Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Will the Secretary of State spell out what steps she intends to take to ensure that British industry plays as prominent a role in the reconstruction of Iraq as our armed forces did in its liberation? She will recall that in the months prior to the liberation of Kuwait, I set up a task force, largely manned by business people, which operated in the Gulf and in Washington, lobbying to ensure that we obtained a fair share of the contracts. Mercifully, there was less destruction than we anticipated, but we obtained a larger share of contracts than we anticipated, not least in rebuilding the oil fields. We were able to publish a prospectus, setting out what Britain could do. Will the right hon. Lady spell out?

    Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. That was a very long intervention.

    Ms Hewitt: I have already ensured that in awarding contracts, USAID, whose policy, I regret, ties American aid to contracts for American companies, will properly consider as partners British companies with great expertise. Only last week, Baroness Symons, the Minister for Trade and Investment, met British businesses that are interested and have the expertise to offer. An official from British Trade International is already in the middle east working with the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to ensure that the expertise and experience of British companies is placed at the disposal of the Iraqi people as they start to rebuild their economy following Saddam Hussein. We are making sure that British business gets the backing it

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    needs, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that, rather than revert to that old and discredited policy of tying British Government aid to British contracts, we should back British companies to win based on the expertise and experience that they offer the Iraqi people.