Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, perhaps I may ask what this has to do with Article J.13 of the treaty?

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, absolutely everything. I can fully understand why the Government Benches do not want to hear this as a case study. This is a severe and lasting embarrassment to the performance of the ministerial team at the Foreign Office. But the real relevance is this. It goes to the heart of the CFSP. How on earth will the British Government manage a common position on a foreign policy issue if one week they take position X and the following week they completely change their position? Will they exercise the emergency brake because the Prime Minister has determined that the foreign policy as determined by the Foreign Secretary a week before was wrong? No, my Lords. I believe it vitally important to look at case studies. In Committee we looked at the French position as opposed to the British with regard to Iraq--another good case study. I note that the Government Benches did not jump

12 May 1998 : Column 1007

up at that time and object to the fact that a useful case study, pointing out the weaknesses inherent in the CFSP, was not brought to the Committee's attention.

To reinforce the point, it would be important for the British Government, sitting with our European colleagues, to know what British foreign policy is.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, perhaps I may draw to the noble Lord's attention that we are at Report stage rather than in Committee. There is a big difference between the two.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am totally aware of the difference between Committee and Report stages. If the noble Lord intervenes to state that this new example also causes him discomfort, no doubt he will be able to listen carefully to the implications for his Government's policy with regard to the CFSP.

I wish to go into areas which were not covered in sufficient detail in Committee, where specific answers were not given to questions I raised. I used as an example the question raised yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. It is relevant to note that the Foreign Office position, given by the Minister, was,

    "I do not have information on what is happening at this moment in Sierra Leone".--[Official Report, 11/5/98; col. 824.]

Does the noble Baroness have the information today? The 2,000 locked up without charge are in gaols in Freetown. There are thousands more detained in the principal cities of Bo, Kenema and Makeni. It was reported to me earlier today that fighting continues in many areas outside the capital. Medecins sans Frontieres have reports of mutilations occurring now. Are any of those at the hands of the Kamajors in our Prime Minister's newly-embraced favourite African country?

How great has been the collaboration between the tens of thousands of well-armed Kamajors and their Nigerian supporters? For the Nigerians are also subject to European Union and Commonwealth embargoes on arms. In the context of this debate, will our European colleagues turn a blind eye to the arms flow from Nigeria if the ends of the Prime Minster's new foreign policy justify the means?

Yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, my noble friend Lady Young and I raised important questions regarding the humanitarian aspects of the issue. What evidence is there of the British Government actively pursuing national reconciliation, to which both Resolutions 1132 and 1162 refer? Or will the answer once again be, "I do not have information on what is happening at this moment in Sierra Leone"? If that is the answer, what hope do we have of seeing the creation of a consistent set of common foreign policy and defence initiatives in Europe? What implications does the Minister think the British Government's doctrine of the ends justifying the means would have for the common foreign and security policy in Europe? We now have a Government who when they so choose are above

12 May 1998 : Column 1008

the law, and an Administration authorised by the Prime Minister to cherry pick those laws it chooses to obey and those it chooses to flout.

It would be hypocritical to criticise our European partners, or any other country in the world for that matter, for pursuing a similar policy. This is the road to unravelling and ultimately demolishing the edifice of international law and the legitimacy of international organisations to uphold that law in the name of the values upon which our society is based: peace, security, democracy and human rights. This is an architecture which the mature democracies of the European Union helped to design; and those same democracies willingly agreed to be bound by its terms. If it is undermined by the very states which built it, who or what will be the arbiter of what is or is not internationally acceptable?

A country's foreign policy is a mirror reflecting its national interests and its values and principles. It is for that reason that our foreign policy should be decided here with the Foreign Secretary answerable to the House. At least Foreign Office Ministers will be ultimately answerable to this House for their conduct in the arms to Africa affair. In Committee I emphasised our belief in the potential of the CFSP. Where it acts with the grain of our national traditions and represents the coincidence of our national interests with those of our European partners, it will succeed. But where the CFSP is forced into the rhetoric of solidarity and unity, when whether for geographical, political or historic reasons that does not reflect reality, it will surely fail. And it will surely fail if there is not consistency in policy coming from the government of the day.

The purpose therefore of the new clause is to enable the Minister to reassure the House that the new decision-making procedures for the CFSP do not represent a forced march down the road to an artificial common foreign policy which is against those very national interests the Government purport to promote. I beg to move.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I do not dispute that the noble Lord raises some important points on Sierra Leone. He referred to the role of my noble friend Lord Avebury in raising those concerns. However, perhaps we should concentrate on the amendment. I intend to speak more directly to it than has the noble Lord.

The amendment relates to the procedures of the common foreign and security policy. First, I believe that the amendment is unworkable and unnecessary. It is unworkable because it would prevent the speedy reaction that the European Union needs to be able to adopt in crisis situations. The noble Lord referred to the potential of the common foreign and security policy. I submit that that potential will not be realised if the decision making is slow and cumbersome.

Secondly, the amendment is unnecessary because there are sufficient safeguards. Indeed, those safeguards to protect member states' interests have been referred to by the noble Lord. Perhaps I may enumerate them.

Article J.13 starts from the premise that decisions are normally taken unanimously, both in the European Council and in the Council of Ministers. The article goes

12 May 1998 : Column 1009

on to outline the procedure of constructive abstention while allowing, as the noble Lord mentioned, for respect of the principle of mutual solidarity. That is another safeguard for a national government.

The article then states that, by way of derogation from the normal rule of unanimity in implementing measures of joint actions and common positions, there could be qualified majority voting. Joint actions are defined as specific situations where operational action by the union is deemed to be required. That is the point on which we need to focus: specific situations requiring operational action.

Were the amendment to be accepted, it would introduce another hurdle of bureaucratic delay in trying to arrive at that operational action. But even the procedure of QMV is subject to the emergency brake to which the noble Lord also referred, whereby member states can oppose a majority vote. So there are a series of layers of safeguards for member states' interests.

My worry about the common foreign and security policy is that it is not sufficiently fast and effective in its response. The decision-making has been described by one commentator as "heavy and ornate". This amendment would introduce another element of heaviness and ornament.

The European Union is currently faced with challenges in Kosovo, Algeria, the Middle East and the Gulf--conflict in areas close to us, affecting our security in all kinds of ways. It is such considerations which have no doubt led the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to try to make the European Union more of a player in the Middle East peace process, somewhat matching the role of the United States.

The European Union seeks to guarantee peace, prosperity and democracy for its citizens. One of the ways it can do that is to have an effective voice in world affairs. This amendment would make that more difficult. It would be an unnecessary and unworkable impediment to British participation in the common foreign and security policy.

It may well be that Europe needs to streamline its activities, respecting the principle of subsidiarity in some domestic areas where it could be deemed to be fussy and bossy. I feel rather strongly about some of the rules on food safety, local cheeses being banned, and so on. But the quid pro quo is that we must use political capital to increase the arguments for Europe to have a common voice in the world. That is one of the essential things that the European Union must do. That is what it can uniquely do for the citizens of Europe: act jointly to preserve that peace and security. We must transfer this energy, perhaps from some of the streamlined activities, to the international arena. If we believe in Europe acting effectively on the international stage for the security of our own citizens, this amendment should be strongly resisted.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page