HC Deb 23 February 1993 vol 219 cc773-857

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Robert G. Hughes.]

[Relevant documents: The Minutes of Evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 27th October and 2nd and 10th December 1992 (HC Nos. 235-i, -iii and-iv); the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Defence Committee on 27th January (HC No. 369-ii) and before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 28th January and 3rd and 17th February (HC Nos. 235-vi, -vii, and-viii), copies of which have been placed in the Library.]

Madam Speaker

Before I call the Foreign Secretary, I inform the House that, between the hours of 6 and 8 pm, speeches will be limited to 10 minutes.

4.3 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

I am glad that the House is able to spend time today debating international peacekeeping. This is a fresh dimension to foreign policy. Of course, it is not exactly new, but it has aquired greater importance, and it presents us with a greater range of difficult choices than at any time since we gave up the task of imperial peacekeeping.

I am sure that there should be the widest possible debate in this country on the underlying question—to what extent should Britain, with our history, with our assets, with the limits on our resources, take part in the varied tasks of international peacekeeping?

The familiar tasks of foreign and defence policy remain. We still have to protect British interests and British territory, embracing under this protection dependent territories such as the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Hong Kong. We must honour our commitments under the collective security agreements, and in particular to NATO. Those obligations have not been displaced by recent changes in the world scene. Our British Isles and our allies might still be threatened from overseas or from the land mass of what used to be the Soviet Union. It would be foolish to dismantle or run down to a dangerous degree the structure of collective security to successfully embodied in NATO.

The need to resist aggression, an attack of one country upon another, has taken Britain to war at least four times this century. We cannot assume that it will never happen again. But looking at the world as it is now fast changing, I am driven to the conclusion that most of the difficult choices facing us will in future arise not from acts of aggression, but from disasters within a nation state. That creates the difficulty.

Let us consider the countries in which the United Nations is peacekeeping today. Thirteen operations are up and running, and a 14th is in the pipeline. There are 259 peacekeepers in Jerusalem; 1,120 deployed between Israel and Syria; 5,643 in the Lebanon; and 353 in Kuwait, including 18 Britons. In the Western Sahara, there are 332 peacekeepers, including 15 Britons; in Angola, 221; and in Somalia a 28,000-strong unified task force led by the Americans, with 18,000 troops. A United Nations force in Mozambique has still not been put together, but its projected size if 6,625.

In Cambodia, there are 15,549 peacekeepers, including 122 Britons; in Latin America, 227 peacekeepers in El Salvador; and in Europe—in Cyprus—a force of 2,159, including 612 Britons. There are two forces in ex-Yugoslavia, with nearly 21,500 people, including 2,804 Britons. Those are the United Nations' existing efforts.

Some relate to disputes between states, but the most recent relate to civil wars. The list does not include several areas of disastrous conflict inside states, where the United Nations is not yet involved in peacekeeping. Along the southern flank of what used to be the Soviet Union, in Georgia, in Azerbaijan, in Tadzhikistan, there is fighting of a greater savagery and intensity than anything happening in Bosnia.

The public are barely aware of those conflicts, because the cameras do not often visit them—but they exist. In one form or another, in all those conflicts and many others that I have not listed, the cry goes up for the international community to be involved.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Like the constituencies of many right hon. and hon. Members, a high proportion of employment in my own depends on the skill with which large companies manufacture armaments that we sell in large quantities abroad. Does my right hon. Friend accept that, alongside all our efforts to resolve international conflict, an equally tremendous effort must be made to change the nature of the way that we operate our industries, so that we can eventually, by international agreement, reach the point where our money is spent not on creating and exporting weapons of destruction but on ways of making the world work better?

Mr. Hurd

I agree in principle. That is particularly important in countries such as the Soviet Union and China, whose armaments industries play a much larger part in their economies than is the case in Britain. That is why, since the Gulf war, we have taken the initiative in getting the register of arms transfers and trying to work out—particularly with the five permanent members of the Security Council—the criteria that should govern arms sales. That is inevitably a slow business, but my hon. Friend is right about the need for that process.

It would be possible for us in Britain to say—some hon. Members do, and they reflect a part of public opinion—that none of these conflicts are anything to do with us: that, however great the slaughter, the suffering and the crimes, no specific British interest exists that should lead us to contribute our scarce resources or our limited armed forces to help relieve the situation. Alternatively, we could take the view—as hon. Members implicitly do when they write to me or table questions—that, wherever there is injustice or intolerable suffering, it is part of our duty as a nation to do our best to bring it to an end.

I recall what Gladstone said in 1879 at Dalkeith: Remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan among the winter snows is as inviolate in the eye of Almighty God as can be your own. I note that Liberal Democrats are nodding piously in response to those sentiments.

Somewhere between those two extreme answers, as I am afraid I must term them—somewhere between the saloon bar and Gladstone—lies the policy that any British Government would in practice seek to follow. I shall say more about that shortly, but before dealing with the general issues of the choice that I have outlined, I wish to discuss one or two specific disputes on which I am always cross-examined in the House. Perhaps some analysis of the state of those disputes will help us towards the answer to the general question that I have put.

The dispute in Cyprus is one of the most long standing. Britain is one of the guarantor powers there, and the United Nations has been involved continuously since the outbreak of intercommunal violence in 1963. The peacekeeping force is still there, and—as I have mentioned —we still make a big contribution to it, although it is becoming smaller. The United Nations has also acted as a forum for negotiations between the two sides.

We believe that the set of ideas produced by the Secretary-General last year should form the basis of negotiations for a settlement. After the last round of talks in November, the Security Council endorsed the Secretary-General's approach in resolution 789, arid all parties agreed to resume in March. Now, there has been a change at the top in Cyprus: I congratulate President Clerides—who is well known to many of us—on his success in the presidential elections, and I hope that he will work with determination towards settling the problem. We hope that both he and Mr. Denktash will attend the next round of talks chaired by the Secretary-General. I am encouraged by the first indications that I have had in that regard. We urge all parties to move towards a fair solution, and we are involved in efforts to help prepare the ground.

As hon. Members know—particularly the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher)—Sornalia, which I also mentioned earlier, is a particularly stark tragedy. A whole population suffered the ravages of civil war, anarchy and drought; a whole society collapsed. We supported early efforts by the United Nations to feed the starving and bring some order to the chaos, but the warring factions effectively impeded us. We therefore supported resolution 794, which provided for all necessary means to be used to create a secure environment for relief.

The United States initiative followed. I congratulate the unified task force, especially the United States force, on the success of Operation Restore Hope. Relief centres have been secured, and aid is flowing. Britain is not involved on the ground, but the RAF helped with the airlift, and we remain the second largest aid donor in Somalia—so, in a sense, we are involved on the ground, although we are not involved in a military sense.

We want the United Nations to take over from the task force, but it will need a firm mandate and adequate strength. Recently, there has been heavy fighting between two rival warlords battling for control of the southern port of Kismayo, and 11 Somalis have been killed. That last incident shows that the position in Somalia is still tragic and volatile, and illustrates the case for a tougher mandate for the follow-on United Nations deployment.

That deployment will need to cover the north—what was formerly British Somalia—where an international rehabilitation effort is now urgently needed, as my noble Friend Baroness Chalker reported to me after her visit. Although the television cameras are no longer present in force, the problems in Somalia are still pressing and tragic, as the killing of Valerie Plaice, an Irish aid worker, showed.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary has paid tribute to the Irish aid worker who was murdered yesterday.

I hope that I shall not, as a result of asking this question, be put into the camp of those who want Britain or the international community to intervene everywhere. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the fact that the international community, led by the United States, has intervened shows that we are no longer in the situation that prevailed during the years of the cold war?

Does he agree that, whatever the extent to which the rule of law in a given country breaks down, however much chaos and hunger there may be, it is no longer the case that no action can be taken? While it may be impossible to intervene in other countries in which similar circumstances prevail, what has happened in Somalia shows how, under the auspices and authority of the United Nations, it is possible to take action that must be welcomed by the vast majority of the people of that country.

Mr. Hurd

I agree. This is a high water mark of United Nations action. It shows that the will exists, but it also shows the extreme difficulty of putting that will into practice over a long period.

I should like to turn briefly to the question of Iraq. Here we are still coping with the aftermath of the Gulf war. Over the past two years, coalition forces, acting in support of the United Nations, have effectively deterred Iraq from attacking its own citizens in both north and south. This is a development of the hon. Gentleman's point. We are talking about disputes within Iraq as well as the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait.

The operations against Iraqi air defences in January went well. Despite some rhetoric to the contrary, the Iraqis, over the past month, have steadily abandoned their defiance of United Nations resolutions. Border incursions into Kuwait have stopped, and the Iraqis have conformed to United Nations requirements for unrestricted flights for United Nations special commission inspectors into Iraq.

This, to a limited extent, is good news, but all experience shows that we must remain vigilant and keep up the pressure until all Security Council resolutions are fulfilled. We cannot trust promises of co-operation; we have to rely on our own monitoring of actions. Under Security Council resolution 687, the Iraqis must allow the destruction of all weapons of mass destruction; agree to long-term monitoring of their programmes on weapons of mass destruction; compensate the victims of aggression; and return third-country detainees and Kuwaiti property.

We also want, as should others, the release of Mr. Ride and Mr. Wainwright, British citizens imprisoned in Iraq, whose families I saw yesterday. Their severe punishment in no way fits their supposed offence. Iraq would gain some credit for releasing them but none for continuing to keep them in unjust captivity.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Why did it take a brilliant cross-examination in the Old Bailey by Geoffrey Robertson, QC, to elicit the fact that on, 19 July 1990, the Foreign Secretary himself chaired a key Cabinet meeting, which reported to Mrs. Thatcher, urging that all arms embargoes in relation to Iraq should be done away with? If the right hon. Gentleman denies this, he ought to answer the allegations that are made by David Leigh on page 226 of his widely read book "Betrayed". Did that meeting take place on 19 July 1990, was it chaired by the Foreign Secretary, and what were its recommendations to the right hon. Gentleman's Cabinet colleagues, including the Prime Minister?

Mr. Hurd

This will come out before the Scott inquiry. There was such a meeting, but it did not reach the conclusion that the hon. Gentleman supposes.Everything will come out—the background, the context, the results and the conclusion that the results should be announced to this House.

I should like to turn to another matter that, rightly, takes up much time in this House—the Arab-Israel dispute. Three different peacekeeping forces are deployed in various parts of this dispute. The involvement of the United Nations has lasted for many years and is the basis for international efforts, but now the peace process sponsored by the United States and by Russia is, in effect, the only game in town.

Mr. Warren Christopher, the United States Secretary of State, is in the middle of his first foreign tour since his appointment, and he has chosen the middle east. He has taken up the process—I welcome this warmly—where Secretary Baker left off, and this effort, which is firmly based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, must be the focus for the whole international community.

We cannot realistically expect an early and complete solution. Those of us who have watched the twists and turns of this problem for so many years know that progress is bound to be painful—

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)


Mr. Hurd

In just a minute, yes.

—but all sides seem genuinely now to contemplate the possibility of compromise, of real peace, and that is a change. There will never be a better background for the work to which Mr. Christopher has set his hand.

Obstacles remain. A serious one was the decision of the Israeli Government last December to deport over 400 Palestinians. This was wrong. It was a mistake that we and the rest of the international community have condemned. Since then, the Israelis have taken a significant step—not a total step but a significant one—towards carrying out Security Council resolution 799. We believe that they must build on that. The objective must be not to allow this obstacle to derail the peace process. That would be in no one's interests—certainly not the interests of the Palestinians.

Dr. Cunningham

I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for allowing me to intervene. A few moments ago, he spoke with great force and clarity about the need for Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to comply totally with the resolutions of the Security Council. Now he is talking about compliance by Israel.

I agree with what he said about the terrible political error made, regrettably, by the new Israeli Government. Why, however, should it be acceptable for us to tell the world that Saddam Hussein must comply totally with UN resolutions—he is not allowed 25 per cent. Compliance—yet the Israelis' offer to comply with only 25 per cent. of resolution 799—that is, to return one quarter of the expelled Palestinians-is regarded as a basis for progress? That is surely totally unacceptable. If UN resolutions and compliance with them is to mean anything, everyone should comply.

Mr. Hurd

Saddam Hussein went to war. He committed aggression, he invaded Kuwait and he obliterated Kuwait. The resolutions under chapter 7 of the charter flow from that situation. The Israeli situation is different, but the resolutions are clear and should be complied with. That is what I am saying. A step has been taken towards compliance, but it is not sufficient.

The two situations are not the same—the hon. Member is not suggesting that they are the same—and therefore the means of compliance, the time allowed for compliance, the background and the atmosphere of the background are bound the be different, because the situations are different. But the need for the wishes and declared intentions of the Security Council to be respected remains the same.

I turn to the problems of the former Yugoslavia.

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

On that same point, surely the last UN resolution was quite specific in including the words "all" and "immediately". There is no room for doubt about what the resolution meant.

Mr. Hurd

That is what I said. I am not saying that the resolution has been complied with: I am saying that a significant step has been taken towards that and further steps are needed.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that, while he is absolutely right in talking about the problems caused by the deportation of the Palestinians, any flexibility that the Israelis may show over the Golan heights will be a much more welcome development in the context of these talks, and that such a development deserves every encouragement?

Mr. Hurd

I agree. The two critical parts of the bilateral negotiations are the one with Syria, on which there has been some progress, and the one with the Palestinians, which is more difficult and requires more effort by both sides if it is to succeed.

Of all the miseries and conflicts of which our constituents are so aware, the cry for action is heard most persistently about the situation in Bosnia. Press articles and television programmes crowd in on us, and there is no shortage of suggestions. Often, the suggestions that appear most satisfying to far-off observers overcome by anger and frustration are those that make the least sense on the ground.

Every hon. Member shares that sense of anger and frustration, but the closer one is to the action the more apparent is the misery, and the less easy it is to put the guilty and innocent into separate clear-cut categories or to devise simple courses of action that will end the fighting and produce peace with justice.

I must admit to some irritation in the past few days at comments from abroad that assume that nothing helpful is being done.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)


Mr. Hurd

I want to get on a bit.

Last week, the Government of Bosnia drew attention to the fact that United Nations convoys had been unable to reach certain towns in eastern Bosnia. They did this by denying supplies to their own hard-pressed people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Ogata, temporarily decided to suspend some aid convoys in Bosnia, and that came as a short, sharp shock to all three communities. Much comment followed, as if the relief effort had collapsed or was useless. An editorial in yesterday's New York Times claimed that Mrs. Ogata had suspended all shipments to Bosnia, which is not true. Throughout this period, the relief effort continued.

The editorial went further, claiming that, all along, the supplies have not been reaching those most desperately in need... The lives of thousands of Bosnians are at stake. Decency requires that America and the world provide prompt relief. Such ignorance of what has been happening warps the understanding of the public. Europe, with Britain in the lead, has for months been providing prompt relief, saving the lives of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, who would otherwise be dead.

Britain is providing the biggest contingent of troops in Bosnia of any United Nations country. We are keeping three power stations running in central Bosnia. Our troops have escorted 279 United Nations convoys, carrying some 20,000 tonnes of desperately needed food and medicines. In 351 flights since last July, the Royal Air Force, in dangerous conditions, has airlifted 4,700 tonnes of supplies into Sarajevo. In addition, under our aid programme, the Overseas Development Administration's civilian drivers have carried some 16,000 tonnes in more than 180 convoys. We are in the forefront of what the New York Times called for—prompt aid—without apparently realising that it was happening.

But our commitment is not unique. The French, Spanish, Danes and Portugese and the Benelux countries have all contributed troops to the United Nations Protection Force and helped to fund the UNHCR. France, for example, has committed 4,800 troops, and $10.2 million. We argue strongly with the French on quite a number of trade, European Community and other matters. That is a straightforward argument, but on Yugoslavia and many United Nations peacekeeping matters, our views and our interests, because we are broadly comparable countries on this, run closely together. We work well with the French as well as with others.

The success of this European relief effort under United Nations auspices has been about the only good news coming out of Bosnia so far, and I was glad to learn a few moments ago that a United Nations convoy, escorted by British troops, today reached the eastern Bosnian towns of Tuzla and Gorazde.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

I endorse everything that the Secretary of State has just said, having visited British forces at Split and Zagreb last week. Does he share the scepticism of many hon. Members at the suggestion that relief may be dropped by air—a proposal that, it is said, has attracted some support from the British Government? That must be a matter of considerable difficulty, not least because of the free availability of portable surface-to-air missiles. Will he give an undertaking that no British resources will be applied to any such proposal unless there are considerable guarantees and understandings about the level of risk to which forces might be exposed in such a venture?

Mr. Hurd

I welcome what President Clinton and his team have said about the willingness of the United States to join in the humanitarian effort. If, as I believe, the Americans are devising ways of doing this from the air, I welcome that too. If they can reach by that means, without undue risk to themselves, parts of Bosnia which the land convoys have not been able to reach, well and good. In that case, they too will be contributing to the task of keeping people alive who would otherwise be dead.

We believe that we are doing our bit in this respect by land, and have been doing so successfully and over a long period. Therefore, we do not have the intention of using our aircraft for this exercise, although we welcome the intention of the Americans to do so.

Dr. Cunningham

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for allowing me to intervene again.

However well intentioned this proposal may be, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that dropping aid from aircraft flying at, perhaps, 12,000 ft is sensible and practicable in the circumstances? Is he also satisfied, given the comments coming not only from aid workers on the ground in Bosnia, who think that this is not a very sensible idea, but also from representatives of the Serbs and others, who will say—perhaps dishonestly—that they feel threatened that these drops may contain arms, that this will not disrupt the aid on the ground?

We need convincing that this proposal deserves our support. If there is no alternative to dropping aid from several thousand feet—if otherwise people would starve to death—it will have to be tried, but we need convincing that this not only will work in practice for the people that it is targeting, but will not fatally damage the existing effort on the ground, which he has rightly praised.

Mr. Hurd

The last point is a very important one. As I understand it, the Americans are discussing their ideas with the Secretary-General of the United Nations either today or tomorrow, and they will, of course, also be discussing them with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The last point will, I think, be in the minds of both the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister.

However, as the hon. Gentleman said-[HON. MEMBERS: "Right hon. Gentleman."] Indeed? I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. It comes a little early in his career as shadow Foreign Secretary, which no doubt will be long and successful. I had some inkling of that news, but I had not realised that it had hit the public press. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman very sincerely.

The right hon. Gentleman's last point was entirely correct. If the Americans, who clearly are working very carefully on the techniques involved, find that they can contribute to the humanitarian effort by delivering supplies from the air to people whom the United Nations, the British and the French, and so on, have not been able to reach by land, we will welcome their contribution. I do not know enough about the techniques or how far their thinking has gone, but those are matters that will be discussed with both the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister.

The background is that, last autumn, experts predicted 300,000 deaths from cold and starvation in Bosnia this winter. One cannot say how many people have died, but until now the winter has been rather milder than usual, and we think the number is only a tiny fraction of what was predicted. That achievement of keeping people alive has been perhaps the main, indeed the only, piece of good news out of Bosnia in recent months.

I accept that, as hon. Members have pointed out before and as critics in America, Germany and other countries have pointed out, keeping people alive is not the full answer; it deals with the symptoms and not the disease.

So one must be looking all the time with some humility at all the possible ways of curing the disease. One should not be obsessed by the idea, "We have not thought of it before, so it cannot work." That is why it is healthy for President Clinton and the incoming Administration to be looking at all the possibilities, as we have tried to do continuously over the last two years.

President Clinton came to the conclusion, as we have done, that one cannot impose a political solution by military force, unless one is to undertake what would be an imperial commitment requiring many thousands of men for many years. No western Government support that. No Government—it is not true of all individuals—believe that it can be done simply from the air. From the air, one can destroy particular targets and achieve a limited purpose, as happened in Iraq, but one cannot from the air, as has been shown time and again in different examples, change a policy.

The United States has also looked, as have many others—certainly as we have done—at the possibility of a partial lifting of the arms embargo. The trade sanctions, as the House knows, apply only to Serbia and Montenegro, because we believe that they are primarily responsible for starting the war in Bosnia and for continuing it, but the arms embargo, which is mandatory under the Security Council resolution, applies to all the parties.

The idea of a partial lifting, in favour either of the Muslims or of the Muslims and Croats, is often canvassed. Again, I believe that that looks less practicable and less desirable the closer one gets to the action. It is incompatible in practice with the humanitarian effort that we have discussed in recent minutes. If one encourages the sending of arms into a war zone, one is choosing war rather than peace.

In practice, I do not think it could be partial. When one creates a loophole, one cannot be sure in a situation such as we are facing that only those whom one intends to receive help will actually get it. In other words, even if one intended to supply only the Bosnian Muslims, one could not be sure that the supply would end up there. This is a confused war, village by village and valley by valley, and it is easy for weapons to go astray.

Moreover, I believe that, faced with the arming of the Bosnian Muslims, the traditional friends of Serbia would rearm the Bosnian Serbs. We would, in effect, be throwing arms into the ring hoping for the best, rather like spurring on cocks to fight it out in a cockpit. The only certain result would be more bloodshed.

Those are arguments against courses which we think are not sensible, but if we argue against courses of action which we think are not sensible, we have an obligation to press on more energetically with the courses that we believe are sensible, of which there are three.

First, we offered, and created at the London conference, a peace procress. In the end, it will, in my view, work. People say that it is an illusion and is just diplomatic talk, but in the end, force does not provide an answer in situations such as this. Cynics sometimes say that force in the end is the only decisive fact, but in Yugoslavia, as in the Arab-Israeli dispute, just about everyone has tried force time and again. Force is actually a grossly inefficient arbiter of this kind of conflict. It settles nothing. Only negotiation can produce a settlement that lasts, although one cannot be sure that that will achieve it, either. Even so, only negotiation can do it.

The Owen-Vance plan, which now has general United States and Russian backing—I am not talking about details—is a good plan. It is new, but the situation is new. It is not set in concrete and it is open for discussion, particularly the map, and its authors admit that much negotiation remains to be done. But I believe that a final settlement, when it becomes possible, will be close to the present outline.

I pay tribute to the representatives of the United Nations and the European Community, and in particular to David Owen, whom we have all known in different capacities and whose different characteristics have been copiously commented on in the House and elsewhere. Whatever our views about that, it is clear that he is now tackling the issue with a great deal of dedication, energy and ingenuity, and we can be proud of what he is doing.

Secondly, behind persuasion has to come pressure, and we are talking about sanctions. In the autumn of last year, it was clear that sanctions were beginning to bite, but they work only when continuously applied over time. At perhaps a crucial moment, the international community relaxed its grip on Serbia and supplies got through. We must plug, and we are plugging, the holes.

We have sanctions assistance missions posted to Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Ukraine. This month, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe appointed a sanctions co-ordinator—it was, in fact, a suggestion of mine that hung fire for a bit. There is now someone—not a committee but one man—whose job it is, day in, day out, to do his best to plug the holes and to make sanctions effective. We are supporting his work with skilled manpower and money, and we expect our EC partners and other countries also to support his work.

Thirdly, we aim for justice. I shall not go into the details, because every lawyer knows how complex it is, but the fact for the layman is that people have been sickened by war crimes in the former Yugoslavia—by the rape, torture and ethnic cleansing. The rapes have been authenticated by the commission set up and presided over by Dame Anne Warburton, the head of Lucy Cavendish college, Cambridge. That very sober report is all the more compelling because of the objective way in which it was prepared and presented.

Yesterday, the Security Council passed resolution 808, deciding that an international tribunal should be established for the prosecution of persons responsible for grave violations of international humanitarian law in former Yugoslavia since 1991, and requesting a report from the Secretary-General including specific proposals for the tribunal.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The Secretary of State referred to the fact that many of our constituents have found it difficult—as, indeed, have many hon. Members—to comprehend the situation in a country that many of us used to think of as a holiday destination. Many of the victims of the systematic rape will bear children in the spring of this year as a result of that rape. Are any specific steps being taken by the international community to enable those who wish to foster or adopt those children to do so, as many individuals wish to contribute in that way?

Mr. Hurd

When we heard from Anne Warburton and considered her report at the previous Foreign Affairs Council, we decided to set in train steps to help mothers in that position. Of course, the desire of the mothers arid of the Governments of Bosnia and Croatia is that, to the greatest possible extent, the children should stay where they are. However, I shall write to the hon. Lady with the particulars of what is done to help.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

Before the Secretary of State leaves the question of the former Yugoslavia, will he comment on the future arrangements for Croatia, where, I understand, the arrangements for the monitoring force will expire shortly? Does he expect that the arrangements will be renewed? Does he think that there is a prospect of renewed conflict there? If so, what are the implications for the Owen-Vance plan in Bosnia?

Mr. Hurd

The Security Council has renewed the mandate for the United Nations protection force in Croatia, but only until 31 March. It is intended to provide a breathing space during which everyone involved—the Government of Croatia, the Krajina Serbs and the troop contributors—can work out a new arrangement, probably a new and, I hope, better mandate, so that the international effort can continue and make progress. As the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) knows, the situation has been very dangerous, but there is a little respite.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Hurd

No, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to make a speech in a moment.

I return to the general question that I asked at the outset. I believe that there is a solid British interest in reducing the amount of chaos in the world. We, more than almost any other, are a trading nation, and conflict is an enemy to trade and thus to our prosperity. However, there is also a less tangible issue: we are not given, thank heaven, either in the House or in Government, to great grandiloquent proclamations, and we should not pretend more than we can achieve.

However, there is, I hope, a sound instinct in this country that we, as a decent people, should make some contribution towards working for a more decent world. We cannot be everywhere or do everything, and there is no question of Britain or any country becoming the policeman of the world.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Hurd

No, I shall not give way.

All countries work under constraint and, in practice, it means that they have to work with international institutions. I shall not work my way through an analysis of all those institutions. 1 shall not, for example, deal with the way in which the countries of the European Community are steadily working more closely together on matters of foreign and security policy; there will be other opportunities to do that.

I wish to talk about NATO. It was created for one purpose, and is now adapting itself to cope with another as well. In NATO, we agreed last year that it should be ready to undertake peacekeeping outside its area. Today, there are NATO ships in the Adriatic, stopping and searching vessels which might be breaking sanctions. There are plans for a NATO operation to monitor the skies over the former Yugoslavia. There are components of a NATO headquarters serving UNPROFOR in Bosnia. If there were a durable ceasefire in Bosnia which needed underpinning with a peacekeeping force, I do not doubt that that force would include a major NATO contribution as part of a United Nations operation.

I deal finally with the United Nations, which has a unique legal and political authority in these matters. As the House knows, we welcome the Secretary-General's report "An Agenda for Peace" on how the United Nations might improve its capacity in preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping. Preventive diplomacy is an arm of United Nations activity which we must strengthen. We need to make a concerted effort to solve international disputes before they reach the point of armed conflict. It is a criticism of the United Nations, and therefore of all of us, that it has not done enough in that crucial aspect in the past.

Under international law, it is possible for any country to use force in self-defence without the specific authority of the Security Council, but chapters VI and VII of the charter provide a flexible legal framework for many types of such action, and they are now invoked more often than at any time in the history of the organisation.

That leads me to say a few words about the discussion on reform of the Security Council. The only person whom I have heard suggest that Britain should give up our permanent membership was a member of the Opposition who is not now in her place. The debate is not about giving up the British seat but about whether there should be additions to the permanent membership to reflect changes in the world since 1945. We have neither the will nor the power to stifle such debate, but some words of caution are perhaps in order.

Mr. Corbyn

Does the Secretary of State not think that there is a case for ensuring that there are permanent representatives of at least Latin America and Africa on the Security Council? Does he not think that consideration should be given of the removal of the power of veto of the permanent members of the Security Council in order to make the organisation more democratic and more reflective of the world's population as a whole?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman's suggestions flow straight into the words of caution that I am about to utter. It is precisely such suggestions which feed the debate. The debate is likely to continue for a long time, because I cannot imagine a solution that would satisfy all aspirations to the extent necessary for the reform of the charter, which needs unanimity among the permanent members and a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.

A proposition has been heard, although it is not the hon. Gentleman's, that one could solve the problem merely by adding Germany and Japan to the list of permanent members. That will clearly not provide a solution in itself, because candidates from other continents would also make claims.

Permanent membership carries certain obligations, and I doubt whether it could easily be extended to countries which, for their own constitutional reasons, have up to now been unable to contribute troops to the full range of United Nations peacekeeping activities. In fact, of the permanent members, it is the French and the British who are currently contributing most in the form of peacekeeping forces. Perhaps that introduces a touch of reality to what is often a theoretical debate.

It is sometimes suggested that instead of the British and French permanent membership, there should be an EC membership. The Maastricht treaty establishes in a satisfactory way the position of Britain and France as members of the EC who are also permanent members of the Security Council. The treaty recognises our responsibilities under the charter, and we accept the need to take the views of our partners into account as we fulfil those British and French responsibilities.

Of course the discussion will go on and we shall take a constructive part in it. However, I am particularly anxious that the discussion should not frustrate or undermine the actual efforts of the Security Council to deal with the problems of the moment. The Security Council has never been more in demand. It must be able to do its job effectively without too many distractions.

Britain will continue to do her bit. We are not pretentious or in search of glory. Perhaps more than most we tend to weigh the consequences of an action before we embark on it. For all the reasons I have given, we may more often have to say no than yes when asked to take part in peacekeeping actions, but we have, both in our foreign service and our armed forces highly professional national assets which are greatly in demand internationally. We need to look at the way in which the resources for our overall effort overseas are distributed. We need, both as a national Government and in the international institutions, to learn three lessons from experience so far.

First, it is easier and better to move earlier to avert a disaster than to clear up its consequences. In another field, we know that primary health care costs less than hospital treatment and an ambassador costs less than an infantry battalion. An international conference can cost a lot, but it costs less than military intervention, and peacekeeping costs far less than war. At the end of the day, as I have suggested, force usually proves to be a hopelessly inefficient arbiter in such disputes as we are discussing, and there has to be a negotiated settlement either between states or within states—better earlier than later.

Secondly, there has to be an equitable sharing of burdens in any substantial international enterprise and that has not always been so.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there has to be a disciplined analysis of risks and benefits. The international community should not lurch into enterprises the scope and duration of which have not been thought through.

If we follow those principles and encourage others to do so, we may together, case by case, cope with at least some of the problems of world disorder. We in Britain will try to bring a sound mix of prudence and courage to those choices, as is certainly expected of us by our friends abroad, and by our constituents.

4.52 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

The House will be grateful to the Foreign Secretary for his thoughtful speech this afternoon and I personally am grateful to him for the kind remarks he directed towards me.

Even before I heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I decided to start this afternoon where he concluded, with the United Nations. I do that for two reasons—first, because Labour has and has always had a positive commitment to the United Nations, and that support is based firmly in our party's constitution. I say to those involved in the current debate about clause 4 of the Labour party's constitution that, whatever else they want to change, they will certainly not change with my agreement clause 4(7) of our constitution, which commits our party to the support of the United Nations.

Britain is in a unique position in what are rapidly changing times. As a member of the European Community, NATO and the Commonwealth and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, we can exercise influence and maintain our presence in a whole variety of places, forums and discussions which are not open to many of our partners in the European Community or even the United States of America. In many ways, we can play a pivotal role in working towards a more peaceful and prosperous world where human rights and the needs of environment and sustainable growth are high on agendas. I welcome that position for our country. Whenever the Foreign Secretary seeks to use it positively with those aims and objectives in mind, he shall of course have our support.

We actively support the peacemaking role of the United Nations as it has been given effect in difficult circumstances in Cambodia—although that is an extremely fragile situation—Somalia, and elsewhere. I shall return to more specific areas of difficulty later.

There must be a debate on the future of the United Nations. Although we have always supported it, we do not believe that the status quo is adequate, for a number of reasons. We believe that a debate, and more, is essential about membership or permanent membership of the Security Council. I see no good or reasonable argument why Britain should not retain a seat as a permanent member of the Security Council, and it would not be fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms. Eagle) to whom the Foreign Secretary referred, to say that she was suggesting we should give up, but only that the matter seemed to be under debate.

Yes, let us have the debate about the nature of the United Nations and the increase in demand being placed upon it, because there have been more demands placed on the United Nations in the past five years than in the past five decades, and increasingly, when people call for something to be done, they expect the United Nations to be able to respond. Clearly it does not have the resources, the staff, the financing or the cash to respond everywhere, even in those circumstances in which it decides that peacekeeping should be deployed.

I choose my words carefully when I say that, before the new President of the United States, whose election we welcome, or his Administration, start talking about the reorganisation of the Security Council or the reform of the United Nations, the United States should pay its subscriptions. We cannot blame President Clinton for that as he has only recently come to office, but, regrettably, the United States is the biggest single debtor to the United Nations and that is most unsatisfactory. It is not the only debtor but the biggest single one.

Mr. Dalyell

And UNESCO too.

Dr. Cunningham

UNESCO is not really on today's agenda, but since my hon. Friend has mentioned it, I urge the Foreign Secretary to renew Britain's membership of UNESCO at the earliest possible opportunity.

I return to the financing and organisation of the United Nations. The former Soviet Union is a major debtor, and, in some respects, so are Germany and France. Although figures vary, it is said that something approaching £2 billion is currently outstanding in unpaid contributions to the United Nations. At a time when the organisation is having to spend more than £3 billion on its efforts, that is most unsatisfactory.

The need to face up to the changing role of the United Nations was addressed by the Secretary-General himself when last June he produced to members of the United Nations his report entitled "An Agenda for Peace", covering preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping. That addressed the issues in a detailed way. It is not my intention to go through them all in detail, except to say that there are some positive proposals for peace in that agenda. We hope that Her Majesty's Government will take a positive, indeed a leading, role in discussing those changes.

The role for preventive diplomacy was very much part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It is far better for us to be active early to prevent or head off dispute and ultimately conflict, and far more beneficial to all concerned, than to see the United Nations so paralysed by lack of resources, support or political will that considerably later we are urged, and sometimes obliged, to intervene with military support or humanitarian aid, as is happening now in so many places. Peacemaking and peacekeeping are far more preferable to armed conflict, about which I share the views of the right hon. Gentleman.

Between 1945 and 1987, 13 peacekeeping operations were established by the United Nations; 13 others have been established since. An estimated 500,000 military, police and civilian personnel served under the flag of the United Nations during that time. Over 800 of them, from 43 countries, have died. The cost of those operations aggregated some $8.3 billion until January of last year. The unpaid arrears towards the operations stand at over $800 million, a debt to the organisation from the countries which contributed to the peacekeeping operations.

Peacekeeping operations approved at present are estimated to cost close to $3 billion in the current 12-month period, while patterns of payment are unacceptably low. Against that, global defence expencliture at the end of last decade approached $1 trillion a year or $2 million per minute, according to the analysis in the Secretary-General's "An Agenda for Peace".

When the Foreign Secretary recently made a speech on the subject of "The new disorder", he went into the issues in detail. I do not agree entirely that there is a new disorder. There are new circumstances in the international community with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and there are new circumstances in the United Nations because the frequent use of the veto has gone. There are not the same mechanisms available in international discussion, and there are not the same certainties about spheres of influence.

Long-established existing disorder has continued, and it has got closer to the European community in the former Yugoslavia. It is interesting to reflect on what the new United States Secretary of State, Mr. Warren Christopher, said about the United Nations in his congressional confirmation: It will be this administration's policy to encourage other nations and the institutions of collective security, especially the United Nations, to do more of the world's work to deter aggression, relieve suffering and keep the peace. In that regard, we will work with Secretary General Boutros Ghali and members of the Security Council to ensure that the United Nations has the means to carry out such tasks. That was what Warren Christopher said in his testimony. I hope that means that the United States will pay their dues.

I welcome the debate about the future of the United Nations, but I also welcome what the Foreign Secretary said about the necessary debate on the changing role of NATO. The original purposes of NATO have gone, but before we end effective international organisations, we need to know what the alternatives are and what other nations think.

In that regard, in the debate going on in the Federal Republic of Germany, I have urged our colleagues in the SPD to support the proposed constitutional changes. If the federal republic is to play a bigger role in the international community, it must support not just particular decisions or resolutions, but their effective implementation. That means constitutional change in the federal republic. It is an important debate there. On my recent visit I made it clear that the SPD should support those changes and that they should be agreed.

In respect of some of the areas of conflict that the Foreign Secretary put on his agenda, it is not a surprising coincidence that the same areas are on my agenda for discussion. No doubt some people will say that there is awful Front Bench collusion, but that is not the case. It would be difficult to speak in such a debate without coming to broadly the same conclusion about what should be discussed, even if we do not agree on all the proposed solutions.

As to the solution in Israel, about which I intervened in the Foreign Secretary's speech, I am a committed supporter of the Labour Government in Israel. I am delighted by their election. I recognise the force of the right hon. Gentleman's comment about the peace process being the only show in town, to use his phrase, and that everything possible must be done to get it further down the track. Therefore, the Labour Government in Israel must comply with resolution 799 of the Security Council—not next month, not in six months' time, not next year, but now. Those were the terms of the resolution and that should be the outcome.

I hope that our friends in the Parliament and in the Government of Israel are listening carefully to what we say, because we shall not change our position. It does nonthing for the credibility of the United Nations as a whole or of the permanent members of the Security Council if some Governments can be seen to—"flout" is perhaps too strong a word—ignore the decisions of the United Nations while others are expected to comply absolutely and, if they do not, to bear the consequences. I agree that circumstances in Iraq and in Israel are different and are not comparable at all. Nor, for that matter, are the resolutions, but the principle is the same. I hope that the House will agree that no one should be able by any means to wriggle out of compliance with the decisions of the Security Council: otherwise, any talk of a new constructive, effective world order will be seen as meaningless by many.

Many years ago I had the experience—very interesting for me personally but very sad—of being involved with Lord Callaghan, then the Foreign Secretary in Harold Wilson's Government, at the United Nations peace talks following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The talks were held in the Palais des Nations in Geneva where I met the new President Clerides and Mr. Rauf Denktash, who is still the leader of the Turkish community. The Foreign Secretary has mentioned the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus, but the most threatening force is that of Turkey, which has 30,000 troops on the island. That is unjustifiable.

Sadly, Mr. Denktash blocked and stalled the talks on a solution to the problems in Cyprus, held under the auspices of the Secretary General at the end of last year. At least during his campaign for election, President Clerides does not seem to have said anything very helpful about his attitude towards United Nations' efforts to produce a solution in Cyprus. We support the United Nations Secretary-General's efforts to seek a solution and we shall continue to take that view.

The situation in Iraq is rather like that in Bosnia. People are demanding that more should be done and I understand why, but as a nation and within the international community, we simply cannot have a blueprint that will produce a solution for every trouble spot in the world.

Representatives of the Kurdish people from northern Iraq and of the Shiah Muslims from the south are asking one simple question: why does the United Nations allow Saddam Hussein's regime to control the humanitarian aid going to their communities? They want to know why the aid cannot be provided directly to them. Everyone knows that the regime in Baghdad is not following the letter of the law in that respect. I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that that matter should be raised at the United Nations and that—under existing resolutions if possible, or if not, under new ones—it should seek to reorganise desperately needed aid to people who have suffered for so long. They continue to suffer deprivation in humanitarian terms and military harassment and threats to their lives and well-being from Saddam's forces. At least in humanitarian terms, we should be doing much more to satisfy their legitimate needs and demands.

When I intervened in the Foreign Secretary's remarks about Bosnia I was reflecting a fairly widespread view in the House that we need to be convinced about the Prime Minister's discussions. I know that he has some fence-mending to do and some ground to recover. Nevertheless, I wish him well because it is important for our country to have an effective working relationship with the United States. I hope that he will question President Clinton thoroughly and at length about the practicality of delivering aid in the way that has been suggested.

Two Hercules planes, flying at 2,000 ft or higher, will be threatened by the ground-to-air missiles that we know exist because, tragically, an Italian plane has already been shot down. There are questions about the efficiency with which that aid will be delivered. Will it go to the people who so desperately need it, or will it go to their persecutors?

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

Perhaps I may be of some assistance to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know where the idea of two C-130s flying at 2,000 ft emerged. I heard it on the wireless today, but it is absolute nonsense. We must leave the Americans to do their own thing in their own way, if they are going to do it. I was grateful to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who made it clear that we shall not take part in the operation. Hopefully, if the Americans carry it out, it will be for good reasons, and they will take into account the problems that it may present for our ground forces.

Dr. Cunningham

I do not agree. In such difficult circumstances, we should not let the Americans do things in their own time and in their own way when the United Nations is involved. I do not agree with that principle, any more than I agree with the proposition that we should support what President Bush did in Iraq during the last 48 hours of his mandate. Such matters must be discussed with the international community.

The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have every right to question in detail the American proposals in that regard, not merely in respect of the effectiveness of what they propose to do, but because of the serious consequences that it could have for British ground troops in Bosnia. We cannot tell the Americans to get on with it and to do as they wish, as long as they get some of the aid on the right target. It is more complicated than that and there is much more at stake. Opposition Members must be assured on those questions before we can support the proposals.

I accept that the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) may be right that the details being bandied about are not accurate. However, I stand firm on a principle that is important to Opposition Members and, I believe, to the Foreign Secretary.

In general, we welcome greater humanitarian aid efforts in the former Yugoslavia—especially in Bosnia—and have called for them consistently. We want more United Nations involvement on the ground in Macedonia too. Macedonia has a clear case for, and should be given, international recognition. I cannot understand the continuing delay, although I know that not everyone shares my strongly held view—including some Opposition Members.

I share the views expressed by the Foreign Secretary on the brutal crimes of violence against women in the former Yugoslavia. The organised, criminal rape of women, which has taken place there must be condemned and prosecuted as a war crime with the full vigour of international law. Her Majesty's Government and the international community will have our wholehearted support in their pursuit of the perpetrators of such crimes against women. I urge them to continue their wholehearted efforts to pursue the criminals, as I know that the Foreign Secretary is doing, and to bring the full vigour of law to bear upon them.

Mr. Winnick

Has my right hon. Friend seen the newspaper reports which demonstrate that those terrible crimes—especially the rape of Muslim women—were not committed on the spur of the moment but were organised deliberately beforehand by criminals and gangsters? Some of the Serbian political leadership who were involved must bear responsibility for the actions of soldiers and criminals against women. I agree that those responsible, including the people who took the decisions, should be held to account and brought to justice.

Dr. Cunningham

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. It is unthinkable to Members of this House and to people in this country that such crimes could be premeditated and carried out so systematically—indeed, they still are being carried out. Perhaps more than on any other issue, there is unanimity in this country about the need to prosecute the perpetrators of such unspeakable crimes.

Angola is another area of United Nations activity, which attracts fewer headlines but where the problems are no less acute. It is important to remind the House of the elections held in September last year following the peace accords, which were universally recognised as free and fair. Their conduct was a great tribute to the people of Angola. The present troubles and the dreadful violence that has occurred are a direct result of UNITA's refusal to accept the democratic verdict of the Angolan people. It is deplorable. UNITA is attempting to achieve by force of arms and the bullet what it failed to achieve through the ballot box.

I cannot emphasise too strongly that if UNITA is allowed to succeed, there will be the most profound implications for every other part of the world where United Nations-supervised elections are being planned or are shortly to take place.

Especially worrying are the repeated reports of support being given to UNITA by Zaire and by South Africa. I refer to two such reports. There was the seizure by the Namibian authorities at Rundu airport on 23 January of three South African four-engined Douglas DC6 aircraft. The Namibian Government issued a statement on the seizure of the aircraft on 26 January. On 21 January 1993, 120 Zairean and South African troops were landed on the outskirts of Huambo by Puma helicopters. Three Zaireans and a wounded South African were captured.

At 7 am today, I returned from South Africa. I raised the matter directly with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the National Government. During our discussion, I was assured that the Government of South Africa had ceased to provide support for UNITA in Angola. Of course I accept what the Minister said, but I believe that it flies in the face of the evidence being provided by the Namibian authorities. The circumstances are causing great concern on all sides of the debate in South Africa on the future of the country.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

I was the leader of the British parliamentary delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to observe the elections, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the elections were free and fairly held. However, I counsel strongly against a partisan view of the two groups. We have witnessed the savage butchery of supporters of UNIT'A and the hounding down of such supporters and their families in Luanda and elsewhere. We must take that into account if a new Angola is to be built. There are brutal thugs on both sides and it is incumbent on the leaders of both sides to bring their people under control so that the country can achieve freedom, peace and democracy.

Dr. Cunningham

Much of what the hon. Gentleman says is true. However, the clear reality is that it was UNITA that refused to accept the results of the election. UNITA first resorted to force of arms when the breakdown occurred. We know, because tragically there are too many examples all around us, that once a breakdown happens, there are few innocents on either side in such conflicts. Such brutal conduct is deplorable: I share the views of the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) on that point.

I know of and congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the good job that he did as leader of the delegation. However, I disagree on one fundamental point. It was UNITA that resorted to violence. Such violence should be condemned not just because of Angola, but because of the threat it poses to other United Nations-brokered peace accords and planned elections.

What steps are the Government taking diplomatically, through the United Nations and elsewhere, to isolate UNITA militarily and diplomatically and to try to bring to an end the appalling conflict which, as the hon. Member for Gravesham says, is costing thousands of lives?

Wherever there is war, famine and disease are not far behind. An estimated 3 million people could be at risk in Angola. There is a need for urgent international assistance, and I urge the Government to acknowledge that fact.

Western Sahara is another part of the world that receives few headlines, but where the United Nations is involved and where progress towards a settlement is painfully slow. It is now almost two years since the peace plan was drawn up by the then Secretary-General, supported by both sides and endorsed by Security Council resolution 690/691. A referendum should have been held under United Nations auspices in December 1991, with the real prospect of bringing an end to a conflict that has lasted for 18 years. We are still waiting for that referendum to take place. The United Nations must stand firm by the Security Council resolutions on Western Sahara and the referendum should take place as soon as possible on the basis of the agreements reached.

In common with other right hon. and hon. Members, there are many other parts of the world to which I could refer. As I have just returned from an interesting visit to South Africa, I shall speak on the position there next. The momentum of change is both challenging and exciting. I had the opportunity to spend three days at the African National Congress conference in Johannesburg and then to spend two days talking with leaders of other political parties and with Government Ministers in Cape Town.

No one should be in any doubt that the African National Congress wholeheartedly supports a peaceful transition to a non-racial, democratic society in South Africa. The magnanimity of people who have been imprisoned, banned, and exiled, and who have seen their families tortured and sometimes sadly murdered is astonishing. People want a peaceful transition. They want to avoid conflict and they want reconstruction in a political as well as in an economic sense in South Africa.

From my recent experiences, I believe that that goal is shared by almost everyone, regardless of political persuasion, in the Republic of South Africa. Happily, talks are now proceeding again and constitutional talks will recommence early next month. It is hoped that elections will take place 12 months from now.

There is broad agreement between the ANC and the National party Government on a proposed five-year period for a Government of national unity. The ANC refers to a Government of national unity and the National party call it power-sharing. They must make their own decisions about how they describe such a Government. It is a positive proposal which is full of hope.

We had the opportunity to meet Mr. Nelson Mandela. I am happy to tell the House that reports of his illness, like reports of Mark Twain's death, have been much exaggerated. He was in a happy, confident and ebullient mood on Saturday morning in Johannesburg, although he was clearly tired because of the strenuous demands placed on him by the peace process, and by the discussions within his own organisation and bilaterally. There is no doubt that he remains determined to play a full part in the continuing process.

Another piece of important news announced on Saturday by the ANC was its willingness to name dates for a complete end to sanctions, with the exception of sanctions on arms, on oil and on nuclear materials. Assuming that the arrangements on the transitional period are agreed, assuming that announcements are made on an agreed date for elections, on the establishment of a transitional executive council and on independent electoral and media commissions, and assuming the passing of the Transition to Democracy Act, sanctions affecting diplomatic relations, transactions in gold, trade and trade credits, new investment, loans and other financial links will be lifted. Clearly, the ANC recognises the importance not only of reaching political decisions, but of trying in the shortest possible time to begin the important process of regenerating the economy in the interests of all in South Africa. All that was very positive.

What was far more worrying was the experience of visits to Alexandria, to Soweto and to Crossroads, where —I say this with gratitude—I was accompanied by the excellent staff of the British Ambassador, Sir Anthony Reeve, and by the Consul-General, John Doble. In black communities and townships where millions of people live in appalling circumstances, there is a clear appreciation of United Kingdom support for them and their efforts. I want to place that on record. Sadly, it is also clear that that support is infinitesimal when it is set beside the huge scale and nature of the problems in those communities and townships: illiteracy, unemployment, illness, tuberculosis —which is rampant in some communities—poverty and malnutrition.

I met an old lady in Alexandra who was being supported by our aid programme. She was running a hostel for elderly people. She said that she wanted, first, peace more than anything else and, secondly, more support to continue doing her work, giving warmth and comfort to old people who had been abandoned, sadly, by their families or had lost contact with their families completely.

I met and spoke with a woman in Crossroads whose son had recently been assassinated. She was running a co-op for African young people to develop skills and opportunities to create jobs for themselves. Her view was the same: no more fighting, no more war and no more killing; peace and help for reconstruction.

In my talks with representatives of the executive of the African National Congress and Ministers in the Government, and in a brief exchange of views with the president, the leader of the Democratic party and a member of the Conservative party—simply to show that I worked hard to get across the political spectrum—there was universal support for the move towards free and fair elections. There were also widespread demands especially in the black community, as one would expect, for a greater commitment on behalf of the United Nations to provide monitors and more assistance and to ensure that elections are free and fair when they take place.

The future of all southern Africa is bound up in a successful outcome to democratic change in South Africa. The essential huge social and economic reconstruction which is required in South Africa will, if successful, have important consequences for neighbouring states in that part of Africa.

I urge the Foreign Secretary and Her Majesty's Government to continue the excellent work which is being done but to provide more support both directly through our aid programme and at the United Nations for a greater presence in South Africa to give the best possible chance for a peaceful transition to take place.

5.32 pm
Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)

Once again, when we are talking about peacekeeping, the distinction must be made—and emphasised—between peacemaking and peacekeeping. The arrival of hi-tech developments in modern warfare has encouraged too many armchair strategists and their leader-writing friends to believe that there is a hi-tech fix for the rather confused situation that we have on the ground in places such as Bosnia.

I believe that military forces can be deployed under the appropriate United Nations resolutions to prevent the outbreak of conflict. They can also be deployed to keep the peace once a ceasefire has happened. I do not believe that any army in the world can insert itself between warring factions such as those in Bosnia.

Humanitarian aid convoys are a different matter. In Bosnia, the convoys are operating in a situation before the fighting has stopped. The fear must now be that any escalation in United Nations military action will create severe difficulties for the highly vulnerable British forces on the ground.

I know that many hon. Members want to take part in the debate, so I shall simply make some brief points about co-operation on the ground between non-governmental organisations and Government Departments such as the Ministry of Defence and the Overseas Development Administration. First, I urge that there should be a collocated headquarters for both military and civil authorities, exactly as there was in northern Iraq. That operation was the success that it was precisely because of the close operational relationship which existed on the ground. Secondly, there is a need to establish as a matter of urgency standard operating procedures which must be agreed between the Ministry of Defence and the Overseas Development Administration.

Thirdly, I draw attention to the great success of the military in Bosnia in providing communications networks. I noticed with something of a wry smile that it was the French general in command who requested that it should be the NATO communications cell and the British in particular who would provide that support for him. That is an example of the way in which the military can be used as enablers without their in any way owning, filtering, censoring or controlling the messages passed down that communications network. Understandably, there are many suspicions between non-governmental organisations and Government Departments.

NATO has made considerable strides recently in working out ways in which it can be involved in emergencies operations. Often, the military cannot be used because of the question of cost. Nowhere is that more glaringly seen than in the United Kingdom, where the Treasury requires the recovery of the full costs of, for example, aircraft when a more reasonable policy would be to charge only the incremental costs, recognising the training value which comes from acting in military operations.

In conclusion, it must be recognised that, although the military can help to stabilise a situation, they cannot provide solutions to the basic problems which exist on the ground.

5.36 pm
Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

This has been a sober, thoughtful and constructive debate. The right hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) caught us slightly by surprise with his commendable brevity. Because the debate has been sober, thoughtful and constructive, probably very little of it will be reported in the media outside, who are much more interested in the occasional hysterics and histrionics of conflict in this place.

Nevertheless, the debate has been extremely worth while and I generally congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the tone that he set from the outset. I was disturbed only to the extent that I thought he was straying for a moment to try to position British foreign policy somewhere between the saloon bar and Gladstonian rhetoric. He will forgive me if I prefer to move it slightly more in the direction of Gladstonian rhetoric.

The Foreign Secretary mentioned leader writers and commentators. I have noticed recently—I do not know whether others have noticed this—that there is an unfortunate tendency among some writers and commentators to hanker after the old certainties of the cold war and wish somehow that we were back in those reasoned days. That nonsence must be exploded immediately. We should remind ourselves that our children were, until recently, growing up in a world of increasing tension and risk of nuclear terror and that that has been greatly diminished and dispelled since the end of the cold war.

The effect of the cold war was to intrude its malign influence into so many of the conflicts around the world which have involved us from time to time, including today. For example, I do not believe that the peace process in the middle east would have got as far as it has today if the cold war had still been in existence. Certainly, in southern Africa and in the areas to which the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) referred in the western Sahara and the Horn of Africa, one could see the meddlesome influence of the cold war everywhere. The disappearance of the cold war must be welcomed.

There is no doubt that the emergence of a single world super-power brings other problems in its wake. The Foreign Secretary gave us an interesting Foreign Office statistic—that the cost of an ambassador was certainly less than the cost of a military battalion. Let us take that as read. Perhaps much more telling and precise a statistic is that the cost of two days of the successful Desert Storm operation would have covered the entire annual cost of all United Nations peacekeeping efforts around the globe. That is why I start with the proposition that investment in peacekeeping and the building up of the authority of the United Nations is, apart from all other considerations, good value for money for the taxpayer, and infinitely preferable to the necessity to resort to conflict in order to put out world bush fires.

I hope that we shall move forward in the spirit that the Foreign Secretary has outlined in developing the new world order and making it a reality by building up the authority of the United Nations. Undoubtedly, during the cold war, the balance of the super-powers tended to curb the threat of excesses by either of them through fear of the other.

Some of the rhetoric in the recent presidential debate in the United States was a little disturbing. The use of military might without moral authority is not leadership but a form of strong arm dictatorship. A solitary super-power, even in agreement with its allies, deploying high tech military might around the globe according to its own whim is a different proposition from creating a new world order under the specific authority of the United Nations charter, which is what we should clearly be aiming for.

At the time of the publication of the Government's White Paper, "Options for Change", I was critical of its lack of content, pointing towards the future commitments that the British military would have to make to United Nations operations. In a speech in my constituency at an enormous rally in protest against the proposed amalgamation of the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scots, I pointed out that, while many were there for reasons of past sentiment, I was there to express my concern because of our future obligations. Anyone with an eye to the pattern of future world politics would have to recognise that while there may be peace dividends and cuts in the overall defence budget, the one thing that could not possibly be cut if one was to have a responsible attitude towards the United Nations, was the levels of infantry. I am glad that there has been at least some back-tracking in the Ministry of Defence since the White Paper was published.

Among the opportunities for cuts are cuts in the development and spread of armaments. I have spoken on the subject before, and I do not wish to repeat myself, but it is interesting that the American Government should be wrestling with the question of air drops over former Yugoslavia when the biggest inhibition against such air drops is the scale of surface-to-air missiles which have found their way into that territory from American supplies to the Afghan rebels. That is a good specific example of how we in the developed world have tended, for short-term reasons, to be rather gung-ho in our supplies of weaponry to particular bush fires or incidents, only to find them spreading elsewhere. There is a moral there which should be firmly taken on board.

In considering defence cuts, we must be careful not to allow the Treasury to impose particular cuts which will inhibit the very kind of role that we might want our troops to continue in future. Peacekeeping will certainly require Britain to be able to put forces such as the Royal Marines where they are needed. That will require amphibious capacity which the landing platform helicopter has been planned to achieve. I believe that the Government saw that clearly when the amphibious package was set out exactly a year ago. It is worrying that that project now appears to be threatened by Treasury-led cuts, which are not based on defence requirements. The House and the Select Committees on Defence and on Foreign Affairs have been right to insist that we must establish our defence and peacekeeping needs first and deal with cost second, rather than the other way round.

Like others, I want to be brief, so I come now to the peacekeeping machinery itself. I well remember more than 12 years ago spending some time with the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Lebanon and being struck then, as I am today in the case of Bosnia, by the limits on the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping forces.

Incidentally, as tribute has been paid to David Owen and smiles were turned in my direction, I am happy to endorse what the Foreign Secretary said. I know David Owen's qualities well, although I must admit that I never regarded peacekeeping and conciliation as highest among them; none the less, I readily acknowledge the tremendous effort that he has made, with Cyrus Vance, in this difficult situation.

To return to the United Nations mandate, it clearly is not satisfactory to have military operations which cannot exert their authority in the area to which they are sent. The Secretary-General was right to argue in his document "An Agenda for Peace" that, even if the political concurrence of the five permanent members of the Security Council is necessary, the United Nations should have a standby capacity of its own for the purpose of enforcement. If such a force were created—to which we, among others, would have to assign troops—the organisation would be able to react at even shorter notice. Such a capacity would also fulfil a preventive function by giving added seriousness to the resolutions and positions adopted from time to time by the Security Council. As the Secretary-General proposed in his report, those forces could be set up by agreements mentioned in article 43 of chapter VII of the charter. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give high priority to that.

When one considers the need for such a standby operation, there is no doubt that the United Nations—any criticism of which is a criticism of ourselves—was far too late into Somalia. Somalia is an example where I would argue, again in the best Gladstonian tradition, that we have a particular responsibility. Last October, when I visited a refugee camp in northern Kenya on the borders of Somalia and Ethiopia, I was taken aback by a man who came up to me and said that he should not be there because he was a British passport holder. I asked to see his passport, which he produced, and it turned out to be a British passport, the cover of which looked exactly like any of ours, but it had been issued under the Protectorate of Somalialand around 1950 and so was a valueless document. But the moral was there. We had a responsibility for part of Somalia at one time. That is why I argue, perhaps against the trend of the Foreign Secretary's remarks, that there are cases in which Britain has a particular lingering moral responsibility to be involved and to be taking the lead in United Nations activities—and Somalia is one of them.

When one considers Britain's history, it is undeniable that we grew strong and wealthy through our imperial connections and that legacy also means that we have a particular responsibility to take the lead in trying to develop the new world order and to create peace in areas where there is conflict.

My last point has not yet been mentioned and I hope that the House will forgive me if I dwell on it for a few minutes. An important part of international peacekeeping should be the development of international election monitoring and election machinery. I was pleased, 10 days or so ago, to be at a round table in the Palais des Nations in Geneva and to find that the British Government had sent a senior official to a meeting which was at the invitation of the Swedish Government. They are proposing that an international electoral institute should be established under the authority of the United Nations but not a part of the United Nations machinery, with the capacity to assist the process of creating multi-party democracies.

The reason why that is directly related to international peacekeeping is simply that if one looks at conflicts around the world today, or historically, it is difficult to find examples of mature parliamentary democracies, responsible to people, which have gone to war with one another. War is almost always created through some autocracy or other, so the development of genuine multi-party democracies as part of good government, as part of the new world order, should be attended to with far greater priority.

The moral that I draw from the experience of Angola is slightly different from that of the right hon. Member for Copeland. Like the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), I was a monitor there, and I was also a monitor in the elections three years previously in Namibia. The two were like chalk and cheese. My conclusion is that there cannot be effective international election supervision on the cheap.

In Namibia, for an electorate of about 1 million, because of the unique circumstances there of the joint administration of the South Africans and the United Nations, about 4,500 international personnel were involved in the elections. In Angola, the figures were the other way around, with something like 450 personnel in charge of an electorate of 10 million. Although those elections were broadly described as free and fair, I am not so sanguine as the right hon. Member for Copeland. Those of us who stayed on after the election saw the difficulties created by the computer counting system breaking down and the suspicions that were aroused.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

indicated dissent.

Sir David Steel

The hon. Member shakes his head, but I cite in support of my contention not an outside observer but the director of the elections himself, in an interview a few weeks ago on Angolan radio. His view, as the organiser of the elections, was that not enough international personnel were present to ensure that fraud and mistakes did not occur.

Mr. Arnold

I stayed on a little longer and returned on the same plane as the right hon. Gentleman. The problem was that the election authorities were so concerned with accuracy that they adopted a belt-and-braces approach and kept checking and rechecking the results all the way through. As is the case with our elections, certain results arriving first from the inner cities produced a distorted anticipated result. They gave a four-to-one lead to the MPLA in the early stages—in the same way as a Labour lead is seen in the early hours in our elections.

Sir David Steel

I do not dispute that. I am only saying that Angola's election monitoring mechanisms—the hon. Gentleman and I both witnessed them—and the preparation of the register were inadequate by our standards. I am not arguing for a series of operations concerned with making sure that the icing on the cake is right—frankly, that is what election monitoring is all about, and I have been involved in quite a lot of it—but for the existing arrangements to be replaced with something that will ensure that the cake itself is baked in the first place: that is to say, the underlying conditions for elections exist; the electoral organisation in the particular country is genuinely independent; broadcasts are available equally to all parties; and the electoral register is properly prepared well in advance. All of that requires something more than visiting experts such as the hon. Member for Gravesham being present for a few days.

Dr. John Cunningham

The same is true in respect of the South African elections.

Sir David Steel

The right hon. Gentleman is right. With the South African elections in prospect, there will again be the need for something like a monitoring exercise.

I hope that the Government will give even more support than that which they have already lent tentatively to the Swedish Government's initiative in establishing an international monitoring agency. It would have the added advantage of being independent from government. Commendable though the work of the UN and of the Commonwealth election monitoring teams has been, both are organisations of government. One needs an organisation which is not directly related to government but only to nation states and is able to deal with all parties in nation states on a genuinely independent basis.

Such an agency would also have the advantage of co-ordinating the work of the many existing organisations —they are beginning to multiply—which deal with election monitoring. We saw in Kenya the difficulty that arises if people arrive and say that the elections are free and fair and then depart hastily, perhaps leaving others to make more critical judgments. There is a strong case for one expert, international body co-ordinating all the others. I hope that the Government will give that proposal much greater and more urgent public support as part of the general scene of international peacekeeping.

5.53 pm
Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

This debate provides a welcome opportunity to discuss international peacekeeping and the United Nation's changing role. I hope that the evidence given at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on the subject is of some help to the House, and that the same will be true of the Committee's report on the "Agenda for Peace" agenda and of this country's interest in seeing it unfold when it is finally published.

We have been given, in knowledgeable speeches, an interesting grand tour of all the world's trouble spots, which add up to one central reality that we must confront. In the post-cold war world, there is increasing demand on every side and on every occasion for United Nations resources and troops and military personnel, and for United Nations-blessed military personnel. That will develop in every conceivable way. We heard from the right hon. Member.for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) that the United Nations is being urged to move in to election monitoring, producing new constitutions, and perhaps even producing mandates to run whole countries—as has been hinted, in Somalia, possibly in Bosnia, and elsewhere.

From the old attitude that the United Nations could not do very much, the view today is at the opposite extreme, and the United Nations is expected to deliver fantastically high expectations on every front. We must adapt our own thinking, policies and interests to that new reality, if we do not want to be caught out by the pace of events.

Demands will be increasingly insistent, especially on countries such as ours that are permanent members of the Security Council, and there will be an increasing blurring of roles between peacekeeping and peace enforcement—the idea touched on in "An Agenda for Peace", which itself raises the difficult question of how one enforces peace and what kind of heavy weaponry should be used.

There is also a blurring between humanitarian activity and military intervention. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Bosnian tragedy. Bosnia is supposed to be a civilian operation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to deal either with refugees or people whom it is thought will become refugees. It is to those people that the UN has tried to provide relief. The military involvement, in UNPROFOR 2, is to protect those delivering the relief.

We see before our eyes—this process is continuing even as we debate—a gradual merging of the need to deliver relief into a greater and greater military commitment. Those right hon. and hon. Members who have been to the region—I believe that a number have—have heard the debate on the ground. Some relief workers asked for the military to go away altogether because soft-skin vehicles escorted by hard-skin vehicles become the unnecessary targets for snipers.

Other relief workers asked for the military to transport all the relief supplies, because that was thought the only way that the supplies could get through. That view was prevalent a week or two ago in the UNHCR—particularly after it tragically lost some of its personnel.

In the past two or three weeks, other voices have been raised, asking whether the military could not go a little further and open the roads by force, because it was ridiculous that the roads should be closed by one Serbian waving a kalashnikov. It was said that the roads to Sarajevo and to the isolated and beseiged Bosnian-Muslim towns in eastern Bosnia should be forced open.

The latest development is the Washington proposal, which is being aired and considered, to make massive air drops of relief supplies—not just into Sarajevo from Zagreb and Split, as in the past, but into the Serbian-Bosnian heartland, where such a move would be regarded as against the Serbian-Bosnian agenda. That view may be regrettable, wrongful, and monstrous, but such air drops may be regarded as potentially hostile acts. That is a dangerous further move and one that must be carefully considered. Our eyes must be wide open to the fact that humanitarian relief and the desire to deliver it through international agencies and the United Nations is gradually being transformed into a military commitment.

We played it slightly differently in Iraq, where the military carried relief supplies from the start. The UNHCR did not have a mandate to organise aid. Many would say that the Iraqi operation was highly successful, especially where British forces were involved. We should continue to take that kind of approach in Bosnia. Incidentally, I agree with the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) about getting relief direct to the Kurds and Shi'ites.

I ask those responsible for policy not to contemplate the argument that some deal ought to be done with Saddam Hussein because he is the only man and a counterweight to Iran. That is nonsense. Far from being a counterweight, Saddam creates a weak Iraq. As long as he rules there, there will be no counterweight to the mullahs and the ayatollahs. We need a democratic Iraq, autonomous and federal in nature, to provide a balance with Iran; otherwise there will be no stability in the middle east.

All the principles by which we used to stand—no intervention in internal affairs, humanitarian relief only, blue beret peace-keeping involving very light weapons—are being breached as the demands of the world, and the new conditions there, impose pressure for more heavily armed and more direct intervention by the military. Let me issue a plea to the Government, and to others who think about these matters: we should anticipate the problems, observe new situations as they emerge and prepare for the event—indeed, try to shape it by our policy.

We should apply our minds, with the greatest vigour, to four major aspects. First, there is the question—raised by both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Copeland—of the United Nations and its resources. Clearly, United Nations financing is not satisfactory. It is not just a case of delayed payments, although the amount involved is considerable: I have been told that $908 million is unpaid for routine United Nations operations, and about $850 million for peacekeeping. Against that, however, must be set the substantial physical contributions made by both the United States and Britain.

My point is both that the finance must be organised more effectively, and that the problem of trying to organise the military forces needed for every emergency on an ad hoc basis must be overcome. By the time the forces have been organised and the funds raised, the whole situation has changed, often for the worse. I know that the Boutros-Ghali proposal for earmarking or standby forces is not popular in London, but I think that it should be examined carefully. We might be able to make real economies in our defence expenditure if we could organise our forces logistically, in ways likely to meet the pattern of United Nations demand—likely, that is, to fit into an overall pattern, in which every country produces a particular logistical capability rather than an amorphous block of forces.

Secondly, we shall have to develop a much more effective contribution to preventive diplomacy. As has been pointed out, the deployment of forces in Macedonia and Kosovo is rightly being considered; in such cases, "a stitch in time" applies vividly, and effective preventive diplomacy will save many costs later.

Thirdly, we must recognise that the old restraint of the United Nations charter concerning intervention in internal affairs has, in practice, begun to crumble. It began to crumble in Kurdistan and Iraq; it has crumbled further in the new Balkan states that have sprung into life. The activities of the United Nations are now creeping out of the chapter 6 area into the area of chapter 7 and article 42: soon, they may creep into the area of article 43, which sanctions the organisation of military force to take military action in various countries in the name of international peace and security. In a world that is expanding before our eyes, we must organise our own military and other resources to make an effective contribution.

Fourthly, there is the matter on which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary rightly touched—the strengthening of the United Nations itself. Several questions arise. First, is the set-up—the establishment of the veto, the five permanent members of the Security Council, the rotation of Security Council members and the General Assembly—capable of giving authority and power to United Nations activities in the future? I entirely accept that the present operation works extremely well; certainly it worked in the Gulf, although things are not going at all well for the United Nations effort in other areas, such as Cambodia, and possibly Angola. That is very regrettable. Nevertheless, the Security Council has operated pretty effectively, and it seems a great pity to try to stir it up.

The fact remains, however, that two of the richest countries in the world—Japan and Germany—are not involved. They are moving very slowly, because their constitutions do not allow them to take on the responsibility of permanent Security Council membership at this stage, and they will not be ready to make their pitch until they have that status. In the meantime, however, I am sure that it is right for other Security Council members —us in particular, perhaps—to say, "We continue to be members of the Security Council, but we recognise its inadequacies, the difficulties and the case for change."

We should present constructive, not obstructive, ideas —I am not saying that we are presenting obstructive ideas —showing how the structure of the Security Council can be reformed and modernised in ways that will not damage its efficiency, and will not open up an unending squabble between all the continents about which should be Security Council members. Some interesting and positive ideas are floating around, and I feel that they should be codified and supported by this country.

Those are the new roles that will be imposed on us—roles that, indeed, we already face as we contemplate the vast spread of troubles that exists everywhere from Liberia to Cyprus. I have mentioned Cambodia, but a dozen other places are involved. I believe that, in all, 26 operations are proceeding: now that the Americans are in Somalia, more than 60,000 troops are operating around the world, either UN-blessed or wearing blue berets.

This is a major operation, and it can be said without fear of contradiction that it will expand, placing enormous additional strains on the United Nations and its secretariat—which, far from being an overblown bureaucracy, is grossly undermanned in many respects. We in this country must develop effective policies to deal with those developments, both in our own interests and in order to contribute in the way that we wish.

To do that, we need to adopt three stances, or qualities, here in London. First, we need a strong United Kingdom foreign policy, which must not be seen simply as a Euro-blur. Of course we have interests in common with our European neighbours; but, to be an effective United Nations member, the country needs effective and well-articulated foreign policies, and an explanation of those policies to offer our United Nations and, in particular, our American colleagues. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will put those points to the President of the United States when they meet.

Secondly, we need a strong Foreign and Commonwealth Office. UN work is beginning to overload the FCO with all sorts of new requirements that are not often debated, but are very time-consuming. I note from our work on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that the FCO is considering not opening new missions but closing existing missions, in order to meet some of the overload. I also note that, in terms of overseas missions, we run well behind our neighbouring continental allies, the French and the Germans, and only a little ahead of the Italians; and that our cultural diplomacy effort, which is all part of weaving an effective role in the UN, is very much weaker than that of the French and the Germans.

We could pay a high cost for those deficiencies if we do not analyse carefully what we are trying to do. We want a strong Foreign and Commonwealth Office, capable of meeting the large load of new work.

Another Department that needs strength and support is the Overseas Development Administration. In the world that we are discussing today, the ODA is becoming less a development Ministry than a Ministry of emergencies—a Ministry that must meet an endless string of emergencies, ranging from the manmade horrors of Bosnia to the natural disasters and starvation in the Sudan and Ethiopia, and to earthquakes and so forth.

We need to be sure that we are not getting our priorities wrong in retaining our undoubtedly limited resources in areas where they are not contributing to the meeting of emergencies, and starving our agencies—led by the ODA—of resources. Those agencies, usually prompted by enormous public pressure, must swiftly meet the emergencies that develop.

Those emergencies are being met very effectively in Bosnia, but I suspect that, even in Bosnia, the balance of resources between actual relief work and the military input—an excellent job is being done in the military respect—suggests that protection costs much more than actual relief. This raises questions as to whether the balance is right.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) set a standard of brevity that we cannot beat. None the less, we are required to be brief. Thus, I do not have time to mention all the environmental, development and arms control work of the United Nations. These are all aspects of the attempt to keep peace, to prevent conflict, to prevent endless killing and horror in this uni-polar—no longer bi-polar—world.

I recognise that such operations mean expenditure in terms of manpower and resources. Our instinct is to say that we cannot afford them. I end by saying that, against that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is equally caught by the 10-minute rule, which is now operating.


Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I hardly needed that reminder, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Anyone rising to take part at this stage in a debate on such a subject and speaking with some authority might be considered by some people to be somewhat arrogant. That may be seen as applying especially to me, as my track record shows that I asked a Conservative Member to see me outside the Chamber for less than pacific purposes. However, in the remaining nine-and-a-half minutes, I want to make specific remarks about the British role in peacekeeping.

When I was on the Parliamentary Armed Services Trust, I spent some time in Northern Ireland with the Light Infantry. I suppose that the role is more policing than peacekeeping, but there is a great common area. About 18 months later I met the same unit in Berlin. As I reported to the House on a previous occasion, members of the unit dragged me to one side and, while expressing great joy at seeing me again, belaboured me for being "one of those bloody politicians who sent us over here to do a soddin' awful job with one arm tied behind our backs". That is the kind of approach that I want to talk about.

Last week the Select Committee on Defence visited Split and Zagreb and areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The group that I was with had direct experience of the rules of engagement of our troops in UNPROFOR 2 and those in UNPROFOR 1. There are some serious differences. UNPROFOR 2 is concerned largely with humanitarian aid to the heartland of Bosnia, which is either distributed by our personnel or made ready by our personnel to be collected by local bodies. The United Kingdom's contribution to UNPROFOR 1 is somewhat different. That group is concerned largely with medical and hygiene provision for the battalions that have been installed to supervise the United Nations protection areas under the first Vance plan. It includes contingents from Russia, Belgium, Argentina, Canada, Nepal, Jordan, Czechoslovakia, Nigeria, Denmark, Poland, France, Kenya, Sweden, Finland, America and quite a number of other countries.

I learned the chilling lesson that some of those contingents had arrived without any kind of equipment. They expected to be kitted out on arrival. Some of them turned up without any kind of training or experience. I learned that there is no proper planning cell in the United Nations and that there is no CQ module, no command, communications and control. General Sitash Nambia, to his eternal credit, was very loyal in saying that he had no problems with this. Contrary to some press reports, he said, he had the home telephone numbers of his United Nations superiors and could contact them at any time of the day or night.

Nevertheless, there are a number of engagements across the globe where United Nations contingents are trying to fulfil their mandate, and they can hardly be expected to communicate with superiors, at their homes, 24 hours a day. The whole situation is a farce and must be seen as such. Her Majesty's Government represent this nation, which prides itself on the way in which our young men and women are trained to fulfil political objectives on our behalf. The Government must see that those young men and women are not exposed to such nonsense.

I will tell the House about one of the more crazy things that we learned. Not only are United Nations personnel allowed to fire when they are fired upon, but in the Krajina protection areas they must surrender their weapons if required by a Serb or a Croat to do so. Is this why we train young men and women to defend this country? Is it right to tell them that they must not fire unless they are fired upon and that weapons must be given up if that demand is made? I do not want to spell "preposterous", as I am sure that hon. Members see what I am getting at.

To date, 27 United Nations personnel have been killed,and more than 300 seriously injured. Some of the latter were injured in road traffic accidents, but the accidents occurred as those people were trying to fulfil the crazy, confused mandate that we have allowed the United Nations to give them. I wish to make it very plain that I am not in any way criticising the personnel, and I am not being chauvinistic when I say that the professionalism, dedication and spirit of the people we met, travelled with and dined—ate, rather than dined—with was quite exemplary. It was great to see how they performed their duties. Indeed, it bred in me a kind of pride that I never thought I would feel.

It must be made plain, however, that if we are serious about maintaining a mature and responsible role in the international arena we must ensure that other nations engaging in such activity accept their responsibilities beforehand in a serious manner and send to the theatres people who are experienced, well trained, well equipped and dedicated to the task in hand. The political task that we set must be very clearly defined, and the personnel must be suitably equipped to achieve it. We must also ensure that, if an operation starts to fall apart, withdrawal can be accomplished with some semblance of security—and without undue casualty, which is the great danger in Bosnia.

6.19 pm
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

I will not follow the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) except to say that I thought his speech was most compelling and well worth reading by those hon. Members who did not have the privilege of hearing it.

My remarks will be a trifle heretic, and for that reason I preface them by saying two things. The first is that I strongly agreed with the cautionary words of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in the concluding part of his speech. The second is that I strongly welcome the all-party agreement which is obvious in the House, at least today, on the importance of Britain's commitment to the United Nations—something voiced by the spokesmen for both the Labour and Liberal parties.

It is a platitude that most hon. Members and, I suspect, many in the country—but perhaps not quite as many as we in the House imagine—believe in the virtue of international peacekeeping. Indeed, both the need and the opportunities for it have grown dramatically in recent years, especially since the end of the cold war. I will not give the figures, because they have already been put on record in the debate.

Furthermore, the problem is given an extra twist by the dramatic growth of the global media, which has enormously increased public pressure on national Governments to "do something" when we see heartrending pictures on the television screens in our living rooms night after night.

As well as these changes, however, which have driven events and the response to events in one direction, other things have changed over the years, which ought to give us pause for thought and which constitute the basis of my argument this evening.

In particular, two forms of relative economic decline have taken place over the past two or three decades. One is that the United Kingdom, within what we now call the European Community, has declined in importance. Make no mistake: that is the reality borne out by the figures. The second is that the European Community itself, although it has grown from nine to 12 since we have been a member, with the prospect of a much larger Community towards the turn of the century, is nonetheless of relatively declining importance in the global economy and the global polity. Hon. Members on both sides need to understand these rather bleak and important facts.

So my conclusion already at this stage in my speech is that the time has come for us to cut our politico-military coat according to our economic cloth. I make no bones about that. I was glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in his thoughtful speech at Chatham House a while ago, said: We cannot be everywhere and we cannot do everything." That is obvious. Singing the same song, or at any rate in harmony, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, in his lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, said: We should not commit military forces in circumstances where there is no military solution"— I would add, as my own gloss, where there is no realistic prospect of a political solution, which I think is more relevant— but only a clamour for something to be done. Amen to both sentiments.

Other things have changed as well which should necessitate a fundamental review of our whole external role in the world—I put it no lower than that. The first is the problem of military overstretch, which has been well identified by hon. Members on both sides, most recently in the report of the Select Committee on Defence. The second is the prospect of a fundamental review of all forms of public expenditure, which, I would remind the House, was announced to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), the Chief Secretary, just a few weeks ago.

The third is the developing debate about the new role and structure of the United Nations, already alluded to in the debate, and notably the vexed and rather ticklish question for us, as British citizens, of British and French participation as permanent members of the Security Council reflecting as it does two of the greatest myths—or pretences—which emerged from the immediate post-war period, if we are honest about it. So we must be concerned about the point that Joe Rogaly made very well in an article in the Financial Times a while ago, when he warned us of the insidious danger for this country of being "hooked on the glory drug" when we can afford the drug less and less.

The fourth point is the parallel increase in the economic capacity, and increasingly in the political will as well of countries such as Germany and Japan, the two so-called losers of world war 2, which now enables them notwithstanding their constitutional inhibitions, which are beginning to be dispelled, to carry more of the burden of global responsibilities and of international peacekeeping; and it is absolutely right that they should do so. In this context, it is perhaps quite encouraging—a sign of the times—that German troops now serve on UN operations, as I understand it, in Somalia, and Japanese troops on UN operations in Cambodia. It is a good step in the right direction.

It is sobering again to note that, in 1970,.on the basis of gross domestic product per capita—I want to read these figures into the record—Germany was fifth, Japan was 17th and the United Kingdom was 12th in the world. The latest figures that I have are for 1991. On the same basis, Germany was fourth, Japan sixth and the United Kingdom 18th. That is the economic basis on which we must build whatever policy we can sensibly afford.

My fifth point is the evidence of declining public support among the British people to allow any Government of this country gratuitously to accept disproportionate global peacekeeping burdens, especially if other, stronger, nations seem not to pull their weight, and if our external effort appears to be made at the expense of more pressing domestic economic and social needs. A good deal of opinion poll evidence, which I have no time to read into the record, shows exactly how the public reacts to these matters. It is somewhat different from the way in which some of us here who follow these matters see it ourselves.

So what am I saying? My argument is not that we abdicate altogether our external role in the world, but rather that it should be given a sharper and more concentrated focus—less of the wide angle, and more of the telephoto lens. We should limit the range of roles that we try to perform We should concentrate on fewer of them, but do them even better than we already do them.

We should concentrate on things like more rapid response intervention, which we do well; this implies fewer long-term peacekeeping roles of the kind that we are doing in Cyprus, for example, and for which I see little justification in today's world. We should put more emphasis on the support for the civilian power in Northern Ireland, because we have to—it is an integral part of our country—but that implies less emphasis upon the minimal, residual presence, which is the result of historical factors, in Germany, through the British Army of the Rhine.

We should encourage our stronger allies, particularly our partners such as Germany and Japan, to do more. In this process, we should recognise reality—here I make an unfashionable point—and consider ceding our place as a permanent member of the Security Council to Japan, while encouraging France to cede her place to Germany. After all, she appears to have been prepared to cede practically everything else to Germany in recent times, including her currency, so why not cede her place on the Security Council as well, for good measure?

Beyond the military sphere, we should concentrate more on our considerable diplomatic, cultural and overseas development skills of the kind to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) referred, We have a top-notch diplomatic service and priceless assets in the British Council, the BBC and our higher education institutions. We have one of the most respected and cost-effective overseas aid programmes in the world. We should play to those strengths. It is better to do fewer things well than to attempt to do too many and fail for lack of capacity, and increasingly for lack of public will.

6.27 pm
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) made a courageous speech, which will not go down too well with his colleagues when they get round to reading it. He argues that we should become Belgium with nuclear weapons, and I do not think that everybody on his side is quite prepared to make that leap in their own lifetime from super-power, to major power of the second rank, to slipping down the second division into the third division and out into the Beazer Homes league, if the league still exists, because military power underpins diplomatic power. It is absolutely right that one must develop one's roles commensurate with one's economic ability to sustain those roles.

The irony is that, with the transformation from the cold war, far from cuts being easily made, quite the reverse is the case, because one does not, if one wishes to embark on peacekeeping operations, dispense with those weapons that were necessary in the previous era and move into light tanks and equipment that was not central in the cold war. We need both capabilities, because there is no guarantee that the only conflicts that we are likely to be engaged in for the future will require Warrior and light tanks and light equipment. There are so many threats that still require the old-fashioned military capability. It is right to repeat the thesis of Paul Kennedy from "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" that countries that overstretch themselves eventually collapse.

A famous hymn says: Crown and thrones may perish Kingdoms rise and wane. That is most apt in relation to Britain. I shall not belabour the tempting political point that our economic capability has so deteriorated that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington can contemplate our playing only a minute role in international relations. That is one of the consequences of our economic decline in the past 13 years.

Boutros-Ghali said recently that there would probably be 400 countries in the world in the next decade. Many of them will be created as a result of conflict. It was not meant to be like that. The end of the cold war was meant to usher in an era of peace and harmony. In many ways, we can look back on the cold war—this sounds rather perverse —with some nostalgia. It might have been uncomfortable if one lived in eastern Europe with low living standards, but nevertheless there was some stability, which has disappeared.

We are now facing a crisis. The shifting of the tectonic plates is the finest analogy used to describe the fundamental transformation in international security. We are entering such a period of instability that even the Ministry of Defence recognises it. The uncertainties that we now have to cope with will cause enormous problems to the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.

The late Evan Luard identified in the mid-1980s 127 wars that had taken place since 1945, during the period of apparent stability. Jane's Defence Weekly identified no fewer than 73 hot spots throughout the world. In 1991, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute identified 30 wars that were taking place, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, identified 45 possible sources of conflict and tensions in the former Warsaw treaty organisation area alone.

What is more threatening is the fact that some of those crises have already surfaced. In some, the tensions are quickening; in some, the tensions and problems are stirring; but there are many instances, largely unknown, in which the issues are quiescent—lying dormant—but could escalate to a crisis at any time. Those are the sort of crises that we shall have to cope with.

In its seminal and influential report, the Select Committee on Defence made its own threat assessment, a "Strategic Setting". The warnings were there that one does not have the luxury of simply employing light forces on United Nations missions. We have identified a series of potential threats and crises to our national security that will be met only by a defence policy that can cope with a variety of contingencies.

The United Nations will be pivotal during the dangerous era that we are entering. It was rescued from its impotence by the ending of the cold war. The United Nations and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe will be very important, but they will not be panaceas for a more secure world or a substitute for institutions that, historically, have served us well and are undergoing a period of rapid transformation.

Until we achieve a more harmonious world, I argue very strongly that NATO is still required. The initiatives that NATO has taken to reach out to former eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union are very important, not simply an exercise in finding a job to do. We would he foolish indeed to see even the European Community assume that responsibility before it is time. We would be even more foolish to assume that one can abandon collective defence and security for a rather nebulous concept of the League of Nations revisited. Although the United Nations will be very important, it must surely be seen as a complement to existing institutions.

The Ministry of Defence has now recognised that the world is rather dangerous. The statements of previous Secretaries of State and the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) would make amusing reading in the light of their sudden Pauline conversion to a Hobbesian interpretation of international relations.

One must look for the institutions that will be important in the forthcoming decade. NATO will still be very important. The stakes have been raised by the Vance-Owen plan and by the Clinton acceptance of an American commitment to the plan. Up to 25,000 American troops have been promised to police the Vance-Owen plan, and NATO will probably be the implementing body of this. It has been said that 50,000 to 60,000 troops—a corps—will be necessary to police the plan. Many would argue that we should not get too deeply into such a crisis.

I argue that not getting more deeply involved in the long term, and even in the medium term, is likely to be more horrendous and to have more devastating consequences on European security. When the Select Committee on Defence visited Croatia recently, I led the rear area brigade—what I call the lack of moral fibre brigade, which was not chosen to go into more dangerous country, several members of which are with us this evening. Most people assume that the only troops in Yugoslavia are the Cheshires, but many other troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Royal Fleet Auxiliary and from other countries are doing an excellent job.

The UN must look at its rules of engagement and its mandate. I have been told that our commitment is likely to be short, but I give the House this pearl of wisdom and information. I saw in the port of Split 12 pool tables waiting to be delivered to the Army. That does not show that a British withdrawal from former Yugoslavia is imminent, nor should it be. The United States should exact something from its allies in any activity that it undertakes. That is the only way to bring the negotiating parties genuinely to the negotiating table. Diplomacy alone is superfluous; diplomacy backed up by the threat of force is still critical.

The United Nations will assume an increasingly important role. If we are going to be 400 countries, the UN must play its part in securing that new world.

6.37 pm
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

I must first apologise to the House for missing a number of the speeches which followed the opening speeches and thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Madam Speaker, for your tolerance; I had to attend a meeting that I could not avoid.

I was much taken with the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who spoke of some people's nostalgia for the cold war. When the Warsaw pact and the Berlin wall crumbled, few people realised how within so few years we should find ourselves in the difficulties and uncertainties that grip us today. A number of bodies around the world are commendably seeking to find a new role in the dangerous world that has emerged. The United Nations—I shall talk about this later—is doing its best to cope with the rise in prestige in recent years. NATO is seeking a new role, we hope as an agency of the United Nations to deal with regional problems. The conference on security and co-operation in Europe, the other newly fledged organisation, is acquiring more expertise in peacekeeping and in actions to reduce tension. All these are to the good, and all must be encouraged.

We have to remember that, where there are international tensions, there are various levels of international response. First, we very often apply sanctions, and it is to these that I shall devote most of my comments today. Then there is the role of peacekeeping and, above all, the role of peacemaking and the reversal of invasion situations, as in Kuwait and the Falklands.

I believe that there is in the House, quite rightly, an understanding of the dangers of peacemaking and of how ill-fated a massive peacemaking operation in Yugoslavia would be. The lessons of the last world war are well remembered in the House, and rightly so. The public would soon tire of a procession of body bags coming back from Yugoslavia with little sign of peace being made. The House's advice to the Government to avoid peacemaking in Yugoslavia if they possibly can has been absolutely right.

There is in the world, particularly over Yugoslavia—and, indeed, Cambodia, where I am going with a delegation from the Foreign Affairs Committee at the weekend—a feeling of hopelessness, exasperation and frustration. I want to suggest some of the things that I believe should be done.

First, we need major changes at the United Nations. In November I went to New York with the Foreign Affairs Committee; we met Mr. Boutros-Ghali, and the Committee will be reporting in the near future to the House and making its recommendations. Clearly, there continues to be a major cash crisis. That must be put right, and it is hoped that the Americans, in particular, will play their part in this. There is also a major problem with regard to communications. The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) spoke about that a little earlier. There is clearly a major problem, too, over the control of military forces deployed in various parts of the world by the United Nations, and a great deal has to he done to improve that situation. I believe that the Government should do all that they can as soon as possible to get a new basis for the new role of the United Nations—a good deal of it on the back of "An Agenda for Peace", which I was very glad to hear the Foreign Secretary welcome in his opening speech today.

I return, however, to the issue of sanctions, as they so often constitute the first measure agreed by the international community. We ought to be thinking a great deal harder about how we can make sanctions and trade embargoes a great deal more effective. The imposition of sanctions and embargoes is a vital part of preventive diplomacy. On far too many occasions over the years we have seen the imposition of sanctions which really have not worked.

When I first came into the House, the Conservatives were in opposition and I was one of the 30 Members who voted with the Labour Government to impose oil sanctions on Rhodesia. I still believe that that was the right thing to do. The tragedy of the situation was that the oil sanctions were not properly enforced. That continues to be the problem with sanctions. We all know that, with the exception of oil, the sanctions that have been imposed upon Iraq are not especially effective. We all know that, particularly through Syria, and perhaps through other places, there is a great deal of leakage, which should not go on.

In Yugoslavia, the effectiveness of sanctions can only be described as pathetic. I had an answer from the Government on this only the other day. We know that a large number of our tankers have been going into the former Yugoslavia up the Adriatic. We hear stories and read in the press about convoys of barges doing the same on the Danube. We hear of Iranian aircraft flying into the Muslim areas, and we know jolly well what they will be carrying.

The tragedy is that people tend to dismiss sanctions and embargoes curtly, saying that they do not work and that we should not do any more about the problem, but my question to the Government today is this: should we not be giving a good deal more thought to making sanctions and embargoes more effective than they are? If we could, that would be a great prize, because the more effective one makes sanctions and embargoes, the less need there is for subsequent peacekeeping or even peacemaking arrangements. It is quite useless, having imposed sanctions, to send an American fleet up the Adriatic to monitor what is going on. That is no good at all. One has to be able to enforce the sanctions.

To my mind, it would improve matters no end if, at the same time as one imposed sanctions, there was automatic deployment of enforcement and supervisory forces nn adjoining countries. It is clearly better to do it at that stage, at the beginning, than to try to impose those forces months later when serious shortcomings become apparent. National dignities are much more offended and upset if one then wants to put enforcement and supervisory forces into adjoining countries to see that the sanctions are properly applied.

There are, of course, major problems in doing this. Sanctions can never be made 100 per cent. effective; we all know that. There are always problems of transhipment, which can be a method of abuse. There is the problem of compensation for losses in adjoining countries, including trade lost through the imposition of sanctions. There was a classic example of that in the case of Jordan and the Gulf situation. Then there is the final difficulty, to which the hon. Member for Stockton, North referred in his notable speech—that of finding suitable troops. This is one of the major problems that the United Nations faces.

There are great advantages in ensuring that sanctions are properly enforced, above all because that does not lead to casualties among the enforcement bodies in adjoining countries. I strongly believe that there are great opportunities for making sanctions much more effective. I greatly welcome the CSCE initiative in appointing a sanctions co-ordinator; I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary welcome that today and I know that it was partly through his initiative that it was done. I urge the Government to give a lot more thought to this, because it is a relatively painless way of enforcing the international will.

6.47 pm
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

This debate is a chance not only to assess the participation of our armed forces in peacekeeping operations, but to address the deep-seated and widespread desire of the peoples and nations of the world for some form of collective security. They want a means of ensuring uniform rights and protection for the individual and respect for and compliance with international law. They want to be certain that, if conflicts arise, the suffering of those directly affected, but not directly responsible, will be alleviated quickly and efficiently.

In short, I speak of a new world order, given life by the ending of the wasteful years of cold war stalemate, given energy and sustenance by the allied response to. Saddam Hussein's rape of Kuwait, and given hope for the future by continued progress on strategic nuclear arms reductions, by the ever closer co-operation of international agencies and states and, most of all, by the release of the United Nations from a 45-year-long relegation to the periphery of international affairs. There are good intentions and a will to achieve, but no backing and no will on the part of key member states to let the work begin.

I noted with interest that in his address at Chatham house on 27 January this year, the Foreign Secretary dismissed the idea of a new world order as being not helpful, yet he and the Secretary of State for Defence recognise in the public response to each fresh international crisis the must-do-something factor. Yet they fail to realise that, here and abroad, there is a will to accept change for the common good. The means exist to achieve that change, provided we grasp the opportunity while the will and determination remains.

In "An Agenda for Peace", the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, sets out the way ahead, and the British Government should take a lead in promoting and advancing the principles of that agenda. After all, we are a permanent member of the Security Council and we belong to NATO, WEU, CSCE, EC, the Commonwealth and the G7 group. We may be a medium-size power with a developed sense of international responsibility, as the Secretary of State reminded us, but there is no shame in that. If one sits at all the top tables, one has access to all the key players. One also participates in taking decisions that affect a large percentage of the world's population. So we should examine what the British Government are doing to meet the ends set out by the Secretary-General.

There are several important aspects of "An Agenda for Peace" concerning peacemaking and peacekeeping. Do the Government support the idea of centralising the control of military operations via a military staffs committee? Is it not fair to argue that the problem with United Nations operations in the past has centred on the inability of the participants to communicate and associate in the necessary functions of a complex logistical undertaking, such as humanitarian relief in Bosnia, around a single source?

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that a logical conclusion of the confusion experienced by the United Nations forces in the former Yugoslavia in communicating with each other, let alone with the warring parties, cries out for a centralised structure as part of the United Nations peacekeeping effort based around a major signals unit and expanding to take in infantry, medical and supplies units?

Indeed, would it not be advisable, if we are to promote the role of the United Nations in those areas, to take on board all the points mentioned in paragraphs 42 to 54 of "An Agenda for Peace", drawing on the military resources of member states for a permanent standby force, trained and ready to hit the ground running, in response to Security Council resolutions? We welcome NATO's offer to place its resources at the disposal of the United Nations, highlighting the significance of the merging of Britain's foreign policy interests with the roles being created and played by international agencies.

I also read with interest the speech by the Secretary of State for Defence to the Royal United Services Institute in which he made many good points with which I agreed. But I question whether he was correct to say that there was no need to address "Options for Change" and that little could be achieved by setting aside troops for peacekeeping duties. The United Kingdom is the second largest contributor to United Nations operations, with nearly 4,000 personnel committed. Their experience and expertise is highly valued.

We can be proud of the role played by our forces in peacekeeping operations and should not shirk from the possibility of expanding that role. After all, even right-wing columnists are beginning to acknowledge the need for a more interventionist United Nations and the promotion of "the right people to the right jobs". The British Army, Navy and Air Force are packed with the right people. The Government should, perhaps, accept that "Options for Change" is full of decisions but lacks direction. A blend of foreign and military affairs would be of use to the world as well as to the United Kingdom.

The UN peacekeeping operations cost money, so I urge the Government, who have access to all the key players, to push for the prompt payment of debts. I also urge them actively to consider the direct funding of peacekeeping operations from the defence budget. The idea of a peace endowment fund is also worthy of further consideration.

Dr. Boutros-Ghali talked at the UN about an excess of credibility. In his Chatham house speech, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the magnitude of that job, which involved, he said, running a foreign ministry, defence ministry and a world ministry for planning, all without adequate funding. We can play our part by bringing pressure to bear on other member states to pay their fair share and by assisting the Secretary-General in his attempts to streamline the administration in New York and elsewhere. We must also continue to promote the involvement of regional organisations, so allowing the appropriate implementation of UN initiatives at the local level. That should go some way to help clear up confusion over the UN's roles and capacities.

I urge the Secretary of State to advance the principles contained in paragraph 18 concerning the protection of minorities, a factor of great significance in a world ridden with disorder. I hope that, when he replies to the debate, the Minister will clarify the Government's position over the International Court of Justice and will say that we strongly support the implementation of the measures in paragraph 19 of "An Agenda for Peace", at home and abroad, to strengthen further the acceptance of the jurisdication of the court under article 36.

While these issues may not appear to be closely linked with peacekeeping efforts, there is clearly a need for the UN to create a feeling of wide-ranging justice in pursuit of Security Council resolutions. It must also instil confidence in the even-handedness of their application.

In that context, my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) explained the fear and concern that currently exists over the situation in the middle east. He spoke of the fear felt by those who had been asked to participate in the continuing middle east peace process and of the concern of their relatives and friends. Somewhere between Israel and Lebanon are 390 of their colleagues. Unless we are totally even-handed over the issue, they may find that their lives are at risk when they return to their homes, especially if some of their friends and neighbours are still stuck somewhere between Israel and Lebanon. For that reason, we must enforce Security Council resolutions in an even-handed way.

In his Chatham house speech, the Secretary of State talked of an imperial role and concluded that it should be implemented only by the international community, with no claims or priviliges as the result. My hon. Friends and I have no difficulty in associating with that idea, and we urge the Government to move further and quicker in pursuit of it.

The men and women who wear the blue beret, whether they are operating in peacekeeping, observing or peacemaking tasks, are the instrument with which the world can restore order and sanity amid chaos. It is achievable. The cost, though high, is worth paying. A new world order and a rejuvenated United Nations cannot promise total peace on earth, but we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to advance the peace process further.

6.57 pm
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

Although the subject is wide, I shall restrict my remarks to Bosnia which, with other members of the Select Committee on Defence, I had the privilege of visiting last week.

The situation there is very confused. Reading the newspapers, one might think that there are three sides—the Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims—but it is more complicated than that. The Serbs have received most of the equipment of the Yugoslav national army and its disciplinary procedures, whereas the Croats and the Muslims tend to have local militia raised locally and not always under full control. So the level of discipline depends greatly on the leadership of the individuals in the area.

That makes the whole area extremely dangerous. There are many bombs, bullets and shells, and our troops, faced with that situation, are behaving superbly. We are greatly impressed by all the troops there—the Cheshires, the Royal Irish Regiment and others; and the Royal Engineers, who have done a magnificent job in building a huge road from Tomislavgrad north—and morale is high. We were greatly impressed by everything we saw.

Our troops have a specific role, which is to assist in the distribution of humanitarian aid. It is a narrow role. Guestimating from various press estimates, about half the aid arrives in the hands of the people for whom it is intended, the starving and those in great difficulty. Much of the food and aid is taken en route. It is estimated that the Serbs allowing food into Sarajevo take between 25 and 40 per cent. of the food as it goes through.

The instructions from the United Nations are that the UN forces should not prevent that food from being taken, because that would be confrontational and provocative, whereas the whole point of the UN role in Bosnia is to be completely independent. They must remain independent because their vulnerability, were they perceived to be taking any side, would be extreme.

We were all shaken to discover that we were walking past armed troops from the Croat national army and even finding them in the same building in Tomislavgrad, carrying weapons. We nodded to them and they nodded back. The same neutrality applied to other militia forces. That is how UN forces have to operate because, if they were perceived as being on one side or another, it would be the end of their role. In such a dangerous situation, what is the possibility of a solution?

The Vance-Owen plan is a solution and, as has been said, it is the best one on the table at the moment. It is perceptive and it deserves our full support, but I have one observation to make. The Vance-Owen plan expects that it would require about 15,000 to 25,000 troops to monitor it. Let us extrapolate our experience in Northern Ireland which is a well-policed Province of 1.5 million people, where there are 20,000 troops maintaining one area in which guns and weapons are not permitted. By comparison, Bosnia has 10 such areas where weapons are rife and where everyone over the age of 16 has a gun. If the Vance-Owen plan were to be implemented, the call for 15,000 to 20,000 to monitor it is an underestimate by a factor of about 10. It is more realistic to think in terms of 250,000 to 500,000 troops if we are seriously to police such an operation.

That underlines the main point—that, if peace is to come to the former Yugoslavia, it will come only with the wholehearted desire of the people of that country—there is no question of peace being imposed from outside. That would not work.

If a solution is not readily available, perhaps we should consider building blocks which are as constructive as far as they go. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) made a cogent case for further sanctions and their greater implementation, which I fully support. We must do all that we can to reduce the heavy arms and the armies, and I believe that there is a useful building block to be taken from the arms control measures of the Vance-Owen proposals, even if the proposals themselves cannot be implemented in full.

Perhaps as a minimum lowest common denominator factor, we might need to consider as a building block the creation of Muslim safe areas. The Croats and Serbs each have allies and somewhere to go but the Muslims, who represent 45 per cent. of the people and are the largest single minority in Bosnia, have nowhere to go and represent most of the victims in the current unhappy situation.

Finally, we must consider the economy. Certainly the southern part of Bosnia used to depend crucially on tourism, which has now gone. The biggest show in town, the biggest industry in Bosnia, is now the war and the second biggest is the United Nations humanitarian aid relief. Somehow we have to find ways to develop Bosnia's economy. It is sad, although perhaps good for British industry, that all the food and virtually all the supplies used by our troops in Bosnia come from the United Kingdom. One would like to think that some of the very small amount of hard currency coming into Bosnia from aid agencies and the troops would find its way into the Bosnian economy which desperately needs regenerating.

They are positive building blocks, and I now suggest three actions which could cause a great deal of damage it' we were to undertake them thoughtlessly. The first, which was promulgated a month or two ago, was bombing the Serbs wherever they may be with a view to preventing them carrrying out atrocities or continuing their aggression. I think that I am quoting the Foreign Secretary when I say that the concept of bombing the Serbs into submission is ludicrous and will not provide a useful way ahead.

The second is the imposition of no-fly zones. Such a step would lead to our being perceived as being on one side or another. The third is the concept of air-dropping aid, which is not realistic: from a high level it would miss, and from a low level it would be extremely dangerous. The Serbs who are currently preventing humanitarian aid from reaching its destination are unlikely to find a low-flying aircraft less aggressive than a truck as a way of distributing aid, and the risks would be enormous.

I underline once again the vulnerability of the troops, especially the English and French United Nations troops, if a move were made which would cause them to be perceived as being on one side or the other. United Nations forces in Bosnia can succeed in their present role only if they are seen to be independent. We must avoid anything that makes them seem less than independent.

I am seriously worried about the danger of our being sucked into a wider role. When the Secretary of State for Defence made a statement to the House on 14 January he talked about 2,300 troops. The Foreign Secretary today talked about 2,804 troops in Bosnia, so there has been an escalation without us noticing. The troops are keen and will wish their role to be enhanced because of their enthusiasm, which I greatly applaud. However, they must not allow their enthusiasm to carry us along. The media show us atrocities every day, and there is a great demand for "something to be done". I put a contrary view.

The present role is valuable, but we must not drift into a peacekeeping role without a clearly agreed plan which is accepted by all sides. If we later accept a peacekeeping role, it may not be in Bosnia but in Macedonia or elsewhere. We must not allow the present narrow role of distributing humanitarian aid to drift into peacekeeping.

I was so worried that I read carefully the words used by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in an Adjournment debate on 2 February. He referred to the task force led by HMS Ark Royal and said that its role was either to provide additional protection for our personnel or to assist with a withdrawal".—[Official Report, 2 February 1993; Vol. 218, c. 302.] I suggest that it is completely unrealistic to think that we can distribute humanitarian aid if we need to back it up with 105 mm field howitzers and strike bombers. I am very concerned that we should at all times keep open the option of withdrawal, and I fear that it may come to that.

I hope that the Vance-Owen plan is allowed to succeed, but we must not be sucked into a wider role without thinking through the consequences.

7.6 pm

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Like many previous speakers, the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) understandably concentrated on Bosnia and made a very sober and realistic analysis of the problems there. Much of the debate has been consensual. The starting point for many hon. Members has been the wish to know ourselves as a country, to know our economic strengths—or, in many cases, our weaknesses—and what we are able to do and, equally, what we are unable to do.

The Foreign Secretary's theme in his Chatham house lecture was fine as analysis, but it was overladen with a certain world-weariness and a minimum of zeal when perhaps a little more zeal might have been called for. The second aspect of the consensus is the background of international disorder: the six months that shook the world in 1989, the end of the Soviet empire and the subsequent problems in eastern Europe, the end of the Soviet Union itself, and areas such as Nagorno-Karabakh and Tadzhikistan which are flaring up and about which the international community can do very little.

The situation poses new questions for the international community, such as the limits of non-intervention and the point at which the international community can establish government where there is no government, as in Liberia and Somalia. It also raises questions about areas in which, because of the intractable nature of the internal problems, it would be unwise on a risk analysis for the international community to respond to television images and the impulses of public opinion; it should perhaps refrain from dealing with such disorder and possibly exacerbating matters.

There is a question of credibility. Failures by an excess of intervention can do immense damage to the international community and to the United Nations. The United Nations and its role has been a proper focus of the debate today. In its totally new and fundamentally changed context, the United Nations is the repository of all our hopes. As the current Secretary-General said, it has an excess of credibility. Just as, according to the Foreign Secretary, we in Britain cannot be everywhere and do everything, so the United Nations cannot be everywhere and do everything. In some cases it will have only a co-ordinating role. It may subcontract the issue to be resolved to an appropriate regional organisation.

However, the United Nations is beset with enormous problems. It has no proper computer infrastructure for keeping in touch with various operations in the field. I understand that the United States State Department has offered to provide that, and I hope that that offer will be speedily accepted. Then there is the problem of the $1 billion arrears in contributions. There are also particular problems involving personnel which we need not dwell on. I have said all those negative things, but the United Nations is the only show in town. It is therefore wholly proper that the international community should consider it the world's best hope, and that we should do everything we can positively to encourage its development.

I recall going to Namibia at the same time as the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), who knows Africa extremely well. Perhaps the operation of bringing Namibia to independence was too easy, but it was grand to see the enormous enthusiasm and commitment of United Nations personnel on the spot. Having achieved so much in Namibia, they were saying, "Today Namibia, tomorrow we shall go on to the western Sahara and Cambodia". Alas, realism has set in as we reach rather more difficult and turbulent terrains, but it was good to see that degree of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the United Nations.

We talk about peacekeeping in rather a negative way. Just as peace is not simply the absence of war, so peacekeeping is not simply a question of keeping the sides apart and preventing something worse. One is bound to ask the reasons for doing so. Surely there is a positive element of seeking to build structures which will last while we are involved in the negative side of peacekeeping.

I see that the hon. Member for Arundel (Sir Michael Marshall), the very distinguished international president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is present. There is an enormous role for the international parliamentary community in establishing the bases of democratic institutions in new countries. I believe fundamentally that the investment in democracy and its institutions is an investment in stability. Democracies tend not to go to war with one another. When there are internal procedures for accommodating disputes, it is less likely that a country will fall apart.

It is extremely important that the relevant international organisations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, European Parliamentarians for Southern Africa and others gather together in the hope that in the breathing space provided by the military they can build up the democratic structures as an investment in democracy. In many places, the United Nations has done that successfully.

Finally, one area which resembles a laboratory experiment going wrong is Mozambique. There was a peace accord in October in Rome after 16 years of brutal civil war which left more than a million people from Mozambique in adjoining countries. People were maimed and had limbs amputated. Everyone's hopes were raised by the agreement in Rome last October, but what have we seen since? After the agreement between RENAMO and the Government of Mozambique and the establishment of the United Nations operation with the awful name of UNOMOZ, which stated that there should be 7,500 United Nations troops in place to maintain the ceasefire, there is not one United Nations soldier there at: the moment. Under the terms of the October agreement, there should by now have been the demobilisation of 48,000 of the estimated 80,000 Renamo and Government troops there. Not one soldier as yet been demobilised.

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Anderson

I am sorry, but I have only 10 minutes and I want to make this one point.

Similarly, the hoped-for elections have again been put off indefinitely. As for the sums voted by the United Nations, a budget of £233 million has been lost in labrynthine discussions in the corridors and committees of the United Nations in New York. It is a disgrace that there has been such delay. As the Italian head of the operation has said, there is now a real danger of Mozambique following the tragic path of Angola where, because there was a cheap operation by the international community, what could have been a major contribution to peace in the region has fallen apart with tragic consequences.

When we consider the categories that the Foreign Secretary properly raised—I well understand the reasons why he dwelt particularly on Bosnia and the conflict which is so close to us and which could well lead to a war which would have enormous repercussions on us in terms of refugees and so on—we must also examine other areas in the third world where, because of the collapse of the cold war, new conflicts have now emerged. We must look at the bad example of Angola, and draw our conclusions.

7.17 pm
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

I welcome the opportunity to take part in a wide-ranging debate on international peacekeeping in the context of foreign policy. There is an inevitable logic in this arrangement, reinforcing the view that our Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence work in rather closer harmony than many of their counterparts in the western world.

The euphoria of the end of the cold war certainly did not last long. Although we heard talk of the new world order during the American presidential campaign, there is an increasing perception that the world is not inherently more stable after the collapse of the Soviet bloc—indeed, quite the opposite. The disintegration of the Warsaw pact brought in its wake instability throughout the former Soviet Union, outright conflict in the Balkans, the redrawing of boundaries in central Europe, and economic and social difficulties in the reunification of Germany.

As the Soviet threat has disappeared, new arid dangerous situations have emerged, and there is an understandable, if misplaced, nostalgia for the certainties of the previous balance of power. Against that background, not of order but of disorder, we re-examine the means of providing international peacekeeping. I shall concentrate on the wider issues before discussing the British role in peacekeeping.

The combination of western democracies cutting their forces and their reluctance to put their soldiers at risk undermine their ability to restore peace in trouble spots throughout the world. If they are neither threatened directly nor have any commercial or other national interest to protect, is it reasonable to expect altruistic action, and if so, how can it be co-ordinated?

The United Nations will have to develop. The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) had some interesting views on that. It can develop in one of two ways, either by setting up its own command structure, with national assets committed to it, or by using an existing military organisation which has proved so effective in co-ordinating military forces of different nationalities to work together.

Perhaps NATO, said by many to be seeking a new role, is staring the solution in the face. As the United Nations' agent, it could continue to bind together north American and west European democracies for the future stability of the world. There would be no shortage of work for it to do. As Enoch Powell once said: History is littered with wars that everyone knew could not happen. It will need true co-operation between the various national members. We recognise, for example, the constitutional problems of Germany and the sensitivities of France about the United States, but the whole venture will be fatally flawed if historic inhibitions are not overcome. If that can be achieved, the United Nations, through NATO, could indeed arrange pooling of resources and the matching and allocation of national forces to specific areas of conflict.

I should like to consider the particular difficulties of the British contribution. The third defence requirement set out in the last "Statement in the Defence Estimates 1992" stated that our policy was to contribute to promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and stability. To achieve that, we must have sufficient forces. Those of us who declined to support in the Division Lobby the scale of reduction in the debate on the estimates last year believed that the manpower available after the implementation of "Options for Change" could not cope even with existing commitments, let alone the unforeseen ones that many hon. Members have discussed today. We did not think that "Options for Change" would stand the test of time, but it has taken the deployment of British troops in Bosnia, and necessary reinforcements to Northern Ireland, to show that the sums do not add up, never did add up and will not add up in future.

This country has already had to decline to commit troops to Somalia, which many may think for historical and other reasons is a more suitable place to send troops than to Bosnia. I endorse the comments of one of my hon. Friends on the policy that should restrict our commitment in Bosnia to a humanitarian role.

With respect, I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) that it was our right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who earlier this year admitted what many of us had said and what the Select Committee on Defence said in its last report last week: that the British Army is indeed overstretched—the very phrase which has been forbidden within the Ministry of Defence for months, if not years. The Foreign Secretary admitted the overstretch, and now we look for further remedial action.

For years we have presumed on the good will of our NATO allies by deploying soldiers committed to NATO to so-called emergency tours of Northern Ireland and elsewhere. That has been tolerated up to now, but it will not be tolerated indefinitely. The worst scenario is that our hard-won leadership of the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps could be challenged by those who feel that we are not pulling our weight.

The fundamental task of that new corps is to have the right forces in the right place at the right time. It is no longer possible for the United Kingdom to "two-time" NATO. We may as a nation punch above our weight, to use my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's phrase, but we may be accused of not pulling our weight in a multinational peacekeeping role.

I finish by asking what we are trying to achieve in the debate. I suggest that it is the proper use of our forces, recognised to be the best professional non-conscript manpower in the world, as a force for good to restore peace, far outstripping our economic and numerical military strength. I cannot urge strongly enough that the future shape of our armed forces must be influenced strongly by the civilised exposition of the country's policies, as set out today by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

7.24 pm
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) made some telling points. Fascinating insights have been given during this wide-ranging debate. A basic lesson that the world will have to learn is that countries must recognise one another's frontiers and that the United Nations and treaty groups with whom nations have signed treaties will keep their undertakings. That would make a major contribution to international peace and peacekeeping.

The Foreign Secretary referred to a scale between Gladstone and the saloon bar. He would not expect me, with my background, to make a division there, especially not to go for the silly middle—a common solution to many problems throughout the world.

I was fascinated to hear the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) comment that he had previously misjudged Lord Owen. He did not realise that Lord Owen had such capacity for reconciliation. I am concerned that the plan for Bosnia might become a pattern. If the country is divided in the way suggested in the Vance-Owen plan, will that not be a spur to people in Kosovo and Macedonia to go for their stated territory, with a knock-on effect and a further division of countries?

The recent involvement of United States troops in overseas distribution of food in Somalia, and the deployment of our own troops as part of a UN multinational force escorting food convoys in Bosnia, suggests, as in the Gulf conflict, that individual countries are making decisions to commit forces as international policemen throughout the world. Humanitarian aid is vital, but is it possible for a few countries to carry on that role by deploying their forces without practical support from other Governments?

I signal a warning. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) referred to different developments within the United Nations in its expanding role. He mentioned article 43, under which the UN proposes to set up a military task force. I counsel against that. The concept of training together and working together comes about only through long practice, as we discovered in war time. Experience in Northern Ireland of dealing with guerrillas and terrorists has shown that forces under one supreme commander, but operating under different sub-commanders, may shoot one another instead of the terrorists. Therefore, I caution care in setting up a task force.

I was alarmed when the United Nations spokeswoman, announcing the withdrawal of some UN food convoys in Bosnia, stated that she placed responsibility on different Governments for not implementing the decision of the United Nations—her implication was, by force. There comes a time when we have to stand up to a bully or, as in Kuwait, to invasion by a neighbouring country, but I caution that force is not necessarily the best means to achieve peacekeeping.

Some hon. Members have mentioned other issues and in passing I must refer to Indonesia, which is possibly the fourth largest nation in the world, and its relationship with East Timor. As I am aware of some of the hasty judgments which are based on biased reporting from Northern Ireland, I tend to question the accuracy of some of the information emanating from East Timor. Therefore, will the Minister of State tell us whether the Government have received a copy of the report that the Australian Federal Government were compiling in Melbourne a year ago in January and February, when they were taking evidence on East Timor? If so, will a copy be available for us to study in the Library?

The Foreign Secretary referred to the history and traditions of our commitments. South and southern Africa is one of those historic commitments and it is amazing that, while we welcome the fragmentation of the former Soviet Union into separate nations, there does not seem to be any awareness of the different nations which make up the state of South Africa. There is a tendency to treat all black South Africans as the same. Historically, we contributed to the division of southern Africa into its various components. Although I believe that a final settlement will have to come through internal agreement, could not a co-existence of the individual nations in a federation of southern Africa offer the most acceptable solution?

The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) referred to an assessment of our troop commitment. Germany has constitutional reasons for not sending troops outside the NATO area, and some of its political parties and people are also reluctant. With the increased deployment of our troops overseas, is it not time that Germany was given the task of countering potential threats from the east? Such a move would allow the United Kingdom to withdraw the 1st Armoured Division from Germany, convert it to an out-of-area role and give enough British troops to carry out most potential tasks world wide. A force of that size would, however, require an increase in amphibious and air support. Some people still have a tendency to be little Englanders, but before long I suspect that we could have a force with a worldwide capability, comparable with our days of empire.

There is an increasing demand on our armed forces. Surely it is time to carry out a thorough defence review to identify the force level required to meet the demands of the international community and to meet our political aspirations and ambitions.

7.33 pm
Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)

This debate on international peacekeeping is long overdue. Events in Yugoslavia during the past two years are not only a challenge to the authority of the United Nations but an indictment of the rest of Europe, and especially of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which is our principal peacekeeping institution.

However, what is happening in the former Soviet Union should concern us even more, as they are so serious that events in Bosnia will be nothing in comparison unless we respond more effectively than we have done to date. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in his opening speech, conflicts and confrontations are taking place all around its southern perimeter, and are causing the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions.

In Moldova, the continuing presence of the 14th Russian army is encouraging the Russian-speaking population to resist the realisation of Moldovan statehood. Deaths, destruction and displacement have been widespread, and civil war remains a distinct threat.

In Georgia, two separate conflicts are causing the same threat: the conflict between the deposed President Gamsakhurdia and the recently elected President Shevardnadze; and the conflict between the Abkhazian minority and the Government that has abolished their autonomy.

In Azerbaijan, a similar conflict over the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh has rendered tens of thousands of Armenians and Azeris homeless. It is causing continuing death and destruction, not least by the daily bombing of Stepanakert by Azeri missiles. I must use this opportunity to place on record a tribute to the undoubted courage of our noble friend Baroness Cox, who is setting out tomorrow on her 12th mission to deliver food and medical supplies to Karabakh. Those missions, financed jointly with the European Community and non-governmental organisations, such as Christian Solidarity International and the Tear Fund do so much to relieve and encourage the brave people of Karabakh. I hope that the £0.25 million of aid that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State recently announced will be allowed to get to those people by the Azeri authorities, in the same way as the NGO assistance.

Unless the international community provides effective pressure on Azerbaijan very soon, I fear that its forthcoming offensive this spring will see the end of that historic Armenian Christian community of Karabakh. Those people will undoubtedly be facing genocide, and I appeal to my right hon. Friend to find out what more can be done by the CSCE and the United Nations to avert that potential tragedy.

In four out of five Asian republics of the former Soviet Union there are similar conflicts. There are growing tensions in the Russian Federation between and within many of its autonomous republics. Last month some of us met with President Tcheptynon of the autonomous republic of Gorno-Altay, who told us that if President Yeltsin were replaced by Communists they would declare their independence, many other autonomous republics would do the same and then the blood would flow in the Russian Federation.

In crude figures, more than 1 million Russians and non-Russians have been forceably displaced in the former Soviet Union and tens of thousands of families require immediate aid and resettlement. Of the 25 million Russians living outside Russia, it is estimated that about 10 million will wish to be repatriated, to which must be added a further 1 million Russian army officers and their families. None of those people have homes to go to and that must add daily to the instability facing President Yeltsin.

If we ignore that situation much longer we will not have learnt the lesson of Yugoslavia—which is one of preventive diplomacy and the establishment of assistance programmes in volatile situations that are likely to cause such displacement—and in that case it will be a continent and not a country that is out of control. The consequences for the rest of Europe will be immense for many years to come.

In my early-day motion 336 I noted that all those conflicts are taking place in CSCE member states and I suggested ways forward, which I believe fully complement the excellent ideas of Dr. Boutros-Ghali in his "Agenda for Peace". We need to introduce the use of internationally sponsored referendums to establish precisely the ambitions of national groups in pursuit of their right to self-determination. That is the peaceful alternative to ethnic cleansing, as a solution to nationalism. However, that requires a more flexible and realistic attitude and in accepting that changes in existing frontiers may be necessary to secure lasting peace.

We need to introduce a system of binding arbitration to solve conflicts. That would build on Dr. Boutros-Ghali's proposals to promote the use of an international court of justice and of distinguished statesmen as peacemakers. If their findings are to have any authority, they must as a last resort be enforced by force. That is the nettle that we continue to hesitate to grasp despite all our plans to establish rapid reaction forces in NATO so that the Western European Union can make peace as opposed to keeping the peace.

If we do not face up to decisions such as those to enhance the authority of the United Nations and its regional bodies, such as the CSCE, we shall have failed to seize the opportunities presented by the end of the cold war. We shall have ignored the lessons to be learnt from Yugoslavia. We risk condemning both the United Nations and the CSCE to the same fate as the League of Nations had, and we know what happened then.

7.41 pm
Mr. Stephen Byers (Wallsend)

I am pleased to take part in this important debate, which is occurring at such an opportune time. What has been interesting is the disappointment shared by many hon. Members that the end of the cold war and the development of the new world order have not brought the peace and security we all desire. Instead, they have led to a period of instability and insecurity. The debate on international peacekeeping needs to be seen against that backdrop.

Most of my comments will be directed at the Ministry of Defence and will concern our defence capability. The Ministry of Defence needs to review its activities and operations in that context. Recent reports in the press have referred to the fact that the central financial planning and management group in the Ministry of Defence has been considering its future procurement programme. I hope that the debate will give hon. Members an opportunity to express their views, and to inform and assist Ministers in their decisions about the future shape of our armed forces.

As many hon. Members have said, if we are concerned about and committed to international peacekeeping, there will be a direct and real impact on the size and shape of our armed forces. There can be no doubt that now that we no longer have an empire, and now that we have lost much of our former economic strength, we need to decide what proper role there should be for our armed services.

It is clear that we cannot reduce defence expenditure and yet continue to expand our military commitments. We must therefore, as a matter of urgency, identify our priorities. We must then ensure that our military capability reflects those priorities. There is no doubt that that consideration will involve many difficult and painful decisions. We must ensure that the decisions are not led by the Treasury, but are taken in the interests of the defence of this country. The dead hand of the Treasury must not be allowed to dictate totally the shape of our armed forces for the foreseeable future.

There is no doubt that, in deciding our priorities, as we must, the security of our country must always come first. A second priority will be the role of international peacekeeping. There is no doubt that that would command the support of members of the public. However, I urge some caution. We must ensure that priorities in international peacekeeping are not determined by news editors on the "Six O'Clock News". All too often, public support and sympathy follow appearances, often with graphic and disturbing shots, on the news. Many other conflicts throughout the world are not as accessible to the news media, so members of the public do not see them. However, a peacekeeping role may be appropriate.

Such a role will not be carried out in isolation. It will involve close consultation with other nations within the United Nations. Within the context of a multinational approach, what should be the role of the United Kingdom? I believe that we should play to our strengths, and, as an island nation, our seaborne forces are a particular strength. We need to ensure that we have an amphibious capability and that we make proper and effective use of the Royal Marines. They are in an excellent position to assist in an international peacekeeping role. That approach was confirmed in "Options for Change", which recognised the need for flexible and mobile forces.

The Falkland crisis was a stark illustration of the need for an amphibious capability. In Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, the United States made great use of its amphibious capabilities. Present-day events in the former Yugoslavia reinforce the need for an amphibious capability.

As Member of Parliament representing a Tyneside constituency, it gave me great pride to see the Ark Royal set sail for the Adriatic. The Ark Royal was built and designed eight years ago in my constituency, and it is a great tribute to the workmanship and excellence of Swan Hunter shipbuilders in Wallsend. We must acknowledge that the Ark Royal and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus are not the best vessels for the delicate job that now needs to be undertaken by the task force.

As many hon. Members will know, the Ark Royal and the Argus are not the ships to carry out the role that is now expected of them. Between them, they lack the proper facilities for the accommodation of support helicopters, of artillery and of combat troops. It must be a matter of concern to all hon. Members that men who may be deployed are sleeping tonight on the hangar deck of the Ark Royal.

We need to upgrade and enhance our amphibious capability. It is vital to international peacekeeping, and it has political value. It is flexible and versatile. It can be maintained in a state of readiness, and it has considerable deterrent value. It can go covertly or in a blaze of publicity. It can be stationed either close to or at some distance from a potential area of conflict.

Amphibious capability has a strategic significance. As Sir Basil Liddell Hart said: A self-contained and sea-based force is the best kind of fire extinguisher because of its flexibility, reliability, logistic simplicity and relative economy. The case for an amphibious capability, especially in the international peacekeeping context, is overwhelming. However, we must recognise that it will have consequences for our defence procurement programme.

It will mean that the order for the landing platform helicopter vessel must be proceeded with. It will mean that Intrepid and Fearless, which are now both more than 25 years old, will have to be replaced by a new generation of assault ships. We need to be clear that, if those developments do not happen, real doubt will be cast on the future of the Royal Marines, because there will be no suitable capability and no suitable vessels to deliver the Royal Marines to potential areas of conflict.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Byers

No, because I am under a 10-minute restriction.

The most pressing of the orders must be that for the landing platform helicopter vessel. No other vessel presently in service can provide the same function. It was originally thought that Invincible could cope, but it is now accepted that the role of task force commander and amphibious assault are virtually incompatible.

It is clear that, to fulfil our international peacekeeping obligations, the landing platform helicopter vessel is vital. Its cost is £170 million, compared with a total defence budget of £24 billion. It is a small investment, but it will ensure and greatly enhance our amphibious capability. As the then Minister of State for Defence Procurement said on the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1991", when he spoke strongly in support of the amphibious programme: There is no other means of providing such a variety of operational choices."—[Official Report, 15 October 1991; Vol. 196, c. 178.] At a time of world uncertainty, the order for the helicopter carrier is vital. Not only would it bring renewed hope to shipyard workers in my constituency on Tyneside; it would also ensure that our Government are in a position to discharge their international responsibilities and play their part in keeping peace throughout the world.

7.50 pm
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

I hope that the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) will understand that I do not follow him, because of the 10-minute restriction.

With my colleagues from the House who are, like me, members of the North Atlantic Assembly, I went to Washington and New York and among our discussions we met those who were knowledgeable about the United Nations. We wanted to find out a little more about what was happening. I should like to say a few words about NATO and the lessons that it has for the United Nations and for peacemaking in general.

If the cold war taught us anything, it was the realisation that NATO, which is a regional multilateral collective defence and security system not previously seen in western Europe, has provided and will continue to provide the best chance of keeping the peace. I do not think that the significance of NATO can be exaggerated. Its impact on the world has been profound and has helped to save democracy.

NATO is significant because, first, its members got in the habit of working together; secondly, the system demanded a willingness to pool and share resources; thirdly, a multinational command became acceptable. That is demonstrated in the Rapid Reaction Corps where the ground troops are commanded by a British general and the air force is commanded by a former member of the Luftwaffe, and no one turns over in their grave at such a mixed multinational command.

Fourthly, NATO succeeded because it was more than a military alliance. It had a political dimension which called upon its members to strengthen the democratic ties between them and to reinforce the humanitarian values that they all shared. There is now talk of NATO combining with the Russians and the Americans to advance the Owen-Vance plan in Bosnia.

The willingness of the Russians to co-operate with NATO does not surprise me. The North Atlantic Assembly already has representatives of the Russian and eastern European Parliaments as associate members, and they tell us time and again that they would like their countries to join NATO one day. Be that as it may—I do not mean to be at all hostile to the concept—I think that we are a little way off that.

In July, NATO put its resources at the disposal of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said earlier, that offer is parallel with a similar offer to the United Nations. Iraq opened our eyes to the fact that the NATO system of co-operation had a new and wider application. NATO was not involved in Iraq as such, but its military command and control structure ensured the vigorous and efficient prosecution of the war. It was NATO's logistical capabilities and planning procedures which made possible the transfer of so many munitions, arms, guns and tanks from Germany through the NATO logistic facilities in Rotterdam to the middle east. When my right hon. Friend commented on NATO's involvement, he was specifically referring to the involvement of the former Yugoslavia when he said: This is not NATO involvement for its own sake but reflects the reality that the alliance has resources which cannot be duplicated elsewhere. In an article in The Times recently, Professor Laurence Freedman pointed out: NATO is not always seen as an impartial and neutral source. I agree with that. There will be times when nations will look to the United Nations or elsewhere to help with peacekeeping and sometimes the peace enforcement process. The Gulf war opened our eyes to the fact that the UN had a more vigorous part in peace diplomacy and the protection of refugees.

As we have been reminded by hon. Members both sides of the House, the ending of the cold war did not usher in a new world order. Rather, it ushered in a world of disorder or more disorder. It suspended—I do not know for how long—the dreadful paralysis of the inevitable veto which had constrained the United Nations' ability to act during the previous decades.

Not long ago, Major-General Lewis McKenzie, Canadian commander of the United Nations forces in Sarajevo—the first commander and a very able man—was quoted as saying that he found it extremely difficult to contact the United Nations because it seemed to work a five-day week. He found it especially difficult to contact the United Nations on Friday evenings at 5 pm New York eastern standard time. That is probably a little unfair but, be that as it may, we can probably understand the frustrations of the military commander at the time. He was only reflecting those frustrations.

Before we censure the United Nations, I have no doubt that its ability to carry out its functions is seriously inadequate. We have heard that one of the rasons is that the United Nations does not have enough cash. I shall not rehearse those difficulties now, because I have only a few minutes in which to make my other points. While member states fail to meet their financial commitments and peacekeeping operations, it is clear that the credibility of the United Nations will be undermined. I find it especially nauseating that three or four months can lapse between the Security Council's authorisation of a mission and its becoming an operation in the field. As the Secretary-General has pleaded on many occasions, it is essential that he should be provided with a working capital fund for the start of new operations.

I agree that forces should be earmarked by nation states for more rapid reaction. They should learn to train together. The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) made that point in his vivid description of conditions in Yugoslavia. Training is vital. We have seen the training that our troops undergo for NATO missions and then they must be trained to do police work in Northern Ireland.

I shall never forget having to face a mob of people in an Indian peacekeeping operation. A bombardier turned to me and said, "What happens if they charge?" I said, "They won't; they're a damned sight more frightened of us than we are of them." We were not even allowed to put a bullet up the spout. That was the training that we had to endure. No one had a go at us, because we looked rather fierce and determined. We must therefore have forces earmarked and well trained.

There should also be a reserve of basic stock, including radios and all sorts of bits of equipment which some scratch forces do not have when they come under United Nations command. They will need, as NATO has, a common set of procedures for military communications, shared information systems, and so on. That is NATO's strength.

The military staff committee has long been without a function in the United Nations. It should be given a practical role to ensure that the changes are implemented. That is done with NATO, through the supreme allied commander and his staff.

All in all, there are quite a few lessons which could be learnt, but not only from NATO's experience. Not only military proposals are important. We have heard about the importance of sanctions and having an organisation which can examine sanctions more keenly. Such an organisation needs economic and financial back-up to ensure that peace is sustained once it is kept. Humanitarian as well as social purposes will need to be fulfilled.

The need to strengthen United Nations arms control and verification procedures is important. That is one way of helping to cure the disease of instability, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said earlier today. The failure of the safeguards of the United Nations nuclear proliferation treaty to detect Iraq's weapons programme is convincing evidence of the need to strengthen the inspection team. The proposal of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the establishment of a United Nations conventional arms register must be welcomed. It would help transparency in the defence capabilities of nations, but it should be extended to weapons stockpiles.

Such measures appeal to me. The proposal which I find the most appealing of all is that we must help the United Nations to reorganise bureaucratically the distinction between its two different but complementary roles of peacekeeping. There is chapter VI, relating to peacekeeping, and chapter VII, by which the United Nations establishes peace enforcement. The United Nations should establish two separate departments—a department which deals with political affairs and conflict resolutions, and an international peace and security department. I would not mix up the two. In that way, the United Nations is much more likely to make the efficient and capable response that we increasingly come to expect from it, but we must help it to achieve that objective.

7.59 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

This time last week, I was with the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) and three other colleagues from the Select Committee on Defence in Vitez in central Bosnia. All of us found the journey to that part of former Yugoslavia an extremely distressing experience. We must have seen thousands of refugees, countless houses that had been torched or bombed and large numbers of heavily armed young men, some of whom may have been disciplined soldiers while others clearly were not. No doubt some had been involved, whether under control or not, in perpetrating atrocities against civilians in that unfortunate country.

It is important to stress in a debate of this nature that by no means all the atrocities that have taken place in former Yugoslavia are the responsibility of the Serbs. They are all at it: I saw plenty of evidence of Croat brutality against Muslims and Muslim brutality against Serbs. On the day we passed through the town of Gorni Vakuf, a British United Nations Warrior crew had to destroy a Croat position which would not stop shooting at them despite the fact that they were flying the United Nations flag and carrying the United Nations colours.

It is bloody chaos, but the abiding image for me must be the children playing in the snow, smiling and waving to United Nations vehicles escorting the aid convoys and bringing a little hope into their God-forsaken country—I suspect, much as the children of Northern Ireland waved to British troops who bought time there 24 years ago. Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from such parallels.

This is a tragedy that is unfolding on our own doorstep, the doorstep of western Europe, in a country where thousands of our constituents took their holidays until two years ago, in Sarajevo which hosted the winter olympics in 1984. Yet people in that area have not had the benefit of any peace dividend from the end of the cold war. On the contrary, they have been pitched into a vicious hot war, just like many other people around the vortex of what used to be the Soviet Union, in Tadzhikistan, Moldova, Georgia and other areas, not to mention Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere—some peace dividend!

That is the background against which the British Government decided to slash its Army strength by 40,000 soldiers while continuing to build another three Trident submarines purely to be able to destroy Moscow. I do not understand it, but that is what they decided to do. Mercifully, the great British public is, as ever, ahead of the Government in understanding such questions.

People are concerned about what is happening in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kurdistan and the marshes of southern Iraq—not as far away places of which we know little, as Mr. Neville Chamberlain might have said, because, thanks to Kate Adie and other reporters, we know quite a lot about them. Our people care and they want to help, as they have shown clearly by their generosity in the relief effort and by the pressure that they brought to bear on the Government to deploy British troops with the United Nations to help to resolve the situation in Yugoslavia by taking an active part in the United Nations protection force last summer.

People understand pretty clearly why we could not help in Somalia. A helpful Ministry of Defence official recently told the Select Committee on Defence that we could not help the United Nations sponsored effort on the ground in Somalia because we do not have enough troops to do so.

I confirm what a number of my hon. Friends have said today. The British United Nations soldiers in their blue United Nations helmets in Bosnia are doing a truly magnificent job—partly, it must be said, because they have had the good fortune to be deployed in an area where it has been possible for them to operate effectively; their French counterparts have not been so fortunate in Sarajevo and the Canadians have not even been able to deploy into the area around Banja Luka where they were supposed to be operating. The other reason why the Cheshires have been able to achieve so much is because they are well trained professional soldiers with excellent logistic back-up and a wealth of highly relevant experience from peacekeeping in Northern Ireland.

At the beginning of the operation, when I and my colleagues on the Defence Select Committee listened to evidence from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 22 September 1992, I wondered what could be achieved under the terms that he described. He said that the Cheshires could do no more than ride shotgun on convoys, and that, if the going got difficult, they would withdraw. What we saw in Bosnia last week was a much more proactive deployment. The British United Nations troops are opening up roads, rebuilding bridges, patrolling their area, talking to people, using their good offices to minimise the risk of conflict in local areas wherever possible and generally making their presence felt. They are doing all that as well as escorting a large volume of humanitarian aid which is getting through and helping the civilian population—although, sadly, far too much is going to the armies in that part of the world. We should be concerned about that.

The representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees whom we met last week were delighted with the way in which the battalion is operating and it would be good news if the operation could be similarly enhanced in other parts of former Yugoslavia. That is the point which must be put across in this debate: the exercise cannot stand still—either it will have to be stepped up in line with the Vance-Owen plan, or it will have to be abandoned.

The existing United Nations operation is at risk of becoming bogged down in a disillusioned and hostile environment, rather like our forces in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland 24 years ago, the troops bought time: and raised hopes, but when those hopes were not fulfilled, due to the failure of politicians, the troops were left in the quagmire where they remain today. That must not be allowed to happen to the United Nations in former Yugoslavia.

That means that the United Nations operation should be driven forward to make the Vance-Owen plan work. I do not like that plan any more than anyone else does. Such partitioning is unhealthy, but it is the only hope for that part of the world. To do that, the United Nations needs better co-ordination, better command and control and probably substantially more troops. It is also essential that there should be a direct representative of the United Nations General-Secretary in the area to take command of the operation with its political, military and humanitarian aspects. I hope that that will be considered.

American participation in the operation is obviously important, but Bosnia is no place for air power or massive ground forces. The "Stormin' Norman" approach would only degenerate into a sort of European Vietnam; that is a risk which should be understood by all concerned. Yugoslavia requires a combination of diplomacy and force, and the forces should be genuinely multinational. That, presumably, should include an enhanced British presence in UNPROFOR. I sincerely hope that when and if the Americans become involved in the operation they will listen to the people who have been deployed there during the last year and learn from those experiences.

What should Britain's role in all this be? On 13 October the Foreign Secretary said: our commitments"— military commitments— could well increase—provided, that is, that we wish to maintain our position as a medium-sized power with a developed sense of international responsibility. We are, after all, still a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

We have also assumed the leading role in the new post-cold-war NATO ACE rapid reaction corps, which should develop into a highly trained force ideally suited to play a key part in the United Nations peace enforcement role outlined in Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali's document, "An Agenda for Peace", submitted to the Security Council on 17 June 1992.

The Foreign Secretary has had to admit, however, that British forces are overstretched at present. He did so in a speech on 27 January before the Select Committee on Defence published its second report on the matter on 9 February. British defence policy is a shambles as a result of the Treasury's headlong rush to take a cash dividend from the end of the cold war without the benefit of any kind of review of the military risks and commitments facing Britain in the coming years. The Defence Select Committee's second report shows incontrovertibly that the 26 per cent. cut in the strength of the Army in "Options for Change", even after the 2 per cent. add-back on 3 February, still leaves our forces overstretched and, in many cases, treble-hatted, and certainly in no position to increase their commitment to the United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world. They are already unable to fulfil their existing tasks within reasonable constraints for training, intervals between emergency deployments and other important military factors.

The Select Committee unanimously concluded that we should add back a further seven infantry battalions to make it possible for the Army to undertake the tasks and to meet the risks which exist. I am not suggesting an increase in defence expenditure, but an objective review suggests that we should cut Army manpower by 21 per cent.—not the 26 per cent. proposed by the Government in "Options for Change". I would happily suggest substantial alternative economies in other parts of the defence budget. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will bring wiser counsel to bear in the Ministry of Defence.

There is much peacemaking to be done in today's world —whether in Yugoslavia, Kurdistan, southern Iraq, or Somalia—and that is just the start. I urge the Government fully to support the United Nations Secretary-General's efforts to make that possible, and to reconsider the irrational defence cuts initiated by the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) when he was Secretary of State for Defence. We can help to restore hope and life to the suffering people of places such as Bosnia. Peace itself is a far more precious dividend than anything that cash can buy.

8.10 pm
Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

I was relieved to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary say that the United Kingdom will not play any major part in flying supplies into Bosnia or any other part of Yugoslavia. Most right hon. and hon. Members will welcome that statement. Dropping supplies is not easy at any time, as we learned in northern Iraq. It becomes even more difficult under small arms fire or ground-to-air fire in the form of SAM missiles. If the United States wants to take that line and the United Nations countenances it doing so, be it on America's head. I would not want to see British planes taking part in that operation, which might also put at risk everything that we are doing so effectively on the ground.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary asked to what extent we should take part in international peacekeeping. We have probably the proudest record in the world in international peacekeeping. It goes back to the Korean war, when admittedly we operated under powers delegated by the United Nations, and followed through to Desert Storm, also under powers delegated by the United Nations. Desert Storm deployed half a million troops from no fewer than 30 countries. However, those two operations were the exceptions to the general rule.

Over the past 30 or 40 years, the scale of United Nations operations has grown year by year. In the Arab-Israeli dispute in 1965, in UNF1, only 4,000 troops from seven countries participated. Although they did a reasonable job, the moment there was any trouble, they were invited to stand to one side—and they did. In Cyprus, United Nations forces numbered 6,238 in 1974, but by 1990 had fallen to 2,108. We may see the need for that force disappear over the next year or two. I am optimistic about the abilities of President Clerides and President Denktash. The two are old friends, and if they cannot work together to produce a future for Cyprus, then God help us.

I regret having to introduce a slightly sour note, but there was talk of 1974 and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Mr. Ecevit, then Prime Minister of Turkey, will be visiting London next month, when I hope Opposition Members will meet and discuss with him the events of 1974, when he came to London and begged the then Labour Government to intervene alongside Turkey. It was not convenient for them to do so. Had that Labour Government intervened, as they could and should have as a guarantor power there would be no partition today; Cyprus would be a united island, with a federal state established.

The United Nations will have an increasing role to play in the rest of this decade, and Yugoslavia is only the beginning. I follow the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) in referring to the composition of the United Nations forces there. UNPROFOR 1 in Croatia has a Canadian commander on the ground. Poor chap—I do not envy him this task one little bit. He has 14,000 troops from 31 countries. The hon. Member for Stockton, North described in some detail where those troops came from, how they were picked, and how ill equipped some of them are.

By contrast UNPROFOR 2 in Bosnia, under a French commander, comprises 7,740 troops, one third of whom are British. All come from NATO countries. It is a unified force, virtually working under a NATO command structure. It knows its business, and it is getting on with it. If I were offered the choice of those two commands, I know which I would take.

There will be more United Nations commitments, and all will require quality troops that are well trained, well equipped, well led and disciplined. The hon. Member for Stockton, North made the point that a large number of seconded troops do not exhibit any of those characteristics.

As to being well disciplined, who has the right to ask for troops to be withdrawn once they have been committed to a United Nations operation? Right hon. and hon. Members may have read a report in The Sunday Times about the behaviour of the Russian battalion in Croatia.

What right does it have to be there if its soldiers are behaving in that fashion, acting in a partisan way, and not doing their job properly? Who has the right to tell them to withdraw from the field?

That is a difficult situation, because a political decision was made to put in troops from all over the world—but if certain troops are not up to the job and of high enough quality, someone must bite the bullet and tell them to get out of the field and get out of the way. Having made that point, my hope is that that report was not correct.

There must also be proper command control—a well trained headquarters staff, and not one cobbled together from outside. That is where NATO becomes so important. There must be commonality of equipment and language, plus a generous allowance of engineers within any force, because they are needed in all such operations. There must be clear and incisive political control alongside military control—and someone of calibre from the political side to work with and enjoy the confidence of the military commander. Only one organisation is capable of providing a proper command structure that will work under fire if necessary, and that is NATO.

Also is the United Nations structure man enough to deal with the problems that will emerge in the course of the next decade—and does it have the resources to do so? The answer is clearly no. We and every other member of the United Nations must be prepared to come forward and to play our part not only in making the United Nations in New York worthy of the name but in ensuring that, when our troops put on the blue beret, they can wear it with pride. All too often, our troops do—but some other contingents that take part in United Nations operations do not.

8.18 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

During the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the Foreign Secretary pointed out that Saddam Hussein went to war and obliterated Kuwait. All right. But the Foreign Secretary then talked about decent people. It is high time that "decent people" remembered the children of Iraq as they are now.

United Nations sanctions are causing the deaths of more than 2,000 people a week in Iraq through lack of medicine, medical services, food and diet supplements, bad water, and a lack of equipment and parts needed for health care, good water, agriculture, and food processing. It is high time that we considered ending sanctions. There can be no doubt about the deaths, or the causal relationship.

UNICEF estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 children under five will die in 1993 if sanctions remain. Among the reports that establish a high death toll is a special report not in some Arab newspaper, but in The New England Journal of Medicine of 24 September 1992. According to that report, the death rate among children under five may be five times as high as the rate before 1991. Doctors estimate that 80 per cent. of child hospital admissions are nutrition-related. As I have said, my figures come from American rather than Arab sources.

Let me address the Minister through those figures. In 1990 there were 485 cases of kwashiorkor; in 1992, there were 13,744 cases. That is an increase of 28 times. Marasmus is a wasting disease, found especially among children as a result of defective feeding. In 1990, there were 5,193 cases; in 1992, there were 111,477–21 times as many. Those figures come from the university of Harvard, and they are not doctored.

In 1990, there were no cases of cholera; in 1991–92, there were 2,100. In 1989, there were 6,229 cases of measles and German measles; in 1992, there were 21,823—three times as many. In 1989, there were 1,812 cases of typhoid fever; in 1992, there were 19,276, 10 times as many. The figures are eloquent enough, but heaven knows what will happen in the possibly hot summer of 1993.

In 1989, there were 6,612 cases of pneumonia; in 1992, there were 17,377, 2.5 times as many. In 1989, there were 19,615 cases of amoebic dysentery; in 1992, there were 61,939—more than three times as many. In 1989, there were 1,816 cases of viral hepatitis; in 1992, there were 13,776, seven times as many.

In 1989, there were 2,816 cases of brucellosis; in 1992, there were 14,546—an increase of 5.9 times. In 1989, there were 73,416 cases of giardiasis, a duodenal intestinal problem; in 1992, there were 596,356—an increase of 8.1 times. There was an increase of 4.3 times in cases of whooping cough, and an increase of 12 times in poliomyelitis. The incidence of other protein, vitamin and calorie-related cases increased 11 times, involving great numbers of people.

I am told that virtually all the child population is affected. The percentage of births under 2.5 kg body weight in 1990 was 4.5; in 1992, it was nearly four times higher, at 17.6. It is climbing, and is the basis for western medical assessment that Iraq will have millions of stunted —yes stunted—children. We are rightly concerned about what has happened in Liverpool, but we should bear in mind—whatever politicians are in power in this country —that there is a possibility of stunted children in the lands of Mesopotamia. We have some locus in that.

Children over five, and adults, have suffered enormously. The most vulnerable—the elderly, and those with physical disabilities and chronic serious illnesses—have died at greatly increased rates, which comprise much of the approximately threefold overall increase in the death rate. Medical laboratory examinations declined by 60 per cent., from 17,928,000 in 1989 to 7,079,000 in 1992; major surgery cases declined by 63 per cent., from 181,000 in 1989 to 65,733 in 1992.

Those statistics do not convey the human suffering involved. Anyone who has visited hospitals in Iraq in 1991, 1992 or 1993 could hardly tolerate the sanctions: they are a cruel form of death for their victims, the families of those victims and all who understand that they are the actual, moral and legal equivalent of taking the lives and the health of infants, and of sick and elderly hostages, for the payment of money or other acts of government.

Sanctions violate humanitarian law, because they are known to deprive a population of food and medical care.

The Government ought to pay close attention to a recent visit to Iraq by Ramsey Clark. He was thought fit to become Attorney-General of the United States—the senior legal officer in Washington. Are we now to say that his figures, and his concerns, should be dismissed?

There is also the evidence of Dr. Eric Hoskins. Doctor Hoskins is Canadian, but he is also the holder of a Lester Pearson medal. He is very concerned about what he calls nuclear toys. He points out: Several months ago, when the medical director of the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Institute arrived in Berlin carrying with him one of these 'mildly' radioactive DU"— depleted uranium— penetrators retrieved from Iraq, he was immediately arrested by the German authorities and charged with illegally `releasing ionising radiation'. The DU penetrator he was carrying, its radioactivity confirmed by two independent German laboratories, was quickly sealed in a lead-lined box. There are no lead-lined boxes in Iraq. We should consider the humanitarian aspects of the matter.

On 22 February, the Prime Minister gave me an answer to unstarred question No. 70, in which I asked "pursuant to his oral answer of 4 February, Official Report, column 472, how much of the evidence of the key witness" —in the Matrix Churchill case— was given in response to questions which referred to the disclosed documents. The Prime Minister replied: As I indicated in my answer of 4 February, I suggest matters relevant to the Matrix Churchill trail should await the outcome of Lord Justice Scott's inquiry."—[Official Report, 22 February 1993; Vol. 219, c. 436.] As soon as Lord Justice Scott's terms of reference were announced, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and I asked whether questions would be precluded. Hon. Members will recall that we were told that in no way would answers be treated as if they were sub judice.

Now everything is being put into Lord Justice Scott's in-tray. I do not doubt the distinction or fair-mindedness of this judge, but I am very unhappy about this inquiry. I think that I am the only remaining Member of Parliament who appeared before the Franks committee. That committee, which met under the distinguished Lord Franks, is now reckoned not to have reported in a very satisfactory way. Indeed, when I talked to Sir Patrick Nairne some years later, he, like other members of the committee, was rather embarrassed about some of the things that had happened.

Lord Justice Scott should have at his disposal two Clerks of the House of Commons, independent of the civil service, to help him. In answer to written question No. 5 on 18 February, I was told that he would have the help of one assistant solicitor, one press officer, one grade 7 officer, one executive officer, one administrative officer and one personal secretary. This is not sufficient to sort out the wealth of evidence that is now being produced in book form.

During the recess I read the 500 pages of Kenneth Timmerman's book "The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq". Many hon. Members will be familiar with David Leigh's book "Betrayed". Then there is John Sweeney's book "Trading with the Enemy: Britain's Arming of Iraq". If we need any indication of the relationship with Iraq immediately before the war, here it is. But, like a plot twist, says Sweeney, in one of the Reverend Thomas Awdrey's "Thomas the Tank Engine" books, all is not well in the Iraqi shunting yards. When a bright, shiny, brash new engine steamed in, full of puff, its name was David Mellor. That was the discovery of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley). At a serious level, I have to say that this is the relationship that occurred between Britain and pre-Gulf war Iraq.

I end by repeating something that I said in an intervention during the speech by the Foreign Secretary —that he must explain a number of matters arising out of the books to which I have referred. They cannot go unchallenged. The House of Commons will be brought into disrepute unless some serious answers are given, especially by the Foreign Secretary with regard to what exactly happened on 19 July—a fortnight before the start of the hostilities—when he chaired a Cabinet meeting with the object of removing restrictions on the export of military equipment to Iraq.

When I make speeches urging the lifting of sanctions and contact with the authorities in Baghdad, let us all remember what the relationship between the British Government and Baghdad was. That puts into context a request that sanctions be lifted. I wish that the Foreign Secretary were present, for, with regard to the question that I put to him during his speech and Geoffrey Robertson's brilliant performance in the Old Bailey, I have to say with sadness that, for the first time, I do not believe him.

8.34 pm
Sir Michael Marshall (Arundel)

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will understand if I do not folllow him down his line of inquiry. I wish to take up some of the main themes that I detect emerging from the debate. I have heard almost all the speeches and apologise for having to slip out briefly to meet a constituent.

The document "An Agenda for Peace", which was produced last year by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, defines peacekeeping as the deployment of the United Nations presence in the field, hitherto with the consent of all parties concerned, normally involving United Nations military and/or police personnel and possibly civilians as well". The document says: Peacekeeping is a technique which expands the possibilities of both the prevention of conflict and the making of peace. Things have moved on since that definition was given in the middle of last year. The definition has been sharpened by the way in which the civil war has pointed up some of the difficult questions that the House faces today.

I shall wish to cite the situations in Somalia, northern Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia. These are three examples of the way in which we have had to look again, with some precision, at the problems that face us. I refer in particular to problems arising from the military and civil authorities' coming together under the umbrella of the United Nations. As has been said by several hon. Members, the wider definition of peacekeeping could certainly take in the question, for example, of the organisation of elections, as happened in the post-civil-war situation in Angola. We certainly see this operating in preventive diplomacy. Reflecting my IPU responsibilities, I have to say that it is in the area of parliamentary diplomacy that many people can play a part in this process.

With regard to the specific problems arising from civil war, one thinks of the safeguarding of food supplies and the prevention of human rights abuses. In every respect we have to reflect that the peacekeeping process with which we are principally concerned is disaster relief. If one thinks of the situation in those terms, one begins to see who the principal players are and how we should seek to support them.

I have long supported the use of the military in disaster relief. I know that there was a certain initial reluctance. That applied even in the case of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which was understandable, given the situation at the time. However, events have moved on, and, as has been said, NATO has proved itself as perhaps the only coherent regional force that can be deployed under United Nations auspices. But NATO cannot take on everything. There will be situations in which we have to evolve a better structure to deal with the problems confronting us. Very often this has to be done against the problems—in some cases, the resistance—of some of the organisations involved in disaster relief.

I am thinking of the views expressed by the International Committee of the Red Cross and some of the religious aid organisations. I respect their views, but my attitude is simply that, when a disaster of this kind strikes, there is no option to turning to the military. It is the only organisation that can produce the rapid response that is needed for humanitarian purposes. It alone has the spread of communications, medicines, transport and, above all, command and control to secure the necessary direction of the operation.

But we ought to welcome the wider opportunity in what is happening in a difficult and dangerous world. I refer to the area of international co-operation. NATO and Warsaw pact forces are coming together. That is a welcome development. The idea of east and west and, in the case of the Warsaw pact, the former military being involved has much to commend it. Most right hon. and hon. Members would agree that, in the scheme of things in the world, there must be a place for such people, who, within their lights, gave service to their countries. Co-operation of that type is of the highest importance.

It is also very important in these debates that we should not forget the vast number of countries that are not privy to what goes on in the Security Council, the inner sanctum of the G7 and the "G77"—all those countries in the developing world that suffer in a way far beyond our experience. They too must be taken into account, and their sensitivities respected, when we make our plans. In all our work we should try to draw on the lessons that we have learnt in recent times.

Let me return to my three examples. In northern Iraq, the protection of Kurds has shown clearly what NATO can do in this regard. That action was undertaken directly in response to United Nations resolutions. The matter of Somalia raises some very serious questions. I pay tribute to what the United States has done in responding to United Nations resolutions, but the United States has said that it is there for a finite period, and the question that arises is what is to happen at the end of that period. While we all hope that diplomacy may be brought to bear to help resolve the problems, it would be a sanguine observer who felt that there were not still deep dangers with the war lords in that country. I see that there are already suggestions that forces from other members of the United Nations may be asked to take over this responsibility. Australia has been mentioned, and I have no doubt that we will receive the call.

I come, as most other hon. Members have, finally, to the situation in Bosnia. I was pleased to find such clarity of view from both Front Benches in saying that we cannot impose a military solution by force, nor can we end the fighting by attack from the air.

Sticking within the ten-minute philosophy as far as I can, I will advance just three principles that I hope that we will regard as relevant in our planning for existing and perhaps future commitments. First, if the military is to be employed it is essential that it has a clear objective. There must be some understanding of its purpose, of the period in which it is to be deployed and of its relationship with the civil disaster relief agencies and with the United Nations —and that is an area where co-ordination is not particularly good at present.

Secondly, we cannot impose these responsibilities on the military if those who command them feel that they are going to be denuded of their traditional role, which is the defence of the free world and not a matter that can be pushed aside as no longer relevant. There are still severe anxieties in the world at large, and there is still a potential nuclear threat. Therefore, if we look at "Option: for Change", as we have been doing, and at the wider role of the military, that is fine, but when specific exercises are postulated, we must calculate carefully, their effect on those traditional roles.

Finally, the military must be given full support through the United Nations. It is in this area that I have some anxieties. If we look at the way in which the non-governmental organisations, the disaster relief community, the representatives of the United Nations and the military have sought to work together in the field, we see an uncertainty in the United Nations' own direction of these affairs.

I would particularly urge my right hon. and learned Friend, when he winds up, to reflect on the role of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs which has been set up to co-ordinate all these matters in the United Nations and, in particular, in some senses, to take over the previous activities of UNRO and other agencies. I believe that the Department of Humanitarian Affairs has not really been given the proper backing and encouragement that it should have. If it is allowed to pursue its work, it can begin to bring together all these agencies, all this relief and all the work of the military in a meaningful way. That is why I very much hope that we may give the United Nations strong support in this task while it is going through a period of difficult and international change.

In all the speeches that we have heard tonight, many of them moving and well informed, there is a clear desire that peaceful resolution should be the prime objective of the House as it is of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I understand that the wind-ups are to begin at about 9.20 pm. Five hon. Members are still waiting to catch my eye, and most of them have sat here all through the debate. If we have a bit of co-operation in the length of speeches, I may be able to call them all.

8.43 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

Like many hon. Members, I want to concentrate on the situation in former Yugoslavia. Events there in the past few years have been rather depressing to observe. I am afraid that the conclusions that they may have for us are also depressing.

Before the crisis in Yugoslavia broke, there was some reason for believing that we were in the process of putting into place, through primarily the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, a set of principles which would regulate relations in Europe and deal with the sort of problems that later emerged. The principles involved such fundamental matters as recognition of existing boundaries, provision for minority rights through concern for the human rights of members of minorities and the principle that changes should come only by way of agreement. These principles were the bedrock on which the CSCE process was supposed to operate.

When we see that that process has not operated effectively in Yugoslavia and consider the present position, we see something that is in conflict with the principles. The Owen-Vance plan for Bosnia has been described as the only show in town, but it is a most unsatisfactory show. It proposes to recognise as administrative units the ethnic divisions and ethnic units in former Yugoslavia. We are going to create a series of Serb states, Croat states and Bosnian Muslim states. This plan can operate only as a prelude to the break-up of Bosnia.

I know that under the plan there is a suggestion that there will still be some vague central authority, but the logic of events will point towards the break-up of Bosnia as presently constituted into those ethnic units because Owen-Vance recognises the ethnic units. As a corollary, the present ethnic sorting out that has started within that area will be accelerated. There may be proposals to deploy peacekeeping forces to police the operation of the Owen-Vance plan, but I suggest that it is only likely to slow down the process of break-up.

The implications of that for other areas will be considerable. If Bosnia breaks up on the ethnic lines for which Owen-Vance is laying the groundwork, inevitably the Bosnian Serbs will want to develop their relationship with the rest of Bosnia and with the Serbs in Krajina. That has implications for the territorial integrity of Croatia. It also has implications further south. The Albanians of Kosovo and the Albanians of Macedonia will ask, if the ethnic minorities are going to be recognised in Bosnia, why they cannot be recognised too.

We may feel that we can keep those areas in separate compartments mentally and try to apply to Kosovo the principles that we set out in CSCE agreements, which I understand is the position of the Government, because the Government say that they will continue to recognise the existing Serbian state and to tell the Albanian population in Kosovo that they should rely on autonomy and provide for human rights in that way, but they will not necessarily see it that way.

I attended a briefing on the subject the other day at which a gentleman who had been in the territory and was familiar with it said that the minute that a major peacekeeping force arrived in Bosnia, Kosovo would erupt, that the Kosovo Albanians realised that this would be their chance and would seize it with both hands. In the light of that, while the Owen-Vance plan may be the only show in town, it is going to be curtains for a number of territories in the way in which it operates. I do not consider that it will be a good plan or a good experience.

Having said that, I recognise that it is impossible to turn the clock back—I wish it were. We may be unable to rectify the mistakes that have been made with regard to Bosnia, but must we just sit and wait for their implications for Kosovo and Macedonia to unfold? If we cannot vindicate all the principles that underlay the CSCE process, can we at least vindicate the principle that change, if inevitable, comes only by way of agreement? At the very least can we not recognise the present state of Macedonia? I feel very concerned about the situation there.

We are told that the Greeks have no territorial ambitions over the present Slav state of Macedonia, but their blockage of recognition is, I fear, opening the way to other territories which do or may have territorial ambitions. I refer to Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria. By keeping Macedonia in limbo, we are making it something that is up for grabs, an unstable area, in which other states may be tempted to intervene.

Looking at this rather depressing situation, I think that the overriding lesson is that the CSCE process and the United Nations itself have not worked very well. It may be said that it is working better than it did during the cold war, and that is a fair point, but we must not deceive ourselves. Let us not say that we have a new world order or that we have new international authorities which can be effective. They are not being terribly effective when put to the test. Experience in Yugoslavia and elsewhere shows that they do not have an effective decision-making process. The Yugoslav crisis emphasised that. Their reactions were too late and slow.

Another lesson is that we cannot deal with all the problems that exist in the world: to do so would place too heavy a burden on the few countries willing to bear them. If we cannot deal with all the problems, dealing with only some of them may bring the process into disrepute because selectivity would then arise. There is no difference in principle between the situation in Azerbaijan and Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and that in the Balkans. For various reasons, we are involved in one but not in the other. Such selectivity will bring the international organs and the international process into disrepute.

The answer is that until we have better and more effective decision-making processes and clearer principles on which to operate we should be cautious in our approach and should confine the use of international organs and intervention to clear and flagrant cases. We need better agreed principles on which to act and greater legitimacy for the way in which we act against states.

There has been a tendency in this debate to concentrate on what could be called the military nuts and bolts. Good and sensible points have been made about military command structures, the need for amphibious forces and so on, but the essential problem is not one of command or forces but political, and until we find more effective international organs and decision-making processes we should not talk up the process. We should move more cautiously and try to work out and achieve the necessary political consensus—if not globally, at least regionally—that can provide a basis for peacekeeping operations.

8.51 pm
Mr. David Faber (Westbury)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly in this important debate. I had planned to follow some of the more general points that have been made about the United Nations, but, mindful of your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall move straight to the subject of Bosnia.

I have sat through every word of this thoroughly good wide-ranging and extremely interesting debate. Like other hon. Members, I have been fortunate enough to visit Bosnia. I spent some time in Sarajevo just before Christmas, where I had the opportunity to see the peacekeeping operation at first hand.

I should like to consider the four categories of UN peacekeeping into which our role in Bosnia falls. The first is the delivery of humanitarian aid, which the Cheshires are so successfully undertaking in Bosnia and the Americans in Somalia. The second is peace monitoring, in which UNPROFOR 2 in Sarajevo faces the most difficult task. The third is peacekeeping, such as in Iraq or by UNPROFOR 1 in Croatia, to which our Government may be asked to contribute should the Owen-Vance plan succeed. The fourth is peacemaking, which has been dealt with at length: the enforcement of no-fly zones, the imposition of troops on the ground and the removal of the arms embargo on the Muslims, all of which, I am happy to say, have been ruled out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

The deployment of United Kingdom troops in Bosnia has been an outstanding success, and I join other hon. Members who have paid tribute to their skill and bravery. There can be no doubt that they have saved tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives, but the death of Corporal Edwards reminded us of the dangers that they face daily and of the greater dangers that they would face in a peacekeeping or peacemaking role.

One example that is often forgotten is the importance of the co-operation of Belgrade in delivering humanitarian aid. However much we may dislike the Belgrade Administration, we should remember that the majority of aid reaches Bosnia from there. It has a safe two-hour trip from Belgrade to the border at Zvornik, and were we to impose peacemaking or peacekeeping resolutions on Serbia, that route would be cut off, leaving only the more dangerous route that our troops are using from Split andVitez north to Bosnia.

It is in the peace monitoring role that the United Nations has the greatest difficulty on the ground, as I saw for myself in Sarajevo. When it was first set up, logistically, the operation in Sarajevo left much to be desired. It is the United Nation's job to monitor the clashes that take place, and the firing of heavy weapons. It issues daily press releases describing what it has seen, with a disclaimer about where shelling came from.

The shelling of Sarajevo has been an extremely emotive point throughout. It has barely been reported in the west that a great deal of it has come from Mount Igman overlooking Sarajevo, which is controlled by a rogue Muslim commander, Juka, who is not under the control of the Bosnian presidency and whose actions the United Nations has been unable to assess.

We saw emotive scenes of the shelling of the bread queue in Sarajevo and of a cemetery when a funeral was taking place. The United Nations locally now acknowledges that both may have been carried out by Muslims in an effort to curry favour with the west. That is certainly what we were told by UNPROFOR when we were in Sarajevo. Most recently, General Morillon has ticked off the Bosnians for the murder of a French soldier and the wounding of several French soldiers, the blame for which he laid squarely at their door.

Logistically and politically, there are problems, which the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) summed up very succinctly. How can Egyptians be seen as neutral observers by the Serbs and Croats in a war involving muslims? Similarly, how can Ukrainians be seen as independent observers in a war involving Serbs, when in many parts of Bosnia they openly fraternise with the Serbs and when convoys being taken by Ukrainians rarely come under fire? That is when they are not too busy playing the black market, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) pointed out.

The first paragraph of the article in the Sunday Times to which he referred said: Russia's first military force to serve with the United Nations has turned out to be a disgrace, according to angry UN officials. Its men have been accused of black marketeering, defying orders from the UN commander in Croatia skimming UN funds and collaborating with Serbia's most ruthless paramilitary force. The article, however true or untrue, lists a catalogue of cases in which the Russians have at best turned a blind eye and have at worst been helping the Serbs.

What will happen if the Owen-Vance plan succeeds, as we all hope it will, and achieves a peace settlement, and the UN asks us to contribute some form of peacekeeping force, probably run by the United States? I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to treat such an application with extreme caution. I appreciate that there is a catch 22 here: what is the point of sending troops to enforce a peace if the peace is already thought to be holding? I believe that we should be extremely cautious about joining any peacekeeping force, unless an established and workable peace is already agreed and has proved possible.

UNPROFOR personnel with whom we spoke in Sarajevo acknowledged that they were treading on eggshells. Their perceived neutrality is vital, which is one reason why British troops have been outstandingly successful in Bosnia. I am concerned that, were a peacekeeping force to be sent with United States troops at the head, it would not be perceived as neutral by Serbs, just as Russians playing a role in a peacekeeping force would experience great problems in convincing opponents of the Serbs that they were not closely allied to them.

In the United States, the debate has been much more one-sided than it has in the rest of the west, especially in the press. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mentioned the worst excesses of The New York Times, which has attempted to whip up a fever in the United States throughout this unfortunate and tragic war.

It is clear that the vast majority of atrocities have been carried out by the Serbs, but I believe, for instance, that if we are to look at setting up a war crimes tribunal—I was concerned to hear the United States ambassador to the United Nations last night paying attention only to the Serb atrocities—this has to be handled in a very careful and cautious manner.

To sum up, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the hope that other hon. Members will be able to catch your eye, I urge the Government to be extremely cautious in agreeing to help with any peacekeeping force in what is now Bosnia.

8.59 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

I wish to take a different angle on the subject of tonight's debate. The question of which circumstances are right for the use of peacekeeping troops is complicated, and I support the humanitarian efforts of our troops, both in Yugoslavia and elsewhere, and pay a tribute to them. However, I wish to make another fundamental point.

Even if only one British soldier is deployed in a peacekeeping role, I am sure that hon. Members on all sides of the House agree that as much protection as possible should be provided under international law. It is this aspect of international law which leads me to question the Government's stance on the 1981 inhumane weapons convention and the 1977 additional protocols to the Geneva conventions, each of which has great significance for British troops on peacekeeping duties. I will deal with the additional protocols first.

Protocol I relates to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. This protocol supplements rather than replaces the 1949 Geneva convention, incorporating many important developments—for example, the identification and protection of medical aircraft, and provisions ralating to indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Protocol II relates to the protection of victims of civil war. It would be under this second protocol that any British soldier would have to claim protection, as the war in Bosnia is a civil war.

The former federal state of Yugoslavia ratified both those protocols on 11 June 1979. This ratification should apply to the replacement states, including Serbia and Croatia.

The second protocol includes a prohibition on "outrages upon personal dignity", in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment, rape—which, of course, has happened in the former Yugoslavia—enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault. Maximum pressure must be brought to bear on those guilty of such offences, because they have broken the Geneva Convention rules.

However, we must not appear hypocritical. This protocol, although signed by the United Kingdom, has not been ratified by us. If we are to put the maximum pressure on those who are carrying out such hideous offences, should we ratify it? Further ghastly offences, such as forced detention of civilians in appalling conditions", are also in breach of this protocol, as is the "forced movement of civilians". If we are to make a case to the United Nations or any other international body about abuses of these protocols in the former Yugoslavia, we will risk looking quite foolish. Anyone opposed to such investigations will ask us why, if we are so concerned about these protocols, we have not ratified them.

The same is true of the 1981 inhumane weapons convention, which also has great significance for British troops in the former Yugoslavia. The use of napalm is controlled by this convention, although its use is not banned altogether. Napalm has been used many times in Bosnia, apparently by Serb forces. If British troops on humanitarian or peacekeeping operations are hit by napalm, Her Majesty's Government will have reduced political clout in international circles for any redress, because we have not ratified the convention.

Moreover, in statements, Ministers have questioned protocol 3 to the convention, which restricts the use of incendary devices such as napalm. I believe that this is a mistake, and it severely weakens the position of British forces on the ground. We are not talking about political embarrassments; we are talking about people's skins.

The Minister stated in a letter to me that the inhumane weapons convention cannot be ratified until the additional protocols have been ratified, and he linked this to possible interpretative or operational problems for NATO". However, the linkage between the ratification of the convention and possible NATO problems with the protocols seems rather strange when one considers that other NATO states, such as Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway, have all ratified it. I think that the inhumane weapons convention and the additional protocols could be ratified easily, and I urge the Secretary of State to start the process immediately.

Lord Glenarthur, then a Minister, told the other place in 1987 that he hoped that consultations in NATO about the additional protocols would be completed in 1988, so enabling a decision to be taken on ratification. We are still waiting.

There is a principle in international law that one does not sign a treaty unless one intends to ratify it. Unless Her Majesty's Government are breaking international law, the ratification decision must be a question of when rather than if. The time to ratify is now. Let us not leave the treaty to go the way of protocol 4 to the European convention on human rights, which we signed in 1963 but have not yet ratified.

Peacekeeping will be an important role for the British army. If a British soldier is to be sent to any danger zone, he should have the full protection of international law and be freed from the hypocrisy of the British Government's attitude to international law. I urge the Government to ratify those instruments.

9.5 pm

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

In view of the time, I shall confine my remarks to the Balkans. The Foreign Secretary today detailed the scale, scope and record of British forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We can be proud of them. Their humanitarian work has saved thousands of lives, but for how long can that go on? Are we not treating the symptom and not the disease?

Are we perhaps postponing the inevitable? Are we waiting for an agreement between the combatants which —although we may get one—they would not keep? The long, sorry record of events recently in Bosnia has been of civilian leaders agreeing and military commanders on the ground brazenly disregarding agreements and carrying on with the slaughter.

The sense of futility engendered by the situation was well articulated by Lord Carrington during his briefings to Committees in this House. We must face two brutal alternative realities: either we let the war take its course or, on behalf of the world community, we impose a solution by the world community. The first has attractions, about which we have heard in the debate. We have heard echoes of the old saying about a faraway country of which we know nothing or, to recycle an old quotation, about Bosnia not being worth the bones of one British grenadier.

We could argue that they are all Slays, let them do battle among themselves and sort it out for themselves. Were we to take that approach, the outcome would see the majority of Bosnia and Herzegovina come under the Serbians, despite the fact that they made up less than one third of the Bosnian population at the beginning of this sorry series of events. Were that to happen, it would be thanks to their access to the Federal Yugoslav armoury. The Croatians would also hold large territorial tracts of Bosnia Herzegovina. But the Muslims would be squeezed, cleansed and exterminated. We would see the sack of Sarajevo, and we would see it night after night on our television screens. The slaugher would be inevitable, and inevitably it would be that of the innocent.

The end result of such a policy would be a greater Croatia. They would settle for that and they would go off the international agenda, like Slovenia before them. The Muslim Slavs would join the fragmentary minorities, such as the Jews, prevalent in central and eastern Europe. Greater Serbia would be the greatest danger of all. We would have proved that force pays, that defiance of the international community pays and that defiance, regardless of the activities of negotiators, even their own, wins. They would have won thanks to enjoying the heritage and armed forces of Federal Yugoslavia.

Let us be absolutely clear that greater Serbia would not stop at Bosnia Herzegovina. It would roll on to Kosovo, Vojvodina and even to Macedonia. Kosovo, the former autonomous province within Serbia, is populated to the extent of 80 per cent. by Albanians. Under Tito, the people had rights of language, education and even to fly the Albanian national flag as the provincial flag of Kosovo. Under Milosevic, the autonomous province and its national assembly have been abolished. The university of Pristina and the Albania schools have been closed. Repression is the order of the day.

Is the next step of Serbian ethnic cleansing to be carried out in Kosovo? The passions of greater Serbia could be fired by the emotions of the ancient battle of Kosovo, so emotive in Serbian folklore. The tolerance of the Albanians in Kosovo could break into violent revolt, which would make what we have seen in Bosnia look like a kindergarten.

Vojvodina, the other autonomous province within Serbia, has also been abolished and it has large minorities –18 per cent. of the people are Hungarians. Macedonia, as yet unrecognised, is 65 per cent. populated by people akin to Bulgarians, and 21 per cent. are Albanians. Events there could provoke Greece and Bulgaria. Events in Vojvodina could provoke Hungary. A trail of minorities, like a powder train, stretches from the Balkans across Europe: Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia, Slovaks in Hungary, Sudetenland exiles in Bavaria looking to the new Czech republic, Silesians in Poland rediscovering their German roots, Poles in Lithuania—so one could go on.

We must do all we can to back up the Vance-Owen plan to find a settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is the start of the train of powder. It would be quite credible to cantonise Bosnia and Herzegovina. The origins of the Swiss confederation were to find a stable settlement between three communities there with roots in adjacent lands, and the record of Switzerland shows what can be achieved.

If we do not want the powder train across Europe to be ignited, as it was in 1914, we must give every support to a United Nations led and multinationally staffed back-up to a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It should not rely on the United Kingdom alone or even on a United Kingdom lead. We must show off the effectiveness of the foreign affairs pillar of the European Community which has been boasted of lately in the House. We must use the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and western European countries must put their forces where their mouths are. If, because of their 20th century history, Germany and Italy cannot intervene with us in Bosnia-Herzegovina, they must put up the money—as, indeed, the Germans did in the Gulf. If necessary, we must keep the peace and even make the peace.


Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

In his opening remarks, the Foreign Secretary prompted us with the question, to what extent should we take part in peacekeeping? I believe that we should take part wholeheartedly and without hesitation, not only because it would be a gesture of leadership from a country which should be proud of the professionalism of its armed forces but because we have the finest tradition of leadership. I for one should be disappointed if ever we fell down in that respect.

I appreciate the Foreign Secretary's saying that Great Britain would assist in a United Nations peacekeeping force in the event of a ceasefire and a peace agreement. I also welcome the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence recognised the possibility that Britain would contribute a force to NATO under a United Nations cap.

I must stress that duty begins at home. Whatever commitments we take on overseas, it is important that we do not do so at the expense of our important commitment in Northern Ireland, which must be our priority. It would be a tragedy if the Irish Republican Army misunderstood our determination to ensure that its violence never pays.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallingford (Mr. Forman) rightly mentioned our priorities. After our priorities at home must come those in Europe. I have absolutely no doubt that our moral responsibility lies within the European boundaries, so Bosnia must be top of the list. I place on record my enormous appreciation not only of the Cheshires and their fantastic work with the humanitarian convoys but of the less heralded Royal Irish Regiment. How often do people remember to thank them? There is also a special interest in my constituency, because 150 Crown agents have been sent out by the Overseas Development Administration to help with the convoys.

As we speak today, the bombardment continues in Bosnia. I heard this morning that the heavy artillery attacks on Tesanj, Gorazde, Cazin and Miljanovci continue unstinted. I hope that those dreadful events will be a spur to the peace talks.

As we are now discussing peace talks and something is likely to happen, the time has come to think ahead. I welcome the initiatives by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance. Their plan for 10 cantons is not perfect, but we should encourage them to fight on to achieve the right mix and the best possible fair deal for everyone.

A peace agreement will lead to peacekeeping, but how will we keep the guns silent? That brings us to peacemaking. Forcing sniping warlords into demilitarisation will call for a considerable United Nations force which must be as broad, wide and deep as possible. It is not simply a United Kingdom responsibility; it is absolutely right that the Government should insist that the burden must be shared, and not simply with those who have already accepted their responsibilities. I welcome the fact that the Americans are now wholeheartedly joining in the planning and will be making a contribution.

It is also significant that we are now discussing the problem with the Russians. A multinational force is essential to gain the confidence of all parties. Many people will not find the Russians acceptable as they are working too closely for comfort with the Serbs; none the less, the balance has to be struck. I particularly welcome the trip by Reg Bartholomew, the United States special envoy to Moscow. Let us consider for a moment the implications of a Russian contribution.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

Will the hon. Lady explain what she means by the term "Russians"? She has now used it twice and it needs some clarification in the context of the debate.

Lady Olga Maitland

When I refer to the Russians, I refer particularly to the state of Russia and not to the Commonwealth of Independent States. I am not trying to embrace all the republics of the former Soviet Union. A contribution from the Russians would be significant, as it would be the first time that that country had co-operated with NATO. It could be attractive to Moscow and it is for the west to make it politically attractive. We must make it abundantly clear to Mr. Yeltsin that he has more to gain from the good will of the west than anything he could achieve by encouraging Milosevic.

We are well aware that there is a natural kinship between the two countries; they are Slays and they share the same Orthodox Church. However, it is important that we ensure that Milosevic, who is the inspirator of this murderous performance in Bosnia, should be politically isolated and made as uncomfortable as possible. Indeed, sanctions should be brought to bear which will cripple his style and standing in his own country. I was in Belgrade just before Christmas as one of the official observers for the election, and he was defiant to the core.

We must push forward and encourage those within the country of Yugoslavia who support a proper peace process. Next week, the former Yugoslav Prime Minister, Milan Panic, will be in London. We should listen to what he has to say. Meanwhile, it is important to enforce sanctions with the greatest energy. I congratulate the Government on drafting new proposals, suggesting the closure of all rail and road links and the enforcement of no-fly zones. In those matters, Russia would have to back the United Nations resolutions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber) drew attention to concerns about bringing Russians into a peacekeeping force. They are not experienced. We have plenty of evidence, as shown in The Sunday Times, that their behaviour has been militarily atrocious. Therefore, we need to consider carefully what role they should have. Where is the practical place to put them? Under whom should they serve? Should they work on the ground or in the air? Should they work alongside the Serbs whom they have been encouraging?

I should like to continue my comments, but it is time to finish. Britain has a duty to show real leadership. We are proud of our record and of the fact that we have had successful humanitarian convoys. I hope that they will continue undaunted.

9.20 pm
Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

It is traditional to say in one's reply that the debate has been interesting and wide-ranging, but indeed this debate has been. It has also gone beyond that. There has been common concern throughout the House about the problems that face our continent and the world. Perhaps the debate has been a small but troubled oasis in the normal frenzy of political activity which characterises our rumbustious but perhaps enriching political debate. Certainly it makes a change after last night.

The unity on deep troubles and serious problems shows the willingness of hon. Members in all parts of the House to try to come to terms not just with describing the problems but with finding solutions. We have to consider peacekeeping in its widest sense and not just in the clinical sense used in the military context. On peacekeeping, we were right to focus most attention on the United Nations. With its belatedly renewed prominence, the United Nations is the last great hope of us all for something better in future.

The Foreign Secretary entitled his talk recently at Chatham house "The new disorder". That description is unfortunately all too true of events in the world today. Despite that description, and despite the eloquent emphasis by many hon. Members in the debate, the United Nations is the only hope we have. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) spoke with considerable passion about the new role which the United Nations could and must have.

If the United Nations is to fulfil all the hopes and expectations of so many hon. Members and people outside the House, it will need the money, the physical resources and the personnel to put behind its policies. It will require the political will of all who participate in it. All those are preconditions for a renewed United Nations which might give hope to us all.

At the end of his speech, the Foreign Secretary referred to preventive diplomacy. Perhaps there was a hint of self-interest in his flying the flag for the Foreign Office, in what is probably a bitter and animated debate taking place inside Government as we talk—the traditional battle between Ministries and the Treasury. The Foreign Secretary has our strong support in the fight that he may be putting up—if that comes as any reassurance. If he wants to tell me that an attack would be better, I will be happy to write to the Chancellor. I will do anything to ensure that the message gets through.

The Foreign Secretary said that it is much cheaper to pay for an ambassador than for an infantry battalion, much cheaper to pay for ambassadors for a dozen embassies than for one aeroplane, and he said how much more good it does. His remarks are valuable, and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who was formerly a member of the diplomatic service, also said that preventive diplomacy is important. This is the last time that this or any other country should even dream of cutting back on the people who are engaged in the process that may well prevent conflicts from starting, and who ensure that, when they start, they do not spread beyond the immediate boundaries.

The Foreign Office is facing cuts, and while they will not be severe this year, according to press statements, they will be in the following two years. They will not merely mean dashing the Foreign Office's ambitions to open new embassasies and missions in the new republics of the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, but will probably lead to cuts in British representation abroad, for example in the activities of that eminent organisation, the British Council —I must declare an interest as its vice-chairman—whose role in cultural and educational diplomacy is both considerable and valuable. Such cuts should not be contemplated.

The cuts may well lead to reductions in world radio and television services—by any standards, the best broadcasting on the planet. It would be madness if the Treasury got away with any ambition to do that.

Sir Michael Marshall

The hon. Gentleman may be aware that an Albanian parliamentary delegation is visiting the House today. They have told us that many people have risked 10 years imprisonment and the confiscation of their entire property to listen to BBC radio World Service.

Mr. Robertson

That is a welcome intervention, and I know that those on the Treasury Bench listened with sympathy, but the message must get home to those inside the Treasury. If we do not invest properly in diplomacy, it will be infinitely more expensive to this nation and to the world.

Perhaps I have been the Shadow Front-Bench spokesman on foreign affairs for too long. It has been 11 years, and in my museum of the Foreign Office I have seen two European treaties and four wars with British involvement, and 24 Ministers have come and gone, including five Foreign Secretaries. During that time, I have come to recognise the quality and sheer professionalism of the British foreign service. I have no doubt that its contribution to making the world safer and better has been incalculable but fundamental, and we must bear that in mind.

I must deal with reactiveness. I was recently asked whether we envisaged that British troops would be deployed in a peacekeeping role during the next two or three years in Nagorno-Karabakh, Tadzhikistan, Moldova or Georgia. It seems fanciful this evening for us even to consider that possibility. The majority of people do not know where those places are. The majority of hon. Members, including me, cannot spell the names of most of those countries.

Yet it is always worth remembering that there are now 2,800 British troops, as the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, bravely engaged in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Eighteen months ago, there was no such country as Bosnia-Herzegovina. We now face a world that is moving so fast that we are deploying troops in a country that only a short time ago had no formal existence. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) and the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) rightly paid tribute to the role played by British troops in the area—an invaluable role, given their skill and professionalism.

We, as the politicians in charge of the policy making, must think now precisely whose agenda will dictate where deployments will be made. Will the agenda be fixed by the policy-makers elected by the people or by the television cameras and the possibility of their entering areas? The possibility of facing the threat of pax Americana now that the cold war has finished is replaced by the threat of pax television camera.

The world expects that we can solve the problems easily, and if television pictures appear in somebody's front room and the media say, "Do something," there is an automatic belief that we can send our soldiers, our sailors and our airmen to far corners of the world and relieve the suffering that we have seen on our television screens.

Bosnia is at the front of our minds and at the front of the images that we have. It has rightly dominated many of the powerful contributions this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) made a powerful plea on behalf of the ordinary civilian population affected by events in that country today, where the level of bestiality seems to reach worse levels with every day that passes.

Yet we still believe that there is hope for the future. The Vance-Owen plan is not ideal, and it is sometimes not remotely ideal, but it is the only plan there is and the only hope there is. It must therefore have our support. I expressed some reservations last year about Lord Owen being chosen as the European Community's envoy to the former Yugoslavia. I was a close associate of his before he departed to wreak havoc on the British domestic political scene. However, I now believe that he will have made a commendable contribution to achieving peace, if it is eventually achieved in Bosnia. Parliament and the nation should be profoundly grateful to him and to Cyrus Vance for their efforts in the area.

I am glad that the Foreign Secretary announced this evening that the sanctions against Serbia have been toughened up. To break the cross-party consensus for a moment, I think that we should all share guilt about the fact that sanctions were not implemented with vigour, with enthusiasm and with the political will that was demanded when they were introduced last June. Even if only one man will now be responsible for the sanctions, that sounds slightly better than the previous system. The process towards war crimes tribunals must be welcomed. In itself, it may be an inhibition on some of the wilder and nastier excesses that some individuals seem to believe are legitimised by war in the area.

The problems in the world today are very different from the problems faced by previous generations. They are very different from the problems that faced the world only a few years ago. That change demands of us the imagination to see what the different and new solutions to the problems must be.

It is no use to be nostalgic for the time, only a few years ago, when we faced a vast, but almost completely predictable, military force on the other side of our continent. That force could be measured and analysed indefinitely, and it largely acted in a way that was manageable, even if it was dangerous.

We live in a world in which the problems are severe and complex. They do not involve a military challenge, but they involve refugees in increasingly larger numbers. There is the problem of migrations of whole populations across national boundaries with the huge problems that result for those countries which must then act as hosts. Problems come from minorities in the countries of our continent and beyond, and from the environmental disasters which have been stored up for many years.

Those problems demand new institutions when necessary. They will involve new training institutions, as well as military and security institutions, because trade will be one of the ways in which we will institute stability in many of the troubled parts of the world.

If we want to talk about peacekeeping, we should remember that economic deprivation is at the root of so many of the problems and troubles which are occuring in countries. Therefore, economic security is one way in which we can route the democracy of those countries and ensure our security in the rest of the continent.

Peacekeeping means newly reinforcing old institutions. It means giving life to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and making it work well. It means seeing what new role NATO can play. NATO exists, so it has a value beyond the simple institutions which it represents today. Therefore, its new role must be developed to encompass its wider responsibilities beyond the military role which it had previously.

Peacekeeping involves adopting new techniques, as the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) said. It involves examining sanctions as an instrument which might be implemented quickly, effectively and toughly, so that perhaps we can stop some of the conflicts before they get out of control.

It involves using techniques of conflict resolution. Many people who live in Northern Ireland have experience of conflict resolution and containment which might usefully be exported to other parts of the continent. It involves informal links and new informal diplomacies, which might produce results. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) and the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union said, peacekeeping means using our parliamentary experience perhaps to export some of our specific pluralistic strengths.

All the time, peacekeeping means new priorities for the world in curbing arms sales. The sale of arms is part of the problem which we face today. In my post this afternoon, I received a copy of the Defence News. It is a worldwide weekly which is sent to many of us and which is extremely interesting. The chilling headline on the front page is: "Iran seeks to join arms export club". What sort of lunatic world are we engaged in when that becomes the headline?

In our search for new priorities, we must re-examine nuclear proliferation and how the rules on that might be toughened up. We must establish, police and move forward on new environmental standards for the world, so that individual countries will never again be allowed to store up their problems in a world in which airborne pollution means that no country can be sovereign in protecting its environmental space.

In the new world order, the development of human rights must not be simply a slogan for one country against another, or one blow-up against another. It must be something rooted in international law, so that we can no longer say that another country's problems and the people in those countries are not our problems. We are all part of this planet. If we have the opportunity to escape from the freeze box of the past, the monitoring of human rights and an active human rights policy must be at the heart of it.

This debate, all too brief and all too rare, has highlighted a wide range of serious problems that face us today in Europe and way beyond our continent as well, and the concern that is felt by so many hon. Members about all that is happening. I believe passionately that the changes of 1989 and 1990, the collapse of communism and the end of a wasteful, divisive and dangerous cold war, were genuinely welcome developments. They may have thrown up new evils and new uncertainties, but I for one have absolutely no nostalgia for the so-called certainties which, in turn, enslaved millions of human beings so close to our own country in this continent.

We now have to rise to the challenges and to the questions posed by the world today, just as those in the communist world will eventually rise to the challenges that face them in their countries. If we do, and if we have the will to deploy sufficient resources, imagination and political will, the new world disorder that we see at the moment will be a mere temporary phase in the long course of world history.

9.40 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

As is right and as was to be expected, the debate has covered a great deal of ground. Some 27 or 28 hon. Members have spoken and a score or so issues have been addressed and, as the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said, there has been general agreement on many of them.

I recognise as I start that I shall not be able to respond to all the individual points that have been made and I apologise for that in advance. I should like to identify the three main themes that have been spoken to in the debate and to deliver my response within that framework. Those themes should be and are the United Nations, the events in what was Yugoslavia and the middle east.

The United Nations has been the subject of perhaps the greatest discussion in the debate. The role of the United Nations, as has been emphasised by almost every hon. Member who has spoken to the issue, has developed enormously during the past five years, and for that there are three or four reasons.

Those reasons include the collapse of the former Soviet Union; the fact that the Russian Government are willing to play a constructive role within the Security Council; the success of the Security Council in the context of the Gulf war; and the fact that there is a virtually universal recognition that only the United Nations—though sometimes regional organisations as appropriate—can tackle the crises and wars that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) properly remarked, are beamed into our homes by television and radio.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) on the importance of underpinning action with a moral basis. Force which is disengaged from a moral basis is unsustainable and wrong. By that he means, and by that I mean, that, when the members of the United Nations act in a forcible manner, either they should do so within and under the authority of the United Nations or that which they do should be authorised by the principles of international law.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Hogg

No, I am afraid that I will not at this stage.

I come first to the question of peacekeeping. It is clear that peacekeeping will now play an important part in the career of a typical British soldier. That is inevitable, although it was not true a few years ago. But we need to be cautious about it and there are a number of principles to which we should adhere.

The first and perhaps the most important point is that the British Government's responsibility for the safety and security of British service men serving in a peacekeeping role is as great when they serve under the authority of the United Nations as it is when they serve under the direct authority of the British Government or the generals who command. Because of that, when we talk about peacekeeping we must hold to certain principles that were touched on by a number of right hon. and hon. Members —including the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), my right hon. Friends the Members for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) and for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie), and my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Sir M. Marshall).

First, one cannot make peace by force. To use the phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Ghertsey and Walton, one cannot insert oneself between warring factions. I entirely agree with that. Moreover, there must be a sustainable ceasefire to keep, and clearly definable political objectives. Those will usually be identified by the existence of an agreement to which parties are genuinely adhering.

Secondly, there must be an effective control and command mechanism. The quality of troops deployed alongside British peacekeepers must be of high quality. I take to heart the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell)—that humanitarian missions can often lead to something more substantial.

For those reasons, in many cases it would be right for peacekeeping forces to be deployed by regional defensive organisations acting under the authority of the United Nations. There may be many circumstances in which it would be right for control and command to be vested in NATO. That may be so, for example, in the former Yugoslavia. I can conceive of circumstances in the former Soviet Union in which that role should be performed by CIS forces.

Incidentally, I agree very much with my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington that one cannot expect to participate in each and every peacekeeping force. We are the second largest contributor, but we must not suppose that we are under an obligation to participate in every peacekeeping force that may be mounted.

There has been much discussion, rightly, about the virtues of preventive diplomacy. Clearly, that approach will be built on steadily. We see examples of that already —such as the deployment of United Nations troops in Macedonia, and the increasingly important work of regional organisations. I have in mind the work undertaken by the conference on security and cooperation in Europe—a regional organisation. The CSCE is already heavily engaged in the former Yugoslavia, with observer teams in Kosovo to be reinforced and teams in Sandjak and Vojvodina, then Georgia and Estonia. There is also the work being done by the CSCE to promote peace talks in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In passing, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) for the commitment that he has given in Nagorno-Karabakh, along with my noble Friend, Lady Cox. I strongly support the proposition that my hon. Friend brought forward in the Council of Europe.

There has been much discussion, again rightly, abut the reform of the Security Council. If my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington will forgive me, I do not agree with his basic proposition—which he admitted was heretical—to the effect that the United Kingdom should cede its permanency.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made the point that we do not want in any sense to stand in the way of debate, nor could we. He reminded the House—and others through the House, I hope—that a number of principles must be observed. First, it would be perverse to damage the functioning of the Security Council at a moment when, for the very first time, it is beginning to operate in the way that those who created it hoped that it would.

Any reform must surely take account of a number of principles. First, the Security Council's size must be manageable. Its present size is manageable—but if it were greatly expanded, it would not be manageable. Secondly, one cannot have as permanent Security Council members countries whose constitutions preclude them performing the essential functions of membership. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford drew attention to the difficulties faced by Japan and Germany.

Nor could one expand the Security Council's membership by those two countries and expect that discussion to come to an end, because that is not realistic. Countries should proceed slowly and cautiously, and ensure that all member nations that are part of the Security Council's permanent composition are able to perform the essential functions that are expected of permanent membership.

Mr. Wells

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Hogg

I do not think that my hon. Friend has been present for the debate. If he will forgive me, I will not give way.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale mentioned sanctions. He is entirely right to say that they are an important element in the arsenal the United Nations—one that I hope we shall develop further. Let me say in passing that we are learning more about the implementation of sanctions, and about how to make them effective, as we use the policy more and more.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I say that I do not entirely agree with his criticisms of the way in which sanctions have operated in what was Yugoslavia. It is true—my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made the point—that, fairly recently, oil supplies got through to Serbia, and that is deeply regrettable; but it is also true that, if the oil part of the Serbian economy is excluded, considerable damage has been done to that economy by the policy of sanctions.

If we proceed no further in our talks in Geneva and New York, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) rightly observed, there will be a policy of tightening sanctions yet further—if necessary, by a further resolution, which could have the effect of sealing the frontiers of Serbia-Montenegro and preventing all traffic from passing up and down the Danube.

We need to keep two points in mind. First, sanctions will not work unless the states involved implement them, and the riparian states must be told that they have a moral, legal and international duty to implement them. Secondly, there may be a cost. The rest of us must be constructive and imaginative in considering how we can best help, for example, riparian states that are genuinely implementing sanctions. Sometimes, as in the case of the Gulf war, it may be appropriate to establish a particular fund; on other occasions, it may be appropriate to tell the international financial institutions that it is important to take account of that loss when formulating programme assistance.

Mr. Dalyell

What is the Minister's comment on the hard statistics that I gave about the effect of sanctions on the health of children in Iraq?

Mr. Hogg

If time permits, I shall deal with that point, because it is a fair point and needs to be answered. First, however, I wish to discuss Yugoslavia.

There has been considerable agreement this evening. It has been agreed, for instance, that we must face the grim fact that there are no wholly innocent victims among those responsible for policy in the former Yugoslavia. That innocent victims exist can be seen only too clearly, but those on all sides who are driving policy forward have a responsibility. True, the Serbs are primarily responsible; but, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber), the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and others, the Croats and Muslims have also committed crimes.

We are almost all agreed that the conflict in Bosnia bears all the hallmarks of a civil war. It is primarily a civil war, although it is aided and abetted by participants from outside, mainly Serbia. There is general acceptance, too, that it is impossible to enforce by external force a settlement of a civil war; that must be done by agreement. That is why there has been general support for the main pillars of our policy—the attempt to provide humanitarian supplies, using military force in a way that is known to the House; the lending of strong support to the Vance-Owen plan; and the application of pressure through sanctions.

As many hon. Members have said, it is terribly important that when we pursue that policy—particularly when we talk about the use of military force in any way —we are careful not to prejudice or imperil the humanitarian efforts that are saving tens of thousands of people. It would be perverse in the extreme if any military or quasi-military action destroyed that humanitarian effort: we must guard strongly against such an eventuality.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury and many other hon. Members have asked what will happen if Lord Owen or Cyrus Vance comes forward and says, "An agreement has been struck by all the parties, and we want to have it underpinned by a peacekeeping force.". That question may very well be put to Her Majesty's Government. As it is hypothetical, I cannot answer it in a clear way. However, from the reservations that have been expressed during this debate and on previous occasions, I know that the Government will be subjected to very searching questions.

Those questions are likely to include the following. Is there a genuine agreement to which the parties are genuinely committed? Is there a sustainable ceasefire that will hold? Who is participating? Will the United States contribute substantial ground forces? Will the Russians commit quality troops? Who will be responsible for command and control? Will it be NATO? If it is NATO, will there be a substantial contribution by other member states? I feel certain that questions of that type will be asked and that, if we cannot respond satisfactorily to them, there will be no political support for participation by British troops in a peacekeeping role.

If there is sufficient time I shall deal with the matter of Macedonia and Albania, but I should like to come now to the question of the middle east. I shall begin by saying something about the peace process. The most urgent objective of us all must be to get the peace process under way again. Therefore, the visit of Secretary Christopher is of extreme importance, and I hope that he will be able to persuade all the participants of the need to get down to talks.

The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) emphasised, and I accept, that the Israeli Government's decision to deport the 415 people into south Lebanon is a serious obstacle to the peace process. We supported Security Council resolution 799, and we have made repeated representations to the Israeli Government that they should comply with it. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made the point that what has been done is a useful first step, but he said also that it is but a first step, that we seek compliance.

I go further. The Israeli Government say that they hope that the absence of full compliance will not stand in the way of further talks. I hope that there will be further talks, but I say to the Israeli Government that, even if there are further talks, lack of compliance with Security Council resolution 799 will result in their being conducted in such a frigid atmosphere as to make progress difficult. Therefore, I hope very much that Prime Minister Rabin will feel able to comply fully with that resolution.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) mentioned Iraq. First, we must be clear about the fact that the Government of Iraq under Saddam Hussein have failed, in a number of very important respects, to comply with the resolutions of the Security Council or with their mandatory elements. For a start, he has not returned the Kuwaiti detainees. Secondly, he has not co-operated fully in the identification and destruction of his weapons of mass destruction. Thirdly, he is abusing his own population in a number of disgraceful and lamentable ways. This is non-compliance on a very large scale. The policy of Her Majesty's Government and of the Security Council is to hold to the sanctions until there has been full compliance.

I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow about the suffering in Iraq, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not present the full picture. I hope he will forgive me for reminding him of several elements. The sanctions regime now in place does not cover food, it does not cover medicines, nor does it cover those goods that are certified humanitarian.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow will come back and ask me about money. Here is my rejoinder. Security Council resolutions 706 and 712 enable Saddam Hussein to sell oil for the purposes of raising money for precisely the needs that the hon. Gentleman has identified. Saddam Hussein has chosen not to do it, and that is the problem which he and we face. For that reason I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the policy of adhering to sanctions until there has been full compliance will be maintained.

It being Ten o'clock the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.