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Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook: I shall give way, but this must be the last occasion.

Mr. Cohen: I agree with my right hon. Friend, especially about the importance of supporting the United Nations. Why cannot our forces in Sierra Leone operate under the auspices of the United Nations?

Mr. Cook: I assure my hon. Friend that British officers serve with the UN mission in Sierra Leone. Indeed,

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we have the chief of staff to the head of the UN forces there. Our troops in Sierra Leone are mostly engaged in something that the UN force is not mandated to do, which is to train an army for the Government of Sierra Leone. I do not believe that we would assist Sierra Leone by entering into an arrangement with the UN that would not enable us to fulfil that unique, valuable and welcome mission.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cook: I shall make an exception for the hon. Lady.

Dr. Tonge: Before the Secretary of State leaves the subject of Sierra Leone, I should like to draw his attention to the fact that we have still not had a Bill on arms control, although it is nearly five years since the Scott report. I was a great admirer of the right hon. Gentleman for a long time after the Scott report. When we get the draft Bill that is mentioned so briefly in the Queen's Speech, will it include arms brokers and a register of arms brokers? Will it ensure that brokers have to apply for a licence for each transaction that they effect?

Mr. Cook: I am sorry if the hon. Lady was disappointed by the brief reference in the Queen's Speech, but all Bills get only a brief reference. I am glad that she welcomes our commitment to publishing a draft Bill. I assure her that it will tackle the issue of brokering. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who will introduce that Bill, said in his speech last September that we will go further than was indicated in the White Paper. I am sure that the hon. Lady will want to support us when we produce the draft Bill.

Since we last met for a debate other than on European affairs, the Conservative party has published a new international policy statement. I read that statement: it did not take me long. One of the reasons why it did not take me long was that it does not mention a single one of the many international organisations to which I have referred. There is not a word on the UN or the G8, and only a reference in the margin to the Commonwealth. It is the first time in history that a party has tried to produce a foreign policy while solving the problem of not having to work with foreigners.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cook: This really must be the last time.

Mr. Soames: Before the right hon. Gentleman goes on to the comedy in which he is about to indulge himself, could he clarify a matter for the House of Commons? In the excellent annual report on human rights published by his Department, mention is quite correctly made of Iraq and Palestine, yet for some unknown reason Israel is left out of the list. Would he examine why that is so, and perhaps let me know?

Mr. Cook: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning what he describes as our "excellent" human rights report. I am glad that it has been welcomed. I shall happily inquire whether it might be appropriate to refer to events in Israel in a future edition of the report, but as the

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hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the events that are most in his mind have happened since the publication of the current edition.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not regard the comments that I am about to make as comedy. I think they are more tragic than comic. What depresses me most about the policy statements of Opposition Members, and their general approach to foreign affairs, is how little confidence they have in Britain. Their vision of Britain in the world is one of a timid, frightened little thing staying at home with the door locked, clutching a comfort blanket of vetoes in case a foreigner asks a question. It is a Britain with no leadership to offer the international community--a Britain surreptitiously sliding--

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): What document is that in?

Mr. Cook: I am fascinated by that question. I thought that the hon. Gentleman had been to his own party's conference, and approved the document put before it.

As I was saying, the Conservatives' vision is one of a Britain surreptitiously sliding towards the exit door of the European Community. [Hon. Members: "Show us the document."] I am fascinated by the fact that Opposition Front Benchers are asking me to show them a document that they presented to the Conservative party conference. It is final proof that even they do not know their own policies.

Mr. Duncan Smith: The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with simply making a passing reference, and--as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) said--making a lot of jokes. Will he now show us the document to which he referred?

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman is the Opposition defence spokesman. Is he telling us that he has not read the document on foreign policy that is part of the Conservatives' statement about "believing in Britain"?

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): Send it to them.

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend has come up with an excellent solution. We should do a service to the Conservative party, and send all Opposition Front Benchers copies of the policy document that they presented to their party conference. [Hon. Members: "It does not exist."] It does indeed exist. It is called "Believing in Britain".

The Britain in which we believe is one in which the British people are a confident people. We believe in a nation that deserves leadership, not isolation, in the world--a nation that is proud of its values of freedom, decency and justice; a nation that is not afraid of things, and not afraid of negotiating in Europe, because it knows that it will win in those negotiations.

If the election does occur during the current Session, those are the international relations that we will confidently offer the people of Britain--a Britain that is a leading partner in Europe, and a force for good for Europe.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next speaker, I must tell the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a limit of 15 minutes on all Back-Bench speeches.

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5.38 pm

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham): This is a wide-ranging debate on the foreign affairs and defence matters in the Queen's Speech. I regret to say that I think that the Foreign Secretary has done the office he holds no credit with the contemptible speech that he has just delivered.

The Bill to ratify the United Kingdom's signature to the International Criminal Court treaty is, as far as we can see, the only Foreign Office Bill in the Queen's Speech, and I shall comment on it shortly. Interestingly, no Bill is planned to ratify the Nice treaty; I shall comment on that shortly as well.

The plain truth is that the Foreign Secretary is a liability--a liability to the Government and a liability to his country. I do not mind his being a liability to the Government, but I do mind his being a liability to my country.

In what can only be regarded as a proper reflection on his colleagues' view of the right hon. Gentleman's diplomatic abilities, responsibility for just about all the most sensitive issues of foreign policy has been removed. Responsibilities relating to Europe, the middle east, the relationship with Russia and the relationship with the United States have all been transferred from the Foreign Office to Downing street. Our relations with the middle east and north Africa--and, apparently, with South America--are now run by the man, estimable no doubt, who made his name managing Alvin Stardust. That is not a traditional prerequisite for good diplomacy, but it is clearly a major advance on the Foreign Secretary.

In Europe, too, the Chancellor has bludgeoned his way into excluding the Foreign Secretary from involvement in possibly the single most important political decision of our time: whether this country should scrap the pound and join the euro.

Responsibility for the remainder of European policy is being given to a senior official in the Cabinet Office, who is reporting to the Prime Minister. It is hardly surprising. Every time the Minister for Europe, now happily departed from his seat, opens his mouth, support for the single currency falls away.

Eight years ago, the man who is now Minister for Europe signed an early-day motion congratulating Denmark on rejecting the Maastricht treaty. Today, the Foreign Secretary is busy reinforcing his reputation as the man who has been wrong on just about every major foreign policy issue since he entered Parliament. He was against nuclear weapons, proudly sporting his Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament badge. He was wrong. He was violently against our membership of the European Union. He was wrong again. One U-turn might charitably be called a Damascene conversion, but it is dizzying to follow his intellectual odyssey in the past quarter of a century, which has taken him from the wildest ramblings of extreme Europhobia to his current mania for all things European, whatever the cost, whatever the risk.

The Foreign Secretary should enjoy his time at Chevening while he can. I am not the first to note that the brevity of the Queen's Speech points to an early election, which the right hon. Gentleman must view with all the enthusiasm of a Turkey cock looking forward to Christmas. One thing on which everyone is agreed, with the possible--only the possible--exception of the Foreign Secretary, is that whatever the result of the election--[Interruption.] Whatever the result, there will be one

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certain consequence: the next incumbent at the Foreign Office will not be the current Foreign Secretary. His removal will be greeted with huge delight by anyone wanting to take pride in how his country is represented abroad, by the Foreign Office itself and by all our partners and allies, who find themselves constantly astonished by his ineptitude, arrogance and lack of finesse. [Interruption.]

I will come to Nice and the European Union later, but too many times we have seen posturing in Britain, but pushover abroad. In relation to Zimbabwe, an important matter where we have serious responsibilities, one seasoned observer put it accurately enough. [Interruption.]

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