Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Earl referred to the Serbian forces continuing to beat up the Albanians. I suppose that the short answer to that is that NATO forces will continue to beat up the Serbs. Regrettably, that is the situation in which we are. It now becomes a question of a military threat.

As regards ground troops, my noble friend Lord Gilbert and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister this afternoon have made it clear that in order to undertake any successful intervention on the ground with troops, one would be talking of numbers in excess of 100,000. I imagine that the noble Earl will draw from that the conclusion that there is little appetite or intention by the forces of NATO to fight their way in on the ground.

I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, on the question of Russian military equipment that I do not have up-to-date information. As I said in reply to both noble Lords who spoke from the Front Bench, we are very much aware that Russian equipment and training methods have been and are being widely used by the Serbs.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, the Government have my support in the action which they may well have to take very shortly. But it will be support given with much greater reluctance, frankly, than I have been able to give in the past when we have taken analogous similar action against Iraq. The fundamental reason for that is that although Serbia Yugoslavia has dished out appalling treatment, it has done it within its own borders. It has not committed the international crime of crossing the frontiers and invading the territories of another state.

My difficulty is that I feel that that should not necessarily prevent us from taking action of this kind but it poses enormous problems when dealing with future difficulties, not just in Yugoslavia but almost worldwide. We must think extremely hard about how we can best deal with the issue. In that situation, achieving the goodwill, co-operation and, if possible, even the agreement to send Russian troops would be extremely helpful and important. I hope that that can be done.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. I am sure that the whole House will agree

23 Mar 1999 : Column 1179

with him about the seriousness and gravity of the potential for the different types of escalation of this particular crisis. As was clear from my right honourable friend's Statement, no one is undertaking this action lightly or without forethought as to what the implications may be. But I am sure my noble friend will understand that the primary aim--to avert Milosevic's capability for oppression in Kosovo--is exactly the kind of cause which he would normally support. Aversion of the humanitarian catastrophe is the primary cause for any military action which is undertaken.

My noble friend's point about the goodwill or, at least, the support of the Russians is important and I mentioned that in response to the noble Earl. It was exactly that situation which I was indicating was relevant to the presence of Mr Primakov in Washington. In some of the commentaries, that is seen as a negative factor, but it could be a positive factor if it provided opportunities for face-to-face discussions with the Americans and NATO.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, we cannot avert a humanitarian disaster because it is already in train. We can only hope that the intervention will stop that disaster before it becomes worse at a time when one-third of the people of Kosovo are already refugees; when their houses are being burned once again; and when they are once again being driven, terrified, into what remains of the ruins.

I have two questions for the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. First, for how long will the West continue to treat Milosevic as the answer to the problem rather than the problem itself? It is surely now clear that that man is guilty of one crime against humanity after another. Why is it the case that absolutely no steps have been taken to bring him before the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and why no steps have been taken to arraign similar war criminals in Bosnia, which might produce a useful lesson?

The second question I wish to ask concerns the wider regional issue. Today in Albania all young men under the age of 30 are being called up. Today, the Montenegran Prime Minister, Mr Vujanovic, has again indicated that he wishes to retain the fullest autonomy for Montenegro. In both Vojvodina and Sandjak, the widely held view is that they are next; that Kosovo is not an issue on its own but part of a story in which one part of the former Republic of Yugoslavia after another--Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo--have been subjected to the bullying and brutal tactics of Mr Milosevic.

Can the Minister give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will do all they can to support those people in the former Republic of Yugoslavia who share our concern and, indeed, our strong objections, to the policies of Mr. Milosevic? Will the Government recognise that they are the key to overthrowing this tyrant and that we need their help in order to do it as we will be restricted primarily to air strikes over the next few weeks?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for underlining to the

23 Mar 1999 : Column 1180

House that a very large human catastrophe has already taken place. That is a concern which, of course, I share. If there was any indication in anything I said that I did not recognise that fact, I would wish to correct it.

As the noble Baroness stated, the situation is rapidly deteriorating and the human catastrophe, although something we have all felt strongly about for some time, is accelerating. If, as indicated in the Statement, 25,000 people have been forced from their homes in four days, which has happened since the peace talks broke down, that is an impression which is almost impossible to convey with words. Perhaps "human catastrophe" is a phrase we need to revise. This situation is unbelievable and definitely inhumanitarian.

The noble Baroness suggested intervention in the political processes within Yugoslavia. She will know, as well as I, that that would entail precisely some of the questions about sovereignty which were referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Shore, as regards territorial integrity and so forth. I endorse what the noble Baroness said about support for the democratic opposition to Mr. Milosevic. I believe that no one has been more adamant in their condemnation of his activities than the Government.

I take to heart the point she made about the wider regional implications of the situation in Kosovo. I think an expression was coined in another theatre 25 or 30 years ago about dominoes. That theory holds good in this situation and is one of which we should all be very aware.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords--

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Craig!

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Order!

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I think it is the feeling of the House that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, should have the floor and then, perhaps, my noble friend Lord Jenkins.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House made a very significant comment in answer to an earlier question about the employment of ground forces, or the possibility of them being employed.

In the light of that comment, can she give the House some assurance about the confidence of Her Majesty's Government that the air operations which are about to begin, or look as if they are about to begin, will achieve the objectives so clearly outlined in the Statement?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for raising those points. I am sure that the House will understand that I would never seek, in any way, to challenge his authority on military strategy. I would just say to him

23 Mar 1999 : Column 1181

that it is the intent of the Government and, indeed, NATO, that the objectives should be attempted to be achieved in the way we have described in the Statement as being theoretically possible. However, it would clearly be totally inappropriate ever to give any guarantee about the outcome of any military intervention. All we can do is to take the best possible options to achieve what he rightly says is a clear strategy.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I rise to ask my question because I gather that the House, as a whole, is in favour of the Government's proposal to act in this matter in the way so clearly described. Before I ask my brief question I should like to say that I am not in favour of the Government's action, and that voice should be heard.

In my view and experience--which is pretty long in these matters--nothing started by bombing brings about peace. Generally speaking, bombing brings about war, and the worst war started with bombing. I see no reason to suppose that that will not happen in this case.

However, as the Government seem set upon this course, which I believe to be wrong, perhaps I may ask one question. Will they refrain from the kind of bombing which brings about massive civilian casualties? If there is bombing of a city, inevitably there will be civilian casualties, and that would be against international law. There is no reason why the Government should find it difficult to say that they will not break international law by bombing Belgrade. Let us make that exception, at any rate. It would not be disclosing their strategy to say, "We will not break international law by bombing a city which inevitably results in the killing of non-combatants: women, children, old people and so forth". Will the Government at least say that?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page