Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the point about hoax callers is that one has to catch them. I understand—I repeat from the news and not from anything I know from the background—that one person was arrested in the northern part of the country early this morning. I do not know under which Act of Parliament, but hoax

14 Nov 2002 : Column 73

calls to fire brigades are definitely illegal actions. Whatever Act of Parliament it is, if people are caught we hope that the Crown Prosecution Service will arrange for their quick apprehension and prosecution, and that the courts will deal with the matter severely.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I hope that this is not a naive question. At the beginning of the Statement the Minister referred to the pay of the fire brigade being equivalent to that of teachers and nurses. But the difference surely is that teachers and nurses do not have to put their lives in danger as part of their work. Can the Minister say whether part of a fire-fighter's salary is a danger allowance and whether any allowance has been made in the offers made for a danger allowance to be paid as part of future pay?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not know the exact details. I gave the figures that would apply if the current offer was accepted—that is, 11 per cent over two years. In other words, this time next year the 7 per cent would have been paid. Those are the figures I read out. I then said that those figures compare very well with nurses, teachers and other public servants. The implication is that they are well ahead of nurses. They are well ahead of the Armed Forces, who are out on the streets at the moment, I might add. I cannot say, and I suspect that no one can, what element of the present Fire Service pay is related to—as the noble Baroness puts it—danger. I just made the point that those offer figures compare extremely well with those for other public sector workers.

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, is it not important to recognise that, although the whole language in which we are conducting the debate concerns fire-fighters, the Bain inquiry makes clear that less than 10 per cent of their time is spent fire-fighting? Helping with traffic accidents and flooding forms an important part of their work. The impression has been given that it is now impossible to pump out anyone's house because the fire brigade is on strike. If ever there were an elementary piece of equipment that could be made available, it is a pump.

No one can pretend that we could not see the strike coming. On the radio this morning, the Secretary of State for Defence seemed to be unaware that a substantial number of reserve fire engines could have been used for training. The Minister, who was, I am sure, faithfully following his brief, did not seem to have been advised of the training requirements or whether what the retained fire-fighters say is right. It worries me that that does not appear to have been properly examined to see whether people can be properly and quickly trained—and now—in those alternative vehicles, although we hope that we will not have the further eight-day strike.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the short answer is that the period cited to train—two weeks—is incorrect. That is the advice that I have received; there is no argument about my brief. The figure is incorrect. It is one of those urban myths that get around that it takes only

14 Nov 2002 : Column 74

two weeks to train a fire-fighter. Fire-fighters will make it abundantly clear that it does not. I fully accept that it might take two weeks to train someone to drive a fire appliance. That is not the same as being trained to use it when a fire is reached.

Like everyone else, I regret that pumps are unavailable for flooded homes at present. Because of the inclement weather, that is a problem. We regret that. That is a further reason why there should not have been a strike in the first place. The noble Lord is right: the success of fire-fighters is measured by the smaller amount of time that they spend fighting fires than they used to. Their success lies in all the work that they do on prevention during most of their shifts. People see them around and about, checking equipment, entering buildings, checking factories and offices. That is the measure of their success: prevention. Fighting fires is important, but a major part of the job is prevention.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, are there sufficient beds in the burns units of the National Health Service hospitals if more people are to be at risk from burns? Does the Minister agree that burns units throughout the country will need more resources and emergency help?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I cannot answer that question. If we have lots of extra fires, I suspect that the answer to the first question will be no. On the other hand, when there are emergencies, such as a major motorway accident, the NHS clears the decks. Systems are in place to make facilities available and to reorganise the health service. We will not have the nurses walking out, either.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, we all have confidence in the ability of the Armed Forces to operate the Green Goddesses, but would it not be possible to provide them on a permanent basis with vehicles and equipment that are less than 50 years out of date? Could not vehicles that have fallen out of use by professional firemen be acquired for that purpose, so that the Armed Forces could be trained on them for a proper period?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I assure noble Lords that all such sensible suggestions are being actively considered at present.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the Minister tell us the attitude of other major unions to the strike?

Lord Rooker: No, my Lords, because I have not been involved in negotiations; they have been conducted by my right honourable friends Nick Raynsford and the Deputy Prime Minister. I am not sure to which unions the noble Lord refers: whether the other fire unions or other unions in the Trades Union Congress. Most people are working normally; there is no excuse to do otherwise.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, further to the previous question, does my noble friend agree that it is

14 Nov 2002 : Column 75

not the policy of the trade union movement to stand by and watch the dispute escalate? The TUC must be given scope to use its good offices to facilitate a settlement, because there is great difficulty revisiting a formula that has been used unchanged for the whole of the Fire Service since 1978.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, with reference to the formula, the present FBU general secretary is on record as saying two years ago that the formula's use since 1978 had provided fire-fighters with a very good deal on wages. The idea that the issue has been festering away for a couple of decades is arrant nonsense, based on what he said. The formula has never been raised as a major issue. If it needs to be renegotiated, the Fire Brigades Union knows as well as I do that the offer to renegotiate the formula formed part of the offer made before it went on strike—in fact, before the Bain inquiry was set up.

Lord Hayhoe: My Lords, recruitment and retention tend to be the basic determinants when dealing with pay claims. On recruitment, is the statistic correct that I have heard on the radio and read in the press that there are 40 applicants for every job? On retention, what is the wastage—to use a rather emotive term—of people in the Fire Service who are moving out to get better pay elsewhere?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, unlike the position for nurses in the NHS, recruitment and retention is not a problem in the Fire Service.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, has the Minister or his colleagues sought advice from the Law Officers on whether 1980s trade union legislation is still effective? That offered the possibility of taking action in tort against those who engaged in sympathetic action.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, that is a detailed question. The Law Officers, in their role as such rather than as straightforward members of the Government, were reviewing the legislation and state of play prior to the dispute. They are naturally revisiting the situation now that we have a strike on our hands—albeit a 48-hour strike, but with the threat of an eight day strike in a few days' time. That changes the situation.

Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

3.38 p.m.

Debate resumed.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I was glad to note at the end of the gracious Speech, and I welcome, the Government's renewed commitment,

    "to work for a more effective global effort to reduce poverty",

their commitment to increase the aid budget and to the implementation of the Africa Action Plan in response to the New Partnership for Africa's Development. As

14 Nov 2002 : Column 76

a contribution to those commitments, I intend to speak about the Democratic Republic of Congo and to seek clarification of the Government's intentions in response to two recently published documents: the final report of the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the DRC; and Cursed by Riches: Who Benefits from Resource Exploitation in the DRC?, produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention. I need to declare an interest as a member of that all-party group, as bishop of the only diocese in the Church of England that has a partner relationship with the Anglican Church in the Congo and as patron of the Congo Church Association.

In the last two of those capacities, I returned just under a week ago from spending two and a half weeks in the region at the invitation of the Congolese archbishop and in the company of Congolese. I spent two of those weeks in the eastern DRC. We visited three of the six Anglican dioceses, spending time in areas under the control of the Kinshasa Government and of three other groups. We were able to talk at length to all six Anglican bishops, with Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders and with the ecumenical group engaged, with great courage, in mediation and in the search for peace and reconciliation in and around Bukavu and Uvira. Many Church members and many clergy came to talk to us. Many had travelled long distances to do so on foot or on bicycles. They came to talk about the life of the Church and about the dire conditions in which they and many hundreds of thousands of others are living. In each area, I was also received by those responsible for government: the governor of Katanga—controlled by the Kinshasa Government—in Lubumbashi; the vice-governor—RCD-Goma—in Bukavu; and the administrator—UPC—in Aru.

I should say, too, that, because the Bishop of Bukavu was invited to address the all-party parliamentary group in April, it was known in the Church that I was a member of your Lordships' House. It proved to be of considerable interest to the representatives of the Government and of the various governing groups, as well as to the Church—to which I was able everywhere primarily to bring the greetings of the Archbishop of Canterbury and to represent the Anglican communion—that a British parliamentarian was among them in such a way at such a critical, dangerous time for the people of the DRC. People of all sorts have a great deal that they want the UK Government to hear and to act upon. Your Lordships will also know that I am by no means the only occupant of these Benches to have had that experience while visiting, as a bishop, one or another of the world's most troubled and troubling areas—a fact of which members of the Joint Committee on the reform of the House should in my view take note.

That very recent experience and the trust reposed in me by the many men and women who spoke to us in Lubumbashi, Bukavu and the hills above it, Goma and Aru—the English priest who accompanied me has served there, is well known in the Congolese Church

14 Nov 2002 : Column 77

and speaks Swahili, as well as much better French than I—requires me to take the opportunity presented by this debate. I also intend to seek an Unstarred Question debate, which will give time for Members of your Lordships' House to engage, from their own experience and knowledge, with the pressing questions presented by the DRC and the whole region, particularly to this country and to our European colleagues, with whom we share so much historic and, still more, contemporary responsibility for the countries concerned.

Since my return, I have been able to read the two reports that I mentioned as I began to speak—that from the UN panel of experts and that from the all-party parliamentary group. The latter makes reference to the former and to its interim predecessors. I have been struck by how very closely both reports tallied with what we were consistently told by those who talked to us and also with the documents and reports, which were often still more shocking than what people said, that many were eager that we should read.

The two reports collect a great deal of detailed information, and each makes a comprehensive series of recommendations. The report of the UN panel of experts makes recommendations primarily to the UN but also to a range of other governments and organisations, as appropriate. The report of the all-party group is addressed especially—but not only—to our Government. In commending the report of the panel of experts, the all-party group,

    "urge the UK government to make a statement in the House of Commons"—

and in this House, too—

    "and ensure that the main findings are acted upon in the UN Security Council and the European Union".

I hope that the Minister will be prepared to respond wholeheartedly to that request in her closing speech this evening, while also outlining the Government's thinking and intentions in response to the troubling—at times, profoundly shocking—information presented by both reports.

For here is a country in which some two and a half million people have died as a result of war, chronic theft and pillage on the grandest scale and disorder in the past four years; in which the armed forces of as many as six neighbouring countries have operated in recent years; in which many hundreds of thousands of people live in the constant fear that a lack of order and security imposes upon them. For instance, knowledgeable local people said that as many as one third of the people of South Kivu—a big region—were taking to the bush and leaving their houses every night out of fear. Virtually all the proceeds of the Congo's enormously rich mineral resources continue to be stolen by its neighbours or to benefit a minute fraction only of its people. Over wide areas, the Churches are the only organisations left in being and the only providers—to an inadequate extent, in spite of heroic efforts and sacrifice—of schooling and medicine. Tribal and regional conflicts have been manipulated to near-genocidal proportions by neighbouring states or by sections of their armed forces in their own interests.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 78

In the DRC, there is a pathetically small and weakly composed United Nations force, with an inadequate mandate for a task that cries out for energetic attention. Many Congolese—if those who spoke to us are at all representative—hold the major European powers substantially responsible for the origins and the perpetuation of a good deal, at any rate, of their oppression. The UK has substantial interests and influence in Congo's two most significant neighbours.

I could say much more, and I shall look for another appropriate occasion on which to do so. I look forward to the Minister's response at the end of the debate.

3.47 p.m.

Lord Parekh: My Lords, in the first paragraph of the Queen's Speech, three main priorities are mentioned, including a constructive foreign policy. That is a most commendable goal, and I shall say something about it.

In our increasingly interdependent world, the foreign policy of any nation—however great—cannot be concerned with narrow national interest alone. The way in which other societies live or conduct their affairs affects us deeply. Therefore, self-interest and principles of morality require that we should pursue our national interest consistently with the demands of global stability and justice. I am delighted that the Queen's Speech refers to our role in the European Union and our responsibility to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It also refers to our responsibility to tackle climate change and attain the UN millennium development goals. Not only are those and other goals consistent with the great traditions of the Labour Party, but they are consistent with—in fact, they are demanded by—what Britain stands for in the community of mankind.

Thanks to the great history of this country, Britain's national identity is inherently three-dimensional. We are a European country and are a part of Europe not only geographically but culturally and politically. We share with other European countries certain basic values, sensibilities and profound historical experiences. We are also an Atlantic country, sharing much with the United States, including its language, political and legal institutions and history.

Finally, we are a global country whose history was enacted in different and distant parts of the world, whose kith and kin are scattered all over the world, and whose trade, political and cultural ties encompass the globe.

Therefore, Britain is at once European, Atlantic and global. It is uniquely equipped to act as a bridge and a mediator between Europe, the United States and the rest of the world. While loyally standing by the United States, Britain must have, therefore, both a right and a duty to alert the United States to the opinions, views and interests of both Europe and the world at large, and to exercise a restraining influence. That is what we did in relation to the events of September 11th and Iraq. While condemning those barbaric events, the Prime Minister rightly stressed the need to tackle the deeper roots of terrorism, including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and global poverty and injustice.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 79

So far as Iraq is concerned our overall approach has shown considerable wisdom and maturity. We insisted, rightly, that our policy towards Iraq should be one of containment and deterrence; that is to say, exercising enough pressure to ensure Iraq's compliance with the United Nations' resolutions and relying on sanctions and watchfulness to ensure that Iraq did not develop weapons of mass destruction. Regime change in Iraq was not our business because it tended to escalate conflict, shift the goal post, personalise a highly intractable situation, and made it harder to achieve the basic goal of removing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Furthermore, it is easier to disarm Iraq if we also follow the policy of gradually lifting sanctions in response to the progress made in the area of weapons inspection and destruction. That gives Saddam Hussein an incentive to disarm and, more importantly, it generates an internal pressure and momentum to disarm. We should not make the mistake of thinking that Saddam Hussein is mad, irrational, bent on self destruction or runs the country single-handed. He also has interests to accommodate, groups to assuage, and the policy of carrot and stick upon which we have long insisted allows us to generate the right kind of pressure on him.

That line of thinking has not always aroused a positive response from the influential circles in the current US administration. They tend to take a simplistic, somewhat crude, militaristic and rather Manichaean view of the world. For those influential circles in the United States terrorism is the sole enemy and can be fought only by force. They also seem to think that September 11th gave the United States the opportunity, the right and, indeed, the God given duty, to set the world right once and for all and to reshape the world in its own image.

In their simple minded view the conflict today is between good and evil—the US embodying the good and happily having the power to defeat evil. When politics is moralised in that way and becomes part of an eschatology it tends to forget its limits. It nurtures hubris and becomes a site for suicidal fantasies. Some of the advocates of that Manichaean view have produced bizarre plans published in the New York Times and the Washington Post—for example, such as creating a greater Israel, dismantling Iraq, giving Jordan to Palestinians, subduing first Iran and then China, and so forth.

Happily, many Americans do not think like that at all. Sadly, some do, including the fundamentalist Christian Right, the Cold War hawks and those too traumatised by the events of September 11th to think clearly. While the international pressure, including our own, has so far managed to restrain that influence, they still continue to exercise considerable influence and set the agenda. They are unlikely to disappear, both because their ideological fervour keeps fuelling their propaganda and because the simplistic views continue to enjoy favour with the bewildered electorate.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 80

Therefore, we shall have to keep fighting them by aligning ourselves with the progressive forces in the United States and by offering a better alternative. I am delighted to see that our Government are doing so.

It is in that context that I suggest we need to take a cool and detached view of Iraq. Although there is a lot of loose talk about war on Iraq, such a war would be most unwise. First, to much of the rest of the world our whole attitude to Iraq, rightly or wrongly, appears vindictive, partial and excessively punitive. It is the first and, as far as I know, the only country that the United Nations has singled out for disarmament for invading another, although such invasions have occurred in other cases as well. Therefore, going to war would alienate a large swathe of global opinion.

Secondly, war would particularly alienate Muslims the world over. They are bound to see it as an attempt to keep them weak and powerless, to punish the misdeeds of one of them while conniving at the similar misdeeds of another, and an attempt on the part of the West to dominate their religion. It is that kind of widespread feeling among Muslim countries that has fed religious fundamentalism and led to Islamic governments in Turkey and Bahrain.

Thirdly, any war on Iraq would destabilise Iraq and lead to revenge killings on a massive scale and even to a civil war. It could even lead to the fragmentation of the country into its three constituent provinces and cause massive upheaval. Fourthly, even if the war resulted in the removal of Saddam Hussein, it would not be the end of the problem. Democracy cannot be built in a day and Iraq would remain highly unstable for decades to come. Many innocent civilians would suffer in the war and could become desperately hostile to the West. It is not inconceivable that they might democratically elect a government committed to a programme of weapons of mass destruction. Indians, Israelis, Pakistanis and others, have democratically elected governments committed to weapons of mass destruction. What do we do then? Do we follow Henry Kissinger who, when Chile elected Salvador Allende, said:

    "Chile should not be allowed to go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible"

Finally, war is said to be necessary to uphold the authority of the United Nations. That is a specious argument. The United Nation's authority has been challenged by many countries and it has done nothing. The United States itself has long wanted to go alone and still talks of doing so, and has hardly shown much respect for the authority of the United Nations. Besides, when UN resolutions are widely seen as products of arm twisting, bribes and intimidation, they do not carry moral authority.

In short, we need to think carefully about the current international situation, especially Iraq. There is a commendable tendency in certain circles to think of Iraq in terms of the idea of a just war. Although that is an important concept, it is problematic. The idea of a just war is dated and needs to be revised in the light of modern situations. I can think of situations where the war is just and still ill advised. Instead, we should be asking whether a war is likely to create regional and

14 Nov 2002 : Column 81

global stability, likely to set good precedent, likely to address the causes of terrorism and injustice and whether it can sustain the spirit of international co-operation. By that criteria, war on Iraq is ill conceived. What we need instead is a realistic policy of carrot and stick with respect to Iraq and a wider and determined attempt to create a more democratic international order and global justice.

3.58 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I am glad that I decided, regretfully, not to speak about Iraq and terrorism. The admirable speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, said it all, much better than I could. I shall speak about Zimbabwe. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, but it needs speaking about in the context of the Commonwealth; and the Commonwealth is one of the pillars of British policy.

Like us, Zimbabwe is a member of the Commonwealth and we have been justly proud of the institution that we helped to create. However, from the moment that the Commonwealth managed to send only 42 observers to the vital election—it would have been only 30 but for a last-minute injection of more money, after an intervention in this House, by HMG—instead of the 100 observers who covered Zambia, Cameroon and Tanzania elections respectively, and from the moment that Abuja failed and then the Troika was flouted, the Zimbabweans should have understood, sadly, that membership of the Commonwealth may not be much more significant for them than belonging to a club on stamp collecting or folk dancing. The secretariat has never managed to persuade the African and Asian members that black Africans are being starved and tortured in Zimbabwe by a black ruler. Our Government have tried hard to do that, I know, and I make a distinction between them and the Commonwealth Secretariat. The secretariat has never managed to persuade them and they are content to leave the initiative for such action as is taken—such as the, I am sorry to say, ineffective financial sanctions which have only just come into force—to the EU.

This country has, however, so far done its honourable best with others to provide aid and to exert what influence it can in Africa to contain Mugabe who has succeeded in building an iron circle around his country within which he is free to murder, rape and destroy, secure in the knowledge that the press and the media cannot report what is going on to the outside world.

Would not your Lordships expect our country to strive to find ways to help those beleaguered people who speak our language, strive to preserve our legal system even under the direst threat, and are among the most skilled professional men and women in Africa? We have of course been glad to take their trained social workers and their nurses. But it seems that now that some of them urgently need to come to the free world, as the persecuted Jews did from Germany, the Home Secretary has decided that Zimbabweans, with immediate effect, will need a visa to enter the UK.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 82

Some tried to come in earlier this year. Some who had suffered torture were told by helpful officials that they could return quite safely through the simple expedient of moving to another part of the country. Between April and June this year, 1,345 persons applied for asylum and there have been 300 asylum claims at Gatwick alone in recent weeks. The Home Secretary says—and I understand his difficulty—that his visa programme is designed to deal with,

    "very significant abuse of our immigration controls by Zimbabwean nationals".

The British High Commission states that an increasingly large number of "unfounded" asylum claims are being made. Large numbers of Zimbabweans are being refused entry and returned and, of course, have no access to legal advice before being put back on the aircraft. Of 2,115 asylum seekers from that country this year, only 115 were granted asylum.

Those people come from a far more dangerous and life-threatening environment than any Afghan or Kosovan and they are Commonwealth citizens. Have they no special claim? Would not those who stay, and who all speak fluent English, benefit the economy at once? Has everyone forgotten the Ugandan Asians? Why can the Zimbabweans not, at the very least, benefit by something like the special regime—I believe it was a one-year initial stay in the UK, then subject to review—which the Kosovans enjoyed?

Mugabe has done his best successfully to exclude the outside world so that no one shall know what he is doing to his people, and now we complete the process and close the ring by making it virtually impossible for Zimbabweans to come out and tell the world what is happening. For how is this visa process to work? Thought has been given to it. It was announced in Harare that no one need visit the British High Commission to apply—a proceeding which would have had obvious dangers for any applicant. Those wanting visas will apply to a branch of a commercial firm called Fed-Ex which has several branches in the country. This is presumably another private finance initiative. Fed-Ex will handle the applications and pass them on to the High Commission for processing. Fed-Ex will then issue the visas. If there is a query, the applicant will be invited to the High Commission for interview.

The passport plus the visa is to be delivered, presumably by post, to the home of the successful applicant. How truly thoughtful this Rolls-Royce service is and how unlikely it is that, for instance, such people as the three brave men from Matebeleland who came out recently to tell us what is happening—and who have returned—will ever dare to use such a service. There will be ZANU-PF representatives or observers in every Fed-Ex office and it will be a crazy man indeed who expects to see his passport again before he is arrested.

That is not all. The visa will cost each applicant 36 and in order for the Exchequer to receive its full pound of flesh the exchange rate used will not be the official rate of 88 Zimbabwe dollars to the pound but the black market rate of 2,000 Zimbabwe dollars to the pound.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 83

Passports, incidentally, can now also be obtained only through payment of the black market rate. Pensions, on the other hand, are paid out by the banks at the official rate only. How many teachers, lawyers, still less social or church workers or journalists, can afford 72,000 Zimbabwe dollars for a visa, or the equally obligatory 54,000 Zimbabwe dollars for a transit visa now required for travel on from the UK? The High Commissioner said in outlining the scheme that the move to visas was made necessary by the increasing number of Zimbabweans being turned away at British airports and he added what I found a very strange statement; that,

    "the final arbiter is the immigration officer so the visa is not a guarantee".

It will be said that the cost of the visa is unlikely to be a problem for the would-be travellers who can find the money for the air fare. But the trip may represent the savings of the whole family or of a group desperate to send out a message to the free world. What price Commonwealth membership in all this? How can we live with ourselves after slamming the prison gates shut?

It is hard to see how we can justify continuing with this policy while at the same time people are streaming in daily from the Continent who are neither under the same deadly threats of starvation and torture, nor able to offer the country the valuable human investment that most Zimbabwean citizens can offer; nor are they fellow members of the Commonwealth; they simply want to come here. Fair enough. The Zimbabweans, however, were they to come, would with very few exceptions be prompted to return to rebuild their own country as soon as there was any hope of them doing so. I believe that it is wrong that a decision of this political and humanitarian importance should have been taken purely in the context of the integrity of our borders and of the genuinely alarming uncontrolled influx of a wide range of nationalities, few of whom have the extensive traditional cultural and social affiliations with Britain which Zimbabweans enjoy. This is a political decision, not an administrative measure, and its significance is far-reaching not least because it raises the whole question of what the Commonwealth is for.

This is not a purely domestic administrative problem. I do not see how we can expect serious attention from the Commonwealth if we are seen to give membership so little value in times of trouble. I gave the Minister, whom I greatly respect for all the work she has done in Africa, notice that I would raise this issue; and I look to the Government to reconsider such a short-sighted policy.

4.6 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, there is no lack of crucially important foreign policy issues which are likely to come to a point of decision during the next Session of Parliament. Quite the contrary. The problem is to select among them those which will significantly affect this country. I will focus my

14 Nov 2002 : Column 84

comments on just four: Iraq, Arab-Israel, the convention on the future of Europe and, if time permits, Britain's membership of the euro.

The unanimous Security Council resolution on disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and of the programmes designed to produce them was not just a triumph for our own and US diplomacy, although it was certainly that, but it was a triumph also for the United Nations and for the multilateral approach to handling a challenge like that posed by Saddam Hussein. This is not just a question of international law, important though the legal aspects are.

My own view is that by his serial material breaches of the 1991 resolution requiring the abandonment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the programmes behind them, Saddam Hussein has in fact already put himself at risk to the use of force and that there will be even more of a case if he fails to comply fully and promptly with last week's resolution. But it is the politics of the situation which make that unanimous resolution so vital. If Saddam does again bring down on himself the use of force, it will be important that the widest possible coalition is mustered and that not a scintilla of ambiguity exists about who triggered off that action. That is the argument for putting our trust in Dr Blix and his inspectors and that is the argument for not listening to the denigrators of such international mechanisms.

It is sometimes suggested—and it was so in this House last week, for example—that the new resolution, with its tight timetables and its clear and tough language is somehow unreasonably robust, even provocative. But there is surely a logical flaw in that argument because, if Saddam Hussein simply took the policy decision to abandon once and for all his weapons of mass destruction programmes, there would not be the slightest problem about fulfilling all the deadlines. After all, when South Africa decided to drop its nuclear weapons programme, it got a clean bill of health from the international inspectors in about one tenth of the time that it has taken Saddam Hussein not to get one. The problems arise because Saddam has not taken the decision to give up his weapons programme. Indeed, he has taken the opposite decision—to do everything he can to hang on to them.

Let us hope that now, faced with the unanimity of the international community, he finally does take that decision, because that is the only way of avoiding the use of force. I really do hope that, differing though many people's views are on this matter, we can all join together to get that one simple message across. If we do not, if we continue to disagree among ourselves about what to do if he does not comply, and how to do it, and about whether or not we need another Security Council resolution to authorise any military action, then the risk is that Saddam will get the wrong message and will think that, yet again, he can wriggle out of his predicament with impunity.

Elsewhere in the Middle East the options are less clear-cut and the chances of avoiding a continuing deterioration of the situation are even more

14 Nov 2002 : Column 85

problematic. With an Israeli general election now looming, the temptation to conclude that nothing much can be done for several months will be very strong. And yet to yield to that temptation will simply be to leave the agenda where it has already been for far too long, in the hands of the men of violence. So long as a complete cessation of violence is a prerequisite for the resumption of a meaningful and purposeful peace process, those same protagonists of a violent solution can dictate what happens. That is surely not the intention of those on either side who want a peaceful, negotiated outcome.

Moreover, the absence of any progress back to the negotiating table is what, above all else, makes it so difficult to separate the moderates from the extremists in the Arab world, and yet that separation will have to take place if ever there is to be effective action taken against the extremists.

Over the past few years the European Union has become an accepted, if not at all times an entirely welcome, player in the efforts to move towards a negotiated solution. It is now more than ever necessary that it plays an active and imaginative role. That cannot be to take sides. We may from time to time be compelled to criticise or to condemn certain actions which we consider to be disproportionate or unjustified or contrary to international law, but we must not become systematically engaged on one side or the other or we will lose all influence.

We must work closely at every stage with the United States, because we know full well that without its active engagement and co-operation nothing will be achieved. But that does not mean that we should hold our tongue if we believe that the United States role is too passive or too reactive.

So I would hope that the Government will ensure that Javier Solana, the High Representative of the EU, has all the resources that he needs to play an active role as a member of the quartet—the US, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations—and will continue, as the Prime Minister recently called for, to work for an early decision to resume peace negotiations, and that we should continue to feed in ideas and lend serious political support to that European effort.

In the end, one has to recognise that, while it is unwise to establish any precise linkage between the Arab/Israel dispute and the task of getting Saddam Hussein to comply with the Security Council's unanimous will, there is an interrelationship between the two issues which cannot simply be wished away or made to disappear by denial. If we want the Arab countries to support any action which has to be taken against Iraq—and that will be a matter of the highest priority to us—we need to demonstrate that we take seriously their priority of priorities, which is to try to find a way out of the dead end in which the Middle East peace process is currently stuck.

It may seem a long way from the Middle East to the Brussels debates in the convention on the future of Europe, which are due to conclude next summer, but it is perhaps not quite so far as one might think. After

14 Nov 2002 : Column 86

all, one of the main focuses of the convention's work is on how to make a reality out of the steps—the halting progress—that have been taken towards a common foreign and security policy.

But the convention goes much wider than that. It represents a serious attempt to break out of the esoteric games of institutional tiddlywinks which have characterised the last three inter-governmental conferences—at Maastricht, at Amsterdam and at Nice—and to lay a solid, transparent and comprehensible basis for the future development of a European Union of 25 or more members.

The Government are to be commended on the constructive input they have made so far to the convention, in contrast to past occasions when the British representative so often arrived at the conference table with an endless list of other people's ideas to which we were going to say no and a remarkably short list—if, indeed, such a list existed at all—of ideas which we wished to promote. We have on this occasion made a good number of constructive suggestions and made it clear that we wish to shape the debate, not by constant jabs on the brakes but by playing a full role. Not every idea we put forward will survive the triage of European negotiation; not every idea that others put forward will need to be shot down in flames. It seems to be understood better now that these discussions are a dialectical process, not a confrontation. No longer do British representatives recoil in horror if the word "constitution" is mentioned, and that is all to the good.

Above all, this is not some titanic struggle between the two completely different approaches to the Union's development—between the Community method, also known as federalism, and the inter-governmental approach. If we view the negotiations in that light, we will end up isolated and empty handed.

In some areas—justice and home affairs, immigration and asylum—it will make sense to extend the Community method. It will also make sense to strengthen the Commission—perhaps by reducing its numbers well below those that will provide one commissioner for every member state—and we should not shy away from more majority voting, so long as this is not extended to areas of fundamental national sensitivity such as the level of taxation.

In other areas, the Community method does not make sense, either functionally or politically. That in my view is the case for common foreign and security policy, which bears no resemblance to legislation, nor to trade negotiations, where the Community method was designed to operate. Foreign and security policy is a mosaic of often procedural moves which may end up in the use of force and loss of life in the armed forces of the countries which decide to participate. I believe that the Commission will have to be told that in this area it has reached too far.

Time does not permit me to say a word about the euro. I suppose that the Chinese reaction to all that we are discussing today would be to say that we live in interesting times. I fear they would be right. My

14 Nov 2002 : Column 87

closing plea to the Government would be to ensure that we in this House have plenty of opportunity to debate all these issues, and more, in the months ahead.

4.17 p.m.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I congratulate the Government on helping to persuade the American Administration to work through the United Nations on Iraq. I support also those who have spoken about the importance of the United States and the European Union working urgently to bring about progress on a Middle East settlement. I am glad that the quartet are working at the present time towards a two-state solution. I agree that it is important that they should not stop work simply because an election in Israel is pending at the end of January. This is an urgent matter.

The United States Administration displays a quality which the Clinton administration did not possess. It understands the importance of the ancient Roman maxim that if you wish peace, prepare for war. Of course the United States Administration—the most powerful in the world—should use restraint, but it should also be ready, when appropriate, to use its strength and, if necessary, to take casualties. That is something that Clinton did not accept. If Saddam Hussein does co-operate with the inspectors—and that is still open to question—it will be because he understands President Bush's determination. That was Clinton's potential weakness which nearly brought about a failure in Kosovo. President Bush's understanding of this point is also relevant in that it has helped to produce a very big success for the United Nations. So, on Iraq, the Government deserve good marks.

Like my noble friend Lady Park, I, too, will speak of Zimbabwe and Gibraltar, incurring, I know, the scorn of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, but confident of the support of the many millions of people in Zimbabwe who have been suffering from the reign of terror of Mr Mugabe and of 98.7 per cent of the population of Gibraltar.

The Government's policies on Zimbabwe have been inadequate since the election in 2000, which was declared by every official group of international observers not to have been free and fair but to have been stolen by Mr Mugabe. That was the time when this Government should have taken the lead, in the United Nations and in the European Union. Britain has experience as the colonial power; it understands Zimbabwe. It was the author of the settlement of 1979–80.

But, sadly, the Government did nothing for well over a year, in spite of being urged from these Benches to take steps that would be useful. They expressed great concern, intense concern and extreme concern—but the effect was to give Mr Mugabe the firm impression that he could get away with murder if that was the worst that would happen. That is what he has done—plus rape, torture and theft.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 88

I can only suppose that the reason for the Government's inaction was their fear of being accused by Mr Mugabe of neo-colonialism. But they were accused of that anyway, even if they were not on any possible grounds guilty of such a thing. I am told by people I know in Zimbabwe, black or white, that no one there believes such an accusation. So it is only recently—much too late—that action of any kind has been taken—a slap on the wrist by the Commonwealth; travel sanctions which do not apply to the spouses of Mr Mugabe or to his cronies; and the seizure of assets, which has yielded only half a million pounds according to the latest figures I have seen, at a time when Mr Mugabe and his cronies have their arms in the till right up to the elbow in the Congo in connection with diamonds and timber.

It is extraordinary that no action has been taken by the G8. It had a wonderful opportunity last summer in Canada when considering NePAD and other African aid matters. I cannot understand why the matter of putting pressure on the other African countries to put pressure themselves on Zimbabwe was not raised by Her Majesty's Government. Mr Mbeki, the President of South Africa, has been an intense disappointment. He has taken no steps that I know of urgently to activate SADC to take action to show its displeasure.

I wonder whether the Government are fully seized of the potential disaster that is occurring in southern Africa. The region is in almost a terminal state. Millions will be starving within a very short time. I believe that when historians write their account of these days in southern Africa they will hold the leaders of southern African countries to account for not taking steps to prevent President Mugabe from conducting the reign of terror in which he has been engaged. I do not believe that the present rulers of the developed countries will escape without criticism. I cannot, therefore, give the Government high marks over Zimbabwe.

On Gibraltar, the activities of the Government have been even more unsatisfactory than they have been over Zimbabwe—although the issues there are not quite so terrible as those in southern Africa. My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford referred to the report published last week by the Foreign Affairs Committee in another place. Perhaps I may quote one paragraph from the committee's conclusions:

    "We conclude that the Government was wrong to negotiate joint sovereignty, when it must have known that there was no prospect whatsoever that any agreement on the future of Gibraltar which included joint sovereignty could be made acceptable to the people of Gibraltar, and when the outcome is likely to be the worst of all worlds—the dashing of raised expectations in Spain, and a complete loss of trust in the British Government by the people of Gibraltar".

I shall not read any more from the report. It is better that noble Lords should read it for themselves.

I still do not understand what the Government were hoping to get from the Spaniards when they gave away the principle of shared sovereignty over Gibraltar. Why did the Government expect the Gibraltarians to vote for shared sovereignty after decades of harassment by the Spanish? Why did the Secretary of State and Peter Hain, the Minister for Europe in

14 Nov 2002 : Column 89

another place, alienate the Gibraltarians by dismissing in advance the results of any referendum held by Gibraltar, among other slighting remarks. Did not Mr Hain realise that to describe, in the House of Commons, an important piece of Gibraltar legislation as a "scam" was not likely to win friends and influence people in Gibraltar? Is not this the same Peter Hain who has recently been promoted to the Cabinet and who, alarmingly, is the Government's principal representative in the discussions on the Convention on Europe. That does not give me very much confidence. Did not the Government realise that giving away a part of sovereignty would weaken the position of any future United Kingdom government in any further negotiations? I believe that anyone assessing the Government's performance in the context of Gibraltar would say that the Government are obviously out of their depth and should drop the whole matter.

4.26 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, we are all constrained by the guidance—somewhat unfamiliar—on speaking times, and I shall do my best to adhere to it. However, I had great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Marlsford, this morning when he complained slightly—I believe genuinely—that this would stifle debate. Any form of limit or guidance discourages interventions and I believe that it stifles debate. That said, I shall try to be brief, but I hope that my remarks will not be diminished by their brevity.

I want to talk about the Alexandria process, to which my noble friend the Minister made a glancing reference in her introductory remarks. An examination of many of the flash-points in the world at present shows that over the past few years there has been a breakdown in what is normally regarded as the political process. The reason seems fairly clear. So many of these flash-points are bedevilled by controversy and often enmity between different religions and—I hate to say this, looking at the phalanx of right reverend Prelates in front of me—between different sects of the same religion. If that is true—and I believe it to be true—it further seems equally clear that we need some mechanism that is by definition not political or official, but which commands respect and which can meet the animosity, real or imagined, between different faiths and lead to a process of de-fusing the religious electricity in these conflicts; and which in the end—although the end may be a long way away—can lead to a resumption of normal political dialogue.

In short, if we can solve, or at least mitigate, by sensitive and sensible dialogue the apparent conflicts between different faiths, we may at least be able to lay the groundwork for the political resolution of conflicts where they have become infected by religious animosity.

I do not mean to be starry-eyed about this. Sensitive and sensible dialogue is no longer possible with extremists who are determined to kill themselves as long as they can take with them what they regard as a suitable number of their enemies. Terror of that sort has to be fought without remorse. Force, with

14 Nov 2002 : Column 90

discretion, is also appropriate in cases such as that of Iraq. But there are other conflicts where dialogue is still possible even though the political process appears to have come to a dead end.

To my mind, one of those—as we have been reminded by various speakers—is in the Middle East. I refer in particular to the antagonism between Israel and its neighbours. There is no doubt that that antagonism is fuelled by religious differences. After all, it takes only a very limited knowledge of history to understand the significance of Jerusalem as a holy city for three of the great religions of the world—Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The "political process", such as it is, or perhaps ever was, seems to have broken down. Now the question is: where do we go from here?

It may surprise your Lordships to know that in the summer of 2001, a canon of Coventry Cathedral, Canon Andrew White, was approached by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was asked to see whether there was in his view any way of engaging the religious leaders of Israel and Palestine to help with what was then—and clearly still is—a faltering peace process. Out of acorns, as we know, great oaks may sometimes grow. The International Centre for Reconciliation based at Coventry Cathedral took up the challenge. After a series of secret meetings with Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Sharon and leaders in both Egypt and Jordan, there was a meeting in Alexandria to discuss the matter. That meeting was chaired by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord Carey of Clifton. The result was the signature from representatives of all faiths in the region of what has now become known as the Alexandria declaration. This gave birth to what my noble friend referred to as the Alexandria process.

The declaration contained a joint pledge—joint, my Lords—signed by Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders of the region to commit themselves to condemn violence, to work for peace and to work for the implementation of the Mitchell and Tenet proposals. Not only that, but a specific and dedicated committee was set up to pursue those objectives. I have little hesitation in saying that that committee and its dedicated members are now perceived by many in that region and in the international community as one—and possibly the only one—of the viable bridges to span the religious and political divide between the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships.

The Alexandria declaration was much publicised in the region but not here. Therein lies my point. In our secular society, we have perhaps forgotten the power of faith. This can no longer be ignored. Throughout the post-imperial world—India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia the Philippines and even Russia—religious faith, as far back as history shows, either produces conflict, or, as St Paul wrote, leads in the end to reconciliation. In all this, my personal vote goes to St Paul rather than the warmongers. In the Coventry centre there is a nucleus for the slow but steady reconciliation of conflicts bedevilled by religious controversy. They deserve our support. I hope that our Government and your Lordships will give it.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 91

4.33 p.m.

Baroness Flather: My Lords, the big issues of the day have been well aired, but very little has been said about international development. I intend to address my remarks in that direction.

By the time our grandchildren are our age, the world's population will have increased by 50 per cent. This is not a science-fiction scenario. At present, on last year's figures, there is a population increase of 77 million per year. The population of the 49 least developed countries will triple by 2050. Most of the growth will be accounted for by six countries: China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

How can international development keep pace with such a population increase? From time to time, these issues are addressed. The Cairo international conference on population and development took place in 1994 and was followed by the Beijing conference in 1995. A very clear link between gender equality and poverty eradication was established at those conferences. The reproductive health targets clearly included contraceptive and family-planning advice. I shall read some very important quotations from a speech made by the Secretary of State for International Development in June 1999:

    "The Cairo Programme of Action was a landmark . . . It gave us the right agenda for population . . . We paid particular attention to reproductive health."

She continued:

    "We must do everything we can to reduce the rate at which unwanted pregnancy occurs."

The Minister added that,

    "when a woman does decide that she does not wish to go through with an unwanted pregnancy, she needs services and care that are safe, accessible and respectful of her decision. She is the one best placed to make the moral decision this involves."

She also stated:

    "And that includes having enough respect for the poor of the world—most of whom are women—to ensure that they are able to control their own fertility, have healthy wanted children and be able to live to see them grow up as educated and creative citizens".

Nothing has changed on the ground, but the department's policy has certainly changed along with the Secretary of State's rhetoric.

The only objective mentioned in the millennium development goals is the elimination of gender inequality in education. There is no longer any mention of family planning or the provision of advice on contraception. The Secretary of State now speaks of a new kind of aid that is not charity; it is part of the process of building modern, effective states. The NGOs are to be bypassed, and money is to be given directly to states. At least one state—Tanzania—is thinking of buying a presidential jet at 15 million and an air-traffic control system at 28 million. How much of British taxpayers' money will reach people at the very bottom, who need it most?

Some of us have our origins in developing countries. We know how this money sticks to the hands through which it passes. How much of it reaches anywhere, even as part of infrastructure projects? It is extremely worrying to think that, in supporting these states, we

14 Nov 2002 : Column 92

will be expecting them to provide programmes that will not be monitored and cannot be evaluated. Who will carry out that monitoring? Who will go to any African and Asian state and ask to be shown what has been done with aid money? If we want to give those countries autonomy and to build them up, it is a complete contradiction to claim a right to look at what they are doing with aid money.

The United States is a great friend and a great ally that we have supported in every respect. They have just withdrawn 34 million dollars from the UNFPA in China because they do not think that they should support anybody who provides abortions. Nobody in this Chamber or outside would say that abortion should be used as a means of family planning. However, the less provision there is for family planning services, the more likely it is that women will resort to abortion. That is incontrovertible logic. We should be saying loud and clear that family planning provision should be made so that women do not have to resort to abortion. There will be unwanted pregnancies and unwanted children. That could lead to more back street abortions, which have been with us since time immemorial, because services are not available.

The difference between what I saw when I visited China 10 years ago and what I saw when I went back recently is unbelievable. The position of women has improved. The way people are, the way they live and the way they dress is totally different. There is more education and a greater availability of the things that we would like our children to have.

Everything is not always bad. Although we would not like such a repressive regime, we hope that some of the other developing countries will think about this difficult issue. Eighty per cent of the world's population lives in developing countries. The vast majority of the women in those countries have nothing. They are virtual slaves. Who speaks for them? If our Secretary of State—a woman—does not speak for them but is happy to spend her time with the presidents of the African states, who will speak for the women? It is not the men who will change things. It is not in their interests. How can it be in their interests? Women do not want large families if they know how not to have them. Women want education for their children if they can get it. They want to improve their communities and their own conditions if they can. There are banks—a very few—that have 98 per cent return on the loan, and still it is not taken up.

Women are the key to international development. It is time that I heard more about that from the Government. I want to hear more from our Secretary of State for International Development. She is a caring woman. I want to hear about what she is doing for these women who live in virtual slavery today with very little access to anything.

4.43 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Williamson has kindly agreed to swap places

14 Nov 2002 : Column 93

with me in the debate. I have given notice to the Front Benches that I have to attend a family funeral. I regret that I shall have to miss the winding-up speeches.

A year ago we were in the thick of an anti-terrorist campaign, then directed at the Taliban and the so-called Al'Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan. The agenda has since changed into something different—the US-led war against Iraq, now thankfully conducted through the United Nations, into which even some of Iraq's neighbours have been drawn somewhat reluctantly.

The threat from Al'Qaeda has spread out from a well targeted enemy to an ill defined Islamist terrorist network worldwide. While Iraq has no confirmed links with Al'Qaeda, US foreign policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, cleverly described, is based on the crude concept of an axis of evil across the Middle East and Asia, ranged, presumably, against a trans-Atlantic axis of good. Even extra-judicial killing now seems to be regarded as a legitimate weapon of undeclared war, as we have seen recently in Yemen.

I fear that through this alliance Britain has separated itself again from the Middle East and is losing some of the trust of those friends who have respected and absorbed our culture through education, diplomacy, business and social contact. I fear that this is at least partly a result of our paper policy on Israel-Palestine, which, as other noble Lords have said, is an urgent matter but never seems to get beyond the road map.

There is a wider concern in the Middle East that, while on the one hand we stand for international values and human rights, on a political and military level we are prepared to be identified so closely with the moral high ground of the White House. I recognise the Prime Minister's restraint on the president, but in this semi-war we are plainly associated with a US-driven—and no longer an international or even NATO-led—campaign. What has happened to the broad coalition against terrorism that existed last year and to the painstaking efforts we were then making to keep our friends on side?

The results of any war with Iraq must be measured against the damage it would do to our relations with the Middle East. While there may be no official love lost for Saddam at the Arab League, below the leadership level there is much private resentment of western attitudes and policies that are seen as interfering with Arab traditions and lead to open expressions of discontent with both the West and their own rulers. Short-term gain in Iraq, which will be hard enough, may be offset by an increased sense of humiliation among Arabs, who feel that the US in particular has walked over them enough. Such feelings help to fuel the anger that generates new cells of Al'Qaeda.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, anti-US feeling has reached a new high with the Iraq resolution. Foreign Minister Saud-al-Faisal has strengthened his government's position. Bases in the Kingdom cannot now be used under any circumstances. Regardless of the bin Laden connection, which is officially outlawed,

14 Nov 2002 : Column 94

the Saudi authorities cannot risk any public demonstration of the ties with the US for fear of inflaming social unrest, already latent in a country where 80 per cent of the population are under 35 and unemployment is on the increase. The US failure to get behind Crown Prince Abdullah's peace plan and its undisguised protection of Israel are further causes of resentment.

There is now a deep suspicion in the Middle East of what is seen as the hypocrisy of the West in its political campaign against Islam. Muslims reject the latest western attack on Islamic charities, for example. The Saudi Gazette of 29th October pointed to Sudan, where it said that Christian Churches and charities were,

    "used as a conduit for western foreign policy goals".

Arab and Muslim charities, by contrast, were,

    "building bridges between Muslims in various countries".

Unfortunately, in this vicious war of words the genuine humanitarian work going on may be ignored. Yet it is essential to continue such work through DfID and the NGOs. This is not the time, for example, to prune the budget of the British Council in the Middle East. Rather the contrary, when we consider its excellent work, which is the most defiant answer to Islamist propaganda. Education standards are low in the Middle East. The council's contribution in equipping young Arabs with skills for the job market cannot be over-estimated.

This is also not the time to reduce the efforts of DfID and our aid workers in Afghanistan. Only a year on, there are real fears that ISAF, although now supplied by 22 nations, may not be able to expand its force and that the humanitarian budget is not being met. I have figures from Care International that may be of interest. Funding for Afghanistan is well below the levels for post-conflict reconstruction in the former Yugoslavia. Aid to Bosnia in 1996–99 amounted 326 dollars per head. Pledges to Afghanistan this year amounted to 75 dollars per head, with only 42 dollars per head projected over the next four years. President Karzai told the General Assembly in September that the financial pledges are still unfulfilled. The World Bank has stated that current pledges worth 5 billion dollars over five years need to be doubled, but most experts believe that that figure should be increased sixfold.

It is true that the capacity of the Afghan institutions to absorb these sums is much less than in eastern Europe, but if the country's infrastructure—the roads, runways, schools, hospitals and government offices destroyed in the war—is not rebuilt in the next five years, there will be no incentive for the private sector to re-enter Afghanistan and reconstruction will not take place.

To express it another way, out of all the funds spent in Afghanistan, the war and peacekeeping have absorbed 88 per cent, humanitarian work nine per cent, and reconstruction only three per cent. One year on, therefore, the Afghan people are wondering whether the war really achieved its objective of driving

14 Nov 2002 : Column 95

out the enemy and rebuilding the nation, when so many warlords and Al'Qaeda elements are still at large and the ruins of their country still lie around them.

The ISAF is providing essential security in Kabul, soon to be under German/Dutch leadership, but its present level of manpower and training makes it unlikely that the present government will ever assume control of the whole country. During her visit last month, the International Development Secretary promised further UK help with the national army but other countries have been less forthcoming.

Within the international aid community in Kabul, Afghan leaders are still largely bystanders, rather than participants. One neglected area of reconstruction has been support for the transitional government of Afghanistan. Only the transitional government can plan, co-ordinate and monitor the humanitarian, reconstruction and development effort. Yet of all the international funds pledged or delivered, only 90 million dollars has been given directly to the government. If Afghanistan is to develop a stable, functioning state—which, after all, was our original objective—the international community, including the UK, must help that state to gain greater self-determination.

Muslims the world over, including those in our own community, applauded the overthrow of the Taliban. But they will now be looking to the West, not only for the funding that we are prepared to invest in countries like Afghanistan but, even more, for the building of trust that we should be prepared to place in Muslim societies, which are among our friends and allies around the world.

4.51 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, in some ways, I am probably reflecting the remarks of a number of other speakers in this debate when I say that I believe that the future of the United Nations is something that should be uppermost in our minds today. Far from perfect in its performance over the 57 years of its life—indeed, sometimes deeply disappointing—it is none the less the most precious possession of the world's peacemakers.

In comparison with the principles of government of those nation states that aspire to democracy, the UN is far from a democratic organisation. Selected by a quirk of history, when in the Second World War good triumphed over evil, five nations—five only—have the supreme power and responsibility for exercising the ultimate assent or veto on Security Council resolutions, which have the force of international law. We are one of those nations. It is a privilege and a responsibility beyond measure. Within the constitution of the United Nations, it cannot be taken from us, or from any of the other four nations, without consent, because any proposal to change the rights of the Permanent Five would itself be subject to veto.

The Security Council is potentially the fastest legislature in the world. It is the only non-military international superpower. Yet until 12th September it seemed as if the United States, out of frustration, anger

14 Nov 2002 : Column 96

and fear, might consign the UN to effective oblivion. I believe that a great tribute is due to our Prime Minister for his personal contribution in ensuring that that did not happen. It was a close-run thing.

To contemplate a world in which only the military power of individual states determined the outcome of international disputes would be to gaze into an abyss of international anarchy. Although I defer to no one in my personal confidence in the benign motives of the United States, we now live in a world where even the greatest superpower is unable, on its own, to defend itself against the evil force of terrorism; and the past century has taught us that possession of the greatest military power can easily go with the greatest of evil intent.

Whether or not the world should accept that despotic rulers have the right to abuse, exploit, starve, torture or murder the citizens of their own states is a much harder question to answer than whether they should be allowed to invade other states. It is not morally harder; but it is harder in terms of the practical politics of the world. The moral answer is clearly that such domestic behaviour of despotic rulers is no more acceptable than aggression against other states. Once that is accepted, practical action can follow. It will not be practicable in every case to take UN-based action. But it will be so in some cases. To take action in one instance but not in another does not, in my view—here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Parekh—imply double standards. Indeed, it reflects the deterrent effect of international law; and deterrence is an important role for any system of law.

The UN action that followed Saddam's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait was an important precedent for the passing of Security Council Resolution 1441 against Iraq last week. One of the most significant differences between then and now has been the growth of international terrorism using the resources of states. This has blurred the distinction between internal and external misbehaviour. That is why military enforcement in the event of non-compliance with SCR 1441, leading as it surely would to regime change in Iraq, will be both expedient and morally justified. Provided that it is with the authority of the Security Council, it would be both right and appropriate for Britain to take part in it.

However, I must refer to the serious doubts expressed by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford as regards our technical capability to do so. I shall focus only on one of the examples that he gave; namely, that of a communications system to replace the Clansman system for our land-based forces. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, assured us this morning that there will be a new communications system. Of course there will be; but Bowman, the replacement for Clansman, will certainly not be available for any spring 2003 Gulf campaign.

Provision of the new "personal role radios", to which the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, referred on 7th November (at col. 925 of the Official Report) is in no way the answer. It is a very short-range radio, which is excellent for its purpose; namely, use at platoon or

14 Nov 2002 : Column 97

company level. We really must not commit our forces to battle equipped with Clansman. It is insecure both with regard to the interception of messages, because the manual cypher system it uses is not practical in today's high-speed warfare, and because it lacks the frequency-hopping facility of Bowman, which inhibits enemy direction-finding location methods. This could cause serious casualties among our forces.

Therefore, I ask the Government, as I did during our emergency debate on 24th September—repetition does not matter if the request is worth making in the first instance, and if nothing appears to have happened—to use the coming weeks to re-equip those of our fighting vehicles that would be used in any military operations in the Gulf with the current American communications system. A suggestion has been made that action against Saddam would be a distraction from the wider war against terrorism. I believe that they are two sides of the same coin. They can, and must, be fought together.

New and deadly techniques for fighting terrorism are evolving. We saw one example last week in Yemen, when the Americans were able to use a remote missile from an unmanned aircraft to destroy a car full of Al'Qaeda terrorists. Here in Britain, however, we have to make much greater use of some of the simplest security arrangements. I believe that we now urgently need to introduce national identity cards incorporating the latest biometric devices. I ask the Minister to tell us where the Government are on this long-running process.

Furthermore, we really must improve at once the passport control at all points of entry into the United Kingdom. Many other countries have already done so, making travel much more hazardous for terrorists. I end with a recent personal example. Last month, I flew into London's City Airport from Belgium. Arrivals were directed into the usual two queues: EU and non-EU passport holders. Let us remember that any passenger can decide which queue to join. There was no immigration officer at all at the end of the EU line, and thus absolutely no inspection. That is not good enough.

5.1 p.m.

Lord Desai: My Lords, in the short time available, I should like to speak briefly on the subjects of foreign affairs and international development.

On foreign affairs, I take up a theme dealt with by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. We are at a crucial stage in international affairs because America—the only remaining superpower at the end of the 20th century, and a superpower because of its strong economy and the sums it spends on defence—has been shaken. America feels vulnerable and frightened. It is a rare situation for a superpower to feel frightened. Unless we understand why Americans think as they do, we are very likely to misinterpret their behaviour as sheer arrogance of the old sort. We should realise that 11th September 2001 made

14 Nov 2002 : Column 98

America feel vulnerable for the first time. Americans literally feel that they are in a continual worldwide war against terrorism.

It is no good saying that we Europeans have known terrorism all our lives; the terrorism we have known has been specifically focused on "national liberation", be it in Ireland, the Basque country or Catalonia. The new type of terrorism is diffuse and global. It has no particular territorial ambition, but is simply, for various reasons, directed against Americans. Americans are therefore asking themselves whether the multilateral institutions that they established at the end of the Second World War, such as the United Nations, are as useful as they had wished.

Many current American publications which I could cite—especially a very large book by Professor Philip Bobbitt—argue that there is a totally new configuration in international relations. They argue that America should ask itself whether a totally new world order would not be more useful in fighting this diffuse type of war, as against the United Nations model which was useful in fighting other types of war.

It is therefore important that we have maintained America's commitment to the United Nations process. I join many others in paying tribute to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for securing that outcome. It is also very important that—when the inspectors find something, or when Saddam Hussein makes a mistake and throws them out, both of which are very likely outcomes—the matter of resuming hostilities is dealt with in the United Nations. At the same time, however, we must understand that the United Nations has historically not been a very effective instrument when it comes to taking urgent action. It is a very good talking shop, but not so good at taking urgent action. After all, we went into Kosovo without United Nations approval because, had we waited, Milosevic would have killed many more people.

It is therefore important that we talk to our other allies and to the other permanent members of the Security Council and persuade them that, when push comes to shove, people should not make other excuses and prolong this agony. The United Nations will face its biggest challenge if Saddam Hussein is found in multiple material breach and we fail to do anything about it. If that happens, the United Nations might be considered useless.

It is no good avoiding the challenge. I believe that Americans feel that this action is part of their right of self-defence. It may be true, as my noble friend Lord Brennan said, that various tricky legal issues will arise, but we must understand how the American mind works. We should not take it for granted that they are acting from perverse delight or because George W. Bush's father was president during the Gulf War. We should reject such trivial nonsense. For Americans, the world has changed. Unless we understand that, empathise with their understanding of the world, and try to reason with them to persuade them again to accept some form of multilateralism—a more efficient form of multilateralism; the old form of

14 Nov 2002 : Column 99

multilateralism will not do—I think that the United Nations will break down. Many American publications make that point, which I think we should take seriously.

As that is all the time I have to deal with foreign affairs, I turn to international development. We are facing enormous famines in Ethiopia and southern Africa. We are yet again revisiting the desperate situation regarding development in Africa. We often ask ourselves why Africa is such a bad case in terms of development. However, I recall that, in the 1960s, we were asking the same question about Asia. There was a famine in China, in 1962; two harvest failures in India, in 1965 and 1966; a massacre in Indonesia; and perpetual war in Indochina, as it was then called. I also remember that, in the 1960s, people said that the world would be all right if India and China could feed themselves. In those days, Africa was all right and China was the problem.

Today, the situation is reversed. One of the major tasks for those who run NePAD is to understand how Asia reversed its situation and to determine whether lessons learned there can be applied to Africa. Asia and Africa have many similarities in terms of colonial history, the multi-ethnic and multiracial character of their regimes and the behaviour of their politicians.

Asia offers two remarkable lessons. The first is that it managed to implement an agricultural revolution—the "green revolution"—to transform its food-growing capacity. Although that was accomplished with technology pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, it was achieved also because local politicians invested in rural areas to allow the provision of water and the purchase of fertilisers and training for farmers. Agricultural development is without question the major factor in removing Africa from its recurring cycles of famine. The major factor is not land reform; Ethiopia is currently suffering from its disastrous land reform. Africa has to alter its food growing technology, not its technology for commercial crops such as coffee and cocoa in which it has a good record.

We must also try to understand how the Asian regimes, some of which were very corrupt, delivered goods and services to their population. There is a connection between the Asian ruling elites and the Asian people which has not been reproducible in Africa. The African governing elite is far more alienated from the mass population than is the case in Asia. I do not know why that is the case. We must investigate that major question. If we could understand how to make the political process work in Africa as it has in Asia—I refer to democracy in Asia—we would understand how to bring Africa out of its current crisis. I hope that my noble friend will comment on what the Government are doing about that.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I have often wondered why foreign affairs and defence are given such priority in

14 Nov 2002 : Column 100

our debates on the gracious Speech when for many years governments have rather sought to withdraw from the international world, perhaps post-Suez.

But I wonder even more today, when we have accepted that international events are of greater importance than ever, that we should be the only House debating this issue. I learnt today that Members of the other place consider it insufficiently important to devote attention to. They have therefore left themselves entirely in the hands of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, which I think is a wise decision.

I wonder what it would have been like in the past when we were a great nation and one had to report on events of the year. With a certain whiff of schizophrenia I imagine myself in the other place standing on the Front Bench, or sitting on it, or standing before the Box. I put on my glasses, take up a piece of paper prepared by my officials and, in stentorian tones, I would advise the other place of the following.

In the Balkans riots between Croats and Serbians led to martial law in the Croatian capital, Agram. In the Gulf we sent a British warship to patrol and to keep the peace following the quarrel between the ruler of Kuwait and Bin Rashid who had proclaimed himself King of Arabia. In Iran, Major Showers captured the fort of Mobiz and broke up a terrorist band under Muhammed Ali, who was killed. In Baluchistan, Major MacMahon took a force to sort out the Perso/Afghan border dispute. In Afghanistan the new ruler, Habibullah, released 8,000 prisoners on the occasion of his coronation and then tried to introduce compulsory military service. The natives felt that they would rather join the British native levy.

In the North-West Frontier, General Egerton took four columns of 700 men into Mashud territory to combat terrorist raids and thefts of arms by the Afridis. In Somaliland the Mad Mullah, Abdullah Mohamed, resumed his raids on the British Protectorate, and Colonel Swaine and his native levies restored stability but with heavy losses of men and camels. In Kano, Nigeria, diplomatic efforts failed and the Emir assembled 1,000 mounted men and fortified the city. Colonel Moreland, with 1,200 men of the West Africa frontier force, restored order. There were no problems in Lagos or Sierra Leone.

In South America revolutions in Venezuela and Colombia continued and British trading vessels were seized. Lord Lansdowne, with German support, blockaded the coast and seized Venezuelan warships. Customary political unrest continued in Uruguay. In the Caribbean there were major eruptions of volcanoes in Martinique and St Vincent that required humanitarian support. In South Africa, Kitchener confirmed the end of the Boer war and a peace-keeping contingent of Commonwealth troops left Australia for the Cape. In London there was speculation that the bank rate might fall from 3.5 to 3 per cent.

I refer to the year 1902, 100 years ago. Dare I use the French language for a moment and say, Plus ca change? We were active around the world at that time for reasons of trade, our requirements for raw

14 Nov 2002 : Column 101

materials and for economic benefit. In those days the British Army consisted of 615,000 men, apart from native levies. There were 96,000 in the British Navy, but there was, of course, none in the RAF. Is the situation today as serious or as difficult as it was then? Today we have only 215,000 people in the British Army. One wonders, therefore, what we shall be able to do if the activities that we hear are likely to take place—I refer also to those that have taken place—arise. Will we have enough troops?

As my noble friend on the Front Bench is wearing with pride his brigade tie, I recount an event that took place a couple of weeks ago when I was asked by the Grenadier Guards to address their association down in Cheltenham—a pretty blue territory. I thought that there would be a couple of battalions. When I was in the navy a battalion was meant to comprise 1,000 men and one chap called the colonel. There were 520 men—only one battalion. So these days a regiment is only half a battalion. The Grenadier Guards has probably as great a name as any regiment. Its men had just been off on exercise in a flat-bottomed boat to Norway. There they trained in the mountains in preparation for an attack on Afghanistan, Baluchistan or somewhere else mountainous.

When we discussed the firemen's strike I suddenly realised that there are six men in the front and six in the back of a Green Goddess and therefore we need 20 regiments to operate them. Is that right? How many regiments do we need to be able to take action around the world if we are required to do so? Has not the moment arisen when men are more important than machines? To keep the Grenadiers alive for a year is the price of one unequipped Apache helicopter. I refer to machines that are kept in sheds, as we do not have the ability to train people to operate them to full capacity. Why is that?

The Grenadiers told me that these days the average length of service is three years and therefore one-third of the personnel leave every year. That seems to contradict the idea that men need to be highly trained, with five or six years' service, before they can fight. Perhaps that was the case when they had to participate in sophisticated activities in major conflicts or potential major conflicts. I could raise a regiment with a capitation cost of 40,000 per man. When there were five battalions, the fifth battalion was always voluntary or was raised by someone who sat on what is known as the Barons' Bench. If we are to perform our role in the world in future, we shall need more men.

I turn to a separate point. Your Lordships will be aware that in the First World War some 4 million Commonwealth troops fought alongside us and 5.5 million in the Second World War. Your Lordships will know that today the total of the American armed forces stands at about 1.3 million. NATO has 1.7 million and the Commonwealth has 2.8 million. I ask the noble Baroness whether, as regards the current resolution of the United Nations, consultation has taken place with the Commonwealth? Surely when 40 countries of the UN are members of the Commonwealth we might be able to demonstrate that we, the British, with 40 historic allies, blood brothers,

14 Nov 2002 : Column 102

or whatever we may call them, have great political clout as well as having the armed forces of men on our side. I am not suggesting that we should raise native levies but, if we think of the alternative, we know that the machinery does not work. We know that in general the sort of equipment that is available is unsuitable for walking around in the mountains with packs on one's back. We need men and we need a stronger army.

As, formerly, the most junior naval officer, always temporary—rather like in your Lordships' House—and as some form of chinless wonder standing on the Back Benches, I say that we should look for greater recruitment. That is all I have to say. I never thought that I would stand here supporting wholeheartedly the Grenadier Guards.

5.19 p.m.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, in the debate on the gracious Speech in 1999 I first voiced my concerns over the dangers of Islamist terrorism. Since then the horrors of September 11th, the attacks on ships, the nightmare in Bali, the tragedy in Moscow, attacks on German tourists in Tunisia and French workers in Pakistan are a few examples that have hit the headlines. But before I proceed I emphasise this caveat. Of course, the vast majority of the world's Muslim population of over 1 billion are peaceable, law-abiding people, often renowned for hospitality, generosity and graciousness. It is therefore very important to make a distinction between them and the minority Islamist groups that interpret the Koran to justify jihad in its most militant form, resulting in military conflict or terrorism. Many such militant Islamist movements in the West and elsewhere are associated with the ultra-Salafi movement.

As terrorism increases, it is increasingly important to do everything possible to prevent the spread of Islamophobia and to extend the hand of friendship to moderate Muslims and to moderate Islamic Governments, especially those who are trying to curb the spread of militant Islamism. It is therefore my privilege to be involved in setting up, for example, the Islamic-Christian Council for Reconstruction and Reconciliation, with a primary focus on Indonesia.

However, it is equally important that the threats posed by militant Islamists are taken very seriously by non-Muslims and moderate Muslims. Otherwise, there is a risk that Islamist activities will generate fear, which blurs distinctions and may promote a backlash against all Muslims. Perhaps the quintessence of the quandary facing the West is that while the vast majority of Muslims are of course not terrorists but peaceable, the vast majority of terrorists in the world today are Islamists.

However, before addressing the problems, it is important to highlight successes, such as the outcomes of the operations by the coalition forces in Afghanistan, to which the Minister referred in her speech. They include the end of the brutal Taliban rule; the scattering of Al'Qaeda and the closure of its terrorist training camps; the vast improvements in the

14 Nov 2002 : Column 103

situation for women, with opportunities for education and work; and the establishment of a relatively stable government.

However, success breeds new problems. The dismantling of Al'Qaeda networks in Afghanistan may be succeeded by their strategic dispersal. It is claimed there are now Al'Qaeda cells in more than 50 countries, bank accounts in many more and links with established terrorist training camps in countries such as Iraq, Sudan and Indonesia.

While the dreadful events on September 11th last year highlighted the danger of Islamist terrorism to westerners, they reflected a reality that had already caused suffering on a huge scale in many other parts of the world. So, when President Bush and our Prime Minister described the war on terrorism as the first war of the new century, many people were surprised, including those who had already seen large numbers of their compatriots killed by Islamist terrorism. A few examples must suffice. First, there is the National Islamic Front regime in Sudan, which took power in 1989 by military force, supported by Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Its jihad has been responsible for 2 million dead and 5 million displaced from war-related causes. Secondly, in Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiyah and the ostensibly disbanded Laskar Jihad, with Al'Qaeda links, have been responsible not only for the Bali bombing but also for the deaths of thousands in Maluku and Sulawesi. The nominal disbanding of Laskar Jihad, which was warmly welcomed by the noble Baroness the Minister in your Lordships' House on 28th October, can in reality be seen only as a facade and a redeployment. More than 1,000 remain in Ambon and the rest have redeployed mainly to Java and Papua.

Thirdly, the second Chechen war, contrary to most media representations, has long ceased to be a simple war of independence; it is an Islamist-resourced war against Russia and an attempt to obtain the oil resources of the Caspian Sea for militant Islamism. That has been well documented. It is disturbingly ironic that the jihad against Russia for Chechnya was announced in London in Friends Meeting House—of all places—in 1999, at a very well attended meeting at which highly provocative and militant tirades urged men to fight in Chechnya, women to encourage them and everyone to give money to the jihad. My final example is that of the bitter conflict in the predominantly Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, which began with Azerbaijan's self-avowed policy of ethnic cleansing. In a war of apparently impossible odds, the 150,000-strong—or weak—Armenian population defended themselves against 7 million-strong Azerbaijan, who were assisted by Mujaheddin warriors from Afghanistan as well as Islamist fighters from several Arab countries.

Moving towards home, in Britain, there is concern that well-known Islamist militants have been recruiting and training new supporters, apparently with impunity. Although there have been some arrests, prominent leaders such as Abu Hamza al-Masri and Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed are still at large. That

14 Nov 2002 : Column 104

is in spite of their involvement in subversive activities. For example, they were portrayed on British television in August 1999 teaching followers to disregard the laws of this land and to undertake terrorist activities, such as developing weapons to bring down civilian aircraft here in Britain. Abu Hamza was also closely involved with the British-trained Islamist terrorists arrested in Yemen. There is no evidence that those Islamist leaders have changed their ideology or their practices. So I ask the Minister: is there is any information on how many recruits have been trained in these terrorist training schools in the United Kingdom? How many have been sent abroad to fight in jihads such as that in Chechnya, and are there any policies to curtail such terrorist training schemes in this country?

Another concern involves the financial penetration by militant Islamists of key institutions. Last year, I referred to the case of Salah Idris, the owner of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and therefore presumably with good relations with the Islamist NIF regime. He then owned 75 per cent of shares in the firm IES Digital Systems, which was responsible for security surveillance here in the Palace of Westminster, in British Airways and in other significant institutions. He also had a 20 per cent shareholding in Protec, a security organisation with security projects in Ministry of Defence institutions and nuclear installations at Dounreay and Sellafield. I asked the Minister whether the anti-terrorism legislation prevents the financial penetration of key institutions. To date, I have received no reply. That appears to be an important issue and I hope that the noble Baroness will reply, if not at the end of the debate then at least in writing and fairly soon.

Finally, there is concern about the apparent freedom of militant Islamist organisations to operate in the United Kingdom, even when they are forbidden abroad. I refer, for example, to Hizb-Ut-Tahrir. That Islamic liberation party has been described by the reputable academic Ahmed Rashid as one of the key Islamist organisations threatening to destabilise the central Asian Islamic republics as well as Pakistan. It is a proscribed organisation in Egypt and three British members are currently detained in Cairo. It is currently active in Indonesia and is distributing leaflets and conducting poster campaigns here in the United Kingdom. Its website gives details of regular meetings in this country. I ask the noble Baroness: is that acceptable?

To conclude, this inevitably partial overview of aspects of Islamist terrorism reminds us that those of us who have the privilege of living in freedom have a responsibility to use our freedoms to help those who are denied them. We also have a duty to preserve for future generations the democratic freedoms and values that we have inherited at the cost of the lives of many people. We must therefore recognise the threats to our society and be prepared to respond robustly and in ways that are of course compatible with our democratic values if we are not going to allow those

14 Nov 2002 : Column 105

who would use the freedoms they enjoy here to destroy those freedoms and the democracy that enshrines them.

5.28 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it was good that there were significant passages in the gracious Speech on poverty reduction, economic development and the current round of trade negotiations. It was particularly encouraging that the Minister laid such emphasis on this aspect of the Government's policy. We know that they treat these issues with great seriousness. I thank the Minister for her tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey of Clifton, for his role in the Alexandria process, which has been significant.

I want to comment briefly on debt. Despite the real achievements of the Jubilee campaign and the various HIPC initiatives, we must continue to keep that aspect of economic development in the foreground. A recent report, The Unbreakable Link: Debt Relief and the Millennium Development Goals, concluded:

    "If poor country governments are to have sufficient resources to meet the MDGs"—

that is, the millennium development goals, which are mentioned in the gracious Speech—

    "as well as to meet other essential expenditure needs such as law and order and the civil service, the 42 HIPC countries as a whole cannot afford to make any debt service payments. In fact . . . even if all the debts of these 42 countries are cancelled, the HIPCs will need an additional 16.5 billion US dollars in aid each year if there is to be any hope of meeting the goals".

Therefore, we must not cease to keep up the pressure for significant debt reduction.

Secondly, in his very powerful speech resulting from his recent visit to the Congo, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester drew attention to the scramble for resources in that country as a significant factor in the continuing fighting and the role of neighbouring countries in that scramble for resources. Does the Minister agree that G8 and African leaders should concur that all states should provide transparent means to track revenues from natural resource extraction and that they should develop mandatory regulatory requirements through national security regulators? Does she also agree that, as an immediate action, G8 must publicly encourage the voluntary disclosure by multinational resource companies of all payments to governments involved in conflict in Africa, specifically in relation to companies operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sudan and Angola?

Thirdly, I want to concentrate on the question of trade, first, in relation to fair access of goods from developing countries to western markets. Northern governments should provide quota and tariff-free access to their markets for all imports from low-income countries in Africa, including agricultural products, textiles and garments. They should also tackle the problem of tariff escalation on processed goods.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 106

But perhaps even more serious and pressing than the question of access to our markets by goods from developing countries is the question of fair trade in those countries themselves. That does not occur at present because of the extraordinary level of subsidies paid for goods exported to those countries. Not long ago, a country such as Ghana—to take one example—had its own local tomato industry. Its tomato crops are now rotting away. Why? Because people buy canned Italian tomatoes, which are very heavily subsidised by the European Union.

Again, to take one specific example, in the 1960s Ghana had a flourishing rice crop. It is now half what it was then. Forty per cent of that country's rice is imported from the United States of America, which subsidises it at 5 dollars a hundredweight. The level of subsidy which developed countries pay to their farmers is running at extraordinary levels: 230 billion a year. More than the GDP of the whole African continent goes on those subsidies.

To bring the matter home—I believe that the Minister referred to this briefly in her opening statement—every cow in the European Union is subsidised at the rate of 2 dollars 20 cents a day. That is more than the income of half the population of the world. Those figures are extraordinary. Clearly, in the long run, the developing world must do something about eliminating the subsidies so that trade can be truly fair and so that markets in the developing world can be true markets where goods from developing countries compete on a level playing field with goods from the developed world.

I should be particularly interested to know what the Minister says might happen in the medium term and short term in relation to those problems. The aid agencies are concerned not only about the long term but about what might be done in the medium term to try to alleviate the plight of farmers in the developing world. With regard to the short term, they are asking that, when economic policies are drawn up in relation to agricultural policies, what is called a "development box" should be built into the policies specifically to protect small farmers in the developing world at this time of transition.

In addition, more widely in relation to exports and imports generally, the aid agencies are very concerned about what appears under the heading of "special and differential treatment". A great deal of frustration is felt by representatives from the developing world that the current round of trade negotiations does not take into account the needs of the developing world. I particularly want to ask the Minister, first, whether she is aware of the frustration of the developing countries at the current round of trade negotiations and, secondly, whether she can hold out any hope for them in the future.

Therefore, although we must not forget the issue of debt, I believe that we must always bear in mind the relationship between conflict and poverty and that we should try to tackle that. I know that the Government also have serious concerns about that issue. The question of fair trade, both in the long and medium

14 Nov 2002 : Column 107

terms, must be a pressing issue for anyone who is concerned about the economic development of the poorest countries in the world.

5.36 p.m.

Baroness Dunn: My Lords, your Lordships' preoccupation in this debate with the threat from war and terrorism is well justified. But this House may wish to be reminded that it is now just over five years since sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred by Britain to China. It is, I suggest, both timely and appropriate to take stock of that historic decision, much debated in this House.

First, I declare my interest both as an executive director of John Swire & Sons and as the chairman of the Hong Kong Association.

Your Lordships will recall that the basis of Hong Kong's handover was the Sino-British joint declaration, which this House commended for its concept of "one country, two systems". Noble Lords will know that the political transfer has gone extraordinarily well. As the Foreign Secretary wrote in the last six-monthly report to Parliament, Hong Kong,

    "has been free to exercise its autonomy in all matters envisaged under the Joint Declaration".

That does not mean that all has been smooth sailing. Far from it. Hong Kong has had more than its fair share of problems. Ironically, the challenge came not from any political interference from China but from external shocks to its open economy. Since the handover Hong Kong has had to cope with not one but two severe economic downturns. The Asian financial crisis hit Thailand the very day after the handover in Hong Kong. The timing could not have been worse. It gave Hong Kong's transition no chance of a smooth passage or a soft landing.

The dramatic fall in property prices and the resultant negative equity had a serious impact on public sentiment. So has the rise in unemployment to levels not seen before in modern Hong Kong. The pain and anxiety to a community accustomed to prosperity have been immense. It is not surprising, therefore, that the present mood of its people is subdued and anxious and that its government do not do well in public opinion polls.

I believe that not enough recognition has been given to the decisive and sympathetic way in which Hong Kong's Government since 1997 have faced and tackled a whole series of unprecedented problems. They have had to think laterally and to learn quickly on their feet. For example, the 1998 foray into a stock market threatened with meltdown took courage as well as nerve. It was much criticised at the time but has been subsequently vindicated with praise. Nor have the Government allowed pressing problems to detract them from longer-term strategy.

In order to strengthen Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre they have merged the stock and futures markets; developed e-commerce; further strengthened its regulatory framework; reformed the public service; and privatised public

14 Nov 2002 : Column 108

undertakings, including its efficient underground railway. A Disneyland is under construction and a cyber port and science park have come on stream. There are initiatives in train to improve education, infrastructure and the environment. All of those measures are aimed at ensuring that Hong Kong is well placed to take advantage of the global economic recovery that will inevitably come.

Last July, as he commenced his second term in office, Hong Kong's Chief Executive introduced a "principal officials accountability system". That is a bit of a mouthful, but we might think of it as a kind of ministerial system. Criticism of that initiative has been both premature and ill-informed. Its purpose is threefold: to forge a real link between the executive and the legislature; to respond to the community's wish to see principal officials take public responsibility for their portfolios and, perhaps most important of all, to preserve the political neutrality of Hong Kong's highly motivated and competent civil service.

I shall not take up your Lordships' time by going back into history; suffice it to say that Hong Kong inherited a frankly unworkable political structure when it began life as a special administrative region of China. That undoubtedly led to tensions and frustrations between executive and legislature. Something had to be done to avoid constant deadlock. It will take time for the new system to bed down and bear fruit, but it would be unhelpful to condemn it at this very early stage. It is an important step along the path set by Hong Kong's constitution, the Basic Law.

The Basic Law provides for universal suffrage as the ultimate aim and for a review in 2007 when Hong Kong people should reach consensus on the next step forward in democratic evolution.

Hong Kong's problems have inevitably created doubts and raised questions about its future. Some even ask whether Hong Kong is in terminal decline.

Hong Kong's fundamental strengths have always been its geographic location, its people's enterprise and work ethic, its competent and non-corrupt administration, its trusted and deeply rooted legal system, its free press, its multicultural and tolerant society and the fact that it has one of the freest economies in the world. None—I repeat, none—of these key features has been eroded by the challenges of the past five years.

Furthermore, Hong Kong's status as a special administrative region in China, the world's fastest growing economy, gives it unique opportunities. China's spectacular development will be well known to your Lordships. And Hong Kong is on its doorstep.

Although the imminent changes among China's political leaders are important and significant, that is unlikely to have any effect on policy directions, other than perhaps in style and priorities. The reforms of the past two decades have seen the emergence in China of a vast and thriving private sector. There can be no turning back.

Some people question Hong Kong's continued value to China and its ability to compete with Shanghai. I firmly believe that Hong Kong's

14 Nov 2002 : Column 109

contributions to China are irreplaceable, at least in the foreseeable future. No other city on the mainland or indeed in Asia can match Hong Kong's rule of law, its pool of managers and its cultural commitment to free trade, low tax and a level playing field. These have taken generations to take root.

There is still a tendency for commentators to view Hong Kong, post-handover, through a prism of extremes: that it would either stay frozen in time or slide off the map. Neither scenario was ever realistic. Always more likely was what has actually happened. Hong Kong has continued to evolve socially, politically and economically. It will come through wiser, leaner and more competitive. The people of Hong Kong are known and admired for their energy, dynamism and sheer guts in making the best of life, even in the worst of times.

I am sure that Members of this House will share my hope that they will regain that confidence and fighting spirit. I am sure that we all wish them well.

5.47 p.m.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I should like to focus my short intervention on certain issues of foreign policy of importance to the United Kingdom and their links with the European Union's common foreign and security policy. Despite my background I have often thought that blessed is the country which has no foreign policy. But that is not to be, and your Lordships have been allocated a whole day to talk about it, with numerous references in the gracious Speech. I am glad that we have come to Hong Kong at some point in the debate.

I start decisively from the position that whether we examine these questions on a bilateral basis or in the context of the common foreign and security policy, we need to look strictly to our national advantage and not to more theoretical arguments about greater European integration. I expect that the Convention on the Future of Europe will come forward with some important conclusions on other issues, such as the competencies and the role of national parliaments, but I do not expect any great change in the areas of foreign affairs and defence. We shall continue to have the fundamental distinction—not always fully comprehended in the United Kingdom—between, on the one hand, community affairs such as the single market where the role of the Community institutions is very important and, on the other hand, European Union affairs of an intergovernmental nature under pillar 2—common foreign and security policy—where the role of member states is dominant.

The United Kingdom, being sovereign in matters of foreign affairs and security, can develop its policy bilaterally, in particular with the United States or in other international fora, such as the United Nations, as is the case now with Iraq. Our attention is heavily concentrated, and rightly so, in this debate on the suppression of terrorism and on weapons of mass destruction. Those are the Government's priorities, and the nation supports them.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 110

But I want to consider also the medium-term and other geo-political developments—in particular those in which we should maximise the combined impact of our bilateral strength and the European Union's common foreign policy. In particular, while the world may be going backwards in the Middle East, it is clearly going forward in central and eastern European and in Russia. I want to look not only to the Middle East but also to the East.

The Government have done well continually to stress the United Kingdom's support for enlargement of the European Union by including the applicant countries of central and eastern Europe, Cyprus and Malta, which have now almost completed negotiation of their accession. But I still wonder whether among British people generally there is full understanding of the scale and nature of that change. There is perhaps too much of a tendency to stress difficulties, such as the consequences for our agricultural policy or the regional fund, rather than the opportunities opened up by the imminent arrival in the European Union market of a further 108 million people—I do not count the population of Turkey, which is not quite at that stage—with diverse skills and needs. Yes, they may be consumers of British services if we are ready to serve them, but they are also potential partners in investment for business and commerce.

First, in economic terms, will the new member states be the east European tigers? Perhaps not all full-grown tigers, but good growth in their economies, prosperity and purchasing power is highly likely as the effect of the European Union's single market works through—as we know from experience in Spain, Portugal and Greece. Secondly, there will be greater people-to-people contact through increased tourism and cultural and other contacts. Thirdly, there will be a new input into European Union policy from the new member states, which have much of benefit to offer us. I am confident that the general direction and good sense of their thinking on European affairs will have much in common with what we believe about the future of a union of sovereign states. Fourthly, they will bring added knowledge and historical perspective to our relations with the states of the former Soviet Union.

So let us adjust—and not only in words—to a European Union of almost 500 million people, stronger but also closer to our ideas and objectives. European Union enlargement on that scale is a major geo-political change, but it is being accompanied by great change in our next big neighbour: Russia. I welcome President Putin's state visit next summer. His decision to work so actively with the United States and other friendly nations in the action against terrorism, including the provision of intelligence information, after the 11th September attacks is not only of ground-breaking importance for security but represents a much wider reorientation of Russian policy.

The changes in Russia itself and in its external policy are much underestimated. President Putin's recent speeches have been direct about what needs to be done for the economy and in Russia's openness towards the European Union. Much has been done. Last year, the Russian economy grew by more than 5 per cent; there

14 Nov 2002 : Column 111

was a 50 billion dollar trade surplus, a record budget surplus and debt repayments; capital flight declined; and Russia had the best-performing world stock market. Of course, the latter item was not difficult to achieve, but the others were. Legislation on the tax system, business environment and pensions reform was passed by the Duma last year.

In external affairs, Russia is now participating in the Russia/NATO Council, the quartet on the Israel/Palestinian conflict and, despite its first hesitations, it supported the US/UK resolution on Iraq. I have not heard this mentioned so far in the debate, but this week it agreed to a settlement of the difficult issue of the conditions of passage of people from the rest of Russia to the geographically separate Russian territory of Kaliningrad after the accession of neighbouring states to the European Union. That had to be settled before enlargement could go ahead. We all know that the history of enclaves in that part of the world is not a happy one. We should not underrate the difficulty for Russia and should be grateful for the settlement. It is a far cry from past attitudes.

The European Union has a so-called common strategy for relations with Russia. But is it really adapted to the changed situation? Does it not need more vision, a higher priority and a greater effort to identify common ground? The European Union is by far Russia's largest trading partner, but I am not sure whether the growing importance of Russia as a principal energy supplier has yet sunk in. Russia has the world's largest gas reserves, and it already supplies 25 per cent of Europe's gas. It is the second-biggest exporter of oil in the world, and it supplies 15 per cent of Europe's oil. If there are further serious disturbances in the Middle East, which may even be judged as probable, the importance of Russia as a major and dependable supplier of oil and gas to western Europe will be great. That element of stability in the energy market could prove important to our economies in Europe if there is talk of crises affecting supplies from the Middle East in the months ahead. I would not be surprised by that.

Britain is vulnerable in terms of both security and economic loss to the ripples from the Middle East. We need to maximise common ground with countries that have moved closer to our position in recent months. The Select Committee on the European Union is looking at relations between the European Union and Russia. I will not prejudge that report. Perhaps we might even debate it here at some time—and not on a Friday. But I stress my own view that greater attention to, updating and widening of our relations with the countries of central and eastern Europe, including Russia, is very much in our interest. It would increase our solidarity and protect our economy if, as I fear, the ripples from the Middle East continue to spread out for some years to come.

5.57 p.m.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to learn more than was disclosed in the gracious Speech about the Government's intention to

14 Nov 2002 : Column 112

develop a "constructive" foreign policy. We have moved on from an "ethical" foreign policy. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, who opened with a thorough coverage of many issues. I wish the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, the best of good luck in the formidable task of winding up such a wide-ranging debate.

I acknowledge the fact that the star issues of the debate are, probably, the United Nations-Iraq situation, the Middle East in general and the enlargement of the European Union. Much has been said on those topics. If I have time, I shall add some comments. Nevertheless, it will come as no surprise to your Lordships that I intend to focus my remarks on Latin America and the overseas territories.

I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, referred to the importance of trade with Latin America. I recognise that the Government are making efforts to ensure that, as a trading nation, we do not miss out on the opportunities. Those opportunities exist in spite of the current world recession, a fact that applies also to Hong Kong, as emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn. This week, we saw the visit of President Fox of Mexico. Mexico is the world's ninth largest economy, and the United Kingdom is the second largest investor in Mexico, after the United States. The president addressed the City and investors on trade possibilities. In his Canning lecture, he addressed the political issues in Mexico, where there is a great strengthening of democracy, as emphasised by his accession to the presidency. The president also opened the splendid Aztec exhibition at the Royal Academy, which emphasises our cultural links not only with Mexico but with the whole of Latin America.

Since the European Union and Mexico entered into a bilateral trade agreement two years ago, there has been an increase of 20 per cent in trade between the European Community and Mexico. The advantage is on the side of the Europeans, however, and the increase in exports from Mexico amounts, I think, to only 4 per cent. Nevertheless, it is progress and movement in the right direction.

This week has also seen the visit of President Cardoso, the outgoing President of Brazil. Brazil has the largest economy of Latin America and is a major economy in world terms. It is a target country for the Foreign Office, the British Council and other government agencies and I trust that it will continue to be so. I believe that there is a possible visit from the President of Peru before the end of the year, but there are other areas where we have strong links, and needs for links, with Latin America. The gracious Speech refers to a Bill to be introduced in relation to the control of drug trafficking. Clearly, in countries such as Colombia and Bolivia, who are major producers, we need, as a consumer country, to work together in order to improve that horrible situation. Therefore, I believe that there is plenty of contact and that there are plenty of open doors. I hope and feel sure that the Government will continue to push them.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 113

In addition to improving our bilateral trade links and combating drug trafficking and such like, I urge the Government to take advantage of our special relationship with so many Latin American countries. They should take a leading role in working together in the various international fora to ensure that those special historical connections which bind us—in particular with Argentina, Venezuela and Chile—really count, whether in connection with peacekeeping activities within the United Nations or issues of world trade within the WTO process.

In that respect the references that have been made to reform of the common agricultural policy are both essential and relevant. In all the bilateral trade agreements between the European Union and Mexico, between the European Union and Chile which has just been concluded, and the ongoing negotiations between the European Union and the countries of Mercosur—Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay—the issue of the common agricultural policy and the subsidies which we give to agricultural produce is a major barrier in ensuring that those countries are able to increase their own opportunities for helping themselves.

I believe that all those issues are not just a government responsibility, there is an important parliamentary role. If we believe—as we do—that democracy is an essential element for future progress in the world, we should be encouraging and supporting the efforts that many of the countries of Latin America are making in that respect and acknowledging that in spite of the major economic problems that exist that democracy has survived everywhere. In that respect I would like to refer to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union—the IPU. I was fortunate to visit Venezuela earlier this year with a small group of British parliamentarians. As a continuation of the contacts that we made there the vice president of the Venezuelan parliamentary assembly will be visiting this Parliament next week.

I know that the international IPU meeting which will take place in Chile next year embraces the whole of the world. Nevertheless, there will be a strong focus on the countries and democracies of Latin America. I hope that anyone concerned in those activities will play a leading role. Therefore, I continue to believe that for us Latin America is an important target area. I am happy that I have had this opportunity to make reference to it again today.

I turn briefly to the overseas territories. After last year's Act, the most outstanding general issue is the need to look at and do something about tertiary education for the people from the small overseas territories who, if they do not come here for such education, may have to look to the United States or North America. There is a particular issue that has already been addressed by my noble friend Lord Howell and my noble and learned friend Lord Howe. It is the issue of Gibraltar.

They said much that needed to be said and the Minister in opening referred to the need for continuing dialogue. However, I was disappointed because there

14 Nov 2002 : Column 114

was no reference in the gracious Speech to a Bill to allow and enable the people of Gibraltar to vote in the next European elections. That had been promised and the United Kingdom must do so in order to comply with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. I hope that in winding up the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, will be able to reassure me on that.

In conclusion, I want to comment briefly on the important and imminent issue of Iraq. If we as a country have been urging the United Nations to support a resolution requiring Iraq to disclose its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, I wonder whether there is any chance that that requirement could become a general rule. In these days of openness, transparency and accountability, is there not an opportunity for the British Government to spearhead a move, perhaps as part of their constructive foreign policy, to require all countries manufacturing weapons of mass destruction to disclose the contents of their arsenals? I believe that we should be the first to give a good example.

6.7 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I want to talk about matters which, regrettably, were not in the Queen's Speech. It has become clear to me that President Bush is determined to invade Iraq with a view to effecting a regime change, come what may, and without going back to the United Nations for a fresh resolution. Even in the unlikely event that Saddam Hussein does not infringe in any way the conditions laid down regarding the freedom of the inspectors to do their job, I suspect that the United States will invade Iraq. Since the recent elections in the United States, neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate will be likely to restrain the President. He has a great deal of power and he is very conscious of the wish of many of his people for revenge for September 11th 2001.

The situation has been compared by some people to the situation in 1939 with Nazi Germany. The new Archbishop of Canterbury refuted that argument in an article in the Telegraph about 10 days ago which some of your Lordships may have read. Our treaty obligations were triggered in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. That was why war was declared. And modern warfare is so terrible that we should be more wary than ever of starting one.

We, the NATO countries, sat opposite the Soviet Union for about 40 years, staring at them across the Iron Curtain. For most of that time, they had a nuclear capability and the means to deliver it. All right, they did not have chemical and biological capabilities as far as I know, but we sat there on our hands. And it paid off. We did not go to war and at the end of the day there was a regime change from inside and the Iron Curtain melted without a shot being fired. Apart from the fact that we know that Iraq has biological and chemical capabilities as well, is the situation really all that different? Of course, the Soviet Union was a world power of enormous strength, against which NATO would have been pushed to win a war, whereas Iraq is not in that league at all. Nevertheless, if Iraq has

14 Nov 2002 : Column 115

weapons of mass destruction—which we believe it has—we need to consider whether attacking Iraq is not one of the surest ways to make it use them.

Shakespeare said:

    "There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune". That tide was at the flood in 1991 and was not taken. I shall not apportion blame, but I do not think that it was ours. I do not believe that that tide has flowed again. We would be wiser to pause and wait to see what fortune, in the shape of a possible change of regime in Iraq, might bring to pass.

I have grave doubts, too, about the logistic practicality of waging a war against Iraq without the assistance of most of its neighbours. I also have grave doubts, fuelled by the list read out in his speech by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, about the state of our military equipment. I cannot think it right that our troops should be committed to assisting the United States forces until that sorry state of affairs is remedied.

In short, I have grave misgivings about the wisdom of attacking Iraq and about our involvement in that attack. I believe that those misgivings are shared by many throughout the country.

I wish now to say something about the fishing industry. I know that this issue should probably be discussed in the trade and industry debate but, as I am not allowed to speak twice and what I have to say touches on foreign affairs, I shall speak to it now.

Last week, four Members of this House—the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and myself—had the opportunity to visit Billingsgate fish market. There we learnt much of interest. We saw samples of immature fish—nay, baby fish—landed by, mainly, Spanish fishing boats. They were tiny, the size of salmon parr; codfish the size of salmon parr. To ask our fishermen and our fish processing industry to face grave difficulties—and possibly ruin—in the name of conservation while permitting the Spanish and, to a lesser extent, the French to hoover up baby fish off the floor of the sea is not acceptable. I ask the Government to press Herr Fischler to put a stop to this wicked practice before any more restrictions are put on our fishermen.

Finally, I shall talk rubbish. Your Lordships may think that I have already been doing so, but I mean rubbish. We are threatened by our local authorities, which are running out of land-fill sites in which to dispose of our rubbish, with being fined for every extra bag of rubbish we put out to be collected, over and above a limit to be decided by them. We are being accused of wastefulness.

But we cannot help the amount of rubbish we have to dispose of. It comes into our houses whether we like it or not—and I, for one, do not, any more than I expect many of your Lordships do. Every newspaper or magazine we open shoots a cascade of unwanted junk mail onto the floor for us to pick up. Junk mail

14 Nov 2002 : Column 116

arrives with every post; junk faxes arrive daily, using our paper for which we have paid. Ringing the helpline which is supposed to stop them seldom works.

Everything that we buy is so packaged that it is often almost impossible to gain access to it. Much of this packaging is made of plastic and so is not bio-degradable. Our goody-goody, patronising, local authority nannies tell us to re-use it or "compost" it. How are you to re-use, for example, a plastic pack which contained batteries? How are you to "compost" it when you live in a flat in a city? How are you to compost a very large part of our unwanted rubbish anyway?

Will the Government consider whether there is anything they can do about this nuisance? Legislation to ban junk mail would be more help to most people in this country than a great deal of what is proposed in the Queen's Speech and do far more for conservation.

6.14 p.m.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, the subject of foreign affairs has, as always, been mentioned in the gracious Speech and always evokes a wide-ranging response in this House. I want to focus attention on an immediate and urgent matter—the Cyprus problem. The United Nations Secretary-General has just presented a new blueprint for its resolution to the two peoples of the island.

That may or may not herald progress, but it is unrealistic for the Secretary-General to expect a considered response to the complex 172-page document in the seven days he has stipulated. The Turkish Cypriot president is convalescing after heart surgery, the new Turkish Government has not yet been formed and the document contains many serious problems not necessarily acceptable to either side. None the less, they have agreed to consider it.

However, to resolve these issues before the European Union's Copenhagen summit on 12th December is impossible. Is it right that the Turkish Cypriots should be pressurised into the most important decision that they will ever make, merely to meet an artificial timetable set by others? They have not been involved in the unilateral EU membership application because they could not, and should not, be expected to accept the Greek Cypriot administration as the government of Cyprus.

It would be a grave injustice and a monstrous political misjudgment to admit Cyprus without the consent of both its peoples. A shotgun marriage in Cyprus would be a disaster. The EU must not be blackmailed, and Her Majesty's Government must realise that Greek threats to veto enlargement can provoke counter-threats. The Greeks claim to want a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus.

We cannot afford another Foreign Office triumph like the one that delivered the people of Zimbabwe into the hands of thugs and turned that food exporting country into one where the Matabele are being systematically starved to the point of extermination.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 117

Let us have no more diplomacy like that. Let us ensure that human rights do not take second place to bureaucratic timetables.

For 38 years, Turkish Cypriots have been excluded from the normal channels of international communication. They have been denied the right to trade freely, to access international capital markets and to have direct flights to and from their own airport. These embargoes have no authority under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter and the United Kingdom should have nothing further to do with them.

This is not a mere technical issue, as the Government sought to maintain in the debate in this House on 6th November. It all flows from the treatment by the United Kingdom of the Greek Cypriots as the government of Cyprus and its persuasion of others at the United Nations to do the same.

In 1964, the British Government accepted (but has since forgotten) that "Cyprus Government" could mean only a government who act with the concurrence of both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The UN Secretary-General currently acknowledges that sovereignty,

    "emanates equally from both peoples. One of them cannot claim sovereignty over the other".

There has been no concurrence since 1963 and there is no "doctrine of necessity" which could excuse Greek Cypriot behaviour.

If we have forgotten what happened in Cyprus between 1963 and 1974 we cannot appreciate the fears that the Turkish Cypriots have for their future or understand their attitude to any agreement with the Greek Cypriots without real, practical and effective safeguards.

Let me remind your Lordships of what the American Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, wrote in his memoirs—how, in the 1960s, the Greek Cypriot leader's

    "central interest was to block off Turkish intervention so that he and his Greek Cypriots could go on massacring Turkish Cypriots".

He went on to say:

    "obviously we would never permit that".

But the fact is that neither the United States nor the United Kingdom or the United Nations took effective action to bring the slaughter of Turkish Cypriots to an end until Turkey intervened 11 years later. Even in 1974, Britain, the guarantor, did not change its position, and the German newspaper Die Zeit wrote on 30th August 1974:

    "the massacre of Turkish Cypriots in Paphos and Famagusta is the proof of how justified Turkey was to intervene".

It must be remembered that all this happened despite solemn international guarantees and despite United Nations troops actually being in Cyprus.

The Turkish Cypriot state is not a breakaway state, because the Republic of Cyprus as legally constituted in 1960 had ceased to exist by 1964 and had been replaced by a Greek Cypriot state calling itself the

14 Nov 2002 : Column 118

Republic of Cyprus. Yet in 1983, when the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared, the United Nations Security Council, which is not a court, with the approval of the United Kingdom, labelled the declaration "legally invalid". It called upon states not to recognise the Turkish Cypriot state, even though Turkish Cypriots had done no wrong.

It is the view of the distinguished international jurist Eli Lauterpacht QC that:

    "If the Security Council had assessed the situation as a whole, it could not possibly have concluded that the conduct of Turkish Cypriots violated the controlling legal instruments while the conduct of the Greek Cypriots did not. Nor could it have reached any other conclusion than that the action of the Greek Cypriots fully justified the conduct of the Turkish Cypriots".

I raise this contentious issue because I want my nation to act honourably in respect of Cyprus in the future. It shames me to have to acknowledge that it has failed to do so in the past. It is in all our interests that the two peoples of Cyprus settle their differences. We must understand why that has not yet happened if the present initiative is to have any hope of succeeding.

Debates on Cyprus in our Parliament, especially in another place, and in the United States Congress do injustice to the principle that both sides should be given a fair hearing. That imbalance is also particularly noticeable in the European Parliament. Without a fair hearing on both sides, it is unsurprising that the world has a one-sided perception of Cyprus, which results in unfair pressure on Turkish Cypriots.

Unilateral acceptance of Greek Cypriots into the European Union would be a disaster. It would wreck Europe's relations with Turkey. Her Majesty's Government must take urgent action to prevent that from happening as Britain is legally bound to do under Article 2 of the 1960 Cyprus Treaty of Guarantee. To continue to brush aside our solemn legal obligation under that treaty strikes at the very heart of international law. If it were so easily circumvented, what point would there be in Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots making a new agreement that could be similarly ignored?

6.22 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, this evening has seen a wide-ranging debate. It has also been a triumph for the changed timetable. Unbelievably, after 34 speakers and a Statement, it still seems that we will finish at the allotted 7.30 p.m. Many noble Lords have shown an enormous amount of self-discipline in speaking within the time limit.

I welcome my noble friend Lady Northover to the Front Bench to take over as international development spokesperson. I held the position for eight years, and I think that my noble friend will enjoy it a great deal. However, she will have a far harder time than I had. When I was international development spokesperson, I was fighting against the previous government, who were cutting the international development budget. As a Member of the Opposition, that is an easier position than that which my noble friend has taken on; that is

14 Nov 2002 : Column 119

to say, dealing with a budget that is growing to the extent that, by 2006, 1 billion a year will go to Africa. That must be a good thing.

I do not underestimate the vast problems faced by the developing world. Two of the most difficult to deal with are HIV/AIDS and poverty. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford pointed out, in an extremely well constructed speech, that a further difficulty is the difference between the priorities of the developing world and those of the developed world and the fact that we are spending vast figures on subsidies while vast numbers of people are living below the poverty line.

The debate has produced a veritable cornucopia of issues to speak to. I was not going to speak about Zimbabwe, but, because of the extremely good speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, I should like to say a few words about the issue. She pointed out the unease that many of us feel about the Government's asylum policy. I realise that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, is to reply to the debate and this is not a matter for her department, but it must be an issue for joined-up government that people who are obviously going to face persecution and even the threat of death should not be returned to Zimbabwe at the moment.

The problems in Zimbabwe are growing. The vast number of farm workers who have lost their means of income after the white farmers were thrown off the land is particularly distressing considering the state of famine in the country. Mention was also made of ZANU-PF's particularly worrying view towards the Matabele people and the use of food as a weapon of starvation and as a political weapon.

It will come as no surprise that I also wish to speak about the Middle East and Iraq, as many noble Lords have done. The noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, made a particularly fine speech about the difficulties faced in Israel and Palestine. I have travelled as frequently as I can to the Middle East. The difficulties with Israel and Palestine are fuelling hatred among the populations of many Arab countries. That is often overlooked and underestimated in the West. The feeling that the Palestinians are suffering under the present regime is one of the reasons that Osama bin Laden has used again and again—if the recent tape is genuine, he has used it in the past few weeks—to fuel hatred of the West and of America.

We can look back at some of the proposals that could have solved the problems. I firmly believe that the Oslo peace accord could well have solved many of the problems. It is very unfortunate that the Saudi proposal was not carried forward. It could have guaranteed the sovereign status of Israel and allowed the Palestinian state to flourish. The settlements issue has to be resolved in the short term.

The other issue that I wish to speak about is Iraq. Many noble Lords have spoken about it this evening, so I shall confine my comments to one issue. I do not believe that the mission that Dr Blix is undertaking—I think he is going to Baghdad on Monday—is

14 Nov 2002 : Column 120

doomed to failure. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, I very much hope that he will be successful. Many noble Lords believe that there is little chance of that, but there should not be a correlation between weapons inspectors and the necessity of armed conflict and war. I very much hope Dr Blix is successful, because one of the issues is removing weapons of mass destruction. It will be extremely difficult and dangerous to try to control weapons of mass destruction in a war situation in which the only option is to bomb them from above rather than to dismantle carefully not only the weapons of mass destruction but the apparatus for their construction. For all the problems that the weapons inspectors later faced, they were very successful, especially in removing Saddam Hussein's nuclear ability.

Like many noble Lords, I am utterly opposed to armed conflict. I am particularly concerned about what could trigger armed conflict. In a particularly fine speech, the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, pointed out that without going back to the United Nations it will be difficult to work out from reading the resolution what constitutes a trigger. If weapons inspectors arriving at a distant outpost are refused access by an official individual, will that be a trigger for war? This is a matter of some concern.

I listened carefully to the speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, especially his reference to the Congo. Not many years ago, I remember taking part in a debate on the Great Lakes in which the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, talked about what was happening in the region and what the then government believed would happen in Zaire. None of us could believe the horrors that were subsequently to face people in the area, although we could imagine that the breakdown would be fairly terrible. We must bear in mind that the breakdown of the Congo could also be mirrored in a breakdown in Iraq, because of destabilisation in the surrounding region.

I turn to defence. I realise, and understand why, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, is not here this evening. It would, therefore, be unfair of me to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, as regards the list that he prepared of disasters that seem to be afflicting procurement in the MoD at present. I had intended to ask questions about the wings of Nimrod, melting boots, and other similar issues. However, I have decided not to do so tonight.

I wish to concentrate on two issues of particular relevance. The first is a subject that has been discussed in many debates on defence—overstretch. I very much hope that some agreement can be reached on the firemen's strike. However, now that it has started and it looks like becoming a protracted affair going into the New Year, can the Minister say whether the necessary number of troops will be available for training should a war break out in the Middle East? The 19,000 or so service personnel taking part in the current crisis operation in this country must affect troop manning levels. I live just next door to Otterburn training centre. I know that a great deal of testing of equipment and training is called for before military

14 Nov 2002 : Column 121

action, as was the case before the Gulf War and the Kosovo conflict. Can the Minister say whether the use of service personnel to meet the crisis in the fire service will affect any troop training requirements?

My second question relates to the Royal Army Medical Corps. There has been talk of a call-up of reserves. I declare an interest here because I have had my ear bent by my brother-in-law, who served in the Gulf War. Even though he is retired, he is still on the reserve list and might well be called up at some point. This situation is particularly problematical for the medical corps because it is 60 per cent undermanned at present. Indeed, in some specialties it is 90 per cent undermanned. Such undermanning will have a knock-on effect for those reservists of the medical corps who also work for the NHS. If they are taken away from the NHS for quite a long period of time, that will have a considerable effect on the health service.

A Question on Gulf War syndrome was recently tabled in this House. I am advised by my brother-in-law that this is an issue of concern to some members of the Army Medical Corps, who may be asked to serve again in the Gulf. They feel somewhat undermined by the MoD's position on Gulf War syndrome; for example, the denial of its very existence. We could be sending people who do believe that it exists back into the same situation.

I shall, if I may, end on a slightly petulant note. I was slightly disappointed that the Queen's Speech made no mention of paving legislation for a referendum on the euro. We on these Benches look forward to the introduction of the euro, and some of us will be campaigning hard on that issue. Noble Lords from other parties may campaign against its introduction, but we hope that the referendum will be held as soon as possible. We must start campaigning if we are to win the referendum.

6.35 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, that we all suffer from the threat of terrorism. Following the bombing in Bali, we live in a much more dangerous world. Al'Qaeda will certainly strike again. Its franchise groups operate around the world. I pay tribute to our intelligence services whose role is critical in locating and evaluating terrorist threats. They are often our unsung heroes.

We give a guarded welcome to Saddam Hussein meeting his first deadline. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, that, in the light of Saddam Hussein's record, we must prepare for a possible war. At this time, we think of our brave servicemen and women and of their families. On these Benches, we also recognise the dedication and professionalism of our Armed Forces. They are respected and admired around the world. I congratulate those members of the Special Forces on their awards for outstanding bravery in Afghanistan.

The primary duty of any government is defence of the realm both at home and abroad. The threat of force is vital—diplomacy backed by defence. As long

14 Nov 2002 : Column 122

as the Prime Minister continues to strive for peace and to support our allies in the United States and elsewhere, we have a duty to support the Government.

This support, however, is not unconditional. We shall be pressing Ministers on how they plan to meet their commitments and counter increasing threats with fewer aircraft, fewer ships and a smaller Army. This issue has rightly concerned my noble friends Lord Burnham and Lord Selsdon. We shall continue to question Ministers about the welfare of our Armed Forces; about training, retention and overstretch; and particularly—as my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford asked—about whether we might be sending men and women into battle with inadequate and unreliable equipment after the failures of the Saif Sareea exercise.

I hope that lessons have been learnt. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, mentioned new communications systems. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, could be a bit more specific about this in her reply. Some 32 communications systems were used during the exercise, with only a few of them able to interface with the high-level Coalition Joint Operational Command System. Much of the equipment, which was off the shelf, was unfit for desert conditions. As my noble friend Lord Marlesford said, the Clansman radio is unreliable and vulnerable to electronic warfare.

Will the Minister confirm that the Challenger 2 tanks will be properly "desertised"? Will the MoD achieve its target of 80 per cent availability of the fleet?

My noble friend Lord Howell asked how many reservists are needed. Will the Minister also confirm that the procedures for the call up of reservists have been updated and should work efficiently in the event of mobilisation? Further to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will the Minister confirm that there is sufficient vaccine to immunise against the effects of NBC all service personnel and reservists who may have to be deployed to Iraq?

It is essential that any deployment is fully funded. My noble friend Lord Howell reminded the House that the Treasury said that we cannot afford it. Are force numbers to be squeezed into a Treasury imposed straitjacket?

The US President and Congress have voted an extra 40 billion dollars for defence. What are we telling the Americans who have relied in their military plans on us sending our troops?

We are fully committed to the new chapter of the Strategic Defence Review which reiterates the Government's commitment to the expeditionary concept for our Armed Forces. We welcome the Joint Strike Fighter, the Type 45 destroyers and the new carriers although we remain concerned at the possibility of slippage in these programmes. It is absolutely vital that they are delivered on time and that the upgrade of anti-submarine Nimrods is carried out successfully.

14 Nov 2002 : Column 123

Can the Minister confirm that the four C17s are exceeding all expectations? Can she also say something on the progress of the A400 project and whether a suitable engine has been identified?

There is an abundance of problems facing the Government and the MoD because of the firemen's strike. Will the Minister assure the House that those regiments likely to go to the Gulf have been released from possible fire fighting duties? On 1st July the Army was 5,500 below its establishment. Added to this are some 10,000 medically unfit personnel who are unlikely to be deployed on operations. This amounts to an overall shortfall of some 15,000 personnel. Territorial Army numbers have dropped by a third.

While lack of manpower is one thing, lack of training is another. In a 24-month period, 84 exercises were cancelled, often because those involved were committed to other operations. However, recruitment has shown some improvement. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are to be congratulated on forming an extra squadron after two years of determined recruiting. However, can the Minister explain why there was no military accommodation for them, and will she assure the House that this appalling situation has been overcome and will never happen again? Turning to Iraq, tens of thousands of people have been killed—

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page