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4.40 p.m.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, as another member of this all-party Cambridge mafia, perhaps I may say how pleased I am to be taking part in the debate in which we have heard notable maiden speeches from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and my noble friend Lord Hurd. The noble Lord will remember that he and I, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, spoke together for the first time from the front bench in the Cambridge Union exactly 49 years ago. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, was lurking on the other side.

I wish also to join with others who welcome the debate so well and effectively introduced by the noble Lord--perhaps I might say my noble friend--Lord Wright of Richmond on whose guidance and support I depended throughout my time in the Foreign Office, and not least when he was Permanent Under-Secretary. I am glad that he widened the scope of the debate and even so left it realistically placed in the perspective of the European Union and the British presidency. He was right to point out that the world in

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which we live is much more hazardous than it might have seemed at the end of the Cold War or when Francis Fukuyama pronounced the "end of history".

The noble Lord, Lord Healey, drew attention to the hazards to be found in the former Soviet Union. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and I have for some years been in a partnership together in the Republic of Ukraine. I fear that our attempts to offer economic advice in that quarter leave it still finding it very hard to establish confident foundations for the future, much to our regret.

As the noble Lord, Lord Healey, pointed out, in Russia there is a continuing and uneasy balance between the struggle for economic reform and sheer lawlessness. The noble Lord, Lord Wright, made plain that throughout the broad areas of the Middle East there is trouble to be found around almost every corner.

I endorse what has been said by several speakers about the need for us to try to re-establish an effective relationship with Iran. One of the happier moments of my life when I was Foreign Secretary was to achieve just that with the Iranian Foreign Minister, only to have it blown out of the water within three weeks by the pronouncement of the fatwa which has hovered over us ever since. We shall need together to work patiently to make progress in that direction.

In the Asia/Pacific region--it has not been mentioned--the problems that loom most large at present are economic. In a sense it is reassuring to see the increasingly important and engaged role of the People's Republic of China upon whom we depend not only in that region but in the United Nations.

I hope that I may be allowed to digress for one moment to say a word about Hong Kong. I know that what I say in this respect has the support of the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, because we discussed it recently. It is important to praise the remarkable stability in that territory despite all the recent economic difficulties. Credit for that is due undoubtedly to the Chinese Government who have been following the spirit as well as the letter of the Joint Declaration and have given real substance to the concept of autonomy for Hong Kong. Credit is due also to the Chief Executive, Tung Chee Hwa, for his steadiness and calm in a challenging situation, plagued by avian flu as well as an economic crisis. Finally, a tribute is rightly due, I think, to the Hong Kong Civil Service, under Anson Chan and Donald Tsang in particular, for their remarkable demonstration of how to move from loyal service to one government to equally loyal service to their successor. Long may they all continue as they have so well begun.

If one turns to look at the broader picture, it is true, as others have pointed out, that only one superpower remains: the United States. But our partnership--Britain and Europe alike--with the United States is of huge importance. When Raymond Seitz was ambassador--he wisely refrained from using the words "special relationship"--he described the relationship of the nations concerned as an intercontinental one, which is why the link between Europe and the United States is

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so important. But it would be unwise as well as unfair to lean too exclusively upon the leadership of the United States.

The Financial Times yesterday referred, remarkably, to,

    "the obvious reluctance of the US body politic either to assume the burdens of world leadership or to accept the constraints of a consensual world order".
One should realise that such an anxious state of affairs is far from abnormal. Europe is not the only continent where competing national or factional views make it difficult to achieve and sustain a common foreign and security policy. Only a few months ago, in the autumn edition of the National Interest James Schlesinger, an experienced former servant of the United States Government, said that in his country,

    "ethnic groups"--
he cited Armenian, Cuban, Greek, Irish and Zionists--

    "have acquired an excessive influence over foreign policy--
to the extent that--

    "it can scarcely be said that we have a foreign policy at all".

That is serious commentary. No doubt it goes too far. But driven by that fragmented background the United States response all too often takes, or threatens to take, the form of sanctions, frequently extraterritorial and unilateral. James Schlesinger points out that during President Clinton's first term the United States imposed or threatened unilateral economic sanctions 60 times against 35 countries that, taken together, make up 42 per cent. of world population.

There is no room for doubt against that background that we European nations need to get our foreign policy act together. Public opinion in all our countries, and in the United States, wants to see a collective determination by European Governments to speak and act more decisively, more urgently and, above all, more coherently on the world stage.

In last week's Economist the noble Lord, Lord Owen, said that Britain should "champion that cause"; and he was quite right to do so. As regards what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, I do not think that we need to become embroiled, as my noble friend Lord Hurd said, with any further discussion of procedural change. Effective European foreign policy needs neither treaty amendment nor extension of majority voting, but, above all, political leadership. The United Kingdom has unique diplomatic and military strength to bring to that cause, if we do so in practical partnership with our French and German allies. And nowhere, if I may say so, is that more necessary than in the Middle East. If we were to achieve that, it would not undermine but strengthen the Atlantic alliance.

Moreover, it is a field in which British talk of leadership in Europe is reasonably credible and convincing so long as it is asserted, as it should be, reasonably modestly. It would lend conviction to our management of the rest of the presidency agenda: to establish a credible route map for enlargement; to sustain the pressure for institutional change in that area to make enlargement possible; and to reform the CAP. But, above all, the biggest challenge to our convincing role in Europe is in our handling of economic and

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monetary union. I commend the analyses of that--there have been two already from the noble Lord, Lord Currie; and a second one due shortly from my noble friend Lord Kingsdown. Their message is this: it is going to happen. In the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Currie, it is,

    "a crucial but uncertain venture [in which] nothing is inevitable".
The range of possible outcomes could be between triumph and disaster. On any view it is outstandingly in the British interest that it should succeed.

On all sides, therefore, a growing number of people in this country want us to achieve that. They echo the phrase again used by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is sceptical enough about the whole exercise that,

    "our task as a country is to keep genuinely open all our options on the Euro for the years ahead"
on the basis that,

    "five years or more is an eternity".
The struggle to keep that option open, for which my right honourable friends John Major and Kenneth Clarke fought so hard, has been well worth fighting for. It is important that that option should be real. It is important that the Government and the country should prepare themselves to be able to join, and to promote public acceptance of that objective.

In the context of the United Kingdom presidency the key challenge now to Her Majesty's Government is to spread agreement among our partners on the urgent and continuing need for supply side reforms and flexibility, above all, but not only, in labour markets. That is why the United Kingdom presidency in that context is so crucial, because we are there at the beginning, not the end, of an important journey. If Her Majesty's Government show courage in exploiting their own more positive attitude to press (on other governments as well as upon themselves) the essential reform agenda if EMU is to succeed, then they will indeed be able to count on the support of all those who are committed not to the flamboyant rhetoric but to the modest reality of British leadership in Europe.

4.50 p.m.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I cannot speak with the same knowledge or wide experience of foreign affairs as former Secretaries of State or the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, to whom we are indebted for this debate. I rise to draw attention to the plight of Tibet. In doing so, I must declare an interest as patron of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet and of the Tibet Society.

We are rightly proud of our parliamentary tradition of settling our disputes by "parley" rather than by the sword--indeed, we constantly seek to persuade other nations to follow our example.

When the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, it was because of,

    "His consistent resistance to the use of violence in his people's struggle to regain their independence".
Since 1959, His Holiness, together with some 100,000 of his countrymen and women and children have lived in exile in India--and all honour goes to India for taking them in.

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In September, I visited Dharamsala, and during my discussions with the Dalai Lama he told me that one of his great problems was to restrain young Tibetans in exile from taking up arms in their struggle to return to their homeland. They say that unless and until they do so, the world will continue to turn a blind eye to their plight. I am sure your Lordships will agree that we who preach and practise the same non-violent approach as the Dalai Lama have a moral obligation to give him our positive and practical support.

Four weeks ago, the International Commission of Jurists published a long report (some 370 pages) drawing attention to the continued repression and the gross abuse of human rights in Tibet. It is the latest of several reports. To its credit, the European Parliament has long supported the Dalai Lama's approach of reasoned negotiations with the Chinese Government and his policy of non-violence. As recently as 15th January, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling upon the Council and the Commission to appoint a special representative for Tibet,

    "responsible for doing everything possible to carry out the European Union's demands as regards civil and political rights in Tibet with a remit to monitor developments there".

The United States Government recently appointed Mr. Gregory Craig as special co-ordinator for Tibet with a remit to promote substantive negotiations between the Dalai Lama and the Government of the People's Republic of China.

The All Party Group on Tibet, as the Minister will know, has had several meetings with the Minister of State in her department, Mr. Derek Fatchett, and we have been greatly encouraged by his robust approach to the problems of Tibetans in exile.

The United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union provides an ideal opportunity positively to promote the appointment of a European special representative for Tibet to carry out the resolution of the European Parliament in full.

My diary contains at the start of each week a quotation. This week, it was by Francis Bacon. It read:

    "He who deemeth small things beneath his state will be too small for what is truly great".

It may be true that in relation to the other problems and dangers to which other noble Lords have drawn attention the plight of Tibet is a small matter and not therefore a particularly high priority. But it is not a small matter for the people of Tibet and those in exile.

I hope that your Lordships will agree that for our country it is a moral duty that we should practise what we preach. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give us that assurance today. For the people of Tibet, it would be a truly great thing.

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