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UN Security Council: Reform Proposals

3.35 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, in discussions at the United Nations, the United Kingdom has continued to advocate early enlargement of the Security Council, with an increase in both permanent and non-permanent seats. We would like to see an additional five permanent members and four non-permanent members, making an enlarged council of 24. The United Kingdom has also taken the initiative in the council's Working Group on Procedures in suggesting ways to promote greater openness and transparency in the council's working methods. We will continue to look at ways to make the council more effective.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that interesting reply. However, when it comes down to specifics, does she agree that credibility will depend upon more representation for the third world and probably permanent places for Germany and Japan? Can my noble friend tell the House how the Government see a permanent place for Germany, bringing European permanent places to three within the Security Council, in the context of the development of a common foreign and security policy? Does my noble friend also agree that there is a danger, as illustrated by what happened in Kosovo, that the veto system could undermine the role of the UN in global security policy by leading to action which bypasses the Security Council? What do the Government believe can be done to prevent such a danger arising?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend is always extremely skilful in asking a

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number of linked questions. I can tell him that we would like to see an additional five permanent members. We believe that three of these will be for the developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and that two of them will be open to applicants from the industrialised countries. The United Kingdom believes that Germany and Japan should be permanent members, but we have yet to take a decision on the others. We also support four non-permanent member seats--one each for Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. I hope that that deals with the point that my noble friend raised about the issue of developing countries.

As to the question of the veto, I can tell my noble friend that the UK Government have argued for some time now that this should only be used with restraint and in a manner which is consistent with the principles of the charter. I believe that we have been true to our word over this matter. I also pay tribute to the previous government for their use of the veto; indeed, we have not cast the veto in almost 10 years.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, as the number of members is increased, is there not a danger that the use of the veto might also be a tempting proposition for some of the new member states? Further, does the Minister agree that recent events show that the Security Council should, while it is reforming its procedures, look at Article 27 of the charter with a view of defining more closely the circumstances within which the international community is entitled to intervene across a boundary in support of the objective of preventing an overwhelming humanitarian disaster?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we must be very careful over the use of the veto. Indeed, we must be clear on this point. For some time, the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been that we are opposed to any change to the current veto for the permanent five. However, we recognise that there is a need to find new ways to make the United Nations and the Security Council work more effectively. Given the difficult issues at stake, a decision on extending the veto to new permanent members may have to wait until after they are elected. I believe that the points the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raises, and the additional points that my noble friend Lord Judd raises, are recognised and that there is caution about the extended use of the veto in future.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, uniquely in an otherwise exceptional and Boadicean presence at the Dispatch Box this afternoon, I am not sure that the Minister wholly answered the Question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Can she assist by informing the House whether she agrees that while we would strongly support Germany's candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council it would not be, nor conceivably would ever be, in this country's interests to give up our permanent seat in favour of a European seat on the Security Council?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thought that I must have answered at least six of my

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noble friend's questions. I take the point that the noble Lord raises about the possibility of an EU seat on the Security Council, which I know has been discussed. We believe that the United Kingdom is on the Security Council on its own merits. This country makes a disproportionate contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. We are the sixth largest contributor to the UN regular budget and the fifth largest contributor to the peace-keeping budget. An EU seat is not possible under the UN Charter as only the UN member states are eligible for membership of the Security Council. It is the states; it is not the EU. I do not believe that the United Kingdom Government are about to give up our seat.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether, in reviewing the role of the Security Council, the relationship of the Council to the General Assembly will also come under consideration?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that there is much reform going on at the moment in the UN. Of course there is an important area of reform outside what we are talking about in terms of the Security Council and permanent and non-permanent members. The reforms have to be seen as a package of reforms which your Lordships will know was brought forward by Kofi Annan. The United Kingdom is committed to achieving a modern and effective United Nations. We believe that there has been some progress over this. Certainly the appointment of Louise Frechette, the Deputy Secretary General, has already had an impact. She has particular responsibilities for reforms. However, this matter does not just concern the Security Council but the organisation as a whole. We must look particularly at the budgetary and management techniques that are deployed.

Lord Gladwyn: My Lords, the five power veto to which the noble Baroness has referred, and to which she suggests no extensional change, was devised in the first place to prevent the walk out by great powers that had destroyed the League of Nations. Does she agree that the need--anachronistic though it is--to alter the veto would require urgency only if any major power in the future threatened to walk out completely from the organisation; a possibility which happily does not pertain at present?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am doubtful about the wisdom of dealing with a hypothetical question of that nature. However, I assure your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government's policy as regards the United Kingdom veto remains the same policy as was adopted by the previous administration, which is that we believe that we have that veto on our own merits. We do not see that there is an argument to change the current veto rights of the current permanent members, as I hope I have made clear to your Lordships. Future vetoes should be dealt with in due course as

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regards those who may join the Security Council, but we believe that the position of the five permanent members should remain as it is.


3.44 p.m.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will convene an urgent meeting with representatives of the Federation of Small Abattoirs and other interested parties in order to discuss the current position of abattoirs and the rural community.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My Lords, Ministers are very willing to meet representatives of the abattoir industry. My honourable friend the Minister of State wrote to the Federation of Small Abattoirs on 25th June welcoming a meeting and a meeting has been arranged for Monday 5th July.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he ask his honourable friend in another place to bear in mind the effects that the present activities of the Meat Hygiene Service are having not only on small abattoirs but on the whole of the rural community, including consumers who like good food? Is there any possibility that I might meet with the Meat Hygiene Service to discuss all the questions that are arising to which we have had no proper answers over a long period?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I assure the noble Countess that my honourable friend is aware of all the very genuine concerns of the industry and will bear them in mind. I spoke this morning with senior officials of the Meat Hygiene Service. They are happy to meet the noble Countess and for her to raise her concerns. As regards not responding to questions, I feel that the replies I have signed to the large number of Questions tabled by the noble Baroness cover the concerns she has expressed.

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