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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill

7.59 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.--(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Prime Minister's carefully drafted article in today's Irish Times. We believe that it contributes to the creation of trust between the two Governments and also between both communities. Both communities in Northern Ireland can draw a measure of assurance from its wording.

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Your Lordships will know that there have been no real obstacles in the House to the passage of the Bill which replaces the existing emergency legislation. That does not mean that the Bill has no defects as it stands. Regrettably, it has a number which were identified by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn in his speech from the Labour Front Bench in the course of the Second Reading debate on 21st March. The existence of emergency legislation is always a source of concern and a matter of regret.

I also wish to refer to the important Statement made yesterday on the flawed forensic tests carried out at the Sevenoaks laboratory which have come to light. The Statement adds to our concerns about the use of emergency legislation. Although there is no evidence just now to show that there are problems in other laboratories, the Statement is bound to raise doubts about procedures. Although the contamination issue does not stem directly from the provisions of this Bill, once again it is a reminder that the existence of emergency legislation demands constant vigilance against mistakes and errors.

One of our main regrets in connection with the Bill is that the Government felt unable to set up the inquiry under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, assisted by Mr. Justice Kerr, at least six months earlier, so that its findings could be considered by the Government and taken into account in framing the Bill now before us and informing the debate on the Bill. However, we look forward to the noble and learned Lord's report. The Labour Party has made a submission to the inquiry and that leads me naturally to ask the Minister whether she is able to give the House an indication of when it may expect to receive the noble and learned Lord's report.

Tonight at least, we have the satisfaction that this Bill, unlike its predecessor, will expire after two years. With those remarks, we give our support to the Bill.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support for the emergency provisions Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, made his concerns known at various stages of the Bill, but it was a delight to hear the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, praise the words of the Prime Minister this morning in the article on working towards peace, because that is the Government's aim. I know that we have the support of Shadow Ministers on the other Benches.

Now is the time when the IRA must make its choice either to let its political representatives take their place at the table armed only with their mandate or to continue to blight another generation with political violence that ultimately cannot succeed. If the IRA chooses the former path and makes clear its total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the Mitchell Report, Sinn Fein may take its place at the table. The need for the emergency legislation will disappear, enabling the Government to remove it in due course. However, if the IRA chooses the latter course, then the Government will continue to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland

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have the most effective legislation possible to ensure that terrorism, from whatever source, is countered and that those engaged in it are brought to justice.

I am pleased to be able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, that we look forward to the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, by the autumn. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Northern Ireland (Emergency and Prevention of Terrorism Provisions) (Continuance) Order 1996

8.6 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 8th May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is proposed that the Bill which has just received its Third Reading in your Lordships' House, and which will now pass to another place for consideration of amendments made in this House, would come into force on 25th August 1996. It was, essentially, a Bill to re-enact the existing provisions of the emergency provisions Act 1991 which expires in August. However, the principal provisions of the current Act would lapse before then, on 15th June, unless renewed by order of my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before midnight on that date.

It is an annual duty falling upon your Lordships' House at this time of the year to debate the continuance of the emergency legislation. On this occasion, however, because we have been considering a Bill to re-enact the emergency provisions for a further two years, pending the outcome of the inquiry currently being led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, into the future need for counter-terrorist legislation throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, we have had ample opportunity to debate the key issue which is the continued need to keep the provisions on the statute book.

I shall not describe the content of the Act, as it would amount to repeating what I said to your Lordships' on Second Reading of the successor legislation on 21st March. Suffice it to say that the House is considering the order against a climate in which the terrorist organisations remain intact, active and ready to mount further attacks both on the GB mainland, as we have seen all too clearly, and in Northern Ireland.

We continue to strive for a peaceful accommodation in Northern Ireland and we are hopeful that such an outcome will eventually be achieved through the democratic process and, we hope, through talks which will embrace all of the political parties.

The order, which I commend to your Lordships' House straightforwardly, has the effect of keeping the existing provisions in statute until they are repealed by the coming into effect of the successor legislation in August. I beg to move.

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Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 8th May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

8.8 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for having carefully explained the reasons for the continuance order. In a sense it is in the nature of a temporary measure so that a gap should not occur between the expiry of the existing Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 and the coming into force of the Bill which has been given its Third Reading. That was made very clear by the Minister. We have pleasure in supporting the order.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, this House offers great support to Northern Ireland. The people of the Province are extremely grateful for that and for the friendship they are offered by noble Lords who continue to spend much time in the interests of the Province.

With that, and with an expression of gratitude for the support given to the order, which allows our citizens to be protected, I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

United Nations Funding

8.10 p.m.

Lord Judd rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in ensuring adequate financial resources for the United Nations in all its activities.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, "Quot homines, tot sententiae"--as many persons, so many opinions--is how the Commission on Global Government chaired by Sonny Ramphal and Ingvar Carlsson, of which I am glad to be a member, described how the United Nations is seen. But on one point all the members of the commission are for their part agreed: it is our United Nations. In other words, the commitment and support which member governments bring to it on behalf of those they represent are crucial to its success.

That must be particularly true of a nation like our own, which aspires to be one of only five permanent members of the Security Council. For us it cannot be a selfish matter of using the United Nations only to further our own perceived national interests, if indeed those can ever be separate from the well-being of the global community as a whole. Of our own volition we choose to continue in a leadership role for global stewardship on behalf of humanity as a whole. That, I know, is a conviction shared by the noble Baroness the Minister. She has said so with firmness on a number of occasions in this House and outside it, and I commend her for that.

I must declare a concerned interest as an honorary vice-president of the United Nations Association and as a volunteer member of the World Health Organisation Task Force on health and development. In an age of too much journalistic cynicism, with a disturbing culture of

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instant analysis which too often sadly lacks historical perspective, it is all too easy to lose a sense of proportion.

Among the successes of the United Nations have been its significant, if not untroubled, contributions to peacekeeping and peace making, perhaps particularly in some of the dangerous regional conflicts during the Cold War; its work on decolonisation; its advancement of human rights and women's rights; its achievements in relation to the law of the sea; and its record of raising the level of international commitment to responsibility for the environment.

The specialised agencies of the UN have done outstanding work for children, refugees, labour rights, food relief, meteorology and economic and social development. On health alone--surely a fundamental human social right--the World Health Organisation has led in the eradication of smallpox and is now leading in the elimination of polio, leprosy, guinea-worm disease, river blindness and Chagas' disease, as well as taking on a big share of the battle against AIDS. Qualitatively, UNESCO is also now making a vital contribution to the educational, scientific and cultural dimensions of the global community.

It is, frankly, sad that as permanent members of the Security Council the British and United States Governments still stubbornly refuse to join in the increasingly effective work of UNESCO, with all its significance for the future of global stability. United States and British expertise and experience could do much to reinforce and strengthen the progress that has already been made.

All that does not for a moment mean that the record of the United Nations system is without blemish. Of course it is not. There have at times been mistakes, even grave mistakes, extravagances, waste, bureaucratic inertia and incompetence. To pretend otherwise would be naive. But then, what national government of any political persuasion has ever had a totally unblemished record? Surely the challenge is to work together with the leaders of the secretariat to ensure consistency, the highest levels of public administration, public service and cost-effectiveness. Indeed, our duty to hard-working taxpayers throughout the world demands no less.

For a start, we need to concentrate with other member governments on insisting upon the most stringent methods of recruitment and selection for the Secretary General--arguably the most demanding chief executive role in the world--and for his senior colleagues. What dynamic multinational firm in the world today would tolerate the hole-in-the-corner, manipulative intrigue which goes into the operation at present?

Job descriptions must be clear, and so must the criteria by which the selection is made. The search for the strongest possible candidate should be wide, and that should go for appointments at all levels of the United Nations system. Appointment and promotion should invariably be on merit, ability, suitability and competence alone, free of direct or indirect political pressure or trade-offs.

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It is surely the height of hypocrisy and irresponsibility to complain about the failings of the United Nations while repeatedly loading it with ever more demanding tasks, if we are not at the same time doing our level best to ensure that it has human resources of the best quality to perform effectively and the financial resources to enable the staff to deliver.

Erskine Childers and Brian Urquhart, in their important book, Renewing the UN system, have demonstrated that the so-called facts about the UN budget have often been mythologised. Since 1946, United Nations membership has increased from 51 to 184 member states, bringing within its scope virtually the whole of humankind, the numbers of which have more than doubled over that same period. Numerous global programmes have been launched in response to these increased commitments. Yet the estimated total worldwide expenditure through the UN system by 1992 was only 10,500 million US dollars--barely 30 per cent. of what we in the United Kingdom alone spend on alcoholic beverages. By 1992, the United Nations system's expenditure was only 0.05 per cent. of the world's gross domestic product. It represented an expenditure of one dollar 90 cents per human being alive in 1992 as compared with 150 dollars per human still being devoted to military expenditure.

Urquhart and Childers pointed out that, significantly, 39 per cent. of that United Nations expenditure was for emergency work in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance--reflecting the inadequate resources available for tackling the root causes of what, as the Minister opposite knows better than most of us, so often become extremely costly problems. Nevertheless, it is striking to note that in 1992 the resources provided for United Nations peacekeeping operations were themselves less than the combined cost of operating the fire and police departments of New York City.

What makes this worse is that, by comparison with those available for peacekeeping, the human and financial resources available for conflict resolution, peace building, arbitration and pre-emptive diplomacy--by any yardstick the sane and rational priorities for the United Nations--are so small as to be laughable, were it not for the fact that they represent such a grim reflection of a total lack of common sense.

In a mid-1993 paper entitled An Agenda for Peace: One Year Later, the Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, urged the Security Council to brace itself to expect the unexpected. He argued that, in the years just ahead, major developments would affect the role and functioning of the Security Council. Competing entities, states, groups and individuals would request United Nations intervention to protect their security; threats to international peace and security would emanate from situations essentially of a non-military nature, including social disarray created by movement towards democracy and economic tension created by the cost of both development and non-development; increasing political pressure would shape the evolving mechanisms of consensus building on security decisions.

How right he was. He could have underlined still more strongly the nightmare of ethnicity which later led to genocide in Rwanda, at the very time the world was

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commemorating the holocaust and saying that it must never happen again; to the killings of Burundi; and, I fear, to the ongoing traumas of former Yugoslavia. What will history have to say of us when it asks why the Security Council and the Secretary General were unable to mobilise the resources needed to prevent that genocide in Rwanda; why the Secretary General felt compelled to forego an increased mandate for Bosnia; and why, even now, he is unable to mobilise the necessary resources to prevent the danger of a Rwanda in Burundi?

As is often said, did the United Nations not exist, something very like it would have to be invented to meet the volatile and dangerous hazards of the unpredictable world in which we live. Interdependence is an inescapable reality. We all know that, and yet, while sermonising about cost-effectiveness and efficiency, we also know that the necessary resources for the United Nations are conspicuous by their absence and that that aggravates the weaknesses. It is transparently obvious that to under-resource the United Nations is a false economy. The consequent humanitarian bills can prove enormous. The External Affairs Committee of the Canadian House of Commons put the situation very well:


    "The world needs a centre and some confidence that the centre is holding: the United Nations is the only credible candidate".

At the heart of the underfunding there lies a truly disgraceful story of failure to pay membership and other dues--sometimes, it must be said, by the very governments which are most vociferous in their criticism of UN inadequacy. In 1993, by the 31st January deadline, only 18 member states of the United Nations itself (accounting for 16 per cent. of the budget) had paid their dues in full. By 31st October 1994 governments owed a total of 2,100 million dollars--one third for the regular budget and the rest for peacekeeping. I am sad to underline that the United States was the worst defaulter at 687 million dollars, Russia being the next worst at 597 million dollars.

More recently, Joseph E. Connor, the Under-Secretary for Administration and Management in the UN, announced on 29th April last that unpaid assessments totalled 2,800 million dollars and, of that, 1,500 million dollars was now owed by the United States, 400 million dollars by the Russian Federation and 250 million dollars by the Ukraine. As of the next day, he is reported to have warned that the regular budget cash balance would be zero. Mr. Connor anticipated that at the end of December member states would owe 2,100 million US dollars to peacekeeping budgets, of which the United States would still owe 1,300 million dollars. In all those circumstances, he explained, the United Nations had no option but to continue borrowing, not least from peacekeeping funds, in order to finance the regular budget. That is in the context of between 700 million and 800 million dollars owed already to member states like us for troops and equipment provided for peacekeeping. What makes all that so lamentable is that the UN is to be forced to rob a desperately needed and overstretched Peter to pay

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Paul. All debts to member countries for peacekeeping could be cleared, according to Mr. Connor, if only the United States were to pay its huge arrears.

President Clinton has now evidently decided to challenge Congress and the Senate to pay up all the backlog within five years. He is to be congratulated on his courageous stand. It is encouraging news. And certainly the adoption last month of the US budget for the current financial year should result in the payment of 256 million US dollars more than had been forecast to be received in 1996. It also seems that the Russian Federation announced an intention to pay 400 million dollars in 1996--46 million to the regular budget and 354 million to the peacekeeping budget. That, I gather, is 275 million dollars more than had been forecast for 1996.

Furthermore, in fairness we should take note that since last year the Russian Federation has so far broadly kept up to date on all its current regular budget assessments. But, as Mr. Connor wisely cautioned, promises and intentions are one thing, actual payments are another. There have been significant staff cuts and freezes in recruitment; morale, essential to the critical work of the United Nations, has inevitably suffered from all the uncertainty and the inability of the organisation to meet all its obligations, let alone rise to new challenges. Sound forward planning has become virtually impossible. Without question, the financial default of too many member states has severely debilitated the United Nations. Withholding contributions has become a destructive way of attempting to exercise influence--but what a negative, damaging influence. It is significant that Article 19 of the United Nations charter makes provision for depriving member states who choose not to abide by the financial rules of their vote. It will be interesting to hear the Minister's views on why that rule has not been applied.

The question inevitably arises as to whether, with the present laudable and carefully calculated criteria, it is nevertheless wise to rely on one state--the United States--for 25 per cent. of the regular budget. Again, it would be helpful to know the Minister's thinking on that. The US administration has already indicated a desire to meet that point by seeking to reduce its assessed 30 per cent. share of the peacekeeping budget.

Perhaps in conclusion I can say that we all need the United Nations; we need it as an effective, streamlined, professional organisation free of inertia, waste and extravagance. This calls for strong leadership by example at all levels, not least the top; it calls for high calibre staff with buoyant morale. But it also calls for sufficient resources to do the work which the UN is charged to do. Nothing is more wasteful of taxpayers' money than to put it into an organisation which is not financially geared for what is expected of it. That way lies calamity. Insufficient resources can mean that, increasingly, all the resources that are made available prove ineffective.

Whatever recent performance leaves to be desired in support for the specialised agencies, British governments have a relatively good record of paying their dues to the

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United Nations. That is something in which all United Kingdom citizens can legitimately take pride. It entitles us to call on others to shoulder their responsibilities. The Government will enjoy full support from this side of the House if they speak out firmly to the defaulters and say: "Enough is enough. Come on, pay up or keep your peace. If, like us, you really want a strong and effective United Nations, join us as demonstrably committed fee-paying members. You can then use all the moral authority and influence that that commitment will generate to help bring about the necessary reforms and restructuring to equip the United Nations to meet the immense challenges ahead".

For Britain itself it is time to follow the logic of our own example in the mainstream United Nations throughout the specialised agencies, not least in UNESCO.


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