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Lord Chalfont: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way so that I may advise him, in the greatest friendship, that he has the wrong Baroness. Today is the birthday of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, in that case I am doubly delighted. My admiration for the Leader of the House is already well known and does not need to be repeated tonight. We are fortunate to possess two Front Bench speakers who are able to combine feminine charm with a degree of conviction and ability that few outside this House enjoy. I also convey my congratulations to the right reverend Prelate who spoke of his personal experience. Whatever happens to this House following reform, we shall always want Benches of this kind. I am aware that the right reverend Prelates are examining their own position and perhaps drawing up proposals for reform. If so, in general the House will favour the maintenance of a Chamber that has respect for the particular reasons that they come here which are different from those that apply to most of us.
The debate takes place on a gracious Speech that deliberately ignores the basic position of the world as it is today. I sought to raise that matter at Question Time on Wednesday of last week. Instead of repeating what I said, perhaps I may quote the words of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. The subject was the existence of massive reasons for fear. The following point has not been mentioned in the debate. In the past few years mankind has, for the first time, been in a position where it can destroy itself and civilisation. This is a new position. Can we continue to ignore the possibility that we may exercise that new power? If, as I venture to suggest, we are on the way to the end of our civilisation, much of the debate today will have the relevance of the saloon bar chat in the "Titanic" immediately before it hit the iceberg. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, asked my noble friend Lady Scotland whether she agreed that it was,
Another question on which the Government have done an amount of work is whether we are in peril from an accidental occurrence as a result of the millennium bug. Again, why do we ignore the possibility of such a nuclear accident? As the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, has agreed, it could be completely disastrous. I am not sure about destroying the planet. However, general opinion is that such a conflagration of nuclear and other weapons could at least threaten the existence of life on earth and certainly that of humanity. In those circumstances, it seems wrong that we ignore the situation and refuse to attempt to deal with it. That is not the only manifestation of that refusal.
This is the third or fourth year of the Geneva disarmament discussions. This year there has been no effective discussion on the subject. Instead there has been continual discussion on matters of procedure: how shall the nations attack their work? One cannot avoid the conclusion that it is a deliberate means of refusing to tackle the real problem by the nations involving themselves in procedural matters about which they can talk forever.
In replying to the Question, my noble friend said that we have done our best to break through this barrier and discuss the question of international peace. I believe that we could do so if our heart were in it, and we were prepared to consider nuclear disarmament as an absolute necessity. But at present we still involve ourselves and the other nations in the procedural issue which prevents us discussing the specific problem.
Although I have been critical of some of the things my Government have done, I would not wish anyone to think that I believe that the Government have done no good. Most of the programme in the gracious Speech involves good policies and important proposals which need to be carried out. However, they need to be carried out with due consciousness of our situation. That is where the Opposition amendment breaks down totally. If I am critical in any way of the Queen's Speech, I am far more critical of the Opposition's amendment to it. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition will consider whether he puts the matter to the vote. I hope that he will not do so. If he does so, I hope that noble Lords, not only on this side of the House, will tell him clearly that we do not need such an amendment at the conclusion of a debate of this kind.
The Duke of Norfolk: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may ask him this question, with all the respect that I have for his views on disarmament. Are we not in a wonderful position with NATO, and in particular with the power of the nuclear weapons of the United States underwriting decisions of the United Nations? Are we not lucky that we have
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, if that is what the noble Duke believes, he is entitled to do so. But he would not feel that way if he were a member of almost any other nation in the world. The noble Duke would speak in vain if he sought to convince most of the peoples of the world that, because the United States is powerful and Europe is beginning to say, "We, too, want to be equally powerful", that resolves any dispute, or is a cause for gladness.
Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, this is the first occasion on which I have the honour to address your Lordships' House. I wish to do so briefly on the theme of Europe, the Government's policy on Europe, on which there are two paragraphs in the gracious Speech, and on our possible membership of economic and monetary union to which there is no reference whatever.
I refer to the "honour" of addressing your Lordships' House because it is such. I am acutely aware of the privilege, the opportunity and the obligation of sitting in this House, as must any new Member who has been here during recent months. I have to share with your Lordships a sense sometimes of confusion. We heard in the debate yesterday about the reality of the world outside. The reality of the world outside slightly startled me because I have received endless commiserations on joining a House about to be abolished; it is clearly a source of misunderstanding. And there is even the occasional confusion inside the House. I was congratulated by a noble Member of this House who said most courteously that he was sorry that he could not remember my name but he was sure that I had been here for many years. I had been here for three days.
I make my maiden speech on Europe with some trepidation, first, because there is much wisdom and experience in this House on the subject. I have been much influenced in my views on Europe by people within this House--for example, the late Lord Rippon whose sharp common sense about our essential self-interest in the process of European integration was valued. I refer also to the views and experience of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, under whom I served in the European Commission for a number of years and whose presidency there exemplified British leadership in Europe at its very best. I am also influenced by those with whom I have some disagreement and difference of views but whose opinions I much respect--for example, the noble Lord, Lord Marsh.
However, there is a second reason for some trepidation on my part. I know it is a tradition of your Lordships' House that even if a maiden speech plays with some controversy, it should not be partisan. I shall respect that tradition, and necessarily so for Europe transcends party divisions. What I wish to do
My experience of the European Union, and this country's involvement in it, has been as a broadcaster; during the presidency of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, to which I referred, as a European Commission official; and now, as European chairman of an international communications business and a vice-chairman of the European Movement. Looking back over some 30 years, I am struck by the extent to which British attitudes have so often stemmed perhaps from a feeling that our language and our political culture are not somehow part of the process of European integration; that we are out-numbered; that the problem is not so much lack of economic convergence as the absence of political and cultural convergence; and that we are in a process where we are bound to lose or at least not win. All that can lead to a mixture of timidity and belligerence on our part. That is not an edifying combination and certainly not an effective one.
First, we in the United Kingdom have greatly strengthened the European Union's commitment to an open trading system with the rest of the world. Today, the EU is the world's biggest exporter and second biggest importer. The American union and the European Union have approximately the same share of world trade. It is interesting that inside the EU, the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany are the biggest importers and exporters to the rest of the world. The UK has consistently strengthened the free trade and trade liberalisation policies of the EU and will no doubt do so again in the forthcoming WTO round.
Secondly--and I feel strongly about this--there has been an astonishing and heartening growth in the use of the English language within the EU institutions and between those institutions and the rest of the world; and with the language comes the political culture from which it springs. When I went to work in the European Commission in 1976, I was solemnly told that if I originated a document in English it would take one week to circulate within the Commission. However, were I to originate it in French it would go round in 24 hours. Today, English is the language in which most European Commission documents are originated: 43 per cent in
That is no cause for complacency. Our effectiveness and enjoyment of the global economy and of the European Union needs much more multilingualism within the United Kingdom. But it would be wrong to underestimate the advantages which our language gives us in the construction of Europe. For some years I have been involved in the English Speaking Union; indeed, I shall soon succeed the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, as its chairman. Since 1989 and the fall of the wall in Berlin, the English Speaking Union has opened 10 thriving branches in eastern and central Europe, with five new branches to be opened in the next few years. The driver, the motor, behind that expansion is that in eastern and central Europe English is seen as a language uniquely essential in a world and a European Union characterised by democracy, free enterprise and the exploding potential of electronic commerce and information technology.
Therefore, I believe that we should approach our role in Europe with great confidence. This is what our United States and Commonwealth friends wish us to do. History has been accelerating and this is a time to touch the accelerator, not the brake. Our influence can rapidly and beneficially grow; but to be exercised, influence requires opportunity. The hard fact is that we cannot shape what we do not join. Surely, the lesson of our uneasy, initially so long delayed, often timid and subsequently belligerent participation in European integration is that the race really does go to the bold and to the committed.
There is much concern in this House and elsewhere about ultimate destinations and final goals. The only goals we really need to fear in the European process are own goals. To commit ourselves outside economic and monetary union indefinitely or for two Parliaments would be a deadly own goal in our relationship with Europe. I hope that it will not happen; that future gracious Speeches will spend more than two paragraphs on our role in Europe, and that those paragraphs will be both determined and bold.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, it is my duty and pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, on his excellent maiden speech. In a most genial way, he steered through highly controversial areas but in doing so sounded most objective. That is a great skill. I thought his speech a pleasant contrast with the slightly waspish tone of the first six minutes of the speech from his Front Bench. The noble Lord will forgive me for the adjective.
I, too, congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. He is an old friend. I greatly admire what he said and what he does for Christian Aid. He understands, perhaps as some theoreticians and great philosophers do not, that development begins with people and not with economic models, gigantic aid budgets, hydro-electric dams and so forth. The process comes out of the history and culture of the
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, who opened the debate, on her new, exciting job. I must apologise to her and to the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, for a discourtesy, but for inescapable personal reasons I must leave before the end of the debate. I hope that they will forgive me.
It is dawning on the policymakers here and in other countries that our political structures must adapt to the new conditions. If power is being redistributed into the networks of existence and relationships, those who seek to govern must do so differently in the future. Let us hope that further reform of your Lordships' House will be part of the improvement and of the adjustment to new conditions. None of that is for debate today. Although we may have bitter feelings about the ways in which we should respond, most people concede that such change is taking place whether we like it or not.
I want to put a single, simple point. Is it not possible that the enormous pressures, which will change the lives of all of us, apply also to the European Union? The European Union is the child of the European Economic Community. It is a magnificent post-war structure. It was created for reasons some of which no longer exist: to keep western Europe from the communists; to stop the French and Germans killing each other; and so on. Those were admirable aims, many of which have faded. But it was created before anyone, except perhaps a few Pentagon officials, had ever heard of the Internet. It was created almost before the computer became a manageable part of life, and it was created much in the model of the old nation state writ large. The Monnet ideas of a Commission, of a Council of Ministers, and of nation states merging into a larger entity were magnificent, but they belong to an age of hierarchy and not to the age of the network into which we have now wandered.
Therefore, I ask those who come down heavily on the allegedly dithering British for not rushing into every European project whether it is right that we should embrace every dot and comma of the proposals in present or future treaties concerning those projects and whether those of us who hesitate over some European arrangements that belong to yesterday rather than tomorrow are really so sceptical and dumb and to be dismissed as anti-European.
I listened the other day to a senior politician, who, I confess, is a member of my own party, telling us that we were dithering; that the British were missing the bus again; that the great European project was the only game in town, and so on; and that we should rush ahead and embrace it. However, when one sees some of the patterns and attitudes to which the European Union adheres, and which are pressed upon us, and compares them with the extraordinary vigorous and vibrant nature of this island and its economy, which is currently showing that it can adjust to the network age, one wonders whether we do not have a few more thoughts to air and to argue with our European colleagues before we rush in and accept their version of the project.
There are other views which we should have as a nation--indeed, which we are entitled to have as a nation--to press upon the architects of tomorrow's Europe. That sounds high-flown and easy, but it is not. We know that the pressures on our own lives, on the European Union and indeed on every nation state are extremely dangerous and difficult. All parts of our economic life are being globalised into a system of unimaginable complexity. Economics is pulling the world together; politics are pulling it apart. All kinds of new searches for identity are leading to intense attitudes towards local cultures and tribalism in its most extreme form. That is very dangerous.
The picture is of the economics of the world dragging us together and the politics of the world fragmenting and atomising us. Those are extraordinarily dangerous tendencies. If we simply buy the "bigger is better" argument and say that as soon as we all enter the European system all will be well, we are missing out the fact that all may not be at all well in a network age and that we may well have given birth to some extremely dangerous atomising and fragmenting tendencies which undermine the coherence and cohesion of our societies.
The choice was expressed rather well the other day by the leader of the Conservative Party at the CBI. He contrasted the "mammoth" way of thinking with the more agile and fleet-of-foot way required in the network age. He asked what had happened to the mammoth that was recently dug up from the ice: why did it die? Are we not to understand that size can be disastrously weakening and undermine the kind of agility needed? The truth is that just as we on this island cannot escape the fantastic pressures of competition and transparency coming from the global system, nor is the European Union able to do so. Our partners in the Union cannot escape the forces of competition which will be doubly strong in every area.
The European Central Bank, a new institution, is trying to campaign in Brussels against the introduction of electronic money for a good reason. Electronic money will undermine the power of central banks to operate on the reserves of credit-creating banks. That, in turn, will undermine the precise control of the monetary system that central bankers like to impose. We were talking of that matter recently in your Lordships' House. The mood in the Brussels Commission is to place so many restrictions on e-commerce, on which we are about to legislate in this House and in the other place, that the liability of the seller on the Internet would be the liability of the law which operated in the consumer's country. As most e-commerce trade takes place across borders, those restrictions would kill e-commerce in Europe at birth.
Those are classic and unsurprising Luddite reactions to vast new technologies which will undermine the old hierarchical structures both of this country and of the rest of the European Union. Before we rush into enthusiastic endorsement of the European project, convinced that everything suggested to us is right and that our own doubts are wrong, we should pause and ask what structural institution will emerge from the dust that is neither so big as to be unaccountable and mammoth-like nor so small that it begins to break everything up. The answer must be the one institution that we know on a human scale which we can understand; that is, the nation state.
The more we move into the globalised age, the more sensible we should be to reconstruct and understand the limits as well as the strengths of the nation state: what it can no longer do in the economic realm where the individual is empowered; and what it can do in the realm of upholding the cohesion and civic order of society. That is my plea: let us be good Europeans, but let us understand that not everything in the European Union is right, and not everything that the British suggest is wrong.
Furthermore, let us in this House in the future, both in the transitional House and in the House to come, do as my noble friend the leader of my party rightly says. We must scrutinise, revise and possibly add the tonic of a touch of accuracy to the present Government's proposals. Accuracy does not seem to be their terribly strong point. As my noble friend's amendment suggests, let us also add some vision. Let us not only revise and scrutinise; let us put forward new ideas and show that there are new gateways to open and new vistas of how governments should work in a free society. Above all, let us show what being a good European really means, which is not quite what is sometimes implied by the more enthusiastic acceptors of everything from Brussels, Paris and Berlin, which may have many good motives behind it but is not always correct or perceptive.
During the past decade, the Armed Forces have gone through a difficult and exacting time. There have been three major reviews. Each has had ongoing supplementary cutbacks in its wake, and there have been three--if not four--quite major campaigns, one of which certainly was major. Many of the campaigns were of considerable political complexity. I am sure all noble Lords will agree that the Armed Forces have come through all this with flying colours, carrying out their duties in an exemplary and selfless manner in the Gulf, in Bosnia and in Kosovo, where they stood out and shone as something of a redeeming feature in an overall campaign which, for a number of reasons--some of which have been mentioned this evening--future historians may judge rather harshly. They are now doing so in East Timor. The whole country owes them a deep debt of gratitude.
They now need and deserve a degree of cosseting, so lacking in the past 10 years, if their confidence and commitment are to be maintained and if full manning is ever to be achieved. Of the various reviews, the last, the Strategic Defence Review initiated by this Government, was in my opinion the best conceived and, generally speaking, the best executed. However, I believe--and I am sure that many noble Lords will agree--that just at a time when the Reserves are badly needed to do more, the size and structure of the Territorial Army have, for paltry savings, been messed about with and truncated more than was desirable or necessary. The noble Baroness will no doubt imply that I should know better, but that is my view.
I strongly believe that the Strategic Defence Review was on the right lines. It established, as recommended by the Chiefs of Staff, important principles about the scale and sophistication of conflict for which our forces must be organised, trained and equipped. It also established the extent and duration of any intervention or commitment that the country is likely to undertake and for which the Ministry of Defence must be prepared and for which it must budget. If our foreign policy initiatives can be kept, as far as possible, within those constraints, there would be a chance of matching the resources to the military commitment, which has not been achieved for some considerable time.
Historical experience indicates that for a variety of reasons governments of whatever political persuasion--this Government are manifestly no different from any other in that respect--tend to involve themselves as major players in the international scene. They become involved in totally unexpected and unplanned commitments without necessarily being prepared to provide the extra resources that the Armed Forces require to carry them out properly and afterwards to recover from them.
Certainly the Strategic Defence Review has given the Armed Forces badly needed guidance for their long-term planning, which hitherto had been lacking. However, all those good intentions are in danger of being eroded and being made more difficult. Indeed, they have already been made more difficult by the Treasury's Parthian shot--I realise the noble Lord is sitting close to me--when it did not receive all it hoped for from the Strategic Defence Review.
Leaving aside any extra operational costs, the defence Vote is inexorably, arbitrarily and inflexibly being cut by 3 per cent compound interest each year. Throughout the 1980s, when the stretch was not as great as it is now, the Vote increased by 3 per cent in real terms from a much higher base line.
That is being presented as an easily absorbable efficiency saving. In the aftermath of a myriad of efficiency-saving exercises over the past 15 years in every conceivable area, and the increasing number of private finance initiatives which limit by contract the areas that can be cut back, if the Ministry of Defence is not to overspend, every budget holder, in practice, is forced by financial officers to find savings of that magnitude. That is having an effect on many elements of the defence budget, such as personnel, new equipment, accommodation and particularly on training, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont has mentioned. Formation training hardly ever happens now.
That is having a debilitating effect at a time when, as the noble Baroness admitted candidly, her Ministry is struggling desperately to correct and cure the services' manifest ills of undermanning (based more on poor retention than recruiting and overstretch)--a vicious circle, with one matter leading back to the other--and trying to enhance the confidence and commitment of those who serve.
The Army also needs more sustainable units, available for the arms plot and emergency duties. To help to achieve that there is a need to have fewer units exclusively earmarked for duty in Northern Ireland, where I believe the total is now 17,000. Drawing on my fairly considerable experience during the difficult 1970s and early 1980s, I believe that could and should be achieved now, however the peace process--it appears to be much more encouraging--develops.
Thoughts also turn to the Gurkhas, who have proudly led the British Army into both Kosovo and East Timor. They have served almost everywhere and have no difficulty in recruiting and retaining for 15 years or more. Another Gurkha battalion, or even battalion headquarters to command, if necessary, the
Finally, the other day I read in the newspapers of a European army. We must be clear what we are talking about. Of course, Europe needs to get its defence act together, as I have long advocated. We need to have the machinery within a pillar of NATO so that we can, if necessary, command and control our own national forces without necessarily having to rely on the United States, although I hope that the continuation of the NATO framework will always ensure that the United States remains deeply concerned about Europe.
With Europe in its present stage of political development, we have no need of a European force, separately recruited, uniformed and motivated like a glorified European foreign legion. That would be neither efficient nor satisfactorily democratically controlled. I believe it is more important to try to strengthen and improve the United Nations' planning, reconnaissance and limited operational control and machinery, which at the moment leaves much to be desired.
The Armed Forces are one of the finest jewels in the crown. I know of no national institution which has retained its reputation or which commands the respect and admiration of the public as well as the Armed Forces have. They have proved their worth and they have done their duty over and over again in the past 30 years. The Government recognise that and have set them on a sound path for the future. However, I hope that they do not allow endless debilitating cheese-paring and cost-cutting upheavals to reduce that efficiency and commitment. That would not be in the national interest; nor, in the light of what we owe the Armed Forces, would it be at all fair.
Lord Desai: My Lords, it is tempting to speak on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I could remind him of the burden of taxation during the time of the Conservative government--to say nothing about the burden of debt to income ratio. I could tell him something about the coherence, or lack thereof, of the entire economic policy of the previous government and how they lost control of the budget deficit. However, now is not the time to go into that. I am sure that on other occasions my noble friends will deal with that matter as it deserves to be dealt with.
I heartily endorse the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, that the structure of business in this House should be reformed so that this House could act as a committee to the other place. The other place could deal only with Second Readings of Bills and in this House we could deal with the substantial amendments and debate.
The three subjects before us today are closely interlinked. Indeed the interconnection of defence and international development is greater today than it has been for a long time. One of the reasons is, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said in his excellent speech, that, although globalisation has integrated the world, it has at the same time politically fragmented it. The new wars that we are witnessing and have witnessed during the 1990s have not been the old conventional wars between two nation states--the Gulf War was an exception. By and large, states have waged war against their own citizens; there are civil wars, or wars waged by states which can hardly be called proper nation states.
In that context, war becomes a major reason for under-development and poverty. It is a major reason for famine and starvation. We have to look at our responsibility as a seller of armaments to countries--I do not think we should shirk that responsibility--and at our responsibility to build a structure of global governance, which will ensure that in the next century these wars occur less frequently and perhaps not at all. If they do occur, we must ensure that quick and effective international police action is taken by the United Nations. Lastly, whatever adverse consequences there are in terms of starvation and suffering must be quickly addressed.
In that context, it is important that we should recommit ourselves to the interrupted programme of reform of the United Nations. It was a great pity that the 50th anniversary was missed as an opportunity for a thorough-going reform of the United Nations. Today we are looking forward to the millennial meeting that the Secretary-General will have with the heads of state next year. We have an opportunity to look again seriously at the reform of the United Nations. Certain principles are at stake here which ought to be examined.
First, there ought to be a greater consistency in the way in which the United Nations deals with international crises. I very much agree with my noble friend the Minister that what we did in Kosovo was a noble thing. This is the way of the future. Humanitarian intervention will have to be undertaken by the international community on a regular basis. Of course it would have been better if the United Nations had been fully engaged in that process from the beginning, but the structure of decision-making in the Security Council is such that the United Nations cannot always accomplish speedy resolutions. There have been inconsistencies. We have had failures, and we barely succeeded in Bosnia and East Timor. It is very important that we re-examine the decision-making structures in the United Nations Security Council to see how we can ensure speedy and effective action.
In that respect, I am very worried about the new isolationism of the United States Congress, in terms of the attitude it is taking in relation to paying what it owes to the United Nations and about its rather careless attitude towards the CTBT. If we are to live in a uni-polar world and the United States is to be the one major power responsible, directly or indirectly, for
One way in which we ought to re-examine United Nations reform is, first, to see whether the Security Council structure can be changed. Dare I mention in this connection qualified majority voting? My second point--and here I am following what the Inter-Parliamentary Union has put forward--is that we ought to examine whether the United Nations needs a means of consulting the peoples of the world. The United Nations Charter mentions the people of the world, but that has come to mean the governments of the world, who meet in the General Assembly. The people of the world ought to be consulted, either through the Inter-Parliamentary Union or through some other arrangements whereby we can have a swathe of opinion across the world, through NGOs, national parliaments or by other means. We should find out what the people think because what the people think is often not what their governments think. Many of the recent wars around the world have been caused because the people of the countries involved are often in conflict with their own governments. I think that is an urgent task.
There is another urgent matter, which was also mentioned by my noble friend; it concerns human rights. We cannot talk about economic development and poverty alleviation without adding the human rights component. No government can give me good healthcare and good living. I have to be able to ask for those myself. I have to be able to have a guarantee that I can have those things all the time and not just at the whim of a government. So while there are regimes which have performed very well in terms of healthcare, the provision of clean water and sufficient food and so on, one cannot guarantee that that will last.
Therefore, our vision of development for the 21st century must take into account that the poor not only need food, shelter and health, but also human rights. It is usually the poor whose human rights are most often denied and it is the poor who suffer when a state breaks down. Here I want to endorse very much the tremendously good action taken by my right honourable friend the Chancellor and by the Secretary of State for International Development in respect of the debt burden faced by many countries. But of course it is not enough just to cancel the debt. That is the minimal part of it. In many cases one might not want to do that. We have to ensure that debt cancellation is part of a complete programme of poverty alleviation and good governance. It is only when debt alleviation is used to enhance human rights and to alleviate poverty that we would be serving ideals on which the cancellation of debt movement has been basing itself.
I want to say a word now about the WTO. Freer and more open trade is absolutely essential if we are to alleviate poverty in the world. Again, I am very glad that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has resisted the many rather negative messages coming from the NGOs, which have taken into their heads the notion that somehow international trade is a conspiracy by the rich to rob the poor. That is not the case. Indeed there has been as much opposition from the rich countries which want to protect jobs at home as there has been from misguided people with other objectives. I believe that the WTO is the most egalitarian international organisation that we have, and if the third world is to advance, it will do so through the WTO. I very much welcome the Government's efforts in this respect, and wish them good luck.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, reference by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, to dialogue and the role of poverty alleviation in addressing security concerns is absolutely right. For this reason, for example, I welcome BG being given a gas concession last week for off the Palestinian coast--a matter of which I have some first-hand knowledge--as being a practical measure to assuage Israeli security and so create a greater opportunity for regional peace, stability and prosperity. I commend it to the state of Israel.
Those who wish to identify defining events this century need not look much beyond the revolution in Iran of 1979. To a great many, those events were overdue. Since then the affairs of Iran have been evolving, while retaining the ideals of that revolution. The United Kingdom, with its shared history, is currently laying down the foundations for a pragmatic, long-term relationship--a relationship built on solid foundations.
It is important to recognise that the viability of any future relationship will derive from political and economic endeavours proceeding in tandem. Not everybody is a true believer in the inevitability or desirability of this evolving rapprochement; some advocate that it is going too fast, others that it is not going fast enough. The reality is that it is progressing steadily and will stand the test of time. Key bottlenecks are being massaged and patience will be rewarded, with Iran resuming its rightful role as an influential world player.
In mid-February, Iran will be embarking on parliamentary elections which will determine its future direction and the speed with which change will take place. A lively debate continues in the run-up to those elections, which represent an opportunity for the electorate to declare once again their support for the reforms under way in Iran. Those elections, following as they do the local elections in February--the first in Iran's history--show how far Iran has come since the election of President Khatami in May 1997. Of course,
However, there are two issues which impact on our domestic politics, which are troubling and which the Government may wish to subject to closer scrutiny. First, the case of espionage charges against the 13 Iranian Jews, which has been raised recently in this House and which all of us would like to see successfully resolved, could have been orchestrated to embarrass Iran and damage President Khatami's international image.
Secondly, certain MPs here in Westminster are supporting, and therefore providing legitimacy to, an organisation based in Iraq designated a terrorist group by the United States and others, including the United Kingdom. Those groups--the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MKO) and their political representatives in Europe and the United States (the National Council for the Resistance of Iran)--have as their raison d'etre the destabilisation of Iran. This Westminster-based support is misguided, ill-informed and, with respect, should be stopped forthwith.
So much for the politics, now for the main course. I returned from Tehran this week having led a trade mission, ahead of a parliamentary delegation, in my capacity as chairman of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce--a successful visit during which 50 per cent of the participants had successfully concluded their negotiations within the first two days.
Allow me, Minister, at this point to mention with gratitude Nick Brown, the ambassador, and his team, with particular tribute to Eric Jenkinson, the commercial attache who facilitated the group tirelessly and most effectively.
The past year has been devoted to identifying opportunities, cementing relationships and harmonising working practices between the chamber in London and its counterpart in Tehran, headed by Mr. Khamoushi, all of which has enabled us to produce the solid foundation, working shoulder to shoulder, in the new working partnership. For example, we have identified an exciting programme of trade and investment exchanges and exhibitions for the year 2000. Importantly, we have also negotiated the final draft of an exacting MOU that encompasses many aspects of the UK's approach to Iran; the development of mutual beneficial co-operation and respect; the enhancement of further bilateral trade and services, together with development of transport links and joint economic co-operation with neighbouring emerging countries. Our chambers have a responsibility to help to achieve those aspirations.
Related success stories are already emerging, such as that of Shell International having concluded negotiations this week on the 800 million dollar Nowruz and Soroush oil project. Shell and the state of Iran are to be congratulated and we can look forward to the long-awaited development of Iranian assets for the benefit of the people of Iran.
Of course, there are other practical ways, in my mind, beyond purely oil and gas activities where the United Kingdom can assist. I could identify public-private partnership initiatives (PFIs) for example. Those models would sit well with any future privatisation programmes and it is an area where the United Kingdom leads the world. There are opportunities to share our experiences, encourage technological exchange and help to provide what really matters--jobs, health facilities and education.
In addition, we can and should support Iran's aim to be a transport and distribution link between the European Union and the markets of neighbouring states, particularly CIS countries. None the less, two issues which are holding us back must be resolved. First, the now unnecessarily lengthy visa processing procedures and, secondly, the establishment of full ECGD cover. Both constraints are associated with the revolution's aftermath and the time has come to move on. I hope that both those issues will benefit from the Foreign Ministers' forthcoming exchange.
Undoubtedly the time is right for some diplomatic give-and-take gestures. Two trade-offs come immediately to mind. First, an investment promotion and protection agreement and a double taxation treaty should be explored, together with, and secondly, UK officials being available to assist Iran to make the economic adjustments necessary for a successful application to join the World Trade Organisation. We could play a constructive role in recommending what reforms should occur before the processing of the application, while simultaneously lobbying the United States to withhold censure.
In conclusion, there is a lot at stake. It is essential that our Ministers start obtaining first-hand knowledge of Iran. It is worth noting that the BBC and the Financial Times will shortly be opening bureaux in Tehran, which will also play a necessary and significant role in clarifying perceptions.
I have already drawn attention to the upcoming Foreign Ministers' exchange and that should be followed quickly by the respective Trade Ministers. It is probable that the current difficulties FCO and DTI officials are having in calling on senior officials in Tehran would ease. That would have the added benefit of encouraging dialogue on areas of Iranian policy that remain of concern to the United Kingdom Government.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, as the Defence Committee has said, we need to acknowledge explicitly that choices about our military capability limit our capacity to be a force for good, if we are not to fall back into the situation of over-commitment and overstretch of our Armed Forces from which the SDR was designed to free us and which I believe it tried hard to do.
The EU force apparently includes, as well as non-EU NATO members such as Turkey, contributions from the 15 EU states, some of which are neutrals outside NATO, so there could be serious conflicts of interest. If the Kosovo and Bosnia operations are anything to go by, the UK contribution will be one of the largest and will be a major commitment to yet another operation likely to be run by committees of Foreign Ministers and media advisers, but this time without our serious ally, the US.
But that is not all. The SDR said that we would also make a much larger contribution of our front line capabilities potentially available to the UN for humanitarian and peace support initiatives, including,
According to press reports the MoD has said that this means only that "some of these resources" could be made available. Is it at all likely that when the time comes we would feel free to say that we never really meant to do anything? It is disturbing enough that we should not only be committed to peacekeeping now in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor but should be making further commitments, this time to a UN force--yet another open-ended operation. Serious difficulties arose in Bosnia while the military role was subordinated to the UN civilian authority, and they are no doubt arising again in Kosovo, as they did in the Congo nearly 40 years ago. The military needs a clearer mandate to operate effectively. That is never going to come from yet another committee in New York. With all these interesting and demanding tasks, when is training going to be done, and who will there be left to train? Not least, will they have the time to train for the strategic defensive war which they were meant to fight?
So we are already in a vicious spiral of over-commitment and overstretch and in serious trouble over retention. The Government are only too happy to use our forces as one of their most powerful political weapons without being prepared to invest in them. Yet
The previous government acted without consulting; this Government consult but do not act. Action costs money. I sometimes think that the only way for the wives to get action, as distinct from leaflets and task forces, would be to declare themselves single mothers, as in effect they are for most of the time. Then this caring society might actually listen to them and support them. Telephone calls are fine, but houses fit to live in are better.
I am not attacking the MoD but the Government, who allow the Treasury to practise endless false economies because defence, they are proud to say, has moved from 2.7 per cent to 2.4 per cent of GDP and is still expected to save money while the tasks are piled on. The previous government, as part of their infamous Treasury-driven bad bargain over the sale of the married quarters estate, promised to ring-fence £100 million for the upgrading to standard 1 condition of the houses in which service families have to live. Over 50 per cent of these did not even reach standard 2 condition and many were much worse. That money was to be in addition to the £40 million per annum already being spent by the MoD on upgrades, apart from £128 million a year on maintenance.
So what has happened? The £100 million has been doled out by the Treasury--£28 million by 1997-98, £20 million 1998-99 and I suppose in theory, according to a Written Answer, £20 million for 1999-2000. Can the Minister confirm that the £20 million due this year has indeed been handed over, as the families have been told that the upgrading promised for 2003 has now slipped to 2005? Can the Minister say why, if this is not lack of money? I want to make it plain that I believe that both the services and the service Ministers are doing their very best to take all the action they are free to take to deal with the often disgraceful conditions in which families have to live. They know, after all, what dire effects these have on retention, taken with turbulence and the fact that a very large percentage of all service today is unaccompanied.
The fault lies, I believe, with the Government, who want a splendid army on the cheap, who rely on service loyalty and who have evidently decided that service wives and children are not real people like the rest of the population. Why else could they leave many of
Five years from the sale of the estate I believe that a rent rise is not unlikely. What MoD vote will pay for it, and will the Treasury, which has received money from Annington Homes, increase the budget accordingly? Will the MoD ensure that the Armed Forces Pay Review Board, which sets married quarters charges, is fully aware of the deplorable condition of many quarters and will take that into consideration?
If time allows, I could tell your Lordships much more about the way service families have to live. For example, the MoD's Defence Housing Agency has a natural housekeeping instinct not to spend more money than absolutely necessary on properties likely to be handed back to Annington Homes. It is, after all, not obliged to return property in a full state of repair; that is, without any dilapidation at all. It is only obliged under its under-leases to return properties in good tenantable repair. Therefore the MoD will not be liable for repairs for minor dilapidation. Under existing laws, tenants cannot be obliged to repair properties that are shortly to be redeveloped.
The effect of this prudent provision is that many families are living in thoroughly unacceptable conditions because the MoD does not wish to spend money inadvertently on properties which might be due to be handed back. There are instances where it is refusing to take action on properties not due to be handed back for another two to three years. That is understandable but is extremely hard on those families who live in them, who should surely, like all others living in below-standard quarters, qualify for some abatement of charges.
But there are other equally alarming aspects of the life service families face. The Defence Medical Services is on the point of collapse. The MDHUs are seriously under-staffed and are not able, because of the NHS overriding right to beds, to do their duty of sending injured service men and women back to their units fast, where they are particularly badly needed now. Instead they have wards full of geriatrics. From the point of view of the families, the imminent closure of Haslar, the only military hospital left, means considerable anxiety about where dependants hospitalised from overseas will be accommodated.
It is nothing short of mad to announce the closure of Haslar before the Centre for Defence Medicine, which is supposed to take its place, has been established. It is in no way surprising that since that announcement, to quote the latest Defence Committee report,
Money alone will not necessarily solve this problem, but it can help. The Government are doing their very best to do something about the Defence Medical Services but, alas, it may be too late. What worries me is that they did not need to close Haslar.
Where are the two hospital ships, one promised as a matter of urgency, for instance? What is being done to ensure that those medical staff who have chosen a career in the Defence Medical Services rather than the NHS do not find that they have suffered as a result, not only in terms of constant overstretch, turbulence, stress and anxiety, but even when it comes to pensions? We all know that what is happening to the DMS is yet another serious blow to morale and retention. Families and servicemen alike see the medical services collapsing.
I greatly admire the Minister's speech and I respect her real and most effective commitment to the forces. But I ask her: how can the Government, in these circumstances, enter into more and more open-ended, unresourced overseas commitments, all unaccompanied, when many families and, by extension, many men are stretched to breaking point?
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I was glad when the noble Baroness who opened the debate mentioned Chechnya. However, it was a very brief mention--almost a reference in passing. Since that part of the world is in Europe, the issue needs a little more development. I hope that we shall have more detail when the Government reply to this very long debate.
The history of the past 200 years explains why such strong animosity exists now between Russians and Chechens. In the last century, it took the Russian imperial power about two whole generations to conquer Chechnya. During the Second World War, Stalin deported the entire population to central Asia, causing an untold number of deaths in the process. It was only some years after that dictator died that the Chechens were allowed to return home. The war of 1994-1996 left towns and villages largely devastated and the infrastructure in ruins. Kidnapping--however much one may deplore it--therefore became a means of economic survival for some people.
The offensive appears to have been indiscriminate, brutal and disproportionate. Against this background, UNICEF called on all parties to respect the rights of civilians and to allow free movement for all, particularly women and children.
Even assuming that the Chechens were responsible for this year's bomb explosions in Russian cities--which is by no means proved--Chechen casualties already exceed Russian ones by a factor of at least 10 to one. One may ask what is the purpose of this operation? Does anyone really know? Is it to kill some, to cause others to die of cold and hunger and to drive the rest into exile? If so, that is a fairly good description of genocide and should not be tolerated.
Some may argue that these matters are technically part of the internal affairs of the Russian Federation. None the less, they affect the whole of Europe because Russia has obligations to virtually every European state, as agreed under the Helsinki arrangements and through the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member. If international humanitarian law is violated, all of us are affected. Even from a purely Russian perspective, the present course appears self-defeating. I say that because decimating the Chechens is sure to fan the flames of Islamic extremism. Already there are reports of fighters arriving from such countries as Afghanistan and Pakistan to help the Chechens. It will also put the interests of the remaining Russian minorities in central Asia greatly at risk.
I am glad that Her Majesty's Government have raised the issue of Chechnya with both the EU and the OSCE. We know that these bodies have expressed grave concern, but that by itself seems inadequate. Will the matter be discussed at the forthcoming OSCE summit meeting in Istanbul? I know that President Meri of Estonia will not be attending because he so disapproves of the Russian action in Chechnya. Coming from someone in his position, that is very significant.
If diplomats and heads of government fail to secure explanations and a commitment to peaceful solutions, it will be necessary to find other ways of achieving those ends. That must surely start with a cease-fire and negotiations, whether mediated or not, and with the strongest possible efforts in the direction of conflict resolution. I trust that more will be achieved at Istanbul than was achieved in Budapest in 1994 when Sarajevo was shelled while the OSCE was in session only 100 miles away.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to participate in particular on the international development and foreign affairs aspects of the debate. In this respect, the gracious Speech stated the Government's aim to modernise the United Nations. I hope that we may hear more about those plans from the noble Baroness when she winds up the debate. I also take this opportunity to express the hope that any modernisation of the United Nations will be thought through more thoroughly than the efforts to modernise your Lordships' House, which we have had the misfortune to experience during the past year.
The gracious Speech also stated the intention of the Government to work towards a new partnership between Britain and the overseas territories. I trust that the debates held in your Lordships' House in recent years and, in particular, earlier this year will have helped the Government in formulating their policies and in dealing with the numerous outstanding issues, as well as in giving the people of St Helena as speedily as possible the passport rights that they need. I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, will have a particular interest in this matter in view of her own departmental responsibilities in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I suspect that it will come as no surprise to your Lordships if I focus my remarks today in particular on our relations with Latin America. In doing so, I lament once again the absence of my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. So often in the past he has reminded successive governments of the importance to this country and to the world of the countries of Latin America, not least in the debate which he introduced in your Lordships' House in June this year. We miss his presence and his expertise, but I know that even now he is in South America--in Venezuela--and that he will continue to take an interest in proceedings in your Lordships' House.
On the political level, there have been recent welcome breakthroughs in Latin America; for example, the triangular agreement between Argentina, the Falkland Islands and ourselves made in May this year. That agreement resolved the few outstanding tensions which remained following the Falklands War. Other examples are the resolution of the border dispute earlier this year between Peru and Equador, the development of relative stability and comity in Central America, and the opening-up of Cuba. I hope that developments focus much more on the Spanish-speaking as well as the English-speaking Caribbean as a region for development. I believe that in that respect the United Kingdom has a particular and important role. We have also seen the strengthening and development of the regional organisations in Latin America, such as Mercosur and the Andean Pact. Sadly, however, we still have an outstanding problem with Chile, but I hope most sincerely that that may be resolved speedily.
On the positive side, the democratic systems are now well established everywhere. Admittedly, there are some danger flashpoints--in Venezuela, Equador and even in Paraguay, where there are trials of strength between the Congress and the President. In that respect, I believe that the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and any ways in which we can encourage more contact between representatives of parliaments in that region and our Parliament are welcome and very important.
At the time of the Rio Summit in July--the EU-Mercosur Summit--we heard that, on his first visit to the region in that capacity, the Foreign Secretary had useful meetings with leaders and Ministers and that he was most enthusiastic. At last, I believe that he fully appreciated the potential benefit for this country in consolidating and improving our relations with Latin America. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to reassure us that her right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is planning to visit that region soon for face-to-face meetings with the new presidents of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and, in due course, Mexico. There may be others because at the moment there seem to be elections everywhere.
The importance of trade and the role of the WTO are issues which have already been touched on during the debate. I wish to emphasise the importance of our trade and commercial links with Latin America. We can say that we are among the major investors in many countries in Latin America. Indeed, in Mexico we are the largest European investor. Our trade balance there is second only to that with Brazil and it has been considerably enhanced as a result of the European Union/Mexican trade agreement. For those who are not aware of the sophistication and development of the Mexican economy and industry, perhaps I may give an example. It may not be generally realised every time one is overtaken on the road by the new Volkswagen Beetle, that vehicle is produced entirely in Mexico.
Brazil has the largest population and the largest economy in Latin America. Indeed, I believe that it is not sufficiently well known that the economy of one province alone in Brazil--that of Sao Paolo--is equal to the economy of the whole of India. There has been good growth in our trade with Brazil. Until 1997 we had more trade with Brazil than with China. That has declined in the light of recent economic crises, but as the economy picks up next year I am confident that so too will our trade. It may also be of interest to your Lordships to know that whenever you are overtaken on the road by a Fiat Palio, you can point to the fact that that is produced entirely in Brazil.
Argentina is the other major economy which deserves special mention. It is worth noting that in recent years the United Kingdom had more exports per capita to Argentina than to any other Latin American country, in spite of our difficulties in the South Atlantic. It is to be hoped that in future that will improve. The economic crisis in the region has also caused difficulties. However, I believe that hope for better things to come lies in the recent elections, the installation of the new president in December, and the developments of Mercosur, which includes Uruguay and Paraguay as well as Argentina and Brazil.
There are many exciting projects in the region, with particular targeting on the health and education sectors. Again, it may be of interest to your Lordships to know that currently there are some 3,400 students from Latin America at our universities. LATAG--the Latin American Trade Advisory Group--currently is tracking 1,700 of them with a view to taking full advantage of the resource and future potential that that trend offers. Here again, I should very much like to underline the valuable work of the British Council. I hope that no spirit of false economy on the part of the Treasury will lead to further cuts in the British Council budget. By the same token, I express the hope that there will be no diminution in either the numbers or activities of our energetic and expert diplomats in the various posts in Latin America. That is very often a threat, and we must guard against cutting the activities which currently are going so well.
In the next two weeks I shall be away from your Lordships' House leading a trade mission to Peru and Chile, an arrangement that was made well before the dates for our new Session were known. It is fair to say that most of our major companies--in the chemicals industry, mining, pharmaceuticals, the energy sector and the utilities--are represented in Latin America and can probably cope well enough on their own. However, it is much more difficult for small and
I hope that the Department of Trade and Industry will continue to support the kind of trade missions that have increased over recent years and have brought valuable results. In that respect, and returning to the detail of the gracious Speech, I hope that, in introducing a Bill to promote electronic commerce, the Government will bear in mind the importance that that will have for our leading financial institutions and the financial service industry in general, both in the City of London and elsewhere, in developing their services not only in Latin America but throughout the world. I hope, therefore, that the widest possible consultation will take place.
In conclusion, I wish to state that I support my noble friend Lord Strathclyde in the amendment that he has proposed, although his reasons for moving it relate less to foreign affairs and international development than to the other proposals in the gracious Speech.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by craving your Lordships' indulgence if I have to leave before the end of the debate. I have an engagement early tomorrow morning in Birmingham which I cannot break. Brevity of speech among your Lordships will secure my attendance to the end. But if we go on at the present rate, I think that I shall have to leave before then. It makes me wonder whether on an occasion like this there might be something to be said for limiting speeches to, say, 10 minutes. That should be enough for most people.
Today's Order Paper says that the debate is expected to concentrate on defence, international development and foreign affairs. But where, I ask myself, can one find anything in the text of the gracious Speech on international development? My fears were reinforced in the opening words of the noble Baroness when she said that we would be talking about defence and foreign affairs. International development had slipped out of the quotation.
One looks with gratitude back to the Government's 1997 White Paper Eliminating World Poverty. I remember hearing this time last year the speech given by Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, to the General Synod of the Church of England. The Churches certainly appreciate the part played by successive governments in trying to tackle the issue of world debt, which is inseparably linked to the wider issue of world poverty. We appreciate the difficulties of mobilising action on an international level. We must bear in mind the recent reports on the reluctance of the United States Congress to support President Clinton in the pledges that he has made on this matter.
So what am I saying? The Churches deeply appreciated the energy and commitment of the Secretary of State and her department. Perhaps I can be expected to say that since I am Bishop of Birmingham and the Secretary of State is one of Birmingham's most beloved Members of Parliament. We also appreciate the attention given to the issue of debt by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But if one looks at the gracious Speech as a whole, one cannot help asking how high are the issues of world debt, world poverty--not just child poverty--and international development in the Government's overall list of priorities. Rhetoric is not enough.
International development is not someone else's issue. It is ours, not least because world poverty, as has already been said, threatens the stability and security of us all. But there is also the question of justice. The year 2000 is a year of jubilee, a year in which, in biblical tradition, debts are to be remitted and slaves set free. So may we please hear something more about the Government's plans for pursuing the issues of the remission of debt and the releasing of resources for the elimination not just of child poverty but of world poverty? It would be good to have some reassurance that the Government have not forgotten about their own Department for International Development.
Having spoken about the comparatively low profile of an entire department of State from the purview of the gracious Speech, I should now like to comment on something which is plainly present on the face of the speech. I refer to the Government's clear commitment to introduce a draft Bill to ratify the statute establishing an international criminal court. The Churches certainly welcome the opportunity that that will provide for consultation. The creation of an international criminal court will represent a historic achievement, a deeply significant advance in the recognition and establishment of moral and ethical standards in the international community. One of the weaknesses of international humanitarian law so far is that, despite the impressive body of law which has evolved since the second world war, there has been no
It is, of course, deeply regrettable that two members of the Security Council--China and the United States of America--were among the small number of states which voted in Rome last year against the establishment of the international court. Is it significant that they are also two of the countries most addicted to capital punishment? So it is all the more important that the British Government, after playing a major part in the negotiations which led to the statute, should be among the first to seek its ratification. However, two questions arise. First, will the Government be able to give assurances that they do not wish to opt out of Article 124 or Article 94 of the statute? Article 124 would allow a state to opt out of the jurisdiction of the court for seven years while Article 98, by leaving the door open for bilateral agreements, would allow individuals to evade extradition.
Secondly, will the Government assure the House that they will maintain diplomatic pressure on the United States to sign the statute? The historic reluctance of the United States to recognise the jurisdiction of international courts and international institutions which it does not control is well known. Nevertheless, without the assent and participation of the United States of America the authority and effectiveness of the international criminal court will be gravely impaired. One is bound to say that the nature of American commitment to the cause of human rights would, in practice, be called into question.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Watson of Richmond on his admirable, indeed brilliant, maiden speech. Like my noble friend, I, too, shall draw attention to a curious aspect of the gracious Speech as regards Europe. The gracious Speech states that:
We are now within a few weeks of the end of the century. For more than one-quarter of it we have been members of the European Community. The lessons of that experience are plain to see as we enter the next century. A simple one is that membership of the Union does not involve abandoning the defence of British interests. On that I hope that I carry the consensus of everyone in your Lordships' House. Other member countries fight their own corners. Mrs Thatcher, our Prime Minister as she was then, fought a battle over our share of Community financing and won for Britain a rebate. The other countries recognised, however reluctantly, that she was right.
I recall the wise remarks of a Dutch Commissioner in the far-off days when I was a member of the European Commission. "My dear George", he said, "there are two countries in the Community which are stubborn about defending their national interests. One is France and the other is Britain. But a word of advice", he added. "France always describes her opposition to anything being proposed by the Community as a betrayal of Europe. Britain always makes it appear as though Europe is betraying Britain. That is not the best way to get results". I am sure that he was right.
A second obvious and outstanding lesson for Britain over the whole period of our relationship with the European project has been simply this: it is better to be in at the beginning. My experience as a Commissioner in 1973 of establishing the Community's first regional development fund provided ample evidence of the crucial advantage for Britain of being in at the birth of a major new policy. In the search for objective criteria for helping underprivileged areas, Britain's distinctive problems could be given appropriate consideration. No doubt if the regional development fund, like the CAP or the common fisheries policy, had already been in existence and reflected the circumstances of the six countries before Britain joined, together with Ireland and Denmark, all three countries would have been at a disadvantage.
It is depressing that we have failed to learn this simple lesson over the whole saga of economic and monetary union, the exchange rate mechanism and now the single currency. In my judgment, the stark fact is that if we are to continue as a leading country in the Union, British participation in the single currency is essential. Inevitably those running the single currency in the European Central Bank are already making administrative decisions to meet the needs of those inside while Britain remains outside. The longer we remain outside the more we will find, as has happened before, that we shall join something created by others to reflect their interests. Nor should we be complacent about how long our present capital of goodwill and influence in the Community--fortunately it is substantial under the present Government--would last if through a referendum or otherwise we were to decide to remain outside the single currency.
I shall mention one final lesson for Britain. Throughout its history an essential characteristic of the European Union has been the importance of what is known in Brussels jargon as the political will. The European Union was created as an economic community. Today the majority of its operations remain economic, although the foreign policy, defence and home affairs pillars of the Union outside the jurisdiction of the Commission are becoming steadily more important. However, all the economic achievements of the European Union have had their foundations in political decisions of historic significance. The Coal and Steel Community, which combined the heavy industries of Western Europe, was an act of political will with the political aim of bringing about a Franco-German reconciliation after two catastrophic European wars on the basis of joining their heavy war-making industries.
Messina, in 1955, setting up the Common Market, was an act of political will of breathtaking audacity, to which at the time Britain was unbelievably blind and from which we subsequently suffered. From the beginning the underlying aim of the European construction has been political and not economic. Politicians in Britain who have expressed a similar point of view to mine have been accused of concealing this fact. However, I do not believe that the public declarations of those of us who were involved in taking Britain into Europe in 1973 are open to that charge. Like others, I have made scores of speeches about the political role of the European Community in making inconceivable the great European wars of the past and in enabling Europe in the future to pull its united weight in world affairs in a way now impossible for any single member nation.
In a European Union of ancient nation states the concept of surrendering national identities to a super-state is an unreal fantasy. Equally unreal, however, is the concept that Britain can make the other member states rewrite the treaties. That seems to be the current policy of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition. "Europe a la
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting--CHOGM--has just concluded in South Africa. My small niche in the history of such matters was to have been Her Majesty's last Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs and one of the first European Commissioners. I have special reasons to be aware of the upsetting truth of Dean Acheson's remark that Britain, in creating an independent Commonwealth, had lost an empire and needed to seek a new role in world affairs. I believe that role has proved itself to be a major player in the European Union. If we take our opportunities, it is now perfectly reasonable to conclude that we could within a decade be a player of central significance right across the European board.
We are fortunate that the standing of Britain among its European partners is high at the moment and that the British economy is in good shape. The case in principle for joining the single currency enjoys the support of a broad band of leadership across Britain in politics, in business and in the trade unions. But in circumstances where the referendum is now an accepted instrument of political decision making, and where there is a vociferous and xenophobic section of the press, there is much to do to inform public opinion not only of the case for the single currency but much wider than that; namely, to bring home the general benefits of membership of the European Union for British people.
If the Government are to enjoy the leading role that they seek in Europe they must work to ensure the same decisive majority in the next European referendum as in the last one in 1975. I was involved in that in those far off days. I recollect that that result was achieved despite having a divided Labour Cabinet. One of today's advantages is that there is now a united Cabinet as regards British membership of the European Union. For the sake of Britain and Europe let the Government make the most of it.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I stand here grateful to be elected--by the grace of God as well as by my Cross-Bench Peers--to your Lordships' interim House. The first Earl of Sandwich was a survivor of two stages of reform, first entering Cromwell's upper House without a title and then earning one after helping King Charles II back to his throne. Whatever our origins as Peers, let us at least agree that after these and many other lessons from history, we can all be reformed by gradual evolution.
Recent anniversaries and the approaching millennium again remind us of our place in European history, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomson. We have remembered countless dead on the battlefield and in the camps. We have looked back to the dramatic collapse of the Iron Curtain and of the Cold War. It is a time to be thankful that we have
Yet this Government have a much wider and more ambitious agenda. They are committed to justice on an international scale and to the rights of the very poorest to the benefits of this earth. Even as we strengthen Europe we must simultaneously consider the claims of those who may thereby be weakened and the needs of those who stand to lose as we gain. For example, Oxfam tells us that 8 billion dollars a year would ensure that every child would at least have primary education. That is less than the sum we spend each year on computer games or, apparently, 1 per cent of the wealth of the world's richest 200 people.
So how do we reconcile these two concerns--our obligations to Europe and our commitment to the third world? One way would be to maintain our existing promises of aid and investment, but that is not happening. Overseas development assistance, the world's combined aid programme, fell to as low as 0.22 per cent of gross domestic product in 1997--such is our global estimate of the importance of development. Although our own Government commendably are trying to reverse that trend, let us face it, we shall not be able to make a lot of difference.
What about investment? According to the United Nations world investment report, published in September, FDI world-wide is increasing, but the share of the developing countries has fallen from 37 per cent in 1997 to 28 per cent last year. Most of that investment is going to countries such as China and Brazil and hardly any to the poorest countries such as those in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa receives only 5 per cent of all FDI to the developing countries.
Yet, paradoxically, Africa offers a higher return on investment than anywhere else. That may be why a US-based group has recently announced the largest ever private equity fund for Africa. It was encouraging to hear the Prime Minister, among other leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Durban last weekend, announcing new initiatives on good governance, civil society, human rights and AIDS.
But is the United Kingdom doing enough to encourage investment in African enterprise alongside people-based development? There is nothing in the gracious Speech about Africa, as the right reverend Prelate said. There is hardly any mention of development, although the noble Baroness referred to it. Apart from the work of the CDC and the Crown Agents, backed by the DfID, I do not see much evidence of any emphasis in government policy on investment in Africa. No doubt the Minister will respond to that. I welcome the attention to be given to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Perhaps I may add my personal congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, with whom I have the honour to serve in Christian Aid, for giving us such stirring memories of the war in Mozambique. If these countries can maintain the necessary political stability for economic growth, more young people will be healthy, educated and trained for productive work, and the more likely it is that outsiders will want to invest. Of course, there are many serious obstacles to development such as AIDS and mine clearance which have to be overcome along the way.
But against the background of political uncertainty in much of Africa, the Development Assistance Committee's international development targets look almost unobtainable. I support the targets in principle. I am sure that everyone does. But I wonder how soon the DfID will have to draw back from its own enthusiasm in its primary aim of halving the number of people in poverty by the year 2015. One or two senior economists, notably Professor Robin Marris, have suggested that they should provide that.
Work carried out in Uganda this summer by the Overseas Development Institute and Makerere University shows that while primary education targets may well be met, those for poverty will not. Extreme poverty has continued to decline in Uganda in the 1990s against the national trend of recovery. None of the current projections will achieve the halving of absolute poverty by the year 2015. The growth rate required to achieve it--nearly 5 per cent per annum in terms of real consumption expenditure--will have to be three times the average forecast by the World Bank for sub-Saharan Africa.
However, Uganda has surprised many people in its ability to bounce back from former disasters. We must hope that these predictions are proved wrong. One thing that they show is the near impossibility of making sensible forecasts because of the limitations and inequalities in data. Uganda's poverty eradication action plan is also more robust than most others so we cannot take that as representative of sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
The gracious Speech mentions Europe. Are we doing enough through the European Union to target the poorest countries? I fear we are not, which may be why it has been mentioned. I have only to quote the International Development Committee report of last January which stated that the composition of European Union development assistance was "astounding" and that none of the top seven recipients was even among the least developed countries. So far the Government's response to that has not been very convincing.
Agenda 200 proposals are not making matters any easier for third world farmers. This year the European Union has found a new dumping ground in Russia, with similar dire consequences for Russian farmers. Meanwhile, the protocol of the Lome Convention which guarantees limited quotas of African beef exports is due to expire in February unless it can be extended. I know that the Government are working hard in that direction. Not surprisingly, the church agencies point to breaches of Article 130 of the Maastricht Treaty, which requires policy coherence--that is important in the context of the European Development Fund and European policies generally--between the European Union's Europe and development policies. Similar arguments apply to chocolate, fisheries, and the other products that come under Lome where Europe is undeniably poaching on other national territories. Much depends on the attitude of the World Trade Organisation as it develops standards which are bound to favour the industrialised countries.
The forthcoming Seattle meeting will show whether the interests of the third world and the least developed countries are being taken seriously or whether only countries such as China, where the potential value of trade with the West is so important, will be listened to. There are great fears on the part of some developing countries that the multilateral agreement on investment may return in another form after Seattle.
In the long run, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, poverty eradication in the third world will come from domestic factors such as security, peace and political and economic stability, and, to a lesser extent, the prospects of outside aid and investment. But, equally, we must not ignore the benefits of not just free trade but fairer trade and the damaging effects of our own Euro-centric plans on those fragile economies.
Lord Stone of Blackheath: My Lords, I realise that for alphabetical reasons I must often follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, but it is not fair. He always says things that make me think again, and I have to alter furiously my prepared speech.
Three areas of transformation interest me; namely, in business, in domestic constitutional affairs, and in international politics. In all three, we are faced with complex and, to some, threatening change. In business, where I know it best, change is based on electronic communication, the production and flow of goods and better-informed customers. All of us in business have had to find new structures and new ways of working to address those apparent threats and turn them into opportunities. Believe me, I have experienced that organisational change. It is painful, but necessary.
I turn to the second area: constitutional change. I thought when I came to this House that I should find tradition, tranquillity and stability. But the Government had the foresight to see that the constitution, which has always been fluid in the United Kingdom, also has to move with the times. They initiated a wide range of liberating policies that continue with the current legislative programme.
It is in the nature of change that it cannot be entirely predictable and controlled. It must be put in motion to find the most appropriate settlement. The transitional House is part of that movement, and I hope today to set it a challenge to show its teeth in its new form.
I want to suggest that the Government can make a contribution to new thinking in the third area of dynamic change created by the new technologies--war. Global politics and conflict are also in flux. Unfortunately, possibly as a reaction to globalisation and the redrawing of borders and boundaries, smaller nations are finding difficulty in governing and balancing the democratic demands of majorities with the rights of minorities. Within all this confusion, individuals search for their own identity. In many, a passionate sense of their own ethnicity re-emerges and ferments to the point of hatred for others, resulting in conflict and war.
So here again, this time in the nature of conflict, there has been a massive global change. The majority of disputes are now ethnic in nature; wars are increasingly within states rather than between them; and civilians, not soldiers, are the main victims of war.
At the NATO meeting in Brussels last week, a surprising number of even the most conservative people present were willing to accept that maybe we are living in a new world. Altered dynamics need the formation of different structures and innovative solutions. In all three areas of change--business, domestic politics and international affairs--new approaches are needed. Their adoption will bear risks but pay rewards.
What characterises the change in all three areas is that the dynamics are of such complexity and diversity. A major ingredient, therefore, to lessen the risk in dealing with each of them is cohesion in action and co-operation. Change must be achieved, but with inclusiveness and continuity, mobilising all involved.
Great businesses are doing that with flatter structures, breaking down hierarchy towers within their company, adopting enlightened leadership and mobilising the workforce. In running the United Kingdom, politicians and civil servants are now working closely across departments, and the electorate are being consulted and informed.
In the area of global conflict, where that complexity and diversity is at its greatest, I am pleased to see that the FCO, the DTI and the DfID are also working together. Those of us with some experience in international trade have been asked to help and join in the work with NGOs and academics.
So how do I propose to put this transitional House to the test? The issue is this. The nature of the change in global dynamics has in the past few decades shown up inadequacies in our structure of world government. The enlightened formation of the current international bodies and structures put in place earlier this century to help police the world and prevent war between nations were addressing a different paradigm. The new paradigm needs new thinking. Public opinion is already changing in response to what people are now able to see in real time unfolding on their screens.
This year has been exceptional in that there have been two successful interventions into sovereign states in conflicts within their borders. Although they were at a late and bloody stage, those controversial actions saved lives. Many experts in this field are convinced that thousands more lives could be saved in the future if we reviewed and revised the international bodies and protocols and the mechanics in the light of the new global dynamics.
Many, many people have contacted me since May, when I suggested in this House that something new might be done. They have given me sufficient cause to believe that the United Kingdom Government could take a lead. None of them feels able to move things forward on his or her own. What they do believe is that your Lordships have the expertise to consider, debate and propose solutions.
Among the issues for consideration are sovereignty and intervention. These need to be re-examined. Perhaps that will even require change to the United Nations Charter as indicated in the gracious Speech.
As regards prevention, real, practical and immediate links are needed between the investment already made, in the UN, in early warning systems for threatened conflict and the options for preventative action.
Thirdly, an integrated approach is needed. As the effects of wars on any continent now affect us all with greater immediacy, there may be an opportunity to enlist the co-operation of all affected bodies: governments, non-governmental organisations and academics. And we must include big businesses, which now sometimes control more people and bigger budgets than many countries.
This House is now composed of Peers, whatever their political hue, who have been asked to serve here because of their own expertise, acquired in their own lifetime, and Peers who have been elected for their
However, what I now know from having observed this Chamber and listened to your Lordships in other crucial debates is that positive pragmatic suggestions will be put. Insights on a vision of a new world order and pointers as to how it might be organised would emerge from such a debate. The House would suggest to the Ministers, my noble friends Lady Scotland and Lady Symons, ways in which the world community might respond if Her Majesty's Government were to take a lead in such an enlightened project.
Lord Bridges: My Lords, we are now halfway through this Parliament, so the debate provides an opportunity for a mid-term assessment. My contribution will be an examination of a key element of the Government's foreign policy--its ethical purpose. I note that a number of noble Lords have already spoken on the subject, but I shall follow a different line.
To begin with, the ethical foreign policy was outlined by the Foreign Secretary in launching his mission statement for his department shortly after his appointment on 12th May 1997. Mr Cook concluded with the words that the mission statement,
The relation between ethics and foreign policy is a topic which has worried me for some time. It has, indeed, been a central issue for practitioners of diplomacy since President Wilson's Fourteen Points of 1917, the first of which was,
More recently, the issue has come to the fore again. After retiring from the Diplomatic Service at the statutory age of 60, 12 years ago, I was appointed to a fascinating voluntary part-time post as Chairman of the National Committee for UNICEF. I therefore share some of the experiences that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford mentioned in his moving maiden speech earlier.
At that time, the organisation had just completed the negotiation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is mentioned in the gracious Speech. Its dynamic American executive director, Jim Grant, had succeeded in arranging a world summit for children, attended by over 100 heads of state and government, to approve an action plan to implement the convention. Each prime minister was allowed three minutes to speak. Our own Prime Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, made a powerful and effective speech which lasted six minutes, but no one dared to interrupt. The United Nations secretariat had not then located--or since, so far as I know--the Manhattan equivalent of the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton.
That introduces a fresh element to the argument. An act which seems morally justified to the person taking a decision may have profoundly repugnant effects in a broader perspective. Thus the individual Czech may have felt an obligation to look after his children, but he had also supported a tyrannical and evil regime. One may argue, I suppose, that there is a difference between the ethical decision of a person and that of a state, but I do not believe that it disposes of the problem.
Another large problem in this area of policy is that no agreement exists on the nature of the ethical principles which apply. To take an extreme case, if you had been a fly on the wall at the villa on the Wannsee outside West Berlin in 1941, when the Nazis decided to exterminate the Jewish population of central Europe, you could not have avoided the impression that, for the participants, the aim of racial purity was an ethical principle in their eyes. Ethics may be broadly defined, I suppose, as a set of moral principles. Nothing seems
If we are to adopt policies which are deliberately framed in ethical terms, we need some broad international understanding of what this actually means, if our policies are to gain acceptance and have effect. To take a current illustration, the Government decided, to their great credit, that the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo could only be arrested by intervention on the ground with military forces. No one doubted the evil nature of what was happening. But there was no consensus in the United Nations which would enable us to obtain a copper-bottomed legal authority in the shape of a specific mandate from the Security Council. That point was debated on a number of occasions in this House.
The Government stuck bravely to their guns and persuaded sufficient important partners to join in. We know that the operation was a military success and has enabled the Kosovars to return home, although the ethnic cleansing has continued in the reverse direction.
The difficulty was and remains that Kosovo is part of Serbia and the United Nations charter underlines respect for national sovereignty as its underlying principle. Nevertheless, the ethical foreign policy has scored a notable success there, even if the legal basis for our action was, in President Roosevelt's splendid adjective, distinctly "iffy". Anyone who has doubts on that score might turn to The Times newspaper of Tuesday 16th November which contains an authoritative article by a legal expert which puts it beyond doubt that we had no legal basis in international law for what we did. We may have had a moral basis, but no legal basis.
This matter has come to haunt us, as we are faced with in many respects a similar situation in the case of Chechnya, which is not an independent state but an associate republic within the Russian Federation, with autonomous status. The Russians, infuriated by acts of terrorism within their own lands, which they believe to have been perpetrated by Chechens, have invaded Chechnya for the second time in a decade, with the dreadful consequences we know.
How, one may ask, should an ethical foreign policy apply in this case? Do the Government intend to follow the Kosovo example and send in our splendid troops to restore the land to its indigenous inhabitants? I hope not. Happily, I see no sign of that happening. Evidently, the need for moral consistency does not apply, and it should not, as Russia is a nuclear power, and Serbia, so far as I know, is not.
In this case, we should have other means of pursuing our ethical objective. Russia is heavily dependent on economic aid from the West and it is no doubt being made plain to Moscow that we shall find it difficult to supply further funds if the present violence continues. Also, if the Russians do have good evidence of the involvement of Chechens in terrorism, they would be well advised to publish it, particularly to avoid the intervention from the Muslim world, as happened in
I have heard it said (but not by anybody in the Foreign Office) that the Foreign Secretary particularly dislikes the yardstick of the national interest and prefers to measure policies by other broader guides, whether of ethics, environmental gain or third world development. These aspects are also unquestionably important, but my belief is that the national interest is not a bad criterion and can embrace the other considerations which I have mentioned. Happily, there are some examples to illustrate that that can work. The most notable recent example was the agreement on European security and co-operation signed in Helsinki in 1975. The origin of this negotiation lay in a long-standing Russian desire to obtain a security treaty signed by all European countries which recognised the frontiers and territorial gains achieved by the Communists at the end of the Second World War. The West steadily rejected that notion for more than 20 years.
But in the early 1970s a more enlightened policy was followed by the West--in which this country played a notable part--by which it accepted the status quo in terms of frontiers provided that certain guarantees were given in relation to the rights of all citizens in all the signatory countries. In broad terms, that was the basis of the agreement which led to the unravelling of the Communist empire in eastern Europe by permitting East German refugees to travel to the west via Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Here is a case where an ethical approach produced excellent results. There are other positive examples which we can adduce from our experience within the Commonwealth, whose leaders have, happily, not hesitated to suspend from membership states with totalitarian and military regimes.
It appears to me, therefore, that it is possible to apply the ethical approach directly where this can be established as the basis of a negotiation between like-minded states. But the fly in the ointment is the absence of a basis for moral action in the United Nations where we must follow the rules of the charter. That is a considerable handicap whose existence we cannot ignore. I listened with fascination to the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Stone, about ways in which we may change the situation. I thought that his analysis was excellent, but it will not be easy to find a solution.
I hope that this contribution to the debate does not appear to be unnecessarily critical. My overall impression from experience of diplomacy is that it is essentially a practical trade and in some ways resembles carpentry or bricklaying. The big structure may eventually emerge but, generally speaking, it is not the product of a grand design; rather, the result of
Lord Blaker: My Lords, I should like to take up a topic to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred. He spoke of the recent wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya, to which country the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, also referred. I approach the subject from a different point of view. Is the fact that we have had these four wars in quick succession a coincidence or has a common theme brought them about? I believe that there is a common theme to explain the fact that they have occurred in quick succession; namely, in one way or another all have been concerned with self-determination.
The second half of this century--and I believe this will be true well into the next--has been an age of self-determination. In 1945 the number of members of the United Nations was 54; in 1964 it had risen to 113, which was an amazing increase. The total is now 188. Therefore, there have been 134 newly independent countries since the end of the war. Does that tendency have further to go? I believe so. The reasons for the tendency towards self-determination are four. One is the end of the big European empires which occurred relatively soon after the Second World War. In the Russian empire that process has some way to go. I do not believe that Chechnya is the end of the story as far as concerns Russia.
The second factor that has given rise to these small wars is the end of the cold war. When the cold war ended we were told that there would be a new world order. An American professor of Japanese extraction wrote a book entitled The End of History which propounded the view that peace had arrived, but the opposite has happened. The simple reason is that during the cold war it was too dangerous to have wars of this kind. The best example is Yugoslavia, which was kept quiet until relatively recently not only by the strength of Marshal Tito but the fact that until 10 years ago the cold war could have given rise to a world war if some of the member states of Yugoslavia had attempted to secede by force.
The third reason for the tendency towards self-determination is the extraordinary increase in the number of very small independent countries. In the Pacific there are independent countries with populations of no more than 10,000. Twenty years ago the Foreign Office set in hand a study to assess how small the population of a country could be and still allow it to become independent in a self-sustaining way. The conclusion was that the minimum population to sustain a country and its economy was
We must ask ourselves whether these wars are a passing phase. I believe that we shall see more of them. If one looks at Yugoslavia, in Montenegro and the province of Vojvodina in Serbia there are separatist tendencies. In Africa, some years ago we had the example of Biafra and recently another example in Rwanda. If one looks at the map of Africa, almost every country has at least one straight boundary. A straight boundary is one imposed by the colonial power without paying attention to boundaries between one tribe or ethnic group and the next. There is a lot of trouble in store there. There are straight boundaries between Somalia and Kenya. Somalia claims the northern frontier district of Kenya. If one looks at Sudan, a war has been going on in the south for some time. We know that in Indonesia several islands aspire to independence. Look also at the Kurdish problem in the Middle East; look also at China, where the province of Xinjiang has separatist aspirations.
Some years ago I was responsible for the independence of two small island territories in the Pacific, one with a population of 60,000 and the other with a population of 150,000. Each had at least a dozen islands and in each of those small countries there was a separatist movement. If that is the case, we should assume that it is frequent to find in almost any country one considers, certainly it is true in this country, that there are separatist tendencies. I believe that we face not a new world order but a good deal more disorder.
We have to recognise that with small wars of the kind to which I refer, we see horrors on our television sets which lead people, and especially the tabloid press, to cry, "Something must be done". And something is done. I refer to the way we have been pursuing our policy in recent years, sometimes in a combat role as in Kosovo and sometimes in a peacemaking or peacekeeping role. If we become more addicted to the view that it is permissible to make war in the search to prevent a serious humanitarian catastrophe, those wars are likely to be more frequent.
Whether it is a combat or a peacekeeping role, what is likely to result is a peacekeeping force. A peacekeeping role tends to last a long time. We have had peacekeeping troops in Cyprus since 1964. In Bosnia they have been there for about five years. In Kosovo a new peacekeeping force has been set up. I do not believe that that will be out of Kosovo for quite a long time. I believe that the same may be true in East Timor.
Such a situation raises many questions which have not yet been tackled. For reasons of time I shall not go into them now. But one of the important issues is this. In what war-like situation of that kind shall we play an active role? Will it be limited to European cases, and possibly Indonesia and South-East Asia, or are there wider spheres of action which face us?
The second and most important question is this. If we are going to see more wars of this kind, how are we to continue to play the role we have been playing? And how can our forces have the ability to conduct a conventional war--a subject also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont--and to play all the roles which they should be playing, if the forces we have continue to be run down? The time has come for a radical rethink by the Government on how they will face that situation.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I rise to deliver my maiden speech as a member of the Green Party. However, as it is 31 years since my first maiden speech in your Lordships' House, and during that time I have not been exactly silent, I can hardly claim any special indulgences.
Perhaps I may trespass on your Lordships' time to explain why I have chosen the day for debate on foreign affairs for this maiden speech. The most obvious answer is that the day set aside for environmental matters is my birthday, and 30 years as a Peer has not yet given me the courage to upset the plans made by my family for my entertainment.
Another rather more satisfactory answer is that, if I were discussing purely environmental matters, what I would have to say, while green (with a small "g") would not be distinctively Green (with a large "G"). Indeed, I imagine that what I would have to say on that day would be said far better by Members on the Benches in front of me. But while what those Members will say will be worthy, it will hardly be worth saying as long as they and the remainder of your Lordships' House continue to believe in absolute free trade, and to favour the overruling of the legislative powers of this Parliament by the EU and the WTO. That is where the international development side of today's topic arises, and where I attempt to follow the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham.
However, as regards the Queen's Speech, let me say that in general I welcome the Government's programme despite a too authoritarian streak in it, and I shall not be tempted to go into the Conservative Lobby next Wednesday. We particularly welcome the Bill for the protection of wildlife although, as the
The party on these Benches and the Government will probably not have much joy in doing what they wish to do if they do not fight against and distance themselves from the economic shackles of the EU--I do not talk about the political aspects which I do not regard as shackles--and the WTO. For instance, they will not be able to produce any workable ways to preserve the farming way of life in this country. "Where are the yeomen, the yeomen of England?" The answer is that, apart from the fact that most of them are directors of insurance companies, and it is doubtful whether even those will be able to run farms, they will not be very unhappy because they will at least own land of which no more is being made, they tell me. The real yeomen will have retired or hung themselves on their own bowstrings; and if one looks at the suicide rates for farmers one will see that, while that remark may be a great deal too flippant, it is no exaggeration.
I came back from New England a fortnight ago having been to see the fall colours. They were wonderful, but much was on good farmland which had been put out of operation by the competition of the dustbowl monoculture of the Middle West. If I have an investment tip for your Lordships it is, "Invest in red maple saplings". In that way there will be a tourist use for what was the great patchwork of rural England.
Apart from destroying the countryside, we have through GATT disabled ourselves from passing most of the laws necessary for protecting the global environment or caring for the welfare of our animals; and we are still playing with the idea of a multilateral agreement on investments which would deliver us bound and gagged into the hands of the multinational corporations. In the matter of the welfare of animals, the gains that have been made in Europe, largely at our instance, on the trade in furs from animals killed in the cruel leghold traps and the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals have been lost owing to the WTO.
I know that the Government will say that they have no intention of signing an MAI and every intention of modifying the so-called rules governing the World Trade Organisation. But the truth is that we are already much too far along that particular path. We need to start a counter revolution. A good start would be to proclaim that free trade as an extreme ideology has gone too far and that we should protect the rural poor of this world by protecting agriculture and persuading countries that an important base position in international affairs is "food security"; is a nation being able to feed itself, as we have had to try to do within living memory.
It has been said, and I am persuaded of the likelihood of it being true, that anything of which one is absolutely certain is probably wrong. And one of the reasons for that is that all extreme positions are wrong. Life is not like that. As Horace said, auream quisquis mediocritatem, or a Golden Mean, is what we need to seek.
Seek to apply absolute free trade, of the rightness of which far too many people are absolutely convinced and which is at first sight the most simple and logical plan for world trade, and on a small scale you destroy the rural countryside of Britain and the whole economy of the Windward Isles. On a large scale, you apply a relentless pressure to reduce wages and increase unemployment everywhere in the world.
It is important to realise that all countries and all economies are different and have different needs. Admittedly it is easier to try to supply an overall pattern which suits them all. But that is a bed of Procrustes and lands you up, like the occupants of that bed, either short of a pair of feet or being tortured to death on the rack.
The fact is that if we seek to have a civilised world--and I imagine that that is what we all seek--we need to treat each economy and nation separately in the same way as pastors, like myself, attempt to treat every person separately. This involved devolving power to small units and for both economic and political purposes avoiding all large conglomerates. I greatly appreciated and relished the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blaker.
The Government have grasped the first part of this, hence the admirable devolution to Scotland and Wales for which I and noble Lords on the seats in front of me have campaigned for 50 years and which I thought I should never see achieved. They have not yet grasped the second half.
As I said when I resigned from the Liberal Democrats, they are now green-thinking enough that it would not need an enormous effort for them to take this path. The Tories under their present leadership show signs of being conservative enough, in the true sense of the word, to revert to protectionism--which is only a bad thing if it becomes selfish and jingoistic--and even Old Labour would have seen the point. It is just New Labour that appears to be inexorably
Baroness Strange: My Lords, I am beginning to feel like a bad penny, always turning up, but I am delighted to be turning up in your Lordships' House, and with so many of your Lordships surviving the shipwreck.
To your Lordships' relief, and particularly that of my noble friend the Minister, who is having a marathon sit-in, this will be a brief speech and I shall make only two points. Reading the gracious Speech makes me feel like a friend of mine who had researched Charles II for a school exam. To her horror, she saw that the question was, "Write all that you know about Charles I". Without hesitation, she began, "Speaking of Charles I reminds me of Charles II".
In paragraph 47 of the gracious Speech, there is reference to the importance of NATO, which reminds me of the importance of our contribution to it. Our new Secretary of State for Defence spoke recently of overstretch; so did my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean; so did Sir Charles Guthrie; so did my noble friends Lord Chalfont and Lady Park; and so did my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall. Unless there is at least a 24-month gap between front line unaccompanied tours, overstretch will always be present. There are only two cures for overstretch: fewer commitments or more troops.
My second point also deals with the Armed Forces and stems from sentiments in paragraph 2 of the gracious Speech: modernisation for the millennium. I remembered the visit of the Defence Study Group to Haslar, the only remaining service hospital in the whole country, which I now hear is to be closed down.
When we visited the beautiful 1755 buildings, I was struck by the modern and avant-garde positioning of them, where wounded British servicemen could be unloaded straight from ships sailing into Portsmouth Harbour. This was 40 years before the Napoleonic wars and 50 years before Trafalgar. "Modern" and "modernisation" are relative terms. By the time of Florence Nightingale 100 years later, the splendid modern buildings were already out of date.
Should we not, to celebrate the millennium, build a new modern tri-services hospital at Brize Norton, positioned for easy access by air from East Timor, Kosovo or wherever our services may be deployed, and also with a large civilian catchment area below the central Midlands?
Having visited the splendid new buildings complex at Abbeywood for our defence procurement, I wonder whether something similar could be erected at Brize Norton as a central tri-services hospital. All the expensive, state-of-the-art modern kit could be moved there from Haslar in low loaders. A millennium services hospital would be a tribute to our doctors and nurses, to our continued commitment to NATO, and above all to our own service men and women who are surely of more vital importance than the weapons which they wield.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the gracious Speech states that the Government will seek to modernise the United Nations and work to make the Security Council more representative. I hope that when the Security Council is enlarged, as it must inevitably be to take account of the changes in the relative importance of the states during the past 50 years, the veto will be abolished and majority voting adopted, because otherwise enlargement is a recipe for paralysis. It has been difficult enough with the present membership to get the Security Council to act firmly when necessary. Modernising the United Nations, I hope, means improving its rules so that decisive measures can be taken to counter threats to peace or to the lives of millions of civilians caught up in one of the 18 "complex emergencies" which are defined by the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
It can hardly be doubted that reforms are urgently needed in a week that has seen the publication of the report on the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995. The UN had a mandate to protect Srebrenica and five other "safe areas", yet 20,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in and around those areas, 7,000 in Srebrenica alone. As the author of the report stated, the fundamental error made was that we tried to keep the peace and apply the rules of peacekeeping when there was no peace to keep. Perhaps that explains why some other operations, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, have not been entirely successful. The United Nations sent peacekeeping troops into a situation where there was no peace to keep. That was certainly so in Bosnia. The arms embargo favoured the Serbs, who already had plenty of weapons and all the arms factories. There was neither the will to use air power against the Serbs, nor the means on the ground to repulse them. We failed to appreciate that in their plans for a greater Serbia the enclaves were a prime target. Incomplete and inaccurate information was given to the Security Council and we continued to negotiate with the war criminals Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic, even though it was clear at the time that they were engaged in attempted genocide.
That is a summary of the conclusions reached by the author of the report. It is of great value that the General Assembly commissioned it and its lessons should be applied more generally. I hope that in the future all UN operations will be audited to see whether the resources allocated match the tasks; whether the objectives were realistic; and whether those entrusted with the management of the operations were doing their jobs properly. I suggest that those audits should be carried out by people independent of the UN and of the Secretariat in particular. They should also be independent of the states involved in the operations concerned, although that does not mean to say that I have any criticism at all of Mr David Harland who was extremely frank and forthright in criticising his own organisation. The postponement of the report did not mean that it was being watered down in the Secretariat as I had feared, but the principle of the independence of auditors must be as essential for the UN as it is for any other body.
The report reminds us of the need to try to punish those in positions of authority who wilfully kill civilians. I join the right reverend Prelate in being pleased to see that legislation is forthcoming to enable us to ratify the international criminal court, in the genesis of which the UK has played such an important part, as he said. Under our law the extradition of an offender is dependent on the court's satisfaction that the conduct in question would be a crime under domestic law in Britain. Therefore, I ask the Minister who is to reply--I gave her notice of the question--whether common Article 3 offences will be made justiciable in Britain.
At the OSCE summit which began today, I understand that there was discussion of the indiscriminate Russian bombardment of Chechnya, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred. He pointed out that 200,000 people, or, as I was told, a quarter of a million, have already fled Chechnya into Ingushetia and Georgia. In the previous war between 1994 and 1996, it is estimated that Chechnya lost 120,000 people--more than 10 per cent of her population. As the noble Lord pointed out, many of those people were survivors of the mass deportation by Stalin of the whole Chechnyan people to Central Asia and Kazakhstan in 1944.
The Russians are flagrantly and systematically violating this commitment. They are erasing whole residential areas by bombing and shelling, and driving the surviving inhabitants out into the open air, to perish of cold, disease and starvation.
We talk about conflict prevention and conflict resolution, but those are not sciences, and when it comes to particular cases there is generally neither the power nor the will to act. The OSCE has produced some excellent statements over the years, but they are said to be politically rather than legally binding. That means in practice that there are no effective mechanisms of enforcement. In Kosovo, where the conduct of Serbs towards ethnic Albanians was identical with that of the Russians towards the Chechens, the doctrine emerged that groups of states are entitled to act across frontiers without the Security Council's express authorisation, when that was the only means of averting an immediate and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe. The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, made reference to the doubtful legality of that principle.
Reference is made by the Government to our intervention in northern Iraq, but there of course we had the authority of Security Council Resolutions 678 and 688 to use military force in pursuit of the objectives stated in all the previous resolutions by the Security Council from 660 onwards. If a new rule of international law has indeed been developed in Kosovo, it needs to be spelt out more clearly than it has been so far. Which organisations of states are entitled to judge that a humanitarian catastrophe is occurring, and is anybody in any doubt that Chechnya satisfies the criteria? If so, do we not have to admit--another noble Lord has touched on this point--that international law cannot be applied against super-powers, and how do the Government propose that that problem should be dealt with as part of their UN reforms?
It is ironic also that the OSCE summit is being held in Istanbul, on the territory of a state which itself not only violated the Budapest Summit Declaration which I quoted earlier but rejects also the Copenhagen Declaration of the OSCE on minorities. Turkey's armed forces were responsible for the forcible ejection of 3 million people from their villages and towns in the south-east since the armed conflict with the PKK began in 1984, and they still refuse to accept that Kurdish people have the elementary rights of language, mother-tongue education and control of their own local authorities which the OSCE has defined. The Turks are alone in the region in having rejected all outside help to reach a political solution to the conflict within their boundaries. Indeed, they have never even invited the chairman of the OSCE for informal discussions on the subject. Yet here they are hosting a summit at which everyone else is to be told to obey the rules.
If the OSCE is to be an effective institution in the 21st century, I suggest that it should refrain from making any more new declarations until it finds better means of enforcing the commitments that its members have already undertaken. In cases outside
Should the UN be content to play an entirely passive and neutral role in domestic conflicts, merely alleviating suffering wherever it can? In Sudan, according to UN Special Rapporteur, Leonardo Franco, the human rights situation was worsening,
In fact, many of the conflicts in Africa have been fuelled either by competition over resources or the diversion of revenues from resource exploitation into the purchase of weaponry. The UN is now trying to stop the flow of weapons to UNITA in Angola by denying Savimbi the money that he obtained from the illegal sale of diamonds, estimated at 1.72 billion dollars between 1994 and the end of last year and 150 million dollars this year alone. However, the Government of Angola are also pouring vast sums of money into the war derived from the exploitation of resources. They received 870 million dollars from signature bonuses on the award of rights to oil companies on blocks 31, 32 and 33, and 350 million dollars of that was paid by BP alone for block 31. According to the former Foreign Minister in an interview with Alex Vines of Human Rights Watch, all those funds were earmarked for the war effort.
Should not the UN look more comprehensively at the diversion of resources from development into armed conflict, particularly in Africa, and the possibilities, for example, of using escrow accounts, as in the case of Iraq, to ensure that royalties are used for humanitarian and developmental purposes only? An agency for the prevention of internal armed conflict should have two other functions. First, it should extend best practice in licensing arms exports to states which are less strict in their criteria than the European Union, such as the states of Eastern Europe, the Ukraine, China and North Korea. Secondly, it should develop independent auditing capacity to ensure that states properly observe the rules that they sign up to and the establishment of general mechanisms for looking at the claims to self-determination, mentioned
If the UN had a body to which the people of such territories could appeal, the hearing of their cases before an impartial international tribunal may lead to agreed solutions and would in any case provide an alternative to the use of armed force. My final suggestion is that the Committee on Decolonisation, which has almost completed its work on the former dependencies of the European imperialists, may now turn its attention to that problem.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I was pleased to hear the Government's commitment in the gracious Speech to a policy of adaptability in defence which will ensure appropriate readiness for the challenges of the new century.
Among those challenges I must raise some deep concerns born of direct experience in two parts of the world which may seem far removed from each other but which are now linked by a common threat. I refer to Sudan and the Caucasus, where those who have instigated the wars in Chechnya and Dagestan are now threatening Armenia and the historically Armenian land of Nagorno-Karabakh.
First, I turn to Sudan. In the cruel calculus of man's inhumanity to man, Sudan ranks as the greatest tragedy in the world today. With 2 million dead and over 5 million displaced in recent years, its toll of suffering exceeds former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda put together.
The National Islamic Front (NIF) regime, which took power by military coup in 1989, represents at most 5 per cent of the Sudanese people. It has declared "jihad" in its most aggressive form against all who oppose it: Muslims, Christians and traditional believers. The weapons of its jihad include military offensives against innocent civilians, denial of aid to vast areas and slavery.
In the last 18 months I and my colleagues in Christian Solidarity Worldwide have visited Sudan six times and visited areas declared by the NIF as "no-go" for the United Nations Operation Lifeline Sudan and other aid organisations, in Southern Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains, Western Upper Nile and Bahr-El-Ghazal. We witnessed carnage and scorched earth policies on a huge scale. We saw the aftermath of massive raids by combined government forces, mujahedin and murahaleen.
In May last year in northern Bahr-El-Ghazal we found the remains of a big market where government-led troops had surrounded civilians, forced them into a cul-de-sac and massacred them. Their bodies, covered with thorn bushes to keep vultures at bay, were putrefying in the heat. We followed in the footsteps of those who had tried to escape and saw how they had been mown down and slaughtered. We walked for miles through corpses of civilians interspersed with corpses of cattle. We saw systematically burnt homes,
In June this year we were in Western Upper Nile near the oil wells at Bentiu and we saw how entire communities had lost everything in government raids. Six thousand homes, seven churches, three mosques, several schools and clinics had been burnt. The people were left with nothing with which to survive the rainy season. More recently there have been reports that 150,000 civilians have been displaced from areas around the oil fields, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has just referred.
People in other areas also suffer. The Beja Muslims in eastern Sudan have been driven from their homes to scavenge in the desert. The people of the Nuba Mountains suffer constant attacks and attempts to force them to go to government peace camps, a cruel euphemism for places little better than concentration camps.
Countless Muslim Arabs in the north have been subject to arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing. Recently, 20 people have been accused by the NIF of being implicated in bombings. They include two Roman Catholic priests, one of whom is the chancellor of a diocese. There is deep concern that confessions were obtained under torture. Three of those imprisoned have reportedly died from torture.
There have also been reports of the use of chemical weapons by the NIF in remote and inaccessible places such as the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile. People from the areas attacked give consistent accounts of symptoms of those affected such as sore eyes, skin irritation, acute nausea, vomiting and bleeding, symptoms consistent with contact with the arsenical compound Lewisite. Some die and others survive. In July this year there were reports that similar bombs had been dropped in southern Sudan in Lainya and Kaya with similar symptoms experienced among people in the vicinity. An investigative team was sent, including a Canadian chemical weapons expert, but it was recalled before arriving on site.
The failure by the international community to investigate those reports has caused acute dismay among local people, concern among aid organisations and anxiety that inaction will encourage the NIF to believe that it can repeat such attacks with impunity. Indeed, there have been subsequent reports that similar weapons have been used recently in western Upper Nile in the oil-rich areas where the NIF is trying to clear the area of local people.
The NIF's policy of using oil revenue to purchase more weapons for the war must be a matter for serious concern. Already, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said, there are reports of oil money being used to buy tanks from Poland, transported via Turkey and
The National Democratic Alliance coalition represents the democratically elected Government of Sudan, now in exile. Its forces face the grimmest dry season offensives yet and they suffer from a grave asymmetry of resources. They have, for example, no protection for their civilians from aerial attack. If the NIF succeeds militarily, a ruthless Islamist regime will become entrenched in Africa's largest country, a regime which has been condemned by the United Nations for its violations of human rights, known to harbour, train and encourage terrorists and committed to the spread of terrorist Islamism beyond its own borders.
The guru behind the NIF, El Turabi, and his close ally the international terrorist Osama Bin Laden, have called on the warriors of the jihad to regard the USA and all who support it as enemies. That is an open incitement to terrorism.
That scenario leads me to brief consideration of my second area of concern, the Caucasus. For it is the leaders behind the war in Sudan and their supporters who have opened another front in Chechnya, ignited the wars in Kashmir and Dagestan and announced their intention to attack Karabakh and Armenia next.
Chechen leaders have been discussing those issues with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan. There is also robust evidence to indicate that the terrorist bombings in Russia were carried out by Islamist terrorists. The materials, mechanisms and techniques used were similar to those used in the attacks on the American embassies in Africa, attacks which are generally acknowledged to have been the work of Islamists.
I in no way underestimate, or have any lack of concern for, the suffering of the innocent victims of Chechnya. However, the Islamists who have initiated these wars are not exempt from blame. Here I must quickly make a fundamental distinction between the ideological Islamists and their policies and Islam itself. Many Muslims are opposed to the Islamists' policies. For example, many Muslim soldiers, including very senior commanders whom I am proud to call my friends, are fighting alongside Christians against the NIF in Sudan. Similarly, the great majority of local people in Chechnya and Dagestan were peaceable Muslims, not seeking a war. They were taken over by the Islamists and became caught up in a conflict not of their choosing.
The war in Chechnya and Dagestan must be seen in this light. The Russians are faced with formidable ideologically committed forces who are instigating these conflicts as part of a wider strategy. At a meeting in London just last Friday, militant leaders, including Abu Hamza and Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, called for support for this--I quote--"Jihad for Chechnya" against Russia, including financial
Moreover, in the Chechnyan war atrocities have been committed on both sides. In the early days of the first Chechnyan war, six ICRC staff were taken hostage in Chechnya and executed. Many other humanitarian and professional workers have also been attacked, terrorised and some of them killed in Chechnya. Understandably, the great majority of foreign organisations moved out and few people remain as witnesses or moderating influences.
Therefore, please may I urge that critical commentary on the wars in Chechnya and Dagestan is balanced and does not continue to put the primary blame on to Russia without apportioning appropriate criticism to those Islamists in Chechnya and Dagestan who started the conflicts, who have their own track record of brutality and who must carry much of the blame for the suffering of their own people.
These Islamists have announced their intention to attack Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia next: first Dagestan and then Karabakh, and then more Islamic nations of the former Soviet Union in due course. There are many reasons, including oil and pipeline factors. The issues are too complex for discussion here. If any noble Lord would like further information, may I refer to an authoritative article entitled Chechnya; The Mujahedin Factor, written in January 1998 by Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US Congress. He concludes:
I regret having to conclude my schematic comments on these two very complex parts of the world on that grim note. However, I hope that the Government have clear, positive and principled policies in these areas and I look forward to brighter conclusions in the Minister's responses in due course to a number of questions arising from the concerns that I have identified. I am afraid that I have to finish on what is a formidable list, and of course I do not expect replies this evening.
First, to return to Sudan, will the Government put pressure on the NIF regime to desist from aerial bombardment of civilians, and especially from targeting hospitals and feeding centres? Will they put pressure on the regime to open all parts of Sudan to independent human rights monitors to enable those who are currently enslaved to be identified and returned to their communities? Also, will they put pressure on the regime to open all of Sudan to aid organisations and to desist from using food and medical aid as part of their policies of forced Arabisation of Africans or Islamisation of Christians?
Will the Government raise the issue of the detention and alleged maltreatment of the Roman Catholic priests and all others reportedly imprisoned on false charges? Will they encourage an independent on-site investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the NIF in all the locations where these have reportedly been used? Will the Government work towards the imposition of an arms embargo to restrict the NIF's use of oil revenues to purchase more weapons for its war against its own people?
My final two questions concern the Caucasus. Will the Government adopt a balanced policy towards the very tragic conflicts in Chechnya and Dagestan, recognising culpability where this occurs by all sides involved? Also, will the Government do everything possible to prevail upon the Islamists and on the Government of Azerbaijan to desist from allowing the conflict to spread further, in particular to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, as these countries have been identified as the next targets? I hope that the noble Baroness, when she replies, will be able to give an assurance that the Government are doing all in their power to meet these two challenges confronting us as we move into the next century: that is, the escalating conflicts in Sudan and the Caucasus and the urgent need to bring peace with justice for all who are currently suffering in these deeply troubled parts of the world.
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