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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the United States is not our new-found friend; it has been our friend for a very long time.

I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Razzall. I do not accept the equivalence of the steel dispute and the issue of poverty in developing countries. I am sorry but I believe that they are very different. The sort of equivalence that the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, gave them is inappropriate. My argument in relation to the United States involves not a quid pro quo, as the noble Lord put it, but the fact that it is in its interest for the world's prosperity to be more equally divided, in order to create the safer world to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred a moment or two ago. World prosperity is continuing to grow—we should make no mistake about that—although it currently does so somewhat unevenly. If fewer countries are able to access that growing prosperity, and if thereby the gulf between the rich and the poor becomes ever wider, the unsafe world to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred would become even more of a difficulty.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, can the Minister—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we are out of time now.

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Iraq: Looting

3.8 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, given the United Kingdom's responsibility as an occupying power under international law, no steps were taken to protect Basra University from looters.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, British forces entered the north of the city of Basra at the beginning of April. Their most immediate priority was to engage and defeat enemy forces. As soon as that had been achieved, units were deployed to secure Basra University. Looters were expelled and some stolen goods were recovered. British forces continued to protect the university, which I understand is now open, until the security situation improved.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister accept that that is—how can I put it?—a rather favourable view of what has happened? Some 2 million books, some of which date back to 1015, are understood to have been burnt at Basra University. The astronomy section was destroyed and a great deal of the university was laid to waste. Does the Minister accept that a month after the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, chided my noble friend Lord Redesdale for having suggested that Basra University could be protected, Human Rights Watch today published a report that shows that there are still daily killings in Basra and that looting is continuing? To use its words, there is no adequate security as yet even in that area after dark. Will the Government take urgent steps to arrange for the appropriate personnel who are police-trained rather than militarily-trained to go into the British area of occupation? That is all the more important, given that Mr Sawers, the Government's civil service representative, has now said that the likelihood is that the occupation coalition authority will be in charge for at least another year, and possibly even 18 months.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Baroness that I have given a favourable interpretation, nor that my noble friend Lady Symons in any way chided the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, at an earlier Question Time. I must repeat the facts. The University of Basra in the north of the city was attacked by the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers on 6th April because it was being defended. A BBC report suggested that the last hideout for the Fedayeen in that city was in the university, where many foreign jihadis had signed up to study in the Koranic studies department. One of the main thrusts of our attack took them through he university as they moved towards the Iraqi naval academy. Much damage was done, alas, to the university—not by looters at that stage, but because of the fighting.

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It was necessary to fight to win the war to liberate Iraq and Basra in particular. However, I want to stress that as soon as enemy forces had been defeated and UK forces fell back to secure the area, when they returned looters had been there in the meantime. The British forces expelled between 1,000 and 1,500 looters from the university site and confiscated stolen items. It is a large site of about two square kilometres. One regiment occupied the site for 72 hours before handing over to a squadron of the Queen's Royal Lancers, who continued to protect the site and establish links with lecturers and other university staff. Those are the facts of the situation.

As far as concerns the noble Baroness's general comments about Basra, of course there are still problems at this stage. It would be ridiculous to suggest that any part of Iraq would become a liberal democracy the moment the ruthless dictator fell. In fact, there have been joint patrols by UK military and Iraqi police since 13th April in that city, where we have had responsibilities. Some 800 police are now reported to have returned to work in the area. I am advised that the security situation overall in that city is getting better rather than worse.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the looting that we have seen across Iraq should not detract from the excellent work carried out by British and American forces in liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein? However, would he agree that, despite his very full answer, the looting and violence we have seen is a clear indication that DfID and the MoD comprehensively failed to work together before the conflict on proper contingency planning for how they would manage the peace? In particular, does the Minister agree with the analysis of Clare Short, who said this weekend that because she had been "duped" by the Prime Minister:

    "The preparations for post-conflict were poor, and that is why we have got the chaos and suffering that we have now."?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Baroness's question, however kindly she puts it, and I certainly do not agree with what Ms Short had to say.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, has any action been taken by the British, or are the British prompting their American allies, to protect any of the archaeological sites in Iraq, because there is widescale reporting of looting on a massive scale that will make the destruction of the Baghdad museum seem paltry in comparison?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I know the concern of the noble Lord and other noble Lords on that issue. Any looting of such sites is unacceptable. Coalition forces have attempted to stop that where possible. He knows that Resolution 1483 imposes a new prohibition on trade in or transfer of cultural or religious items. We have been informed by the United States authorities that there are guards now at the Baghdad museum and that looting of its artefacts is under control. The

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United States has retrieved over 40,000 manuscripts and 400 other artefacts that were stolen from the Baghdad museum. I think that it is established now that many items that were reported missing in those early days had in fact been stored in vaults since the beginning of the military operations. However, I do not dispute that there is still a problem as far as cultural sites are concerned. We and our coalition allies are determined to sort that out.

Communications Bill

3.15 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 261 [Public service remits of licensed providers]:

Viscount Falkland moved Amendment No. 189:

    Page 232, line 43, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

"(2) The public service remit for every regional Channel 3 service is the provision of a wide range of high quality and diverse programming which, in particular, includes a substantial range of high quality original production and satisfies the tastes and interests of the part of the United Kingdom for which that service is licensed.
(2A) The public service remit for every national Channel 3 service is the provision of a wide range of high quality and diverse programming which, in particular, includes a substantial range of high quality original production.
(2B) The public service remit for Channel 5 is the provision of a range of high quality and diverse programming."

The noble Viscount said: The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has asked my noble friend Lord McNally and me to move this amendment for him in his place. At the same time I shall also speak to Amendment No. 190, which is down both in my name and that of my noble friend Lord McNally. Amendment No. 189 concerns the Channel 3 service, which was the subject of some debate in the pre-legislative scrutiny that was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. The amendment expressed the concerns that were evident on that occasion about the public service remit for every regional Channel 3 service. There was a concern, which is the substance of the amendment, that there should be a continued provision of a wide range of high quality and diverse programming.

The amendment provides an opportunity to debate the recommendation of the joint committee that the public service remit for each of the Channel 3 services should require urgently the provision of this range of high quality and diverse programming. That would include a high proportion of high quality original production. In particular it should satisfy the tastes

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and the interests of that part of the United Kingdom which that Channel 3 service served. The pressures could be great on the Channel 3 services, as I am sure that noble Lords will realise, with limited sources of advertising and increased strong competition which exists even now before the provisions of the Bill, should they be passed, become an Act.

Amendment No. 190 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord McNally deals with other aspects of Channel 3. In the Government's White Paper of December 2000 they promised that Channel 3 would have continuing responsibilities for a similar range of programming to that of the BBC and Channel 4, albeit with targets set at lower levels. The genres of programming are clearly set out in Clause 260, but the degree to which ITV is expected to abide by them depends on its individual remit. That remit is, perhaps alarmingly, exactly the same as that of Channel 5, even though Channel 3 has a universal reach, which Channel 5 does not. At present, Channel 3 has a share of the peak-time audience of around 33 per cent, whereas Channel 5 has a reach of around 6 per cent. Furthermore, the programme budget of Channel 3 is around six times that of Channel 5.

Channel 3 has an historic place in broadcasting ecology as a mixture of commercial and public service provision. It is a successful competitor to BBC 1 and in particular has been a successful provider over a number of years of regional programming. Channel 5 bears lighter obligations because it was intended that it should be a small, niche commercial channel.

We contend that the public service broadcasting ecology I have mentioned would be greatly undermined if ITV's remit freed it from its Tier 3 obligations. This could be further aggravated by the ownership rule changes, allowing ITV to centralise and to be taken over by possibly a large non-British corporation. In such an environment, it is vital within the British ecology that Channel 3 has a strong public service remit which, to put it as mildly as I can, acts as a strong reminder to any aggressive new owner—whether that be a UK owner or, more possibly, an international corporation—and underwrites the commitment to regional programming and to general factual programming. I beg to move.

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