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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, at earlier stages it fell to me on behalf of the Opposition to welcome the Bill and support it, which I did. I am grateful for the unexpected opportunity to repeat that support now, particularly as a debate is taking place on the Motion that the Bill do now pass. I understand that it is unusual for such Motions to be debated, and at some stage this may prove to be a useful precedent. For that reason we are
Lord Elton: My Lords, it may be that in the next couple of minutes the Government Front Bench can tell the House whether in the interests of parity there are to be similar provisions for Gaelic in Scotland and Erse or Gaelic in Northern Ireland as part of their devolution plans. I believe that that would fill a useful gap.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with the leave of the House we have considered the possibility of further minority languages being treated in the same way. The noble Lord might have wished to add the Cornish language, although at the moment I am unaware of any provision whereby registration officers in the county of Cornwall have power to record births and deaths in that county in the Cornish language. I believe that this is a question of supply and demand. There may be a demand from those people in Scotland who speak what I call the Gaelic language. The noble Lord appears to believe that he has pronounced "Gaelic" correctly, but that is his privilege as a full-blooded Englishman, whereas I am only half-English.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that does not help the noble Lord's pronunciation problem, particularly if he seeks to adopt the tonal variation which I understand is such a distinguished and beautiful feature of the Norwegian language. I congratulate him. Did the noble Lord say that he spoke Norwegian?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I had not finished answering the previous question. If my noble friend will have a little patience, I shall move on to that point. Certainly the Gaelic and Erse languages could be considered for similar legislation if there were to be sufficient demand. We should need to have a seminar in Eurospeak conducted by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington--he is the classic interpreter of Eurospeak--before being able to make a sensible judgement as to whether his suggestion is appropriate.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard whether the appearance of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House presages the appearance of the Queen of Sheba in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not think that I, of all people, should become involved in biblical allusions of that kind. We are always pleased to see my noble friend the Leader of the House and to have her with us at this time.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Bethell I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Lord Renton: My Lords, when this Bill was before your Lordships in February, it was strongly criticised in all parts of the House, and rightly so. It is basically unconstitutional in that it repeals the whole of Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which consists of 28 sections, and purports to replace it by statutory instruments. Those would not be drafted by parliamentary counsel but by officials in the department. The instruments would come before your Lordships without noble Lords having any chance to amend them. Noble Lords would be able only to vote for or against them.
We are grateful to the Government for acknowledging the request made in Committee that the Bill be re-committed. Some amendments have now been tabled by the Government and others, including myself, which we hope may improve the Bill. I shall be tabling this week further amendments of a more fundamental kind. I hope that the Government will give adequate advance notice of the re-committal. It is of vital importance that as many of your Lordships as possible should attend and take an interest in the constitutional implications, and protest against them.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I believe that the date of the re-commitment has been noted in future business for about a fortnight. I am aware of the point the noble Lord makes. The Government have taken note of the comments of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. That is why we have re-committed the Bill.
The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:
"NATO's action continues. Our targets include the Serbian air defence system, the command and control centres of the Yugoslav Army and special police forces, the lines of communication which Milosevic uses to resupply his forces in Kosovo, his fuel supplies and, increasingly, the Serb forces on the ground engaged in ethnic cleansing. The armed forces of 13 allies are taking a direct part in the NATO action. I am proud of the full role being played by the men and women of the British Armed Forces. They have the thanks of the whole House.
"Our aims are clear. They were set out again at the meeting yesterday of NATO Foreign Ministers: a verifiable end to all Serb military action and the immediate ending of violence and repression; the withdrawal from Kosovo of Milosevic's military, police and paramilitary forces; agreement to the stationing in Kosovo of an international military force; the unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons and unhindered access to them by humanitarian aid organisations; credible assurance of willingness to work on the basis of the Rambouillet accords in the establishment of a political framework agreement for Kosovo in conformity with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
"There is no longer any serious doubt that the warnings we gave about Milosevic and his intentions were fully justified. Half a million Kosovar Albanians have fled or been driven out of Kosovo into the neighbouring territories of Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. In no small measure due to British efforts, those who sought refuge in neighbouring countries are now being looked after and have at least found shelter, food and safety.
"I would like to pay tribute to the British troops in Macedonia who built a camp for some 30,000 people inside 48 hours; to the sterling work of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development in persuading the Macedonian Government fully to open the border; to British NGOs for their rapid response in getting relief through to these refugees; and to the tremendous generosity of the British people who have already given some £10 million to the Kosovo Appeal and
"Our concern is now for those still inside Kosovo. Milosevic's forces continue their ethnic cleansing, but at a reduced level. As a result of NATO action to date, the pace has significantly diminished. His tanks have to conceal themselves from NATO aircraft. His fuel supplies are running low. Some estimate that taking into account all those displaced over several months half a million or so Kosovar Albanians have been driven from their homes but remain within the province. Many have sought refuge in the hills and forests of Kosovo. We are looking urgently at all the options to assist them. Let me say this clearly: Milosevic is responsible for the welfare of those people. When we go into Kosovo finally, he will be held responsible for what we find.
"Let me deal with some of the wider strategic issues. Some say NATO should never have acted at all. Some say too soon. Some say not enough. However inconsistent these points they all deserve answering.
"To those who wanted more negotiation, I say: we struggled for a year to find a solution for Kosovo by peaceful means, despite Milosevic's brutality on the ground. We intervened when the diplomatic avenue was exhausted, and when the hideous policy of ethnic cleansing was under way. For make no mistake: this brutality was planned well in advance.
"Even as the Rambouillet talks were continuing, Serb troops were massing in Kosovo and a new offensive was getting under way--40,000 troops and 300 tanks assembled. We now know that Belgrade was making detailed plans for ethnic cleansing as early as February.
"Five days before NATO, dropped a single bomb, Serb forces began a massive new offensive aimed at clearing Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian majority, wiping out their political class and even destroying evidence that Albanians had ever lived there.
"To those who say put in ground forces now, as part of a land force invasion of Kosovo, I repeat that the difficulties of such an undertaking, in the face of organised Serb resistance, are formidable. In the present circumstances, the potential loss of life among our service men and women, to say nothing of civilians, would be considerable. In any event, assembling such a force would take many weeks.
"Every day, by air power, we are causing further damage to Milosevic's military machine. His air defence system is seriously degraded. Half his frontline air force is now unusable. The roads and railways supplying his forces in Kosovo are largely cut. Fuel is now in short supply, hampering the movements of his tanks and trucks. Artillery and troops on the ground are now being hit.
"We make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, though some casualties will be inevitable in such action, and our attitude stands in sharp contrast to the utter lack of scruple of Milosevic towards the civilian population in Kosovo.
"Britain and our forces can be proud of the role we have played--both in the military campaign, and in the humanitarian effort too. Day and night, our pilots are risking their lives to inflict defeat on Milosevic.
"Day and night, our forces are working to help alleviate the misery of the refugees driven from their homes and their homeland by Milosevic's hideous policy of ethnic cleansing. And day and night, we are too preparing for the job we have to do when our military objectives are met.
"Today, I can announce that we are sending substantial reinforcements for this purpose, with a second armoured battle group. At the moment, the British Army contingent in Greece and Macedonia consists of just over 4,500 military personnel. Today's announcement will see the remainder of HQ 4 Armoured Brigade and supporting elements sent to the region. All are currently based at their home locations in the UK and Germany.
"This will take the total number of UK military personnel in Greece and Macedonia to over 6,300. Let me make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, they are being sent so that the UK can be in a position to play our proper role in the international effort to ensure the refugees are able to return to Kosovo in safety.
"As I said in my first Statement to the House of Commons, this action will take time. Dictators like Milosevic do not bow down at the first setback to their plans. But as the weather improves, his forces will have fewer hiding places. When new weapons systems are available such as the attack helicopters, no Serb unit in Kosovo will be able to destroy a village with confidence that they will not be challenged by more powerful forces.
"We continue with diplomacy to back up our military action. Tomorrow in Brussels, I shall be meeting with my colleagues on the European Council and this meeting is being brought forward to include a session with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The NATO Alliance has a long-planned summit meeting in Washington at the end of next week. I and my colleagues will remain in close touch with our Russian counterparts who will have an important role to play when Milosevic is brought to meet NATO's requirements.
"NATO must remain united and resolute. There can be no compromise on the terms we have set out. They must be met in full. We shall continue until they are. Ethnic cleansing must be defeated, and seen to be defeated. Milosevic's policies in Kosovo must be defeated, and seen to be defeated. I believe we have a clear and strategic interest in peace in the Balkans. But this is now military action for a moral purpose as much as a strategic interest. This barbarity perpetrated against innocent civilians in Kosovo, simply on the grounds of their ethnic identity, cannot be allowed.
"The conflict we now face in Kosovo is a test of our commitment and our resolve to ensure that the 21st century does not begin with a continuing reminder in Europe of the worst aspects of the century now drawing to a close. I urge the House to continue to give its unfailing support to the men and women of our Armed Forces and to the values they are striving to uphold on behalf of us all."
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement today. Perhaps I may express my concern that, according to press reports this morning, yesterday, while this House was sitting and a Statement could have been made to Parliament, the Prime Minister's official spokesman gave a briefing to the media about what would be in today's Statement. Will the noble Baroness accept that there is deep distaste throughout this House that Parliament is denied information which Mr. Campbell is authorised to give to the media? Therefore, will she on behalf of the House, as its Leader, take a message to the Prime Minister's Office that we are reaching the limits of tolerance with such contempt for Parliament? I feel it particularly strongly because yesterday I put down a Private Notice Question for a Statement to be made to this House, but the request was turned down by the noble Baroness.
I turn to the Statement. We should never forget that in order to achieve peace and security in Kosovo British service men and women are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis. I join the noble Baroness in saying that the whole House owes them a huge debt.
There have now been three weeks of air strikes. Does the noble Baroness agree that it is appropriate to consider the assurances given by the Government about the military situation and to consider what can now be achieved? We continue to offer support to the Government on the basis that for the campaign to be successful the strategy must be clear and consistent. Will she therefore assure the House of three things? First, do the objectives of the campaign remain those which were set out at the start? In particular, while the Statement makes clear that the Rambouillet accords are still regarded as the basis of a political settlement, the aims announced today go far further. Does the noble Baroness now believe that the Kosovar Albanians will require something more than that degree of autonomy if they are to return to their homes?
The noble Baroness will recall that one of the main reasons for the collapse of the Rambouillet talks was that President Milosevic refused to accept a NATO-led peacekeeping force? It is clear today that consideration is now being given to the deployment of an international force. Could she confirm that such an international force rather than a NATO-led peacekeeping force would be acceptable to the Government? Could she also state in more detail what role the Government envisage the Russian Government playing in a settlement?
I turn to the second aspect of the Statement. Can the noble Baroness comment on the reported delays in channelling humanitarian aid to the region? Is she now satisfied that everything possible is being done to co-ordinate such aid as effectively as possible? Can the Leader of the House confirm that it is government policy to support refugees wherever possible in the region itself? Does she believe that any more could have been done to support Macedonia in particular, bearing in mind the large number of refugees remaining there and the serious implications this may have for that country's stability?
Thirdly, as regards ground troops, the Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed the immense difficulties involved in committing troops to an invasion of Kosovo in advance of a political settlement. I believe that he is right to do so. Yet on separate occasions the Prime Minister has said both that there is no question of using troops in such a way and that,
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, from these Benches I join in thanking the noble Baroness for repeating here the Statement by the Prime Minister in another place. It is essentially a holding Statement; there is nothing very new in it, but it is welcome nevertheless. I also join, as all of us no doubt do, in the tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces, whether they are in action or helping in humanitarian roles in Macedonia and elsewhere. They certainly have our unfailing support.
Then again--and this was not referred to in the Statement; I do not complain about that--it was not sufficiently seen that the bombing would certainly unite most Serbian dissidents with their government. Too little was done to consider the problem of hearts and minds and an appropriate campaign in a situation of this kind.
Finally--and these points need to be made--the abdication of the possible use of ground forces diminished the threat that NATO constituted in the eyes of President Milosevic. Having said that there was too little planning, too little forethought, I think that Washington was mainly to blame, but the European members of NATO also have their responsibilities. That does not mean that the initial decision was wrong. On the contrary, we would all be very deeply ashamed had there been no intervention and had NATO continued to equivocate. If the intervention was ill prepared and at the beginning half-hearted, that does not alter the awfulness of what President Milosevic has done and in no way diminishes the support that the Government and NATO must have in catching up with any previous failures there may have been.
There are only two more points I would like to make. First, I am glad that we are now preparing--for clearly this is what is happening--for the use of ground troops, if necessary, in a fighting role. The noble Baroness shakes her head, and she will have to deny it, but I hope that it is true. If it is not true, there is a failure of responsibility on the part of the Government and NATO. But, secondly, and this is not as contrary as it may seem, I hope that NATO is also thinking of what I would call a Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Yugoslavia when NATO's objectives have been achieved. I say that because all those of us who support what is being done, and who nevertheless have been distressed by the inevitable and widespread damage, want to do all we can afterwards to help restore the country for all those who live in it and who we hope will take a different view in the years ahead.
I hope that such a Marshall Plan, if I may call it that, will be part of a longer-term policy towards the Balkans. Do we really want them to look more to the East than to the West? That is the first decision. That decision having been made, a number of important considerations follow from it. I do not believe there has been a collective view in NATO hitherto on that.
I ask the noble Baroness one question which bears on the objectives. I take it that there is no possibility-- I think this was hinted at by the United States Secretary of State in error--that we would agree to the partition
Are we still committed to an unpartitioned Kosovo within the federation or are we now prepared to consider, as indeed we should, the possibility of an independent Kosovo outside the federation, if that is the only way? Are we prepared to see NATO offering what is in effect a protectorate for an indefinite period to ensure that the objective, once achieved, is fulfilled?
Finally, will the noble Baroness say a word about the view of our NATO partners? I am not suggesting that there was a division of opinion yesterday; that would neither be my wish nor, certainly, my intention. But France and Germany have had thoughts of their own about where the future lies. Have they put forward any alternative proposals, and are any such proposals being considered by Her Majesty's Government and NATO as a whole?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their response to the Statement. I am sure the whole House will once again join me in thanking them for their support and expressions of total commitment to the activities of our troops who are involved, together with the NATO allies.
It might be useful to the House if I simply repeated the points made at the outcome of the very successful meeting yesterday of the NATO Foreign Ministers at the North Atlantic Council. The following points were agreed as joint intentions and joint positions, and were intended as the basis for any further negotiations with President Milosevic.
They are: first, to ensure a verifiable stop to all military action and, in his case, the immediate ending of violence and repression; secondly, to ensure that he does withdraw all his troops from Kosovo, including the police and paramilitary forces as well as the army; and, thirdly, to ensure that he agrees to the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence. I would underline again to both noble Lords that of course there may well be British and NATO ground troops involved, but that would be a peacekeeping force rather than a force intent on fighting its way into a difficult situation, which, as the Statement says, against Serbian refusal to accept any intervention on a legal basis would be very difficult.
The fourth point was the unconditional safe return of all refugees and displaced persons and, as I said in the Statement, access to them by humanitarian aid organisations. Fifthly, and perhaps most important, because both noble Lords referred to the political future, there is the question of willingness to work on the basis of the Rambouillet accords and the establishment of the political framework. The Rambouillet accords must remain our touchstone for further discussion about the future of Kosovo. As both noble Lords will be aware, there was discussion at the time when the Kosovo
Both noble Lords referred to the position of the Russians, which has of course been giving considerable concern. I am sure the House will be aware that Secretary Albright and the Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Ivanov, have been meeting today. The latest reports from that meeting are that some progress has been made on finding a settlement, and Mrs. Albright has said in a statement that they have reached agreement on many of the basic principles for an end to the crisis in Kosovo. We can all take some comfort from the progress of that discussion.
Both noble Lords referred to the question of aid and whether it was now in a satisfactory state. Given the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in the region, it would be complacent to say that anybody's life there is satisfactory. But there has certainly been an improvement on the ground. Again, I draw attention to the extraordinary work carried out by some of our troops in diverting their resources to building tented camps and so on and providing food for refugees.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, asked whether this could be a prelude to some wider rebuilding of the region on an economic basis--something equivalent to the Marshall Plan. I am sure that the whole of the western alliance and others will need to consider that in a peaceful situation. In my view, and I think in the Government's view, it would probably be more appropriate to consider that in the context of developing the region as a whole rather than simply looking at the situation in Kosovo, although there will clearly be an enormous call for very rapid rebuilding and economic support for that region.
The whole issue about whether or not there was sufficient preparation is complicated. Some intelligence reports indicated that there were troop movements in Kosovo and that ethnic cleansing was already beginning as early as February, as the Statement said. At that stage, if we had encouraged international NGOs or others, for example, to build tented camps across the border, that would have been almost conniving at the idea that there was likely to be ethnic cleansing. As noble Lords will be only too aware, there is always a major difficulty in relation to judging a response. No one really could have foreseen the extreme position which the Milosevic forces, the paramilitaries and the police took in driving literally three-quarters of a million people across the borders. It would have been extremely difficult to plan for that in any sensible way although we can say now that, within very limited objectives, the situation has been brought under control.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, expressed the matter well when he said that we should all have been deeply ashamed had we not done anything to confront the military situation with which we were faced and had we failed to deal with the exceptional circumstances of humanitarian catastrophe which is the United Nations position on taking such military action.
I conclude by repeating that we must support everything that our troops are doing both in terms of the military objectives which are clear from that joint NATO statement which I read out, but also in terms of the extraordinary work which is being done to deal with some of the more terrible aspects of the humanitarian crisis.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, when the noble Baroness replies, will she address the question of the press being informed before Parliament about the content of today's Statement, as raised by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde? Also, will the noble Baroness accept that now that we have got ourselves into this mess, it is absolutely essential that NATO should not be seen to fail and that therefore all resources should be devoted to succeeding in achieving our objectives? As my noble friend Lord Strathclyde mentioned, it would be helpful to know with greater clarity precisely what are those objectives.
I wonder, too, whether the noble Baroness will tell the House why the Government felt that it would be better to do nothing to anticipate the reception of refugees and therefore to accept that for a number of days at least, they would be in a very poor way and in great need. I found it difficult to follow the noble Baroness's logic in relation to that.
The noble Baroness referred also to the discussions between Secretary Albright and Mr. Ivanov. Is any thought being addressed to the potential effect of the events in the Balkans on future elections in Russia and to whether anything can be done to make sure that at least some of the more lunatic fringe of Russian parties will not gain advantage from that?
Finally, will the noble Baroness comment on the effect on the tour intervals between duties of British troops as a result of the additional commitments being made? We know that there is substantial overstretch at the moment. Can she give some sort of estimate, perhaps after consultation with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, about the average tour interval which is now expected as a result of the additional commitment and whether, as a result of that extra strain, it would not be better to reverse the proposals for the decimation of the infantry of the Territorial Army which was announced earlier this year?
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