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Lord Finsberg: My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned my name. The actions taken by the Council of Europe were endorsed by every single member other than the two Cypriots. The press reports which appeared in Cyprus were malicious and false.
Lord Stallard: My Lords, that was not what was felt by the two Cypriots who were members and who would know what they were talking about. I believe that the matter could have been put right and should have been put right.
If when one is in Cyprus one looks across the buffer zone into what was the beautiful city of Famagusta one sees the dereliction. Huge hotels and buildings have been looted and abandoned and are now falling into decay. One can speak to people who will say, "See that building over there. My father had a small hotel next to it and it was our home and our business. Now it is not ours." Someone else will say, "See over there. My grandmother lived there." When one hears people talking in that way and when one sees the Turkish flag flying over such property, one asks, "Why hasn't more been done about it?".
If the Turks are serious in their intent ever to solve the problem they could solve it now by agreeing to hand Famagusta back to the republic in line with Resolution No. 550. I asked that that matter should be raised by the Prime Minister at last week's Commonwealth conference in Auckland and I am waiting for a reply about any report he may have received. Such action would be a sign of willingness to sit down and talk. Mr. Clerides has thrown in his proposal, among many others, for disarmament. The Turks could quite well throw in their proposal to hand back that derelict area. It gains them nothing; no one is there. They are making nothing from it; they are doing nothing with it; and they are allowing it to fall into complete and utter disrepair. "Ethnic cleansing" is not too strong a phrase to use. They have pushed all the Greek Cypriots from the area. Those people have disappeared to Australia, the United Kingdom and all over Europe. Thousands are still missing. The United Nations has passed resolutions asking for their whereabouts and for information about what has happened to them. The situation would be helped if the Turks said, "We will hand that part of the island back to the Republic of Cyprus as a sign of our intent to do something constructive about the problem".
My first suggestion related to disarmament. My second suggestion was to put pressure on the Turks to consider a constructive proposal. My third suggestion is a further measure of pressure. It is to take whatever steps we can to help to speed up the entry of the Republic of Cyprus into the EC. That would be to the benefit of Greeks and Turks alike and it might well put pressure on those in the part of Cyprus that is occupied by the Turks to reach a peaceful settlement within the European context. I do not say that I have always been a convert to the European Community but I believe that there is a real need, desire and determination to make a go of such membership. It must be viewed with some urgency, together with the other issues I mentioned.
We must inject a new urgency into all our deliberations. It is not good enough to say that we will support whatever the United Nations suggests. That is almost like a trade union branch meeting where one resolution after another is passed deploring, demanding or insisting on something. It merely goes in the bin wherever it arrives but we can always say that we have supported an issue. The same is happening as regards United Nations resolutions. This Government state merely that they will support them and do what they can. But they do nothing.
Now the Americans are pulling us by the nose. They have appointed a special representative who states that when he is finished in Bosnia he will make Cyprus his next priority. I hope that he does and I hope that we support him in his efforts because we have made none. If we support him in whatever effort he makes we shall make progress towards a peaceful solution. The northern part of Cyprus is being resettled by Turks. Turkish nationals are being sent to replace Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The figures are staggering. Obviously, that is an attempt to say in future, "Look, it is as good as Turkish now. We may as well accept the situation as it is and partition the island". That is a solution that Britain has used in Northern Ireland, which is a perfect example. It was wrongfully partitioned. It was partitioned originally by settlement mainly from England and Scotland. Ultimately, it was partitioned 70 years ago and we have not yet solved the problem.
Therefore, the situation in Cyprus will develop in that way unless we recognise the problem as it is. It is a serious problem. It is a powder keg in that part of the world. We must do something about it. We must discuss seriously the propositions that I have put forward which are supported by the United Nations and its General Assembly as well as the population of the Republic of Cyprus.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, your Lordships will not be surprised that as a member of the Jewish community, I find it difficult to speak in this debate on any subject other than that raised by the assassination of the late Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. It was gratifying that in the gracious Speech, there was reference to the desire and intention of Her Majesty's Government to assist in pushing forward the peace process. Indeed, as we know, the present Foreign Secretary has undertaken recently a mission, the ultimate success of which we are not yet certain, to try to bring about a movement on the Syrian front. That would be of considerable importance because if Syria enters the peace process, so inevitably will Lebanon and at that point, Israel will not, at any rate on its land borders, feel the degree of isolation which has been its lot.
Apart from what might be done by a roving Foreign Secretary, who is clearly involved in other important matters, the question is then as to what else the British Government can do to forward the peace process.
It must be admitted that Britain starts with something of a handicap as regards influencing Israeli policy. So long as any of the survivors of the creation of the state of Israel are still around, the memory of Ernest Bevin and his efforts to strangle the nascent Israeli state will not be forgotten.
Therefore, although much goodwill has been created, in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and the present Prime Minister, in their visits to Israel, it is still worth remembering that it was not until 30 years after the creation of the state that a British Foreign Secretary, in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who made such an important contribution to our proceedings this afternoon, visited the country.
But I think that there are ways in which Her Majesty's Government could assist the process. Perhaps I may indicate the way in which I approach the problem. It has been said in the press and elsewhere that the problem is now an internal one; that it is a matter of the serious conflict that exists within Israeli society and politics about the peace process and its ultimate possible outcome. Although the fact that the assassination has now been shown to have been the result of a conspiracy rather than an isolated act is very important, it remains the case that one cannot understand the psychological atmosphere in which those rooted objections to peace flourish unless one recollects that even assuming that Israel's arrangements with its immediate neighbours are satisfactorily resolved--and that is a big "if"--Israel is still a country under a major threat.
That is a major threat from two quarters. In the first place, it is under threat from--and various incidents have shown this--those elements in the Arab world among the Arab peoples and the Palestinians themselves who repudiate the whole idea of making peace; who stick to the original wish of the Palestinian national movement that no Jewish state should exist on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.
Your Lordships may say that, as is bound to be the case in a matter of this complexity, there are many ancestral memories, hatreds and regrets. But it should not be impossible to convince those Arab countries which are also threatened by those movements, including, for example, the Gulf states, with which we have close associations, that we do not tolerate that kind of activity in our capital city. It is wrong that Hamas should make London its capital and be able to publish here newspapers which advocate the destruction of a friendly state. It is wrong that another organisation, whose translation is, I believe, the Liberation Party, should take a leading role in trying to dragoon Islamic students on our campuses into a single camp and to threaten the activities of Jewish students and their organisations.
The attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to that more than once by the National Union of Students and it is surely within our power to do something about it. I was glad to notice that we set an example by agreeing to the French request that persons involved in planning bombing campaigns in France should not be given automatic asylum in this country and a position from which to further their activities.
But France can survive. France will not be overthrown by Algerian militants planning or plotting from outside the country. Israel feels itself vulnerable in a way in which France will never feel itself vulnerable. Israel is small; it is surrounded; and it has, beyond those movements, two major powers which are dedicated to its destruction. One of those powers is Iraq. We have learnt recently of the role which British forces played in diminishing the threat to Israel from Scud missiles during the Gulf War. But even those brave activities could not wholly remove the threat. Israel was the first country to be the victim of a Scud missile directed from a foreign country with which it has no border. The memory of that is likely to remain powerful.
As we know, Iraq is a threat also to certain countries in the region, notably some of the smaller Gulf states which are entering into both economic and now diplomatic relations with Israel. It is important that they should have assurances that we are not thinking of bringing back Iraq into the community of civilised nations.
The threat from Iran is worse. Though Iraq may have planned to have nuclear and biological weapons--from the investigations of the United Nations we still do not know the full truth--Iran is a much larger and more powerful country. Despite its appalling record, internally and externally, it has apparently managed to escape some of the isolation that has befallen Iraq.
It may have passed unnoticed--there were only a few sentences on this topic on the radio the other day--that the German Parliament, which is not the most vigorous of legislatures (as Germany's best friends will admit), has come out against continued toleration by the German Government of the activities of Iranian agents in that country. Indeed, it has questioned the unwillingness that Germany has shown to go along with its European partners in trying to prevent the escalation of Iran's military power. That was one of the reasons why noble Lords, who spoke earlier on more general subjects, were so right to emphasise the importance of improving our relations with Russia, if possible. If under pressure from the west and Russia, Iran will have to cease threatening its neighbours through either subversion or violence. It seems to me that the peace process in the Middle East is closely linked with the general way in which we look at the development of the country's foreign policy.
There is another aspect to it. It is not only psychologically overwhelmingly important that encouragement should be given to Israel to accept that peace will not be dangerous; it is important to help the nascent Palestinian authority. The Minister referred to the amount of money that Britain had already directed to the Gaza Strip. Clearly, there is need for a considerable further infusion of foreign aid of various kinds, primarily into Gaza but possibly into the less fortunate parts of the West Bank eventually. While no one will wish to press necessarily the claims of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip against those of other countries, whose ill fortune has been so eloquently described by a number of noble Lords, there is a source of revenue, not in this country, but in the Arab world, which with a little prodding may usefully be directed towards assisting the Arab inhabitants of the Palestinian entity. The amount of money spent on house property in London by Arab potentates would go some way to relieving the misery of the Gaza Strip. Although we are in no position to tell Arab potentates how to spend their money, we claim to have influence in the Arab world. I believe that influence in that respect can be exercised to good purpose.
Ultimately, one must hope that the interlocking mechanisms for development in the region, which were outlined at the recent conference in Amman--in which I believe the United Kingdom took a constructive part--will in the end make the inhabitants of Palestine no
Lord Jakobovits: My Lords, the gracious Speech, as has just been mentioned in a splendid contribution, pledged the Government's continuing support for the Middle East peace process. Reference has been made to this in several contributions this afternoon, most notably the speech to which we have just listened. That dealt primarily with foreign policy elements on which I do not claim to be anything like equally competent to comment. Therefore, I speak on the same subject overall but without overlapping what has just been communicated to us.
Unfortunately, I was unable to add a few words to the moving tributes paid in your Lordships' House and in another place to the memory of Prime Minister Rabin on the day of his funeral a week ago on Monday. As President of the Conference of European Rabbis, I had to conduct an urgent meeting of the conference in Zurich that day. Allow me, therefore, to take this opportunity to speak of this awesome tragedy and its traumatic after-effects. In the Jewish tradition anything that disgraces Jews or Judaism is called a desecration of the Name of God. Anything which does honour is called a sanctification of the Name of God. The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, particularly because the crime was perpetrated by a Jew claiming to act out of religious motives, was perhaps the greatest desecration of God's Name in Jewish annals. Conversely, the unprecedented honours shown to the bereaved family, the stricken Government and people of Israel at the funeral, attended and addressed by scores of world leaders, constituted an unparalleled sanctification of the Divine Name. The presence of the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the leaders of the opposition parties, the President of the United States, the leaders of virtually all the European countries, and also King Hussein of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt and other Arab leaders, was profoundly appreciated and offered real comfort to a nation still stunned by shock, grief and anxiety.
As happens so often with perpetrators of evil, in the long run they achieve the opposite of what they intend. For the maintenance of civilised life, it is vital that terrorism and acts of violence must never succeed. There are indications that the peace process, far from having been sabotaged, will be given new momentum by Prime Minister Peres, co-architect with Mr. Rabin of the historic agreements so far reached. Very recent visitors to Israel have reported Israeli taxi drivers--usually the best barometers of public opinion--saying that they have been adamantly opposed to the peace process out of fear that the Arabs can never be trusted, but now that they have seen the sincerity of the sympathy expressed at the funeral by some Arab leaders, perhaps past attitudes will have to be revised. For no section of the Jewish people has the blow been
There is little comfort in the knowledge that other great faiths, too, have manifested murderous fanaticism. In the name of Christianity the Crusaders in the Middle Ages carried out their campaigns of massacre and pillage against scores of Jewish communities, and religion proved the ultimate source of implacable and bloodstained hostility in Northern Ireland. Among Moslems the very term "Jihad" or "Holy War" points to the ingredient of religion in the cocktail of war and violence.
Religious Jews had thought themselves immune until the dreadful massacre of Arab worshippers in Hebron early last year, now followed by that black day 10 days ago. Once again we are warned how easily even people who until recently were held up as the finest examples of idealism, selflessness and moral virtue, can be seduced by a few extremists. I speak not only of the events of comparatively recent times but also of those who have in one form or another condoned the crime. For them the unity of the land of Israel under Jewish control became a supreme article of faith, obscuring the most fundamental teachings of Judaism. The inflammatory attacks on the peacemakers turned into virulent and irresponsible charges of treason, construed by some fanatics as a licence to kill. What fearful power attaches to words when uttered by purveyors of extremism of any kind.
Of course, as in most human conflicts, this is not a black and white situation, with the onus only on one side. The apparent official unconcern with the fate of the settlers certainly generated much resentment. More importantly, the fiercely secularist policies pursued by members of the Israeli Government increasingly alienated wide sections of the Israeli public from all traditional Jewish values. It widened the cultural gulf and accentuated the bitterness within the land.
These ominous tensions might have been reduced had spiritual leaders of the more radical groups not turned to ultra-nationalist politics but instead demonstrated by precept and example the splendour of truly Jewish life; how it could have cemented the unity of the Jewish State by common ideals, reducing the curse of crime, vice and broken homes, thus helping to create a model society of Judaism in action. Such pristine ideals once inspired these pioneers, and one hopes the present tribulations will restore that vision. There can be no Jews without Judaism, any more than Judaism without Jews.
The challenge to Jewish spiritual leaders is now grave indeed. My successor, Chief Rabbi Dr. Sacks, in his resolute Albert Hall address on Sunday, spoke of hanging his head in shame. For my part the resolution which I drafted and which was adopted unanimously at our European rabbis' conference in Zurich proclaimed:
In an agonised burst of soul searching and contrition, some disciples of the very teachers who began to worship the Land of Israel even more than the God of Israel have turned to me, as to other rabbis, in a quest for atonement. They realise they have been misled on the true priorities of Judaism. Some are even considering a public fast to demonstrate their striving for a faith of which the Book of Proverbs states:
Jews have prevailed over immense adversity in the past. Sustained by our faith and encouraged by our friends, I am confident the present grave crisis will be overcome to bring stability and moral strength to Israel, and to inaugurate an era of enduring peace with all her neighbours through moral rectitude and a passion for justice.
Lord Bramall: My Lords, I warmly welcome what there is in the gracious Speech on foreign affairs and defence. There is, for instance, the emphatic statement that national security remains of the highest importance. The Government will continue to support NATO, promote Britain's wider security interests by contributing to the maintenance of international peace and stability and strengthen the effectiveness of the UN in this respect. On that matter I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Healey, in what he said about the UN.
Indeed, who would question that at the heart of our foreign and, where necessary, an appropriate defence policy, should be the constant seeking after honourable and lasting peace in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, in former Yugoslavia and in Africa, to mention just some of the areas of conflict in this still dangerous world? I was also pleased to see a reference, albeit brief, to the development of more effective European defence arrangements under the WEU, because, whatever may have been implied, or perhaps misunderstood, at Blackpool, we must, if we are ever to match our resources and commitments, have greater co-ordination and harmonisation of our defence policies with our European partners. Nothing else is possible or makes sense.
Of course we do not want, and I am glad to say are unlikely ever to have, a Maastricht Rifles or totally impractical and unnecessary mixed manning; but our research and development and equipment programmes need to be developed on a European basis; we need, through the WEU, a strong European pillar in NATO; and we need some combined command machinery to allow joint operations to take place on a European basis should such situations be judged on either side of the Atlantic, as one can so easily envisage, as being more of a European than American concern. None of that would weaken NATO, which is the ideal machinery for military action if everything is in place, although the command machinery for it may be a bit top-heavy at the moment.
I was also pleased to read of the Government's intention to encourage a co-operative relationship between NATO and Russia. That is very important, and we must pick our way carefully because I can see countries in eastern Europe, particularly Poland which has been so badly abused and dealt with in the course of this century, being both considerably alarmed about what may emerge in Russia after the Yeltsin era and also wanting firm military guarantees from the West should they feel threatened. The lesson of history must be that getting the balance of power right is what will produce stability and peace. In the 1920s we got it wrong in one direction and that led to getting it wrong in the 1930s in the opposite direction, particularly after the Soviet-Nazi pact. If the NATO commitment, let alone NATO troops, were ever pushed forward to the eastern borders of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, I believe that that would be seen by the Russians and Ukrainians as tipping the balance of power too far against them, with some obvious potential dangers of reverting to the Cold War. Some form of mutual guarantees on the integrity of Poland and other eastern states, as perhaps implied in the gracious Speech, may be a better way of dealing with the real anxieties of eastern Europe.
I was delighted to hear of the Government's intention to introduce a Bill on the legislation governing our Reserve Forces. Over the years those forces have provided a significant contribution to the effectiveness of our Armed Forces and continue to do so. Even within the existing legislation reservists are supporting current operations, and I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their professionalism and dedication. The changing international security environment means that wider powers are now required if the reserves are to continue to play a full part. Those wider powers are welcomed by the volunteers themselves and by all those who care for the Reserve Forces. Therefore, I hope that that important Bill can be enacted as a matter of urgency.
I am perhaps more concerned with what was not in the speech but which is fundamental to our defence policy. History must have taught us that the price of the peace we all seek is not only eternal vigilance but also a clear commitment and a balance of power which is seen to be acceptable. That inevitably requires sufficiently strong military forces to give credibility to our foreign policy and to our good intentions. There are a number of matters which should still be of concern to your Lordships' House if our Armed Forces are to continue to make a contribution to that commitment.
In an era of manpower-intensive peace-keeping and humanitarian operations, perhaps I may concentrate on the very important subject of manpower and recruitment in the British Army, where the chickens are coming home to roost with a vengeance, as so many of us have for so long warned that they would.
The fighting arms are massively under strength. That much-respected defence correspondent Robert Fox, in an excellent article on 21st October in the Daily Telegraph, quoted a shortfall of 8,000 recruits to produce even the planned trained strength for the
All that is happening at a time when the Army has already one-third of its barely 100,000 trained strength on operational duties, and when we may be required to provide up to 15,000 men for an indefinite period to monitor peace in Bosnia. That would put the ratio up to 50 per cent. In short, whoever can or cannot tell us to fight, the truth of the matter is that, unless we do something about it very soon, we shall no longer have the strength to make a worthwhile contribution in any conflict situation worthy of the name which lasts more than a few weeks. My own feeling is that we have reached that stage now.
So, to what should we attribute this increasingly serious state of affairs? Are we to believe that we have suddenly become a nation of wimps, in which our young men have no interest in serving their Queen and country and are not robust, enterprising and adventurous enough to undertake the undoubtedly arduous training required? That is not borne out by the performance of our forces in Northern Ireland, the Falklands and the Gulf and, more recently, in Bosnia. Our young men and women, once they are recruited, compare most favourably with any past generation, and their reputation throughout the world with friends and potential foes alike has never stood higher.
No, my Lords, the cause is much more likely to lie in the precise way the Armed Forces have been handled politically over the past five to six years, which have seen, year after year, savage financial cuts and literally scores of studies and reviews following each other in bewildering succession, on every conceivable area of activity (some of them with the most obscure rationale), so that no one in the Armed Forces knows where they stand or what is coming next. The overriding imperative of trying to save money, come what may, is there for all to see, but in all these exercises it has been almost as if the Government did not really know what the British Armed Forces were for. They may not have been alone in that.
First we had Options for Change--in reality "options for cuts"--which, however sensible it may have been in the political climate at the time, with all the euphoria over the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and strong political demand for a peace dividend (even if we were about to embark, with some difficulty I may say, on a full-scale war in the Gulf), manifestly overdid the cuts in Army manpower, with a Treasury imposed shortfall of 7,000 on the Army manpower ceiling below that which Ministers and the General Staff had agreed was the optimum figure.
Two years later there was the defence costs study (because the Chancellor required still more). This, under the catchy, but not completely accurate, marketing title of Front Line First, spawned some 30 to 40 more subsidiary studies which, although they produced savings which allowed the services to afford to purchase better equipment than otherwise might have been the case, added to the general upheaval, turmoil and uncertainty, even in the front line which it was supposed to safeguard.
Now we have the Bett Report on the whole structure of the services, among other things, advocating bringing service life more into tune with civilian practice. All the time, these studies apart, every devolved budget was being squeezed and squeezed so as to get down to some entirely bureaucratic perception of what constituted the essential core of defence forces activity.
The problem was that, whereas there were some good points in all of those studies, the cumulative effect has been that the core ethos of what makes a fighting force tick has been inexorably eroded so that few serving in the forces now have confidence in what will happen in the future. For instance, they have seen military music, which although apparently peripheral is in fact very important for morale as well as public knowledge of and esteem for the Armed Forces, needlessly cut to the bone and beyond, as they have the education services which are so helpful in building up usable qualifications, which are a strong factor in retaining people in the services. They have seen the medical services, so vital to the morale of families as well as servicemen and women, brought to a parlous state, particularly in the field of surgery, and unable to function properly in peace or in war. The latter could have very serious consequences if we had to mount another operation like the Gulf. And they have seen so much always considered to be an essential part of man management within the chain of command impersonally privatised or made into agencies, with lines of responsibility becoming blurred. Above all, in the so-called rationalisation of the training machine, many of the links and much of the motivation of the regimental system have been lost, further impersonalising service, which undoubtedly affects commitment and desire to serve, all of which so much depend on loyalty to the regimental family. Sad as it is to say, it is not Brussels which is likely to tinker around, rationalise our cap badges and regimental system, and degrade our spirit of service. It is this Government who have actually done so. The money may have been saved but it is producing totally the wrong climate in which to attract and hold recruits.
What can and should the Government be doing about it? I have no doubt that the noble Earl will be able to tell us some of the steps that the Ministry of Defence is now taking, rather belatedly. But in general it should be leaving the Armed Forces more to their own devices for a period of consolidation. You cannot easily recruit people into a manifestly contracting occupation, which is ever in the news as being cut, here, there and everywhere; and you do not exactly make it easier to persuade potential recruits to take the initiative and make the difficult initial step, first, by rationalising all the specialised recruiting offices and lumping them with
You certainly do not gain recruits when you have insufficient numbers of units for the commitments undertaken, when everyone is so overstretched that spare time and family life go out of the window. If the present commitments, in particular those in Bosnia, continue as at the moment, and perhaps even increase as predicted, we might need more units but we certainly need stronger establishments in the units that we have in order to relieve the internal overwork and overstretch. Moreover, we certainly do not want to persist in the redundancy of those who want to serve merely because of some theoretical and wholly inadequate manpower ceiling figure insisted upon by the Treasury. Indeed, the turning off of recruiting in order to remain within that figure has contributed much to the present position. Experience has shown that once you cap recruiting you cannot easily turn it on again, so the Ministry of Defence has only itself to blame.
Nor do you keep up the strength of your fighting units by excessively cutting such strong runners in the motivation and recruiting stakes as the Guards (with a cut of 45 per cent.) the Gurkhas (with a cut of 65 per cent.), and other regiments which have the potential to recruit very well in the areas to which a healthy regimental system links them.
On 14th July I said in your Lordships' House that it would be madness to make redundant a large number of Gurkhas--well over a thousand--who are trained in a wide variety of skills, including parachuting, when the infantry and the Parachute Regiment are so much below strength. I am delighted that the Ministry of Defence has now decided to retain for three years after 1997 at least 400 Gurkhas who would otherwise have been made redundant. That is excellent news because it provides the most immediate economical and short-term palliative for the strengthening of our front line.
But that does not mean that we should not put a high priority on getting the right number and right quality of recruits for the future. If the Ministry of Defence is to do that, it cannot go on looking at the services as just another occupation in which profit and loss are the primary considerations. What you are looking for, what you need to reward directly or indirectly, and certainly to encourage, is total commitment to the primary role of fighting the Queen's enemies. Those you are looking for are unlikely to engage for peacekeeping duties and nothing else, important as those duties are. In any case, to be good peacekeepers they have also to be trained for more general combat, otherwise they will deteriorate as peacekeepers. General Rose will tell you that absolutely adamantly. As was quoted by Robert Fox in his excellent article, they have to be ready to cross that start line in the cold light of dawn, come what may, and to show the true spirit of the warrior--the will to face danger, the will to take risks, and the will, if need be, to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, it is my great misfortune once more to follow a splendid act. It happened in the defence debate in July. I was deeply impressed. I am sorry to say that I shall say a little of the same but nothing like so well.
The noble Lord, Lord Healey--the only Member of this House who calls me "gorgeous"--made an impressive and fascinating global speech. I must continue to stick to my more limited last. I have to say, as I have been saying for five years in this House, that because Russia's leadership and ideology have not fundamentally changed, its instability and nostalgia for the past remain a potential threat to peace. Unless NATO and its members retain the power to deter, the future for peace continues to be at risk. There is a phoenix rising from the ashes which may not be a friendly bird. While I understand the arguments for bringing Russia within Europe rather than excluding it, we have to remember (if I may change my metaphor) that even the most high minded geese rarely succeed in influencing a fox once he has been invited in and that Mr. Churkin is a master of the old Russian tactic of neutralising the enemy. That is one more reason for relief that the ineffably awful Secretary General who was especially vulnerable to Mr. Churkin's undoubted charms should have departed. I may say that I find it disgraceful that Mr. Claes should ever have been appointed. We could hardly have chosen a better way to demean the role of NATO; and I am not ashamed of saying that.
I am therefore not reassured by our present state of defence. Russia has a military strength of 1,800,000 men supplemented by a further 2,250,000 men--the border troops, the MVD and KGB troops, all those charmers who operated in Chechnya--together with heavy equipment and air and sea power. There are in addition the forces of the CIS which is now developing a single air defence system and integrated equipment. The strategic rocket force is the priority. Russia has developed a new ICBM, the TOPOL, a new operational tactical missile, the FAKEL, demonstrated to foreign buyers at Kapustin Yar, a new tank, the T90, and a new SU 35 superfighter. The Russians plan to sell 400 of these. What if the Germans prefer that to the Eurofighter?
In reply to helpful overtures from NATO, no doubt part of our declared wish to encourage a co-operative relationship with Russia, Russia has served notice that she will not adhere to the flank limitation clauses of the CFE treaty if they do not suit her. Forty tonnes of chemical weapons have not been destroyed and are
Let us look nearer home where the Treasury's chickens, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, are coming home to roost. It seems that--surprise, surprise--recruiting for the services through Jobcentres does not work. It does not bring in recruits. Abolishing recruitment centres saves money in the short term but something has gone wrong with what our business oriented White Paper calls the customer supplier chain. Would-be recruits have questions to ask about the difficulties as well as the satisfactions of a service career which only servicemen can answer. So a short-term economy has proved a long-term disaster, as has the abolition of the junior leader schemes. Is it true that the teeth arms of the Army are 2,000 short--I understand, again from the noble and gallant Lord, that it may be more--and the infantry 5 per cent. below establishment? I rejoice that one result has been to keep some Gurkhas. But anything less like,
As for what is laughingly called strategic planning and management of defence, it seems that out of the 50 military tasks defined in the White Paper, task 3.7 (contribution to operations under international auspices)--in this case Bosnia, an open-ended commitment if ever there was one--and task 1.5 (military aid to the civil power in Northern Ireland) between them account for 50 per cent. of our trained manpower of 106,500 men. Bosnia is clearly the larger part of that 50 per cent. No wonder there will be even less time for training an Army whose strength has hitherto been its high professionalism.
I quoted the steep increase in Russian defence spending. Ours is expected to decline by 14.5 per cent. in real terms from 1992 to 1997, and down to 2.8 per cent. of GDP. We are told proudly that this is above the average GDP spending on defence by our European allies--the Greeks and the Portugese, I suppose. That is very relevant since they are our allies, not potential adversaries.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Park: she always makes it abundantly clear why it is that I disagree with her. There can be no doubt in the matter. In a situation in which there is a great deal of doubt, it is sometimes refreshing to know where one stands.
However, not all of the gracious Speech deserves to be opposed. It contains some phrases with which I find myself in very considerable agreement. I quote, for example, from paragraph 5 on the first page:
I want now to complain, not of a matter that is in the gracious Speech but of one that ought to have been included and is not there. I just quoted a paragraph that shows the Government in a peace seeking mode. The most important development in that area is not mentioned at all in the gracious Speech; namely, we
The United Nations Secretary General immediately passed the resolution to the court. Last February the court announced that it had invited states to make submissions by 20th June 1995. Oral proceedings are now being held at The Hague and are, I believe, about to reach a conclusion. The court is expected to give its opinion early next year.
Some 43 governments have made submissions. The rumour is that a clear majority came down in favour of making nuclear weapons illegal. I do not know what the British Government said. Perhaps we shall be informed when the noble Earl replies to the debate--at least, I hope that we shall; I am sure he will say something on the subject. I shall listen with great interest. At the moment, my information is not very good. I understand that the Government are trying with the French to scupper the whole thing. I hope that is not true. If they are, they should bear in mind that opinion polls show that 80 per cent. of Europeans are against French testing, and 76 per cent. of British are of the same mind. So the vast majority of us believe that it is John Major who is wrong, wrong, wrong. Perhaps his listeners thought he was reminiscing.
The leaders of the small minority of nuclear weapon holding states--which, as was pointed out, command the Security Council; I believe that most are nuke-holders--each possess the ability individually to start a nuclear war. Such a war could destroy civilisation, if not life on Earth. The nuclear states are under pressure from the non-nuclear states to support the General Assembly resolution.
Since other, less lethal, weapons are already categorised as illegal, and the Government are about to ratify such a convention in respect of chemical weapons, it seems to be at least possible, perhaps even probable, that the court will agree with the General Assembly resolution and will declare nuclear weapons to be illegal. We shall see. Perhaps that explains the tactic of the nuclear powers, which seem to concentrate not on arguing the impossible argument that such a weapon can be regarded as legal while, for example, a laser weapon, which can only inflict a minor amount of damage compared with a nuclear weapon, is regarded as illegal. So it seems that the nuclear powers, faced with that impossibility, are concentrating on urging the court not to give an opinion rather than argue for the legality of a weapon which is illegal by all previous standards.
If the court decides to give an opinion early next year, which I understand to be its present announced intention, and if that opinion is in accordance with the General Assembly resolution, that would not be the end of the nuclear threat but it might well be the beginning of the end. Surely we must all agree that that would be "a consummation devoutly to be wished".
The court's opinion is advisory. It carries no enforcement powers. But a positive opinion might reasonably be expected to bring a fresh urgency and reality to the aim of ridding the world of this menace. While nuclear weapons abound, a future Saddam must eventually acquire the power to terminate a civilisation that he despises. Action which might reasonably be expected to follow a positive opinion from the court is exemplified by the START agreement between Russia and America and, as I said, if there can be a convention outlawing chemical weapons, there is no reason why nuclear weapons should not follow.
What is the Government's position? Will they remove any objection that they may have had to the court reaching an opinion? If, by a declaration of illegality the court condemns the nuclear weapon, will they take part in seeking urgent agreement to bring its testing and deployment to an end? Will they support a convention to ban nuclear weapons, to make them illegal? What is the position of the Opposition? I do not know that either. Will my noble friend join me in urging that course upon the Government? Let us have an opinion against nuclear weapons and then we can all work to give peace a chance. I hope to hear from my noble friend Lord Judd, when he makes his speech towards the end of the debate this evening, that he will join me in making that request to the Government. I need hardly say I hope that the Government will accede to the request But I hope equally strongly that my noble friend will join me in making it.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the gracious Speech mentions new Reserve Forces legislation and ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I very much welcome those and look forward to debating them in this House.
Tonight, I should like to concentrate on some other important defence aspects which concern our air power capability. Last month there was considerable speculation in the media about the Royal Air Force getting American F16 fighter type aircraft. I was grateful to receive a reply from the noble Earl, the Minister, to my Question for Written Answer on that subject. He reassured me that there were no plans to acquire that well regarded but now dated aircraft. I hope that he can also reassure the House that the potential damage that that piece of news could do to our industry and the Royal Air Force is now better understood by the new team of defence Ministers. If such an order were ever placed, it could decimate and perhaps destroy our own advanced aerospace defence industry. It could threaten to deny the Royal Air Force a high performance air superiority fighter, which it has lacked for over a decade and which will only be put right when it gets Eurofighter.
There are also serious operational drawbacks. For example, the F16 cannot be refuelled in flight by our tanker aircraft. It carries a different range of weapons from our current fighter, the Tornado F3. Even as a stalking horse attempt to squeeze a lower price out of the Eurofighter consortium, it looks very thin to me.
There will be some in the services who would like an air superiority capability now, which the RAF has lacked for far too long. But they need to be aware of the side effects that such a deal could bring in its wake. It is instructive to ask why the Royal Air Force still lacks the ability to match the air superiority performance of many of today's air forces.
The answer lies in part almost two decades ago. Then the RAF, faced with ever more sophisticated Warsaw Pact air defences, lacked the ability to penetrate them to reach their ground targets. We desperately needed the bomber variant of Tornado. But if we were to get it and retain our industrial place in the development and manufacture of that very successful aircraft, we had to take over 150 of the fighter variant of Tornado. Today's discussions about upgrading the Tornado F3, which is not an air superiority fighter but an all-weather bomber destroyer, need to be seen against that background. It is a salutary lesson about the significant downstream legacy of a major procurement decision taken over 20 years ago.
Nevertheless, much can still be done very well (and even better after their upgrade) with those F3s. In the hands of their highly trained and dedicated air crews they have shown on many occasions in Bosnia and in the Gulf that they are able to operate against opposition which those in other aircraft types find hard to tackle. I hope therefore that Ministers will now concentrate their efforts on the political and international collaborative arena to ensure that Eurofighter reaches frontline service as quickly as possible. It is very disturbing that it is not yet ready for production and appears to be running well over estimates. If he has time, perhaps the Minister can say when a production order will be placed.
I make much of this one issue because it relates to a key ingredient of our national capability to engage in high or low intensity conflict. It is not exclusively an RAF issue. It goes to the heart of the Government's intention to remain a world player in peace-keeping and now in peace-enforcing operations. If we are to do that successfully and not put at unnecessary and morally
Some defence commentators still find it hard to accept that the contribution of air power to military and political success has taken such far-reaching strides in the past few years. For many years, going back to the immediate pre and post World War II years, and the writings of Douhet and Mitchell, and many others in the earlier days of air power, aspirations far outreached the technical ability of air forces to achieve what was claimed for them.
Only recently have we seen technology make possible the amazing accuracies now widely seen on our television screens; effectively (in the jargon) putting the "bomb in the bucket". In spite of this, much is still made of the assertion that air forces cannot hold and take ground, as though to infer that they are not really what matters. I agree the assertion; but I strongly object to the inference. That does no credit to the commentator's understanding of modern conflict, nor to the key place in it of offensive air power.
If Her Majesty's Government want to maintain their position as a major contributor to conflict resolution, if necessary by military means, then they must equip the services with the right air power capabilities to carry that out. In agreeing to the mid-life update of the Tornado bomber variant, the previous ministerial team in the MOD clearly understood that and reached the right decision.
Recent experience in the Gulf conflict and in Bosnia demonstrated more vividly than any words of mine what a key role and contribution modern offensive air power now has to offer. The Gulf War did not last just a hundred hours--the hundred hours that it took the coalition ground forces to achieve all their main battle objectives. It was the concentration of force, skilfully directed and applied from the air, which ensured that even the most elite of the Iraqi forces did not have the stomach to fight, even to defend their own country from our attacking formations. They were quickly beaten in the air. Weakening their ground formations from the air took longer, but the swift victory of our ground forces owed much to the air supremacy so effectively won by the coalition's air campaign.
So too in Bosnia: when military advice to use heavy force was politically accepted, we saw the impact of a well directed and flown air campaign. Indeed, it is the combination of wills, of both military and political wills to mount hard-hitting operations which tells the opposition that we are serious, and really mean what we say.
Defence ministers seem to have started to heed too many dubious nostrums which would treat our Armed Forces as though they can be run on the same basis as some reasonably successful business or industry. Businesslike and industrious you will find our services; but to be successful in operations they need to be inspired, well led and prepared, if necessary, to put their lives at risk. We do them and our national interest little good if we think on them as just another world-class company driven by a profit motive and cash accountability. Their motivation is ethos, not cash. Their bottom line must be victory, not profit. They must be allowed to keep those worthy and timeless attributes throughout these changing times.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I was hoping to be able to welcome back the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, hot foot back from CHOGM, badly jet-lagged. But, like the aid budget, the Government are putting her under too much pressure.
The reply to the gracious Speech allows me the opportunity to discuss the implications of any reduction in the aid budget. It seems almost certain that although the gracious Speech mentions a substantial aid programme being maintained, focused at the poorest countries, even a minor cut in the aid budget would have a significant effect. The Minister gave no indication that cuts will take place. But it is clear that any cuts that are made to fund the tax cuts bonanza being played on in the press will have to come out of the bilateral budget. As usual, I do not expect the Minister to give details about any proposed cuts. However, I am sure she is aware that there would be an enormous public outcry if money directed to the poorest countries in the world was to be redirected into tax bribes.
When I first heard of the leaked document referring to proposed cuts in the aid budget, I launched a petition against those cuts which I hope to present to the Minister before the Budget. Considering that the petition had little publicity, I was extremely surprised by the response. It is clear that it is an issue that large numbers of people care deeply about. I sincerely hope that the Government are not mistaken into thinking that cutting the Overseas Development Administration's budget would be either popular or go unnoticed.
Although the recent tragedy in Nigeria focused many people's minds on the remaining political dictatorships and human rights abuses that take place in Africa, it would be wrong not to mention the remarkable wave of democratisation that has taken place in southern Africa over the past couple of years. It is easy to forget that there is an optimistic mood in large parts of that continent. It is not just South Africa that changed its political landscape; peace and democracy have come to Mozambique, a country which for many years was afflicted by one of the most bloody civil wars. Malawi embraced democratic elections, replacing a one-party state with that rare and wonderful thing, a liberal government. Zambia has moved to multi-party politics along with, most recently, Tanzania. The ODA and the Minister have played a leading role in assisting the process of democratisation. Recently I had the privilege of monitoring the elections in Tanzania as part of the Commonwealth observer group, the first multi-party elections held there in 30 years. Although the election process broke down in Dar es Salaam, the ODA showed its flexibility by having ballot papers printed which will allow the elections in Dar es Salaam districts to be held again this Sunday.
The problem many African countries face now is that these fragile, new democracies inherited a legacy of misrule, corruption and debt. It is now that they need assistance more than ever. To cut our bilateral aid budget now, as I am sure the Minister is only too aware, would be a sad betrayal of the democratic process. However, future development for these countries will rest on private investment and trade to a far greater degree than aid. The major obstacle to development for the poorest countries has to be debt to the multilateral institutions. Reform of the multilateral institutions which would allow them to write off debt is a policy that I hope the Government will pursue with every possible means.
Good governance and human rights can no longer be ignored as they have been in the past. I therefore commend the governments on calling for the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth. The suspension for two years, which could lead to expulsion, will show the military dictatorship in Nigeria the disapproval of the other members of the Commonwealth. However, such measures do not go far enough. Effective sanctions against Nigeria would very possibly have economic implications for Britain. I hope the Government will not use that as an excuse for failing to act against the Government of Nigeria who have shown such contempt for human rights and their political opponents.
While Britain acted promptly over Nigeria at CHOGM it must have been embarrassing for the British delegation that the Government showed implicit support for French nuclear testing in the south Pacific. We on these Benches were extremely disappointed that the Government failed to use their influence to stop those tests taking place and to show support for other members of the Commonwealth. The call for a test ban would have had far greater weight if Britain, as a nuclear power, could have taken the lead in condemning the tests in the south Pacific.
Legislation to ratify the chemical weapons convention is a welcome measure. However, I would urge the Government again to look closely at their policy on landmines and to take a lead in breaking the deadlock when the inhumane weapons convention resumes in January. Perhaps it is time for the Government to change their position on the issue of landmines and support an all out ban.
I now wish to turn to the Reserve Forces Bill. At this point I must declare an interest. I am currently an officer in the Territorial Army, serving with 103 Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. As I am paid as a member of TA I suppose that I must also declare a financial interest. The Reserve Forces Bill is a piece of legislation that can be looked at in two ways. If the aim of the legislation is to increase the effectiveness and ability of the British Army to use the talents, knowledge and experience of the Territorial Army, as I believe is the aim of the Bill, then it has the wholehearted support of these Benches. The danger is that this might be looked at as a piece of legislation that will save money or, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, pointed out, the Territorial Army might be seen as a way of filling the gaps left in the Army through its inability to recruit up to strength.
The Army, through the recent cuts, has been reduced to a minimum strength to meet its commitments. This piece of legislation has the danger of replacing regular soldiers with a cheaper TA equivalent. If that danger is avoided the Bill will be advantageous to the Territorial Army, which will be given a new sense of purpose, and will also greatly aid the regular Army in technical and skilled areas such as medicine, mechanical engineering and transport that are always in such short supply during any large operation.
One of the major benefits of the Bill will obviously be that members of the Territorial Army will be able at some point in their career, if they so elect, to perform a role in real operations, such as the humanitarian work in Bosnia. That will give a focus to their training which was difficult when the activities of the Territorial Army were so limited. The benefit of that will surely be seen in the increased retention of members of the Territorial Army which at the moment has such a high turnover rate. I speak from the experience of one who has actually been on recruiting stands around the country.
Areas of the Bill that cause me specific concern are the relations between Territorial Army soldiers and their employers. In the units I have served with I have often come across cases where soldiers failed to tell their employers that they were members of the Territorial Army, believing that it would be detrimental to their promotion prospects. That is particularly the case for people in small companies where replacement of an employee who is called up may be almost unacceptable to a firm. In those cases many members of small companies might feel it impossible also to be a member of the Territorial Army. For the Bill to be a success, accurate and understandable information will need to be available about the commitments and duties of members of the Territorial Army, specifically the high readiness
Problems could arise if employers, as is often the case, do not understand the varying levels of commitment to which individual members of the Territorial Army are subject. I realise that a large and comprehensive consultation process has been undertaken and that the reactions of many employers have been extremely positive. However, I am sure that this will be the area of the Bill that is most closely scrutinised and I believe that in many areas the legislation will need to be clarified. That is especially the case for self-employed members of the Territorial Army. The Bill has to be far more specific about rights to compensation for losses sustained by their businesses in the same way as happens for large employers. If that is not the case, many self-employed people will feel themselves financially unable to undertake the major commitment that the Bill implies. Considering the skill base of those who are self-employed, that would be an unfortunate loss.
First, I should like to repeat a proposal which I made when the Chamber discussed on 22nd March the 50th anniversary of the UN Organisation. The discussion on that day was for the most part laudatory and somewhat self-congratulatory, but at that time I took the liberty of saying that I was more pessimistic than the majority of those who spoke. I said I did not believe that the present United Nations was capable of reforming itself and that the problems of its future needed intense and merciless examination. I suggested that a modest sized, independent, talented international commission should be set up to plan and recommend how the UN could be made to function effectively and that the conclusions and recommendations of that commission should be the subject of a special meeting and debate by the existing membership.
That suggestion did not commend itself to the House and the noble Baroness the Minister said that she preferred to continue with the existing moves cautiously to reform. I well understood that, but I was disappointed. I was therefore surprised and pleased when the Prime Minister spoke in New York on 23rd October at a full meeting of the membership of the United Nations. His speech received little attention here: indeed, I found difficulty in getting a copy. I would like to know how many Members have actually seen it. The Prime Minister listed very clearly and critically the present state of affairs which needed tackling and proposed that a special session of the General Assembly should next year address these issues.
Personally, I find it very difficult to believe that a full session of the Assembly can produce the answers we need without special preparation. I recommend therefore that the commission which I outlined in March should be established as soon as possible and should ultimately produce an agenda that the full meeting of the Assembly, which the Prime Minister proposed in his speech, can consider. I see no better way. I do not believe that our political parties will find it too difficult to agree how the United Nations should be reformed. It will of course be extremely hard to get a measure of world agreement.
However, it is not only the future of the United Nations which must greatly worry us. It seems to me that it is certain that the last years of this century will be profoundly critical for the future of this country. I doubt whether that is fully realised by the average person. What is needed as soon as possible--it may well be quite impossible--is a British foreign policy which is common to our political parties. We should, in my view, all work towards that.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, in view of the recent resolution of your Lordships' House I suppose I should declare an interest although I have declared it before. My wife is Polish and she owns a house in Poland and naturally I do not want her to lose it. Taking your Lordships' resolutions to their logical conclusion, it could be--but I hope it will not--that your Lordships will be allowed to speak only about matters of which your Lordships are wholly ignorant. Then we shall be on a level with much of the press and the media.
As I shall be speaking of central and eastern Europe, I should like to declare no interest in the Polish presidential election. I hope that the best man wins; but it disturbs me that I was told the day before yesterday that the Guardian supports Mr. Kwasniewski. There must be a great deal to be said for his opponent, Mr. Walesa, in that case.
To cover the whole field of global politics and national defence in one day's debate is an ambitious project and one which your Lordships endeavour to achieve at the beginning of each Session of Parliament. It is a pity that we do not have more debates on foreign policy. Those of us who are concerned with particular areas often find that even when these areas become widely reported in the media, there is little opportunity to discuss them here except in the very brief question and answer sessions at Question Time.
The war in Chechnya is a case in point. However, I was fortunate enough last summer to be able to bring that situation to your Lordships' attention by means of an Unstarred Question. The situation in Chechnya was not referred to by my noble friend Lady Chalker or by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, albeit the noble Baroness was eloquent, and rightly so, on the matter of human rights abuses in Nigeria and elsewhere. I have to ask my noble friend Lord Howe, who is to reply, this question: does that mean that this matter of the war in Chechnya is, as many of us feared it would be, to be brushed under the carpet not merely by Her Majesty's Government but also by Her Majesty's Opposition?
I believe that the situation in Chechnya required more attention than it was given in your Lordships' House over the past Session. The whole development of international relations in central and eastern Europe is too often relegated to the sidelines though I can think of no area which is more important to our future. Those of us who are old enough--and that means most of your Lordships--remember all too well that it was in that area that the seeds of the Second World War were sown. The collapse of the Soviet Union has given central Europe a breathing space which in my opinion it is making very good use of.
What we should realise is that it has also given us a breathing space. So far as I can see, we are not making anything like full use of it. Economically--and I speak of Poland which I know--its transformation since 1989 is completely breathtaking. In 1989 Poland looked like a country which had just survived a war and been defeated in it. There was very little in the shops and what little there was attracted long queues. Petrol was hard to come by and the telephone system was a disaster. Now when I go to Poland I have to rub my eyes to remember what it was like. Much remains to be done and there are serious problems, but there are serious problems everywhere. They are rebuilding an economy which was ruined by 50 years of war and foreign occupation; and we all know, to use a trite expression, that Rome was not built in a day.
The future looks bright enough, but there is one cloud on the horizon which we in the west ought to dispel and in my view we ought to act immediately. This question has been raised today already. I am referring to the present turbulent situation in Russia and the frightening reappearance of classical Russian jingoism and xenophobia. The west has, on the whole, preferred to look the other way while the Russian army continued its brutal campaign in Chechnya. They have taken refuge in the comforting legalistic conception that Chechnya is an internal problem, ignoring the fact that Chechnya has never willingly submitted to Russian rule and that it was occupied 700 years later than English-occupied Ireland.
We ignore at our peril the fact that Russian nationalism works on the theory that the whole of the former Soviet Union, including the Baltic states plus at least Poland and part of Romania, are an integral part of Great Russia. Mr. Zhirinovsky has stated that in an extreme form, but his views are not far removed from those of many of his compatriots. The fact is that the invasion of Chechnya is perceived as a threat by all the countries which were formerly occupied by the Red Army. The incompetent brutality of the campaign brings back memories which most people in those countries would rather forget, but they cannot forget them when they see once more the Russian military behaving, as they see it, normally. We have seen on our television sets what passes, or apparently passes, in Russia for a
Furthermore, it is also a fact that the merciless invasion by the Red Army of Poland, the Baltic states, Romania and Finland are still within living memory in those countries. The Russian Government do not wish us to include the Visegrad states--Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary--in NATO because they say that they fear for their own security. They fear that Russia may become encircled though how you encircle a country that stretches from the Baltic to Japan beats me. But are not Poland and her neighbours entitled to some security, too? There may be disagreements between Poles, Germans, Lithuanians and the rest, but I have found that the one thing on which those countries agree absolutely is that they do not want the Russian military back under any guise whatsoever--and certainly not as peacekeepers.
When I was in Warsaw last September, I met the deputy manager of the Bank of Poland, Mr. Kozinski. I asked him about the problems associated with EC membership for Poland and he replied that he would much rather have Poland in NATO. That is the view of a bank manager and it is easy to see why he holds it. Everything gained since 1989 is at risk should Russia become imperialistic and aggressive once more. As I understand it, there are more Russian troops in the Kaliningrad area than in the entire Polish army. I should like to ask what they are there for. People know perfectly well that if that army were to attack Poland, or more particularly if it were to attack Lithuania, the West would call a meeting of the Security Council and make an awful lot of noise. They might even send humanitarian aid and invoke sanctions; but, practically, they would do nothing.
I am not saying that that is likely to happen--I hope that it will not happen--but I do say that it could happen. The Poles and Czechs in particular deserve more from us than mere expressions of goodwill. Their
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I listened with sympathy to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and my noble friend Lord Jacobovits. I hope that what I shall try to say about the Palestinian people will complement those previous speeches.
The Palestinians remain the key to lasting peace in the Middle East. There are now some 7 million of them and that total is expected to rise to 8 million by the year 2000. As a people, they are fragmented and scattered as a result of wars. Over 800,000 live within the recognised boundaries of the state of Israel, while a further 2 million exist in the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. A larger proportion still is found outside the limits of historic Palestine, nearly 4 million, of whom some 2 million are in Jordan where they benefit from citizenship and voting rights. The precarious and vulnerable condition of many of the ex-patriate Palestinians can be seen from what happened to them in Kuwait during the Gulf War and even more recently this year to those who were then in Libya. To be a "guest worker" in the Middle East is not an enviable position.
My thesis tonight is that any peace settlement will have to do justice to the Palestinians if it is to be a lasting one. In order to be seen as equitable and fair, it will have to make adequate provision for items including refugees, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories in the light of international law, the future of Jerusalem, and of land and water resources.
Refugees are those people and their descendants who were driven out or who fled from their homes in Palestine in 1948 and 1967. They have been meticulously enumerated by UNWRA, whose 1993 figures showed a total of just under 3 million. This to my mind is a humanitarian, not simply a political, issue. The most urgent humanitarian point, as so often, is the reunion of divided families. Families living in Israel or the Occupied Territories having a spouse or children outside the former Palestine are believed to number over 100,000 and many of them have not yet applied for reunion. As regards displaced refugee families, in December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly determined in Resolution 194, paragraph 11, that:
The necessary remedies include recognition of the Palestinian community as a national minority, and a new law of citizenship; the participation of Palestinians in all areas of national life within Israel; a review of all land expropriations since 1948 and the allocation of national resources equally and without regard to ethnic origin.
I come now to the matter of the territory occupied by Israel since 1967. The relevant international law is contained in the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which was ratified by Israel, Jordan and Syria. The land in question was seized by military forces and has been under military occupation and administration since then, until the beginnings of the new Palestinian authority in Gaza and Jericho. To call the territories, including the Syrian Golan and parts of southern Lebanon "disputed" is an equivocation which sets at nought the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and the principles of the Helsinki Agreements. It follows from the above that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory are illegal and must be removed unless any of the settlers agree to live under the jurisdiction of the new Palestinian authority. In the interim, all forms of collective punishment of the inhabitants of the territory must cease, and both Israel and the PLO must comply with human rights norms under Clause 14 of the Cairo Agreement.
In November 1947, the UN General Assembly in Resolution 181, which was confirmed by Resolution 194 in the following year, laid down that Jerusalem and its surroundings should be a corpus separatum under permanent UN administration. Resolution 194, in paragraph 8, specifically mentioned and based itself on the association of the Jerusalem area with three major world religions. Both resolutions provided for free access to the holy places in accordance with time-honoured practices. I regret to say that free access is at the moment somewhat hampered by identity card rules imposed by Israel and affecting residents of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, by the closing of borders and by curfews.
It follows from the resolutions already mentioned, from the fourth Geneva Convention and from Security Council Resolution 242 that Israel's annexation of north and east Jerusalem and declaration in 1983 of a vast Greater Jerusalem is wholly illegal. Recent attempts to dissuade visiting Ministers from other countries from calling on Palestinian representatives in Orient House, east Jerusalem, were a flouting of international law. Efforts to establish an Israeli majority in Palestinian east Jerusalem are deplorable and should cease. I very much regret that planning law has been abused to favour developments benefiting Israelis and to hinder or prevent developments for Palestinians.
The UN should lay down principles whereby the City of Jerusalem can be shared as the capital both of the state of Israel and of the Palestinian authority and eventual state. There is ample space for both purposes. Full access to the holy places for all bona fide visitors must continue to be guaranteed.
Water is another key to peace. In the past, the Sea of Galilee has been dangerously depleted. Israel is thought to be drawing 40 per cent. of its consumption from aquifers in the West Bank. In 1990, Israeli hydrologists themselves warned that consumption was exceeding replacement by 15 per cent. per year. Israel's use of water per head was recently 170 cubic metres per annum compared with only 35 cubic metres for Palestinians. I suggest that it is the duty of the UN and the great powers to obtain agreement on equitable formulas for sharing the water resources of the whole area for the benefit of all its inhabitants.
Your Lordships may think that I have asked a lot of Israel and not enough of the Palestinians. I reply that the founding covenant of the PLO has to be amended to recognise the existence of the state of Israel. Such a move has been promised but must soon be implemented. All symbols claiming Palestinian possession of the whole of historic Palestine should be removed. Any other asymmetry merely reflects the fact that Israel has been in occupation of all the former Palestinian lands since 1967 and that there is no comparison in bargaining strength between Israel and the PLO.
The UN and the great powers, including the EU, have the right and the duty to redress the balance and to ensure that the eventual agreements are just ones. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have shown good intentions by their recent visits. I urge them to use all the means at their disposal to achieve a just settlement--one that can lead to a new era of harmony and prosperity throughout the fertile crescent.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, the debate on the gracious Speech on foreign affairs and defence is rather like Christmas. It comes round with amazing regularity, and it does not change much from year to year. What I mean is, the same people say the same things--well, pretty well so--every year for ever, which is very reassuring in a world of change. Of course, everything in this world being finite, that is not so. But it sometimes seems so. And that is very reassuring.
It is uplifting and humbling to be among the great and the good, as one is in your Lordships' House, or perhaps I should phrase it, "the wise and the wonderful". Either would be true. What is encouraging is the kindness and courtesy with which those of us who do not fit into either category are consistently treated. Which is a third reason why I always try to speak briefly--well, a fourth, if you count that I prefer listening to other people to hearing my own voice. The other two are that I have only one or two small points to make, and that by this time everyone else has said everything anyway.
I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and my noble kinsman Lord Carew on their splendid maiden speeches. It was good to hear both speak on subjects of which they are so knowledgeable. It was particularly good to hear my noble kinsman who is in some discomfort after his accident in the United States last June when he punctured his lung, broke several ribs and has since had three serious operations. My godmother and his noble grandmother, Lady Lauderdale, would have been very proud of him.
For all of us in Britain, 1995 has been a year for looking back, for remembering old friends, and for those of us not born then a way of looking back through other living eyes at our past in which, as always, lie the seeds of our future.
I should like on behalf of the War Widows Association of Great Britain to thank Her Majesty's Government for what they have done for it this year, especially my noble friends Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lord Howe for their patience in listening to all our representations. We were delighted to have my noble friend Lord Mackay and both our vice presidents, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lady O'Cathain, and also the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, marching with us at our own service on the 11th and lunching with us over the weekend.
It was a great and proud day of remembrance for all of us present at the Cenotaph this weekend. My husband met a man in a wheelchair who said, "I know your face. I last saw you directing guns as we crossed the Rhine. And you spoke to me." Fifty years on they had both survived and were speaking again. But, as I said, it is not just 50 years ago. Our newest war widow who was with us lost her husband on his second day in Bosnia last year. She was so brave and beautiful when she marched with us; she said that the encouragement and support of the older ladies had given her strength.
The other point I wish to make is a simple and a short one. Ever since I have been in this House, our Armed Forces have been cut and pared. Reliance on part-time or territorial forces is of course historical. No war could be fought before the harvest was in. While I welcome the extended use of the territorial reserves, I only hope that this will not mean the hard core of our services is to be further eroded.
Those of us who have been on defence visits, and those who know the services intimately like the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Craig of Radley, or the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, who always speaks so robustly for the senior service, have for long advocated an end to the whittling down of our services--from Options for Change, to Frontline First, or whatever stalking horse the cuts have come under. As the intention to send yet more British forces to reinforce the UN peacekeeping presence in Bosnia demonstrates, there is now, and will be in the future, a far, far greater use for such brilliant, excellent and highly trained personnel than we can yet foresee. We must continue to think and plan for tomorrow, and not for yesterday. There is no peace dividend.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I welcome reference to the Commonwealth in the gracious Speech. Please allow me a brief comment before I turn this evening to my principal remarks. The Commonwealth has shown herself, once again, through actions and reiterations at Auckland, to be a world-class performer with real convictions and usefulness. I commend the Mill Bank plan of action as essential reading. Membership will become increasingly more sought after, and it would be appropriate carefully to consider issues such as future role, admittance and expulsion criteria and the cost and source of funding management. The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who is in his place, spoke about getting the EU finances right. The same applies to the Commonwealth, as indeed it does to the United Nations.
Clearly, the Commonwealth must use its influence, as with Nigeria, but where is the line to be drawn before punishing the greater majority for the actions of the very few? The people or the government? After all, is not the Commonwealth all about the ability to choose and are we not assuming that, given the choice, Nigerians would choose democracy? Certainly Auckland, together with Harare, is destined to enter the history books when considering the affairs of the Commonwealth.
It is appropriate to remind ourselves--indeed I believe that we in this country should take pride in reminding ourselves--again of the wisdom of Mr. Arnold Smith, the first Secretary-General, when he remarked,
Perhaps I may turn now to events which took place earlier this month. The signing in Mauritius of the mid-term review marked the second stage of Lome IV. This will be a testing time in the life of the convention and it is how those active in the development debate respond that will determine future policy. What is this convention? It establishes the trade and aid relationship between the European Union and 70 signatories of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group. Commonwealth nations make up more than half the membership. It is the most comprehensive--some would say the most progressive--treaty arrangement between groups of developing and developed nations in existence.
ACP states determine national priorities and implement programmes while the EU states provide agreed levels of funding, technical assistance and preferential trade access; shared facilities, shared responsibilities. The long-term future of the Lome Convention is far from certain. Only a short time exists before successor arguments will be debated; and time moves on.
How will the convention be overhauled to address the development philosophy of sceptic members of the Union and countries such as the United States? The individual position of the French, British and German Governments in particular and the regional interests of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states will need to be carefully considered. Export losses as a result of the GATT will have to be addressed, as will the conflicting relationship between the GATT and the Lome Convention. How will taxpayers of donor nations become better educated in order that it be understood that the cost in real terms will be much greater in years to come unless appropriate development policy be adopted today?
Lome does have its critics though. Future debate will target the effectiveness of the agreement. Is there clear evidence that Lome has made a special contribution to ACP countries? How effective is Lome on poverty alleviation? Has the Lome Convention failed to have a marked impact on ACP exports? From an ACP point of view, Lome has not, in the face of debt and deteriorating trade terms, been able to boost growth and trade capacity. Economic development is the long-term solution to the difficulties of the developing world. Trade not aid is what is required. How, then, is inward investment going to be encouraged?
The Commission has been criticised for, for example, its lack of transparency, delays in making payments and the difficulty in getting hold of EU documents on development. It has put forward no specific ideas on improving programming in the areas which are critical to poverty reduction, such as rural credit, basic health, primary education or adult literacy. What criteria do the Commission propose by which ACP performance in relation to new priorities be transparently judged? From the Commission's perspective, Lome has inadequately respected EU priorities in areas such as economic and political reform, human rights and the rule of law.
Since the mid-term review, however, respect for human rights is central to the convention. The European Community can now suspend or terminate development co-operation programmes with governments which fail to respect human rights. Suspending Nigerian development aid illustrates this. Has the time come for the Commission increasingly to bypass recipient governments by funding NGO activities? There are valid questions as to whether there is sufficient focus on addressing grass roots issues; taking Lome to the people who really need it. NGOs have that ability. If so, how are the activities of NGOs, both national and international, to be co-ordinated to ensure maximum effectiveness? What mechanisms should be implemented to agree strategy and ensure non-duplication?
There are more questions than answers. It is for these essential reasons that national parliamentarians from both ACP and European Union member states should be ready to contribute to the debate. To this end, I have formed an international Lome Parliamentary Association in order to bring a sense of awareness of the issues and to ensure that the best of Lome is carried through into a successor agreement. Indeed, my thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, who is not in his
Indeed, yesterday I returned from Burundi where, I am delighted to inform your Lordships, a Lome group has been formed consisting of six members; three from the Frodebu party and three from Uprona. That means three Hutus and three Tutsis working together, illustrating that economic development is a concern that transcends party and ethnic lines. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, spoke about concern for Burundi. I shall not comment this evening on the points raised as the hour is late and I hope to return to the subject soon.
Hong Kong is perhaps our greatest responsibility in the next year and a half, and indeed beyond. Our responsibility to Hong Kong will not end on 30th June 1997. And I am slightly surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, did not mention Hong Kong at all in her remarks. For there now remain only 592 days before Hong Kong is formally handed back to China at midnight on 30th June 1997. On that solemn occasion we shall be handing over not only Hong Kong, its infrastructure, its real estate and its wealth but also its people--nearly 6 million people who look to Britain and China for their future wellbeing. It is those people who matter and to whom we must listen.
I am sure that none of your Lordships needs reminding that under the terms of the declaration, Britain and China promised Hong Kong one country/two systems, a high degree of autonomy, a legislature based on elections and Hong Kong run by Hong Kong people. Those are not empty phrases, mere mantras engraved on a prayer wheel to be spun when the occasion requires. They are some of the vital foundations of Hong Kong's future.
Until 1990, political parties were illegal in Hong Kong. I admit that I find it perplexing, astonishing and demeaning that until very recently the population of the eighth largest trading nation in the world, with a GDP per head higher than our own, should have no say in who would represent it in the future--a future agreed on its behalf between Britain and China.
But China has stated that it will dismantle that properly elected legislative council on 1st July 1997. Why is that and to what end? We must ask how it will be replaced and with what. Long and loud questions must be asked which need clear answers from the Government of China. At present, the legislative council is entirely in line with the agreements reached between Britain and China. It has 20 members returned by geographical constituency. To how many has China agreed? It has agreed to 20. It has 10 members returned by an election committee. How many were agreed to post-1997? Ten have been agreed to. It has 30 members returned by functional constituencies. How many were agreed post-1997? Thirty were agreed to.
It will not be as easy as China may think to turn back the clock to before the 1995 elections. After all, it has agreed to the present number of directly elected seats and destroying a democratically elected legislature is no way to win friends and influence people in the 1990s. The eyes of the world will be on China and Hong Kong in 1997. Thousands of press and television representatives will be there. The International Commission of Jurists has put Hong Kong on the top of its watch list for the next two years. Taiwan too will be watching closely to see what kind of fist China makes of developing Hong Kong as one country/two systems. The commitment is to one country/two systems and not to one country/one system or to one country/one and a half systems.
Why is China so obdurate in its determination to abolish LegCo? But it is not only China's attitude to LegCo which is gumming up the works. In spite of the apparently successful meeting this autumn between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his Chinese opposite number, the fact is that almost no progress seems to have been made in the recent meetings of the joint liaison group on any of the vital matters which need to be settled in the 592 days remaining to us.
Indeed, another spanner has been thrown into the works at that meeting; namely, China's attempt to emasculate Hong Kong's Bill of Rights. That incorporates into Hong Kong law the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and includes such fundamentals as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. China's objections contradict Article 39 of the Basic Law which provides explicitly for that covenant to remain in force and to be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong special autonomous region.
China's foot-dragging on those matters is to the advantage of no one. It is not to the advantage of China or Hong Kong. Hong Kong is still booming. There is growth of over 5 per cent. per year. More than 500 banks are represented there, and there are 1,000 British companies with investment running into tens of billions of pounds, and it has thousands more foreign companies and
How can we encourage China to be more constructive in preserving Hong Kong's special qualities? Perhaps I may suggest one way which may be helpful. China has introduced recently the special autonomous region passport which will come into force on 1st July 1997. That is a passport designed specifically for qualifying residents of the new special autonomous region who do not hold other passports.
I understand that China may like us to lead in the matter of helping that passport to gain international recognition by granting visa-free access to the UK to holders of that new passport. I believe that we should give that serious consideration because it would be our vote of confidence in what we have done in Hong Kong and in the status of Hong Kong as a special autonomous region of China which is our joint creation. Secondly, where we lead, it is likely that others will follow. Conversely, if we do not give that lead, other countries would be unlikely to offer visa-free access when we do not have the confidence to do that. Thirdly, refusal to grant visa-free access to those passport holders could have an adverse effect on holders of British national overseas passports. I could even envisage a reciprocal situation in which the administration of the SAR would require British citizens to obtain visas to travel to Hong Kong.
I underline that that is a no-risk option. We are not--emphatically not--talking about nationality or the right of abode. We are talking only of visa-free access. That will not alter the demography of a single British parliamentary constituency.
Such arrangements could be conditional. If abuses or problems arise, which on past record I believe is highly unlikely, then a visa regime could always be introduced. But let us give visa-free access a chance. By helping China, it would also help Hong Kong.
I should like to make one further point on passports. Recently this House passed, without a dissenting voice, a Private Bill in the name of Lord Bonham-Carter, which would give full British passports to non-Chinese ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. He was supported by two distinguished former governors of Hong Kong, by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, who had past ministerial responsibility for Hong Kong, by the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, who has unrivalled experience of Hong Kong, and by all other noble Lords present at the debate. It also had the support of the Governor of Hong Kong and the Legislative Council. The arguments put forward then still hold good and I urge the Government to take another look at their position in this matter.
Hong Kong is nothing if not resilient. When I visited it recently, the cranes and jack-hammers were still as noisy as ever. Acres of land were still being reclaimed from the sea. I met many people with many different opinions on Hong Kong's past and on its future. If there was gloom, it was nearly always from expatriates. The people of Hong Kong themselves are pragmatic, hard-working, able and brave. I am proud to call some of them my friends. In spite of the difficulties ahead, I remain optimistic about Hong Kong's future, because of its people who have made it such a success and who care so much about its future and because of the commitment of its admirably dedicated and independent civil servants. They are the unsung heroes of Hong Kong's success. They are the glue which holds the fabric together. Much will depend on them.
It is a supreme irony that at a time when nations all over the world are discovering that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are directly relevant to economic success, the city state of Hong Kong, the twentieth century epitome of that success, is finding that those values are in danger of being undermined. The prizes are still there for Hong Kong, for China and for Britain, but with only 592 days to go, we must do our very best to make every day count. The people of Hong Kong deserve no less.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, in the debate yesterday on the gracious Speech, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred to the legislative programme as thin to the point of anorexia. However lacking it may be in its legislative programme, I commend and welcome warmly the gracious Speech for its commitment to promoting Her Majesty's Government's foreign affairs policies.
In my contribution to today's debate I should like to touch on two issues: first, my old chestnut, that being the current developments in South Africa; secondly, the horrendous developments that have been unfolding in Nigeria and the infringements of human rights in that country, to which several noble Lords have spoken today.
Following Her Majesty's most successful and well-received state visit to South Africa earlier this year, I was delighted to hear confirmation in the gracious Speech of the state visit to this country next year of President Mandela. Despite the many concerns before the ANC and the Government of National Unity took office in April last year, what President Mandela has managed to achieve, through his policy of promoting a culture of reconciliation among the peoples of South Africa is remarkable, if not miraculous. Predictably, many of the expectations of the electorate during the election have not been met. Many of them, such as the promise of houses for all, were totally unrealistic in the short term. The much-lauded Reconstruction and Development Programme as the basis of the
South Africa's largely unskilled labour force is marked by a low level of productivity which has restricted much of the international inward investment. It is only through increased training and the attainment of skills that the position will be corrected. Here, Her Majesty's Government have played an extremely important role, not just in promoting inward investment, but in assisting in many diverse training programmes in both the public and private sectors. It must be emphasised that Britain remains South Africa's closest trading partner.
A major problem that faces the new South Africa is the continuing wave of crime and the abundance of fire arms, mostly held illegally. Burglaries, car hijackings and muggings have increased and the police force has proved to be inadequate in terms of numbers to deal with the situation. The number of police per population is far below that of the ratio in most European countries. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the recent successful local government elections held just a few weeks ago will greatly help the Government's attempts to get to grips with much of the localised crime. The local government elections effectively completed the process of democratisation which started with the elections last year for regional and national government. They will play an important role in social and economic development in the country. The absence of elected leaders at local level and legitimate government structures has been one of the reasons for the stagnation in implementing much of the reconstruction and development programme. I believe that now the local elections have been held, local projects will be more effectively implemented.
A major question mark still hangs over the forthcoming local elections in Kwazulu Natal, where Chief Gatsha Buthelezi has threatened to withdraw local policing if Inkatha does not win those local elections. This is a major problem spot in South Africa where political violence has continued since last year's general election. There have been frequent calls for international mediation in an attempt to reconcile the differences and resolve the situation.
Another issue which has been raised recently is the arrest and prosecution of 11 former South African Defence Force members, including General Magnus Malan, the previous Minister of Defence. This has caused alarm in that it may result in a backlash of Right-wing violence in South Africa. It is my hope, and the hope of many others there, that those prosecuted will see reason and make their submissions to the Truth Commission which will give them amnesty from prosecution.
Despite these concerns, the Government have followed conservative fiscal policies. For the first time in many years, inflation is below 10 per cent. and foreign debts are being serviced and paid on time. That is a record of which many other African states cannot boast. It is my hope that South Africa's reconstruction and development programme will be directed not only towards welfare and social benefits but also wealth creation, and that much of the foreign aid which has flowed into the country will be directed towards sustainable development programmes.
It is also worth mentioning that excellent progress has been achieved in the negotiations for a new constitution. Earlier this morning I met Cyril Ramaphosa who confirmed that the first draft of the final constitution will be released next Wednesday. All in all, there is a great deal to be confident and optimistic about for the future of South Africa.
However, these sentiments cannot be applied to the horrendous developments and infringements of basic human rights that have unfolded in Nigeria. The execution last week of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders not only shocked the international community but exposed the sheer brutality and lack of any respect of human rights by the Nigerian military regime. Nelson Mandela said that it put into question the commitment of the Nigerian military regime to the democratisation of Nigerian society. That was a commitment given by General Abacha on 1st October when he set a timetable for the institution of democracy and commuted the death sentences of the convicted coup plotters. General Abacha's statement that the main objective for him is to achieve national unity almost defies belief. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, commented earlier, the human rights record of the Nigerians is totally indefensible.
Apart from my concerns for the plight of the Nigerian peoples, having recently seen the chilling film, Delta Force on Channel 4 and having interviewed several Ogoni leaders, I am particularly worried about the position of the Ogoni people who have been systematically attacked and deprived by the military regime.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, had hoped to speak on this issue today and he particularly asked me to make reference to the recent report by Amnesty International. I wish to quote from one section of the report which in my opinion summarises the position well. It states:
There are also the obvious fiscal ramifications for Britain in imposing oil sanctions. Last year the United Kingdom enjoyed a £333 million surplus on its visible trade with Nigeria, and total British company investment in Nigeria is estimated at almost £3.5 billion. Many believe that imposing oil sanctions would affect Nigerian civilians worst. That may be true, but I firmly believe that the military would be just as hard, if not worse, hit.
In summary, I believe that the crisis in Nigeria is a humanitarian one and the solution is political. The first phase must be to endeavour to get the military back into their barracks, and the second phase must be to get democratic government installed. There are two elements to this strategy. First, there is already a democratically-elected president in Chief Abiola, who was elected in 1993. He is trusted by the Nigerian people. On the other hand, there is the belief that to get the military back to their barracks, they must not feel threatened. If they continue to feel threatened, they may become even more brutal.
From a recent discussion I had with Chief Abiola's daughter, I learnt that her father believes that full punitive sanctions would not be the most effective solution in the short term. He believes the Nigerian people can only win if the political impasse is resolved through dialogue and discussion, and that in this way a permanent and constructive resolution can be sought. His suggestion and recommendation is that an international mediation committee should be established to endeavour to initiate this dialogue with the Nigerian military. I have spoken for far too long as one of the last speakers in today's queue. My final comment, and my hope, is that at all costs Her Majesty's Government should use all efforts to avoid a civil war in Nigeria. In my opinion a civil war could only result in Nigeria being divided and would result in massive carnage.
Lord Mayhew: My Lords, I am sure that my noble friends would want me to start my speech by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Carew, on their exceptionally attractive and persuasive speeches. I knew the noble Earl's father for some years in the other place. In my view the House of Commons was a much better place then than it is now, but even so the noble Earl's father stood out for the independence of his views and the courage of his convictions. I believe that we recognised the same qualities in the speech of the noble Earl today.
One comment I most profoundly agree with was that of the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven. We must stop trying to combine the whole of foreign affairs and defence in a single debate. I particularly sympathise with his view as one who is winding up this debate and who is faced with the possibility of trying to do justice to the huge scope of opinions which have been expressed. Most of the discussion concerned Bosnia, the WEU and NATO but a whole series of other important subjects were touched on by various speakers. A number of speakers mentioned the Middle East. We on these Benches share the sadness and sense of outrage at the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. I particularly noticed the well-informed speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, who came close to saying something which I believe needs to be said at this time, and that is that not all Israeli settlers are religious fanatics. Many of them chose to live in Palestine because housing was cheap and available. The trouble comes from those other settlers who are violent, racially prejudiced, religious fanatics. It is clear to me that we must not let the peace process be destroyed by those people. Fortunately, their cause is now somewhat discredited and some of the myths on which their cause depended are becoming discredited, for example, the myth that they have a divine right to land which belongs to another people. That is a fairly simple matter, but it is a myth.
The peace process may not have reached its most difficult stage; the stage discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, which concerns the future of Jerusalem. However, it has in the meantime made solid progress thanks to the strength and courage of the Israeli leaders, Yitzhak Rabin and Peres, and also the Palestinian leader, Mr. Arafat. Real progress is being made and we look to the Government to do everything possible to encourage it.
There has been mention in the debate of the reference in the Queen's Speech to the need for a comprehensive test ban treaty. If the delegates at the successful non-proliferation conference had known in advance that as soon as the agreement was signed two of the nuclear powers would start testing nuclear weapons, the non-nuclear powers would never have accepted the agreement as they did. Indeed, the whole concept of a comprehensive test ban treaty might well have been destroyed. We condemn the actions of those two nations and we criticise the Government strongly for not joining in the worldwide condemnation of the two testing nuclear powers. Fortunately, in the event, it may well be that the comprehensive test ban treaty has not been endangered. Such has been the scale and intensity of the
I am told that there is a considerable change in atmosphere in favour of going ahead as quickly as possible to reach agreement on a clean treaty next year. Therefore, perhaps we should not despair of progress. Certainly, we should hope that progress will be made because the proliferation of nuclear weapons is probably the greatest danger facing civilisation at this time. Although stopping testing is by no means watertight prevention, it certainly carries the process a long way forward.
Reference was made to the chemical warfare convention. The Queen's Speech tells us that the Government are ready to ratify the treaty. On these Benches, for a couple of years or more, we have been criticising the Government for delay. The Official Opposition have done the same. I now feel that we were rather misled by the Government. We were told consistently that the only problem was lack of parliamentary time. None of us took that very seriously since we agree with ratification. In September last year the noble Lord, Lord Henley, wrote to me saying that legislation would be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permitted. It would have been better if the Government had explained that the real problem was how to ban the chemicals required for chemical warfare while protecting the interests of companies manufacturing the same chemicals for peaceful purposes. That was really the difficulty. Some misunderstanding might have been avoided if the Government had been a little more frank if it was that rather than the lack of parliamentary time which caused the delay.
As a result we shall have to look at the Bill more carefully than at one time we thought necessary. In the Committee stage we shall have to ensure that the Bill will achieve both the aims of preventing chemical warfare and of safeguarding the legitimate rights of manufacturers. We shall also have to ensure that the Bill makes provision for Parliament to monitor what is happening.
I am sorry to have missed the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I am told that, predictably, he spoke eloquently about what is now the greatest problem in our defence affairs, namely the lack of Army manpower. That is something which could and should have been prevented. It is a direct result of government policy. On these Benches we did not oppose Options for Change in principle, unlike many noble Lords who argued that continuing uncertainty and continuing Soviet strength should rule out major defence cuts. However, we attacked specific recommendations in Options for Change. In particular, we attacked the disproportionate cuts proposed in Army manpower. It proposed manpower cuts of 13 per cent. for the Navy, 16 per cent. for the RAF and 27 per cent. for the Army. That was sheer folly. I am told that by next April Army manpower will have fallen to 106,500. That is not
The main subject of the debate has centred around Bosnia and the European and NATO contributions. There has been a vast improvement in the situation since our last debate. That debate on 15th July coincided with the lowest point of United Nations humiliation and failure. There was talk in the debate of the UN's powerlessness, of the need for withdrawal, of the vulnerability of our forces in Gorazde and the uselessness of air strikes. Ministers went along with that talk.
In the event, as we now see, under pressure from the United States, the Government reacted to the crisis with some spirit. The RAF participated with skill and courage in successful air strikes against the infrastructure of Bosnian Serb forces. Our gunners were sent to help open up the Mount Igman route to Sarajevo and to help lift the siege of Sarajevo. That was a decisive turning-point. I can fairly and properly say that it largely vindicated the advice consistently expressed by my own party on the subject.
Now all our efforts must be directed at making the peace stick. I trust that the Government will exploit to the full the possibility of helping to keep the peace with large-scale and conditional reconstruction aid with strong strings attached dependent on the good behaviour of the recipients.
I hope that the Government will also learn the wider lessons of the Bosnian crisis. In the end the contribution of the United States proved indispensable. Yet all the signs today are of an ever-decreasing interest in the United States in European defence. We cannot wish that away. That fact will remain and we have to adapt to it. Europe must therefore become more capable of handling, and more willing to handle, its own defence problems. It is not a matter of surrendering sovereignty in defence to the European Union. The European NATO members have already pledged themselves to come to the defence of each other. That is the big step as regards sovereignty. What is needed are practical steps to increase the capability of the WEU: joint planning, joint training, joint procurement of necessary but hideously expensive new weapons systems, and perhaps a secretary general for the Council of Ministers. We all listened with particular attention to the extremely interesting and bold speech of the noble Lord, Lord Owen. That, too, should be seriously considered. None of it should bypass NATO but should ensure that Europe can act promptly and effectively in crises where United States participation cannot be assumed.
Between them the European NATO countries can call on nearly half a million regular soldiers. They are not conscripts but regulars. The countries are big enough and rich enough to take on those new responsibilities. What is needed is the political will to do so. We ask ourselves whether the Government have the political will to launch themselves in that direction.
Lord Judd: My Lords, at the outset I must declare an interest. After a short, brief period of service in the Royal Air Force, all my professional work outside Westminster has been in the realm of humanitarian and international affairs, and so it remains.
It has been a good debate. It will make for an excellent edition of Hansard and I hope that it will be widely read. Indeed, some of the points have been so well made that it is clear we need a succession of specialist debates on foreign affairs in the year to come--on Hong Kong, Nigeria, and South Africa--and I hope that time will be found for those.
In post-imperial Britain overseas and defence policies become more important, not less. None of the major economic, social and environmental or indeed security challenges facing us as a nation can be successfully tackled on our own in isolation. We can only serve the interests of the people of the United Kingdom by working for relevant and sensible international co-operation.
That was what was so sad about the recent excesses of the party opposite at Blackpool, to which my noble friend Lady Blackstone drew attention. It was not just the cheap nastiness. It was the aggressive insularity almost designed to alienate the world, to reduce our influence and thereby betray the British people. Of course we must not have illusions de grandeur. We cannot run the world on our own. But it is because our interests are so bound up with the world as a whole that we have no option but to work out the answers with others. That is why the European Union, the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, NATO, the Western European Union, the OSCE, the Commonwealth and the others are so important.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and others have reminded us, for historical reasons we have inherited a permanent seat on the Security Council. We have to justify that seat. If we want convincingly to retain it, we cannot dip in and out of global responsibilities. It means that we are positively opting for a lead role in global stewardship. Genocide in Rwanda or Burundi,
The gracious Speech announces the Reserve Forces Bill. We shall also have the Army Bill. I can assure the Government that our approach to both will be supportive and constructive. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, expressed concern about shortfalls in recruiting for the armed services. There are no gimmicky solutions. Indeed, that road is to trivialise the significance of service. What matters most is clarity of purpose, a sense of personal significance and a feeling of belonging, to which he so ably referred.
The purpose of defence cannot be based on memories of a glorious past. It has to be a convincing response to the challenges of the century ahead. What are the real situations, the real crises and the real threats for which we must be prepared? In constructing our responses, we must never forget that no defence system will ever be better than the calibre, professionalism, motivation and morale of the individual men and women of whom it is comprised. That involves being properly equipped and supported. It involves pay and pensions. It involves family housing and job security. But above all it involves that clear sense of purpose and feeling of personal significance and belonging to which the noble and gallant Lord referred this evening. The ship's company, the squadron, the regiment--not least the community-based regiment--have been concepts that we should be foolish to under-rate.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there have been far-reaching changes. Since 1990, Army and RAF presence in Germany is down from 70,000 to 30,000; submarines are down from 30 to 16; frigates and destroyers are down from 48 to 35. In broad terms, front line units have been reduced by 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. Altogether, the reductions in force sizes, coupled with other stringent economies, have brought the defence budget down by 18 per cent. (some £4.4 billion) and have reduced service personnel by 24 per cent. and civilian personnel by 20 per cent. This means that defence now stands at a smaller proportion of our national resources than at any time since the 1920s.
The financial savings must give great satisfaction to Treasury Ministers. But they leave one set of fundamental questions totally unanswered. What exactly was the defence analysis that provided the defence case for these changes? What exactly is the defence analysis that brings our defence bill to its current £22 billion? What exactly is the defence analysis that has led to our defence forces being structured in the way that they are?
It is simply not acceptable to base defence policies in effect on the line: "After a lot of haggling with the Treasury this is what we have managed to preserve--now what shall we do with it?". We have the vivid experiences of former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, the Gulf, the Middle East, Somalia, Sudan, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Nigeria; of Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Taiwan-China and the Spratly Islands; indeed of Ireland.
There will of course be special British needs, ranging from support of civil government in Northern Ireland and defence of the Falklands through fisheries protection to ceremonial duties. These may account at most for 20 per cent. of defence spending. When lasting peace comes to Northern Ireland it will be considerably less. But the overriding question remains: just exactly what is the analysis behind the other 80 per cent?
Do the Government, for example, see any future possibility of a revived threat to the European Union and NATO from Russia? If so, in what form? What would be required collectively to meet it; and what would be an appropriate share of the task for Britain? What of central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean? Do the Government see these as primarily a European responsibility, albeit within NATO? If so, what are the implications for our defence policy? As a permanent member of the Security Council, what do the Government see as our defence contribution in the future to global peacekeeping, pre-emptive action, peace enforcement, the protection of humanitarian operations and to humanitarian work itself?
Do they envisage increased special training? Do they see our role as one of self-contained contributions alone; or do they see us also providing logistic support and other specialist services for other United Nations contingents? Already, British personnel of all ranks have won an outstanding reputation for their service to the United Nations, frequently in the most difficult circumstances. It is a record in which the service personnel concerned rightly take great pride.
We on these Benches are glad to see the Government's commitment to NATO undiminished. We are also glad to see the Government reaffirming the importance of the Western European Union as the alliance's European pillar. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, who made a particularly interesting speech, that we, like the Government, are convinced that any European defence identity must be along intergovernmental lines. It is not in our view an appropriate function for the European Union, let alone the Commission.
The Western European Union should take seriously its so-called Peterburg tasks of crisis management, including the full range of activities associated with peacekeeping, such as sanctions monitoring, airlifts and humanitarian support. These could provide a motor for a culture of closer European co-operation, both within the European Union and between the European Union and the candidate countries of eastern Europe. All this can also help to speed up the essential processes of standardisation and familiarisation.
Steady progress toward disarmament and responsible control of the arms trade are also indispensable elements in global security policy. I am sorry to say that, like my noble friend, I search in vain to find the driving commitment which should be there in government policy. The obstinate defence of the indefensible French nuclear tests hardly boosted the cause of arms control or a comprehensive test ban treaty. Why have the Government sat on their hands for over two years, since they signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, before they introduced the enabling legislation to make ratification possible? It will be a sad day for United Kingdom credibility in these matters if we are not among the first 65 nations to ratify and thereby bring the convention into force. We on these Benches will do all that we can to expedite the legislation but not, I must emphasise, like our Liberal friends, at the expense of careful scrutiny on such a vital matter.
My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney raised, with his characteristic persistence, the International Court consideration of nuclear weapons. It is by definition, I think he will agree, now a judicial matter. For that reason I believe that we should do well to wait and see what the court has to say.
In the conflicts currently raging in the world, it is conventional arms which are fuelling the slaughter of the innocents. The House needs to know exactly what the Government are doing to promote control and accountability in the international arms trade. Do they see a future role for a common foreign and security policy of the European Union in that respect? If not, why not?
The gracious Speech spells out a determination to work with the United Nations and regional organisations in the prevention of conflict. As my noble friend Lady Blackstone indicated, we applaud that. It is obscene that the world continues to spend 250 times as much on arms as it does on peacekeeping and only a fraction of what it spends on peacekeeping is spent on conflict resolution and pre-emptive diplomacy. It defies rational explanation that we divert development resources to relief and have legions of humanitarian agencies coping with the grim consequences of conflict but that only peanuts are devoted to preventing it. What precisely will the Government do to meet the point made by my noble friend Lord Healey and put enhanced capacity for conflict resolution and pre-emptive diplomacy at the centre of their approach to United Nations' reform? Again, do they see that as a priority to which a common foreign and security policy in the European Union could make a contribution? Will it be on the IGC agenda? If not, why not.
The last DAC report of OECD revealed that for the first time in a generation aid from OECD countries to the world's poor fell from 61 billion US dollars in 1992 to 56 billion US dollars in 1993--a fall of 6 per cent. in real terms. Even if the aid budget is not cut any further this year, the truth is that because of multilateral commitments, bilateral aid will be cut by some 14 per cent. in real terms over the current three-year planning period. However, it should never be a matter of multilateral versus bilateral aid. There is much to be said for good and effective multilateral programmes. It is a matter of sufficient resources for both our multilateral and bilateral commitments.
Where is the post-Cold War peace dividend? Instead of turning guns into ploughshares, the richest nations are shamefully turning their backs on the poorest. And now, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford made plain this evening, the Government have meanly been considering taking money away from the poorest people in the world to help finance a pre-election tax cut bribe. But it will not work. The electorate will see it for what it is. They will refuse to be bought off in this sordid fashion.
I sometimes wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, recognises that overnight she could escape from her unenviable role of a warm hearted but thwarted Minister to become a respected major stateswoman of enormous standing, if only she made it absolutely plain that under no circumstances will she ever again be a party to any further cuts in the proportion of our national wealth devoted to aid or diversion of aid from the battle against poverty.
In conclusion I say only this. We would all argue that defence is about preserving peace; but in a sense we have all failed whenever war, with all its brutality, breaks out. But what is peace? The dictionary defines it as freedom from war or strife. Such a course was the peace of Pax Romana or more recently of the Soviet Union and its satellites. I was reflecting on this as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, shared with us his experience and predictions of and for the former Yugoslavia.
Earl Howe: My Lords, it is a privilege for me at the end of such an absorbing and multi-faceted debate to bring today's proceedings to a close. The ground we have traversed over the past six hours has indeed been extensive; from the Middle East peace process to the Lome Convention; from Rwanda to Cyprus. As ever, I must ask for the House's indulgence as it will be impossible for me to do justice to all noble Lords who have contributed; nor will I have time to reply this evening to every question asked of me. However, those of your Lordships whose questions do remain unanswered may count on hearing from me or my noble friend Lady Chalker before too long in writing.
I should like first to mention two particular beacons in the debate--the maiden speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Carew, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carew, was everything it should have been; concise, well informed and witty. I do not doubt that his theme was one with which we can all identify. I hope that, distinguished equestrian sportsman that he is, he will feel satisfied at having cleared his first fence with consummate ease.
Bouquets of a similar sort are due to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. As an experienced journalist, he amply demonstrated his felicitous way with words; but I believe we heard this afternoon a speech on overseas aid which the House will remember with particular pleasure for its perceptiveness and wisdom. I congratulate the noble Earl and hope that he too will grace our debates often.
Looking at the Session ahead, I realise that it is likely to prove, for me at least, an unusually busy one with two Bills to bring before the House. Quite soon we will see in another place the introduction of an Armed Forces Bill, the legislation which continues in force the single service Acts which provide the framework for the system of discipline in the Armed Forces. Those provisions need to be renewed every five years and we have, therefore, to pass an Armed Forces Act before the end of August 1996 in order to maintain the system of discipline in the services beyond that date. The link between a firm but fair disciplinary framework and the superb qualities of our Armed Forces should not be overlooked. It is a system which serves the Armed Forces well.
I understand that it is the custom in another place to commit Armed Forces Bills to a Select Committee. This procedure illustrates that the five-yearly Armed Forces Bills are not merely about extending the life of the legislation. More importantly, they give Parliament a full opportunity to review discipline issues in the Armed Forces in the round. Your Lordships will have a full part to play in this review. However, I can predict with some confidence that it will be some months before the Bill reaches us.
The gracious Speech mentions that the Government will be bringing forward a Bill in the current Session concerning the reserve forces. I am pleased to have been able to fulfil that commitment almost immediately with the introduction of the Bill this afternoon. Like many noble Lords who have spoken, including in particular the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I look forward to an early opportunity to debate its provisions but it may be helpful if I say just a few words about it now.
In essence the Bill aims to bring the law on reserves up to date. It has four main new provisions. First, it has a new power of call-out for humanitarian, disaster relief and peacekeeping operations which will enable the United Kingdom to contribute more readily to the relief of human suffering anywhere in the world. Secondly, it creates two new categories of reserves: the high readiness reserve, comprising individuals who, voluntarily and with their employers' consent, accept an increased call-out liability; and the sponsored reserve, comprising civilians belonging to a contractor's workforce, who would accept a reserve liability to continue to provide the contracted output in an operational environment. The Bill also provides an opportunity for reservists to volunteer to undertake productive tasks other than training, including periods of full-time service, without either being called out or joining the regular forces. This will simplify current procedures. Finally, the Bill includes important new safeguards for both employers and reservists.
We have consulted extensively on the Bill. I know that many reservists have responded enthusiastically to the policy of using reserves more flexibly and that they welcome the opportunities that the new legislation will offer them.
I turn now to the larger themes in today's debate. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, among others, spoke about the desirability of developing closer European military co-operation. We recognise the benefits of greater convergence of membership between NATO, the WEU and the EU. It would help to clarify today's complex network of European security guarantees and relationships, although all three organisations make their own distinctive and valuable contributions. But we should not aim inflexibly at congruence of membership as distinct from convergence. Not least it makes no sense to put new defence hurdles in the path of prospective new EU members. What we cannot do is accept a merger of the WEU into the EU at next year's Inter-Governmental Conference. On practical grounds alone it clearly makes no sense to subordinate a European defence capability to an organisation which includes several neutral countries. We have no intention of taking any step towards subjugating individual nations' defence policies to a supra-national European body.
The common foreign and security policy is a relatively new mechanism. It is making steady progress. At the IGC we will be looking for practical ways to make it more effective. But it must remain inter-governmental, with member states in the driving seat. We do not believe in an extension of Community
The noble Lord, Lord Owen, spoke about the desirability of NATO enlargement. Other noble Lords, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, stressed the need to take account of the concerns of the Russian Federation. A constructive and co-operative relationship between Russia and the alliance is a key element for security and stability in Europe. It is important that NATO's approach towards Russia is long-term and not determined by short-term events. The final form of the relationship will take time to work out. Our view is that at this stage it is more important to focus on its substance rather than on its form. I say to my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton that we need to strike a balance between genuine consultation with Russia on matters of mutual concern and avoiding any suggestion of Russian oversight or veto over NATO's decision-making.
While adverting to Russia, perhaps I may touch briefly on the question of my noble friend Lord Finsberg as to the Government's position on Russian membership of the Council of Europe. In doing so, perhaps I may pay tribute to my noble friend's admirable work in the Council of Europe. We and our European Union partners support Russia's application for membership, and we hope that a final decision can be taken soon. As my noble friend said, it is in the end up to the council's membership to decide. We cannot prejudge its deliberations. We would expect Russia to meet the democratic standards set by the council and to observe its commitments to guarantee human rights and those are solemn undertakings.
My noble friend Lord Cockfield, with all his wisdom and experience in Europe, spoke about the EU Inter-Governmental Conference planned for next year. It is perhaps no surprise that I found much in his speech with which to agree. Let me reassure him, if he needs reassurance, that the United Kingdom has a package of realistic, practical proposals for the IGC designed to enable the EU to meet the key challenges which face it over the next few years.
Our priorities are these: more co-operation in common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs and defence; further entrenchment of subsidiarity; better quality and a reduced quantity of European legislation; better financial discipline and effective action against fraud; a greater role for national parliaments and a fairer voting system in the council. As my noble friend said, the EU has to work more effectively and efficiently. I can assure him and other noble Lords that we wish to see the conference focusing on measures which will further European prosperity and security and rebuild public support.
I mentioned just now the important subject of fraud. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked why the UK had not taken up its full allocation of EU funds for anti-fraud action. As she will know, the United Kingdom already undertakes extensive anti-fraud action. The UK draws on EU funds where they can be usefully deployed and we shall continue to do that. That may mean that the UK will not take up its full allocation under every Community programme, but that only means that we do not spend money just for the sake of spending it. There is no question of the Government going soft on fraud. Indeed, the United Kingdom is in the forefront of the fight against fraud and poor financial management. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was instrumental in winning for the European Court of Auditors a key role in this area at Maastricht. Nobody underestimates the work ahead and much remains to be done. The Government look forward to renewed discussions about the fight against fraud and waste at the Madrid European Council.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford devoted much of his speech to the subject of overseas aid, as did many other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale and, as I have said, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. At over £2.3 billion in 1995-96, the United Kingdom has the fifth largest aid programme in the world befitting our status as the fifth largest economy. We make a substantial and effective contribution to sustainable development and reducing poverty through our highly praised bilateral programme and the increasingly important contributions we make multilaterally. In recent years about 40 per cent. of total resources were spent multilaterally and 60 per cent. bilaterally. The exact figure varies from year to year. In 1993-94, 45 per cent. was spent multilaterally and 55 per cent. bilaterally.
As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, pointed out, both types of aid have their place. Bilateral aid can often be more closely targeted, effective and identified as British. Sometimes it is useful for multilateral agencies to co-ordinate assistance. They can mobilise a critical mass of finance and exercise more leverage in support of an important objective, for example, economic reform. Forty per cent. of our bilateral aid--that is, over £363 million in 1993-94--went to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We also make a substantial contribution through multilateral aid. The EC's aid programme to sub-Saharan Africa for 1990-95 is equivalent to £7.6 billion and the United Kingdom's share of that is £1.25 billion.
The large and populous countries of Asia, whose needs have sometimes been overshadowed by those of Africa, also require substantial aid if they are to overcome the problems of poverty. The largest number of poor people are to be found in South Asia. Some 25 per cent. of our bilateral aid goes to countries in the subcontinent.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and other noble Lords expressed concern about possible cuts in the aid budget. I cannot prejudge the outcome of the Budget, but we are confident that Britain will retain
The noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, spoke movingly of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and its after-effects. There is no doubt that the death of Yitzhak Rabin is a grievous blow, but as the noble Lord said, the peace process continues. Indeed, Arab reaction to Mr. Rabin's death--for example, the attendance of Arab leaders at the funeral--is a mark of how far the process has come. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated UK support for the peace process during his tour of the Middle East last week. We can only be encouraged by Mr. Peres's commitment to press on with the redeployment of Israeli forces from the West Bank. It is clear that the Palestinians and the Israeli Government are firmly committed to the Palestinian elections on 20th January. We have every reason to believe that the Israeli Government under Mr. Peres have every intention of following through with the implementation of the interim agreement.
I advise my noble friend Lord Beloff that for our part Her Majesty's Government will do whatever we can to support the peace process. In Gaza my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced several new projects of practical help for the Palestinians. If we look at multilateral aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, we see that the total EC package amounts to 500 million ecu over five years.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred particularly to Jerusalem. Our position on Jerusalem has not changed. It is a matter to be determined in the final status talks between the parties. It is vital that neither side should do anything to pre-empt the final status agreement. With regard to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, we regard all such settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. We have raised the issue directly with the Israeli Government.
We listened with great attention and respect to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, on Yugoslavia. I mean no criticism of his untiring and distinguished work in that troubled region if I say that there are now better prospects for peace in Bosnia than at any time since the conflict began. That has resulted from patient diplomacy and determined military action. We greatly welcome the ceasefire that came into effect on 12th October. It is an important step forward and, thankfully, the situation on the ground is much quieter following the ceasefire. Dick Holbrooke and the EU envoy, Carl Bildt, are to be congratulated on what they have achieved. All eyes are now on Dayton, Ohio. We can be cautiously optimistic, I believe, for the future. The door to peace is now open, but there remains much to be done. The region is littered with broken promises and failed ceasefires. I note the pessimism expressed by my noble friend Lord Finsberg, but we can only hope that now, finally, the parties realise that negotiation is the only way forward. On Russian involvement, I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that we welcome
The noble Lord, Lord Healey, suggested that the UK changed its policy over Bosnia at the start of the Holbrooke peace initiative. That is just not the case. The UN and NATO have consistently made it clear that they were not taking sides. The London meeting in July convened by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister agreed that further attacks on civilians in UN safe areas would be met with a firm and effective military response. The Bosnian Serb army was informed directly of that decision, and the use of NATO air power and UN artillery in support of operations in Bosnia is fully authorised by UN Security Council resolutions and the North Atlantic Council.
Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Greenhill of Harrow and Lord Healey, emphasised the need for reform of the UN. The 50th anniversary of the UN was an opportunity to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to it, but it was also a fitting moment to take stock to see where UN performance can be improved. We want a serious debate on reform. Our aim is to set the UN to work effectively and efficiently. Effectiveness means tackling conflicts earlier and with determination. There should be greater emphasis on conflict prevention in an effort to reduce the number of situations where peacekeeping operations are required. Efficiency comes from the need to reduce wastage and duplication of effort and to see where the work done in the UN might be better done elsewhere. The UN must not fight shy of scrapping unnecessary bodies, as the Prime Minister said at the anniversary. Costs can be cut without affecting performance. In the first few months of a scrutiny of costs, the UN has identified potential savings of about 16 million dollars. There will be more to come as the reform process continues.
I should have wished to respond more fully to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, my noble friend Lady Park and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, about Army manning and recruitment. Let me just say that the Government remain totally committed to Armed Forces which are properly manned, well equipped and supported. We plan to maintain and, indeed, to enhance our front line capabilities. We will also provide the necessary support to allow the Armed Forces to carry out the wide range of tasks in which they are currently engaged. We believe that we have the best Armed Forces in the world. Their professionalism, leadership, training and equipment are second to none.
Equally, I cannot do justice tonight to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. I shall just take the opportunity to make a brief comment on the Eurofighter. The Government remain firmly committed to Eurofighter 2000 and our priority is to bring that aircraft into service as soon as practicable. Eurofighter will provide the cornerstone of the RAF's future capability from early in the next century.
I should have wished to cover many other subjects tonight--nuclear deterrence, Nigeria, eastern Europe, Hong Kong, and South Africa--but time and regard for your Lordships' patience prevent me.
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