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Lord Ahmed: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask whether she is aware that Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza represent less than 0.1 per cent of the Muslim community in Britain and that these are very extreme cases which have been quoted tonight by the noble Baroness? I am particularly concerned at the way in which Kashmir and other places have been mentioned because, as a Kashmiri, I know that over 75,000 Kashmiri people have been brutally murdered by Indian soldiers. That has not been mentioned, and I feel it would be only appropriate to mention the 3,500 Chechnya civilians who have been murdered by the Russian soldiers too.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for allowing me to repeat what I said earlier. I made a very clear distinction between the peaceable Muslims and those who are engaged in terrorist and aggressive policies. Also I emphasised my own great concern for those who are suffering in Chechnya. It is important to look at all the causes of their suffering and not to look at these things in a unilateral way and apportion blame unilaterally.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, in Supplement No. 1 to the London Gazette dated 28th October 1999, there are no fewer than eight pages of special awards to servicemen and women for their bravery and distinguished performances on operational duties. Apart from the still significant number of awards for service in Northern Ireland and some for bravery during search and rescue operations, this one Gazette
In the case of my own service, there are no fewer than 25 mentioned for operations in the former Yugoslavia, over Kosovo and in the Gulf, or in support of other United Nations operations. They include every one for gallant and distinguished service, a CBE, two DSOs, eight DFCs and 14 mentions in despatches. The whole list is a magnificent indication of courage and fortitude on the part of our servicemen and women. It is very regrettable that there has been so little media interest in this truly remarkable Gazette and in the men and women whose names are listed in it.
I therefore welcome the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, praising the work and fortitude of today's servicemen and women. As a nation and, I am sure in this House, we should congratulate and be proud of our servicemen and women for the way in which they so valiantly serve their country. Because the Royal Air Force suffered no aircraft losses over Kosovo, there is perhaps a mistaken perception that it was not really a dangerous fight. But wars are very rarely without casualties. One has only to read about the operations in Chechnya to realise that wars can be very bloody indeed, both for the attackers and the defenders.
The fighting over Kosovo may have come to an end, but the operations into Iraq continue to this day. We do not see much of them being reported in the media either, but the Royal Air Force has to date flown well over 30 bombing missions over northern or southern Iraq. Since the end of the Gulf War the Royal Air Force has logged a staggering 68,000 hours on operation in that theatre. Those crews too are at risk from Iraqi defences.
We are in danger of viewing such activity as the norm. But for the families and friends of those taking part, it is not something that can be accepted in the same way as normal peacetime flying. Numbing concern and gripping fear can still churn the stomach of even the most resilient of individuals, let alone the children of those involved.
If the nation tasks our aircrew to undertake these prolonged and repetitive operations, we owe it to them to ensure that they are getting full support, both in personal terms and in terms of weapons and other equipment, to enable them to operate effectively. While it may be reasonable, if resources are tight, to look for savings and economies when all that is being done is peacetime training, it is morally wrong to provide less than adequate preparation for operations.
The gracious Speech makes reference to the future of National Air Traffic Services. As the privatisation of NATS is progressed, I hope that the needs of the Armed Forces for airspace to train for operations will be safeguarded. We may no longer mount the large-scale air defence exercises around our shores or send off bomber streams of Victors and Vulcans criss-crossing the whole of the United Kingdom as we did a generation ago at the height of the Cold War.
It is now widely known that the Treasury did not provide all that the Ministry of Defence needed to pay for the results of the Strategic Defence Review. On top of that, MoD set itself a 3 per cent per annum target of efficiency savings. I have no fundamental objection to a sensible squeeze. It can be helpful in ensuring that the best and most cost-effective measures are in place. If all the money released were to be used to help enhance our fighting capability, that would be fine. But is that what is going to happen? The MoD pamphlet--Making it Happen--makes it clear that not all the money released will go to defence. We are told that in 1998-99 £594 million was saved--more than the target. How much of that £594 million has been reinvested as indicated? It is one thing to find 3 per cent per annum from a fully-funded budget. But 3 per cent off a budget which is already short by £0.5 billion is an altogether more difficult task.
We owe it to all those who are committed to operations (or may be involved in them in the coming weeks and months because so many of our commitments are ongoing) soldiers and sailors as well as airmen, to see that they are adequately prepared, properly equipped and fully trained for their tasks. But when money is short, a squeeze comes on the equipment programme, on the size of the front line, on activity levels, or on a mix of all three. But each and every one of such cutbacks, if pursued, will have a knock-on effect on the operational front line. The Kosovo operations highlighted equipment deficiencies. We need to tackle those urgently. This is not the time to be hitting the equipment budget.
The front line of all three services has been stretched and stretched by the length and scale of the commitments which they have been undertaking--other noble Lords made that point most strongly. Reducing the size of the front line to accommodate shortages of funds makes no sense, unless Her Majesty's Government are prepared to rein back severely on their military undertakings around the world. I have seen little evidence of that, in the gracious Speech or elsewhere. That is understandable if we are to continue to punch our weight, hold on to our seat on the Security Council, back NATO in the strongest of terms, and now it seems, be ready to provide a major contribution to some European crisis management and rapid reaction formation. There is no further scope for front line cuts.
Nor, as I have said, can we expect our front line forces to go into operations without the full range of training needed for the tasks they may face. Savings on activity and training not only hit those immediately committed, but have the most serious consequences for front line manning and operational capability in the following months and years. No really satisfactory answer has been found yet to deal with the acute undermanning in the three services, much of it in the ranks where experience and leadership, of key importance in operations, are normally to be found.
In the circumstances which the Armed Forces are now facing, now is not the time to be continuing with the sorts of squeezes and pressures on the budget that characterised and dominated the years of the Cold War. We could take some risks then, believing that the chances of actually fighting were relatively low. Today, in the post-Cold War age, when we are committing a greater percentage of our young servicemen and women to live operations than at any time since the end of World War II, we must update that approach.
We must be more realistic about the cost and funding of defence requirements. This Government, I fear, like so many of their predecessors, still seem to think that the old tried and tested Treasury methods of extracting savings from the defence budget should continue. But defence output, what we expect of our forces today, is not the same as it was during the Cold War. We have seen our front lines cut by one-third to one-half in the course of this decade. We have seen serious undermanning and overstretch. But in the same decade the commitment of our ground, sea and air forces and their involvement in intense activity and live operations has grown inexorably. If Her Majesty's Government want to continue to hold their place on the world stage, they must accept that this means a new, more realistic approach to the funding of defence. Words and promises are not enough; deeds and actions are called for.
All those young men and women who featured recently in the London Gazette, and the many more like them in the three services, deserve to be fully trained, fully equipped and fully backed by this Government. Now is not the time to be cutting the front line, saving on training, or raiding the equipment budget. I hope that the Government will react responsibly and provide the funds where they are now so urgently needed. Our Armed Forces deserve no less of this or any British government.
Baroness Elles: My Lords, first, I join with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, in his praise of and congratulations to members of the services who have suffered so much in various activities throughout the world on behalf of the United Kingdom. I do that particularly as a former member of the WAAF, and consequently of the RAF. I am grateful for what the noble and gallant Lord said and hope other noble Lords share in the gratitude he expressed to those servicemen.
I thank also the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for his remarks on Chechnya. As he dealt with that issue very fully, I have only a few words to add. We must recognise that in recent months our Armed Forces, together with those in particular of the United States, were engaged in massive attacks on Kosovo, with heavy bombardment of Serbian farms resulting in heavy damage to civilians.
The facts so far are not encouraging. The Chechen people are seeking independence. The Russian Federation, of course, is not. It is not only a question of people's freedom and national identity, but also, of valuable oil deposits in the region. Information available so far indicates that Russian troops are advancing on Grozny and, indeed, some are said now to be in occupation of parts of the capital. The civilians, therefore, obviously had to leave. They have been advised to leave. In all, it is estimated that about 200,000 people are now refugees in Ingushetia and some in Dagestan.
The optimistic outcome for Russia would be for the army to walk into Grozny unopposed. Until that happens it is difficult to conceive that the Russians will embark on a political dialogue as sought by the EU. But whatever the Russians achieve, member states of the EU are faced with alternatives. First, no military intervention should be undertaken; let the Russian Federation deal with its internal affairs unimpeded. Secondly, the EU should be ready and willing to grant humanitarian aid to the many thousands of civilians who have been displaced. Thirdly, the Russians should be encouraged to enable humanitarian aid to be distributed. This is obviously required. Fourthly, in view of the tragic and appalling treatment of some British subjects recently, there must be guaranteed protection for those international aid workers who are willing to go to work in the area.
At today's meeting in Istanbul, with the presence announced of Mr Boris Yeltsin, it can only be hoped that some progress towards stabilisation will be made. In the context of opening up the frontiers of the EU to central and eastern European states, positive co-operation with the Russian Federation could be achieved within a partnership and co-operation agreement. It will be up to the Russians to show that this can and should be achieved. We very much hope that it will.
Lord Owen: My Lords, I hope that I shall be forgiven if I am not present at the summing up of the debate. President Yeltsin's most senior adviser is in London and I was due to see him an hour and a half ago. Many issues have been raised in this House which I wish to put to him.
The issue of the Caucasus is immensely complex. We need to listen to the Russians' point of view, but they too must listen to some of our urgent humanitarian demands. There is a need to get more humanitarian aid in quickly. We must also try to convince them that even in internal disputes help from outside can sometimes be effective. For years we believed that we alone could solve the problems of Northern Ireland,
The main issue I wish to discuss is Europe, but not the euro, although my views on that may be known to some people. I have profound doubts that we should move into European monetary union without looking carefully at all its aspects. But as it is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, I shall discuss another matter concerned with the European Union and unity. I am, and always have been, deeply committed to the European Union and our membership. I am not in favour of a static membership. I believe that there are times when we can take initiatives. I strongly approve of the attempt to try to negotiate a new European defence and security identity. I know that this is deeply complex. It, again, could impact adversely on NATO if it was handled badly.
On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to develop a consensus foreign policy and then not have the military muscle to carry that foreign policy through. We certainly saw that in Yugoslavia in 1993 when the European Union had an action plan that had been negotiated. All it needed was a perfectly legitimate demand from President Izetbetgovic to guarantee the borders of the then Bosnian republic within a three republic solution. Because the United States did not wish to do that it would have been natural for Europe to have given that commitment but it did not have the capacity to do that.
We also have to look at the implications that now arise as regards the deeper integration of the European Union. This will obviously be of great importance as we grapple with the question of how far we can go on defence and on some of the other issues. The Government have highlighted five economic tests. We can argue about their validity but we shall certainly hear more about them in terms of whether or not we should join euroland.
It is difficult to make a distinction between economics and politics. There are many political and democratic issues that relate to taxation policy and currency. However, it is legitimate for us to try to identify political tests that are also necessary as a safeguard if we are to continue as a self-governing nation. I suggest five tests which may be appropriate.
First, we need to be absolutely sure that we shall be able to continue to conduct our own nuclear defence policy within the consensus decision-making structures of NATO. That is important because, up until Kosovo at least, quite a number of people felt that NATO was an outdated organisation. Kosovo ought to have convinced us that that organisation is of critical importance, if only for two reasons: first, the flexibility it gave for our own Prime Minister to argue at a crucial moment in the war that we had to look again at the deployment of ground troops. Simultaneously, almost, President Clinton had the authority and the flexibility to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Russians as intermediaries because
The second test is whether in the last analysis we retain the right to make our own foreign policy decisions even if in a minority of one within the framework of European common foreign and security policy. If one examines closely the Amsterdam Treaty, one sees that we have stretched the elastic of qualified majority voting as far as possible. I do not complain about that. As we enlarge the Community we need mechanisms that push people towards a consensus. But one also needs to have an appeals mechanism over that within the Amsterdam Treaty. However, I defy anyone to change the Amsterdam Treaty in almost any respect as it applies to qualified majority voting in CFSP without effectively impairing one's capacity to have one's own foreign policy in the last analysis. I was shocked that the three so-called "wise men" asked by President Prodi to advise him on the question of enlargement have been able to talk about increasing qualified majority voting in CFSP. I do not believe that is possible. Amsterdam went far in that regard and stretched the elastic. I do not see how one can go further.
The third test is whether any European defence and security initiative established within the EU is purely intergovernmental and there is no involvement of the European Commission, Court or Parliament. That question of no involvement of the European Commission, Court or Parliament was what was agreed by President Chirac and our Prime Minister at the St Malo meeting in December 1998. I think that is an absolute essential if we are to develop a European defence and security identity that does not challenge NATO. Already one sees that pillar being eroded. Again the three wise men have suggested that the European defence identity should not be a separate pillar and that it should be wound into the common foreign and security policy. But of its very nature, common foreign and security policy has to involve the Commission, the external commissioner for trade, the external commissioner for foreign policy and the development issues. They are part of the fabric of developing a foreign policy. You cannot deny that these are tools that have to be there and present at the Council of Foreign Ministers.
Similarly, whether we like it or not, the European Parliament has, without any power, certainly taken some role on foreign policy. The St Malo agreement was quite specific that that was not to happen with defence. I believe that is extremely important. Its democratic responsibility should be to national parliaments, as it has been in the WEU. That is the third test on which we should insist.
The fourth test is whether we remain as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, with the existing veto power, and are not replaced by EU representation on the Security Council or on G8. With great respect to people who have suggested that we could give up the
We must be realistic. The Security Council needs reform. It is an anomaly that Japan and Germany are not there, but it is hard to bring those countries in without finding a place also for big, significant countries such as Brazil, Nigeria and India. Although expanding the Security Council would have its problems, I believe that those five countries have a very strong case.
The reason for raising the issue is that, first of all, we have the German President talking about EU representation on the Security Council; and now we have Javier Solana speaking as high representative for CFSP about EU representation. I count him as a friend. I think he is a very good appointment; as a former Secretary-General of NATO he knows how to work within the parameters of an intergovernmental organisation. However, I question whether he consulted with the Council of Foreign Ministers before suggesting that this should happen. He is not a EU foreign minister; he is a representative of the Council of Foreign Ministers. We do not have, we do not want and there is no constitutional provision for an EU foreign minister. The EU cannot be represented on the Security Council when it does not have the status of a government or a state, any more than NATO can be represented on the Security Council. These kind of initiatives--or flights of fancy--must be nipped in the bud.
Then we have the question of G8. This is not a query. The three wise men have come up with a proposition that would effectively, while Britain is outside the euro, ban the Governor of the Bank of England from attending G7 meetings. It is perfectly understandable that the Americans and the Canadians said to the Italians, the Germans and the French "You ought to be represented by the President of the ECB or by your three governors of the banks--but not by the four of them". They chose to be represented by the President of the ECB, which is perfectly fair. But it is not legitimate--it is against the constitution of the Maastricht Treaty--to try to say that we cannot be represented internationally as an individual state on monetary and economic measures. Again, one must question the motivation behind the three wise men suggesting this.
The fifth test that I would suggest is whether we can continue with the right to impose UK controls at the ports of entry from continental EU member states. This is very controversial. Schengen came in with tremendous enthusiasm and then member states found that they could not live within Schengen and they had
These are important if we are genuinely to believe that going into the euro does not involve a massive step towards a single state, towards a United States of Europe. It is not scaremongering to raise these political questions. This is not just an economic issue. There are political questions which need to be analysed carefully. It is much easier to form a judgment on these questions if we do not rush into the euro. We see how it develops; we see how Euroland copes among the member states. The 11 member states are perfectly entitled to take these steps, if they wish. Under Article 43 of the Treaty of Amsterdam we will see a different speed Europe develop. It is a very essential flexibility; it takes on the concept of the Maastricht Treaty opt-out and it gives its general form and general direction.
We should analyse these matters extremely carefully. There are serious and massive long-term implications in some of these short-term discussions. The issues are extremely technical. One has to be more of a constitutional lawyer to find one's way through the Treaty of Maastricht and the Treaty of Amsterdam and how they impact on our own domestic decisions. In the next two or three years we do not need to be anti-European Union; we do not need to be static and to believe that it cannot in some areas take on extra powers; for instance, I think it should do so in the area of the environment. If we think our people wish this country to remain self-governing in all the essentials of a modern state--we have modified our essentials over the 20th century; we may well modify them over the 21st century--we must be vigilant and extremely careful. We should not rush.
Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, this important debate inevitably has many strands. I, for one, look forward to seeing how the Minister will pull them together. One of the strands is Europe. I find myself in wide agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, both in the underlying sentiment of wishing to make European co-operation work and in the detailed argument about the problems before us.
A third strand is the vexing issue of ethics and foreign policy. My remarks relate to, but are somewhat different from, the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. I remind your Lordships that the Government's first gracious Speech contained the statement:
The Foreign Secretary presented his mission statement, quoted already by several of your Lordships, in which--after security, prosperity and quality of life as interests guiding foreign policy--a fourth pillar was introduced, the promotion of our values. It said:
Foreign policy essentially is about interest. And since it is to the present day the foreign policy of nation states, it is about national interest. The national interest of a country, which has developed and cherished a liberal order, democracy and the rule of law, entails particularly close relations with others of similar traditions and aspirations. It also entails the desire to see adopted the elements of the liberal order wherever people have shed tyrannies of whatever description. More than that, a helping hand must be held out to such countries. Enlargement of the European Union to include the post-communist countries of east central Europe takes place far too late and is far too hung up on technical matters of the acquis communautaire--often the vested interest of current members.
However, the national interest is not confined to security and economic prosperity. Liberty is indivisible; it will never be safe until it is universal. At the same time, human rights are not in the same sense a national interest. The integrity of the human person, the absence of torture and detention without trial, and the basic freedoms of speech and of association are indispensable for the liberal order. Their violation in any part of the world is unacceptable to us as moral beings. But not everything that is morally unacceptable can be rectified by governments. Indeed,
I am delighted at the flourishing of non-governmental organisations world-wide, especially in the field of human rights. For example, Amnesty began with a programme of adopting prisoners of conscience and fighting quietly and effectively for their release. Foundations, large and small, have assisted those in repressive regimes to set up local radio stations and to produce news sheets and books. Organisations which care for victims of torture have helped individuals and drawn attention to one of the curses of ruthless power. The fate of children in many parts of the world has been the concern of Save the Children and others. The gracious Speech rightly draws attention to this concern and also promises support for those so engaged. That is exactly as it should be.
There can be a climate that is friendly to non-governmental activists for human rights and one that is hostile. The same is true for non-governmental organisations at home; that is, for the so-called "voluntary sector". It is widely appreciated that this Government have created--not least, in the international sphere, through the Department for International Development--such a friendly environment. However, all that does not form part of an ethical foreign policy or even an ethical dimension of foreign policy. It is an appreciation that human rights need champions so that attention can be drawn to their violation. In the end, perhaps they can become civil rights entrenched in law with appropriate judicial institutions to make them real for individuals anywhere.
Is that all that the Government can do? It is actually a great deal. But there is more. The Government can also contribute to creating an international environment which promotes the emergence of civil rights--rights of citizens everywhere. Again, the Government deserve praise and support for what they have done. The human rights legislation makes the UK part of a growing network of countries committed to the entrenchment of basic rights.
Others have commented on the fact that it is pleasing to see in the gracious Speech the promise of a Bill which will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the statute for the International Criminal Court. Here, I agree profoundly with the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. International judicial institutions are still a patchwork quilt. We are groping for a legal order that is binding on all, and we shall probably go on trying and erring and trying again for a long time to come. But such legal institutions are precisely what governments can promote and support. And, let me add, wherever we belong to networks and organisations which have
An omission, sadly, in the gracious Speech, although one remedied largely in the course of the debate, is in relation to Kosovo. As some of your Lordships know, I grew up in Germany after the war. It was my good fortune to live in the British zone of occupation in which thoughtful and generous men, like the noble Lord, Lord Annan, held important positions. He was Lieutenant Colonel Annan when I first met him in February 1946. Despite the horrible experiences of the war and the unspeakable crimes by Germans, military governments of the western allies created conditions which enabled the new Germany to rise from the ashes and soon take its place in the community of nations. Should this not be much easier in a small part of Europe--Kosovo--which consists above all of victims and not of perpetrators of crimes?
I do not believe that Ernest Bevin would have called the British policy towards Germany "ethical", but it was certainly effective. I believe that we have a grave responsibility not just to protect the warring factions in Kosovo but to make possible the emergence of a province of Europe, which, along with others, will find its place in the redefined European Union.
In this comment on interest and principle in foreign policy, I have avoided the one subject which above all has led the media to pour scorn on the idea of an ethical dimension in foreign policy trade. As a former European Commissioner who preceded the late Lord Soames in the trade portfolio, I have seen a certain amount of trade policy in the making and un-making. The subject remains difficult. When I saw the delight of Charlene Barshefsky, the American trade representative, at the completion of negotiations for China's accession to the World Trade Organisation, I could not help thinking of the massacre of Tiananman Square and the suppression of Tibet. However, I also knew that it would not do anyone anywhere any good to use moral disgust at China's violations of human rights as an argument against having the country at the negotiating table.
There are, to be sure, limits to such victories of the head over the heart, but after many years of thinking about them, I still find it difficult to define the line with any precision. That is notably the case when it comes to embargoes and sanctions. When, last week, the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who alas is no longer with us--at least for the moment--asked about rebuilding the bridges of the Danube to avoid more harm to innocent people and the Government's reply invoked the sanctions against Serbia, I found myself on his side rather than on the side of the Government. When I read that sanctions against the terrible Taliban regime of Afghanistan included a discontinuation of international postal services, that seemed to me wrong.
Nearer home, it is of course distasteful to realise that British arms have helped repression in Indonesia, although I can readily see the conflict for Members of the other place representing constituencies in which arms are manufactured and jobs are therefore at risk.
Lord Weidenfeld: My Lords, perhaps I may turn to the Middle East. The imminent visit of Prime Minister Barak of Israel to this country may shed new light on the next and so decisive stage of the Arab/Israel peace process. The Israeli Premier has been speaking confidently about prospects and he has been speaking civilly, even flatteringly, about his actual Palestinian and hoped for Syrian interlocutors. But there are perhaps grounds for muted optimism because the unresolved problems are formidable and touch on other issues concerning the Middle East. Euphoric hopes are out of place, as are unrealistic timetables and the urgings of impatient politicians and media commentators.
The Middle East we now confront presents us with new critical issues that go well beyond the conventionally accepted dimensions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the Caucasian states have emerged as significant and eventually vitally important players. Before long, what happens in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan will be just as relevant as what occurs now in the Magreb, the Sudan or even the Gulf. Water will rival oil as a strategic as well as economic commodity.
In this context the role of Turkey assumes paramount importance and it is with satisfaction that we should greet the Cardiff declaration of the European Union to accord Turkey the undisputed right to apply for membership. We know that attitudes of different European countries towards this issue have been very differentiated. The most soul searching debates occurred in Germany, where the Turkish minority of more than 2 million people, ranging over three generations, creates problems. But the current government have taken a positive stand. The Foreign Minister has come out with an unconditional pledge to back the application of Turkey.
Turkey's long-term economic prospect could be formidable, as are the immediate problems and deficiencies. But there are very solid building blocks for progress. Turkey has an excellent workforce and a burgeoning middle and managerial class. As someone who happens to have experience with networks in higher education, in Europe, the USA and Israel, I have found that Turkish universities, almost alone in the whole of the Muslim world, can hold their own with the best and most sophisticated centres of learning in the West. Turkey, a partner in NATO, which was good enough to risk the lives of her sons for the Atlantic Alliance, should surely be entitled to the material and social benefits and rights of an expanding Europe. Of course she must meet conditions of social and economic convergence and above all upgrade
This week in Istanbul, at the meeting of the OSCE, western leaders will speak to President Clerides. A new constitutional construct for the future of Cyprus will have to be found to clear up this contentious issue which stands in the way of Turkey's adherence. The spontaneous humanitarian response of the Greek Government and people in the wake of the Turkish earthquakes has made a deep impression on Turkish public opinion.
The more tangible, credible and cordial our approach to Turkey, the more compassionate and balanced our appreciation of her tremendous problems, the more ready she will be to meet the required standards. But we must also appreciate the size of her diverse problems. She has been twice stricken by dire, natural catastrophe, hurting her economy. She suffers from terrorism within the country. It is far too easy and glib to identify the PKK case with the case for the Kurdish population as a whole. There is a long tradition of social and cultural symbiosis between Turks and Kurds which exists alongside a history of terrible feuding. Furthermore, Turkey lives alongside some unstable and bellicose neighbours. She is the great secular power in Islam, a bastion against the unpredictable carriers of the virus of extremism which menaces not only the region but reaches into the Balkans and even across the Atlantic.
Turkey wishes to maintain friendly relations with the Arab world. The Turkish armed forces are not only reliable members of the NATO alliance but represent a stabilising force in the Middle East. Turkey has close military links with Israel. These links do not threaten the Arab world. On the contrary, they remove much of the ingrained anxiety of the Jewish state at being ringed round by countries whose stability, even in the event of a contractual peace, must not be readily assumed. This Turkish alliance with Israel has been misinterpreted, not only in certain parts of the Arab world but also by critics in this country--usually those who are either consciously or subliminally influenced by an anti-Israel bias. Surprisingly, the BBC also lends itself to sallies of a rather partisan nature on this subject. The Turkish Prime Minister admitted that torture is still practised, but at least he condemns it and promises to abolish it. We must persevere and persist ruthlessly, monitor it and ensure that it is abolished. Let us not forget, however, that there are still unhappy human rights deficits even among countries already declared eligible for membership. I refer to child exploitation on a disturbing scale in Romania and discrimination against and maltreatment of Roma and Sinti in the Czech Republic.
This debate is one of the rare occasions when we can stand back and scrutinise Her Majesty's Government's international behaviour, caught in the dilemma between aspiration and performance--the dilemma between an ethical foreign policy and the
The Government must not be lured into lifting sanctions in both countries on the erroneous grounds that this would ultimately weaken the regime, strengthen the opposition and benefit the people. It would in fact enrich the ruling clans and tighten the grip of the tyrants, who are pinning their hopes on their ability to outstay the visibly tiring alliance, and plotting their revenge, which in the case of Serbia would mean reconquest of territory and in the case of Iraq the undisturbed amassing of chemical and bacteriological arms--but in both cases more misery and loss of human lives.
We have had some interesting and enlightening contributions to the questions of national interest and humanitarian policies. I submit that in the cases of Iraq and Serbia the two converge. It is in the national interest of a civilised country to fight against a regime that is preparing arsenals of mass destruction that could within measurable time also affect this continent. I also believe that it is in the national interest to fight the regime in Serbia. That regime has had a destabilising effect on an area of Europe that is within an hour-and-a-half's flying time from here. I do not say that humanitarian and national interests are the same and I do not suggest Quixotic policies. A medieval adage from the city of Nuremberg stated, "We only hang people once we have caught them". It is most certainly not advisable to hit out everywhere in a Quixotic manner. However, if it is within our power to catch the criminal and to do justice, then we should do so.
The announcement from the Government that they will nominate an annual commemoration day for the Holocaust is a commendable gesture in the condemnation of past genocide. But it will lose much of its meaning if we do not do all we can--all we can--to punish all the perpetrators of current and continuing crimes against mankind.
Lord Paul: My Lords, I apologise to the House that I will not be able to stay until the end of the debate. I have a longstanding engagement to attend a function and I should like to show my face there before the end of the evening.
As we conclude the last century of this millennium and look towards another era, it is appropriate that we define our agenda and set our goals for the future. These were, I believe, well defined in the gracious
As I reflect upon the gracious Speech, I would like to draw your Lordships' attention to certain concerns that are implicit in its themes and thrust--concerns about democracy and human rights around the world and the importance the Government of Britain attach to them. Of course, in the larger scope of modern history, we have good reason to be pleased at the remarkable progress in the advancement of political liberties. For the first time ever, more than one-half of the people on earth live in nations that are democratic or are moving in that direction. Human rights are now at the top of the international agenda. In those terms it is still an imperfect world, but what a contrast it is from a time barely 60 years ago when only around a dozen countries qualified as democracies.
Britain deserves some credit for this global progress. After all, we have evolved a genuinely democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. We have done so without radical upheavals and in many ways there are lessons for others in that. I know, perhaps better than most, the strains and tensions this experience has brought. But I also know that the progress we have achieved has taken place through a process of evolution, a process far more protective of liberties and more successful than some of the revolutionary experiments that have scarred our century. I am vividly reminded of this because it has been my good fortune to be the Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton. Noble Lords will remember that this was a parliamentary constituency from whence came a different message just a few decades ago. In the pursuit of a more democratic ethos, we still have some way to go. However, I am encouraged by the sensitivity that the Government show in these matters and the ways in which they are moving to that end.
Our history and democratic traditions impose obligations on us. Among those is surely a duty to assist multilateral organisations as they seek to advance democracy and human rights. Let me say that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary deserves our commendation for his unremitting efforts in the pursuit of these ideals in international forums. That is not often an easy task, given the temper of those gatherings. Britain must continue to promote these causes in such places, especially when they are indifferent to gross abridgements of human rights and human freedoms. That is why I am particularly glad that the Commonwealth is becoming unambiguous on those matters. At this point let me mention that the role of Emeka Anyaoku, the retiring Secretary General, deserves more recognition that it has received. Yet there must be some caution on these matters.
A newly created Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has been designed to name and shame countries that are foot-dragging on, or violating, democratic and human rights principles. Its mission should be undertaken with great care and discernment lest it become a finger-pointing and preachy body. As my
In that context, noble Lords will be aware of the controversial international debate currently taking place about sovereignty. There are those, such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who argue that state sovereignty in the modern world is conditional on the human rights behaviour of governments. Many states resist that notion, maintaining that sovereignty is absolute and that internal affairs are entirely the business of national governments. This is a highly contentious issue and will, from time to time, set Britain's national interests against our commitment to democracy and human rights. I hope that on this issue the Government will soon give your Lordships' House an outline of their principles and policy. We will need to give much more attention to this subject.
Allow me to conclude with a tangential observation. We now have a form of national consensus on free enterprise as a fundamental of our economic system. Most people in this country believe that some kind of market economy is fully compatible with democracy. Britain has supported this proposition around the world and it has served us well both in principle and in practice. However, we need to go further. It is now abundantly clear that market economics will not work properly unless accompanied by the rule of law. It is not coincidental that the rule of law is a basic and much cherished component of our democracy. This is a concept that we can promote anywhere and everywhere without accusations of singing a politically self-serving song or engaging in cultural and economic imperialism. As we endorse elections, representative government and the other appurtenances of democracy around the world, I would also like the value of the rule of law to be given more attention. I think that this will better secure both democracy and markets than rhetorical flourishes about the virtues of freedom.
After a century in which authoritarian politics often looked to be the wave of the future, the tide of history is at last on our side. Such moments do not come easily or cheaply. We must work hard to keep the momentum. We have too often paid the price for not sufficiently nurturing what we have accomplished. That is why I am heartened by the sentiments in the gracious Speech.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I too would like to say a few words about the United Nations, particularly in the context of Britain's defence efforts. It does not matter whether we regard the end of the Cold War as being on 9th November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, or two years later when the Soviet Union was dissolved on 26th December 1991. The point is that the era that came to an end once again gave the opportunity for the United Nations to fulfil some of the hopes that its founding fathers had before the Iron
Thus the reference in the gracious Speech to the modernisation of the UN and the desire of the Government to make the Security Council more effective and representative, could be of great importance not just to Britain but to the world. I say "could be" because I fear that so far I am somewhat unconvinced by the Government's foreign policy. In general it does not seem to have had the rigour or the success of the Government's economic policy. That wretched phrase of which we have heard so much today, an ethical foreign policy, has long been revealed for what it was, a mere sound bite with little thought of the real difficulties that lie behind it. I very much hope that the Minister will ensure that the Foreign Secretary reads carefully the two fascinating speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Bridges and Lord Dahrendorf. I found it very worthwhile to hear on the one hand a diplomat wrestling with ethics and, on the other, a philosopher wrestling with diplomacy.
I also fear that the professionalism of the Foreign Office may be undermined by what I believe my noble friend Lord Lawson might say were the A-level thoughts of some teenage scribblers who are employed in Mr Cook's foreign policy centre. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, pointed out to us, these matters are very difficult and not susceptible to jejune solutions.
I do not have the same criticism of the Government's defence policy. I have the highest regard for the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who was a splendid defence secretary. I believe that he will be an excellent Secretary-General for NATO.
This evening I want to probe a little more deeply into exactly what the Government intend as regards the UN and the Security Council. I imagine that a number of us have read the article in the Economist of September 1999 by the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr Kofi Annan, in which he gives his own ideas of the way forward. I admit that I found his views clearer in highlighting the problems than they were in offering solutions. For example, he seeks to redefine sovereignty away from the sovereignty of the state towards the sovereignty of the individual, when he states that the aim of the UN Charter is,
I found it a moving and remarkable experience to listen to my noble friend Lady Cox and her description of what was happening in two parts of the world which she knows so intimately and which she has investigated with such personal courage. If ever there was a case for your Lordships' House being different from another place, that particular speech highlighted it.
I do not believe that the concept of a sovereign state seeking to advance its national interest is about to wither away. Any government which gave the electorate that impression would not find themselves immensely popular with that electorate.
Mr Blair is not the first Prime Minister to seek to be in some respects his own Foreign Secretary and I can quite see why he is doing so. Indeed, I have no problem in recognising that Mr Blair has become a major international figure. As regards the UN, he has the opportunity to enhance or to reduce irreversibly Britain's national interests.
First, we hold one of the five veto seats on the Security Council. That is our lasting reward for the time when we as a country stood alone against tyranny in the world, between the fall of Paris on 22nd June 1940 and the invasion of Russia by Germany on 22nd June 1941. That seat means that we can never be required to become involved in UN operations with which we do not agree. We can simply veto the Security Council resolution that would authorise them. That is why our veto seat is a national asset beyond price. I hope that the Government will assure us that they have no plans to surrender it, or indeed to trade it. It cannot of course be taken from us. Any proposal to remove it would itself be subject to veto.
Our second advantage is that we have military forces with standards of professionalism, equipment, discipline, diplomacy, integrity and valour which, taken together, are not surpassed by any other country in the world. I particularly echo the doubts expressed on the idea of a European army by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Owen.
Unfortunately, our military forces are small. They are already greatly over-stretched. We cannot easily afford to expand them within the present budgetary constraints. Yet the world will increasingly need our forces. Since 1989 there have been 35 UN-led (blue-helmeted) operations; there has been British military participation in 17 of them. In addition, there have been five UN-authorised operations (which means multi-national forces or coalitions of the willing) and Britain has provided troops for all of them. I should like to know the gross and net cost to the British taxpayer of each of those operations. If the Minister does not have the information now, perhaps she will write to me.
That brings me to a point that I raised recently with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons; namely, the urgent need for the provision of military forces for operations authorised by the UN to be separated from the funding of them. There should be a principle of 100 per cent reimbursement to the providers of military forces from a military fund to which all members of the UN should contribute in proportion to their GNP. I recognise that that is more easily said than done. But I hope that we shall work towards that and that the Government will tell us that they agree.
Then there is the real status of UN Security Council resolutions in international law. It is a very uncertain area. There could be great disturbance to the present delicate balance of authority that Security Council resolutions have if the composition of the council were to be disturbed.
The Security Council is the one place where the scope and need for the most skilful traditional diplomacy survives. The need to obtain the agreement of five potential veto members is often hard enough. If that number were to be increased by one or two, it might be possible. But it is hard to see that any increase would not actually amount to nine or 10. Then, I do not believe that the thing would work. There would be a danger of the UN reverting to the impotence of the Cold War period. I should be even more concerned if the proposal, floated by Mr Kofi Annan in his article in the Economist, to by-pass the Security Council in giving a mandate for UN military intervention were to be implemented.
There needs to be a great deal more thought on the implications for UN intervention than so far appears to be given by either HMG or the UN. There is a need for a detailed political, organisational, legal, moral, logistical and financial framework. It could start with something like a Ditchley conference or even a series of Ditchley conferences. Any proposed changes to the organisation of the UN or the structure and role of the Security Council must be fully debated in Parliament before they are agreed. I suggest that when the Government have gone further with their thinking, they might consider publishing a Green Paper which would enable us all to discuss the proposals.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, this debate has been wide and I support those who exhorted the Government to use their maximum diplomatic efforts in the cruel conflicts in Sudan, Chechnya and elsewhere. Notably, I support the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I wish to say a word about the European Union, as I have much, perhaps too much, experience in that area. As time goes by, many of the decisions and proposals in the European Union might be best described as "home affairs" rather than "international affairs". Some matters may come up elsewhere during the days of debate on the Address. The issues I wish to raise are still international matters. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, will feel quite at home with them.
In the gracious Speech there are many general phrases about the European Union, in particular that the United Kingdom Government will take a leading role, with partners. That is a lovely phrase, but it is the implementation that counts, including the implementation in the current year. It is like ballroom dancing: I always take a leading role with partners and nearly always tread on their toes. It is possible that the implementation does not match the general objective.
During the coming Session the Government will be called upon to deal with some business in the European Union which will profoundly affect not only our citizens but our relations with the rest of the world. The principal agenda for the European Union has hardly ever been clearer. It is clear and it is what I described elsewhere as "the triple whammy". There are three main elements. First, there are the next steps on economic and monetary union as preparations are finalised not in Britain but elsewhere for the issue of euro notes and coins in the euro zone. That will change the perception of the euro from being a subject for political and academic discussion to an immediate issue for millions of citizens. It will give the euro a higher profile in international monetary discussions and with the citizens of many other countries.
The second element of the triple whammy is the enlargement to a number of applicant countries and I wish to say a word about that. The importance of the coming change has not been fully understood in the United Kingdom. The enlarged union, which runs up to the borders of the old Soviet Union, will be a very different mixture of national traditions and of richer and poorer countries. Over 100 million people have asked to join our union, which will have almost 500 million people, twice the number in the United States and three times the number in Russia.
It is a more immediate issue since the preparations for the negotiations began quite a long time ago. Time is passing. The principal purpose of the Commission's communication Agenda 2000, which came out in July 1997, was to put the European Union in a position to launch the accession negotiations on a fully researched and firm basis. It was a good example of the European Commission working well, in particular with the analysis of the position in the applicant states and the analysis of how we are to finance it within the current budget ceiling, at least up to 2005 or 2006. So we have set off the negotiations but we must not lose the impulsion. There is a certain risk of that at present. If that happens it is a serious political risk. We have set ourselves on this course and we must continue. During
In addition, we are told that there is to be another intergovernmental conference in the near future. I note that we have not given it too much publicity. I am not sure that it will be the world's most popular proposal. That conference is to deal with certain reforms in the present Union not settled at Amsterdam which are considered relevant to enlargement. I shall return to this in a moment because I believe that it is a very important point which so far has not had much attention.
The third part of the triple whammy is the implementation of the Treaty of Amsterdam, notably in the area of common foreign and security policy and citizen-sensitive areas such as immigration and asylum and the fight against organised crime. For myself, I consider that the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam on foreign policy are a clear improvement on Maastricht since it will now be the heads of government who set strategy guidelines in some important areas and decision-making by Ministers will be eased. In short, I believe that the United Kingdom Government will have their hands full in working with their European Union partners, and to some degree with the European Parliament and Commission, on these three major issues and in continued action to ensure that the single market works effectively and fairly on the ground and that the liberalising trend of recent years in both the EU and the world continues.
I believe that what has been achieved since the launch of the single market is a miracle. The EU played a major role in the Uruguay round of international trade negotiations. As a number of noble Lords have said, this is an area in which the United Kingdom Government had a decisive role in the tide of liberalisation. We can continue that role in the year ahead, notably in further international negotiations on trade barriers which are coming, albeit with some difficulty. At the same time, we should seek to settle some of the other important but smaller problems, such as bananas. That is an important matter for some parts of the world and our relations with them, but it is somewhat bizarre when it is considered that the European Union imports 1.1 million tonnes of bananas from South America and 1.3 million tonnes from Central America, which would fill a big space in this Chamber, and banana exports by the United States could be easily accommodated on the Government Front Bench.
I turn to specific aspects of the major issues and pose a few questions to the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland. When many years ago I was private secretary to a Minister in your Lordships' House there was great disappointment if no specific questions were put to which the Minister could give pithy answers. Therefore, I should like to oblige the noble Baroness. I do not believe that these questions are politically
As to enlargement, do the Government realistically expect the European Union and the applicant states to have identified during the coming year the key issues that must be settled before accession? Are we or are we not on that timetable? Do the Government see any advantage in setting a target date for completion of negotiations, as some people argue? How do the Government view the objectives of the intergovernmental conference? Do they see it as potentially making radical changes with a view to enlargement or principally as an opportunity to complete unfinished business from Amsterdam, such as the weighting of votes between member states and the number of commissioners in an enlarged Union?
The handling of the intergovernmental conference is important. History shows that the number of subjects in an intergovernmental conference tends to increase to fill the time available. That is what has occurred in the past. We are in the exactly opposite position to the United States, where there have been only 26 amendments of the Constitution since the founding; and only 13 since the abolition of slavery. But we have an enormous number of changes proposed. There is a risk that in such circumstances changes which may involve some loss of sovereignty get into the package almost by accident. How we handle the intergovernmental conference is an important point for the United Kingdom.
Finally, perhaps I may say a brief word on the reference in the gracious Speech to over-complex legislation and bureaucracy. There is much to be done there in the United Kingdom and in the European Union on secondary legislation. The message which I pass, if I may, through the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, to the Secretary of State is that it is important not just to change the structure of the Commission but also to change what the Commission does. It is essential to reduce or scrap some of the minor tasks which clog up the administration and give rise to dispute with the Parliament and Court of Auditors out of all proportion to the possible benefits from the schemes and often increase the burdens on those who seek to make the schemes work.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, I have no special questions for the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, but I shall listen with great interest to the replies that she gives to the previous speaker and earlier speakers.
Coming from the European Parliament, I believe that national identity is best expressed today in an integrated, enlarged Europe; and that the enlargement of Europe is the best way to secure peace for upwards of half a billion people. I believe that beyond Europe, the enlarged and integrated Europe can negotiate well with the Magreb and the Persian Gulf; that Britain's historic links can be brought into play best in the dimension of an integrated Europe; and that we can then negotiate with China, now, happily, coming into the World Trade Organisation. Thus we can work best as a nation state for global stability.
These are uncharted waters. We have had the excitement of 50 years of peace and prosperity, now about to be transformed into a wider Europe. Can we successfully enlarge the formula while still keeping the original strength and flavour? That is the challenge.
In the European Union, we are committed to integrate more countries into the Union as soon as possible. A European Union of even 30 members is perfectly possible in the medium-term future, even if it does involve large and fundamental institutional changes. For enlargement is not only a political necessity, but surely it is also our moral duty towards people who have suffered 40 years of occupation by the Soviet army and have not broken their chains. Czechs, Hungarians, Poles; these are our partners, our European neighbours, our cousins. They are just as European as we are and perhaps they look upon themselves as even more so.
In this context, the Commission now proposes to extend negotiations on accession beyond the initial six plus one, which was published in Agenda 2000 (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus) to all the applicant countries, now numbering 12, including Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, even though there are some special conditions, which I shall mention later, in the cases of Bulgaria and Romania.
I welcome that move by the Commission. There is no doubt that that positive signal has already been appreciated in the countries involved. Instead of having six, we now have 12 in the front line for the enlargement of the European Union. And, in fact, we do not have 12; we have a baker's dozen because Turkey has been recognised by the Commission as a genuine applicant. No longer are we playing games with Turkey, just giving it a little through the customs union, but at last we have come to the crunch and said, "Yes, Turkey is a genuine entrant".
That has brought into question our observations about what the European Union really is. To my way of thinking, that moves us on, and rightly so, from the Europe of Constantine perhaps to the Europe of Alexander. The change of attitude of the European Union towards Turkey follows the considerable softening of the Greek position after not one but now two earthquakes. I see that as most positive because for me the accession of Turkey has been a goal for more than 15 years. At the end of a long process, I am sure that Turkey will enter because the process will also involve welcome solutions to issues of human rights, the Turkish Kurds, Cyprus and the Aegean Sea.
Surely, therefore, our goal must be to open negotiations with all the candidates. I do not believe that binding target dates are proper in this case. Target dates will merely disappoint the potential entrants. Nonetheless, surely President Prodi's goal of signing the first treaties by the end of 2004 is excellent. For that to happen, the European Union, we ourselves, have to have achieved significant internal reform by 2002. We cannot afford failure at the next intergovernmental conference.
One of the consequences of the early accessions will be the existence of new and significant transitional periods. We remember that Spain and Portugal were granted generous transitional periods in several key areas; sometimes seven years long from 1985 to 1992. Surely, there is no reason why central European countries cannot benefit from the same treatment. Therefore we have to look carefully at pre-accession strategies, in particular at the Poland/Hungary economic reform programme known as PHARE.
PHARE has been the main support tool from the European Union to candidate countries, not just to Poland and Hungary but now to all the countries of central Europe. It has helped a great deal, particularly in the areas of integration of the acquis communautaire into international legislative corpus. But there is room for improvement. It should be more transparent, more accountable and more closely monitored. Alas, those three words ring true for much of the European Union's programmes, as we have seen yet again from another negative order report in the past week. It is in the mutual interest of the European Union (better use of public money) and the candidate countries(faster accession) to improve the effectiveness of PHARE.
It is perhaps for that reason that over the past decade Romania seems to have progressed less well than other central European countries. In order to achieve successful liberal democracies there have been several changes internally and attempts to struggle with great problems; for example, that of child orphans, as well as with establishing democratic institutional frameworks. We must put a lot of work into Romania. Our target is to support the country's efforts to join the European Union as soon as possible. Romanians are hopeful of that genuine offer. I shall be in Romania this weekend to discuss with members of the government and the population how they may translate that optimism into practical actions to meet the criteria.
The primary objective for Romania now is to meet the Copenhagen criteria set by the European Union as the two main prerequisites for accession to the European Union, which are stable democratic institutions and a full-speed market economy with special effort required in assistance to childcare institutions. Total PHARE funding for central Europe will reach £1 billion per year between 2000 and 2005. Those funds are vital and their employment must be optimised.
I turn briefly to the Gulf to consider Iraq, where there are war crimes, including environmental war crimes; where sanctions are still in place; where the Iraqi people are not our enemy and never have been but are suffering desperately under the dictator. The United Kingdom supports the Iraqi people in their fight for freedom. However, their bids for freedom, as individuals and as groups, are stifled by torture, destroyed by imprisonment and, ultimately, despatched by execution.
Who can resolve the crisis? Only the Iraqi people, the opposition inside and outside Iraq can do that. I welcome the 8 million dollars for which the US Congress has voted to support the Iraqi opposition, and the 2 million dollars which it has set aside for other projects of that nature.
If the Iraqi opposition succeed I hope there will be no revenge slaughtering of others around Saddam. I am sure that the regime of "rule by fear" has made many other harmless people carry out the most dreadful deeds. We outside Iraq should press and work with the United Nations to lead the task of the rehabilitation of Iraq from the southern marshlands up to the northern tip of Kurdistan.
I cannot leave the topic of the Gulf without commenting on the bravery of the families in Kuwait. The loss of 0.1 per cent of that population has led to many personal tragedies. The public pain of the invasion that Kuwait bore so bravely and the ugly and repugnant scenes of cruelty do not leave the Kuwaiti minds. The Kuwaiti prisoners of war in Iraqi prisons seem to have disappeared. We must continue to work to get them released.
Finally, on Iran, I am so grateful to our Government and to those who work with the Government for building up relationships with the largest country in the Persian Gulf. This is a unique chance to reshape our policies in the region in the wake of the Cold War era. Britain had special and lengthy relationships with Iran and at last we are able to enlarge our trade and to work together on cultural issues. Recently I spent two days in Iran speaking to their first global international conference on ageing. It is most important that we should work in that country.
Earlier the Minister said that Britain's place in the world was to concentrate on tackling poverty and conflict prevention, and that our foreign policy should be grounded in the security of our country. I believe that to fulfil those goals our tasks are to support the Commonwealth, to work to strengthen our ties with North America, and, above all, to contribute to the security of the wider world by working for a larger, deeper and better integrated European Union.
I intend to speak on a subject that I told my colleagues concerned me--namely, Europe--about which there is a bland paragraph in the gracious Speech. I listened with interest to the speech of my noble friend Lord Williamson, who served with distinction as Secretary-General of the European Commission for, I believe, 10 years. He speaks with exceptional knowledge. I fear I have a rather more jaundiced view of what goes on in Brussels.
Noble Lords may remember the curious incident of the dog in the night time in the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze. The dog did nothing and remained silent when the villain led out the horse. In the last week or two there has been a similarly curious silence during the extraordinary actions of the French Government in refusing to admit British beef after the European Union and its scientific advisers had pronounced it safe. As far as I know there has been not a cheep from the leading Euro-fanatics in this country. They have preserved an embarrassed silence.
Two months ago in the Daily Telegraph the Prime Minister wrote that, in contrast to the incompetence and extremism of the Conservatives, his Government had worked with our European partners to get the beef ban lifted and that he would give our farmers support in recapturing lost markets. The Daily Telegraph's leader of the same day said that the Prime Minister was entitled to boast about the lifting of the beef ban and that it was something which he has been announcing for two years which has now happened. But it has not, at least not yet. The Prime Minister was wrong-footed. It is difficult not to see the French action as an attempt to damage our beef trade in the interests of their farmers.
In the light of that bizarre episode, which is merely the most outrageous of the periodic efforts of some of our so-called partners to do us down, it is surely necessary for us all to think seriously about whether our present relationship with continental Europe is the best available.
I was impressed by the thoughtful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, this afternoon on this issue. Those others who have been critical of the European Union and who were opposed to the Maastricht Treaty have, I think, three groups of causes for concern. To begin with, the EU itself is a far from satisfactory institution. There are times when I find myself so exasperated that I agree with a Mr Ellerby, who wrote to the Daily Telegraph saying:
The common fisheries policy is equally damaging, allowing other countries to take large parts of our once great but now diminishing fish stocks. It is supposed to be based on national quotas but this did not prevent the Spanish quota-hoppers moving in, and the Conservative Government's efforts to protect our fisheries have resulted in fines of millions of pounds which we taxpayers will have to pay to the Spaniards.
Our contributions to Community funds remain enormous--I think the figure was £9.5 billion this year--and disproportionate. We pay excessive amounts relative to our wealth, while other countries like the Republic of Ireland, Spain and Greece do extremely well. Fraud in the Community, as the late Lord Benson used to explain to your Lordships with great knowledge and authority, is sadly endemic and deeply rooted.
The management at the top leaves a lot to be desired, as was demonstrated by the resignation and disgrace of the previous Commission, many of whom, however, have returned to their posts as though nothing had happened. All in all, it is not an encouraging picture. We are again and again involved in disputes where we are in the right, but in a minority of one or two. There is the very recent "ganging up" of all our partners, except Luxembourg, on the withholding tax because, as the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, told us the other day, the Germans cannot manage to get a grip on their own tax evaders and so want to saddle us with a tax which would evidently do serious harm to the City, lose us thousands of jobs and drive a valuable trade out of the EU altogether. There is the damage to the London art market, which has been fully described to your Lordships. Our partners often give the impression of wanting to damage our national interests.
It is argued by the Europhiles that inside the EU we have influence and can fight our corner effectively. In practice, our influence appears to be minimal and we are constantly in the losing minority. I think the patience of our people may not be inexhaustible.
Perhaps most important of all, there is, I am convinced, a fundamental misfit in our membership of the EU as it has developed. No reasonable person can any longer doubt that the whole thrust of the EU is to build a single European state. This was the original aspiration of Jean Monnet and it is the clear aim of Romano Prodi, as it was of Jacques Delors and Jacques Santer, and of the governments of the member states apart from ourselves. Progress towards "ever closer union" has been the driving force behind Maastricht, Amsterdam, the inter-governmental conferences, the day-to-day work of the Commission, the Court and now the European Central Bank. If I were a Belgian or an Italian I should support it. But it is manifestly not what the British people want. We alone do not wish to be submerged in a European super-state.
But we face inexorable pressure to go along with European integration, as all our MEPs and officials know very well. Romano Prodi wants to reduce or eliminate remaining national vetoes and to increase the scope of qualified majority voting, although my noble friend Lord Owen has told us that there is really no scope for that. Our capacity to look after our interests, to secure opt-outs and rebates, is being rapidly eroded.
The immediate key question is whether we are to abandon our currency and adopt the euro. This would be a further giant step towards the creation of a European state and would be essentially a political and constitutional decision--not, as the Government and the euro fanatics dishonestly pretend, a purely economic one.
I was interested in the points made on this by my noble friend Lord Owen. Mr Major, the man who signed up to Maastricht and denied the people of this country the possibility of choosing what they wanted in a referendum, told the students of Harvard that our participation in the euro is "an inevitability". But your Lordships may have seen the comments by Sir John Coles, who served in Brussels and was, until two years ago, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. He is reported as saying that entering the euro could seriously damage British influence in Europe and across the world; that,
Sir John and other distinguished people who are against our joining the euro, nevertheless stop short of saying that we should leave the EU. So does the Conservative Party. That party has now taken a robust line in defence of the pound, even though the old guard of the party describe this as "mad" or "incalculable folly". Their change of front is welcome, but their slogan, "In Europe but not run by Europe", though striking a chord with the electorate, as was shown in the European elections, is an unattainable ideal. If by "in Europe" they mean belonging to the EU, then we are increasingly "run by Europe". We long ago surrendered control of agriculture, fisheries and trade, and every year more of our affairs are run by Brussels and this Parliament and our Government decide less and less.
The Europhiles habitually describe Eurosceptics as extremists. But it is surely they who are extremists, seeking as they do to abolish our currency and what remains of our independence and to hand over control of our affairs to unelected commissioners and bureaucrats who know nothing of this country. It is surely not extreme to deplore the way we have turned our backs on our old friends in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, even compelling their nationals to stand in the "other countries" queue at Heathrow.
I am amazed that so many prominent members of the political class in this country are dedicated to European integration. To me their attitude is hard to understand. But worse than that, many of them, from both parties, have when in power told the people of
One of the undoubted successes of the Euro-fanatics has been to get it established that to leave the EU is unthinkable, since it would have dreadful consequences for all of us and that this course is only advocated by lunatics. So the Conservative Party and indeed many Eurosceptics maintain that we should stay within the EU but work to make things better and stem the integrationist tide. That is a respectable policy but one which I believe has no prospect of success.
We are in practice faced with only two alternatives--either to continue as we are in the EU, knowing that we are bound to be dragged slowly but surely into the European state our partners want to see; or to work out a new, looser and more satisfactory relationship with Europe. I have no doubt which is the wise course for this country. We should apply our minds to working out a positive alternative to integration. We should certainly preserve the common European market, which is even more valuable to our European trading partners than it is to us. But we need to opt out of the CAP, the CFP and the jurisdiction of the court and to stand aside from the drive to create a single state. No doubt there would be howls of abuse. But our partners need our market and it would be strongly in their interest to reach an accommodation. I am sure that, if handled properly, we could negotiate a readjustment that would work. Norway and Switzerland already have arrangements which give them free trade with the EU. The European Economic Area, which grew out of EFTA, provides a useful blueprint.
A new relationship would free us from the constant rows we have at present and allow us to form a friendlier, more sensible relationship with our continental neighbours. Having one's in-laws living in one's house is a recipe for rows. Separate establishments promote harmony.
We must start now, without delay, to work out the details. The Government ought to do this, but they will not. So the various bodies now proposing entry to the euro should do it for them. They must get economists, bankers, lawyers, businessmen, farmers, fishermen and others to work out plans for a readjustment which will be fair to all and secure British interests. They must also spell out the advantages of this course to the British people. I believe that such a readjustment would give an immense boost to our self-confidence. It would be a great and exciting adventure and set our country on a new course with great prospects for the future. I should be happy to be part of it.
Lord Vivian: My Lords, I hope that I may take noble Lords back to the defence of the realm. I shall come to the Strategic Defence Review in due course. I wish to start with the most pressing issue confronting the Army now--the overstretch due to over-commitment to which many of your Lordships have referred.
Recently, the Army was deploying 47 per cent. of its troops to prepare for, carry out and recover from operations. The outcome is that the Army has been unable to retain trained soldiers in their corps or regiments. Soldiers are trained extremely well for operations. They relish the opportunity to take part in them. The trouble lies in the frequency of these deployments, leaving wives and families on their own time after time. The average interval between tours ranges from between about seven months for the Royal Signals and Royal Engineers to about 15 months for armoured and infantry regiments. That is clearly too much as the main reason for married personnel leaving the Army is separation from their families for operational deployments.
Recruiting has never been better; it is up 12 per cent on the projected figures and is currently providing a small net inflow of about 25 soldiers per month. However, unless retention can be dramatically increased, it will take a long time to bring the Army up to its proper establishment. Some 3,500 applicants bid for the 350 places at the Army Foundation College. It is hoped that an increase to the capacity at that college can now be realised. Clearly, we should establish more such colleges and should never have abolished the junior leaders regiments.
I am not against the proposal to recruit young individuals who have been involved in petty crime as first offenders. But if, after careful selection, recruiting these individuals should take place, great care must be taken not to allow the parents of children who wish to enlist into the Armed Forces of the Crown to feel that their children are joining a bunch of criminals. It will not be easy to overcome this reaction. The Ministry of Defence should consider the matter carefully, otherwise other young people will not enlist.
How can the problem of over-stretch be addressed to staunch a serious outflow? I am well aware that the 47 per cent of men and women involved in operations has been reduced now to about 35 per cent. and that we have withdrawn a whole brigade from the Balkans. Our contribution to the military forces in Kosovo is now only about 10 per cent. of all troops there. Reduction of soldiers on unaccompanied tours of duty in peacekeeping or peace enforcement will help keep families together and thus provide less reason for leaving the Armed Forces. A larger Army would also help as unaccompanied tours of duty would come round less frequently, although in reality this is probably not practical. However, a larger Army could be achieved by the deployment of the Territorial Army which should certainly be able to undertake peacekeeping and humanitarian duties. I believe that it would acquit itself well.
Of course, if some troops are withdrawn from Northern Ireland, this will also relieve overstretch. But how can we retain those who have decided to leave in the immediate future, over the next few months? One measure might be to offer those undertaking more than one six-month operational deployment each year a bounty of £5,000 per married person and £3,000 per unmarried person for every extra tour carried out. That would not amount to great expenditure and those I have spoken to seem attracted by the proposal, saying that it would cause them to remain in the forces. Unless immediate action is taken we will not have an army capable of deployment. As many of your Lordships have said, such action must consist of either more resources or fewer commitments.
The real sting in the tail of the Strategic Defence Review was the imposition by the Treasury of 3 per cent savings to be found by the Ministry of Defence from its budget each year. This matter has already been touched upon. I believe that virtually all the efficiency savings that can be made have been achieved and that an additional 3 per cent saving can only be highly detrimental to the Armed Forces of the Crown.
Can the Minister give the House an assurance that training will not be cut; that delivery of weapons, equipment and spare parts will not be slowed down; that future weapon programmes will be kept on schedule; that all agreed pay and personnel matters will be met; that married quarters will be refurbished as planned; and that the Centre for Defence Medicine will go ahead as plotted? Can the Minister also confirm that the new smart procurement procedures might produce much of the required 3 per cent savings?
A number of the Strategic Defence Review recommendations have been carried out. The aspects of "jointery" show some progress. But what steps have been taken to set up the pool of rapid reaction forces and the joint helicopter command? When will they be operational? Are the other joint projects on schedule?
It is pleasing to note that the 3rd Division has been relieved of its regional administrative responsibilities and that 16 Air Assault Brigade has been formed. However, can the Minister give the estimated in-service dates for the two new aircraft carriers, the 55 Euro fighters and the four new roll-on-roll-off container ships? May I also ask whether the sixth operational brigade, 12 Mechanised Brigade, and the extra reconnaissance regiment will be operational on time and, if so, when?
The formation readiness cycle has not been achieved, mainly due to the Kosovo situation and the fact that the sixth brigade has not yet been formed. Your Lordships may remember that the underlying assumptions in the Strategic Defence Review were for the Army to be able to deploy a brigade quickly as part of the new Joint Rapid Reaction Force; to be able to mount two brigade-sized operations concurrently and to sustain one of them indefinitely; to deploy a war-fighting division; to continue to support NATO; and to sustain troops in support of our other interests in the world, including Northern Ireland. In view of the
I have already touched on the Territorial Army, but I would remind your Lordships that the TA has been restructured with a view to deployment on operational missions with the Regular Army. So far, in the main, only individuals in the TA have been sent to reinforce the Army on operational duty. Surely the time has come when whole Territorial Army units or sub-units should be deployed on operations such as peacekeeping or humanitarian tasks, which would relieve some overstretch in regular units. If we wish to retain a well trained regular army, various regiments of the TA should be sent to relieve troops in Bosnia and other parts of the world.
I turn to the issue of the Defence Medical Services. Although I have addressed this subject on many occasions in your Lordships' House, the situation has not improved. It has deteriorated. There is a real crisis in existence as the Defence Medical Services were short of about 2,500 personnel as at 1st June this year. I am not aware that the situation has improved in any way since then. Morale is low and future prospects are poor. Immediate action must be taken to rectify the crisis; otherwise the Defence Medical Services will collapse due to lack of staff.
Once again, the problems would appear to stem mainly from poor recruiting and lack of retention. Within the Army, the Royal Army Medical Corps units can support only a medium-scale deployment for operations, and even this may be in doubt as they are well below establishment. If that is the case, Royal Army Medical Corps reservists would have to be called up. Even that is questionable as the reserves themselves are well below strength.
How can that problem be addressed? The situation would be improved somewhat if the Ministry of Defence recruited from overseas. It is understood that there may be available a number of consultants and specialists within the United States of America due to a run-down in their own armed forces. There are also some in Canada, Australia and New Zealand who would welcome a short contract from the British Army. Considerable-sized bounties should be paid to the current consultants and specialists in an attempt to stem the outflow. The Royal Hospital at Haslar should not be run down or closed until the Centre for Defence Medicine is functioning well. Steps should have been taken by now to ensure that National Health Service trusts do not forbid their staff joining the reserves. Military training time should be made available in military district hospital units and proper mess facilities found within them as well.
I should like to touch on the TA medical resources. Before I do so, I must declare an interest as I am Honorary Colonel to 306 Field Hospital. There is insufficient time to draw your Lordships' attention to TA medical problems in any great detail. However, there are some immediate concerns. There have been establishment changes to provide for more consultants and specialists, but that has been at the expense of
The next point is that all field hospitals except one is a specialist unit. "Specialist unit" is a misleading term as it is a perfectly normal field hospital based on the normal establishment, but instead of recruiting from one specific area within the United Kingdom it recruits throughout the country. That ensures that on mobilisation, National Health Service trusts would not lose a large number of staff at any one time, which is exactly what the National Health Service is worried about. I believe that more TA field hospitals should be turned into specialist units, drawing their personnel from all over the country.
My last point concerns any future reduction in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Territorial Army Medical Services. I should be most grateful if the Minister would confirm that there are no plans to reduce them.
In conclusion, it is very much hoped that Her Majesty's Government will table a defence debate in the near future when matters can be presented in more detail and subjects such as our defence posture in Europe and training in all three services can be examined.
Finally, as is customary on such occasions, I pay my tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the Crown. They protect our liberty and freedom, are brave and courageous and are always prepared to make the supreme sacrifice. Those men and women are an outstanding example to everyone wherever they go, and we all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, first, I should like to say what a pleasure it is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, who speaks with such experience and professional knowledge from a long life in the Army. If I may say so without sounding patronising, he is a good example of the kind of Peer whom this House should seek to have in future, should there be a second stage in its reforms.
Like other noble Lords, naturally I read the somewhat lacklustre paragraphs on international affairs in the gracious Speech. However, perhaps I should not complain. We do not expect to have in a document of that nature an essay such as might have been written by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf. Basically, I agree with what was said. However, I notice that one aspect of international affairs was not mentioned. It was touched on very briefly--but only once--by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, when he pointed out that we have only one great power in international affairs at the present time. That is a most unusual state of affairs. Only one power is capable of intervening where it wants, with the force that it wants and when it wants. That power is the United States. This has never happened before. It is worth while
This current state of affairs is one with which we have to come to terms. The curious thing about the situation is that there are certain oddities with regard to the United States' attitude to world power. First, we are frequently made aware that important decisions on foreign affairs are taken in relation to how they affect lobbies and domestic aspects of American policy. For example, it is difficult to imagine that a major initiative on international affairs could be taken in this election year without considerations which would not seem relevant to the issue in hand. I cannot imagine that the US administration could think of revising its ill-advised policy of boycott towards Cuba until the spring of the year 2001 at the earliest.
Secondly, there is the curious fact that, although America is reasonably at ease with its global position, there is not a great deal of interest in the United States in international affairs in the 1990s. All of us who visit that country come back with some strange story of the relatively small number of Congressmen who actually have passports. Thirdly, there is the fact that the United States, although happy with world power, is most unhappy at the idea of losing men in conflict. That has never happened before with a great imperial authority. Even with the technological superiority of the United States, it is a most unusual aspect of power.
Fourthly, it is most uncertain as to when and how the United States will take any action in the international sphere. A book was written on this subject by Dr Richard Haas of the Brookings Foundation. It is entitled The Reluctant Sheriff. The title tells all. Dr Haas pointed out that on some occasions the United States, acting as world sheriff, might like to have, so to speak, a posse of supporters--in Europe, perhaps NATO; in the Middle East, perhaps the posse would be the United Nations. However, on other occasions, many Americans, particularly southern Senators or southern Congressmen, would prefer to act without a posse at all. For example, the French journal Le Point has recently said that in order to fight the drug problem in Colombia 5,000 American citizens are acting under the Drug Enforcement Agency. It is an action of international intervention without a posse.
Do we imagine that this state of affairs will continue indefinitely? In many respects of course it would be beneficial if it were to do so. Most noble Lords would accept--although no doubt with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney--that the United States is basically a benign power. It has a working democracy that is even more effective at the lower levels than it is at the top. It has a remarkable press and, above all, it is influenced by ourselves. For that reason it must be in our interest that that great country should be in such an astonishing position.
However, wise men have observed that great powers do not remain in that position for ever. There must be anxiety that America's reluctance to commit troops to combat situations might adversely affect its imperial position. The lack of interest in international affairs of the American public at large must be a weakness. What could happen? For the foreseeable future it does not look as though anything is going to happen. There do not appear to be any potential successors. China or Iran would be impossible.
That brings me to the question of Europe. Of course the nation states of Europe are retired imperial countries and are not capable of becoming anything like the United States. We flitter like moths around the flame of American power, sometimes being burned and wounding ourselves but unable to affect the character of the jet. I listened with great care and attention to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, when he warned against any suggestion that we should join a large enterprise merely because it was European. However, if together we were to create something along the lines of a European defence community that could operate within NATO--I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Owen, said on this--at least for the near future, this could be a force which would lead to an alternative source of civilised power in the world. In the short term that could be a continuing source of assistance and counsel to the United States. In the long term it would be able to remind the United States that there are alternatives which could be considered on many different issues.
For that reason I believe that the section in the gracious Speech that gives further support to the ideas on European defence initiated last year at St Malo should be followed up. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, when he asked for a debate in this House in the near future to discuss European defence matters with more attention than hitherto we have been able to give.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, the gracious Speech, while long in its legislative programme, was certainly short in terms of reference to international development and made no mention of the programme of Her Majesty's Government as regards Africa. However, it did mention that Her Majesty's Government would build on work,
Although many of these wars have been largely internal in origin there has been a tendency for them to mushroom into regional conflicts. What better example than the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Eight million refugees and countless more millions of internally displaced people bear witness to the awesome toll of conflict in Africa. What hope does that give for the young children in that continent affected and afflicted by poverty, malnutrition and civil war?
As a noble Lord who has spent most of his life in Africa I say this basically feeling more as an African than as an Englishman. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, that one of the main pre-conditions for eradicating poverty will be through the provision of peace and security in many of the war-torn countries rather than through pouring more and more aid into them.
I also entirely support the call by my noble friend Lord Sandwich that Her Majesty's Government should promote greater investment in Africa. I pay tribute to the invaluable work of the NGOs and all those humanitarian agencies which have done such sterling work over the years many of whose representatives have lost their lives in the course of their work.
The country that particularly concerns me is Angola, a country which has seen little peace for almost 30 years. Despite the peace accord earlier this year, the country has now fallen back into civil war. Mr Savimbi and his UNITA forces are widely perceived as craving power and the MPLA as wanting plunder. In the absence of a commitment to peace by both sides, Angola has simply fallen off the international agenda.
In some war zones in Angola landmines are being planted faster than crops. The World Food Programme has received less than 40 per cent of what it needs and once eradicated diseases such as polio are thriving once again in Angola's inaccessible areas with the results that infant and child mortality rates are rising to appalling levels.
Sadly, the conflicts in Angola and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had fed off each other and continue to do so. What is needed is a broader, effective regional effort. I have my concerns about the efficacy of SADC. I do not expect the Minister to make any comments about it. The matter can perhaps be raised in another short debate later in the Session.
I entirely agree and pay tribute to the remarkable and moving speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford who spoke of the dividends of peace in Mozambique and the admirable work of Christian Aid. With diamonds and oil in Angola, it ought to be rich but it is sapped by war.
The constraints on the economy in Mozambique are primarily the fact that 60 per cent of the adult population are illiterate, and the social problem that haunts most of sub-Saharan Africa--namely, the spread of AIDS. In replying to this long debate, perhaps the Minister would briefly outline what programmes Her Majesty's Government have, both to fight the spread of AIDS and to promote greater education for the less privileged in sub-Saharan Africa.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to the contribution of the BBC World Service in Africa. The World Service has played an important part in rebuilding many countries destroyed by conflict, through the provision of relevant and independent information and analysis. It is by far the most listened to international broadcaster in Africa. In several countries, it is the main radio station.
The recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in South Africa assisted in pushing Africa up the international agenda. I hope that President Thabo Mbeki's dream in the next millennium of an African renaissance will be a reality, not just a pipe-dream.
The Earl of Dundee: My Lords, the prospect of lasting peace in Europe may now be rather more convincing than at any previous time. That prospect takes into account the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the consequences of the Kosovo campaign earlier this year. No doubt we should seek to measure and evaluate the outcome of any such peace prospect in terms of stable economic and social development within the regions and communities of European states. That is perhaps as clear a criterion of measurement as it is a desired end product.
What may be less obvious is that economic and social development levels should become the means as well as the desired ends of European stability, let alone the key ingredients and instruments for achieving lasting peace in Europe. Yet that proved to be the case between 1948 and 1989 in terms of the Cold War. The 1949 NATO Alliance could not have been formed had it not been preceded by the economic disbursement of Marshall aid in 1948.
The Cold War would not have ended as it did in the 1980s had the arms race not come to exert an unacceptable level of pressure on the economies of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states. Nevertheless, right up to 1989, and in spite of promising signs to the contrary, many of us still believed that Soviet communism would remain entrenched for a long time. It did not, and for that an enormous debt is owed to the forging of the North Atlantic Alliance in the first place, to the planning and development of that
There is a striking contrast between the successful handling of the Cold War in 1989 on the one hand and the inept handling of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s on the other. The contrast is also paradoxical. The former, although it threatened nuclear world war, produced no major disaster in Europe while in the latter, civil war between non-nuclear armies in south-eastern Europe killed more than 250,000 people and made more than 3 million people homeless.
With hindsight, the catastrophe could have been avoided if the prescription of July 1991 of the European Union Dutch presidency had been implemented. This prescription was for two expedients: first, an immediate deployment of NATO and United Nations troops to keep the peace following the hostilities between Serbs and Croats; and, secondly, the continued deployment of the troops while the European Union presided over an orderly secession of states from the former Yugoslavia.
As we know, that proposal was rejected and the western security system remained divided over the former Yugoslavia until the intervention of the Dayton peace plan in October 1995. Many of us believe that, ironically, this division within western defence security was a product of the success of the management of the Cold War by NATO states. For 40 years, NATO's focus had been the containment of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states which formed its satellites. The containment of regional instability had thus not been a priority, nor even a necessity. As a result, NATO states, distributed over the European Union and including the United States, were unused to confronting regional instability in the 1990s and, regarding the former Yugoslavia, were divided over, and unsure of, the best way to do so.
Yet although division within western security prevented timely containment, western states and governments had behaved honourably and responsibly. The measure of that is the commitment of those states to peacekeeping forces and to the shared cost and burden of reconstruction. During the 1990s wars, there has also been the impressive disbursement of humanitarian aid by member states within the United Nations.
In those contexts, therefore, we can be proud of our own British contributions and, in particular, of the commitment of our own servicemen, to whom the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, referred. Although their advice may not have been sufficiently heeded within the western security system,
So the first theme is that European security must depend upon agreed methods for pre-empting and combating regional instability at the outset before it develops and takes hold. It must also depend upon economic and social development, not just as the fruits and rewards of peace, but as the best means of engendering stability in the first place.
That leads to the current stability pact for south-east Europe and to my second theme, which is the scope for this pact to facilitate, in that area, real and effective levels of economic and social development. Clearly, one key problem at the moment is the continuing regime of President Milosevic in Serbia. As soon as this regime may change, economic opportunities for all neighbouring states can become far better. In order to encourage a change of regime, the authors of the stability pact are surely right to begin by excluding President Milosevic.
Nevertheless, there is the option of offering to the Serbian people and the political opposition a separate Serbian stability pact. This concept is already keenly supported by the Serbian opposition, by the much respected Serbian Orthodox Church and by many international observers. Does the Minister agree that without further pressure, such as through a package of incentives and disincentives, the current Serbian administration is unlikely to change, that its continuation will undermine the workings of the stability pact and therefore that a separate stability pact with strict conditions attached, now offered to Serbia, could assist a great deal in bringing about a change of regime? Does she also agree that the stability pact should include conditions to facilitate in Bosnia and elsewhere the revision of economies whose current practices and restrictions will otherwise continue to hold back social and economic development?
My third theme is the potential impact of the steady regeneration of the former Yugoslavia and the neighbouring area upon the rest of Europe. One potential effect is upon the future direction of the European Union itself. Quite apart from the policy option of the EU further assisting established European Union members, that of widening its role to include logical and suitable candidates appears misplaced if such a move fails to resolve or, worse still, ignores altogether the plight of south east Europe.
Another potential impact is upon an improved working relationship between the European Union, the United States and Russia, and hence upon the developing scope for co-operation, trust and combined containment by those powers of instability in all of the regions, including eastern Europe to which a number of noble Lords have drawn attention today. Not least is the potential impact that successful implementations within the stability pact can have
It is the remit of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Development in Europe, of which I am current chairman, to encourage the growth of partnerships to achieve within European regions and communities on a variety of scales a measure of social development. It is also the remit of the group to encourage the parliamentarians of the 41 Council of Europe states to embrace this focus and thus to advocate within their own parliaments the added value of European social development from all kinds of partnerships which may include--but neither those partnerships nor their donors should be confined to--large-scale official or executive institutions.
Within the stability pact there is already agreement to the UK's proposal for an investment compact. Can the Minister confirm that the Government will also take a lead in promoting a wide range of partnerships to advance economic and social development as a priority in stability pact areas, as it may also become relevant elsewhere in Europe?
It is vital that within the stability pact over the next few years there is a clear-headed and committed resolve by the United Kingdom and other European states. If the commitment is a genuine one the welcome initiative of the recent German presidency can succeed. If it should begin to do so such results will give new confidence that the powers and institutions of Europe can be trusted to protect its regions and communities and that at least in Europe peace and stability can become a guaranteed human right for all.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will be kind to me today. I rise to my feet in your Lordships' House to make a maiden speech of a certain kind. This is the first time in 30 years in Westminster that I have found myself in the delightful position of being a government Back-Bencher. I have known 18 years on the Back Benches, some more as an Opposition Back-Bencher with all the joys that that entails, and about eight years subject to the constraints of the Front Bench. I am not quite sure how naughty I dare be, so I shall feel my way.
One of the elements of the gracious Speech that caught my attention and most cheered me up was the suggestion that Her Majesty's Government would work towards reform of the United Nations. I think that they are taking on a pretty mighty task, but I wish them God speed.
I take as my text tonight four examples of the kind of behaviour that we find at the United Nations which I find extremely destructive and that we encountered in particular at the time of Kosovo. The first is what I call the determined head-in-the-sand principle which we still see with respect to Kosovo; namely, the suggestion that Kosovo is and will remain, because it has been until now, a part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. That attitude, frankly, defeats me. I cannot see a single element of sovereignty that is exercised by Belgrade over Kosovo. In Kosovo, people do not use Yugoslav postage stamps. They do not pay taxes to Belgrade. They do not have courts in Kosovo which will appeal to higher courts in Serbia. They will not send their young men to be conscripted into a Yugoslav army. I shall be grateful if my noble friend who will reply to the debate can identify for me a single aspect of sovereignty which Yugoslavia now manages to exercise in the province of Kosovo.
The second aspect of behaviour at the United Nations which I find distasteful--it will be familiar to all noble Lords--is what I call voting blackmail. We saw that particularly during Kosovo when the People's Republic of China saw fit to exercise its vote in the Security Council with respect to matters in Kosovo purely on the basis of a petulant dislike of something that the United States was doing currently with respect to Taiwan. It had absolutely nothing to do with the merits or demerits of the United States' position on Kosovo. If Her Majesty's Government are able to lance the boil of voting blackmail in the United Nations, I am sure all noble Lords will be very pleased.
A third aspect of United Nations' behaviour which I hope Her Majesty's Government will seek to influence is what I call an extraordinary ability to continue to be bound by outdated shibboleths which the United Nations has set itself. We are told that there is no way that the boundaries of Yugoslavia can be changed. But we all know that that is rubbish. They have been changed several times in the past decade. If one could not change the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia how, pray, did Slovenia emerge? How, pray, did Croatia emerge? How did Bosnia and Herzegovina emerge? What is so different between those provinces and Kosovo? I shall be grateful if my noble friend can explain that to me when she winds up the debate today. Good heavens, my Lords, we have just seen the boundaries of Timor change; and there have been many other such cases since the war, but the United Nations seems set on the principle that boundaries may not be changed.
Fourthly, the United Nations has developed the habit of giving grandiose guarantees which it is totally incapable of implementing, largely because of lack of will. A report, instigated by the United Nations, has just been published, as noble Lords will know, with admirable candour and honesty, castigating the United Nations for its performance over Srebrenica. I endorse totally everything that I have read so far in
There are other lessons to be learnt from Kosovo. If I may tease your Lordships, I may keep some of my more indiscreet views for another audience, but one which I wish to proclaim--and I have hinted at it from the Dispatch Box--is my unhappiness at the policy of graduated increments of force. I believe that we made a major strategic mistake in failing to use the maximum necessary force right at the beginning of the campaign, and that force was available to us. I am clear that the suffering of the poor Kosovar people and of others in that area would have been greatly diminished had we from the beginning used the maximum necessary force. My views are well known inside the Ministry of Defence and I hinted at them at the Dispatch Box. They are similar to those of the American Air Force General, General Short, who has been quoted picturesquely in this respect.
I want to make a couple of further comments about Kosovo. It was a remarkable campaign. We kept the alliance together, which was, I hope, an admirable precedent for the future. But it was an extraordinary campaign. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, is not in his place because I want to refer to and endorse one or two of his remarks. The campaign was remarkable because we suffered no casualties. The noble Lord indicated how squeamish the Americans were at the prospect of accepting casualties, but the most remarkable aspect of the campaign is how squeamish we were about inflicting casualties. It is a remarkable precedent for warfare in the future. I am tempted to say that I am slightly alarmed at the possibility that the general public may believe that all wars in which we become engaged will be casualty free. We may have a serious reaction when we find ourselves in conflicts in which, unfortunately, that cannot be the case.
However, an issue which particularly delighted me about the Kosovo conflict was the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who made a brilliant maiden speech, is now in his place. The use of such vehicles means that you can do great things; you have military capability without putting your brave young men and women at risk. I hope that the Ministry of Defence will continue to prosecute its research into the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, not only in the reconnaissance and information gathering mode, but also--and I know that there are ongoing studies--in air-to-surface power projection and in the use of air-to-air warfare, where we have an opportunity to take the lead.
I am absolutely convinced that that is the way of the future when we are considering using air-to-air weapons which will have a range--and it is beyond visual range--of 100 kilometres or more. I see very little reason why pilots' lives should be placed seriously
I must not detain your Lordships long at this time of night, but I wish to touch on the issue of non-lethal weapons. I am glad to say that they were extremely effective in Kosovo, particularly in the way in which they were used against transformers and power distribution systems in the outskirts of Belgrade. I am not clear as to why our American friends were so hesitant to use some of their non-lethal capacity with respect to waging information warfare. I should be grateful for any further enlightenment that my noble friend can offer in relation to that.
Finally, I wish to mention one of my pet hobbyhorses--our strategic airlift capability. I have a couple of questions for my noble friend Lady Symons, who succeeded me as the Minister of State for Defence Procurement and made a brilliant speech in opening the debate today. Are we still running a competition in respect of both our short-term and long-term requirements for strategic air transport? Secondly, is the American C-17 aircraft, as I hope it is, still a candidate for both those requirements?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, mentioned resistance to changing boundaries. He was really talking about resistance to the break up of states. We need to be rather ambivalent about accepting the increasing fragmentation of the global order.
I spent three days in Slovenia last week at a conference on the enlargement of the European Union. I came away with the strong impression that Slovenia is too small to cope with the full obligations of European Union membership. With 2 million people, it is smaller than Sicily. If it puts all its effort into coping with the full obligations of taking part in European integration, its universities will empty and its civil service will be incompetent.
That is not the smallest state. Those noble Lords who have enjoyed the Franz Lehar opera "The Merry Widow" will remember the extended skit on the idea of an independent Montenegro. We are now most likely to have again an independent Montenegro.
As the European Union expands, we are committed to including Malta which has a slightly smaller population than that of Bradford: 371,000. That raises major questions as to how we shall manage an enlarged European Union. If one looks at East Timor and the future of Indonesia, it would be extremely easy for Indonesia to split up into 20 or 25 independent statelets. After all, Indonesia is a Javan empire taking over from the Dutch empire. But I am not sure that an Indonesia split up into 20 or 25 statelets would necessarily contribute much to the peaceful and stable order of the world.
I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, talked about the BBC World Service as I felt that there had been too little said about Britain's civilian contribution to the strengthening of global society and global order. The BBC World Service is extremely important. Every time I am abroad and am forced to watch CNN and various other international news, I recognise the quality of BBC world television and the civilised and cultural values that we can contribute. It is worth paying for and it is worth the British Government making it quite clear that that is part of their foreign policy obligations.
The same applies to the British Council, with its English language teaching and its educational exchange. I declare an interest as a university teacher. Britain's higher education sector has a role to play in contributing to the strengthening of global civil society. We can provide assistance in the development of universities and higher education institutions throughout the developing world, and we can help to educate people from other countries on a broader view of global society.
I welcome, therefore, the Foreign Office's recent announcement that Chevening scholarships, a particularly valuable form of educational exchange, are to be expanded. Educational exchanges of all sorts contribute to better understanding among peoples. I know a little about the largest educational exchange we have had with Argentina since the Falklands war because it concerned the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, of which my son happened to be a member. The orchestra spent two weeks in Argentina last summer, during which the British embassy was extremely helpful. The orchestra played with the Academy of Buenos Aires, also a training orchestra, in the Teatro Colon. It was a great Anglo-Argentine occasion. That is part of the way in which we help to build better understanding among different countries.
I regret that the immensely valuable effort of the know-how fund was transferred away from the Foreign Office to the Department for International Development. After the break-up of the socialist empire, that was another area in which we were able to contribute to better training for the successor regimes. I also regret that our Government were so slow in entering into twinning arrangements with government administrations from the countries of eastern Europe. I am glad to see that at last we are beginning to catch up.
I welcome the emphasis on defence diplomacy within this Government. Part of NATO's new role is to persuade the armed services of those former socialist states that they have a different role in a post-socialist world. One of NATO's greatest successes in
Two weeks ago I met some of the British military attaches who are working with the Romanian, Polish and other armed forces in eastern Europe, helping them to understand the importance of civil/military relations and the extent to which in a democratic society armed forces have a different role.
A number of British agencies are also engaged in the retraining of police, judges and ministries of the interior. Defence diplomacy outside Europe is now also an important part of the way in which Britain can contribute to a more stable world. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, spoke about the importance of helping to reconstruct weak states as a necessary preliminary to the provision of worthwhile economic assistance which would be a necessary basis for civil society. Clearly that is something that the British are good at and it is something that we should emphasise.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was doubtful about humanitarian intervention. I recognise our limitations, but it seems that that is something we should continue to do with caution. On the imperialism of ideas, we have some confidence that open societies and open economies serve human welfare and noble peace best. It is not entirely a novel concept. I seem to recall learning as a boy that in the 19th century the Royal Navy suppressed the slave trade and international piracy. That is imperialism of ideas perhaps--it is certainly humanitarian intervention--but not entirely novel.
I must say in passing that the continued push for armament exports does not fit in with this emphasis. It is not a matter to be proud of that we can remain among the world's three largest arms exporters. My party therefore regretted the want of a proposal in the Queen's Speech for tougher strategic arms exports. We have, as the Government will know, proposed a strategic arms export Bill.
Conservatives argue that the answer to the emergence of a global network society, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, remarked, is to reconstruct and strengthen the nation state. Liberals argue that the answer to the rapid emergence of a global economy with global communications networks is to promote closer international co-operation and to reconstruct and strengthen global institutions.
The gracious Speech talks about modernising the UN. In my opinion--and here I agree strongly with my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley--it is more urgent to re-shape global economic institutions. The World Trade Organisation has now been designated a semi-legal body with a semi-legal dispute settlement process, but of course it is dealing with semi-political issues and it needs to address the question of which principles it is promoting.
The IMF and the World Bank have moved some distance away from the old Washington consensus of free trade and open financial markets, above all, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. However, I am not
I also agree that we need a stronger global legal framework through the ratification of the international criminal court. This is not entirely an ethical approach. It is, after all, in our self-interest to prevent the collapse of states into disorder or the emergence of tyrannical or terrorist regimes. The consequences of such regimes emerge on our shores in the flows of refugees. I often attempt to discover how it is that we now have some 40,000 Somalis in London who were not here 10 years ago. They have come, legally and illegally, because of the collapse of the Somali state.
The gracious Speech also touched on the question of Britain's dependent territories. I simply say in passing that Britain's dependent territories, in Europe as well as out of Europe, should be of concern in the sensitive issue of the prevention of harmful tax competition, as a recent OECD report puts it, or international tax evasion, as one has more bluntly to put it. It is very odd that the current position of Her Majesty's Government is that the Channel Islands should be allowed to opt out of the European Union for almost all those things which Gibraltar is allowed to opt in for and that those things which Gibraltar is allowed to opt out of are precisely those which the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are allowed to opt in for. I suspect that that is not a sustainable position. I do not fully understand the rationale for this. The Chief Executive of Jersey explained to me the other week that Jersey has been a "low tax area since 1204", but I was not quite sure that necessarily justified why Jersey should go on being a low tax area in 2001.
The gracious Speech touches on EU enlargement and a common security policy. The scale of enlargement, taking on another 12 or 13 states immediately and, with the Balkan security pact, potentially another three or four weak states, clearly means that the European Union will have to change. It is an immensely important strategic issue, and I regret that Her Majesty's Government have not yet found the political imagination and the rhetoric to explain to the British public and to some of our more benighted partners that this ought to be one of the main priorities for any common fund and security policy. The hesitation of the Labour Government to set out the positive case for closer European co-operation is one which, as the Government know, my party continues to regret.
On common foreign and security policy, my party supports a stronger European pattern of defence co-operation, though regrets that the Labour Government have not moved on it. We therefore welcomed the St Malo initiative and urge the Government to move further ahead.
Again, we regret the Government's failure to put their policy across. I was glad to be able to read exactly what happened at Monday's joint meeting of foreign and defence Ministers. It was a good report in Le Monde yesterday, but it seems to me that the British Government failed to brief our press as fully as the French Government briefed theirs. Perhaps they should be a little more brave and admit that the Dutch-British Marine Amphibious Force is as useful a symbol of close European co-operation as Eurocorps, which the French Government wish always to present.
I remember the origins of the Franco-British defence dialogue. It was extremely secretive. I learnt about it by accident at a meeting in Paris when a senior French official mentioned how well it was going. At the time the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Britain was Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence was Michael Portillo. I came back to London and asked friends in the Foreign Office whether such a thing was under way, and they said, "Yes. It is going very well, but whatever you do, do not tell Sir Nicholas Bonsor". At the time Sir Nicholas was the chairman of the Commons Defence Committee. And to sense that the Conservative Government were pursuing a policy which they were desperate their Back-Benchers did not discover was interesting.
NATO has to adapt. I am glad to see in the gracious Speech the phrase that we need to "adapt" the alliance. NATO, after all, has lost an enemy, but has not yet found a role. The advantages of a stronger European pillar were first set out by President Kennedy in his speech on 4th July 1962. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton in relation to the need for partnership with the United States; not leaving the United States to be the lonely superpower. I was struck by an excellent article in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs by a distinguished American scholar, Robert Tucker, on the dangers of the United States remaining on its own as the dominant power in the world; the dangers of arrogance of power; the dangers of forgetting about its international responsibilities. He argued indeed the advantages of encouraging some sort of countervailing power.
A good foreign policy has to rest on as clear a sense of national identity and national history as its foundations. I watched, last weekend, the Albert Hall and Cenotaph Remembrance Sunday celebrations. I wondered what my son, for whom Waterloo and Normandy are roughly as far away psychologically, thought about these matters, and what it is that we wish to pass on to each new generation in terms of our preferred memories. What I saw in those ceremonies was overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly English--an image of ourselves standing alone. I regret that. I suggest that the Government need to think through rather more carefully now how remembrance of what we have done in the past has to be reshaped as the basis for a different foreign policy. There was no mention of the Polish or Czech pilots who made such a vital difference to the Battle of Britain or to those Polish divisions which fought in the British Army in the Second World War. I remember them well because every time I accompany my wife to visit my father-in-law's grave in Bradford I see hundreds of Polish graves, many of them with pictures of military men on them--people who ended up in Britain.
When I go to Prague I am proud to note that the state secretary of the Czech foreign ministry was a lieutenant in the Czech brigade in the British Army during the Second World War. These are assets which we can still use. I was also sorry not to see more reference to the West India Regiment or to the Indian Army, which made such a major contribution to Britain in the previous world war. Perhaps we would neglect our relations with India rather less, and perhaps we might even find it easier to recruit ethnic minorities into the British Army if we made more of that element of our rich and diverse past. It is the rediscovery of Britain's European and global past which is the necessary and best foundation for an intelligent British foreign policy rooted in European co-operation and sharing responsibilities to the world beyond.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I begin by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford on his incisive maiden speech. It was concise and had great clarity. It was sympathetic and showed great insight into the events he experienced in Mozambique. It was a fine maiden speech. The insights on Europe given by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, in his maiden speech were invaluable. I am sure that we shall hear much more from him in the future. They were both excellent maiden speeches worthy of wider audience.
We were fortunate to have two further "maiden speeches" somewhat unexpectedly this evening. The "maiden speech" of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who spoke for the first time in his capacity as a spokesman for the Green Party, in my view admirably covered five different portfolios this
Over the past year your Lordships will have noticed that we have witnessed scenes of optimism as life and hope have been breathed back into the Middle East peace process. Peace treaties have been signed in the first tentative steps to end some of the most protracted and difficult conflicts in the world in Sierra Leone and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nigeria was welcomed back to the Commonwealth after its people chose their first elected president for over 15 years in February of this year.
However, as we have heard this evening, too often events in the past year have caused us to remember that even if the United Kingdom and western Europe are enjoying a prolonged peace, the world is not a safe place for millions of men, women and children. In this year alone conflict and suffering have left their mark in Kosovo, in Iraq, in the Sudan--as noted in particular by my noble friend Lady Cox--in Kashmir, in East Timor and, most topically, in Chechnya. On the brink of the new millennium it is legitimate to pose the question: what will the next century bring in terms of foreign policy challenges; how can we best equip ourselves to rise to those challenges; and what are they? I mention the "something must be done" challenge referred to my noble friend Lord Blaker. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, spoke of a need to respond to an increasing challenge of government being involved in unplanned and unexpected commitments.
In a world where globalisation means that our economies and societies are integrating faster and on more levels than ever before, as clearly stated by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford, crises such as natural disasters, communal violence or economic failures have a ripple effect. They are felt at great distances and responses to them can no longer be purely localised.
So let me turn to the first in this context, which was admirably covered by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. The noble Lord focused on Chechnya almost exclusively. The current conflict in Chechnya is the manifestation of two of the greatest scourges of the late 20th century--terrorism and ethnic conflict. If it is allowed to continue unchecked, it threatens disastrous consequences for both the victims and the aggressors. There is no victory to be gained by this course of action in Chechnya; only grief and sorrow and the potential that Russia's progress towards developing a civil society based on democracy and the rule of law will be undermined.
We have no independently verifiable reports of what is really happening but, from the information that we have and given the precedent of the disastrous 1994-96 war, it seems certain that Russia's military offensive is disproportionate to its stated aim of a war on terrorists and armed groups in the republic. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, in horrifying scenes reminiscent of the outpouring of refugees in Kosovo which threatened such profound destabilisation, with the border finally unsealed, refugees are said to be streaming into the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia at the rate of 4,000 a day. They have braved freezing temperatures and arrive, exhausted and cold, to face grim refugee camps, where they are at risk from malnutrition and epidemics. They come bearing harrowing accounts of indiscriminate brutality against Chechen civilians by Russian forces.
Can the Minister confirm whether the OSCE considers Chechnya to be Moscow's internal problem? Can she make a clear statement on whether the Government consider this to be an internal Russian problem? This is a point of critical importance, as any action taken by the Government, together with our international partners, will be predicated on this issue, particularly in view of the proposed clause in the OSCE's new charter stating that if a member state violates human rights it is not a purely internal matter. Does the Minister agree with the United States administration, which has said that Russia's military tactics are not in keeping with the Geneva Convention?
In the words of the US Secretary of State, what is happening in Chechnya is "ominous and deplorable". Those words are all too familiar. It is for this reason that in recent days there has been much attention drawn to the parallels in Kosovo. But in the case of Chechnya, Britain has been accused of standing on the sidelines and doing nothing. I am aware that the Foreign Secretary has spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, but this hardly compares to the Foreign Secretary's response to the crisis in East Timor, when he cut short his visit to Japan to attend an emergency meeting in Auckland with other Foreign Ministers to establish an international consensus for action.
Where is the international consensus for action on Chechnya? Today I seek a clear statement from the Minister on the Government's policy towards the crisis in Chechnya and on the ways in which the Government intend to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of Russia and of the wider region.
From these Benches we understand that there are limits to similarities between the situation in Kosovo and the situation in Chechnya. Kosovo was a crisis which took place on the very back-door step of NATO and Europe and represented real instability and insecurity within our region. But if the Government are prepared to justify the NATO action in Kosovo on humanitarian grounds, then the Government--particularly a government who claim an ethical dimension to their foreign policy--must be able to
As noted by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, there are no easy solutions or quick fixes to this crisis or, indeed, to any other of the foreign affairs issues which we have debated this evening. However, the geopolitical and diplomatic hurdles thrown up by the situation in Chechnya should not be underestimated. But for a Government who have an ethical dimension to their foreign policy and whose Foreign Secretary has been keen to emphasise the lead he has taken in Kosovo and in East Timor, those hurdles do not relieve the Government of the responsibility to set out the role they are prepared to undertake to assist in healing the wounds of hundreds of thousands of those associated with the problem of Chechnya--wounds which run all the way from Bosnia to Moscow.
Several noble Lords have raised the issue of developments in Kosovo. I look forward to the Minister's Williamson-style pithy answers to the questions that have been posed concerning that troubled province. From these Benches we supported the Government in their decision to take military action with our NATO allies against Serbia. Nothing has ever divided us across the Chamber on that principle. However, the foreign policy question today is: what of Kosovo today? Kosovo's long-term status is still in question and its economy and infrastructure remain devastated. Five months after the end of the NATO bombing campaign, there is still a high level of ethnic violence and rivalry across the province. Crime is rife and peace is being maintained only very tenuously by the presence of the international peacekeeping force KFOR.
The current situation in Kosovo highlights the critical importance of the work of the UN mission, UNMIK, in the rebuilding of civil society in the province. The fragile seeds of peace and democracy will never take root and grow on the barren soil of chaos and confusion, fertilised only by hatred and by distrust. Unless an interim civil administration is established, democratic institutions are built, the economy of Kosovo is reconstructed, a legal and judicial framework is established and the cycle of ethnically-related violence is broken once and for all, the international community will never succeed in its common goal of a multi-ethnic, stable, peaceful Kosovo enjoying substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration.
Many noble Lords will have been concerned to read press reports this week that UNMIK is mired in bureaucracy and incompetence, that almost all its major projects are far behind schedule and that respect for the UN has plummeted in the province. The Minister will be aware that the UN representative in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, answers those accusations by saying that, although promises and pledges of funds are plentiful, UNMIK simply does not have enough hard cash to do its job. Is the Minister in a position to say whether that is true, and can she tell the House when the 1 billion dollars pledged at
We are all agreed that the evil ethnic cleansing that took place in Kosovo, which caused the NATO operation against Serbia earlier this year, was an assault on the universal values of respect for human rights and dignity. But after winning the war in Kosovo, we must not lose the peace. The ultimate test of the success or failure of our military intervention in Kosovo will be the way in which we implement the peace we have imposed and the resources which we are prepared to commit for that purpose.
No one can underestimate the wider implications of failing to win the peace, the importance of Montenegro and the need to take steps to protect the integrity and security of the Montenegrin population, in view of the proposed referendum on secession and the adoption of the German mark as an official currency on 2nd November, which have led to menacing threats from Belgrade.
Those issues have been debated this evening, not least in the context of our defence policy. Many of your Lordships have raised questions on military intervention in general. When the Minister opened the debate, she said that Britain needs to pull more weight. To summarise the sentiments of many of your Lordships, the Minister would receive the following response: Britain needs to pull more weight; what with? Our Armed Forces are already seriously overstretched. That has been a common theme from all sides of the House and one which must be addressed in the different global environment--
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