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Paddy Ashdown: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his generous words earlier and apologise for interrupting

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what must, inevitably, be a short speech. He touched on the United States and mentioned several points of concern. However, there are several encouraging things--the handling of the Israeli problem and of the banana issue, and, more recently, the delicate and subtle handling of the problems in China. We ought to cut the US Administration a little slack before deciding about them. Is it not always the case that American Presidents will often express isolationist rhetoric on the campaign trail, but not in practice when they come to government? I have a suspicion that the current US Administration are much more subtle in many of their international actions than we are sometimes encouraged to believe.

Mr. Anderson: Most of my examples were of events that occurred well after the end of the campaign trail; the decisions were made in government. However, I wholly concur with the right hon. Gentleman. We must see how things work out in practice. However, there are none the less some concerns.

Human rights were a large theme in the remarks of the hon. Member for West Suffolk. In 1997, the new Labour Government pledged to make human rights central to their foreign policy. That pledge has been much derided. The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph are prone to printing easy headlines such as, "And they call it an ethical foreign policy!"

We may hear the phrase "an ethical dimension" rather less nowadays, but human rights are no less central. We continue to make concrete achievements. I can make only headline points, given the time constraints. Our influence was crucial in setting up the International Criminal Court, in developing the European Union code of conduct on arms sales and in making progress on debt relief for the world's poorest countries.

During the past four years, there has been much of which we can be proud. We launched the global programme to challenge torture. We led the international campaign against trade in conflict diamonds. Our support for the war crimes tribunal on former Yugoslavia is well known. UK forces have arrested more indicted Bosnian war criminals than those of any other country.

At home, there have clearly been changes, such as the substantially expanded human rights policy department, the newly created human rights project fund and the way in which non-governmental organisations have been brought in from the cold by public diplomacy and are now part of the discussions and debate in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in posts abroad. We have ratified the protocol of the European Court of Human Rights, banning capital punishment in Britain, and we have lobbied foreign Governments on it.

The Opposition are pursuing a dangerous strategy, which puts Britain's interests at stake, by flirting with the idea of leaving the European Union and with the concept of joining the North American Free Trade Area. For example, by refusing to ratify the treaty of Nice, they would block EU enlargement, creating instability in eastern and central Europe and, indeed, making enemies for Britain in several countries in that region. It is sad that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the shadow Ministers are able to say anything positive about the EU. Surely there must be something positive in our region and

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in the new organisation in which we play such a large part. If the hon. Member for West Suffolk can point to any positive statement, I shall sit down immediately.

Mr. Spring: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to intervene. I should be very happy to send him a great number of speeches on the subject by the shadow Foreign Secretary. I am disappointed that he thinks that we are somehow anti-European simply because we do not believe that the process of political integration with the EU is right ultimately for the continuation and success of the EU, which is the view of the majority of the British people. That could not be further from the truth.

Mr. Anderson: The hon. Gentleman makes my point for me; he can think of nothing, off hand, that his party has said that is positive about the EU. I shall sit down if he can do so.

Mr. Spring: I have repeatedly said that we welcome the advantages of the EU--such as those involving the single market, the environment and the intense co-operation on policing, drugs and other matters--as well as the role that the Community has undoubtedly played in preserving peace in Europe since the war. We have referred to those issues time and again, so I do not understand where the right hon. Gentleman is coming from.

Mr. Anderson: That is a minimalist agenda, beyond which we and our European partners went many decades ago. It is clear that the only way to have influence is to remain at the heart of discussions. Diplomats who served in the United Kingdom delegation to Brussels in the 1980s told me, rather graphically, how we were marginalised and had our interests adversely affected during that time.

Of course there have been some shortcomings in Government policy. Indeed, the Foreign Affairs Committee has been the source of several well-founded criticisms. We say things as we see them in respect of Gibraltar, Zimbabwe, the delay in tightening arms supply to Indonesia and a number of administrative failures involving Sierra Leone. Again, we acknowledge serious failings relating to arms exports and control, but the Quadripartite Committee has done a most valuable job. In its memorandum of December last year, Saferworld said:

We have also banned landmines.

On the basis of the Delphic saying, "Know thyself", my conclusion is that we should identify our strategic goals and the best instruments with which we seek to achieve them. This month, in its departmental report, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office clearly set out those strategic goals under the headings, "Security", "Prosperity", "Quality of life" and "Mutual respect". A collective approach is set out very clearly in the motion. Indeed, I could take exception to nothing in the motion.

Gone are the days when we could achieve such goals--or even some of them--on our own. Perhaps the Falklands conflict in the early 1980s and the transition in Hong Kong will be seen by historians as the last examples of the independent policy for which the hon. Member for West Suffolk has such romantic and obsolete hankerings.

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Now our goals can be achieved only by making a difference within our alliances and by building coalitions, as we did so successfully at the Nice summit. History and geography have given us a unique global reach through a unique series of alliances--NATO, the European Union, the Security Council of the United Nations, G8 and the Commonwealth. In my judgment, the Government have fully recognised that there is no future in pretending to our electorate that nationalist unilateralist solutions are possible. Self-delusion is the worst delusion.

8.45 pm

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution and to speak in the same debate as my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Paddy Ashdown). I know that his speech will be studied in years to come because his predictions have the rather depressing habit of coming true.

I shall concentrate my remarks on the unilateral decision by the United States to reject the Kyoto protocol, and I shall explain why only a multilateral response to the threat of climate change will do. A multilateral response is clearly what the current US President's father wanted when he was in the Oval office. He might not have had in mind the world environment organisation at which my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil hinted, but, under George Bush senior, the United States signed the United Nations framework convention on climate change. It states that developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change. There is nothing in it about developing countries having to take the lead.

I hope that George Bush junior and his advisers are considering a multilateral approach. They have been granted an extra few months in which to define their position and I hope that they will adopt a multilateral approach before the COP 6--sixth conference of the parties--talks resume. If they are not considering such an approach, they had better invest in a better server in the White house, because the "flood Bush" e-mails will continue to arrive. I understand that the server has crashed five times already under the weight of those e-mails and it risks being down permanently if Bush persists with his recipe for American excess and global meltdown.

The United Kingdom's good faith and credibility in relation to climate change and the reduction of CO 2 emissions would be further enhanced were the Government to do what my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) suggested yesterday. They should allow the Climate Change Bill, which has been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), to proceed. It would put on a statutory basis the Labour party's 1997 manifesto commitment of a 20 per cent. reduction in emissions. I cannot think of a better way of ensuring multilateral action than the UK taking unilateral action to reduce its CO 2 emissions by an even more significant amount than the legal commitments that have been made and by demonstrating that that is good for business as well as for the environment.

The Deputy Prime Minister's response to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury was distinctly ungracious and I hope that we shall hear a more considered response from the Minister tonight. What emphatically will not assist in the process of securing multilateral action on climate change are ill-informed

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statements by Ministers. Other Members will have seen the comments by Peter Ewins, the chief executive of the Meteorological Office, who told The Times about a week ago that

The report continued:

Mr. Ewins said that such statements were not supported by science and that it was impossible to say that such weather incidents were caused directly by climate change. I hope that Ministers will avoid making such statements because they can be used by the US to justify its lack of action on the important issue of climate change.

Few people can doubt that climate change is a major threat to mankind; fewer still can doubt that it will require a multilateral approach to tackle that menace. Unfortunately, one of those people is the President of the most powerful nation on earth. It is down to the United Kingdom and our European partners to ensure that he comes to his senses.

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