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Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am delighted to hear the Minister say that she now sees a significant distinction between Europe and Britain. Is she saying to the House that Britain is pulling sufficient weight; and would she like to name the countries in Europe which are not paying their way in terms of defence policy?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not intend to go over the whole of the speech that I made earlier today. If the noble Lord cares to read it properly and listens perhaps a little more carefully in future, he will see that I was making very specific points about Europe's armed forces needing to be restructured, needing to be able to meet the requirements of the next century and needing to be better deployable. That is what I said. When the noble Lord reads it, I am sure he will understand the argument better.
In the event that we are not to hear of a single country, I shall move on to a point on which there was widespread agreement around the Chamber. I refer to the financing of our defence capability in a fast-evolving world. We did not have a clear and decisive answer from the Minister in her opening remarks. Perhaps the Government will respond tonight and recognise the collective wisdom and experience around the Chamber. The points that were made about our Armed Forces being heavily overstretched must be addressed if the Armed Forces are to continue to undertake the functions which the Government have set out and which the Government have supported. Therein lies the heart of the argument which came from the Cross Benches, which came from my own Benches and which indeed came from the Minister's Benches. That is the issue to which we have not yet had a reply.
I look forward with great interest to the Minister's summing up because it is crucial to ensure that the outstanding work being done by our Armed Forces is properly and adequately financed. But it is not just the financing of our Armed Forces that is important. It is recognition by the Government that when it comes to military intervention in the 21st century, as we have seen over the past year in cases such as Kosovo and Iraq, the more frequent use of military force under Chapter 7 of the UN security charter will increasingly pose a threat to Security Council unanimity and the consensus-based nature of UN politics. That point was raised on a number of occasions during the debate. It is essential that we are able to agree a prescription with our partners for the breaking of the deadlock that has increasingly paralysed the UN Security Council when it is called upon to assert international authority. Otherwise, that authority will be undermined.
Today's geopolitical environment, in which intrastate conflicts increasingly pose as much of a threat to international stability as interstate conflicts, has seen the United Nations more actively engaged in peacekeeping roles in its very recent history than in the whole of its previous history put together. How will the Government use their influence to reform the United Nations and bring it into a world which realistically can address the points that I have just made? Do they believe that they have a solution--a set of programmes or action points--that they will now implement in order to achieve the grandiose words of great influence that they intend to have in terms of UN reform? Again, I look forward with great interest to the Minister's response on that point.
In conclusion, perhaps I may simply focus momentarily on the outstanding speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. The noble Lord rightly pointed out--I hope I quote him accurately but I shall give way if I do not--that human rights need champions, just as good government needs effective opposition capable of questioning the Government on how they use the powers at their disposal. The question
Even under this Government and the modern code of ethics by which we live, that code should remain a constant in the shifting sands of foreign affairs. National interest may indeed demand that policies change, but the ethical dimension does not. This is the Government of ethical inconsistency: inconsistency in their approach to the human rights record of Burma and China, where in the former the regime cannot be integrated into the world until its government changes its ways, while in the latter the president is invited on a state visit to this country with all pomp and ceremony. The Government are inconsistent in their approach to government-funded trade missions which are banned to Burma but not to other human rights offenders like China and Indonesia. The Government are inconsistent in their approach to UN resolutions criticising human rights. The Government are inconsistent in their approach to foreign generals accused of genocide. While the Rwandan Lieutenant-Colonel Tharcisse Muvinyi has been given temporary asylum, the Chilean General Pinochet awaits an extradition decision.
The Government are inconsistent in their approach to Pakistan which has been ejected from the councils of the Commonwealth after a bloodless coup without protest from the Pakistani people, while Russia tramples over the human rights of many of its own citizens in Chechnya. I shall give way.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am delighted to learn that, and I am grateful to the noble Lord. However, the point remains that until that decision was made a very glaring inconsistency in the Government's foreign policy was evident for all to see.
The Government Front Bench may laugh, but why did they not take action before now? They are amused at the debate on inconsistency, but there would have been a glaring inconsistency here had we had this debate a week ago.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, as always I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord for offering his background expertise on this issue. It is one of the few on which we have disagreed on the matter of inconsistency, but I shall be happy to give way to the noble Lord if he feels that there are any other examples I have given to your Lordships' House that were not correct. However, I do not think that the noble Lord will need to do that. I simply make the point that if there is going to be an ethical foreign policy, it must be recognised that so far there has been a huge discrepancy on the part of this Government between their words and their actions. There is a large gap between their rhetoric and the reality.
The policy of principled and purposeful engagement with China, while fully and firmly supporting human rights and democracy reform, is a sensible one for this country. It is crucial to remember that engagement is not endorsement. In no way does it relieve Britain of its responsibility to take a firm and candid stance on matters of human rights. Yet what greater endorsement could the British Government have given to China than its failure to co-sponsor the annual motion at the UN Human Rights Commission criticising China's human rights record for the second year running and its conduct during President Jiang Zemin's recent state visit?
I conclude with one example. As a result of a Written Answer to a Parliamentary Question I put to the Minister I learnt that the Prime Minister failed to raise a single individual human rights case during President Jiang's state visit. The Prime Minister did not even raise the case of Mr Xu Wenli, the respected campaigner for democracy who was detained during the Prime Minister's visit to China in October 1998 and released the day after representations were made to the authorities by the British ambassador. He has since been sentenced to 13 years in gaol. When the president made his recent state visit to this country, despite the previous intervention by the Prime Minister during his visit to China, the name of Mr Xu Wenli was not raised.
I have given way a number of times and I have therefore exceeded the amount of time I would have liked to have taken up this evening. Suffice it to say that we on this Front Bench believe that there are many other issues which are of vital importance. We look forward to debating in detail the European Union intergovernmental conference. We also look forward to having clarification from the Minister where there appears to be a major discrepancy--very relevant to your Lordships' House--between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office Minister, Mr Keith Vaz, as to whether the Government's Green Paper will be published in the run-up to the conference and whether it will contain their negotiating position. There have been differing answers to that. I am aware that the Minister has been helpful to your Lordships' House on
We have worked closely and in harmony with the Government on many issues. I was going to give many examples where we praise them for taking initiatives. I understand that we are to have a full day's debate on foreign affairs in January. I hope that that can be confirmed through the usual channels. If it is, we shall need to examine on that occasion the very important issues of Pakistan and India and look at Europe in greater detail, Iraq and many of the other issues which have been raised. I would not wish to leave the impression that by omission from my speech tonight I do not give them very high priority in British foreign policy. I give the Minister and the Government my assurance that she has our support during the coming year to achieve the significant goals that lay ahead. I would welcome her response to the areas of difference which I have raised and to which other noble Lords have alluded this evening.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, it is a great privilege to close this debate although it is now at a late hour. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and to my noble friend Lady Symons for introducing it. She has set a high standard for my winding up speech.
I regret to say that I was somewhat surprised by the content of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, at the start of our debate. Those of us who care passionately about the people of this country and the international community seek a serious debate. However, I was much heartened and enlightened by the explanation proffered by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, who doubted whether the noble Lord's heart was in the comments that he was obliged to utter as leader of his party. Knowing of the noble Lord's reputation for intelligence, I can only believe that the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, of the genesis of that speech is accurate; otherwise I would have to wonder whether my own favourable assessment of the noble Lord's good sense was wrong which I would be very loath to do.
I particularly welcome therefore the proper concentration of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on foreign and international affairs. How refreshing it was, immediately following the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to hear the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. He gave a wonderful and powerful speech. And what a fitting start! It concentrated our minds on what really mattered--comity, international reconciliation, inter and intra-state reconstruction and the creation of an environment where children thrive. It focused our minds and hearts. It acted as a salve for that which preceded it.
The debate has provided the House with an opportunity to take stock of Britain's relations with the rest of the world and to look at the challenges that lie ahead. As my noble friend Lady Symons said, Britain's relationship with the rest of Europe has been greatly strengthened by the positive approach to the European Union adopted by this Government--a clear break with the past, and a long overdue one.
Britain is now helping to set the agenda for Europe in a way that it has never done in the past. That is delivering real benefits for the people of Britain--in strengthening and reforming Europe's economy, in extending stability and prosperity to the East, in reforming the common agricultural policy, and in tackling drugs and crime.
I welcome particularly the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond. His voice was one of calm good sense. It well illustrates the enormous contribution made by the United Kingdom to European harmony and development. I wholeheartedly congratulate the noble Lord and have no hesitation in agreeing with the sentiments he expressed about the influence that we now wield.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, rightly advocated the need to take a proper approach to working within Europe. We welcome his valuable contribution and agree that Britain must go to the heart of Europe if we are best to meet British interests. That in no way undermines our close relationships with the countries of North America, with which we have so much in common. Nor can we afford to neglect the Commonwealth, which is a unique institution linking countries with shared values and traditions. The Government welcome the agreement at the CHOGM last weekend to form a high-level group to review the role of the Commonwealth and provide advice on how it can best respond to the challenges of the 21st century.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, was right to raise the issue of overseas territories, the Caribbean and Cuba. It gives me great pleasure, as the Minister responsible for overseas territories, that the gracious Speech reaffirmed our commitment to take forward the offer of British citizenship to their people. We also look forward to next year's Caribbean Forum, which will bring the countries of the Caribbean to London.
In that regard, I note with interest the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. I assure the noble Baroness that the Government have increased funding for the British Council. I am glad that under the current comprehensive spending review the Government have been able to halt previous cutbacks in funding. The British Council has received the same increase in real terms as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We shall make a determined effort to secure a further increase during the next spending review, but I can give no commitment as to the precise figure.
I also say to the noble Baroness that the Prime Minister has told President Cardoso that he would like to make a bilateral visit to Brazil. We hope that he will be able to do so in the next year. I cannot give the noble Baroness precise details in relation to the movements of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State but undertake to write to her in that regard.
Many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, the noble Lords, Lord Weidenfeld, Lord Williamson, Lord Moran and others, raised the issue of our involvement in Europe and the next enlargement of the EU. Extending the stability and prosperity enjoyed by the countries of western Europe further eastward will help to heal the scars created by a century marked by division and conflict. Accession negotiations with six countries began during our presidency in 1998. We anticipate that in December the Heads of Government will agree to start negotiations with six more.
I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, about the importance of Turkey's hopes in relation to joining the EU in due course, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, who brings with him such a wealth of knowledge and expertise. I assure all noble Lords that we have lost none of the energy necessary to pursue the issue with great vigour and care. The Government also share the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, that setting firm target dates now would not be the best way to further our goal of early enlargement. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, will accept that as an answer to one of his questions.
Enlargement requires a more effective EU institutional structure. This must be both transparent and democratic. Our agenda for institutional reform has already been influential in setting in train the process of modernisation of the Commission. With Romano Prodi as President and Neil Kinnock as Vice President for reform, we now have a team that can achieve far-reaching change. They are already starting to deliver results.
I am happy to tell the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that, in addition, the Government welcome the opportunity for further reform provided by the forthcoming inter-governmental conference. The agenda will be focused on the so-called "Amsterdam leftovers", the size of the Commission, the votes re-weighting and possible extension of QMV. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that what is important is not only the structure of the Commission, but also its working practices and methods.
We are also open to considering other related issues, such as ensuring that the treaty has effective provisions for dealing with misconduct and the resignation of commissioners. We will protect Britain's ability to secure its key national interests by retaining unanimity for areas such as defence, taxation, social security, own resources, treaty change and frontiers. I can therefore give the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, the assurance he seeks.
I listened carefully to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and, although he is not in the Chamber, I can assure him that this Government have no intention of throwing away our fundamental national interests in our engagement with Europe. However, apparently unlike the party opposite, we will not fail to promote Britain's interests by refusing to engage with our partners, when action at a European level would be good for Britain. We shall press for it and welcome it.
Many noble Lords raised the question of NATO: the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont, Lord Jenkins of Putney, Lord Blaker and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. Like my noble friend Lady Symons, I underscore that NATO remains the foundation of our defence. The Kosovo campaign demonstrated that a strong, capable and modern NATO, underpinned by unity of purpose among the allies, is essential to the promotion of security and stability throughout Europe.
The Government will work to ensure implementation of the vision set out by NATO heads of government at the Washington Summit in April. We want a NATO better equipped to meet the challenges of the next century and in which the transatlantic link is strengthened by a stronger European contribution to the alliance's missions and capabilities. We welcome the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in that regard.
The noble Lords, Lord Chalfont, Lord Jenkins of Putney and Lord Blaker, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, also raised issues about NATO and its purpose. The collective defence remains the cornerstone of NATO's purpose, but NATO must be able to respond to the new security challenge so as to remain relevant in the post-Cold War era and to ensure the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area. The new strategic concept, launched at the Washington Summit in April, continues to build a NATO which sees no nation as its adversary and which values partnership with many.
As my noble friend Lady Symons made clear, events in Bosnia and Kosovo this decade have shown that Europe needs to develop an effective military capability in order to be able to carry out peace-keeping tasks. We hope that the European Council in Helsinki next month will see a firm commitment from all member states. This will strengthen the European Union's foreign policy and the Atlantic alliance. We work to strengthen European capabilities generally.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, seeks to distract me with his usual charm, but I shall try to concentrate on matters to hand. This Government are clear that the Armed Forces should not be used merely as an international gendarmerie. Our Armed Forces are trained and equipped for conflict of the highest intensity. That was what the Strategic Defence Review concluded was needed and to that we are committed.
The supportive comments of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, in relation to HMG's Strategic Defence Review were most welcome and high praise indeed. I reassure him that this Government have as one of their highest priorities the recruitment to the Armed Forces of high calibre young people and their retention. The three services improved their 1998-99 recruitment achievements over the previous year and all are currently on course to achieve this year's targets.
The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Craig of Radley, the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Park of Monmouth and Lady Strange, raised the issue of MoD spending on defence. As to MoD's 3 per cent annual efficiency saving, we are under no illusions. This is a challenging target that can be achieved only by seeking genuine efficiencies. We are determined to avoid a repetition of the mistakes that the Strategic Defence Review sought to rectify. Solid progress has already been made to meet the target and we are working hard to build on this. But the noble and gallant Lord was incorrect in his approach to resources. Resources are saved through this measure and are being used to enhance the capability of our Armed Forces rather than being lost to the Treasury.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Park of Monmouth and Lady Strange, raised a number of specific issues which it would be impossible to do justice to today. My noble friend Lady Symons will write to the noble Baronesses on the full range of measures being taken by the MoD to address family issues, including accommodation and medical facilities, as soon as possible.
We want an enlarged Security Council that includes Germany and Japan, a successful resolution to its funding problems and the continuation of the internal reforms that have been championed so well by the Secretary-General. NATO's intervention in Kosovo was an important defeat for the policies of nationalist extremists which continue to hold back progress in the former Yugoslavia. Our goal now is to reinforce the pressure for change, particularly in Belgrade. We are tightening the economic pressure on Milosevic and his regime and increasing our support for the democratic opposition. In Kosovo the UK is making a major contribution to the UN mission there and to the NATO-led international Kosovo force. Stability in the Balkans is of crucial interest to all Europeans. This Government remain committed to playing a full part in international efforts to achieve it.
I should respond to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, that there was no legal basis for that intervention. Her Majesty's Government strongly disagree, as they have explained many times in your Lordships' House. The picture in Kosovo is not quite as bleak as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, painted
I turn to the interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Gilbert. He asked about the future status of Kosovo. The UNSCR 1244 gives the UN mission responsibility for promoting the establishment of substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo. No option is ruled in or out. Any negotiations will take full account of the Rambouillet agreement which provided the self-government for Kosovo within the FRY; and the Kosovo Albanian delegation accepted Rambouillet which the EU and US supported. But Belgrade refused it.
However, my noble friend knows better than anyone in this House the challenges presented by the constitutional position which links Kosovo with the FRY. He also knows better than anyone else the intricacies of targeting policy and the care which was taken to address those issues in order to get the balance right. Collectively, Her Majesty's Government believe that balance was achieved and it was the correct balance. I believe that the answer to the two questions posed by my noble friend is a qualified yes to the first, and a positive yes to the second. But I am sure that my noble friend Lady Symons will write to him in detail. I would hesitate to say that my noble friend cannot remember his two questions; it may say something of their value. I would not be so rude!
In response to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, perhaps I may say that Her Majesty's Government are committed to reconstruction and stability in the Balkans. We are also calling for reform and democratisation in Serbia. Serbia cannot hope to rejoin the European mainstream with a head of state who is wanted for crimes against humanity, and the EU sanctions will remain in place against the regime until there is a real change and reform in Belgrade. The biggest threat to stability in the region is Milosevic, and I can assure the noble Earl that we shall work actively as a leading partner in the stability pact to promote economic development as part of our approach to the region. We shall continue to encourage economic reform in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
I should also like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and other noble Lords that we remain committed to the UN as the central pillar of international co-operation. But, as the Prime Minister said in Chicago earlier this year, we must modernise the UN and find ways to make it and its Security Council more effective, a key element in defining more closely the conditions and circumstances when it is right to intervene in the face of massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. We cannot expect agreement overnight but we are playing a full part in the effort to develop a broader base of support. I fully endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, in relation to this matter. Like
This Government took a number of significant steps in last year's Strategic Defence Review. We now only have a single nuclear weapon system, Trident. We believe that we have the smallest arsenal of any of the nuclear weapons states. We have also set the international standard in transparency. There is a clear internationally agreed way forward on nuclear disarmament and the priorities are further progress in the START process, the entry into force of the test ban treaty and the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty. We shall continue to press hard for progress in all those areas. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, will be reassured.