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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said that I had uttered strictures. I have been very careful not to. I simply said that I had paid attention to the advice given to the House.

The rule of law is not divisible. It does not depend on the convenience of the moment. It has a moral validity beyond political convenience.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is an area of discretion in these matters for

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the Home Secretary? In fact, discretion was used by the present Home Secretary when refusing to extradite Roisin McAliskey, for whom there was a very strong case for extradition to Germany with which we have reciprocal arrangements. How is it that the noble Lord can pray in aid only the rule of law and not refer to the area of discretion? Is any head of state free to come and go in this country when reconciliation has taken place and lines in the sand have been drawn?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, if one cares to study the Extradition Act 1989, even superficially, one will understand that discretion is part of the rule of law, but that has to be applied on a proper basis.

Perhaps I can remind the House that the Home Secretary declined to order the return of Miss Roisin McAliskey on health grounds at the end of the extradition process.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, can the Minister say whether or not the ex-president of Chile could be released from his extradition charge because he is now over 80 years-old and it is questionable whether his health will be up to the long, drawn out process in front of him.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, any question of ill health can feature as part of the Home Secretary's discretion. I think he has made that plain on earlier occasions, but I am happy to confirm the noble Lord's understanding.

President Milosevic

3.1 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the comments made by the Prime Minister to CBS News, it is now a British Government war aim to remove President Milosevic from power in Yugoslavia.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No, my Lords. Mr. Milosevic has been a disaster for his country. However, it is for the people of that country to decide who governs them.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer and express total support for the military personnel in operation over Kosovo. Can the Minister say what instructions have been given to the Supreme Allied Commander with regard to the military objective of the operations currently under way?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I think that the objectives, in political terms, are very clear indeed. The objectives are a ceasefire, a verified withdrawal of Milosevic's forces from Kosovo, Kosovar refugees being able to return with the confidence of peace-keepers on the ground, and a political process built on Rambouillet.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that according to reports from Belgrade the

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effect of the NATO bombing has been to increase the standing of President Milosevic to the extent that he is in danger of becoming a national hero? Therefore, will the bombing be brought to an end as soon as possible?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend must remember that, although there may be reports about the Serbs being united behind Milosevic, the fact is that Mr. Milosevic has silenced dissenting voices, including Radio B92. Part of the problem is that the Serb people genuinely do not know what atrocities Mr. Milosevic's troops are carrying out in their name. An important part of his strategy is that they do not find out.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, are not our present dilemmas over Kosovo a result of a failure by NATO leaders, including the Prime Minister, to think far enough ahead?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No, my Lords. I cannot agree. I do not believe that it is fair to say that there has been a failure to think ahead. The objectives of this action have been clearly stated on a number of occasions. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are heavily engaged on the strategy for Kosovo. I have no doubt that they will discuss it further at the summit due to take place this weekend.

Nobody expected this military action to be over quickly. I have been astonished by the assertions made in some parts that it was all expected to be over within a few days. The military action will continue until the political objectives which I articulated to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, are met.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I agree that the president of Yugoslavia must be the choice of the people of Yugoslavia, as the Minister said, but will she agree that the choice of the people of Montenegro, whose Prime Minister has pursued a somewhat different course and one that reflects the interests of his own country, should also be profoundly respected in our decisions in future on this matter?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords. The situation in Montenegro is extremely worrying. It has Her Majesty's Government's close attention. We are in regular contact with the Prime Minister of Montenegro. The EU foreign ministers decided on a package of economic support to those hit by the crisis and that support is extended to Montenegro. The Prime Minister of Montenegro is in no doubt of our support for his political and economic reforms. We and our allies have clearly warned Mr. Milosevic not to move against Montenegro.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for reciting the political objectives

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of the operation, with which I largely agree. Can the Minister say at what point in the military operations and at what point in the discussions on Kosovo she thinks that President Milosevic will agree to her proposals?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am afraid that I am quite unable to read Mr. Milosevic's mind. I doubt whether any of your Lordships are in a position to do that. However, I am able to tell your Lordships what Mr. Milosevic must do if he wants the bombing to cease. I hope I have made that clear. Throughout this whole unhappy business one of the problems has been that Mr. Milosevic has said one thing and promptly done another. I do not believe that any government minister or anybody in your Lordships' House has second sight over Mr. Milosevic. We need to see the withdrawal of those troops before the bombing stops.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, while our pilots are daily risking their lives in the NATO air campaign as they attempt to destroy the oil refineries in Serbia which are vital to President Milosevic's war effort, the concepts of the European Union common foreign policy and of NATO unity would be entirely stripped of their credibility, if Greece, one of our European NATO partners, continues to supply Serbia with fuel following the failure yesterday of the European Union to reach agreement on a common position banning the sale and shipment of oil and oil products to Yugoslavia?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course I join with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in his appreciation of what is being done by British servicemen and women. Of course we would like to see maximum unity in NATO. I have no doubt that the difficulties that the noble Lord describes will be discussed fully in the next few days.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords--

Viscount Waverley: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Order!

The Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I think we have now had 30 minutes of Questions.

Business of the House: Debate this Day

3.8 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord Clinton-Davis set down for today shall be limited to four hours.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Local Government Bill

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion on the Order Paper standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty.

Moved, That the order of commitment of 12th April be discharged and that the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Rating (Valuation) Bill

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the order of commitment of 11th March be discharged and that the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

EU-US Trade Relations

3.9 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis rose to call attention to trading relations between the European Union and the United States; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am pleased to be able to initiate a debate on an issue which is of paramount importance to the relationship between the European Union and the United States in terms of trade. Although we have focused on the question of the banana regime and the decision made by the World Trade Organisation in recent days, the issue goes far wider. Paradoxically, it arises at a time when the European Union and the United States are engaged together in seeking to bring relief to the beleaguered people of Kosovo. One might say that that is odd--and, indeed, it is. Some might say that the points in dispute are mere irritants, but I do not believe that to be the case. They are serious matters, although we need to consider them in context.

The European Union and the United States enjoy great advantages from access to the other's markets. Trade and investment account for more than a trillion dollars and six million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Discussions to promote a rolling agenda for co-operation and negotiation on trade; competition; trade and the environment; and trade and labour issues are to take place through the transatlantic economic partnership in anticipation of the millennium round. A commissioner from the United Kingdom was responsible for initiating that process in the Commission, which has now been adopted by the Council.

So there are many positive aspects to our trading relationship. None the less, apart from the arguments relating to bananas, there are, as I said, other issues which could well become even more menacing, such as hormone-treated meat, genetically modified organisms,

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noisy aircraft and steel--all highly complex and very technical. Assuredly, we need to do all we can to avoid the damaging prospect of an all-out trade war.

What are the essential issues involved? Underlying everything, in my submission, must be respect for a rule of law in international trade, embodied in the dispute resolution process of the World Trade Organisation, patiently and fairly recently constructed, and certainly a marked improvement on what had been devised through GATT, the decisions of which had become largely unenforceable because the verdict could be vetoed by any member state, including the party whose conduct was complained of. Today, as a result of negotiation through the WTO, the verdict can be overturned only by unanimity.

Part of the background is also that the United States Congress remains suspicious of the WTO and its disputes panel. That is echoed by the assertion, "Three strikes"--using a baseball analogy--"and we're out"--that is, three decisions adverse to the interests of the United States and that is the end for us. That concept must be decisively rejected, challenging as it does the essential tenets of a rule of law in trade.

So, supportive as I was as Minister for Trade-- I remain supportive--of the WTO processes, we should recognise that the system is new and evolving, especially with regard to the connection between the WTO and protection of the global environment through the complementary multilateral environment agreements. We should be prepared to consider change where it can be established that that is required. Meanwhile, however, WTO panel decisions must be respected if the system is to be nourished, as it must be.

My second caveat about the procedures is that those initiating this form of international litigation--that is not exactly the right word, but I use it for shorthand--should first examine with greater care than in the past what are the probable consequences of their legal acts: economic, social, environmental and political.

The third caveat is that legal success cannot necessarily vouchsafe public acceptance and, indeed, could well promote hostility and antagonism towards the WTO if a decision is seen to be imposed against an unwilling and suspicious people.

All too often, Europeans do not understand the US system sufficiently--and vice versa. Insufficient account is taken of the beliefs, knowledge--and even prejudices--of people from the other camp. People must feel that undue pressures are not being applied to procure a particular result which they consider to be contrary to their interests.

A highly relevant example is biotechnology. It may well produce huge benefits for millions of people in due course, but millions in the continent of Europe remain to be convinced. They have experienced unhappy precedents, based on alleged scientific criteria which have gone wrong, confounding the experts who had proclaimed the verities involved. Mad-cow disease and environmental damage were long denied by experts, but they were proved to be wrong. People do not want to be patronised by experts. They want to be considered and to have an informed debate. They do not want to be told,

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"This is good for you and you therefore have to take it". Least of all do they want to be told by organisations with a vested interest that something will be good for them. There is distrust. We must face up to that fact of life.

While the United States expects Europeans to conform to decisions of US regulatory processes--I was told that not so long ago by the US Trade Secretary--regardless of European Union sensitivities, is it not ironic that, because of the sensitivities of people in the United States following Three Mile Island, it abandoned nuclear power?

Transparency is also a very important criterion in relation to the examination of this matter. There has been a strong feeling, not least on the part of countries producing bananas, that the three US majors in this field have not behaved with total propriety. Mr. Carl Lindner is the boss of Chiquita. He has provided substantial donations to the coffers of both the Republican and Democratic parties--for insurance purposes, I suppose. Indeed, I understand that he was rewarded by being given President Lincoln's room in the White House to sleep in. However, I do not think that that was the only advantage that he was seeking to elicit.

There is, of course, another salient concern--

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