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On the continuing difficulties with the Commission, I agree with my noble friend that we need to make progress as rapidly as possible. I believe it is good that Mr. Prodi was appointed at this time and that further negotiations and discussions between the members of the Council were not needed on that significant appointment. Of course, it will now be for him to consult further on the arrangements for his fellow Commissioners. I can assure my noble friend that the British Government are anxious that that should proceed as rapidly as possible. We are encouraged by the fact that it has now been agreed that the further report on the Commission--which I am sure my noble friend is anxiously awaiting--will be published, admittedly not until September. However, at that time it will be forthcoming.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, can the noble Baroness explain what arrangements are in train for reporting to Parliament the success or otherwise of Mr. Prodi's reforms? What mechanisms are being put in place for transforming the Commission in the way in which the Government would like, in the unlikely event that Mr. Prodi were to fail?
On Kosovo, can the Leader of the House point to any single example of a sustained bombing campaign doing anything except unite a proud people behind a government, however undesirable? At a time when it behoves all of Parliament to support British troops and British servicemen and women when they go into action, is the noble Baroness able to say what the result will be if the bombing campaign were to fail, as other bombing campaigns in similar circumstances have done, and whether we shall therefore be forced to put in troops on the ground in Kosovo to prevent the tragedy to which she alluded? Finally, may I ask the noble Baroness whether the tragedy of what is happening in Kosovo has been accelerated by the bombing campaign rather than the reverse?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount who made an important point about how we shall monitor the progress or otherwise of the presidency of Mr. Prodi. I am sure that noble Lords, like Members of another place, will be very active in carefully monitoring how things go forward. I rely entirely on my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington, whom I see in his place, as well as on my noble friend Lord Shore and on many other noble Lords of all parties to be absolutely up to speed in their ability to ask the relevant questions. The Government will, of course, make the appropriate statements when required.
With regard to the noble Viscount's various points about the bombing in Kosovo, we all agree with him. I should have said in response to the initial remarks from the two noble Lords on the Front Benches that we totally support, and are aware of, the enormous courage and the difficulties which our troops and air crew face. We saw an example of that with the shooting down yesterday of one of the American planes. Perhaps the term "shooting down" is inaccurate. I refer to its loss. It came down and we do not know--at least I do not know--how it came down. However, if I am allowed to do so at a later stage, I shall inform noble Lords about that. As I said, I do not know the exact military circumstances.
In a way, it was unfair of the noble Viscount to suggest that we should draw on history with regard to that situation. After all, the precision and accuracy of the type of bombing in which our forces are now engaged in Kosovo is totally different even from that of Desert Storm. It is now possible to expect that a limited number of military targets and of engagements will change the situation. The same was not true of any previous military activity. Therefore, we should be optimistic and not deal at this stage in what are rather pessimistic hypotheticals.
Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will help me with the answer to a very short question. Was the decision to take the action we are witnessing now in Kosovo and Yugoslavia taken on the positive advice of the chiefs of staff leaving political considerations out of it, or was it against it?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I believe that the chiefs of staff were totally content with the decision that was taken. I am sure that the noble Lord is aware that this was done also on the basis of the unanimous agreement of the NATO Council.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, may I give my total support again to the Royal Air Force and to the other servicemen in the present conflict? Will the Leader of the House answer a question on agriculture, which seems to have been in a bit of a muddle over the past few weeks? The noble Baroness stated today that £1 billion would be saved on food prices for the housewife in the coming year. Bearing in mind that farmers have already had a terrible year with farm-gate prices down one-third or perhaps one-half, how does the noble Baroness expect to save £1 billion for the housewife in 12 months?
Lord Barnett: My Lords, in the interests of time, perhaps I may say just a few brief words about Agenda 2000. My noble friend Lord Shore may be surprised to learn that I agree with him at least to the extent that it was particularly difficult to get a deal on this occasion and there was no root-and-branch reform. The Government will do themselves some good by admitting that. On such occasions, with 15 member states present, compromise is inevitable. That will be even more true when there are 20 member states. The Government do not need to apologise for that. Of course, it was a compromise--
Lord Barnett: My Lords, on the other hand, does not my noble friend agree that if the Government or the Prime Minister had not insisted on claiming a great victory over no reduction in the £2 billion abatement, and that if they had been satisfied with a better package all round through conceding perhaps a few coppers, that might have been better for both the United Kingdom and the European Union?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: No, my Lords, I cannot agree with my noble friend. The abatement was retained. Agenda 2000 achieved a degree of budget reform and strict control of spending. It also permitted an enlargement of up to six member states between 2000 and 2006 within the existing resources ceiling. Those are perfectly legitimate claims for success.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, while recognising that the NATO alliance is entirely defensive and that the United Nations does not seem to have given specific approval to the attack launched under NATO's auspices, will the noble Baroness the Leader of the House explain the legal basis for that action internationally?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I believe that in our previous Statements on the Kosovo intervention we spelt out precisely those UN Security Council agreements and resolutions under which it is possible for military force to be used to abate a humanitarian disaster of the scale that we see now.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, we have heard in recent days that refugees in Kosovo are on the move in their tens of thousands--now, in their hundreds of thousands--but where are they going? They are not, of course, going into the main part of Serbia; they are crossing international frontiers into Macedonia and Albania to the south. There is no possibility of our stopping them doing that; nor is there any way in which from the air we can help them on their way. But in what
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot accept the logic of my noble friend's position. As I said in repeating the Statement, the disastrous ethnic cleansing in Kosovo did not begin at the time NATO took action. In response to my noble friend's point about neighbouring countries, there are now thousands of people in Macedonia and Albania as well as in Montenegro. The joint team from the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development will visit those countries this weekend to explore the needs and the possibilities and to develop the kind of negotiations to which I referred in the Statement. That will enable us to spend most effectively the additional £10 million which my right honourable friend announced today and to make a further contribution to the international effort.
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