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Mr. Quentin Davies: Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying that the Liberal Democrats believe that a major concession should be made to Saddam and a tremendous boost to his power and prestige provided, by our unilaterally withdrawing those overflights without him making any concession, without him accepting the latest UN resolution, without him allowing any UN inspectors back, or doing anything about the 600 missing Kuwaitis whom he abducted? Are the Liberal Democrats saying that, without any concession at all, we should simply hand him this enormous gift?
Mr. Campbell: The hon. Gentleman has not been in any middle eastern capitals in recent times. If he had been, he would have both seen and heard the extent to which the policy of the combat air patrols is regarded with distaste and disfavour by Governments in all the middle eastern capitals--[Interruption.] I say, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, that the patrols do not have any legal legitimacy. They are ineffective in the south; indeed, so ineffective are they that reports were emanating from the Ministry of Defence earlier this year that Britain was unilaterally considering withdrawing from the combat air patrols in the south and leaving the United States to get on with it. France has already withdrawn; only the United Kingdom and the United States are engaged in the exercise--
Mr. Campbell: No, the answer is not yes. The question cannot be put in the isolationism that the hon. Gentleman finds so convenient. What is necessary is to consider--[Interruption.] I am sorry for the hon. Gentleman if these matters require a level of intellectual engagement that he finds difficult and embarrassing. We have to look at the question of Iraq as a whole. In particular, we have to be prepared to accept that 10 or 11 years after the war we are still pursuing the policies that we embarked on a few months after the war. We have to be willing to maintain the threat of military action as part of a policy of containment. If Iraq were to threaten Kuwait again, the hon. Gentleman would not find me slow to say that we should threaten and, if necessary, use military action in order to deal with that threat.
However, one has to look at the wider implications in Arab capitals of the policy to which I have already referred. In particular, one has to look--here I support what the Government have now done--at the question of the maintenance of the non-military sanctions that have resulted, never mind what their objective was, in the degradation of the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens and have handed to Saddam Hussein an enormous propaganda advantage that he has exploited ruthlessly, not only in Arab capitals but throughout the world.
Along with the United States, the Government appear to be moving, at the United Nations, towards accepting the point of view that the non-military sanctions should be lifted. My view is that the overall policy should be one of military containment accompanied by sanctions on both military and dual-use equipment. The combat air patrols serve no purpose; they are politically damaging and run the risk of casualties among British air crew. That is a pretty compelling reason for bringing them to an end.
I turn to the question of Macedonia. Once again, this is a Balkan state on the edge, it would appear, of civil war. All of us in the House should offer our support and our commendation of the efforts of Lord Robertson, the Secretary General of NATO, and of Javier Solana, as European Union representative, in trying to keep the talks going and in trying to achieve a settlement.
Clearly, the best possible solution would be that the discussions between the Slav and Albanian politicians succeeded, and civil rights and power-sharing reforms were implemented. If such an agreement requires a NATO presence to assist in the process of disarmament, we should most certainly be willing to contribute to that. There is an opportunity for NATO to some extent to redeem our 10-year record in the Balkans, which is not one of which we can be proud. A limited intervention that helped to maintain stability in Macedonia would have the consequence of preventing further regional instability and would also protect the fragile peace in Kosovo and the viability of the NATO mission there as well.
Some reference has been made to the European rapid reaction force. I repeat what I have said on many occasions: neither Britain nor Europe can automatically rely any longer on the United States coming to assist in Europe in conflicts that appear, to US eyes, to be exclusively European and that exclusively affect European interests. The need to ensure that this capability is not a rival to NATO is found first in a formal right of first refusal to NATO, secondly, in ensuring that operational planning remains within NATO and, thirdly, in ensuring that strategic planning remains within NATO.
In an article in the Financial Times recently, Mr. Philip Stephens observed rather tellingly that the Europeans can hardly complain of United States unilateralism if they are unwilling to act more coherently in their own defence. I would extend that a little further: we can hardly complain about United States unilateralism if the European members of NATO are unwilling to spend the money necessary to ensure coherence in their own defence.
Foreign affairs outside Europe hardly featured in the general election campaign. The brocard borrowed from the United States, "It's the economy stupid," appeared to rule. However, that does not mean that foreign affairs will not be important. Indeed there are those who argue that one can tell the nature of a Government not so much by
Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): This has a been a good-tempered and constructive debate. I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) and the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) on their speeches. That spirit augurs well for debates on foreign affairs during this Parliament.
I looked at the Queen's Speech that was delivered in 1997, after the first major Labour victory, and reflected that one could not learn very much about what happened during that Parliament from it. There were events, such as those in Kosovo, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, and they should serve as a corrective for us as we consider the references to foreign affairs in this Queen's Speech. I concede that the references are rather more tightly drawn on this occasion. Perhaps there are fewer grand declarations. However, historians looking back on this Parliament after four or five years will probably find that the Queen's Speech is of limited relevance to what actually happens. Perhaps that should serve as a corrective.
Indeed, looking further back to the beginning of the last major period of Liberal Government--Campbell-Bannerman's great victory in 1906--and then at "The Strange Death of Liberal England" and the women's movement, the trade unions, the first world war and Ireland, we can see that they appeared to be of limited relevance at the time. Perhaps Ireland and the trade unions will figure more largely in this Parliament than we now anticipate. So perhaps there should be an element of reflection at the beginning.
I had the honour in the previous Parliament to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee. We enjoyed the former Foreign Secretary's co-operation. I believe that he attended the Foreign Affairs Committee more frequently than any of his predecessors. I hope that whoever leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in this Parliament will enjoy similar co-operation from the new Foreign Secretary. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) was a distinguished member at the time and pressed us, quite properly, to consider the ethical dimension in foreign policy. Whether it was wise to trumpet one's commitment to an ethical dimension early in a Parliament is a moot point. It might have been more prudent to trumpet that commitment at the end of the Parliament, saying, "By our works ye shall know us." That is a matter for consideration, as many hostages to fortune can be created and perhaps there are lessons to be learned from that.
I was saddened by the extent to which, after very hard work by the Foreign Affairs Committee, many of our reports were almost wholly ignored, even when they were, in my judgment, of great value. We worked in a very
I recall a conversation with a leading business man, who told me that he was dismayed that the Foreign Affairs Committee report on Russia received no mention in the press. Sadly, it received no mention because we did not have even one sentence criticising the former Minister for Europe. Alas, that was the flavour of much of the press reporting. I believe that the Committee did well.
I shall make a further point about the Foreign Affairs Committee and Select Committees generally. When there is another very large majority and when the democratic spirit surely demands a well-informed Parliament, ready to ask the Government the right questions, we need to boost the work of Select Committees. I hope that the all-party Liaison Committee report, "Shifting the Balance" and its subsequent reports will be taken very seriously by the new Leader of the House and that the Whips will be less involved in Select Committees than they have been in the past. I hope that there will be an opportunity to deal with that at the start of the Parliament.
Finally on Select Committees, there is a danger that, given the precedent set in 1997, they will not be established possibly until October. In 1997, the Conservative Opposition chose their leader in mid-June, after which the Front Bench shadow appointments were made, so the Committees had time for perhaps one meeting in July before the recess. In my judgment, it would be wrong to delay the appointment of Select Committees until after the Conservative leadership election, given that it might not be over until September. I hope that the usual channels will find a way to ensure that the Committees are up and running, certainly by the end of July, so that they can select their first inquiries. That is a matter of great importance to the House if Select Committees are to carry out their work as speedily as possible.
I shall turn to one or two matters relating to the new Government's policy--first, the European Union. Although the Opposition tried to make Europe a major focus of the election campaign, the electorate, in their wisdom, thought otherwise, perhaps because of the economy or another reason. I ask the Opposition carefully to consider the wise words uttered this week by Lord Hurd--a distinguished diplomat and former Foreign Secretary--who urged them to reject the view that the Europeans are in some way enemies and not to use Europe to frighten people. The Opposition need to have a far more balanced view on the nuances of Europe.