak in support of intervention, and to thank the Government for taking appropriate action. When international justice is at risk, Britain must do her duty to the world - in my eyes, intervening to stop a sovereign state from being invaded by a brutal dictator is a clear example of such an occasion. The strength of the international coalition which has been brought together is proof of the nature of the Iraqi regime, and the necessity of this war. It is not my natural instinct to side with the Government, as is well publicised, but this is the right call, and I hope to be a constructive supporter throughout the crisis.

Could I ask the Minister what actions are being taken, though, to ensure that civilian death is minimised. We know how brutal the Iraqi regime is, and we know that their murderous tendencies are not specific to soldiers. We also know that the destabilising effect of such a war, if not carefully managed, can lead to far more indirect civilian deaths. Will the Government commit to a prolonged involvement in Kuwait to prevent infrastructural collapse, if - and assuming - the initial Iraqi threat is seen off?
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#5
Mr Speaker,

The Government is committed to throwing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait but of course how we fight is just as important as choosing to fight which is why I welcome the Right Honourable Member's first question. Obviously I cannot go into detail about the specifics of our war plan should boots be required on the ground, the walls have ears as they say, but I can commit right now to saying that we are actively seeking to avoid civilian casualties where they are avoidable and will be seeking the swift destruction of Iraq's ability to carry out atrocities to protect the local civilians' right to life. Further to the Right Honourable Member's second question I can commit to examining the situation once we know what it will entail when Iraq have withdrawn from Kuwait, I do not believe we should leave them behind in this situation and we will of course consider all options to ensure that Iraq can never raise their weapons in anger at their weaker neighbours again.
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#6
Mr Speaker,

I thank the Right Honourable Gentleman for his reply and his commitment to keeping the House informed. Indeed, Mr Speaker, it is absolutely right that we recognise the key role that this House play in scrutinising Government policy on conflict and keeping the public abreast of the situation as it changes.

Mr Speaker, I recognise that the Foreign Secretary references the 1985 guidelines on sales of arms to Iraq and Iran. Specifically he notes that there is a clear commitment to preventing the sale of lethal equipment, can he confirm for the House for the avoidance of doubt that both the letter and spirit of this guideline has not been breached? I wonder specifically, Mr Speaker, if the second part of the quoted guidelines, on fulfilling existing contracts, potentially allowed for a breach in the first principles. Can he please confirm to the House that those existing contracts did not include the sale of lethal equipment now being used in the conflict with Kuwait?

Mr Speaker, on the matter of Third Parties, the Right Honourable Gentleman has named the USSR and China as likely traders, can he also make it clear for the House if there is evidence that the United States also sold arms to Iraq that are now being used to invade Kuwait, and if so, can he outline for the House how the Government broached this subject with the US officials, if at all?

I appreciate the sensitive nature of the information that the Foreign Secretary is referring to, however, in his answer he has essentially confirmed for the House that this is not a UN-led mission. That is somewhat disappointing as in cases such as this, it would be more appropriate for the UN to lead and the constituent nations of it to coordinate thereafter. Mr Speaker, can the Foreign Secretary please outline for the House how this decision in leadership came about? Did the UK push for UN leadership, and why was the decision taken not to have such leadership in place at the head of the mission?

On the matter of mission objectives, Mr Speaker, I am unconvinced that the overarching mission objectives are a matter of secrecy. Indeed, while usually tactical objectives remain classified for the duration of a mission, it is perfectly acceptable common practice for a Government to make clear it's strategic or at least overall mission objectives. Mr Speaker, I ask in particular on this matter because it does seem there is a significant difference between the objectives being unveiled in the House and those unveiled by the press.

Mr Speaker, in the press statement on the evening of launch, the Foreign Secretary told the BBC that one of the objectives is to prevent Iraq from having the future capability to launch further attacks. However, in his statement and in further comments in the House, the Right Honourable Gentleman has not mentioned such an objective, only going so far as to say the Government aims at a withdrawal. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that the Right Honourable Gentleman notes the very significant difference. Can the Foreign Secretary now, for the avoidance of both doubt and to ensure transparency and accountability on this matter, inform the House whether or not the mission actively aims to for the dismantling Iraq's capacity for future invasions?
Gruffydd Rhys Morrison MP
Labour and Cooperative
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Member for Easington
Biography  | XP: 3 | Traits: Safe pair of hands
Reply
#7
Mr Speaker,

I thank the Honourable Gentleman for his bipartisan rhetoric on this issue and I will again reaffirm my commitment to keep him and the House fully informed and abreast of developments. With regards to his questions I will address each in turn. Mr Speaker I have no reason to believe that British arms have ended up in Iraqi hands and having consulted with Civil Servants they are equally of the belief that that is the case. In terms of US arms delivered to Iraq I can say that that has been factored in to the battle plan where appropriate but what would not currently be appropriate would be the driving of an "I told you so" wedge between two of the leading powers in this operation. Discussions about arms sales can and will be had at the highest level of government and where necessary we will have them with the highest level of other governments as well.

Mr Speaker with regards to the here and the now I can say that UN leadership of the operation wasn't on the cards, the UN is an international diplomatic organisation not well-placed to coordinate military policy. This is a joint operation of 35 nations with the blessing of the United Nations Security Council. With regards to the final question about military objectives I can say that the primary aim is to force Iraq out of Kuwait, supplementary objectives are being considered and, in light of recent events, being planned for.
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