|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
27 Mar 2003 : Column 454continued
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Could the acting Leader of the House let us know when a full debate will take place on Iraq? I appreciate and welcome the regular statements on the military situation, but we need a full day's debate to discuss the 200 Iraqi civilian casualties as well as the massive military casualties on all sides, and especially coalition forces' use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs, which will kill and maim many for decades. Those issues should be debated as well as the pressure from Arab nations to bring about a ceasefire and a peace process that does not mean the further destruction of civilian life in Iraq.
Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend knows that coalition forces go to unprecedented lengths to avoid civilian casualties. I urge all hon. Members to treat with extreme caution the claims of the Iraqi regime about civilian casualties. We know from its record that such information is unreliable.
My hon. Friend mentioned weapons. He knows, because the matter has been discussed in the House often, that the weapons that our armed forces use are legal. The specific weapons to which he referred are used not against civilians but military targets. As he also knows, evidence for a health impact of depleted uranium on civilians does not exist.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): On the accountability of Her Majesty's Government to Parliament on the conduct of the war, they have done well to provide for a series of statements from the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. Since so much of our news comes from front-line television footage, which gives a particular perspective in each instance, will the Minister of State for Defence, who has
Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the difference between this conflict and any previous conflicts, even the last Gulf war or the Kosovo conflict, because of the impact of 24-hour television and the embedded journalists with the coalition forces. I shall take his request on board. I emphasise that the Secretary of State for Defence was here yesterday and that he has made himself available regularly. Defence Ministers are obviously extremely busy, but a written brief is placed in the Library every day. It is a useful method of putting the record straight in the way that the hon. Gentleman would like.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): May I ask for a statement on the targeting strategies in the war on Iraq? Many hon. Members will have been shocked to discover that coalition forces have redesignated Basra as a target area. It is a city of 1 million people, half of whom are children. For it to be so redesignated raises serious questions about who the war is targeted against. I should like the Minister, or a Minister, to be able to say categorically that the UK specifically opposes targeting civilian populationstheir marketplaces, and their water and electricity suppliesas well as the intended use of non-lethal biochemical weapons on those communities.
Mr. Bradshaw: There is no targeting of civilians in this conflict. What my hon. Friend says about Basra is absolutely wrong. If he means that Basra is a target for liberation, it is: the most recent news reports that I saw before I came into the Chamber seemed to suggest that some of the civilians used as human shields by Saddam's forces in Basra have escaped the city. We shall have to wait for confirmation of those reports later in the day.
I can only repeat what Ministers at this Dispatch Box have said on a regular basisthat, with lawyers looking over the shoulders of every military commander making a decision, the targeting in this campaign is unprecedented in its care and accuracy.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will understand that the disposal of fallen stock is of great importance for farmers. I understand that the Government will bring forward regulations by the end of April to cover new procedures, but no details have been made available yet to farmers. Before the regulations come to the House, will the Parliamentary Secretary make available full details of the Government's proposals for consultation and discussion with farmers?
Mr. Bradshaw: The right hon. Gentleman raises a matter that I know is of great concern to members of the farming community, not least in parts of the country, such as my constituency, where livestock farming is an important pillar of the economy. I will get in touch with
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): Does my hon. Friend agree that the blue flag of the UN rather than the stars and stripes will best represent the liberation of the Iraqi people once the war on Iraq is concluded? Although he has said that there will be a statement, will he reconsider the forthcoming business? I believe that we need a full debate in the House on how Iraq will be governed after the conflict.
Mr. Bradshaw: I think that the Iraqi flag would be a better symbol of the liberation of the Iraqi people than any other, but we of course want the maximum support, internationally and from the UN, when it comes to the post-conflict redevelopment of Iraq. I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss that in the House. At the moment, however, we are still involved in an armed conflict.
Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): Did the Parliamentary Secretary hear this morning's Radio 4 interview with a senior Ba'ath party official? Will he take the matter up with his colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport? Having that sort of Iraqi propaganda on the BBC is very upsetting for the families of service men and women serving in the Gulf at the moment, but it is also extremely inappropriate in a time of war. We would not have allowed Goebbels this opportunity, so why are we changing policy now?
Mr. Bradshaw: In contrast to the Iraqis, we live in a free country. I would not approve of any form of censorship, but broadcasters have the responsibility to use their professionalism and ensure balance. I recognise that there is much concern about some of the media coverage of the current conflict. As a former broadcaster myself, I know that broadcasters take their professionalism extremely seriously. However, the hon. Gentleman may have a point in connection with the outrageous broadcasting by al-Jazeera of pictures of captured and dead British soldiers. That is intolerable, and against all the international broadcasting conventions.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Should we not have a debate on the humanitarian arrangements in Iraq to handle the current crisis? However hon. Members voted in relation to the war, surely we are all deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis that exists in that country at the moment. For instance, Basra is the gateway to Iraq. It has an extensive dock marshalling yard and a railway line to Baghdad, and if it can be used properly for humanitarian provisions, that is all to the good. We should be able to debate those matters on the Floor of the House.
Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend raises an important point, and he is right. I hope that even those Members who opposed the decision to take military action can rally behind the enormous humanitarian effort that will be required to redevelop Iraq after more than 20 years of misrule and dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. My hon. Friend may be pleased to know that in the past 48
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): When senior Members speak from the Dispatch Box it is important that we can believe what they are saying, not think that they are taking part in stunts. Last Thursday, the Deputy Prime Minister said in relation to the fire dispute:
Mr. Bradshaw: That Second Reading will take place if and when the Government think that it is necessary. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the situation in relation to the fire brigade dispute is fluid. I understand that the union's executive is meeting today. The executive made a recommendation to its membership to accept the pay deal, but it was sadly rejected by the conference. I hope that the executive will endorse an all-member secret ballot so that ordinary members of the fire brigade can settle for a deal that most Members on both sides of the House consider very generous.