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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, we have heard two powerful defences of the European Union from the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. I want to ask them whether perhaps they have left anything out of their speeches. They are both former commissioners of the European Union and one is a former president. Were the whole edifice to collapse, as some of us believe it could, I ask them and indeed other noble Lords who may be in that category--looking down the list of speakers perhaps I should mention my noble friend Lord Cockfield--whether, in view of the new regulations which apply to your Lordships' debate, they do not have some interest to declare.
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his most elegant and gracious suggestion. Perhaps I may say to him that, if I were in his position of having reduced his own party by his destructive activities to the state in which it is today, a period of silence from him would now be most welcome.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, in welcoming the gracious Speech, I must express my regret to the House that, owing to a long-standing speaking engagement in Oxford, I shall not be able to stay to the end of the debate. But I shall certainly read the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, with great care. Together with other noble Lords, perhaps I may say how much I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.
The first theme in the gracious Speech that I particularly welcome is the Government's stated commitment to tackling global poverty and promoting sustainable development. In this House in recent years we have been very blessed to have in our midst the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, whose personal dedication to alleviating poverty in the world has been so marked. But the problem, sadly, is as acute as ever.
Your Lordships will understand that this is a concern particularly felt by all the Christian Churches. Especially at the moment the Churches are concerned about the burden of debt on the poorest countries of the world. Next year, all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion will gather for the Lambeth Conference--a meeting which takes place once every 10 years. Already, it has become obvious that the international debt crisis--it is a crisis, my Lords--will be the major theme of the Anglican Bishops' meeting in Canterbury.
Furthermore, a new strong movement has begun in Britain, called Jubilee 2000, which calls for remission on a one-off basis of the unpayable debts of the countries of the poorest 1 billion people on earth. Many of those countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. Christians and church people of all kind believe without any kind of exaggeration that that movement is comparable to the campaign against slavery in the 19th century. People are literally dying by the minute because of those unsustainable debts, which always, of course, bear hardest upon the poor.
Aid agencies such as CAFOD, the Roman Catholic relief organisation, Tear Fund and Christian Aid (of which I am a board member) have indicated strong support for Jubilee 2000 and we look to Her Majesty's Government to play a leading role in this field. However, the recent highly indebted poor countries initiative is proving something of a disappointment. The Ugandan Government in particular now face the agonizing prospect of removing from their budget the sums allocated for increasing educational opportunities for an estimated 2 million to 2½ million children of primary school age in order to make interest-free payments to the international financial institutions. Surely, no government should be forced to make such choices.
The new millennium will begin during the anticipated term of office of this Government. The possibility of a significant remission of the unpayable debts of governments whose citizens are among the poorest members of the human race would mean that the new millennium was genuinely something to celebrate and an occasion of which the British people could justly be proud.
Conflicts of interest are inescapable. The human rights element of government policy must be more than a moral gesture. The effectiveness of steps proposed must also be weighed. I believe, however, that the citizens of this country will welcome a foreign policy which embraces human rights concerns in genuinely good faith.
The third and last aspect of this speech to which I wish particularly to draw attention is one which at least hints at the question of the arms trade and arms transfer of policy. In view of the Government's
Many non-governmental organisations, aid agencies and refugee organisations have highlighted the scourge of landmines as a key obstacle to development and one of the factors which prevent civilians returning home after wars have been resolved. The Churches have joined in this condemnation. So we welcome the Government's early statement of support for the international campaign to outlaw landmines and we look for real progress on the elimination of landmines of all kinds, including the so-called "self-destruct" ones.
As regards the conventional arms trade more generally, in November 1994 the General Synod of the Church of England unanimously approved a report entitled Responsibility in Arms Transfer Policy. This called for a reassessment of government policy so that arms transfers would be made only in accordance with a policy which is,
The difficulty, of course, will be getting beyond verbal agreement on a respectable formula to a practical policy. One case which has exercised Churches worldwide has been continued arms sales to Indonesia--a country which has illegally occupied East Timor for over 20 years in clear contravention of international law and United Nations resolutions. Will the Government now show their resolve to live up to the stated criteria by preventing arms sales to Indonesia? Other key countries where the Government could make a decisive difference include Burma, Colombia and Kenya.
There is a great deal to welcome in the gracious Speech. The good will and, if I may say so, the prayers of millions of people, not only in this country but perhaps especially abroad, will be directed towards the achievement of those goals. There are millions of people who are literally dying of starvation, people whose human rights are being violated week by week, people who are being killed or wounded by weapons which should never have been sold to the contending parties in their country. Solving some of those problems is urgent and the good will and prayers of millions will be directed towards achieving those extremely worthwhile goals.
However, I have to say that the very phrase "reassess our essential security interests" has a fearful resonance for anyone who has been involved for long in defence matters. It means that another defence review is on the way. Almost every defence review for the past 40 years has turned out to be no more than a pretext for a reduction in defence expenditure and for cuts across the board in the strength of our Armed Forces or the procurement of military equipment, or both. I hope that when the noble Baroness replies to the debate she can give the House a firm assurance that this defence review will not be yet another smoke-screen for an assault on the defence budget, which always seems to be the favourite public expenditure target of governments looking for economies.
Of course, no defence review can or should be carried out in an economic vacuum. Perhaps it might be relevant to mention that there have been times in the past when critics of government defence policy, both inside and outside the Armed Forces, have condemned defence reviews and defence policy as being "Treasury-driven". But all public expenditure policy in some sense has to be Treasury-driven. A more valid criticism, I think, is that, in my experience, in the past the Treasury, in addition to influencing the amount of money and resources allocated to defence--which is its proper function--has also tried to influence how that money is spent, what kind of defence we have. That is not its business. It is the business of those who are responsible for external policies. Just as defence expenditure and defence policy cannot be determined in an economic vacuum, so, perhaps more importantly, it cannot be done in a political and strategic vacuum. Any serious strategic review of defence policy must be approached in the context of the aims of foreign policy.
It is true that not all military policy is the handmaiden of foreign policy. One of the functions of our military establishment is to ensure, in its narrowest sense, the defence of the realm--that is to say, the ability to deter any potential aggressor from mounting an attack on the United Kingdom and, if deterrence should fail, the ability to defend the country against such an attack. However, it is fair to say that, in the current strategic political environment, that is a remote contingency, although it will always be necessary to guard against it. There is one other point that we must never forget and which has already been mentioned in the debate today: it is also essential to provide armed forces to support the civil power in circumstances of terrorist attack or any other form of violent threat to law and order.
As for arms control and the control of arms transfers, these are aspects of foreign policy in which this country has always had a respectable record. British negotiators have played a leading part in achieving international agreements such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Government have never been lazy or ineffective in their contribution to negotiations on arms control and disarmament.
It is important to be clear that when we are talking about these things we are talking about the machinery of foreign policy, not its purpose. Anyone who believes that foreign policy can be conducted on strictly ethical principles should study the history of diplomacy leading up to the Second World War. Maintaining the reputation of this country in the international community is, as other noble Lords have said, an important element of external relations. But it is not an end in itself. It cannot be said too often that the purpose of an effective foreign policy is to protect the interests of the nation and, in doing so, to ensure its security and prosperity. Anything which weakens or compromises that purpose should be regarded with great reserve and suspicion.
Time is going on and I must hasten to end my remarks. Anyone embarking upon a defence review of the kind adumbrated in the gracious Speech should be quite clear about how the Government see the role of this country in the world. A number of questions--at present without any clear answers--have to be confronted. Let me mention two of the most obvious, which have already been mentioned in your Lordships' House today and will possibly be mentioned again by the noble Lord, Lord Healey, when he comes to speak. What is to be our attitude to NATO and its future role, composition and organisation? As I have said, from those decisions will flow decisions about the need for armoured forces and mechanised infantry, for example.
What about events affecting national interests outside the NATO area? To what extent may they require military action? What sort of military action? Are we to contemplate more peacekeeping as in Bosnia; protection of humanitarian aid operations as in Africa; conventional military combat as in the Falklands? Until such long-term policy decisions have been resolved, we
Without a clear understanding of foreign policy assumptions, it is impossible even to begin considering the shape and size of our Armed Forces and the kinds of arms and equipment they will need to discharge their commitments.
On present evidence, it seems that the instincts of the Government in their world view are very little different--except in certain specific instances--from those of the previous government. But the matter of the role of Britain in the world has to be crystallised and clarified if our military affairs are to be conducted in a manner which provides security for Britain, reassurance to our allies and strong support for our foreign policy.
As a final word, there are two other essential functions of a serious review of defence policy. One is to achieve some kind of national consensus about the kind of armed forces which we need and the proportion of our national wealth we are prepared to spend upon them. Unless that national consensus is achieved, no effective defence review can seriously be contemplated.
The other, and final, point I wish to make about any defence review upon which the Government decide to embark, is that it must provide motivation and a measure of stability for our Armed Forces. They must have proper equipment and adequate training resources for the tasks they are called upon to perform, and they must not be subject to unnecessary and obsessive tinkering with their strength, structure and organisation. There has been far too much of that in the past. If we are to have a defence review, let it be one which recognises that the Armed Forces are a vitally important part of the role which I hope this country will continue to play in the world.
Lord Healey: My Lords, I shall resist the temptation to deal at length with the speech of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, except to remark that so far as Europe is concerned, splendid isolation seems to run in his family. I suppose that is an inevitable handicap of being a hereditary Peer.
I cannot resist reminding the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that I carried out a defence review just over 30 years ago and I cut our commitments far more than I cut our forces. I got rid of all our bases and commitments east of Suez in the teeth of fierce opposition from the Foreign Office, in which the noble Lord was then a Minister--although he was, to be fair, the Minister of Disarmament at the time.
I shall concentrate on an issue which urgently needs consideration by the House and by the Government, and that is the proposal to enlarge NATO. It is still very unclear from the press--which is all I have to go on because the Government have resisted discussing this with the country or Parliament--whether NATO is to be enlarged to include only Poland, Hungary and
One of the great problems is that it has not been thought through at all. Only a few days ago Mr. Yeltsin was predicting that the enlargement of NATO as proposed would lead to the worst crisis in relations between Moscow and the West since the Cuban missile crisis. He appears to have taken a different line at a meeting with Secretary Solana yesterday, although he seems to disagree totally with President Clinton as to what was agreed at that meeting. Mr. Yeltsin said that the meeting ensured that NATO could never take another decision without the consent of the Russian Government. President Clinton insisted that Russia would have no veto on future decisions. It is very difficult for the laity like us to know who is telling the truth because they will not publish the text of what they agreed. If, and when, it will ever be published remains to be seen.
What we do know is that this proposal is opposed by the two main architects of American foreign policy since the Second World War--George Kennan and Henry Kissinger. It is opposed by two recent British ambassadors to Moscow--Sir Brian Fall and Sir John Killick. Sir John Killick was also ambassador to NATO. It is opposed by Admiral Sir James Eberle, who was a British commander in NATO and later served as a distinguished head of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. It is opposed by a very large number of experts on foreign policy such as Sir Michael Howard and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who opened the debate on this subject a few weeks ago. We have not been told why this proposal is being made.
We welcome the proposal to include the east European countries and Russia in the Partnership for Peace project. They are already members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. But this new proposal seems to envisage excluding the Ukraine, the Baltic states, Romania and Bulgaria, although they all served with NATO forces, and are still serving with NATO forces, in Bosnia with the stability force, as indeed are Russian troops. Deep concern has been expressed by the governments which do not seem to have been invited to join NATO, such as the Estonian Government. Its foreign secretary complained yesterday that it would expose the Baltic states to new threats.
There is an interesting article in today's Herald Tribune by President Havel of Czechoslovakia pointing out that it will be a disaster unless it includes all the countries which have recently escaped from communist leadership. It threatens the existing treaty on conventional forces in Europe, which is already having trouble. I noticed that the other day they had to redraw the line affecting the Ukraine and Russia. It is difficult to understand quite why it has been put forward at all. I dare say it is not totally irrelevant that the American Secretary of State, who is its strongest supporter in the American Administration, is Czech by origin, and one of the administration's main advisers, Zbigniew Brzezinski, is a Pole. Those countries have large and influential minorities in the United States which exert pressure on that administration.
However, I suspect that the real reason for the proposal is that which is put forward in an interesting article in the current number of the official NATO review by Mr. Christoph Bertram, who was once head of the Institute of Strategic Studies in London. He makes it clear that he believes in it because the end of the Cold War has robbed NATO of its role. In fact, NATO is that biological monstrosity, an organ without a function. Bertram suggests that the only way of giving NATO what he calls an "existential function" is as a centre of stability in Europe, taking in some of the countries which used to be members of the Warsaw Pact. But I would suggest to your Lordships that this proposal will mean new instability in Europe and new divisions in Europe, as the Baltic governments and the Czech Government are already fearing. There is no doubt that this proposal, especially Yeltsin's obscure reaction towards it, could well lead to the replacement of Yeltsin as leader of Russia by a far more nationalistic government, whether communist or militarist. In that case there is little doubt that Russia would meet an expansion of NATO to the east by expanding its own forces to the west. That is why the Baltic states, the Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, are deeply disturbed by the proposal.
The proposal will also be immensely costly. The Pentagon claims that it will cost between 27 billion and 35 billion dollars over the next 13 years. The Congressional Office of the Budget says that it will cost nearly three times as much as that--between 61 billion and 125 billion dollars. A third of that cost will fall on the new entrants from eastern Europe, which certainly cannot afford to pay the cost. According to the Pentagon, it will also involve doubling the number of civilian staff working for NATO in Brussels. There are at present 3,000. Under the new proposal that would rise to 6,000. One or two of my noble friends were with me in the dining room the other day when I asked a very bright young officer from SHAPE how many people were at present working at NATO. He said, "I think about 20 per cent.". The idea that one should double the civilian staff of NATO and involve the NATO countries and the new members in this enormous increase in cost is very difficult to understand.
In fact the proposal makes a total shambles of the western policy on dealing with the former communist countries. It is difficult to see how it will be reconciled with the Partnership for Peace and the OSCE. I appeal to my Government to see to it that this proposal is dropped as soon as possible. Only a few weeks are left before the meeting which is supposed to make it formal. It is far more important and more useful and better for world peace as well as for democracy to concentrate instead on getting the east European countries--those which are fit to do so--to join the European Union. That will be an expensive business but it will be worth spending money on it. Spending money on the enlargement of NATO will be totally counter-productive. I appeal to my noble friend who is to reply to put some of these points to her friends in the Cabinet to see whether we cannot take a lead on this matter. It is quite important for the future security of Britain and indeed for peace in the world.
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