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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thought that I had already made it clear that some of the extra resources that my right honourable has happily been able to secure through the CSR will be devoted to the Africa Command. Indeed, he particularly mentioned Sierra Leone in a Statement that he made in another place a short while ago. The noble Lord is quite right to say that Sierra Leone needs more help in order to get on its feet and certainly to get its democratic institutions properly embedded. So far, Britain is, sadly, the only donor to the UN trust fund for Sierra Leone, but my honourable friend the Minister of State will be attempting to encourage other donors at a meeting in which he is participating later this week.
The UK has also provided aid for the process of civil reconstruction in Sierra Leone since the return of the Kabbah Government. We have also tried to help by providing police officers to train the civilian police force
We have also sponsored the UN resolution providing for military observers in order to help the process of demilitarisation. I hope that the noble Lord will see that in those four important areas my right honourable and honourable friends have already taken considerable action and have also said that we intend to do more to strengthen the civil institutions in Sierra Leone.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is always a danger when major changes are made in a government department in order to learn the lessons of some failings, that they may "overdo" it in the sense that the next problem may not arise there at all? To say that we are getting some more money--I think the whole House will welcome the increase in resources--and we shall direct it towards Africa in general, and Sierra Leone in particular, may mean that another department dealing with another part of the world which may also present this country with major problems may be neglected. Is it not better, before there is a general reallocation of resources, that the whole problem of Britain's relations with other parts of the world is examined?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that I was not talking about diverting resources from their current home in the Foreign Office; I was talking about additional resources which have been secured by my right honourable friend in order to strengthen various parts of the Foreign Office, not solely the Africa Command. It is not a question of diverting resources from elsewhere.
I freely admit that the Legg Report has concentrated minds on ways in which the Foreign Office can modernise itself. However, the process of modernisation in the Foreign Office began shortly after the general election. In the past I have had occasion to report to your Lordships on the ways in which we are trying to strengthen recruitment in the Foreign Office to obtain a better gender and ethnic minority balance. Some of the improvements announced by my right honourable friend today do not just concern Sierra Leone and the Africa Command; they will operate across the board in the Foreign Office. For example, the central sanctions enforcement desk in the FCO will have a role right across the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The explicit guidance on how to manage relations with private military companies again will have some general application across the Foreign Office, not just in relation to Africa.
We hope that the de-layering of the hierarchies in the Foreign Office and the introduction of more professional expertise into some of the management areas will also improve performance right across the Foreign Office. I assure the noble Lord that we are not being myopic here and just looking at Africa Command. We are examining
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I believe the whole House will have been glad to hear the Statement that my noble friend has repeated, and in particular the references to paragraphs 1.9 and 1.10 on page 4 of the report which effectively absolve my noble friend and Mr. Tony Lloyd from culpability--if one can put it like that--in this respect. I draw my noble friend's attention to the words she repeated on page 3 of the Statement,
I believe that a number of us in this House have been concerned about anecdotal evidence and published evidence in newspapers of the involvement of mercenaries in Africa over the past 20 years. The previous government took absolutely no action whatever in that regard. I suspect that this has led to the culture in the Foreign Office which has allowed this unhappy state of affairs to develop.
Can I take it from my noble friend that this is implicitly a monitoring operation of the activities of private military operations and the mercenaries, and that there will be no sanction by Her Majesty's Government of their operations?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for what he has said in relation to paragraphs 1.9 and 1.10 of the report and in regard to Mr. Lloyd and myself. My noble friend concentrated his remarks on relationships with mercenaries. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, gets a little edgy when I make the point that the problems in this respect did not start on 1st May 1997. As my noble friend points out, I suspect there were problems in these areas before then. Minds are now concentrated on how these should be dealt with. My right honourable friend has been clear in his Statement in another place. He has said that there should not be contacts without permission. These matters will be monitored carefully in the future in the hope that we never get into this kind of situation again.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, as one who was once a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and has experienced somewhat similar difficulties to those that the noble Baroness faces, I have a great deal of sympathy and understanding for her. Speaking personally, I think that everyone in this House would absolve the noble Baroness from in any way misleading the House. Is she aware that the sentence I valued most in her responses was that in the review of what has gone wrong Ministers must face their responsibilities as well as officials? When I heard the Statement I would have welcomed a little more humility
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that the Statement of my right honourable friend that I repeated showed that he shouldered responsibility for putting right what has gone wrong. Ministers must bear those responsibilities. I spent 20 years as a union official in Whitehall talking rather a lot about ministerial responsibility and Civil Service responsibility. There are no "responsibility free" zones in government for civil servants or for ministers. That is not to say that responsibility always means apportioning blame; responsibility can involve putting right what has gone wrong. My right honourable friend in his Statement made clear that he is shouldering responsibility for putting right what has gone wrong in the measures that he explained in the Statement. I am sure we all hope that the measures he is proposing to take, and is already taking, will be successful.
Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield: My Lords, in common with other noble Lords I have only had time to read quickly this report. It seems that a leitmotiv is a failure to understand correctly the import of the arms embargo and, more significantly, of the Order in Council. Paragraph 5.10 points out that the press line prepared by the department,
To turn, secondly, to the degree of overload referred to by the Minister and to which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, drew attention, we see from the report that in the West African section of the Africa Department (Equatorial) there are six staff dealing with 20 countries. The measures referred to by the Minister--to introduce professional managers, to recruit to and from the private sector, to introduce outside assessment, promotion on merit, and further delegation with better gender and ethnic balance--may all be desirable in their own right, but they will not address the problem of overload. Indeed, spending money on professional managers may be regarded as a diversion of that resource into different fields. Will this produce a larger number of desk officers? How can accurate information on an Order in Council of the kind referred to be conveyed? The report makes it quite clear that the Government have a duty to make clear to their citizens, including their officials, the import and purport of Orders in Council that are passed in their name.
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