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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: The former parliament of Northern Ireland was always fully aware of where exactly the dividing line was. Over all those years of its existence, there was never any doubt, friction or dispute with the sovereign Parliament. But we are embarking on a new and extremely complicated form of devolution which is different from that which has been granted to Scotland and Wales. Therefore, in alliance with the Minister, I emphasise the need for continuing examination of what we are setting about throughout the remaining stages of the Bill.
In this very difficult field, none of us should take a step-trench attitude. We should do our best to try to look to the future and avoid unnecessary complications, particularly as there can be confusion in the minds of the Northern Ireland Assembly as it looks across the channel to Scotland on the one hand and Wales on the other. It sees those assemblies being given different powers and some of those powers are subsequently modified. That three-way traffic in devolution is something which must be handled extremely carefully and sensitively.
Lord Dubs: It is important to keep this whole arrangement as simple as possible. If we were to go down the path suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, we would have to produce an extremely long list of transferred matters. It may be so long that it would be unhelpful and indeed confusing. I need only to think of the list of responsibilities of my two departments--the Department of the Environment and the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland--to realise what a long list one would need to cover all those matters.
Surely it is much clearer and better to do it in the way envisaged by the Bill; that is, to have a short list of items and transfer everything else. That has the merit of clarity and simplicity. Indeed, I also draw the attention of the Committee to the powers of the Westminster Parliament, which will remain. Clause 5(6) says,
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, asked a question which is so hypothetical that I would get into serious trouble if I tried to give him more than one example. The one example that comes to mind is if there were to be a change in the powers of the European Union in Brussels. If those powers dealt with issues which at the moment are transferred, that may well have an effect. Given that we would have only one negotiating stance in Brussels through the British Government, it would be difficult to allow a Northern Ireland Assembly to continue with the powers it now has in relation to matters which would then come closely under Brussels.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I do not believe that the noble Lord addressed Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 in relation to what happens if we want to take back powers and the Assembly is deadlocked due to the cross-community arrangement. It would be impossible for the Westminster Parliament to recover any powers. Is that sensible?
At some point we must have confidence in the Assembly and its relationship with the Government in order to make it run smoothly. If we assume that everything will go wrong, we will not give the new Assembly the chance to go ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, is heading into areas where he assumes that everything is doom and gloom and therefore we must have a contingency plan for every disaster. I do not believe that that will be the case. I am more optimistic.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am optimistic about the Assembly; I am optimistic about the whole thing. But that does not mean that one does not need to have regard to what might happen if our optimism proves to be misplaced.
One cannot design legislation totally on the basis of optimism with no regard for what happens if it goes wrong. If I was in the Treasury and we designed tax legislation in that way, we would have an awful lot of trouble. However, I must not draw myself down that road.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Cope, is correct because there did not seem to be any such powers in the 1920 Act; at least, if there were, they were well concealed. At that time two major crises developed in the security field and the only remedy then was for the Westminster Parliament, in the shape of the then Prime Minister, to lean on the Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland. At that time there were two, one following the other and both suffered the same fate. They had to carry out what in fact was the clawback power and pretend to be implementing those powers. The result was that both Prime Ministers were demolished within a matter of weeks.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: In some circumstances one may be able to lean on a Prime Minister or First Minister and Deputy First Minister. But this is a question of trying to lean on the Assembly as a whole. What is more, because cross-border voting would apply, it would be much more difficult. As the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, pointed out in his example, it did not work anyway and the two Prime Ministers lost their power.
It seems as though I shall have to rely on Clause 5 which says that the powers of the United Kingdom are not affected. Quite how that will play against a specific arrangement for the withdrawal of orders in the courts, I cannot anticipate.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Before I move that the House do now resume so that my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean can repeat a Statement being made in another place, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to comments and questions for clarification.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on Kosovo which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows:
"In September Britain and France presented to the Security Council Resolution 1199 which demanded that President Milosevic cease fire; withdraw his security forces; allow refugees to return to their villages; and make a rapid start to real negotiations on self-government for Kosovo. Two weeks ago Britain chaired a meeting of the contact group at Heathrow. That meeting sent Dick Holbrooke back to Belgrade with a mandate from all members of the contact group, including Russia, to secure an agreement which complied with the demands of the Security Council resolution.
"Last Monday, NATO unanimously took the decision to authorise air strikes on Serbian military targets. The next day President Milosevic gave his agreement to Dick Holbrooke on a settlement which commits Yugoslavia to full compliance with Resolution 1199. There can be no Member of the House who imagines that President Milosevic would have made such a commitment if the diplomatic efforts backed by the contact group had not also been backed by the credible threat of military action by NATO. The draconian step to close the independent press to prevent it reporting the agreements in full underlines his dislike of being forced into them.
"A central part of the Holbrooke package was the agreement by President Milosevic to a political framework to deliver self-government for Kosovo. This is the first time President Milosevic has accepted the principle of self-government for Kosovo.
"The political framework provides that the police in Kosovo will be under local control. There is a commitment to free and fair elections to a Kosovo assembly and to communal administrations. These elections will be supervised not by Belgrade but by the OSCE. Belgrade has been pressured to agree to a tight timetable which commits it to an agreement with the Kosovars on the central issues by 2nd November.
"The international community has no intention of leaving President Milosevic to choose whether or not he honours the commitments he has given. That is why Belgrade has been obliged to sign two separate agreements on verification. The first agreement, with the OSCE, provides for the presence throughout the whole of Kosovo of 2,000 representatives of the international community. This agreement authorises them to verify the maintenance of the ceasefire; to monitor and accompany movements of the security forces and the police; to facilitate the return of refugees; and to supervise elections, the establishment of Kosovan institutions and the development of a locally accountable police force.
"The second agreement is with NATO and obliges President Milosevic to accept daily over-flight of Kosovo by NATO reconnaissance planes to monitor movements of the security forces and to verify compliance with the ceasefire. The agreement compels the Yugoslav authorities to switch off all relevant radar systems when NATO flights are taking place and is a retreat from President Milosevic's position hitherto that NATO could have no role within Yugoslav sovereign territory.
"The verification mission will not be armed because it is not there to enforce the agreements. The agreements do though enable both verification missions to report to NATO. The importance which NATO attaches to compliance by Yugoslavia was spelt out to Belgrade by Javier Solana, the Secretary-General of NATO, who said after meeting Milosevic that NATO,
'will remain ready and willing to act',
"It would be a grave mistake to imagine that the Holbrooke package marks the end of the international community's pressure on President Milosevic. It is only the beginning of a process which will require the full commitment of the international community to achieve stability, security and reconstruction in Kosovo.
"Britain is ready to play its part in making this agreement work. We have already committed ourselves to providing 150 members of the OSCE mission, with the expectation of a further commitment to a total of 200. On Friday I announced that a British Major-General with considerable experience in Bosnia would head the British contribution. He and the advance party are now already in Pristina. We will also provide Canberra aircraft to the NATO air operation over Kosovo and will supply British personnel to the NATO unit in Macedonia which will co-ordinate the two verification missions on the ground and in the air.
"As the President-in-Office of the Security Council, Britain is taking a leading role in drafting a Security Council resolution which enshrines the commitments which President Milosevic has given and underwrites the agreements with the full authority of the United Nations. I shall leave tonight on a tour of three of the neighbours of Yugoslavia to assure them of our continuing commitment to security and stability in the region. While in Macedonia I intend to meet with leaders of the Kosovo Albanians.
"As I said last week at the Paris meeting of the contact group, the agreements are not perfect. International agreements rarely are perfect. There is though nothing to be gained by wasting our time wishing we had a different agreement. The responsible approach must be for us to do everything we can to make this agreement work. That will take great effort by the international community to deliver on their contribution and heavy pressure on President Milosevic to stick to his side of the bargain.
"Britain played a leading part within the international community in putting the pressure on President Milosevic that made these agreements possible. Britain is now demonstrating that we are among the first nations to make a practical contribution towards making a success of the agreements. We will not let up on our efforts until President Milosevic carries out his commitment to withdraw forces, and until the people of Kosovo can return to their homes without fear, can rebuild their villages in peace and can start to construct a self-governing Kosovo without repression from Belgrade."
As advance members of the British contingent to the OSCE team of international observers arrive in Kosovo to begin the process of monitoring Serbian compliance with the UN demands to withdraw its forces, I should like to press the Minister for further details on the latest highly disturbing news from Kosovo. Overnight news reports state that a regular Yugoslav army unit has moved into Drenica in response to the murder of the four Serbian police officers referred to by the Minister. A Western official reportedly described the deployment as a "battalion-sized task force" and commented that the situation was "very serious".
On the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme this morning, the Secretary of State for Defence said that those reports, which have described heavy shelling, were as yet unverified. What verification have the Government since sought and received concerning this Serbian Army deployment? Given that the unit involved is reported to be based in Kosovo, can the Minister tell the House whether this activity is a breach of the Holbrooke/Milosevic agreement to withdraw troops to pre-March levels? Moreover, what pressure is being put on the KLA to honour the ceasefire, which has already been breached?
These reports further damage the paper-thin veneer of optimism in the province, where Javier Solana, NATO's Secretary-General, said on Friday that from the information he had at the moment compliance was not a reality, and where Richard Holbrooke remains deeply cautious. What can the Minister tell the House about contingency plans should President Milosevic once again break his promises to the international community? Given that the Foreign Secretary welcomed the Holbrooke package as a,
Regarding the OSCE monitoring task, what evidence is there that the presence of the 2,000 unarmed OSCE monitors will give ethnic Albanian refugees the confidence to return to their homes and will ensure that Serbian forces no longer threaten the civilian population? The Minister referred to signs that some at least of those thousands of refugees in the hills who are currently exposed to the onset of a bitter Balkan winter
Finally, I turn to a subject which was close to the hearts of many of your Lordships when we last considered this issue; namely, the UN resolution and a new UN resolution. Can the Minister give further details of the agreement by contact group members last week in Paris to seek a further UN Security Council resolution to strengthen the peace agreement? Will this resolution use the strong language of "air strike diplomacy"? If so, can the Minister confirm that this is acceptable to Russia, which has consistently opposed the use of force and furthermore threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution authorising such action, and to governments such as the Ukraine who are genuinely concerned that air strikes without a UN resolution would significantly strengthen the hand of communist parties in Russia, the Ukraine and former CIS countries? For the sake of over a quarter of a million refugees in the region, what assurance can the Minister give everyone that the Holbrooke package is not merely a question of crisis averted, problem postponed?
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Foreign Secretary in another place. We on these Benches congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the powerful initiative that he has taken with regard to Kosovo. Having said that, I echo some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. We on these Benches fear that we may be looking at a fragile agreement. I hope the noble Baroness will comment on the following points.
We understand that by the end of this month some 2,000 unarmed civilian monitors will be deployed in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Kosovo region. We also understand that that deployment is not likely to be completed before the 27th October deadline. What protection might those monitors demand should they be threatened either with violent action or with the possibility of being taken hostage, for we understand that significant parts of the region are returning to violence and to conflict between the KLA and the Serbian forces, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said?
I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the only military protection for the 2,000 civilian monitors to be deployed by the beginning of next month is air cover. As we understand it, that air cover is already to be announced and indeed the flight schedule is to be given in advance to the Serbian authorities with a week's notice. Therefore the only protection the civilian monitors have is the possibility of armed action being taken should there be interference with their activities. This is the area that most concerns us. We understand that only two out of seven battalions have been partially withdrawn and that in the past 24 hours two UN convoys have been blocked. There is no information about the way in which the monitors will interact with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and with the humanitarian agencies.
We believe there is a real danger that the Achilles' heel in this agreement will lie in the failure to protect civilian monitors and to enable them to do a job. What reassurance can the Minister give us that the undoubted good intentions of this Government will be carried out on the ground and that we shall not again see what President Clinton so eloquently described as the cemeteries of Mr. Milosevic's broken promises throughout the former Republic of Yugoslavia?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, for their welcome of the Statement, although I understand that that welcome is to some extent qualified by their concerns and doubts about the agreements before us. I add my congratulations to those of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, to Mr. Holbrooke on the undoubted hard work and commitment that have gone into negotiating the agreement which has been reached with President Milosevic.
Both speakers asked a series of questions and pressed me for further details. I shall do my best to answer the many questions which were put to me. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned the activities on the ground in Kosovo in the past 24 hours or so. The noble Baroness mentioned her concerns about these. We are aware of the reports of movements out of barracks by armoured units of Serb security forces and of overnight reports of the shelling in the Drenica region. The Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) is investigating these reports, as the noble Lord indicated. We have also been in touch again with the UNHCR this morning. I can confirm that the UNHCR decided not to send two convoys today along the road to Komorane, which is near the Drenica region, because of the reports of shelling. Other aid convoys are, however, proceeding normally. We do not have any independent confirmation of the shelling. As regards military movements, one company size unit of the security forces has been observed moving along the road towards Komorane and to Lapusnik where the KLA attack of 17th October occurred in which the Serbian policemen were killed.
A second Serb armed force has been seen moving northwards from Pristina away from the area of recent tension. I can assure your Lordships that we shall continue to work closely with the KDOM in monitoring the situation on the ground in advance of the full OSCE verification mission. We shall take extremely seriously any confirmed violations of the ceasefire no matter who is committing those alleged violations.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, expressed deep caution about what will happen next and asked about the 27th October deadline. NATO will consider on 27th October what to do in relation to the ACTORD. I stress to the House that the implementation of that has only been suspended. It is because of the serious doubts and worries that there are bound to be, given the history of President Milosevic, about his ability and willingness to stick to the agreement made. Meanwhile, we shall be pressing through the United Nations for the strongest possible wording in relation to the Holbrooke agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked specifically about that point. Noble Lords would expect a great deal of behind-the-scenes activity to press for that wording. Negotiations will go ahead with the full force and robustness of Her Majesty's Government behind them.
The noble Lord asked also about the position of the KLA. It is important to remember that the ceasefire applies to the KLA as well. The KLA is not an entirely united force. Different parts disagree with each other. However, President Rugova was consulted about the Holbrooke agreement and has welcomed the OSCE advance party presently arriving in Kosovo.
The noble Lord asked about Russian support. The Russians supported Resolution 1199. We hope that the Russians will be willing to consider robust wording in relation to the discussions that are presently under way.
The noble Lord asked what assurance I could give that this was not "crisis averted, problem postponed". I cannot give an absolute assurance. The position is that we have done our best in the negotiations. As my right honourable friend's Statement in another place has made clear, this is not a perfect agreement. It was the best that could be negotiated. I am bound to say that it was the best that President Milosevic has been willing to say about the position in Kosovo for a very long time: with his commitments to withdrawing his troops and to free and fair elections within the next nine months; with his commitments on the rights of self-government for Kosovo. Those are statements that we have not heard previously. No one can know. No one trusts President Milosevic. That is why the ACTORD is only suspended; that is why we are seeking the fullest possible robust wording through the UNSCR.
The noble Baroness asked a number of questions on the position in relation to monitors on the ground. I know from the debate that took place in this House last week that there has been considerable anxiety on that point. Perhaps I may remind the House that there have been monitors in Kosovo since April of this year and the number has reached 45. None has been taken hostage. However, that does not imply any complacency on our part. The point was specifically addressed in the
I would say in reassurance, not only to the noble Baroness but to other noble Lords who are concerned about this point, that planning in NATO and nationally in terms of measures to protect the force and to arrange for their extraction if necessary is going ahead. This is a very sensitive area. The noble Baroness will understand why I am hesitant on this point. I hope that the House will not press me for further details but will accept my assurance that the point she raised is naturally a matter of considerable concern and that planning has gone into that side and the possible difficulty that might arise.
The noble Baroness mentioned a statement by Mr. John Sandrock. I assure the noble Baroness that the OSCE monitors have the right to go anywhere at any time in Kosovo to pursue their mandate, not only in relation to the ceasefire, not only in relation to the withdrawal, but also on the strengthening of institutions such as the police force, which is an important part of the agreement that has been secured. I remind the noble Baroness that there will also be over-flights to monitor what is going on.
The noble Baroness asked about the basis of what was happening with Ambassador Hill on the political track. The Serbian government have undertaken to reach agreement on the political track by 2nd November. Ambassador Hill is presently on a mission, if I may so describe it, of shuttle diplomacy between Belgrade and Pristina. He reports that his most recent contacts with the Kosovo Albanians have been particularly positive. I hope that that gives the noble Baroness some reassurance. The Albanian negotiating team has been very constructive in looking at Ambassador Hill's proposals.
The noble Baroness said that the documents are not presently available. She is of course right; the documents are not in the public domain. I inquired about this matter because I believed that noble Lords would ask me about it and whether it was possible to have the documents placed in the Library of the House. I cannot presently give that reassurance because the documents are not in the ownership of Her Majesty's Government. However, I assure the House that I will press to ensure that they are in the public domain as soon as possible. I recognise how important it is for the whole House that documents of that importance are readily available. I hope that I have answered the majority of the questions put to me by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. However, she mentioned that the Foreign Secretary is to visit countries neighbouring Yugoslavia. Will she tell the House which countries those are? Is he to visit Greece,
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