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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I will rewrite my notes immediately! I was about to say that the situation in the Congo, and, in particular the presence of the Zimbabwean troops, is one that I believe should cause us a great deal of concern. I spent some time in Zimbabwe and I do not believe that the troops are there for any other reason than because of the political turmoil that President Mugabe is facing at home. When we discussed the issue of the Great Lakes two years ago, the dangers that could be associated with the former country of Zaire were mentioned. I wonder if the Government will feel able to back any call by the South Africans for peace talks. I hope they will give that project all the support that they can.
Before leaving the issue of the DfID, I should like to mention the British Council. Good government programmes are one optimistic area of conflict prevention that are being funded by DfID through the British Council. In this respect, I mention particularly such programmes as the Palestinian Legislative Council. It is quite clear that funding such projects, however expensive they may be in the short term, may prevent major difficulties and destabilisation from arising in the future.
My noble friend Lord Carlisle--I believe I have got his name right--mentioned that the British Council is facing restricted funds. However, I recently visited the British Council and for the first time in a number of years its outlook seemed far more optimistic because there had been quite an increase in its budget. I believe that for the first time there was optimistic talk about the future rather than the possibility of shedding posts.
One issue that was left out of the gracious Speech was the mention of legislation to ratify the statute of the international criminal court. I wonder if the Minister can give any indication as to whether that legislation will be brought forward. I am not sure whether it can be brought forward if it has not been mentioned in the gracious Speech. In view of recent events, I very much hope that that can be brought forward.
I should very briefly like to mention the area of defence. I know that the subject has been mentioned in many speeches. I should like to focus briefly on the Territorial Army. The SDR has gone through and I believe that that has been quite a successful move. The TA has survived in a better format than might have been
That is one of the big problems which arises with the closure of many TA bases. I know that the changes have gone through, but I have the following plea to make. As someone who has actually had to prepare his unit for the closure of a base which did not ultimately take place, I very much hope that the Minister can give us some assurance for the future that the need for a period of rest and consolidation will be taken into consideration. Having been in a position of actually telling people that they have to move out of their TA centre, I know that there is nothing more damaging to morale. Now that the cuts have taken place, I hope not only that the units will feel more secure but also that they will be able to undertake proper training.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, after Prayers this afternoon, which seems about a week and a half ago, I entered the Chamber side by side with the Minister. He said that he would not pay much emphasis in his speech to the Strategic Defence Review due to the fact that we will be having a debate on the subject in 10 days' time. I totally accept what he said. However, I have to say that it has led to a good deal of wasted paper as regards some parts of my speech which I wrote over 24 hours ago and long before I knew that we were likely to have the debate next week. Nevertheless, I think that I may have occasion to touch upon the subject.
Although we have heard a great many speeches today on foreign affairs, a number of speeches on international development, and a few on defence, we have, to my very considerable surprise, had hardly any on the inter-relationship of foreign affairs and defence, subjects which seem to me inextricably linked. Defence policy must be based on an appreciation of foreign policy requirements. While it is true that internal security and Northern Ireland, where it cannot be taken for granted that the need for a substantial defence commitment has yet been totally eliminated, are purely domestic matters, the need is for defence policy to be based on what is happening or what is likely to happen abroad. It is therefore very good news that we will get the opportunity to discuss the SDR on 8th December. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that this is not the appropriate time to talk about the SDR in any detail.
The noble Lord pointed out that there was nothing in the gracious Speech on nuclear policy. But in response to what he had already been told, and because he knew that there would be a further reaction from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, he commented upon it. The noble Lord complained about the fact that there was nothing about the elimination of nuclear weapons and said that it was in the Labour Party manifesto. I should not have thought that such a distinguished, senior and
This country and the rest of Europe must be prepared to play their part but they should not play more than their part. In order to play its part the United Kingdom must be in a state of constant readiness. The Treasury, among others--although chiefly the Treasury--must understand that we no longer have any time for planning when a problem is upon us. We must be ready at all times. By being ready at all times we will avoid the danger of crisis fatigue. There remains a faint memory of the infamous 10-year rule of the 1920s and 1930s, but with the immensely increased sophistication of weapons, the danger is, or can be, immediate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, underlined the evils of Saddam Hussein and his reign, and was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and others. However, with the true instincts of a converted Tory on to the Liberal Benches, the noble Baroness was prepared to underline evil without knowing what to do about it. I give way to the noble Baroness.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, I am much obliged. I should be fascinated to hear the perfect solution from the noble Lord to the problems that Saddam Hussein's threats pose to the outside world, as well the cruelty to his own people, given the fact that it was a Conservative government who, without telling the House of Commons, lifted the guidelines on selling weapons to Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s. That was a shocking thing to do. I do not believe that the noble Lord has a leg to stand on in that respect.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, I have two. However, I must confess that I do not know the answer. As regards Iraq, I would be grateful if the Minister in her summing up could clarify what appears to be a contradiction in government policy. Ten days ago she told the House:
It is not only what happens in Iraq. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, touched on a vital point when she referred to the desperate economic situation in Russia. The Cold War is over, but, as other speakers have said, the situation in Russia today may lead to a desperate political reaction. Indeed, a civil war was mentioned at one point and reference was also made to some form of aggression. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, sees "no threat". No, not now, but will there be in a year, two, or three, years' time when the situation in Russia is even more desperate than it is now? The political situation seems to carry very much the same metaphor as the share index. Over the past three to four months it has been roaring up and down, but no one today can be happy at where it stands, whether it is up or down.
All this underlines the case for a defence budget higher than may seem to be immediately necessary. The long-term nature of our defence commitments and planning is shown by the delivery date of the two new aircraft carriers, given as the year 2012 or possibly 2022, depending on whether one has looked at the advertisement asking for tenders for the refit of the existing carriers. But in a much shorter time than 2012, all three services must have the equipment to carry out operations on more than one front at a time. None of this comes cheap, but it is not acceptable to cut corners based on the argument that the money will be better spent in other ways. The long-term future of this country lies in its ability to defend itself at all times from any conceivable danger.
In a few days we shall have the opportunity of discussing defence policy. I was heartened by the categorical assurance given to me in the summer by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that the two aircraft carriers would be built. The summer was a long time ago. We have heard many, admittedly totally unofficial, suggestions that so categorical a statement cannot be justified. I appreciate that noble Lords on the Government Front Bench answer for the whole Government. It is possibly a little unfair of me to expect an answer on that point from the noble Baroness, but no doubt in due course, and certainly in the debate on the Strategic Defence Review, I shall be grateful for an answer.
By and large in the Strategic Defence Review, the Navy has suffered less severely than the Army, but it has suffered and it has been harsh. It is being asked to do more with less, which is bound to have an effect on morale, recruitment and retention. It is rather worrying
There is another question to which we shall be looking for an answer. It is the curious matter of HMS "Spartan", whose refit is due to cost £200 million. One must bear in mind that the savings from the Territorial Army are £70 million. HMS "Spartan" will cost £200 million with, at most, four years extra service. I am sure that that has nothing to do with the fact that she is to be refitted at Rosyth, which is Gordon Brown country and where many of the workers are his constituents.
On the assumption that the Navy will get the aircraft carriers, what is it going to put on them? It seems it is not likely to be the Eurofighter because the degree of change to the design, particularly the main frame, would make it a difficult and costly exercise. The noble Baroness courteously gave me a full reply in a letter, assuring me that the fire power currently able to be exercised in Iraq is the same as it has been in the past. It is undoubtedly different. It is more fire power from fewer aircraft. One of the problems we shall have to face is that with fewer units of whatever it may be, if one of them is out of action for any reason, it is then much more difficult to make it good from reserves or anything else that one has. More than that, there will be the problem of transport aircraft where we are largely dependent on the United States. Going back to my statement that we should not be too much in the hands of the United States, to rely on that country too heavily for procurement is to play into its hands if at any time Her Majesty's Government disagreed with American policy.
To many the cuts which we are seeing, particularly in the Territorial Army, seem shortsighted. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, to repeat in the debate on the Strategic Defence Review his reasons for leaving the Territorial Army. I am sure that it is true and sad that the cuts in the number of TA centres will have the most serious effect on the efficiency of that service. But that again will be a matter for the debate. Many of the cuts seem shortsighted, if not blinkered, even if they may be logical in the light of immediate needs. Each year 1,000 recruits from the TA join the Regular Army and 3,000 come from the cadet forces. These are significant figures, but more important is the ability of the TA to constitute a reserve for the Regular Army in time of trouble.
My noble friend Lord Cope has pointed out that he does not believe that the Territorial Army will be very efficient around Bristol with half the battery in Bristol, half in Croydon and the headquarters in Luton. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, made a remarkable speech in which his great expertise on Yugoslavia showed itself to very good effect. He pointed out the dangers that we have there. I am sorry that he is not here and that he had to go to a Thanksgiving dinner. I went to one last night. I have to tell your Lordships that I would rather listen to 30 speeches in your Lordships' House than eat pumpkin pie.
Kosovo, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and other matters, are very serious problems for defence. At the moment there is not an immediate danger, but it is short-term. We may have an explosion at any moment. The Treasury must be made to understand that we are no longer faced with the possibility of a neat little war--or is it a neat big war?--with a convenient and conventional declaration of war. There will be no warning time in which to build up our strength. It would be disastrous to fail to recognise that despite the end of the Cold War we are still in a state of continual conflict, the intensity of which may increase or diminish at any time. Ministers have been constantly reminded of that by their military advisers with emphasis on the fact that inadequate investment in preparation, including war maintenance reserves, will result in the response, when it comes, being belated and therefore much more expensive. False economies are the icons of the Treasury mind. It lives in a blinkered world of its own. The school report on the Defence Ministers at this end of term will include the phrase, "Tries hard". They will have the full support of the Opposition in insisting on preparedness and in trying even harder.
When we come to discuss the Strategic Defence Review, noble Lords will insist on a reasoned exposition of foreign policy in the modern world. It will be necessary to set out more decisively and precisely the input which the United Kingdom is to make to the efficient working of international organisations, NATO and the United Nations in particular. It is necessarily expensive, but the long-term benefits will justify money and effort spent now. We believe that we are ready for one crisis, but it is quite possible that we shall have two or three at a time. For that we are not ready. This country is not yet in a position where it can put its head in the sand and let the storm rage about its other end. I look forward to comment and reassurance on these points from the noble Baroness.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, it is a privilege for me to close this foreign affairs, defence and development debate on the gracious Speech. It is also a very great pleasure. I am very grateful to noble Lords for the valuable contributions that they have made on very many different subjects. This has been a very rich and a very wide-ranging debate. I will try to respond to the questions which noble Lords have posed during the debate. Where I am unable to do so, I assure the House that my noble friend Lord Gilbert or I will write to the noble Lords concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has, of course, been taking a note of the very many points raised on defence issues--particularly those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, and others--and I know that he will make a point of trying to answer those in the debate which will be forthcoming in your Lordships' House.
Since taking office, this Government have been determined that the people of the United Kingdom should share in the benefits of a soundly based foreign policy, in increased security and prosperity, and in
On security issues, we were among the first to sign and ratify the Ottawa Convention banning landmines. We succeeded in securing a new EU code of conduct on arms sales which sets high common standards governing the export of conventional arms. Perhaps I can remind my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney that the United Kingdom and France were the first nuclear weapons states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I assure my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that the Government do not depart from our election manifesto promises on nuclear disarmament. We believe that these initiatives have helped to lay the foundations for a more secure Europe in a more peaceful world.
On the question of nuclear disarmament, we have made clear on many occasions our commitment to the goal of total global elimination of nuclear weapons. When we are satisfied with verified progress towards that goal, we will ensure that British nuclear weapons are included in multilateral negotiations. We look for further bilateral United States and Russian reductions through the START process. We would welcome Russian ratification on START II and we hope to see progress towards reducing the thousands of Russian shorter-range weapons.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, raised the question of arms export controls. I should point out to the noble Baroness that Her Majesty's Government have an excellent track record in this area. New arms export licensing criteria were announced in July 1997 and they represent a clear strengthening of previous criteria by specifying that a licence will be refused if the proposed export might be used for internal repression or international aggression. I hope that the noble Baroness will not forget that point when she raises the very important issues that she raised during the course of her contribution.
We have also banned the export of certain types of equipment, such as electric shock batons, where there was widespread evidence that such equipment had been misused for torture, and the export of anti-personnel landmines and their component parts.
When we took office, we committed ourselves to enhance Britain's prosperity. We have put this commitment into practice with our economic reforms and policies at home. We have also pursued prosperity through our diplomatic missions abroad, with over one third of our front-line diplomatic effort now devoted to trade and investment.
As many of your Lordships have pointed out this evening--notably the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby--we recognise that the world economy has of course been slowing in 1998. But some of the more alarmist concerns over recent months now appear to have subsided. We will continue to play a leading role in
It is important to note that the Asian crisis economies are showing some signs of external stability. They have stable exchange rates and rising international reserves. But their domestic economies do of course continue to contract. The risk of the contagion spreading to Latin America has fallen with the announcement of the 41 billion dollars of IMF support for Brazil. I will say a little more about Russia later in my contribution.
I would like to pick up on the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield, in relation to Japan. In large part I agree with the noble Lord's analysis of Japan's role in the Asian economic crisis. I assure him that we are working with Japan as a member of the G7. We are talking bilaterally to the Japanese Government about the role Japan can play in alleviating the region's problems, which so many noble Lords have referred to in their contributions.
The Government's foreign policy has also concentrated on improving the quality of life of people, both here and abroad. We have signed the European Union Social Chapter, as we said we would in our manifesto. People who work in Britain now have the same rights as those enjoyed by workers elsewhere in Europe. At the Buenos Aires conference on climate change, Britain, led by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, played a pivotal role in the cliff-hanging final hours of negotiation. The successful outcome of that meeting kept the climate change negotiations moving forward.
The Government believe in the importance of mutual respect between the peoples of the world. They are spreading the core values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. We have taken forward these principles bilaterally in our discussions with other governments, and multilaterally through our work in the United Nations, the OSCE and within the Commonwealth. I agree strongly with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that the United Kingdom must continue to stress the importance of our membership of the Commonwealth. Our objectives of promoting prosperity, human rights, democracy, good government and the rule of law are part of that dialogue with the Commonwealth. We successfully hosted the Edinburgh CHOGM in October last year, which was chaired by the Prime Minister, where the heads of government confirmed their commitment to the 1991 Harare principles on democracy and good government. I agree very strongly that the Commonwealth provides, through literally hundreds of different associations, extensive links covering all sections of society--education, legal, scientific, environment, sport and the arts. It is a very important part of the Government's foreign policy. I say to those noble Lords who raised the question of Ireland's possible interest in joining the Commonwealth, that that of course is a matter for the Irish Government.
The Government have also worked hard since taking office to press ahead with our new vision for international development and, very importantly, to turn that vision into reality. I thank noble Lords, particularly the noble Lords, Lord McNair and Lord Redesdale, for their kind remarks. But the fact is that too many people in the world--1.3 billion too many people--live in extreme poverty. We have published a White Paper on international development, the first White Paper on international development for some 22 years, setting out our key objectives and placing the elimination of poverty at the heart of our efforts on international development. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said, the Government have delivered on our manifesto commitment to start to reverse the decline in aid spending. We have announced an increase of £1.6 billion over the next three years. Programmes have been reviewed to ensure that resources are focused on the Government's over-arching goal of eliminating poverty and the promotion of sustainable development.
The Government are working closely with multilateral institutions, developing countries and other donors committed to the international development targets, not least the halving of the population of the world living in extreme poverty by the year 2015. The Government are placing greater emphasis on our work with the multilateral institutions--the UN system, including the World Bank, the IMF and of course the EU. We are working to ensure that the grinding poverty suffered by so many people is a key focus in their programmes. But we also recognise the greater need to ensure real coherence across governments and internationally on issues affecting developing countries, issues such as debt, agriculture, investment, the environment and trade. The Government are also working to build greater awareness of the need for international development and the issues involved. We are actively engaged in dialogue in the public and private sectors.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord McNair, that we have been trying to raise the awareness of global interdependence over these issues. We recently held a series of policy forums across the United Kingdom, culminating in the national forum in Birmingham on 9th November. There was a very wide participation in those forums, including consultation with the ethnic minorities. We will be producing a public report and hope to learn lessons from that valuable exercise.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for the welcome he gave to the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill. We hope that the Bill will pave the way for the creation of a public-private partnership which will benefit from its association with government and of course its participation with the private sector.
In the FCO we, too, are pushing forward with our programme of modernisation. It includes greater openness, better information technology and better communications between the Foreign Office and our overseas posts. We must concentrate on professionalism
Many noble Lords raised issues around Europe. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, said, this Government have made a step change in Britain's commitment to Europe. Our relationship with the rest of Europe has gone from self-imposed isolation to real co-operation. I make no apology, not even to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, for saying that we are making Britain's voice count as a clear and strong one, a voice which really counts now in Europe.
In this parliamentary Session we shall continue to work to achieve a Europe which delivers for the people of this country and for the people of our partners too. It is an agenda we shall be taking forward at the European Council in Vienna in two weeks' time. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, that the Government will work with our partners to improve our economies and deliver better economic performance. We shall also work for a successful euro. We want to make the preparations to ensure that Britain is in a position to join a single currency, should we wish to do so, in the next Parliament. As my noble friend Lady Crawley said, the fact is that the single currency will affect Britain, whether we join or not, and it is in Britain's interests that that single currency works.
Let me turn to enlargement. EU enlargement is on track. We have now opened substantive negotiations on the first seven chapters of the acquis with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The Commission has also published progress reports on all the candidates. We shall continue to press for early successful enlargement. We are firmly opposed to artificial delays. But we have to be realistic. We are not setting target dates and certainly not blindly optimistic deadlines which will not help any of the candidates in the EU. That said, the working assumption underlying the Commission proposal for Agenda 2000 is that accessions will take place in the year 2002. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and others who raised the question of financial resources for enlargement, that current spending is well below the own resources ceiling. There is already some margin available for enlargement and that margin will, we believe, grow as the own resources ceilings increase.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, also raised questions about the Baltic states. The UK is playing an important role in promoting integration of the Baltic states in the EU and indeed in NATO. We launched a new phase of EU enlargement during our own presidency and we are backing EU accession not only for Estonia but for all three of the Baltic states. Latvia and Lithuania will begin accession negotiations as soon as they are ready to do so. In answer to another point the noble Lord raised, we support WTO membership for all three Baltic states on terms which give genuine market access and which strengthen the multilateral trading system.
Her Majesty's Government have also been keen on CAP reform. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that I do not really think he expects me to give him a date for reform from the Dispatch Box now, but I give him the assurance that this is an issue which Her Majesty's Government have taken, continue to take, and will continue to take, seriously.
Of course we also have the issue of strengthening the EU common foreign and security policy. The fact is Europe needs a coherent voice in world affairs. I am pleased to tell the House today that we have put forward Sir David Hannay as our candidate for the positions of CFSP High Representative and Deputy Secretary General of the Council.
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