(HANSARD) in the first session of the fifty-third parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the thirteenth day of june in the fiftieth year of the reign of
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
VOLUME DCXXXV TENTH VOLUME OF SESSION 200102 House of Lords
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the Government are gravely concerned about the situation in the Middle East. The ongoing cycle of violence has led to the deaths and injuries of too many Israelis and Palestinians and to deeper and deeper mistrust between the two communities. The priority now is to create a safer environment for Israelis and Palestinians to live in and then to move quickly to political negotiations.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, while most of us feel automatic sympathy for a fellow democracy when her citizens are so torn apart by the terrible carnage of the suicide bombers, does the Minister agree that the most effective recruiting sergeant for those suicide bombers is the feeling of hopelessness among the Palestinian people? That has been brought about by the repressive policies of the Sharon government. Is that not likely to be exacerbated by yesterday's Likud executive vote against the very principle of a Palestinian state?
With regard to the second question about the Likud executive put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, obviously that decision was reached internally and related to Israeli politics. What it demonstrates is the complexity of the politics within Israel, but it is important for us to focus on the fact that solid international support has been expressed for a two-state solution in the form of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness mentioned a two-state solution. Can she say whether her right honourable friend is considering recognising a Palestinian state now, rather than waiting for serious negotiations which do not look very much as though they are going to start?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we continue to focus on achieving the UN Security Council resolutions. A number of those resolutions place responsibilities on both sides. We shall continue with political discussions and political dialogue, as well as working with our Arab colleaguesnoble Lords will know that discussions have been held around the proposals which have been put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah. I believe that we are all agreed that what we have to do is to ensure that those discussions and the dialogue continue. That is because, as I said in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, we can see no military solution to this crisis.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, while the Likud vote against the idea of a Palestinian state is deplorable, inward-looking and utterly self-defeating, the best path to peace remains the idea of a regional conference put forward by Secretary of State Colin Powell? Can she assure us that, if we can reach the stage of that conference, Britain's experience, skills, strength and
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we need to recognise the fact that a number of different discussions are ongoing and that a number of different proposals have been put forward with respect to next steps and a way forward. It is important to focus on the UN Security Council resolutions as well as to support the work being undertaken by our partners, including the proposal from the United States for an international conference. Noble Lords will also know that we continue to play an important role, both in terms of our role within the European Unionmy right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is today in Brussels for discussions with his European Union counterparts in the General Affairs Counciland in terms of our bilateral role, as it were. Noble Lords will be aware that we were instrumental in some of the events surrounding the situation in Bethlehem. We will play our role within the European Union, but we will also continue to play whatever role we can with the United States and others to try to ensure that a proper, negotiated political solution to this crisis is reached.
Lord Rea: My Lords, I think that my noble friend is probably aware that last week, with the assistance of our consul-general in East Jerusalem, I was able to visit the West Bank with a small group of international MPs and journalists. In Ramala I visited the DfID-supported health and development institution devoted to strengthening civil societythe central aim of DfID. Apart from the disgusting vandalism that had taken place, all the computers had been systematically destroyed with the hard drives taken out. That means that years of meticulous work has been lost.
Lord Rea: Can my noble friend assure me that those computers will be replaced and the bill preferably sent to Israel, without reducing subsequent DfID funding to this and other projects in the West Bank?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I was aware of that visit. We have highlighted our concerns about Israeli attacks on Palestinian infrastructure and it is important that we continue to do all that we can to support the reconstruction of infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that it would be a mistake for the British Government to be deflected from their determined role to provide assistance in negotiations between the parties, which she has described, by the internal decisions of sometimes over-excitable political parties and organisations on both sides? Should we not just get on with the job of trying to achieve a settlement?
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, do the Government agree that the essence of a true settlement is that the Arab states recognise the right of Israel to exist? As long as people say that Israel ought to be driven into the sea, there is no possibility of a settlement.
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether she accepts how pleased I am that I gave way to the noble Lord who just spoke? I identify myself with almost everything that she said. Does she agree that the suicide bombing began before Sharon took office? Does she accept that if we are going to help towards making peace, as our Government are rightly doing, there have to be people with whom we can negotiate? Does she believe that Arafat's failure to curb the suicide bombing and the terrorism is because he cannot curb it or because he does not wish to do so? In either event, how can anyone negotiate with him?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the UN Security Council resolutions have made it clear that there are responsibilities on both sides. We have to work with President Arafat, who has been legitimately elected by the Palestinians, and with Prime Minister Sharon. We shall continue to do that. A great responsibility lies on the shoulders of both men.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, there is no ban on the use of external consultants either in the department as a whole or in the Defence Logistics Organisation. The MoD remains committed to achieving improvements in productivity through a variety of methods. This includes the use of consultants, where appropriate and cost-effective.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page