§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
I apologise to the House because I have to leave before the debate concludes as I have commitments in the north that would be hard to break.
In following the international news, all right hon. and hon. Members face the difficulty that the kaleidoscope shifts week by week and we are asked to make decisions and, in some cases, comment on each fresh turn of events in a disordered world. Governments in particular are asked daily to condemn actions or promise remedies and are themselves condemned if they hold back for a day or two.
Compared to other countries, because of our parliamentary system, British Ministers must declare their hands almost daily and are thus almost more exposed than most. Words come back to haunt us if we cannot live up to the promise that they contain. We must be able to deliver what we undertake and not to undertake what we cannot deliver. On the Conservative Benches, we have tried to follow that principle. It produces some modest and hard-fought advances and it means that we try to avoid posturing and rhetoric. It means that we are cautious in setting our hand to any enterprise, but, when we do so, we seek to carry it forward with full energy with our friends and allies. I shall give a range of examples across the world. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) would chide me for leaving out important issues, although he would probably chide me anyway. I shall do my best to cover matters that are of interest to the House.
I turn first to the middle east. We have worked quietly for many years for dialogue in the middle east, especially between Israel and her neighbours. The Americans have worked strenuously in recent times. When, earlier this year, the Israelis and the Palestinians achieved their breakthrough in negotiations, it was certainly a blow against pessimism everywhere. That breakthrough must now be followed through.
There is progress in the discussions between Israel and Jordan. However, the peace will not be complete and will not last without a successful outcome to all the strands of negotiation, including those with Syria and with Lebanon. 115 I believe that the parties want to reach a settlement. It is clear that delay is damaging, and I hope that the opportunities will be seized before they drain away.
In recent years, Britain's role has deliberately been patient and supportive. We stood back once we were convinced that the Americans were serious about the peace process. Now that the deadlock has been broken, our involvement can go into a rather different gear. We are talking more visibly now to those involved in the negotiations and we are encouraging them towards a comprehensive settlement.
As the House knows, I went to Syria last month. My talks with President Assad and Foreign Minister Shara'a were helpful. Next month, Mr. Arafat and the Prime Minister of Lebanon will come here. I hope to visit Israel, Jordan and the occupied territories in January. The European Community has pledged substantial financial help for the process—about £69 million this year and a further package of support over the next five years. The Government are looking at ways in which to help the Palestinians to set up the institutions of self-government.
Elsewhere in the middle east, the going is harder. The House broadly supports our policy towards Iraq; I need not go into it in detail. We will not relax the pressure on Iraq unless it complies fully with all the Security Council resolutions. The Security Council is reviewing sanctions again today and I believe that it will, once again, determine that the circumstances do not exist in which sanctions can be lifted. We are, for example, following carefully the United Nations investigations into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi regime in the southern marshes.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
Why is it taking so long for the west to establish whether chemical weapons have been used against the Shia Muslims in the marshes? What are our intelligence services doing? What are people in the United Nations doing if we are unable to verify, several weeks after the allegations were first made, whether Saddam Hussein has once again used horrendous weapons against his own people?
§ Mr. Hurd
I have every sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's point. As he has raised it, I will try to ensure that the examination is concluded as soon as possible. It must, of course, be thorough if it is to be persuasive. It is not a job which can be rushed simply because of a timetable. Whether the allegations are true or not, the situation in the marshes is especially horrifying. The Prince of Wales has pointed that out and my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) has been tireless in bringing the plight of the marsh Arabs to the world's attention.
§ Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm to the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that although I and my group have knowledge of two victims in the marshes, samples from the victims' bodies are required by the chemical weapons team. If we release information about where the victims are, they will be killed immediately.
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend points out some of the real difficulties. She may catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker. She and others would like us to act in the south as we did in the north, by creating safe havens. I ask the 116 House to accept that the situation is very different. In the north, there was a momentary vacuum as Saddam Hussein had withdrawn his troops. We were able to move in and to give some help to the Kurds. No such situation exists in the south, so the military and practical hazards of such an operation would be great.
What we can do we must do well. We shall continue to maintain the no-fly zone over southern Iraq which was set up in August 1992 to monitor Saddam Hussein's activities. We continue to help the organisations that work in the area. We shall continue, as the House is doing this morning, to keep up the pressure on this tragic subject.
Three British prisoners are being held in Baghdad. They have been given grotesque sentences for technical offences; if there were offences, they were minor and technical. I have no doubt that they are being held for a political purpose and their plight, like that of the marsh Arabs, reminds us of the realities behind the somewhat softer words used by spokesmen of the Iraqi regime in New York.
Another longer-standing dispute, which is of great interest to many hon. Members, is the dispute in Cyprus. The Commonwealth summit was held there this month and, while I was there, I gave lunch to the leaders of both communities, President Clerides and Mr. Denktash. The two leaders studied together and were part of the Cypriot legal fraternity under colonial rule. They belong to a generation for whom the division of the island is a personal as well as a political tragedy. Over that meal in the Ledra Palace hotel, I felt that the two men understood each other well. I found some cause for hope there, but not hope that will last indefinitely.
We have a particular interest and a particular role there, not just because of the sovereign base areas, although they are important, but because we are one of the guarantor powers in Cyprus. We must press ahead towards a solution while the present generation of Cypriot leaders remain in office. It gets harder each year to find people who have a history of working together, and that is true of both communities. We must do all that we can to secure the intercommunal dialogue when it starts again after the elections in northern Cyprus on 12 December.
A particular responsibility at this time rests on the Government of Turkey. They have accepted the Secretary-General's proposal for confidence-building measures, including the reopening of Varosha. However, the Turkish Cypriot authorities have so far refused. We are friends of Turkey. We have gone out of our way in the past year repeatedly to ensure that Turkey's importance is understood and that its views on international matters are heard and heeded. I hope that from that background, the Turkish Government will accept our sincerity and our good sense when we urge them now to use all their influence on the Turkish Cypriots to bring about agreement, first on confidence-building mesures, including Varosha, and then on an ultimate agreement in Cyprus.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
The Foreign Secretary knows from our correspondence on the issue of the difficulties arising during the annual general meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference which was held recently in Cyprus, and of the concern expressed over the comments made by the Minister for Overseas Development. He also knows of the concern shared by all political parties, including those that make up the coalition Government in Cyprus, about the role of British representatives in Cyprus. 117 Will the Foreign Secretary clarify not only for the House, but for the large Cypriot community in this country, for the political parties in Cyprus and for the Cypriot people exactly what Britain is committed to? Is Britain committed to the Secretary-General's confidence-building measures and to the United Nations Security Council resolutions, or to something else?
§ Mr. Hurd
The record shows clearly that we support the Secretary-General's set of ideas, which we believe is the basis for an eventual full settlement, and, meanwhile, the confidence-building measures that he has proposed. That has been made abundantly clear many times by myself, by the Prime Minister and by others during the Commonwealth summit, during the Queen's visit before that and repeatedly afterwards. I do not think that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus are in any doubt about that. We believe in one country, one Cyprus, one Government, two communities.
I now turn to the situation in Russia. Our support for President Yeltsin is support for Yeltsin the reformer. He has asked us to send observers to the election in Russia on 15 December. We have agreed and a British team will travel there next month. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) for agreeing to chair the group and to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) who will be deputy chair. Other hon. Members from both sides of the House will take part. We are supporting the preparations for the elections. Two senior BBC editors and producers, experienced in covering elections, have just come back from an advisory visit to Moscow. The Government have launched the £500,000 British Programme for Democracy under the know-how fund to support the institutions which will emerge after the elections, particularly the new Parliament.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
Did the BBC and Government report about what is going on in Russia have anything to say about the overwhelming Government control of the media there, and the lack of access for Opposition parties to the television and printed media? Surely such access is a precursor to a fair and democratic election.
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman might be consistent on this matter, but the degree of liberality and openness of comment in publications in Russia is very great. It never ceases to amaze people who, only a few years ago, lived under a very different system. One can always produce examples of where it has not gone far enough, but the extent to which it has gone is remarkable.
I believe that the know-how fund is making a real difference to the process of reform, both in Russia and more widely. A few days ago, I met some of those in the private sector who are helping to make the fund work, in order to find out how they thought it was going. They were certainly enthusiastic about it. I take pride, for example, in the bread project. It sounds a simple thing, but, under the know-how fund, Sainsburys, Tesco and Marks and Spencer have helped the Russians to establish the necessary links that we take for granted—between the farmer who grows the grain, the person who transports it, the wholesaler, the baker and the retailer. That reflects the demands of the customers, and means that Moscow now has a better supply and greater choice of bread in the shops.
One of the regional governors in Russia, commenting on the know-how fund, said: 118Many people come here and talk a lot, but do little; the know-how fund talks little but does a lot.I am content with that as a verdict.
The European Union, using the common foreign security part of the Maastricht treaty, will be taking part in monitoring the elections in Russia. That makes sense, and is one example of the point that we often discussed during the debate on the Maastricht Bill. Where there is no need for a common policy, or where agreement cannot be reached among the 12, we will act independently. Where agreement can be reached, as in the business of helping the elections in Russia, it makes sense to act together and we will do so. We will seek to make our joint actions successful and effective.
The former Yugoslavia is an area where co-ordinated action is necessary. Since the situation in Bosnia was last debated in the House, the prospects for a peace settlement have receded. We have to continue the double effort of the peace process and the humanitarian task, and past disappointments do not excuse us from persevering.
The responsibility for ending the fighting lies with those doing it. Outsiders can help bring the leaders together, and produce ideas for a settlement; outsiders can help keep Bosnians alive, which is what we, the French and others are doing; but only the Bosnian communities can end the war.
The Foreign Ministers of the European Union will meet again in Luxembourg on Monday, with David Owen and General Cot to consider ways of restarting the Bosnian political process. We are working to develop the ideas of David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg for discussion at that meeting, and we are in close touch with the Americans, but, without a political settlement, there is a real risk of a humanitarian disaster this winter.
§ Mr. Hurd
Let me get on a bit, and then I will give way to my hon. Friend.
We have helped to staunch the wounds. British troops have escorted more than 1,500 convoys and got 70,000 tonnes of aid through; the RAF Hercules airlift to Sarajevo has brought in nearly 12,000 tonnes of aid; and Britain has contributed over £150 million in aid, half bilaterally and half through the European Community.
We must try to keep open the roads that carry that aid. I have a detailed account, but I will spare the House the details. In particular, we want to open up the route between Metkovic and Split into central Bosnia, which is the area where our forces are operating. I will now give way to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Jenkin
Can I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Belgian presidency conclusions? The European Council, after its meeting at the end of October, issued guidelines to the Council of Ministers. On implementation, those guidelines could form the first part of the legal process, under article J of the treaty on European Union, for moves towards qualified majority voting or majority voting. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be no move towards majority voting on foreign policy issues with regard to Bosnia without a further vote in the House?
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend surprises me. We are talking about what is happening in Bosnia and what we can do to help. My hon. Friend is on a very arid point. There 119 is no suggestion in the European Council conclusions of anything to do with qualified majority voting. There has been no suggestion in the Councils we have had since then that any of this should be dealt with by qualified majority voting; it simply would not be appropriate or suitable, and we would not agree to it. The circumstances in which qualified majority voting can be used are set out in the treaty. There is no suggestion that it should be applied in this case.
Getting back to the question of Bosnia, we need a big push this winter if the present political vacuum and lack of co-operation persist. The parties cannot expect the humanitarian commitment that many of us undertake to continue indefinitely. It is unrealistic to expect that the convoys and the troops escorting them can go on for ever, when we are not receiving local co-operation and when there is no progress towards a political settlement.
§ Mr. Hurd
Let me get on a bit and then I will give way to my hon. Friend.
The onus is now on the Serbs to make further territorial concessions to meet Muslim demands in the Geneva talks. As my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber) knows, Belgrade faces a bleak and sanctions-ridden winter. If a Bosnian settlement is agreed and is being implemented, those sanctions could and should be progressively lifted.
§ Mr. Faber
I am very heartened to hear what my right hon. Friend has said. When the EC Foreign Ministers meet next week, will my right hon. Friend again raise the issue of such sanctions against Croatia? Given that as many as 15,000 regular Croat army troops are currently in Bosnia, continuing to commit atrocities, apparently without punishment, under the very noses of British troops; given that British troops in Bosnia acknowledge that they are at greatest risk from Croat soldiers; and given the mindless acts of vandalism, such as the destruction of the bridge in Mostar, it seems incredible to some of us that the issue of sanctions against Croatia is still not on the negotiating table.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am not sure that introducing sanctions against Croatia would help remedy those matters. As my hon. Friend knows, the sanctions were originally introduced against Serbia and Montenegro because the Security Council believed, and we agreed, that the main responsibility for starting and sustaining the war at that time rested with the Serbs and Montenegrans. The Croats later joined in, but it does not necessarily follow that sanctions against Croatia—even if they were agreed—would bring these evils to an end. Sanctions cannot be ruled out, and President Tudjman is aware of that. Whether there could be agreement about the use of applying them at this time needs to be discussed, but a decision on that is not likely to be taken on Monday.
Turning briefly to the world economic scene, the next few weeks in the Uruguay round negotiations will be, I believe, the last few weeks. A breakthrough on market access was achieved at Tokyo in July, but it has not been translated into immediate results in Geneva. Progress has 120 been painfully slow—partly because of the nature of the negotiations; nobody wants to make concessions until the last moment.
Some of our major partners have special reasons to be cautious. The United States has waited until the voting on the North American Free Trade Agreement was completed in Congress. I congratulate the President on the success of that vote, and I hope that the United States can now give much-needed momentum to the Uruguay round and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
A successful outcome, however, will depend on more than that. It will require enormous efforts from the negotiators and brave decisions from the political leaders, including those in the European Community, between now and the deadline of 15 December. I believe, however, that the House accepts our view that we cannot afford not to reach agreement.
The best advertisement for the benefits of the free market and an open trading system is, of course, Hong Kong. It combines a clean and efficient administration with a system of values based on the rule of law: together, those factors have made Hong Kong special—in my view, unique—and successful over the years. If Hong Kong is to remain attractive to business men and investors, and to its citizens and their children, those assets must be preserved.
Our talks with China on constitutional changes in Hong Kong are not about whether there should be a growth in democracy—whether democratic arrangements should operate now and after 1997. That principle is agreed by both Governments. The argument is about whether the final round of elections to be held under British sovereignty—some will take place next year, and some in 1995—will be fair, open and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.
We have agreed with the Chinese that the content of the continuing talks should be confidential, but our approach has been persistent; we have continued to look for an agreement. It has also been flexible, within the framework laid down by—among others—the Governor of Hong Kong, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and me. I have discussed these matters with my Chinese colleague, the Chinese Foreign Minister, twice in the past four months. We are resolved to intensify our efforts in the talks, focusing first on the more easily soluble issues in a first-stage agreement. We will work strenuously for such an agreement—indeed, we are already doing so—but not at any price. We have made major moves to meet Chinese concerns. Now they know, as we do, that time is running short; we look to the Government in Peking to work with us in bridging the remaining gap.
§ Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
Does not the Foreign Secretary agree that the time for whittling away the limited democratic proposals advanced by the Governor a few months ago has come to an end? Is not there a serious danger of a complete capitulation to the Chinese position, which will undermine the morale of all who believe in progress towards greater democracy in Hong Kong—which has now been established in, for example, Taiwan? Is it not time that Parliament took a strong stand and said, "We believe in democracy worldwide, including in Hong Kong and, ultimately, China"?
§ Mr. Hurd
The arrangements for the elections in Hong Kong in 1994 and 1995 will be decided by the Legislative Council there. Before too long, the Governor will have to put proposals to the council, but it is the council which will 121 decide. We should prefer the Governor to be in a position to put proposals that had been agreed with the Chinese. We do not yet know whether that is possible, but it is clearly desirable, as it would enable those elected in 1995 to know that they will be able to serve on the "through train" through 1997.
Some time is left in which to establish whether such an agreement can be reached. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes), who follows these matters carefully, will know the guidelines that we have set ourselves—the tests of fairness, openness and acceptability. We are following those guidelines, and the Governor keeps in close touch with the Executive Council and with opinion in Hong Kong. We are following the principled line which he has laid down, and which he constantly explains and defends. The Chinese know that as well. Within weeks, we shall know whether it is possible to reach an agreement, or whether we shall have to discharge our responsibilities for 1994 and 1995 without one.
Hong Kong sits in the middle of one of the most dynamic regions in the world. The expansion and prosperity of Asia have struck everyone's imagination over the past year; that is why Asia needs to receive, arid will receive, higher priority in the Government's efforts and policies. This is partly a commercial matter. Exports to Thailand so far this year are up 43 per cent. on last year's; exports to Malaysia are up 35 per cent., and there are comparable increases in other countries in the region. It is not entirely commercial, however. The political weight of the area is growing, as this week's Seattle summit simply serves to illustrate. We in Britain—as politicians, business men and professional people—will need to pay more attention to the Asian countries in the next few years.
In India earlier this week, I saw vividly how this can work in practice. More than 100 British companies were represented in Bombay, marking the first anniversary of the Indo-British partnership initiative launched in January by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Indian Prime Minister. On Tuesday, on board the royal yacht Britannia, I watched contracts worth £500 million being signed. New business since the launch of the initiative is worth £1 billion. Two-way trade with India is already worth £2 billion a year, and has grown by 20 per cent. this year. British investment stands at £2 billion, but there is room for more.
I have cited those figures to demonstrate that there is no crisis in India—just steady progress, and the steady building up of a British position in a country that we once ruled, but which, after a time, we may have tended rather to forget. British entrepreneurship and energy, helped and encouraged by the Government, are now moving back to rebuild a strong position. We should sometimes mention such processes, which are part of the business of fortifying our position in the world.
Such encouragement of trade and investment is just as much my Department's job as is working out resolutions in the Security Council, on which we are cross-examined in the House. It is part of the underlying effort to buttress our presence, not just in Asia but elsewhere.
In building our friendship with India, we must remember the continuing dispute—indeed, tragedy—in Kashmir. Preparations are in hand for discussion between India and the new Government in Pakistan. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State 122 for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, was in Pakistan while I was in India, and we both discussed the matter. The preparations for that dialogue are as complex as ever.
I sought to set out again the three factors that we in Britain—as friends of both countries, anxious about the present position—believe are needed. They are a genuine dialogue between India and Pakistan, as envisaged more than 20 years ago in the Simla agreement; an improvement in human rights in Kashmir while the Indians look for credible Kashmiri interlocutors in the internal political process, which is clearly necessary; and a clear end to external support for violence within Kashmir. Those three principles need to be pursued. They are widely accepted; if they were implemented in practice, it would be a big step forward. We have no blueprint, but, as friends of both countries, we will do anything that we can to help.
The need for real democracy, and the importance of the rule of law, are of course abiding themes in South Africa. We warmly welcome the success of the multi-party negotiations there. The first fully democratic elections take place next April, and we hope that all political groups will participate. We plan to help with election monitoring and observation.
The difficulties are very real; watching the news night after night, we sometimes feel that the whole process is pockmarked with setbacks and difficulties. However, the underlying current is dramatic, as has been illustrated by the joint award of the Nobel peace prize to Mr. Mandela and President de Klerk. We have given every support to the transition process. As the House will recall, we pressed constantly—as did the Opposition—for the crucial first steps: the release of political prisoners, "unbanning" the ANC and starting the process of negotiation. We have kept an open door here to all the main participants in the negotiations. For seven years, we have provided training and practical support for community leaders, and for many who will help to run the new South Africa. We initiated the sending of observers to help to curb the awful violence.
It is a direct British interest that South Africa should come through the sometimes dark tunnel of transition safely. Our dealings with the country are returning to a healthier normality: trade missions are in progress, investment is being encouraged and a British defence attaché is now being sent back to our embassy in Pretoria. We want South Africa to become an area of prosperity and stability once more, after being a source of dissension and disturbance for too long.
It is all the more tragic that, in the same week that progress has been made in South Africa, there has been a significant step backwards in Nigeria. We deplore the decision of the Nigerian military to take back power and to dissolve all democratically elected institutions. There was a time when it seemed in a way understandable for the military to take over in countries with such problems as exist in Nigeria, Pakistan or elsewhere. However, experience has shown that that is not a way forward. It is a cul-de-sac, as Nigeria has found several times in the past.
We have consistently supported a peaceful transition to a democratic civilian government. General Abacha, the soldier in charge of Nigeria, has appealed to the international community to suspend judgment on the military takeover. That is not reasonable. We have already shown patience towards Nigeria during the past 10 years and also in recent months. We must judge the new regime by its actions, but it is clear that military rule cannot be a viable solution. I urge those who are in charge to move 123 rapidly back to an accountable, democratic, civilian Government. Measures aimed at the Nigerian military which have been in place will remain in force. We are consulting our international partners on the further steps that may be needed in response to that, backward step.
I know that hon. and right hon. Members wish to speak about our aid programme. In many of the areas to which I have referred, our efforts towards peace and stability are much more effective because they are buttressed by development aid. Last year, our aid programme was the sixth largest in the world. There are constraints on it, and not just the constraints from the public spending round that is now in course. Not the least of those is the amount of money that we are committed to contribute through the multilateral agencies. Over 20 per cent. of our aid goes through the EC and another slice goes through the United Nations and its agencies. Only 53 per cent. of our aid goes bilaterally. We are adapting to those realities.
I hope that the House will agree that British aid is now rarely spent on big infrastructure projects such as dams and power generation projects, which the international and multilateral aid organisations are often better equipped to cover. Our bilateral programme focuses increasingly on encouraging good governance and economic liberalism.
Of course, we will go on giving down-to-earth, quick, and effective help to the victims of poverty and disaster. We have just committed £10 million to help those who are in need in Angola. The third British flight in as many weeks has arrived in Luanda carrying food, tents, and blankets. Our team of 10 nurses in Angola has this week completed a programme of immunisation for children who are most at risk of disease.
I have touched only sketchily—although I have spoken for nearly 40 minutes—on some of the troubles of the world and I have set out what we are trying to achieve. We have to identify and use our assets; the primacy of our language and our broadcasters, our respected aid programme, our financial skills, our diplomatic service, and our highly professional armed forces. We shall continue to deploy those assets and to make use of those in which we are strongest to protect and advance the interests of Britain and to strengthen the alliances and international institutions on which our wealth and safety depend.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
I begin by reassuring the Foreign Secretary that, whatever else I may chide him about in the next 30 minutes, it will not be for his refusal to make a 30 or 40 minute speech of 40 one-sentence, one-line issues. The House will recognise that that would not have been a sensible way to proceed, although it would have been eminently possible given the major issues which affect the world.
We could, for example, have a whole day's debate on Hong Kong, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to discuss with the Leader of the House whether we could have a debate on that subject before the final and perhaps irrevocable steps are taken by the Governor in terms of presenting legislation in Hong Kong.
The Queen's Speech sets out the broad statement of the Government's foreign policy objectives at the beginning of the Session. It is interesting to compare and contrast 124 yesterday's Gracious Speech with the one that was made on 6 May 1992. The speeches must have come from the same disk and the same word processor.
The single but important exception is the Government's announcement that they intend to introduce legislation to place the Secret Intelligence Service and the Government communications headquarters on a statutory basis. The first two pages of the speeches 18 months ago and yesterday are virtually identical. It is opportune for us to look ahead to what will present problems and challenges to Her Majesty's Government during the current Session. It is also reasonable for us to look back to the objectives that were set out by the right hon. Gentleman 18 months ago and to measure the Government's performance in that period against those objectives.
I expect that hon. Members of all parties will welcome warmly the decision in respect of the SIS and GCHQ. The decision that they should be put on a statutory basis is long overdue. I also welcome the decision to make provision for the oversight and accountability of those organisations, as well as the Security Service, MI5. We welcome that in principle, but we will reserve judgment on the proposals for oversight and scrutiny until they have been published. We will want to examine the legislation in some detail.
I feel strongly that powers should exist in the House, perhaps under a special Committee, for such oversight and scrutiny. I want to emphasise also, although it is a slightly separate issue, that we feel strongly that the Government are long overdue in restoring the right to belong to democratic and free trade unions to the people who are employed at GCHQ.
The rest of the Queen's Speech is largely a repetition of what we heard 18 months ago. How has the Government's performance matched up to what the right hon. Gentleman said when he spoke in the similar debate on 8 May 1992? During that debate, he talked about Cyprus and Turkey, about Libya and Iraq, about the European Community, about Government policy on Hong Kong, and several other important issues.
Effective foreign policy should be based on consistency and coherence, on trust in the international community, on—inevitably—economic strength, on fairness, and on respect for countries' actions and decisions. As the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged—at least in part—it should also be based on an effective and generous overseas aid programme.
I wish to refer to Europe and the decisions made at the most recent meeting under the Belgian presidency in Brussels on 29 October this year. The right hon. Gentleman and the European Community have been involved in discussions on the situation in the former Yugoslavia for 18 months. In that time, what changes have occurred? Has progress been made? Have things improved? They have not improved in terms of the brutal conflict. I share the belief of the right hon. Gentleman in the culpability of the political leaders of all parties who have continued to fight when they have had endless opportunities to reach agreement. That view is common. The reality is that in terms of Her Majesty's Government acting on their own or together with their European partners, the situation has not improved.
The declaration on the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was issued several weeks ago now—on 29 October. That declaration, in common with other declarations made by the European Union, as it now is, and with resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council, may 125 change little: such declarations and resolutions are rarely, if ever, implemented. I do not believe that, in reality, the way in which we and our partners approach the tragedy in Bosnia is materially different now that that statement has been made. The airlift has not been stepped up. Aid has not been increased. No more troops have been made available to the United Nations force since the declaration was issued.
Today, Mr. Stoltenberg has again called for the deployment of more troops to assist the aid programme—and, as always, I commend without reservation the commitment and dedication of our own forces; that view is common to us all. Similarly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has again drawn attention to the imminent tragedy in Bosnia and has called for $80 million more to finance essential winter aid. In his speech today, the Foreign Secretary made no response to either of those requests. He did not even mention them. It should be possible for an organisation as powerful and wealthy as the European Union to do much more than it is doing.
The Foreign Secretary always accuses me of being a member of the "something must be done" club. He seems to be a member of the "something must be said" club: lots must be said, but nothing new must be done. I share the view expressed in an intervention by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber), who spoke of sanctions against Croatia. How much longer can we tolerate the aggression of Croatia without taking some action in response? I suspect that sanctions are not being imposed, not because the Foreign Secretary would not like that to be done but because he cannot persuade Chancellor Kohl that that is the appropriate action to take. Once again, therefore, we see the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany asserting his authority over policy in the Community, to the detriment of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina and to the shame of the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Hurd
One could argue the point about sanctions against Croatia, but the right hon. Gentleman's earlier point was not right. I gave facts and figures not in relation to what we are saying but in relation to what we are doing to keep people alive. We are continuing that effort. I left out of my speech a rather technical passage about roads which are closed and which we hope to open. We want to open Tuzla airport. There is a great deal of practical activity, including an agreement concluded yesterday. We shall have to see whether it works, but I should not like the right hon. Gentleman to believe that we are doing nothing. We are doing a great deal. We are doing as much as any other country, and that is a lot.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I would give the Foreign Secretary credit and say that we are doing more than many other countries, but that is not my point. I am asking what has changed. What additional activity has flowed from the declaration made in Brussels some weeks ago? There is little point in placing a high profile on common foreign and security policy and on the need to act together coherently with our partners if, in reality, nothing new happens following such discussions.
It is worth remembering the aims and objectives of a common foreign and security policy as set out in chapter 4 of the declaration:to develop active policy in pursuit of interests of the Union; unity and consistency in its external actions; inclusion of all 126 matters related to the security of the Union; decisions of the Union committing member states; unity in presentation of the Union's policy; efficiency in the decision-making procedure.Was there any discussion with the Foreign Secretary's counterpart in the Federal Republic of Germany before that country joined in intelligence discussions with the Iranians? Was that decision consistent with the aims and objectives of the common foreign and security policy of the Union? Was there any discussion about the enforcement of existing Union and United Nations decisions in the former Yugoslavia?
Can we expect an agreement on GATT to emerge as a result of the setting of those aims and objectives of the Union's common foreign and security policy? The President of the United States has seen off the protectionists in respect of the NAFTA decision. Will we be able to see off the protectionists in Europe—principally, I suspect, the French—or will Prime Minister Balladur win on that issue, too? Will one of our powerful European partners get its way once again, to the disadvantage of the rest of us—to say nothing of the other 100 or so countries around the world that are so very keen on a GATT agreement? Does the Foreign Secretary share the view of the Secretary of State for Social Security, who, in his disgraceful speech at the Conservative party conference, was so insulting about our European partners—about the Germans, the French and the Italians? Does the Foreign Secretary really think that such speeches advance the cause of co-operation and coherence in European policy?
As we all now know courtesy of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Social Security is a member of the well-know B team. As Shakespeare wrote in "King Lear",Now, gods, stand up for bastards!The Tory party conference stood up for each one of them in turn. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will stand up to them when he comes to write his party's manifesto for the European elections next year. Or perhaps that task is to be conceded to the Secretary of State for Wales, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Social Security. Who will hold the ring between them and the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), and the existing Conservative Members of the European Parliament? It will be an interesting few months as that process unfolds.
§ Dr. Cunningham
On the contrary. I am happy to debate any aspect of our manifesto—which is published, unlike those of the Conservative party and its confederates in the European People's party, many of whom are out-in-the-open federalists. We look forward to the debate in the run-up to the European parliamentary elections and will be quite happy to discuss the matter in full, because we believe that we have an excellent manifesto which seeks to address the issues of economic regeneration in Europe and the fact that Europe is heading for a disastrous unemployment figure of almost 20 million.
A few moments ago I quoted "King Lear". Perhaps a more appropriate quote is one from one of Shakespeare's sonnets;Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.127 There is a lot of festering going on in the Cabinet in relation to our attitude and approach to the European Community and consequently to the effectiveness of foreign policy in the wider world.
The Foreign Secretary touched on trade. I endorse what he said about the importance of our trading relationship with the Republic of India. I also share his views on the situation in Kashmir. We must remember, however, that Britain is running trade deficits with the 10 richest countries in the world and trade surpluses with the 10 most impoverished nations of the world. That cannot be right in terms of economic policy and it cannot be right in terms of foreign policy. We should not be running beggar-our-neighbour policies with the 10 poorest nations of the world and we should be doing much better with the more powerful economies.
That situation, sadly, is being replicated in terms of our trade with eastern Europe and Russia, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) pointed out during Question Time just a few weeks ago. Although there may be little spots of good news here and there in respect of India, our trade and our aid programmes generally are far from being matters for praise and congratulation. I very much hope that, in respect of those matters and GATT, the right hon. Gentleman will stand up for more enlightened policies, and particularly that he will not be pushed aside by the French. I hope that he will insist on meeting the deadline of 15 December for a final agreement.
In last year's autumn statement, the Government announced a small increase in the budget of the Overseas Development Administration. But the reality is that they also said that the aid budget would be frozen and that it would be frozen for the next two years. In those circumstances, the aid budget, at 0.26 per cent. of gross national product, will be frozen at its lowest ever level. Those are the stark facts of our aid budget and, however much the right hon. Gentleman seeks to gloss over them, it is another example of the Government, during the election, making a commitment in their election manifesto to the United Nations' target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP—that commitment was repeated by the Prime Minister at the Rio earth summit last year—but the reality is that, in practice, the Government have no intention of keeping those promises or meeting those commitments. The right hon. Gentleman cannot disguise those facts.
When we look at our relations with the poorest nations of the world, whether in trade, aid or other respects, we see that those relations are poor indeed. They are not only poor, but deteriorating. That does not enhance Britain's reputation in international affairs; nor does it enable us to say that we can hold up our heads as a country with the people who have the best and most enlightened trade and aid programmes. It does not do that at all, and the right hon. Gentleman, in his heart of hearts, knows that well.
If the excuse that the Foreign Secretary might advance is that money is short, why did he insist, against the advice of his accounting officer, on squandering millions on the Pergau hydro-electric project in Malaysia? It is worth reminding the House what the accounting officer had to say about that project. In paragraph 56 of the National Audit Office report, he says:the chosen method of implementation would cost the UK £56 million more than it might otherwise have done.128 Having ignored the recommendation of his accounting officer, who said that the project was not economic, the right hon. Gentleman went on to approve a method of financing that squandered an additional £56 million from a desperately short aid programme. We are looking at the £56 million man.
If a councillor in any of a number of authorities that I could name around the country ignored the advice of his or her accounting officer, they would be liable to surcharge and disqualification, perhaps even bankruptcy, and the Government have not been slow to enforce such an approach. Yet just because, I believe, Baroness Thatcher insisted that he had to do it—it is not clear from his parliamentary answers, of course—that money was paid.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was promised at the highest authority. What can that mean? There was only one higher authority than him in that matter, and that was Baroness Thatcher. When it suits her purpose, British taxpayers' money can be squandered in that way, yet we cannot expand the aid programme. When it suits the right hon. Gentleman's purpose, he just keels over to the right hon. and noble Lady, in the face of all the arguments and evidence, and squanders £56 million.
§ Dr. Cunningham
It is extremely odd, Madam Deputy Speaker, to say that a promise had been given. After all, all this happened two years ago, although it has just come to the attention of the House now. A promise had been given, in spite of the advice of the accounting officer, in spite of the fact that the project was described as uneconomic, in spite of the fact that we are told that the right hon. Gentleman was advised that the method of financing that he was approving would needlessly cost the taxpayer another £56 million. Is that reasonable? Do people outside the House think that that is reasonable? I am sure that they do not. I am sure that people who are interested in our aid programme do not think so either.
I want to draw the attention of the House to some other aspects of the Queen's Speech that are worthy of comment. It is quite cynical of the Government to say, as they did yesterday in the Queen's Speech:My Government will maintain a substantial aid programme to promote sustainable development and good Government.In view of their record, that is just pure political cynicism. It is not in any way justified by what has been happening. In another passage in the Gracious Speech yesterday the Government pledge toencourage international responsibility in conventional arms transfers.What is emerging from the Scott inquiry shows us that, far from being responsible in conventional arms exchanges, the Government have a most abysmal and dishonest record. The reality is that a scene is unfolding where Ministers are contradicting civil servants and civil servants are contradicting Ministers. There is a complete lack of candour and honesty, which has been demonstrated in terms of relations with the House of Commons and the Select Committee, yet the Government have the appalling nerve to say that they want to encourage,international responsibility in conventional arms transfers.
129 The Government ought to set a far better example in their own record before they start making platitudinous comments about other people's conduct. I suspect that the reality is that we shall never know the whole truth about what has been going on in terms of arming Iraq. There is probably another promise given by Baroness Thatcher, in conjuction with President Bush, to Saddam Hussein so that the underhand arms programme could proceed.
Such conduct or behaviour does not enable Britain to stand up in the international community, hold its head high and say, "Yes, we are setting examples that we believe other people in the world should follow." Far from it. It is the most appalling example of deception that we have come across in recent times.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Will my right hon. Friend put on record his support for the ending of all arms sales to Indonesia in view of the use of British planes, weapons and vehicles to kill the people of East Timor in order to maintain the Indonesian illegal occupation of that part of the world?
§ Dr. Cunningham
My hon. Friend asks a question which I have already pursued with the right hon. Gentleman in seeking the assurances, which, apparently, were given. I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the Hawk aircraft contract to Indonesia, which we are still pursuing. I was not convinced by the reply that I received from the Foreign Secretary—I do not have it with me, or I would quote it—about the nature of the assurances that had been sought, let alone received, from the Indonesian Government about what exactly would be the purpose and use of the aeroplanes. There may be another question as to whether the planes will be built in this country or under licence in Indonesia. We will continue to pursue that point. My hon. Friend is right to raise it.
I deal now with Turkey and Cyprus. Eighteen months ago, the right hon. Gentleman said:I have come to the conclusion that we in western Europe must build a new and stronger relationship with Turkey … It is in our interests that Turkey, a stalwart member of NATO, should build a new relationship with the European Community".—[Official Report, 8 May 1992; Vol. 207, c. 282-83.]That is fine—at least in theory, but what about in practice? What are we going to say and do about the fact that Turkey has 30,000 troops in Cyprus which is an independent member of the Commonwealth? What are we going to do about the fact that Turkey is pursuing a policy of taking settlers from eastern Turkey and putting them in Cyprus? Those settlers have no connection with Cyprus. They are not Turkish Cypriots or their relatives. They are complete newcomers to the island. It is said that they will soon outnumber the declining population of Turkish Cypriots, some of whom have left the island.
What are we going to do to support the United Nations Secretary-General's proposals to try to resolve the problem in Cyprus? What are we going to do about the Turkish prosecution of the Kurdish people? What are we going to do about human rights in Turkey? What are we going to do about ministerial visits to Cyprus?
Thanks to a document leaked from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office southern European department in August 1993, we know thatSince Turkish Cypriot UDI, there have been no bilateral ministerial visits to Cyprus although we have normal representation including the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary at Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings.The Foreign Secretary has placed an embargo on ministerial visits to Cyprus and that is confirmed in an 130 internal document from his Department. We cannot say that we are going to work towards normalising relationships with Turkey on those issues or to encourage Turkey to believe that it will have our support in respect of membership of the European Community while that totally unacceptable situation obtains in Cyprus.
What are we going to do about the disgraceful treatment by Turkish police of Manchester United supporters at the recent football match? Are we making any protests? Will the Foreign Secretary meet a deputation led by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), the shadow spokesman on sport, which will make a protest? I have written to the Foreign Secretary about a constituent of mine who was dragged from his hotel in the middle of the night when he was asleep. He was arrested and lost all his cash and his passport. He was thrown out of the country. He was simply picked on by the Turkish police. Are we going to do anything about that? Are any representations going to be made?
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
Will the right hon. Gentleman admit that, in respect of the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus, he is being somewhat partisan in the picture that he presents? Does not he recognise that Turkey had a proper responsibility to intervene when the Turkish Cypriots were being slaughtered by the Greek Cypriots? Does he accept that there would be no Turkish troops in northern Cyprus if the Greeks did not continue to arm the Greek Cypriots totally beyond what is required and if they would stop sending the Greek army into the southern part of the island?
§ Dr. Cunningham
I was working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with Lord Callaghan of Cardiff when those events unfolded. In the political sense, I lived through all those events, including the peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva and subsequently. I am very familiar with the background. However, all that was 19 years ago. I am not saying that the blame lay all on one side. Those of us who were here at the time denounced the regime of the Greek colonels and their attitude to Cyprus. I do not resile from that denunciation for a moment. However, we are talking about the situation now and about attempts by the UN Secretary-General to finally reach a settlement. We are talking about what Her Majesty's Government should or should not be doing to try to bring that about.
I share the Foreign Secretary's views about the circumstances in Russia. Russia is a very important country with between 150 million and 160 million people. The developments towards democracy are welcome and quite astonishing in some respects. However, as I have said in correspondence with the Foreign Secretary, we should insist that democratic reform must go hand in hand with economic reform in Russia. It is a matter of concern to see some political opponents banned in that country. It is a matter of concern to see draconian controls over some sections of the media. It is also a matter of concern to ensure that the elections and the whole evolution of democracy in Russia are open, free and fair.
Our support for economic regeneration in that important country should be based on the acceptance of those full democratic reforms. I made that clear to Foreign Minister Kozyrev when he was in this country and I hope that the Foreign Secretary has done so as well.
131 We have discussed briefly the problems of Iraq and Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. There should be no relaxation of the United Nations approach to Iraq, especially in view of the apparent recent evidence of further atrocities against the Shia Muslims. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary believes that we can do no more than we are doing at the moment. I ask him to think again about that.
I am also sorry that there is not time to deal as fully as one would like with the brutality of the war in Angola. Of course, aid and assistance are welcome. That war is perhaps the worst of many conflicts in the world at the moment. I urge the Foreign Secretary to improve and increase his diplomatic efforts which I know he is making and for which I do not criticise him and to increase the aid and support to the democratically elected Government of Angola.
There was a United Nations-arranged election in Angola and a Government were elected. That election has been usurped by UNITA, although there is currently a ceasefire. Our support and commitment should be directed towards the democratic process and the legitimate victors in that process. I hope that the Government will redouble their efforts in that regard.
In a world which often seems completely swamped by bad news, there has been some good news in the past 18 months. That includes the developments in the middle east and the developments in South Africa. Who would have said, and certainly some Conservative Members not only would not have said, but would not have accepted, that white supremacy in South Africa should end, let alone could end, in the way that it has?
§ Dr. Cunningham
If the hon. Member for Westbury had been here over the past 10 or 20 years when we debated the circumstances in South Africa, he would have heard plenty of Conservative Members defend the despicable regime in that country. I am not saying that the hon. Member for Westbury would do that and, to their credit, there were Conservative Members who denounced that regime. The Opposition have never been in doubt about the rightness of the cause of black people in South Africa. That may be an uncomfortable reminder for the hon. Member for Westbury, but it is the truth.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
Will the right hon. Gentleman name one Conservative Member who has ever defended the abominable practice of apartheid? Even those of us who stood up and spoke in favour of reforms in the Republic of South Africa of whatever sort have always condemned apartheid. The examples that we have used of parts of South Africa which have buried apartheid once and for all have been used. However, the right hon. Gentleman must name names or he must withdraw his statement.
§ Dr. Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman is aware of the apologists for the Bantustans and for the programmes of separate development in South Africa. Why does he not go to the Library and ask? I am sure that the Librarians would be more than keen to remind him of who the apologists are. They were Conservative Members, and I make no apology for reminding the House of that.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
If the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who requested information from my right hon. Friend, would care to look at the Register of Members' Interests, he would find something that has been of great interest over the past 10 years.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I warmly welcome those developments in South Africa and I applaud the great courage of the State President, Mr. de Klerk, and Nelson Mandela. Of course it is a matter of great joy that they have jointly been awarded the Nobel peace prize, but they are going to need tremendous international support in a much more sustained way, perhaps, than support has been given to other emerging democracies in the past, and on a much wider scale. As Nelson Mandela has made clear to us on several occasions, they are expected to make the transition from apartheid to democracy in a very short time. It took centuries for democracy to evolve in this country. South Africans are expected to organise free and fair elections in rural communities where millions of illiterate people live. That is going to be an enormous challenge not only to them but to those of us who want to see a proper conclusion to that process. The Foreign Secretary should redouble his efforts to increase support and ensure that the international community joins him in doing so.
In the middle east, the courage of chairman Arafat and the whole Israeli Labour Government deserve our applause and our commitment. I want to see the European Community in particular play a much more active role in the regeneration of the occupied territories in bringing support in terms of infrastructure investment and commercial developments and, along the lines that the right hon. Gentleman rightly highlighted, helping people to develop the simple basics of governing themselves, setting up councils, developing free trade unions, and helping to develop a more effective education process for the hundreds of thousands of children in the territories who so desperately need it.
I chose deliberately to end on those issues of good news and hope in a world which has so much bad news and so many difficulties for us to confront, not least because on those two issues, if not on some of the others, there is broad agreement in the House about the way forward.
§ Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)
I should like to speak briefly on two aspects of the debate: first, overseas aid policy and, secondly, the situation on the Korean peninsula which has ramifications much wider than that geographical area.
In most debates over the past few years, the central issues on overseas aid have been seen in terms of the amount of expenditure on overseas aid, the quantum of overseas aid, and the quality of our overseas aid programme. But I believe that there is now another dimension which so far has not received much attention in the House and which deserves much more intense scrutiny. I refer to the control being exercised over our aid programme. It was referred to very briefly by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his opening remarks. The issue which now faces us is whether it is acceptable to the House that a growing and accelerating share of our overseas aid programme should be transferred from the control of the House, from the control of the British 133 Government and administration by our bilateral programme, to international situations where we lose control and any real measure of accountability.
What is happening is extremely well set out in the paper that the Overseas Development Administration submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee during the previous Session and which is reproduced in the fourth report of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Session 1992–93. The relevant figures are set out on pages 30 to 31 of the paper in question. They show that the bilateral aid programme in 1991–92 represented 55 per cent. of our total overseas aid programme. This year, as my right hon. Friend said, that figure has fallen to 53 per cent.
What is significant from the projections that the ODA has now given and which are published in the report is that in just two years—that is, in the financial year 1995–96—the bilateral aid programme will have fallen from 53 per cent. this year to just 45 per cent. The multilateral aid programme is going the other way in terms of its share. In 1991–92, it took 45 per cent. of our overall aid programme. This year, the figure is 47 per cent. In 1995–96, it will represent 55 per cent.
If we look at the overall increases, we see that the multilateral programme will increase between the present financial year and 1995–96. The multilateral programme will be increased by 23 per cent. in cash terms while, over the same period, the bilateral programme will be reduced by 12 per cent. in cash terms. That assumes that the present aid figures are kept unchanged in the forthcoming public expenditure White Paper. If there are further cuts in cash terms over the next two years, the reduction of the bilateral programme will be still greater than the 12 per cent. figure in cash terms, which of course would represent an even greater percentage cut in real terms. That is a significant development which requires extremely close attention in the House.
If we take those projections forward, it would appear that, certainly within, say, five to seven years, our bilateral aid programme will be down to probably not more than one third of our total aid programme. It woud appear that, within a decade, our bilateral aid programme will be barely, or possibly significantly less than, a quarter of the total amount of overseas aid that we are making available.
The House needs to consider whether it is concerned about that trend. Some hon. Members might consider that it does not really matter whether the British overseas aid programme is to be dispensed by multilateral agencies, for example, by branches of the United Nations and of the World bank or by EC institutions. But in my view that would be a very retrograde step for the British interest and, indeed, British value for money in the use of our aid budget. I should like to argue three grounds on which it is essential to maintain a significant share of our overall aid budget going out through the bilateral programme.
First, there is the quality of our programme and the value for money that we are securing. In the ODA, among the European Governments, we have a group of civil servants who have had long experience in the technical matter of administering overseas aid, particularly in the poorest communities of the world. One can criticise certain aspects of the aid programme. The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) had fun in relation to the project in Malaysia, but I am referring to the generality of the aid programme. We can be extremely proud of the value for money that we secure from our aid programme which, in quality terms, is second to none.
134 The feedback that I receive from those in a position to know is that we are getting, and are likely to continue to get, very much less value for money if the same funds are dispersed through the international bureaucracy in Brussels which, in terms of experience and staff, is immeasurably less well-equipped than our Overseas Development Administration. Therefore, the multilateral approach means a qualitative reduction in the British taxpayer's value for money from the overall aid budget.
Secondly, the transfer has and will continue to have a significant impact on British non-governmental organisations involved in overseas aid. It is common ground among hon. Members that British overseas aid NGOs are the most experienced, the best diversified and best equipped of any in the European Community. I am privileged to serve as a trustee of Action Aid and I know that many other hon. Members of all parties are directly connected with one or more NGOs involved in overseas development. It is inescapable that the transfer of our available aid funding from the bilateral to the multilateral will circumscribe the effectiveness of British NGOs working overseas. If they have to go through the Brussels bureaucracy, they will not have the same access to funds or be able to do their job nearly as well as they do now.
The third reason why it is critical to hang on to a significant share of our available aid money for the bilateral programme is one to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred. He said, rightly, that overseas aid is a significant adjunct of foreign policy. However, it is a significant adjunct only when coupled with bilateral expenditure and when it can reinforce our bilateral foreign policy relations with certain countries. Indeed, I think that my right hon. Friend will probably agree that, especially among the smaller and economically less well-endowed countries, our aid programme is probably the single most important element, in foreign policy terms, of our bilateral relations with them. For those reasons, we must resist the current trend.
When referring to the escalating percentage of our aid programme spent on the multilateral programme, my right hon. Friend said that we must adapt to reality. However, that adaptation to reality will mean the emasculation of our bilateral aid programme, which will become a very small part of the total. That would be deeply regrettable.
Clearly, we have obligations to the EC and to multilateral agencies. We should say that, as a matter of policy, there is to be a 50-50 split. I am sure that all hon. Members would regard that as a reasonable division between our bilateral needs and requirements and funds for multilateral agencies, but, unless we review immediately the dissipation of funds from our bilateral aid programme, in a few years we shall end up with a bilateral programme involving only a small residue of the total funds available.
§ Mr. Hurd
My right hon. Friend is making an extremely shrewd and well-informed speech. I share his reservations about the current trend, as I made clear. He will understand that only a very small proportion of the process is voluntary. We contribute voluntarily to only a small percentage of the funds; the overwhelming majority of our contributions are in the nature of subscriptions. One belongs to an organisation and makes a subscription which is fixed each year. One can withdraw from an organisation, as we did from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation—my right hon. Friend will know the arguments for and against that particular case 135 —but I do not think that he would recommend withdrawing on a substantial scale from organisations, whether United Nations or EC.
There are three issues to bear in mind. The first is the need to keep a lid, as far as possible, on the spending of international organisations. The second is to improve their quality and we are hard at work on that. The third is to ensure that our bilateral aid programme goes where it will produce the best results. As I said, the time is passing when it is right to fund huge projects bilaterally. They should now be funded multilaterally and bilateral aid should be concentrated on the objectives set out by my right hon. Friend.
§ Sir John Stanley
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for responding to that issue, as I know that he cannot be here at the end of the debate. From what he said, it appears that he does not differ from the thrust of my argument and the numerical direction in which I am heading.
My right hon. Friend might also reflect on the wisdom of some of the ratchet agreements into which we have entered, especially that with the European Community. We may have received a great deal in return, but I believe that we have given way too lightly on the question of the share of our overseas aid that we can hold on to bilaterally. I have a horrible feeling that it was thrown away as something of a make-weight in earlier negotiations. If so, that is regrettable. If we must continue to pay subscriptions, I urge my right hon. Friend to play a tougher hand and to reduce the diversion, especially to the EC, which appears to be on the cards.
Finally, I wish to speak about the Korean peninsula, which has received considerable publicity in the past week or so. As the House may know, I am the chairman of the Britain-Korea parliamentary group and, in that capacity, I spent last week in Korea with the vice-chairman of the group, the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek). The House will appreciate that North Korea is one of the most uncertain and unstable countries, politically and possibly militarily, in the world. It is not replicated by any other. It has an aging communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, and an uncertain successor, Kim Jong about whom very little is known, although his personal attributes have been the subject of colourful media speculation, which may or may not be correct.
North Korea has been hermetically sealed for many years and to a much greater extent than any other country. The Government have, with considerable success, been able to deny their people access to the free world's media, whether radio or television. They have also been able to filter every form of communication, including telephone and post. The country allows only limited access to foreign visitors and always under very carefully controlled conditions. In the past year, it has decided to play the nuclear card by withdrawing from the non-proliferation treaty and refusing to grant proper inspection rights to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The potential instability and anxiety in the Korean peninsula cannot be confined to the peninsula. The significance of the position in North Korea is that, on the nuclear side at least, it is bound to give further impetus to China's already burgeoning nuclear programme and—perhaps even more 136 worrying—if North Korea appeared to be getting in range of developing a credible nuclear delivery capability the Japanese would find that extremely difficult to ignore.
In a dangerous and uncertain world, one of the encouraging features is that the two major belligerents in the last world war have both, so far, imposed upon themselves self-denying ordinances in relation to nuclear weapons. We all profoundly wish that to continue. The last thing that we need is for any impetus to be given inside the Japanese political system to that country changing policy and having to say that it will be obliged, as a result of threats from a country such as North Korea, to consider giving itself a nuclear capability.
It is, therefore, a matter of great international importance that every possible pressure is exercised on the North Korean Government to conform with their non-proliferation obligations and to their obligations towards the International Atomic Energy Agency. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to give us the assurance that the British Government are doing everything in their power to ensure North Korea's compliance with those obligations.
If a resolution comes before the Security Council of the United Nations about sanctions in relation to North Korea, I hope that the British Government will be strongly supportive, because unless we can lance that potential nuclear boil it has the capacity to grow into something infinitely more ominous and infinitely more serious, of worldwide international concern.
§ Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) has done the House a service by mentioning two important subjects. First, I entirely agree with what he said about the two Koreas and I hope that the Government will take his words seriously. Second, however, while I think that he was right to draw the important analysis of overseas aid to the attention of the House, I have reached slightly different conclusions from his own, which I will mention later.
It is inevitable that in these foreign affairs debates we flit from one subject to another in a rather miscellaneous way. I hope that I am not alone in regretting that we continue to combine foreign affairs and defence in one full day. Although the two subjects are interrelated, it means that the wind-up speeches are made on defence subjects and that there is no proper answer to the debate. We have the statutory defence debates scattered throughout the year, but we get few opportunities to debate foreign affairs. I wish that we could end the current practice and separate the two subjects in future years.
As we have to combine both subjects in one day, let me say a word about defence before I turn to my remarks on foreign affairs. At the most recent general election, there were some differences between the parties on defence policy, which were clearly set out in the manifestos. I want to acknowledge, therefore, that in the past week or two there has been a change in relation to two matters on the Government side, which my party warmly welcomes. One is the commitment in the short run to maintain the British independent nuclear deterrent with the Trident system at no greater firepower than the existing Polaris system. That is 137 something which we argued for at the last election and about which there was no agreement from the Conservative party. There now is and we are grateful.
The second issue is the statement in the Queen's Speech that the Government will work towards full participation in the comprehensive test ban treaty—another new development, which it is only right to acknowledge and welcome.
Turning to the wider framework of foreign policy, I shall be as guilty as anyone else of flitting from one subject to another, but I shall try to set my remarks in the context of what I conceive to be a proper framework of a forward-looking foreign policy for the country.
I take the House back to the atmosphere of three or four years ago—the ending of the cold war and the dismantling of the Berlin wall—because that period ushered in what appeared to be a victory for freedom and a new era of hope for the planet. The phrase "the new world order" fell from everyone's lips. It has not so far been mentioned in today's debate. The MAD age of preparing for mutually assured destruction appeared to be over and we thought that we could look forward at last to turning swords into ploughshares, with reduced military spending and greater efforts to raise the living standards of the poorer parts of the globe.
It has not worked out like that. In fact, in the past five years the United Nations Organisation has launched more peacekeeping operations than in the previous 43 years of its history. We have to recognise that some of the hopes and aspirations that we had, just that short time ago, have not been fulfilled. It should be the main object of our foreign policy to try to put them back on course.
The obvious starting point is that we want to see a world in which there are regional arrangements and agreements for common security, starting with Europe. I admit that I have at times felt some sympathy for some of the American criticism of us Europeans on the subject of former Yugoslavia. That is primarily a European interest, not an American one, and we cannot say that we have covered ourselves with glory in the way that we have treated former Yugoslavia.
The Maastricht treaty clearly foreshadows the development of a common security policy in Europe and that should be the pattern for regional security arrangements right round the globe. Yet—here I agree with the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)—there is still massive schizophrenia on the European question inside the Government, not just inside the Conservative party but inside the Cabinet. That is deeply worrying.
The Foreign Secretary had some fun, in a previous debate, at the expense of my leader and my party on the ground—and he was very amusing on the subject—of our allegedly saying different things in different places, but no sin in my party has compared what we have seen in the past few weeks in the contrast between the atmosphere at the Conservative party conference and the atmosphere at the Confederation of British Industry. We cannot have members of the Cabinet appealing to the worst form of xenophobia, inward-looking nationalism, at the Conservative party conference while other members of the Cabinet go to the CBI and try to endorse the Prime Minister's line of being at the heart of Europe.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have a primary duty to stamp their authority on the rest of the Cabinet and tell them that we are not going to have any more of it, and that our commitment to making the 138 European Union work in the way that was foreshadowed in the treaty to which we have put our signature has to be one of the starting points of our foreign policy.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)
The right hon. Gentleman might know that this morning's Financial Times indicates that the Foreign Secretary is doing just that tonight in the north in a speech to the CBI, in which he will make it clear that the Conservative party has no problems with its European idealism. It objects to socialism in some of the measures in the European Community, which is a very different point.
§ Sir David Steel
I am not going to get on to the side track of the social chapter. I am complaining about one set of speeches to the CBI and another set of speeches to the Conservative party. That has to stop if there is to be any coherence in the Government's foreign policy.
Turning away from Europe to the wider subject of the end of the cold war and the way in which it has affected our foreign policy, on the one hand the end of cold war super-power rivalry has in some cases created peace, for example in south-west Africa, in the shape of the new Namibia, and indeed, as has already been referred to by both Front-Bench spokesmen, in the new settlement in the middle east. On the other hand, the end of the cold war super-power rivalry has brought to an end the kind of forced discipline and restraint which was imposed by the super-powers, and that has unleashed tragedies of the kind most graphically seen in Bosnia today.
In October 1995—not all that far away—we shall celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Organisation. It is time to take a good look at that organisation, and to accept that something that was created in the aftermath of the second world war, and which has remained fundamentally unchanged since, is wholly inadequate for the needs of the different world of the 21st century.
My party starts from the basic assumption that the strengthening of the United Nations and all its agencies must be the cornerstone of this country's future foreign policy, and must not simply be tacked on as a pious afterthought in the course of protecting British interests.
We must develop the United Nations peacekeeping and peacemaking machinery—the Queen's Speech contains a reference to that—as outlined in the Secretary—General's agenda for peace. The military staff committee needs to be reactivated to provide planning, co-ordination and training of troops. Member states must earmark standby forces for that purpose—perhaps to a total of between 50,000 and 100,000 men. We could play a particular role in that activity because of our expertise in training and the availability of facilities here. We should be taking a lead in turning the "Agenda for Peace" proposals into a reality.
Such an integrated force should be able to move swiftly to discourage aggression, to re-establish order in countries where governmental authority has collapsed and to ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid. We must, in turn, ensure that the United Nations becomes fully accountable for its actions or inactions. Surely something has gone badly wrong when helicopter gunships fire on women and children, or on hospitals, in the name of the United Nations. Such episodes undermine the organisation's moral and political authority.
I would therefore argue that the Secretary-General and his representatives should be much more accountable to the 139 Security Council. Just as that council acts on behalf of United Nations members, the General Assembly should also press for measures of accountability for the national Governments within the Security Council. For example, the new American Administration must draw a clearer distinction between American and United Nations interests. In the case of Somalia, they have gone wrong; they have muddled the two as to whether it is an American operation or American participation in a United Nations operation.
In future, we must also avoid belated gestures which are dictated by the prick of the television camera on the world's conscience. The shadow Foreign Secretary was right to draw our attention to Angola, where television has not been particularly active, unlike Somalia. If we simply react to the day-to-day pictures on television, or if we choose operations solely because of the strategic interests of the greater powers, we will not be contributing to a real new world order. I remind the House that well over 100,000 Somalis had starved to death before the first UN force reached the country. Belated humanity is not humanity at all.
The type of peacekeeping forces that I advocate need not involve extra expenditure, but would certainly mean timely expenditure. It is salutary to note that this year only 10 per cent. of the 180 member states of the United Nations paid their dues by the deadline of 31 January and that, following the Reagan legacy, the United States of America is among the largest debtors to the organisation.
I follow the comments of the shadow Foreign Secretary on Angola because I was there during that ill-fated election. Margaret Anstee, the UN representative, who is British, told me at the time, and has since gone graphically public, about the tragic lack of resources for the job that the UN was sent to do. She said:We had 350 unarmed military observers, 126 unarmed police and 100 election officers to cover a ravaged country as large as France, Germany and Spain combined.Even after the civil war resumed, she was unable to secure a ceasefire because no troops could be made available to her for another six to nine months. She also said:We had been given a jumbo 747 to fly but fuel only for a DC3.And so the carnage continues.
In this House, we must say loudly and clearly to every international statesman who talks of the United Nations inadequacies that they must put their money where their mouth is if the organisation is to become effective.
The growing problem that the UN organisation must grapple with is not so much conflict between member states as conflict between ethnic or religious groupings within them. That is why we cannot avoid looking afresh at the UN charter's emphasis on respect for national sovereignty. We have to accept that the charter needs to be modified in favour of the later universal declaration of human rights, which made it clear that people have basic rights under any state and that the international community has a role in protecting those.
That is why, instead of ad hoc arrangements, we need to consider the establishment of an international criminal court to bring to justice those guilty of crimes against their fellow citizens—Iraq is the most obvious recent case—and 140 the establishment of a human rights commissioner, with the same international standing as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
I have set that out as a long-term objective, because we must ensure that the UN's authority is seen to overlay all the progress that we are making in some of the brighter spots in the world. Here, I must return to the middle east. Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat are to be congratulated on the progress that they have made so far. We look forward to welcoming the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, here in Britain next month, when he will address a meeting of Members of both Houses. However, that process has to be followed through and they desperately need encouragement. They both have to deal with rejectionists, and the international community must ensure that not only is the Gaza-Jericho plan fully supported, but the other component parts of a future middle east peace settlement are also encouraged. I very much welcomed the Foreign Secretary's visit to Syria.
There is a parallel in what is happening in South Africa, because President de Klerk and Mr. Mandela have shown the same imagination and, with the transition to democracy in South Africa, one can envisage that precisely the sort of regional security arrangement that I mentioned might come about in southern Africa.
The Gracious Speech refers to the Government's commitment to assist democratisation in South Africa. I hope that the Foreign Office will study the report that has just come from the International Commission of Jurists on what is required in the electoral process in South Africa between now and the end of April. The requirements are substantial and it is not merely a question of packing off a few Commonwealth, European Community or parliamentary observers. A lot of ground work must be done and it will require a great deal of resources.
I watched the splendid operation during the election in Namibia, but the scale of that operation—for 1 million people—will have to be multiplied if we are to make it effective in South Africa. I fully endorse the words in the Gracious Speech, but I hope that they will be translated into action and resources.
I have always fully supported what the Foreign Secretary has said in his speeches in recent years about good governance. I very much welcome the efforts that British and other Governments are making to promote it throughout the globe. However, one must admit that, especially in Africa, one is always coming across the counter argument that, "You didn't show much interest during the cold war." I am afraid it is true that, in general, the west was happy to prop up anyone who happened to be on the anti-communist side in Africa. We have a legacy to live down, which is not easy, and it is not easy to make a transition.
We have also had setbacks and failures. The Foreign Secretary was right to dwell on the setback in Nigeria during the past couple of days. I must also mention Burundi, a much less strategically important country, where there has also been a tragic setback in the march towards good governance and democracy. We must press on with those objectives and we must judge carefully when we resume aid programmes that were stopped because of the lack of good governance.
It is important to tell our friends in the Kenyan Government, for example, that good governance is a matter not just of holding a multi-party election and winning it, but of securing the independence of the judiciary and 141 broadcasting networks and of ensuring that arbitrary measures such as declaration of security zones are open, supervised and temporary. We must tell our friends in Malawi, to whom we are beginning to resume aid, that while it is fine that a referendum has been held, agreements made between that country's Government and Opposition parties on constitutional changes have not yet been put in place. We must be careful that, by resuming aid programmes, we do not give the wrong impression to the people in those countries that everything in the garden is now lovely and that their Governments are back to full international respectability. Those issues are difficult to judge, but I hope that the Goverment will be cautious in resuming aid programmes in pursuit of good governance.
The requirement for good governance certainly applies in the negotiations over Hong Kong. The House should fully support what the Governor there is attempting to achieve. We must tell the Chinese Government that they will be judged by the way in which they accept the development of Hong Kong's economy in accordance with the wishes of the people of Hong Kong, to which the Chinese Government subscribed in the joint agreement.
Good governance applies also to the situation in western Sahara. I hope that the British Government will do more to lean on the Moroccan Government, to ensure that the long-awaited referendum takes place. It has been constantly delayed and Britain has now withdrawn its small component part of the UN force there.
The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing made the perfectly valid point that more and more of our aid programme is being pre-empted by international agencies, but I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about European Community figures. In my experience, its aid programmes are extremely effective. It is too easy to make jibes about Brussels bureaucracy. I know of no case where that criticism applies to European aid projects. There is more doubt about the effectiveness and efficiency of some UN agencies, and we must pay more attention to reforming the United Nations and streamlining its organisation, as I have said.
What concerns me about the pre-emption of so much of our aid budget multilaterally is not the principle of a large section of that aid going multilaterally—here again, I disagree with the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling—but that the tail end of it, in the form of the bilateral aid programme, is suffering the squeeze. The United Kingdom's contribution continues to fall while the Conservative manifesto and the Prime Minister at Rio reiterated that we are supposed to be moving towards the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product. There is a gap between Government utterances and statements and their actions. They should be ashamed of our overseas aid budget.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Canada, naturally sharing in the rejoicing of the defeat of that country's Conservative Government. I met Mr. Chrétien on the eve of his taking over as Prime Minister. The Liberal Government told me that, even under the Conservatives, Canada had a good record on overseas aid and that they are determined to push back towards the target of 1 per cent. of GNP. That is something of which to be proud. There is a glaring contrast between the Canadian Government, who have already achieved the UN target and are moving beyond it, and the British Government, who are paying lip service to the UN target but are failing to reach even half of it.
142 Incidentally, one must pay tribute to the Canadian Conservatives for achieving something that no political party in this House and certainly not Labour's shadow Cabinet have achieved, which is equality of representation. The Conservatives have two Members of Parliament in the new Canadian House of Commons—one man and one woman. However, that is an irreverent aside.
I can compliment the British Government on their efforts in respect of debt relief. I commend the Minister for Overseas Development, Lady Chalker, and the Prime Minister for their efforts—but we have not yet succeeded in translating into effect the G7 summit declarations made at Tokyo. I hope that the Government will continue to pressure the Japanese, in particular, and the International Monetary Fund and World bank to engage in greater measures of debt relief in accordance with Government statements.
I will conclude with a reference to the Gracious speech and its inadequate sentence on the arms trade:My Government will … encourage international responsibility in conventional arms transfers.That is an extremely limited objective. From my travels over the past two or three years, I am more and more convinced that, in the aftermath of the cold war, controlling the arms trade must take far higher priority in international debate and in our own foreign policy. The world is now awash with expensive and lethal weaponry. Next year, there will be an official review of the operation of the UN register of conventional arms.
The ending of the cold war created large stocks of unused conventional weaponry and unwanted manufacturing capacity. In particular, huge supplies of arms are coming from the former states of the Soviet Union. The United States and ourselves have also led the way in supplying arms to developing countries. Some of the most surprising nations, such as Hungary and South Africa, eager to acquire foreign exchange, have been reckless with their arms exports.
The growing number of international arms dealers, ever-ready to cash in on human strife, is a moral disgrace. We cannot acquit arms-producing states such as our own—with our official defence sales agencies and exhibitions—from complicity in that money-making aggravation of global misery and suffering. The five permanent members of the Security Council, who include Britain, supply 80 per cent. of the world's armaments.
I cite two worrying examples of why that issue is so important and how we are completely failing to tackle In the past few years, South Africa—because of its isolationist policies—has been building up its own arms industry and exporting armaments for anyone who would buy them from the old South African regime. Sadly, there is every indication that the transitional Government—and the African National Congress itself were it to come to govern in the future—will continue using South Africa's arms supply capacity for foreign exchange purposes. Even worse, there are indications that the ANC is being courted by arms sales organisations, including those in Britain, to buy expensive items of weaponry such as submarines and aircraft for the new South Africa. That is most dispiriting. There are other priorities for the new South Africa.
In the middle east, the United Arab Emirates—a country and Government which I greatly admire—have said that they will contribute $25 million to the Gaza-Jericho development. We all applaud that and say 143 thank you very much—but, in the same year, the UAE will spend $3.5 billion on purchasing tanks. One questions the right priorities in the middle east situation.
I am aware that the cessation of arms manufacturing would have a devastating effect on unemployment in the developed world. We must engage in arms employment conversion programmes so that we may move towards international discussion on controlling the arms race and arms trade. Britain should be taking a lead by closing its own arms sales agencies. If that is not done, all the talk about peacekeeping and peacemaking only means that we intend to spend the next decade rushing around the world putting out bush fires that we ourselves helped to light. That is not a sensible policy.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said at the beginning of the debate, the foreign policy scene is indeed kaleidoscopic. Identifying Britain's interests and how they are defended around the world has never been more diverse and difficult. One continues to marvel at my right hon. Friend's capacities to keep abreast and on top of the vast variety of issues with the skill, determination and clarity that he does.
I wish to concentrate on three foreign policy issues that are raised in the Gracious Speech—relations with the Republic of Ireland, relations with the rest of the European Union, which are crucial and which are emerging as the central issue, as they have been in the debate about our place in the world, and relations, through Hong Kong, with the People's Republic of China.
As one of the two hon. Members now left who took part in trying to put together the power-sharing agreement of 1973–74, I am temperamentally in favour of any talks and dialogue to bring stability, prosperity and the good life to Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. I am pleased indeed to hear that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is putting his personal commitment and time into trying to inch forward progress on this horrific issue, with which we have all struggled over the years.
It is worth remembering that the power-sharing participants were all parties that, enthusiastically or otherwise, accepted what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday called the cast-iron constitutional agreement: that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, as decided in a referendum, the legislation for which I took through the House.
When one hears ideas of new talks with different parties, one must ask exactly what the aim of the talks would be and what the conditions and assumptions behind them are. One hopes that they are to further peace and stability in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. To my mind, that is the cast-iron constitutional guarantee and it was the starting point for the power-sharing talks. Not every party may have liked it, but they all agreed to it and that is how we made progress, although for reasons that I do not have time to go into now it came apart and we were back to square one.
It is important to bear that in mind and not to let the idea of talks in general, because talks are better than killing, carry us away and make us lose sight of the key objective within the cast-iron constitutional guarantee.
144 The talks on the power-sharing agreement and the brief talks between the Government, of whom I was a part although I was not physically involved in the talks, and the leaders of the Provisional IRA proved one thing to me beyond peradventure: talks with people such as the IRA or those who had nothing but contempt for any guarantees of Northern Ireland's position, were a waste of time. That is what we and my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Whitelaw concluded clearly. In a way, that was the point of showing the world that they would be a waste of time.
No talks, however well intentioned, even the power-sharing talks, will travel without, at the same time and on a separate track, the utmost dedication—not to the compromise of terrorism, or to hoping that it will go away if talks progress, but to the defeat of terrorism. That is a matter to which I know my right hon. and hon. Friends and leading members of the Dublin Government are dedicated. I urge them to vastly greater efforts in an attempt to do what is necessary to control and defeat terrorist movements and, although it will be difficult, to capture and secure convictions for the godfathers of terrorism—the brains. We can arrest people in active service units. One can go against the loyalist terrorists who react to the latest horrors in a hideous ding-dong of revenge, but the ultimate task of defeating terrorism, as experience shows in every country where there has been effective control of terrorist movements, is to capture the big fish. I have always regarded that as crucial—relying on close co-operation between the Dublin Government and the British Government and on an intensity of activity possibly greater than we have been told about in the House, although I hope that it is going on.
With modern technology, we could do more to prevent the intimidation of witnesses, to secure convictions and to protect those who are trying to administer the law in the Republic of Ireland or in the United Kingdom. I commend to hon. Members who desperately want the Northern Ireland situation to be settled, with Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom under its cast-iron guarantee, a fascinating document by Professor Paul Wilkinson, Professor of International Studies at the University of St. Andrews, which appeared in the August edition of the independent magazine, Parliamentary Brief, which is circulated to Members. It sets out a range of ways in which a far more determined strategy might be pursued and I hope that it is being pursued, between Dublin and London, to net the godfathers, the brains and organisers of the system.
MI5's involvement in the intelligence side of Irish terrorism is a great improvement—and, incidentally, if we develop different methods of scrutinising MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, as proposed in the Gracious Speech, I hope that we do not make too much of a meal of it. They are meant to be secret services, operating in secrecy. They cannot do their work if accountability, which is perfectly proper, is carried to a degree of intensive intrusion. I do not know whether the arrangement will be decided between the Front Benches, the usual channels or the House authorities, but I hope that it will be of a light and sensible kind and not of a kind that will cause so much accountability to be applied that the very purpose and functions of the agencies will be undermined.
That is all that I want to say on relations with the Republic of Ireland and the Irish question, except to repeat my convinced experience from 20 years ago when we tried power sharing: there are no alternatives. There is no way of defeating terrorism through talks. There must be a twin 145 track: dialogue and going against terrorism with the aim of defeating it, using every possible resource in Dublin, London and Belfast to do so.
I now turn to the European Union, which is the centre of our considerations. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote an article in The Economist a few weeks ago which, frankly, I found exhilarating and excellent. Not all of my colleagues may have so found it, but I did. He said that we need a new agenda and that we cannot go on with the stale agenda of constantly calling for greater political and monetary union when so many new burning issues at the top of the Europe's agenda must be addressed—for example, the recession and the 18 million or 19 million unemployed people in Europe. European industry is becoming grossly uncompetitive because it is overloaded with social costs, which is becoming very serious indeed. The European Union is growing in size and questions are now being raised about huge new institutional developments. We must deal with the chaos of Russia. There is a feeling—and it is not a minority feeling any more—among European peoples, which has been shown strongly, that we are moving to an age when we do not need the concentration of power, acquis communautaire and competences at the centre that were needed in the 1960s and 1970s. Decentralisation and the subsidiarisation and repatriation of a vast range of competences and activities should now be considered by much more rigorous constitutional means to reassure people throughout Europe that we are not in a situation of creeping centralisation.
We indeed need a new agenda. I urge my right hon. Friends to say, as they rightly said, not only that the old agenda and reiteration of constant prayers and mantras, as I think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister described them, for political and monetary union are not good enough for the people of Europe but that we should clearly set out a new agenda. We should make the point that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister almost made in his article in The Economist, but which I am prepared to make: the constant obsession of policy makers of moving towards fixed exchange rates and a single currency is undermining every credible attempt at monetary co-operation and the prevention of volatility in the currency markets of Europe. Any expert who operates in the currency markets will tell politicians that once it is believed that a country has committed itself to the fixed-rate goal, it becomes easy prey for speculators, and time and again all the efforts at monetary co-operation will be undermined by the obsession of going for a single currency or a single bank. That is a bad aim for Europe and it undermines our hopes for prosperity and co-operation in the new European Union. In the language that we use, I wish us to tread a middle path between the super-federalists who want complete unity in a superstate and those who will be hostile to any kind of European co-operation, which will lead to anarchy. We need to develop our view of the European Union with great confidence and set out a positive agenda so that we can carry forward the European Union to prevent it from running into real disillusion and unsaleability, as it is now doing. Currently, it is not a popular concept among the people of Europe.
Finally, on the question of Hong Kong and China, it is worth noting that the Chinese economy is roaring ahead. The latest International Monetary Fund and World bank figures suggest that the size of the Chinese economy has been under-estimated by between four and five times and 146 may well already be the third-largest economy in the world, moving forward at a great rate. China is also one of the few nations that is currently increasing its defence spending. All that leads me to the view, which I suspect is shared by most of my hon. Friends, that we must maintain an effective and good relationship with that giant. It is no use trying to box against it and trade insults. We must have good Sino-British relations in the long term for our interests in Asia, for our business and because China is increasingly significant in the equation of global stability. Therefore, we must somehow ensure that we manage the problem of Hong Kong in ways which do not undermine that longer-term aim. Having said that, I am in absolutely no doubt at all, and totally agree with the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), that we must back to the hilt the extremely modest political reform package being put forward by the Governor of Hong Kong as the basis on which the British administer the territory up to 1997.
There are plenty of people in Hong Kong such as some in the business community, as my hon. Friends and members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee who have just visited the place know, who are prepared to bad mouth the whole reform package. They wonder why we should quarrel with the Chinese now, when in three and a half years they will be able to do anything they like and could take anyone off the "through train". They wonder why we should quarrel about changes, not in the move towards the development of democracy, because that principle is accepted by everybody, but in the democratic arrangements of the 1994 local elections and the 1995 LegCo elections.
It is not as easy as that. If the business people of Hong Kong think that they can advance safely with a democratic system that is rotten, that is not based on true and straightforward democratic procedures, and still keep the rule of law intact—a commercial law on which their prosperity depends—they are living in a world of illusion. It is absolutely vital that the principles are upheld by Governor Patten, by the British Government and by all those who support what he is trying to do to organise straightforward, unrigged democratic elections. It is true that even if Governor Patten goes ahead with all his aims and receives the backing of LegCo, which I hope that he will, the Chinese could say in three and a half years that they do not like any of the changes and could throw the whole thing over. Let us at least ensure that the threshold against that is raised high. The Chinese have a major interest in the world by integrating their economy with the global economy. The whole Chinese communist party system needs steady growth rather like oxygen to survive and remain in office. It needs to join GATT and international institutions and not to be branded in the way in which it was after the Tiananmen square incident. On taking over Hong Kong, the Chinese certainly should avoid committing all sorts of ruthlessly brutal and crude acts. That would once again immediately condemn them in the eyes of the world. They must be discouraged from dismantling the arrangements that Governor Patten is trying to put in place in Hong Kong as part of Britain's proper administrative duties, under the joint declaration, under the Basic Law of the National Peoples Congress Standing Committee and under the exchange of letters between Foreign Ministers.
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee has heard a good deal about how the British Government are violating the 147 Basic Law and the joint declaration. From the evidence of independent experts and from all our inquiries that is not our conclusion. On the contrary, we fear that the Chinese, by seeking to deliberately frustrate the work of the British Government and the Hong Kong Government to slow down the necessary process of transition towards the handover in 1997, may be coming near to breaking the spirit and letter of the joint declaration that requires the Government of the People's Republic of China to co-operate with the British authorities and Hong Kong in all necessary handover arrangements in a constructive way. So we need not be in any way defensive—or offensive, in the narrow sense—about backing the Patten proposals for Hong Kong, because they are vital to achieving adherence to the systems of democracy and rule of law as based on the British legal system. To press forward is important throughout Asia and not just in Hong Kong.
I apologise if I have spoken for too long, but we should concentrate carefully on those three matters in the coming months. We have the opportunity to pursue not a selfish foreign policy but an individual one of power and influence. I am not happy to see our foreign policy affairs submerged in a Euro blur. I know that foreign policy is part of the Maastricht treatuy and let us work together where we can. But in many areas, we have a unique interest to pursue and a unique contribution to make and I know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is uniquely qualified to pursue those opportunities, as he has done so vigorously in the past.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
There were parts of the speech by the Secretary of State with which I was in absolute agreement, and I turn first to Cyprus. Anyone who was in Cyprus over the summer and who learned of the discussions and the conflicting reports coming from the various Government delegations must have been not only surprised but pleased by the Foreign Secretary's comments. All the political parties in Cyprus and the Cypriot people throughout the island will be glad to hear and to read the right hon. Gentleman's comments, which were clear and specific. The Foreign Secretary said that in the Government's view Cyprus was one country and one Government—one Cyprus. I am sure that that will be very good news for the people in Cyprus who were beginning to believe that Britain sought to change its position on Cyprus.
I also agreed entirely with the Foreign Secretary's comments about the military takeover in Nigeria. He said that military rule was not acceptable—a comment which found favour on both sides of the House. The message that must go out today from the House to the people of Nigeria, who have once again seen democracy pushed aside by a military cabal, is that we are determined, as the Foreign Secretary made clear, that military rule will not be acceptable and that pressure will be maintained so that democracy can return to that land.
In looking for hope in a period of darkness, we need do no more than remind the Nigerian people of the experience of the people of Bangladesh. For many years they struggled against continuing authoritarian and military rule; yet the military President eventually ended up in gaol.
148 Democracy has returned to Bangladesh. We cannot offer much to the Nigerian people, but we can offer the lesson of history and our continued support for that sad country.
I now turn to the parts of the Foreign Secretary's speech with which I was less pleased. Listening to the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), I thought that he and I must have exchanged notes before we came into the Chamber. Like him, I was concerned about the real lack of content on the United Nations in the Foreign Secretary's speech. I am especially concerned about the lack of reference to the "Agenda for Peace" document which was launched by the Secretary-General on 17 June 1992. Where are we with the "Agenda for Peace"? How is Britain helping the Secretary-General to reform the UN so that it can move forward with the "Agenda for Peace"? As the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale said, and as other hon. Members have said on numerous occasions in the House, many areas of the "Agenda for Peace" would be of use not only to this country but to the world in trying to resolve the many conflicts.
In our debate on 21 January 1993, at column 553, I referred specifically to the "Agenda for Peace" and especially to paragraph 82. It raised the prospect of the world's concern if the principles of the charter were not seen to be applied consistently—if they were seen to be applied selectively—and how that might in some way lead to a lack of support, especially from the emerging countries, for the United Nations role in helping them to resolve their disputes.
More importantly, I also asked the Foreign Secretary a number of questions about this country's former representative to the United Nations, Sir Anthony Parsons, who referred to the decision to impose a no-fly zone in the north of Iraq. At that time, Russia and China had abstained. I asked then, and I ask now, whether we are any nearer to defining our position in terms of the question posed by Sir Anthony Parsons when he commented on United Nations Security Council resolution 688. Can the Secretary of State for Defence tell us whether China and Russia, which abstained on that occasion on resolution 688, now accept our interpretation and our subsequent action based on that interpretation in both the north and the south of Iraq? It is important that we understand that. If we are, as paragraph 82 of the "Agenda for Peace" says, to apply international law, it must be applied universally rather than specifically, as and when particular countries believe it is important for their interpretation or their concerns in a particular area of the world. I would appreciate a response from the Secretary of State.
On the same theme, I refer to the comments made yesterday by the UN mediator on Bosnia, Thorvald Stoltenberg, when he called for 3,000 extra troops. He said that there was a shortage of basic equipment and communications facilities. Many hon. Members have argued that point in the House and have referred to the need for a military staffs committee. We have observed that when the UN is trying to deal with particular problems, such as Yugoslavia and Somalia, where different nations have supplied forces to the UN, there is clearly a need for a military staffs committee to control the operation. The participants in UN peacekeeping activities are clearly unable to communicate with each other.
As I said in a debate earlier this year, the example of Yugoslavia 149cries 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".—[Official Report, 23 February 1993; Vol. 219, c. 813.]The UN mediator in Bosnia has identified a difficulty with communications, as have hon. Members. Will the Secretary of State for Defence tell us if we are anywhere near establishing a centalised major signals unit to take care of this communications problem?
There has been a great debate, on both sides of the House, about the whys, the wherefores, the rights and the wrongs of the Yugoslavian and the Bosnian conflict. More than ever, the public want to see a specific position taken by Britain. Whether people support Croatia, Serbia or the Muslim population in Bosnia-Herzogovina, they are looking for Britain to take some action, some lead.
We could adopt a slightly different position from that which has been urged. Given our experience in Bosnia, a course that we might consider as an alternative to the present situation is contained in international law which, if such a tragedy ever occurred in the future, we might be able to use as a starting point. The laws of war—the various rules and conventions that regulate armed conflict, whether internal or international—provide clear guidelines for the action to be taken by parties involved in the conflict and the role of third-party states. The Geneva convention fosters the right atmosphere and provides the best chance, on an equal footing, for all parties to the conflict to mitigate many of the horrors of the current war, while maintaining Britain's attitude of international legality and impartiality towards the conflict.
If we had tried using international law, it might well have worked because, in a series of meetings convened under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross between 1991 and 1992, the various parties involved in the current conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia agreed to be bound by the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law. The combatants involved in the conflict accepted the principle that certain international recognised standards of behaviour could be maintained.
Although part of international humanitarian law, the war crimes tribunal established by the Security Council of the United Nations, in the absence of any other action taken in accordance with the convention, reflects a policy of despair on the part of the west. The implication is that the international community must wait for the war to run its terrible course before any international remedy can be offered.
The laws of war were conceived to find a legitimate and neutral role for parties and states not involved in the conflict while the fighting is ongoing. Not to attempt to prevent terrible violations against innocent civilians, and not to use the positive deterrent effect of protecting powers against all parties to the conflict—without discrimination—is a needless failure about which many in the media, in public meetings and in the Chamber have railed against the Government and the Opposition. I urge the Foreign Secretary to consider the possibility of using protecting powers as a means of finding some way forward. That would seek to deal with the conflict as it develops and, if used properly, would give more protection to the population on the ground.
I welcome what was said by both the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) about progress in the middle east. I am sure 150 that all hon. Members will send their best wishes to the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators—whether they meet in Taba or elsewhere—and will wish their deliberations every success.
Clearly, there are still hurdles to be overcome. From the viewpoint of those on the outside looking in and wishing to put pressure on the negotiators one of those hurdles is the holding of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli gaols. It is a continuing, gnawing problem. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary visits the occupied territories in January to talk to both sides—as he suggested that he would—he will reinforce the need for the Israeli Government to perceive the benefit of releasing the prisoners as quickly as possible, and continuing to allow those who have been removed from the west bank and Gaza to return there as quickly as possible.
Both Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat face tremendous difficulties. They are not helped by the actions of Israeli settlers, or those of the militant Palestinians who are killing them. None the less, we must surely welcome Prime Minister Rabin's forthright statement about the settlers. He said that the Oslo accordshave enemies from the Palestinians who murdered a Jew merely because he was a Jew, and opponents from amongst the Jews who rioted and burnt the cars of Arabs merely because they were Arabs.We should also welcome last week's public condemnation by Yasser Arafat—the first ever—of the killing of an Israeli settler by Palestinians on the west bank.
Both these individuals are taking a courageous stand for peace, and they deserve our support. I welcome the Foreign Secretary's comments and hope that the Government will continue to press for peace in the middle east; however—as many hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out—peace will not come until the other parts of the jigsaw fall into place. One of those pieces, often referred to in the House, is the need to remove the Arab boycott.
As the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale pointed out, there are parallels to be drawn. I suggest that one can be drawn between the need for a lifting of the Arab boycott and the not too dissimilar situation that we have watched developing in South Africa, culminating in yesterday's successful conclusion of arrangements for a new constitution. It is not just a question of the Arab boycott, however: the peace process itself cannot move forward without movement on the Syrian-Israeli conflict.
President Assad of Syria has made it clear that he intends to stand firmly behind the Madrid conference's principle of complete Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab land, according to United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. While President Assad stands firm, there is little likelihood that the Government of Lebanon will be prepared to move on either the peace talks or the Arab boycott.
The international community has clearly linked the gradual lifting of sanctions on South Africa to internal progress achieved through dialogue—against a back-ground of daily violence—on a range of political and humanitarian issues. That is the context in which we should discuss the Arab boycott. As the dialogue proceeds between Israelis and Syrians—and, most important, between Israelis and Lebanese, Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Jordanians—and as the various humanitarian and political pressures are relieved, it is more 151 likely that other Arab countries will be willing to lift the boycott. Before I leave the subject of the middle east, may I say that all hon. Members must be pleased with the results of the recent elections in Jordan. Those have given King Hussein a stable background to re-enter the peace process which will be helpful to the final outcome in the middle east.
I will conclude by raising an issue that has not been raised so far in the debate. It is an issue that does not often get a mention in the House, but one on which the Foreign Office must spend more time in the coming Session to try to see how we can help. It is the subject of Cuba.
Recently, the all-party group on Cuba was addressed by Madame Isobel Allende, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Cuba. She outlined to the group a series of changes that were taking place in Cuba against the background of an economic boycott imposed by the United States. That boycott is expected to cost $800 million this year, as a burden on the Cuban economy. She spoke about an emergency plan for the economy, the opening up of Cuba to foreign investment, the relaxation of currency controls, allowing Cubans to spend foreign currency that they have earned, allowing self-employment in Cuba, leasing land for co-operatives, and decentralising decision-making, along with tax reforms.
I know that many hon. Members will still talk about the commitment of Cuba to maintaining its independence, sovereignty and socialist principles as being an obstacle which has to be overcome. Unless we start to talk to the Cubans and recognise that there is movement on the ground, we cannot claim to be doing as much as we can. I would recommend to the Foreign Office, and specifically to the Foreign Secretary, that an even greater interest be taken in Cuba so that we may help that process along. When we come to the Queen's Speech next year, we may then be able to say that we have helped the democratisation of Cuba and helped the people of that country to move forward. We may be able to say that that has helped peace in that part of the world.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I will say that there are still a number of hon. Members who wish to speak. I hope that those whom I call in a short time will bear that in mind, so that all hon. Members may be able to speak.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross). He is the chairman of the Labour party foreign affairs committee, and hence is my counterpart. I could not say that I agreed with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said this morning. There have been other moments of discord in the House as hon. Members disagree across it, but I think that this is the place to have disagreements on issues which concern foreign affairs and defence. As we all know, it is important that when we go abroad to visit the countries that we are debating today we speak with one voice, and that that one voice is for Britain.
I was interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), and 152 I hope that the Boundary Commission finds a shorter name for his constituency following its reforms. I disagree with him on his request for specific debates on both foreign affairs and defence on the Queen's Speech.
I have made the point for some time that I think our debates on defence matters—I am sorry that defence has taken so little time this morning, as hon. Members have concentrated on foreign affairs—should be opened by the Foreign Secretary. Today, we have an almost unique opportunity to hear first from the Foreign Secretary about the international scene and the identification of Britain's international interests. During the winding-up speech, we will hear from the Secretary of State for Defence, who will no doubt tell us how the United Kingdom will fulfil its obligations as set out by the Foreign Secretary.
I was delighted to read in the Gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government attach the highest importance to national security, to maintaining full support for NATO, to securing NATO's adaptation to the changing security environment and to continuing to develop the operational role of the Western European Union. Let me sound a note of caution, though. It is most important that we do not try to see in the development of the WEU an alternative to NATO. It has been suggested that the WEU might try to duplicate or replicate what NATO is already doing. The North Atlantic Alliance is fundamental to this nation's security and it is important that nothing should be done to undermine it, especially bearing in mind the current tendency of the United States to adopt a slightly isolationist stance. If the WEU is to develop, it is important that it should develop as the European pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance; that is the right way forward.
I also welcome the suggestion in the Queen's Speech that we should widen rather than deepen the European Community. It is extremely interesting that countries in eastern Europe, which were for so long under the yoke of communism or of imperial powers such as the Austro-Hungarian empire and which have fought for so long for their independence and freedom, now find that independence rather discomfiting. It is cold outside, and they want to come back in under the shelter of some supranational power. That is why they are keen to join the European Community. They are experiencing the cold realisation that independence means additional responsibility and that it is very uncomfortable to be alone in such a disordered world. They cannot wait to surrender some of their new-found sovereignty in order to gain security.
I welcome the Government's pledge to play a constructive role in strengthening the United Nations capacity to undertake peacekeeping and preventive action—in other words, to assist in implementing the Secretary-General's "Agenda for Peace". The United Nations is at last fulfilling the role for which it was designed in 1945, and a very difficult task that will be. There are 26 conflicts going on in the world—admittedly most of them civil wars rather than wars between states—and there are a further 47 flashpoints at which conflagrations could break out at any time. The other day, I saw a map of the world with an overlay identifying those places. It showed that the areas where there is conflict and the risk of conflict coincide precisely with areas of overpopulation. During this debate alone, the world's population of 5 billion will undergo a net increase of some 60,000.
A second overlay showed that the areas of conflict and where war is likely are areas that are short of water. We 153 have heard much about the ways in which we can diversify and turn swords into ploughshares, so, taken to its logical conclusion, that means that, logically, we ought to halve our defence expenditure and spend all our money saved on boreholes, water purification plants and condoms. We would probably do more to promote world peace if we did that than we would by spending money on bullets and bombs. That is the logical conclusion, but I am afraid that things just do not work like that.
We must do both: we must continue to maintain our defence expenditure and, hence, our ability to fulfil our obligations as set out in the defence White Paper, but we must not forget that we have an obligation to maintain our ODA funding because overseas aid also has important security implications. I was pleased, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary opened the debate and set out our obligations world wide.
As a leader of the free world and as a member of the United Nations Security Council, we have important obligations. We are a trading nation, and the Foreign Secretary gave some examples world wide where our trade is increasing rapidly. He mentioned India and the far east. There is a steady worldwide build-up in our trade. That must be protected. We are also an ex-colonial power and, therefore, we understand world affairs, probably better than any other country. We are good at diplomacy and, as we have seen from the activities of our troops in the former Yugoslavia, we are particularly good at fulfilling the military roles that the United Nations is identifying for us. We must ensure that we continue to fulfil those roles world wide.
The defence White Paper, which we debated on our first two days back after the summer recess, set out our security objectives in the form of three roles: first, the defence of the homeland and our dependent territories; secondly, our obligations to our allies within, for instance, NATO and the Western European Union; and thirdly our wider security tasks—in other words operations under the UN banner.
Unfortunately, we set aside no resources in terms of equipment and manpower to fulfil role 3. If we want to undertake any of those roles, and I think that I am quoting correctly the words of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, we must not undertake what we cannot deliver. There will be times when we shall want to do things and we shall have to take troops and equipment from elsewhere. At the moment, we can only fulfil role 3 in the wider world by taking resources and manpower from roles 1 and 2. I do not think that that is right, because, as we know, fulfilling roles 1 and 2 is already leaving our armed forces over-stretched.
I do not think that we shall see any further reinstatement of cuts in Army manpower; such reinstatement as there has been was extremely welcome. But what we could see is another way of creating greater flexibility in our armed forces so that we can find the manpower and resources necessary at short notice to meet international obligations under role 3. I refer, of course, to our reserve forces.
There are more than a quarter of a million men and women in the Army reserves—some 190,000 are Army regular reserves, and 68,000 are in the Territorial Army. I look forward to hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) who has the Adjournment debate, which is to follow. If I can catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that I can intervene briefly towards the end of his speech.
154 Regular reservists are individuals and are ex-enlisted personnel. The Territorial Army has 58 units and that is a fundamental difference. On the whole, the regular reserves do not train. There is an obligation on some of them to do so, but that is rarely enforced. On the other hand, the Territorial Army regularly train. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), when Secretary of State for Defence, published in 1992 a White Paper entitled "The Future of Britain's Reserve Forces", which showed the extremely complex system of regular reserves that we have at present. He proposed a new category—he called them "ever-ready" reservists—to reinforce the regular Army when required. I think that the two-tier structure that he was outlining was far too complicated. I was also interested to note that in that document he hardly ever mentioned the Territorial Army.
I am pleased to say that, in October this year, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State published a further document, entitled "Britain's Reserve Forces: A Framework for the Future" in which he saw a greater role for the development of reserves both in war and peacetime. He envisaged a higher readiness reserve—HRR—of between 3,000 and 5,000 men.
The problem is that some individual reservists, as these will be, are meant to train, but they do not. The TA should therefore be our first line of reserve and not the last line. Members of the TA are better trained. As a rule, they are up to date, properly equipped and are in units instead of being individuals. One cannot over-emphasise the importance of the cap badge in maintaining morale.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
To underline my hon. Friend's point about the TA, it comprises units. The fundamental difference between the system that works so well for the national guard in America and in Australia is that the call out for their reserves is by unit. Our concept of the higher readiness reserve of selected individual volunteers—cherry picking as the Americans call it—undermines the structure of territorial organisations.
§ Mr. Colvin
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. This is going to look like a double act before we finish today. I hope that it does not become that. However, I believe that there is a large measure of support in the House for what I have said today.
The TA gives us extremely good value. It costs one sixth of the cost of a regular soldier to maintain a TA soldier. The TA has already faced considerable cuts. I know that the Secretary of State tried to be even handed, but he was not. The TA is down 30 per cent., while the regular Army has decreased by only 25 per cent. I believe that there is a very good case for saying that if we are to cut the regular Army, we should increase the TA and not cut it.
The regular Army is also facing a recruitment problem. That problem is not dictated by the Treasury or the Secretary of State. It is dictated largely by morale. As a result of emergency tours in Northern Ireland, the impact of having to go to Northern Ireland for six months every year—six months on tour, six months off and then six months back—is having a marked effect on the morale of soldiers. That is not because they do not want to go. They enjoy it. My son served in Northern Ireland and I know that he enjoyed it. However, such tours have an impact on 155 wives, families and loved ones back home and that immediately has a depressing effect on morale. That is something we must overcome.
It is also interesting to note how the TA is prepared to undertake operations abroad. Some operations have been to the former Yugoslavia. I was very interested to see the Canadian troops in Cyprus when I visited that country with the Defence Select Committee earlier this year. The Canadians have taken part in 24 of the 25 UN peacekeeping operations since the end of the second world war. Many of the Canadian troops in Cyprus were the equivalent of our TA. That proves that TA personnel can be sent abroad if the organisation is right.
The thrust of my argument is that the TA should provide the first line of reserves for the Army. Those who once served as regulars and have retired or have been made redundant but are still on the books should be the second line of reserve. Those people are often difficult to find if they are required for call up. They probably need to be forced to rejoin the colours and that makes them very reluctant reservists.
I have always had a special interest in the Brigade of Guards, as I served as a Grenadier guardsman. The Brigade of Guards has never had a TA battalion. There have been bogus arguments that the Household brigades are not TA regiments. However, what are the Welsh Guards if they are not a territorial regiment? The Welsh Guards are based on part of the geography of this country. The Welsh Guards were originally the 6th battalion of the Grenadier Guards. They were recruited from the miners of south Wales. During the first world war, the Prince of Wales decided that there should be a regiment of Welsh guards, so the 6th battalion of the Grenadier Guards took their grenades from their caps and put on leeks instead. What are the Scots Guards if they are not a geographically national regiment? The argument that the Brigade of Guards are not territorial in the geographical sense is totally bogus.
The Brigade of Guards now faces cuts. Three battalions are to go. The Scots Guards, Grenadier Guards and the Coldstream Guards each lose a battalion. Those battalions will then go into what is known as suspended animation. I do not understand why those three battalions could not become territorial battalions based in London and therefore also available to do public duties.
At the Queen's birthday parade this year, we saw the impact of reducing the number of guards from eight to five. I dare say that if I were marched on to the Horseguards Parade now I would remember what to do. I might not remember all the words of command, but sword drill has not changed in the same way as rifle drill has changed. There would be no difficulty in finding territorials within the Brigade of Guards to take part in the Queen's birthday parade and other ceremonials, and they would enjoy doing so.
Another brigade is facing the axe, and that is the Gurkhas. They have been halved from six to three battalions. Those Nepalese soldiers are superb in peace and war. They are loyal to a distant sovereign power, they are friendly, they are apolitical and they are very reliable—in fact, they are mercenaries. What better battalions to act as United Nations peacekeeping forces? They have been in operation on behalf of the United Nations in Cyprus and in Cambodia where they have done extremely well.
156 What is the Government's response to calls by Sir Philip Goodhart, a former hon. Member for Beckenham, and Field Marshal Lord Bramall to give the Gurkhas a worldwide role rather than cutting their strength in half? If a United Nations force is required, either a standing army or a standby army, why not designate to the United Nations the three remaining Gurkha battalions, and why not resurrect the other three Gurkha battalions as a standby force?
I readily support this refreshingly short Queen's Speech —less government, I am afraid without lower taxes, but that is the price of a world recession. No doubt taxes will come down still further in due course. I welcome Britain's continuing international commitments and the Government's priority to the defence of the realm and to our interests at home and abroad. To meet those security commitments, we need greater flexibility in our armed forces. I have suggested how some of that might be achieved in the Army in spite of cuts in the regular establishment. I very much look forward to hearing the response of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) for his helpful response to my intervention regarding the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to increase their recognition of the sterling efforts being made by the Government of the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus, particularly by President Denktash, to make progress towards an honourable settlement of the difficulties of that island.
Recent ministerial contacts with Mr. Denktash have been helpful. I hope that Her Majesty's Government and others will recognise that the Greek Government and the Greek Cypriot administration could do more to alleviate Turkish Cypriots' fear that they are still under the real threat of violence from powerful and well-equipped Greek Cypriot forces backed up by Greek regulars who are in the south of the island in considerable numbers. The onus to make progress must not be placed solely on the minority community who have suffered greatly in the past.
The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) was too simplistic when he asserted without qualification the single island thesis. One cannot ignore the present de facto position or the justifiable concerns of the minority, and I hope that the Government will not be tempted to do so.
I deal now with another island, one that I know a great deal better. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) articulated an undeniable and common-sense case for the defeat of terrorism. His enunciation of a two-track approach to the difficulties facing Northern Ireland was most welcome. He expressed the hope that London and Dublin were concentrating on how the godfathers could be brought to book. I regret to have to tell him that that subject does not occupy much of the discussion between the two Governments. The question of the long-serving godfathers —the command and control structure of paramilitary organisations—must be dealt with sooner or later, but I believe that it can be dealt with only by the implementation of executive detention.
During the first day's debate on the Queen's Speech, the Prime Minister outlined at some length what the 157 Government's response would be in the event of the Provisional IRA whole-heartedly repudiating violence. He also reiterated that there can be no place in the democratic process for those who indulge in or espouse political terrorism. Ulster Unionists welcome the clarity of that message. As the Prime Minister prepares for his meeting with Mr. Albert Reynolds in Dublin on 3 December, it is important that those ground rules are carefully understood and adhered to rigidly. One cannot—one dare not—compromise the essential principles on which democracy survives, irrespective of what might appear to be the short-term repercussions in respect of propaganda.
The Ulster Unionist party is fully aware of what the political reality of peace would be. It is now generally acknowledged that our submissions to the 1992 talks process and our subsequent search for stability and progress in Northern Ireland have been constructive and conciliatory. Of course there is concern in some quarters that our frank and forthright approach to the problem might send out the wrong signal, that our constructive participation in the debate might be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. I can understand that, but I believe that the Prime Minister and the Government know better. In the past, we have witnessed the folly of the Government accepting words at face value, and we shall not allow that to happen again. Within Ulster Unionism, there is steely resolve that we cannot ever again allow the type of betrayal enshrined in the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. We cannot forget, for example, that article 1 of the agreement—which promised that the "status" of Northern Ireland could not be changed but by the wish of the people of Northern Ireland—is now a topic of some mirth in the Irish Republic.
I was in the Dublin supreme court when senior counsel in the McGimpsey and McGimpsey v. Ireland case uttered the following unforgettable words:Now, Mr. O'Flaherty referred to Article 1, My Lord, headed "The Status of Northern Ireland". When one reads that Article, one looks at the status of Northern Ireland, it is not defined at all. It is carefully not defined, My Lord, carefully not defined.That is the sort of thing that the Prime Minister will have to guard against on 3 December when the word "peace" will be tossed about with gay abandon. One would wish that it were otherwise, but experience convinces one that the Provisional IRA has not the slightest intention of delivering a permanent ceasefire. Rather, it is the intention of the extreme Republican to package and offer as peace only that which is designed to thwart the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. It would be so easy to be enticed by pleasant generalisations and oft-repeated platitudes, but those of us who participated in the 1992 talks process and who went—as the Prime Minister will—to meet the Irish Republic's delegation in Dublin, still await one single substantive gesture from that source, in our search for political progress.
It is now fully eight weeks since the Adams-Hume liaison was, amid great publicity and mystery, temporarily suspended. The people of Northern Ireland and Members of the House have still to hear from the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) what all the excitement was about. We have, however, heard the President of Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA say of that process:It is not aimed, as some commentators and sections of the media are suggesting, at bringing an end to the IRA's campaign.Mr. Adams goes on, in relation to any political settlement, to state: 158Peace cannot be a prerequisite for such a process.It is against that background of confusion and double-speak that the Prime Minister will have to make his judgments. He will be encouraged by Dublin to define a set of criteria within which some grand plan can be constructed for the future of Northern Ireland. He must not contemplate such a step while the Irish Republic's irredentist and aggressive territorial claim remains in place.
The people of Northern Ireland must be the arbiters of what is ultimately acceptable politically and the Dublin Government must not be given a pre-emptive veto. It is crucial that the people of Northern Ireland know that. The Prime Minister should resist pressure to try to agree what will be called "a framework for agreement" with the Irish Government. That would inhibit rather than help progress. It would be taken as a signal by the Provisional IRA—as was the Anglo-Irish Agreement—that it was making steady progress through its efforts to bomb and shoot its way to the conference table.
The Prime Minister will not be unaware that no group of people would welcome peace more than those who serve in the Army and the police in Northern Ireland and who, for almost 25 years, have placed themselves at tremendous personal cost between the law-abiding community and the terrorists. The security services will still have to bear the brunt if anything is done which gives a new legitimacy to the men of violence.
The Prime Minister goes to Dublin armed with the knowledge that he and the Ulster Unionists have both spelt out clearly what is on offer to those who eschew political violence. It is that which must be underpinned. Although he must insist on the co-operation of the Irish Republic's Government, nothing can take precedence over the clarification of the terms which would dictate that a permanent ceasefire has come about. In that respect, it must be established that members of Sinn Fein cannot come directly, with mud on their boots and blood on their hands, to any negotiating table, but that a significant period of time has to elapse during which their repudiation of violence is proven beyond doubt. Mr. Reynolds and the Dublin Government must be left in no doubt about the terms on which men of violence will be deemed to have fully recanted.
A stringent verification programme must be established, which will guarantee the permanency of any arrangement to stand down personnel and surrender all arms and explosives, and any arrangement for Sinn Fein—or whatever that organisation may ultimately be called—to submit a totally new manifesto, repudiating violence, for the will of the electorate at the ballot box. Therein lies the acid test of good will and of tangible evidence of the desire for peace and active co-operation which Dublin professes, and therein will lie the principal responsibility of the Prime Minister on 3 December.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)
The Gracious Speech debate gives us an opportunity to cover a wide area, but first we should remark on the good news about what has been happening recently. Developments in South Africa are extremely encouraging, although considerable risks still lie ahead during the process towards democracy.
Obviously, there is good news in Russia, in the sense that there will be elections, but it will be a rocky road towards democracy. The Foreign Secretary was right to say that our support for President Yeltsin is as a reformer, as 159 opposed to anything else. I have been to Russia more than once, so I know that words tend to have a different meaning there.
In the middle east, we have had the excellent news that the Israelis and Palestinians are talking to each other. When I was in the area in 1991, I was struck by the fact that the Israelis seemed to be acting against their security interests by their policy towards the Palestinians. It is clear that my view seems to have prevailed among the Israeli Government.
Those are the three pieces of good news. Sadly, they are surrounded by many worrying signs of instability and evidence of nuclear proliferation, which underline the view in the Daily Telegraph this week that we needa thorough-going review of the assumptions underpinning Britain's foreign and defence policies.We can do that in this debate. The Secretary of State has been forthright in his contribution to a wide-ranging discussion.
The assumptions must be considered carefully. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was right to say that we should not promise things that we cannot deliver. That is very wise. However, we should not rely on what may not be forthcoming. The House must, for example, consider carefully the changes that are taking place within the United States of America. We must rely not on what we believe to be a special relationship, but on much more solidly based assessment of mutual interest.
When I was in America in September, I was struck by the fact that their views on the role and status of Europe are changing. Their perspectives are moving much more towards Asia, as we can see even as we speak. Inasmuch as a change has resulted because of the end of the cold war, The American perspective of Europe has been downgraded, as Secretary of State Warren Christopher remarked a few weeks ago, when he said that Europe was not the most important area of the world. That does not mean to say that we cannot still work with the Americans in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which is such an important insititutional framework for them as well.
However, elsewhere we need to draw other conclusions. The certainties of foreign and defence policy are based not merely on diplomacy and military might but on economic relationships. We can stress to the Americans the importance of their trade with the European Community —the figures are quite striking. That interdependence of interest needs to be underlined—25 per cent. of American exports are to the European Community and trade flows between the Community and the USA constitute 7.5 per cent. of world trade.
We should consider also the fact that American investment in the Community has disproportionately come to this country. Britain is an important part of American interest. In the EC as a whole, some 2.5 million Europeans are employed by American companies—many of them in this country. It is in our interest to ensure that Britain plays a full and active part in the single market that attracted outside investors. The Confederation of British Industry was right last weekend to pressure the Government to continue to be positive in their policies towards the European Community.
We tend to forget that the single market established in recent years is dynamic, and can therefore move backwards as well as forwards. Currency instability between 160 Community member states will tend to increase the sense of protectionism and, in that regard, could undermine the single market. If there were moves towards a single currency in the rest of the Community, Britain would be disadvantaged. There is no use saying that a single currency is not on our agenda, because we must discuss that issue if other member states still have it on their agenda. That is not a recommendation that we should immediately commit ourselves to signing up to a single currency, the nature of which we still do not know. In that, I differ from members of Labour's Front Bench, who have made that commitment. I am arguing that discussions on matters such as how Britain should move towards any single currency and on how it should work with the European monetary institute are in the interests of British industry, British jobs and, ultimately, of the security of the British nation. We cannot simply decide that we will opt out of that discussion for domestic political reasons.
The importance of the European Community and of the economic strength that we need to develop together should be emphasised to our partners when it comes to considering the Community's competitive edge, which is sadly declining. It is now a serious situation when one compares its declining productivity levels with those of Japan and America. Over the past 10 years, there has been a total transformation in European Community unit labour costs which have risen by comparison with those of America and Japan. This is having a serious effect on job exports from the Community to America.
When I was in America in September, the one topic of conversation wherever I went in the south was whether Mercedes would open its new plant in a particular state, creating 1,500 jobs. The final choice was a state that I did not visit—Alabama. Concerns about declining productivity and competitiveness in the Community must be right at the top of the agenda.
We sometimes forget that our arguments have already been winning in the Community. The German Government's paper on competitiveness submitted to the Commission has many similarities with the British Government's own stance. We welcome that, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will continue to put positive pressure on other Community members to ensure that the strength of the Community will not only encourage new jobs into it but will enable it to sell Community-made products to the rest of the world.
On the wider military aspect, I am profoundly concerned with what is happening in Russia. The events concerning whether there will be a new elective body after 15 December are interesting, but if one considers the breakdown of order in Russia, a different picture emerges. One realises that its democratic institutions are only part of the story. If my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has time in his wind-up speech, I shall be interested to hear his comments on the reforms in the Russian army. Not only within Russia, which stretches to the Japanese seas, but externally, tensions will continue until matters have been resolved, and there is knowledge of where power actually lies and of the trade-off that President Yeltsin reached with the Russian army last summer.
There are 30 million Russians outside Russia. The Russian army regards it as part of its role to protect Russian citizens outside Russia—a policing job that, if thought of quickly, is not so dangerous, but, as we are seeing in some 161 territories, it goes beyond protecting Russians. That is merely the excuse to take action. I do not know where that will lead.
We must be careful, because instabilities on the periphery of the former Soviet Union will have knock-on effects in the middle east. The Foreign Secretary rightly spoke of India, but the Indian sub-continent and China are also affected by events in the former Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Brazier
I strongly support my hon. Friend's remarks. Does he agree that what he is describing is what happened in Russia in the two centuries before 1917? Russia is now reverting to the very unstable situation vis-á-vis its middle eastern neighbours that prevailed before 1917. The Soviet military today is led in many cases by the grandfathers of the Tsarist generals.
§ Mr. Taylor
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am not sure whether he meant grandfathers or grandsons! Thinking quickly on one's feet, one tends to reverse relationships.
We must go back into Russian history. I debated with a member of the Russian Parliament whether St. Petersburg or Moscow is the determinant of influence. That is very relevant because if Moscow dominates, which is much more eastward looking than St. Petersburg, it may act in ways about which we shall be less than happy.
Washington is much more Moscowcentric than we should be. We have an interest in not seeing every problem in the former Soviet Union being resolved by Moscow's influence. For example, the Ukraine has a population not much different from ours, but, interestingly, when it declared its independence within the former Soviet Union it had an Army of 1.4 million. It is now trying to reduce it to about 400,000. The Ukraine is a sensitive area. We must make considerable effort, not necessarily through Moscow but direct to Kiev, to ensure that its relationships with ourselves and Europe are kept on a stable footing.
We must be much more imaginative about how we give comfort to our newly independent friends in central Europe. The extension of the NATO guarantee is easy to say, but is a risky thing to do. NATO has been successful and has been vibrant simply because it has had a clear remit. If we start to expand it almost as a diplomatic alliance, we may run into trouble. I have debated with Hungarians whether they understand the full implications of the commitment that it would place on us, let alone them, to respond to an attack on a member country. There are all sorts of ethnic and regional problems. There are 1 million Hungarians, for example, in Romania. Many difficulties could emerge.
None of that, however, is a recipe for doing nothing. We must make it clear that our guarantee is that under no circumstances could NATO see an external threat to the eastern countries that would leave us disinterested, and we can devise such elements of what that guarantee might compromise. It is not possible to conceive of, for example, an external attack on Poland without its going straight to the security of European Community countries and, therefore, NATO itself.
There are all sorts of formulae towards which we can build. The European Community has a role in taking up the idea of a European political area. That concept will at least give the people in central Europe the feeling that they are involved in discussions without having to meet the acquis-communautaire and all the demands of full 162 Community membership. At least they could then be party to discussions on security and other matters such as the environment where their interests and ours intermingle.
In such a wide-ranging debate, I have tried to focus on certain areas. Our security is diplomatic, it is military and it is economic. We must ensure that under each of those headings we do the most possible to protect the British people. In the European Community, an area which I think has been the most controversial during the past year, no British national interest is served by attempting to deny the importance of our full and whole-hearted membership, whether for reasons of political influence or simply because of a crude calculation of the jobs that are involved. As 13 out of every 100 manufacturing workers in Britain are employed by foreign firms, it would be shortsightedness and foolhardiness of the worst kind if Britain were to adopt a negative approach to relations in the Community. After the Foreign Secretary's comments today and what I anticipate that he will say tonight, I have ever confidence that there is now no question of a Conservative Government every being negative about the European Community.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)
There are 44 minutes remaining before the wind-up speeches and six hon. Members hope to catch my eye. With a little co-operation they may be able to speak.
§ 1.6 pm
§ Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
I begin by concurring most strongly with the words of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) about the importance to Britain of the European Community. Now that the Maastricht treaty is in place, it is time that the Government worked with vision and foresight. I fear that at the next intergovernmental conference in 1996 we shall again find great difficulties unless we begin preparing now to look to the future.
In the limited time available, I shall concentrate my remarks on the common foreign and security policy aspect of the Maastricht treaty, but first I shall comment on two issues that were mentioned earlier. First, we all welcome the fantastic if painful achievements in South Africa. It would be remiss of us not to recognise that economic sanctions, as supported by the Labour party, requested by the United Nations and opposed by the Government over many years, have played a crucial role in the weakening of the apartheid regime and have supported the African National Congress and other forces that are working for liberation and democracy.
Secondly, anybody who shows an interest in the middle east is delighted that the Israeli Labour Government have reached an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. We hope, pray and trust that the extremists and the rejectionists on both sides will be resoundingly defeated and that that agreement will come to fruition and lead to comprehensive peace throughout the middle east. I must take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) in that I do not believe that we should make any excuses for continuing the Arab economic boycott of Israel. The time to lift that boycott is now. It is important to recognise that the boycott is not like sanctions on South Africa and connected with UN security resolutions, but is imposed independently by certain states which put pressure on companies—including British 163 companies—that are concerned with trade in that region. It is important that our Government should join the Germans, the Dutch and other European Community countries and clearly state that we do not tolerate that economic boycott, especially at a time when there is a real possibility for economic development in the occupied territories and in Israel, which will benefit all the people of that region.
I turn now to the difficulties that we face in Europe and to our future security relations, east and west. Last week I was at the headquarters of NATO and SHAPE—Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe—with my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) and a group of Labour Members. All of us knew that following the revolutions of 1989 and the political changes we needed to rethink our security approach, but none of us realised in 1989–90 quite how momentous and difficult those changes would be.
Poland is one such example. In 1989, Poland had three neighbours: the German Democratic Republic, which no longer exists, the Republic of Czechoslavakia, which no longer exists, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which no longer exists. Poland now has seven neighbours. We must recognise that the process of disintegration in Europe is continuing, as was mentioned earlier, within the Russian Federation itself.
I do not believe that the architecture for security issues about which we have talked will necessarily have the same number of states in five years' time, in three years' time or even in two years' time. We used to say that the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe—the Helsinki process—involved 33 or 34 states. There are now 53 member states of the CSCE. NATO is involved in discussions with the countries of the former Warsaw pact and it has established the North Atlantic Co-operation Council—NACC, to use its new acronym. Some people see the council as a means of saying to the countries of central and eastern Europe which want to join NATO that they should be involved in the processes, while having no real influence. Others see it as an automatic conveyor belt through which Latvia and the other countries, such as Romania, which want to join can beome members of NATO.
We must be careful. Are we seriously saying that we shall give a security guarantee to all 38 members of the North Atlantic Co-operation Council, or potentially to all 53 members of the CSCE? Are we really saying to Kurdistan and to the other places a long way from Europe that any attack on them will be perceived as a threat to the security of all the other states in the North Atlantic alliance?
There are countries which are run by medieval-style warlords. There are countries with civil wars and countries where ethnic conflicts are raging today. Let us consider Georgia and Nagorno Karabakh, and all the regions where there is massive instability. Let us consider the biggest enigma—what happens in Russia. I visited Russia before and after Gorbachev, and I am worried about the political processes there. I have friends and political acquaintances who were members of democratic Russia and who were leading dissidents under Gorbachev. They were inside the Russian Parliament when Yeltsin sent the tanks against it. They are not communists or fascists; they are democrats 164 who believe in constitutional, parliamentary democracy, and who happen to have chosen the side of Parliament against the President.
Let us look back 350 years to the history of this place. We can see that sometimes Parliaments have to be defended—even inadequately elected Parliaments. It was certainly not a democratic Parliament here in 1640 and in subsequent years.
I hope that the elections on 15 December lead to a true democracy, but I fear that if President Yeltsin does not get the result that he wants we shall see further attempts to erode, undermine and destroy parliamentary democracy in Russia. The west must say, very clearly, that there will be no economic or political support if he does that. We should not use weasel words or be mealy-mouthed about it. The time to say it is now, when we can still have an impact, not when it is too late.
I have referred to the acronyms and the plethora of organisations. One of the unresolved big issues is what will happen to the relationship between the Western European Union and NATO, as set out in article J4 of the Maastricht treaty. We all know that there are two visions of the approach. The British and American view is that the Western European Union should be the European pillar of the Atlantic alliance; the French view is that the Western European Union is the embryonic defence arm of the European Union as a whole, an embryonic defence community which will perhaps ultimately be based on British and French nuclear weapons and some kind of west European military bloc.
I understand from talks in Brussels last week that there will be a NATO summit in January, and that discussions are currently going on which are supposedly finessing this problem. The issue is probably less high on the agenda today, but I am convinced that, unless we are very careful, we could have the worst of all possible worlds in two or three years' time. There could be a political situation in which we had sent signals to the United States to accelerate their already planned reductions in Europe, leading to an ultimate complete withdrawal—the 100,000 US forces leading down to perhaps 50,000, or even a symbolic American presence in western Europe. On the other side, we could have a growing nationalisation of defence policy and a disintegration of integrated structures within NATO. The French want a European defence without the Americans because of their Gaullist ambition—which is very slightly restrained by President Mitterrand at some levels, but is nevertheless endemic throughout the whole French political establishment, both left and right.
We must be very clear that if we go down that road it will cost a great deal of money and will undoubtedly lead to a proliferation of nuclear weapons, or at least restrict all ideas about further steps towards nuclear disarmament. That would not be in the interests of this country or European security as a whole.
We should do all that we can to keep the United States in Europe for the next few years. That requires us to be clear that it is welcome in Europe on the basis of a co-operative security relationship. That relationship will change, but it has to be done now rather than being left until 1996—when we have the intergovernmental conference in the European Community—or 1998, when the Western European Union treaty runs out.
I also fear the tensions over Bosnia. The American flip-flopping from one week to the next about what they are going to do, and the unrealistic perceptions of some people 165 that a military solution can be imposed from outside—that we can go in, stay for six months or a year, disappear and then have no problems—will prove a big difficulty for us in the future.
One big problem is that even if an agreement is reached, some 50,000 troops will be required to police it. The Americans have said that they might contribute 25,000 if the agreement was really capable of implementation; that would mean that a further 25,000 western European troops would be needed to make up the numbers.
Where will those extra troops come from? They cannot come from Germany, because of its role in the former Yugoslavia in the 1940s, during the second world war; for similar reasons, they cannot come from Italy. Nor can they come from Turkey—which has a huge NATO army—because it is a Muslim state, and its troops would not be acceptable to the Croats and the Serbs. Presumably they cannot come from Greece either, because of the relationship between the Greek and Serbian orthodoxies. We are left with France, Britain, Spain—perhaps—and the Benelux countries.
That leads us to another question: where will those troops come from? If 20,000 British troops are tied up in Northern Ireland and have to be rotated, how can there be sufficient forces to deal with the peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia? Those operations may have to continue not for a few months but for five, 10, 15 or even 20 years. Look at what has happened in Northern Ireland and Cyprus. I believe that such issues should be debated publicly. We should not be hiding behind other arguments; we should be speaking out honestly about matters concerning the future of security in Europe.
According to the Queen's Speech, the Government are committed to pursuing a process which might at some stage—perhaps—lead to a comprehensive test ban treaty. I do not think that that is good enough. We have an American moratorium, which President Clinton has bravely continued despite some congressional opposition. We have a Russian moratorium, which really needs to be reinforced. We have a French moratorium, although there are numerous reports that the French Government would like to continue nuclear testing before the end of the year. And in recent weeks the Chinese have broken the moratorium.
It is about time that our Government announced, openly and publicly, that we are to have a moratorium. By that I mean a British decision—not a decision made for us because the Americans will not let Nevada be used for testing. I mean a British decision to impose a moratorium in our own right and to oppose any further nuclear tests by any nuclear-weapons state. I also want a comprehensive test ban treaty within the next year, so that the non-proliferation treaty review conference in 1995 can be a great success.
We have seen some good news in the newspapers today about the Ukraine, at least to some extent. Yesterday, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to ratify the START 1 treaty, which is very important. The Ukrainians have also said, however, that they will keep a number of former Soviet nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. That is bad news.
We must make the maximum possible effort to encourage nuclear disarmament in all the former Soviet republics, a halt to proliferation, a comprehensive nuclear test ban and—in association with that—a review of NATO and British nuclear strategy. Our ultimate aim should be to give control of international security and nuclear weapons 166 to an international body linked to the United Nations Security Council. We must move away from national competition in nuclear policies, and build greater international security.
§ Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)
I start by thanking the Foreign Secretary, the Minister of State and other Foreign Office Ministers and their officials for the great help that they have given me in attempting to deal with the terrible stories which are now coming from Iraq. I thank in particular Patrick Nixon and Alistair Harrison. I also thank warmly the Secretary of State for Defence and his team, whom I cannot name.
The backdrop of the middle east peace process is cloaking the continuing tragedy of the Persian gulf. It is hiding so much, and behind the curtain the horrors of Iraq continue. Saddam Hussein is reaping a grim harvest of twisted minds. In every family there is one or more informer to the state. The children go to school where they are indoctrinated by the teachers to speak against their parents. He reaps a harvest also of twisted bodies, who are the victims of torture and of lifelong imprisonment in tombs of prisons, some underground.
Saddam Hussein said that he would still rule Iraq if there were as few as 3 million people under him. He is getting there. He has been in power for a long time and he rules by institutionalised violence. The House will recall his territorial ambition to take over from Nasser as the pan-Arabic leader. His game plan surely nears completion. It is a master plan of total rule by him of a suppliant people which is enforced by terror.
The House may remember that one of Saddam Hussein's targets were the Jews. In 1981, a pamphlet published by his foster father stated that there were three groups whom God should not have created—Persians, Jews, and flies. Persians wereanimals God created in the shape of humans.Jews were a mixture ofthe dirt and leftovers of diverse peoples.Flies werea trifling creation who we do not understand God's purpose in creating.
In 1984, the head of the Mukhabarat secret service defined as fifth columnists Jewish and Iranian children, whose families were seen as people who were working against the state. They were named, classified, and were deported. Jews have been in Iraq since the seventh century and the cross-fertilisation between the great Persian civilisation and Iraq has been taking place since time immemorial. Internal aggression against Jews, Iranians and Assyrians, Kurds and Shi'ites, started early in his rule, which began in 1968. In 1981, he shifted to external aggression and attacked the Iranian province of Khozestaan which he called Arabistan. The eight-year long Iran-Iraq war was marked by Iraqi chemical weapons attacks in Khozestaan. He failed against Iran in 1988 and just a couple of days later in mid-August of that year he moved to Kurdistan with an internal attack, again using chemical weapons.
Saddam Hussein later invaded Kuwait which he declared was just a province of Basra. When he failed there and the allies drove him out, he used chemical weapons again and moved into the south of Iraq. The marshlands of Mesopotamia are under remorseless attack now. The 167 people who live there are known as the Ma'dan. Saddam Hussein has defined them as "lower than animals" as "rats" and as "the scum of the earth".
§ Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and I would not have intervened if it had not been about something very important.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, in the aftermath of the Kuwaiti invasion, 625 prisoners of war were taken to Iraq who still rot in those prisons nearly four years after their capture? Is she aware that the Iraqis are still failing to meet United Nations resolutions 686 and 687 for their release?
§ Miss Nicholson
I am aware of those unfortunate prisoners and also of the prisoners from Britain who are in Iraq. Those include Paul Ride, the son of my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Ride of Bideford. There are other people of different nationalities who have been captured for crossing the border into Iraq inadvertently.
I also remind the House that there are thousands of Iranian prisoners in Iraq, and that in Al Gharib prison there are many thousands of Iranian and Iraqi women. Recently those women sent a secret message out saying that, if rescue came, they would rather that a bomb was dropped on the prison. They have been violated so many times that they feel that they cannot remain alive with dignity. I am sure that the Kuwaiti prisoners must feel just the same.
Her Majesty puts high on the agenda of her Government Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions. Surely it is clear that Saddam Hussein is not complying with any of these resolutions—particularly with resolution 688. Her Majesty also identifies it as very important that we work towards the effective implementation of the chemical weapoons convention. I believe that our work on that is essential.
There was, I believe, an attack involving the use of chemical weapons in the marshlands north of Basra on 28 and 29 September. Reports came through immediately. They were issued by the supreme council of the Islamic revolution in Iraq, whose honourable representative in London, Dr. Al-Bayati, and his staff work so hard. I also received reports from the borders of Iran and Iraq from witnesses who managed to escape the marshes two or three weeks later. I immediately passed on the evidence that I received to the United Nations Special Commission. Tim Trevan, spokesman for the commission, assembled a team on the basis of the data with which we provided him, led by Jan Fisher and Roger Hill. Last week, that team was in Iran, by courtesy of the Iranian Government, who co-operated immediately and properly and allowed its members access to the witnesses and to the local medical people in the team of the AMAR appeal, which I chair, who also had knowledge.
It appears that the gas was phosgene. A tank commander engaged in the assault was killed, and left in his battle tank a document detailing the protective devices that the army should take with it because of phosgene gas. That surely means that those involved knew which weapon they were using.
In the past two days, we have had news of anti-chemical material that Saddam Hussein has been laying on the ground, of the burial of animals and human bodies and of the transport of army victims—some were harmed by the chemical weapons attack when the wind changed—to 168 hospitals elsewhere. I know that the chemical weapons team from the United Nations Special Commission has now completed its interviews in Iran. I believe and understand that it will be proceeding to Baghdad and from there seeking access to the marshlands and the area that we identified for it.
Let me read the House just a sentence or two of what that witness, Mr. Abd Ali Hashim, said:The time was eight o'clock in the morning with the army advancing from the Al Fatra area"—that is close to where he was—Around 9 o'clock in the morning I saw white clouds. After I reached the area which was bombarded I saw missiles and I knew that it was chemicals as used by the army. I saw tanks in which there were some masks and later I heard from one of the soldiers that the wind changed course and caused many victims in the army itself. I could see the plants changing colour and wilting … the dead bodies had blue skin and blisters. Some soldiers were wearing their masks.Earlier witnesses told us that children turned blue and fell down dead, and animals too. Perhaps the gas was combined with an exfoliant in order to harm the environment as well. We have other details which have come straight from those still in the marshes.
It is important to recall that the United Nations commission has to get details—samples of soil from the site and samples of blood from the victims, for example. We must therefore wish the team well in its difficult search for evidence in the marshlands of southern Iraq. I sent the team a map identifying the precise location of the attack immediately after it happened. It was in the Al Hammar marshes, west of Algatra, south of Al Pyapat and north of Rumyla. I pinpointed it for the team from data immediately provided to me.
Why should we be surprised to learn that Saddam Hussein has been using chemical weapons? I am not. Victims who came over to the safe haven of Iran after the 1991 uprising had with them clear physical evidence of chemical weapons having been used. Over the past two years, I have told the House of victims coughing their guts out and still just alive and talking of the smell of burnt garlic. This time, witnesses have spoken of the smell of rotten apples.
When I visited the marshes last year, on one of my missions for humanitarian relief, I was warned not to go to a particular spot because it had been bombed chemically the day before. Coincidentally, at the same time as the chemical weapon assaults seemed to have been taking place, the Royal Air Force was overflying six villages slightly north-west of the area bombed by the chemical weapon. I thank most profoundly the Secretaries of State for Defence and for Foreign Affairs for giving me the opportunity to release the first overfly film to be shown which was taken from the cockpit of the RAF Tornado jets. It is the first material that the allies have released of the overfly that we have been carrying out for the past year and a quarter.
Over the area of the Euphrates river, the RAF filmed, and with infra-red treatment identified by imagery, some villages in the marshland area of southern Iraq that have been destroyed.
For the benefit of the House, I shall identify village No. 5, which is located south of the Euphrates river in the Hawr Al Hammar marshes. Around 100 ruined buildings can be observed. Scorch marks are visible around some buildings. These show up as white marks on the infra-red images, suggesting that they are warm and that the burning is 169 possibly recent. The regular pattern of destruction suggests that the buildings were demolished either by fire or possibly by high explosive detonators. Cultivated areas surrounding the derelict buildings have been destroyed by fire and dried-up riverbeds can also be seen.
The RAF has filmed six villages in this way. It makes it clear to me beyond all reasonable doubt that the data that the victims have been giving us as they have crossed the border into the safe haven of Iran have now been substantiated. Their rice farms have been burned down; there is no cultivation left possible to them because the marshes have been drained—the dry riverbeds can be seen on the imagery; the fish have died and the water buffalo have gone; the villages have been destroyed and the people have thus been aggressively pushed out. The combined RAF and victims' data is of great importance.
I shall now briefly turn to the question of conventional weapons in the Persian gulf context. I suggest that when Henry Kissinger stated that if we supplied both sides in the Iran-Iraq war we would control the other countries in the region, how wrong we were. I stress the point that the policy of dual containment, which Washington still seems to continue to support, is a mistaken one. It is our duty to pull back the supply of conventional weaponry that went into Iraq in the 1980s. Indeed, in the Iran-Iraq war, 39 countries supplied either or both Iran or Iraq with conventional and other weapons, including consistent offers, and I believe supplies, of chemical weapons, too.
In the town of Dezful, in south-west Iran, the entire town was destroyed by Scud missiles. Chemical weapons were used there also and I have seen the effect that that has had on the Iranian earth.
In his recent speech, the Prince of Wales called for a greater understanding between Islam and the west. I believe that that is a most important call. I hope that we shall soon have in the Palace of Westminster an opportunity of listening to a debate with Islamic scholars and other experts. Iran will supply the scholars and I believe that we shall be able to obtain the assistance of Islamic professors in Europe for the seminar. I want also to stimulate a debate on Islam and democracy. I hope that these moves will lead to a greater understanding in the west of Iran, which, after all, is the country next door to Iraq —its terrible neighbour. I thank the Iranian Foreign Ministry now, which has been most generous in allowing myself and the AMAK appeal teams of doctors and nurses to carry out humanitarian relief, Mr. Ansari, the chargé d'affaires here in London, Mr. Niknam who is senior in the Foreign Ministry and other Iranian colleagues have become friends and partners in this important work.
It is all too easy for the world to forget the cruelty that has been carried out by Saddam Hussein in his grim dance of death. We must not ignore the planned destruction of human, animal, bird, fish, water and soil life that is being carried out in the Mesopotamian marshes and elsewhere in Iraq.
Let me briefly refer to a UNICEF document entitled "Facts for Life." The cover of that document bears a picture of Saddam Hussein, who states:The image of the future Starts with the Child.
When I was last at the United Nations, it seemed to me that the deputy Secretary-General's major concern was how quickly he could move on to his next appointment, which was with the Iraqi Foreign Minister.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said that in the United Kingdom, in respect of foreign affairs, we 170 punch above our weight. Let us now do just that with regard to Iraq. Let us call for and organise a Nuremberg trial. Let us disseminate the knowledge which will be given to us shortly by Dr. Edward Maltby, head of the International Union of Nature Conservation wetlands committee, about the destruction of the marshes. Let us work hard for the establishment of a safe zone for the marsh Arabs. It is not yet too late for these and other measures to be implemented.
Finally, let us plan with the confidence that no nation has ever been completely wiped out. If we act swiftly, there may still be some chance of saving some of the Iraqi victims from the extinction that Saddam Hussein has planned for them.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
I should have liked to raise many issues in this debate had there been time. One issue that I will mention briefly and which the Government should address, relates to the future of the world given the impact of the export of the Islamic revolution from Teheran. It is absolutely essential that we address that problem which is influencing the world from Algeria, across the middle east, through Tadzhikistan and into the Sinkiang province of China.
As I have been the vice-chairman of the British all-party Yugoslav group for the past nine years, no doubt hon. Members would expect me to mention the situation in Yugoslavia. The Foreign Secretary has not really addressed the problem of sanctions against Croatia. Sanctions are being applied and have been enhanced against Serbia despite the fact that the Serbian President and others, including David Owen and Mr. Stoltenberg, have been willing to reach some agreement over the Bosnian situation.
The Government have shown sympathy. The correspondence from the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), has been most helpful and sympathetic with regard to the supply of medical equipment and other medical supplies to Serbia. However, although the sanctions committee often reaches agreement about the passage of equipment to Belgrade, which has become one of the main routes for the supply of medical aid to the Muslims in Bosnia, an individual member state of the United Nations can defy the sanctions committee. That was the case with equipment that the sanctions committee agreed could be exported from Siemens in Erlangen in Germany. However, that equipment could not reach Belgrade because of opposition from America; some of the components were American. A recent law case in this country confirmed that. The whole question of sanctions resolutions should be considered.
However, it is often said that Serbia was mostly responsible for the war in Bosnia. Certainly, playing the nationalist card was an issue in Serbia when President Milosevic first came to power. However, it was certainly not confinded to Mr. Milosevic. Both President Tudjman and Mr. Izetbegovic played the nationalist card in that country.
It must be rememberd that when Croatia declared her independence on 26 June 1991, she did not use the constitutional means open to an independent republic within the Yugoslav federation. It is as though Fermanagh and Tyrone, with the aid of the IRA, suddenly said, "We 171 are going to declare our independence." What would we say about that? Would we not deploy British troops in the Province to deal with such a situation? I rather fancy that we would.
In fact, Croatia's independence was wrongly recognised, after some time, in January 1992. The British Government acceded to pressure from Helmut Kohl, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) mentioned, and gave way. It is interesting to note the date—January 1992—because in September 1991 HVO forces and regular forces from Croatia were active inside Bosnia-Herzegovina. At that time, Bosnia-Herzegovina was recognised by the international community as part of the Yugoslav federation. How do I know that? Because, with colleagues of all parties, on 2 May I visited the site of Bosanski Brod in northern Bosnia and saw two bodies being exhumed from a mass grave in an area which had Utashe symbols written on the walls of the town, indicating the presence of extreme right-wing Croatian forces at a time when Bosnia was recognised by the international community as part of Yugoslavia.
The media have a lot to answer for in regard to the impression that has been given in this country of events in Yugoslavia. That includes the BBC, unfortunately. I have great admiration for the BBC World Service, but on 2 September, with colleagues from both sides of the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), I was in Bosnia and I heard on BBC radio that the Geneva peace talks had broken down. Quoting Sarajevo radio, the BBC said, "Serbian troops are now massing for an attack on Gorazde and the town is coming under shellfire."
With the help of the Bosnian Serbs and the United Nations, we were able to cross from the Serbian lines to the Muslim lines and enter the town of Gorazde. There was no fighting around Gorazde and a shell had not been fired in the area for more than six days, according to the United Nations commander in the area. We need carefully to consider whom we are supporting in the conflict and make sure that we do not put all the blame on one side of the argument.
Looking at the Muslim situation in Bosnia, one sees that there are at least some glimmers of hope. Mr. Fikret Abdic, who leads the Muslims in the area around Bihac, has signed a declaration and accord in line with the Owen-Stoltenberg plan for the western autonomous province in Bosnia, the area around Bihac. He has come under attack from Izetbegovic and the fundamentalists.
Again, we come back to the old problem of Islamic fundamentalism. There is the danger of such a state existing in the heart of Europe, in Yugoslavia. Fundamentalist forces are fighting inside Bosnia. If the Secretary of State for Defence consulted some of the British commanders in Bosnia, they would confirm that the Bosnian seventh brigade is made up almost entirely of fundamentalist extremists from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. That issue needs to be explored.
If we are to have peace in the Balkans, we need to formulate a package to cover the whole of Yugoslavia and that package must contain a provision for strict adherence to human rights by all parties. After the break-up of the Yugoslav federation, the first ethnic cleansing took place in Croatia where Serbians are now regarded as third-class 172 citizens. Unlike some people, I am glad that the Secretary of State for Defence and the Government have been cautious and have not responded to the calls for air strikes. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) recalled what had happened in Somalia, where air strikes enhanced the warlords. In spite of the faults in their policy on Croatia, I believe that the Government's cautious approach has been correct.
I hope that the Government will show real muscle in their discussions with the European Community and will insist to Helmut Kohl that a common European policy means a common European foreign policy, not a German foreign policy imposed on the rest of the European Union.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
Anyone who, like me, has sat through today's debate and listened to almost every speech cannot but believe that the level of expertise we have heard bears out the importance and the range of responsibilities borne by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his staff. The Opposition spokesman said that the Gracious Speech appeared to have come off the same disc as last year. The Queen's Speech has in fact changed, but the importance of foreign affairs for this country's economy and security can never be underestimated.
I, too, wish to thank Ministers, but I should also like to thank the Foreign Office staff, the diplomatic corps, the people who administer the aid programmes, and those who run the British Council and the BBC World Service because they also play a major part in ensuring that Britain's role is understood throughout the world.
I shall make just two points. I do not intend to range around the world, mentioning all the areas in which I take an interest because that would take the rest of the day. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) said that Britain punches above its weight. I am anxious, however, that we do not become anorexic: I want us to put on weight in terms of influence, for all the historic reasons that I do not need to recite. I am worried that the constant pressure on the Foreign Office budget makes it ever more difficult for us to play the role for which we are uniquely—historically and traditionally —equipped. I hope that that fact will be recognised in the Budget on 30 November.
We have heard about Britain's influence and our role in the various difficult situations described today, but we must remember that the costs are minimal. The costs of the Foreign Office's diplomatic budget is less than 1 per cent. of public expenditure, but elsewhere billions of pounds are spent, often trying to put right the very things that go wrong if we pursue false economy and fail to prevent them happening instead of putting them right.
The Foreign Secretary properly mentioned the increasing role of the Foreign Office and its officers abroad in the commercial world, including Asia and India. Sadly, Britain is now slipping to sixth or seventh in terms of investment in Vietnam just as that country emerges from its dark days. Taiwan is now the No. 1 investor.
We say that we want to play a constructive role in strengthening the capacity of the United Nations. That is very important; the Select Committee considered that as a specific role. In that aspect, too, there is the problem of false economy, because the cost of repair is always greater than the cost of prevention. If we are to take a full part in 173 "Agenda for Peace", we must ensure that all members of the United Nations contribute and ensure that it has a proper income to do that job. One cannot prevent many of the problems that we have heard about today without the highest quality of diplomatic and military intelligence.
I hope that all my hon. Friends in the Government will consider the 54 recommendations that we have made for the future of the UN. We want action, not just words as I am afraid has been far too much the case—although I am not criticising the Government. When things go wrong, when things are underfunded, as the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) suggested the operation in Angola was, what is the consequence in dreadful human terms? Since the renewed fighting 500,000 people have been killed and a further 3 million have been displaced. In money terms, we have another appeal for $226 million for emergency relief. If we had done the job right in the first place, if the UN had had the right people, the right authority and the right amount of cash, that situation might not now confront us.
My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West mentioned very movingly the situation in Iraq. Others have mentioned Bosnia. These are examples of precisely the same problem. It is, therefore, a false economy not to have the right intelligence and the right amount of money to begin solving the problem rather than picking up the pieces.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) mentioned the subject of aid. One solution that was not mentioned to the problem of the increasing share of aid which goes to multilateral organisations was to increase the budget. I should like us to renew the growth in the aid programme during the welcome expansion of our economy, because that is the simplest way of putting right the imbalance.
Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing, I am concerned about not just the redirection of aid to multi-lateral organisations—many of which do a better job sometimes than bilateral organisations because of the major structural changes that are necessary—but the amount of aid that is having to be given for emergencies. In 1984–85, at the height of the Ethiopian crisis, we were putting £45 million into emergency aid. This year's figure is £134 million. Emergencies have arisen and we need to help. That is squeezing the bilateral programme, which is the transfer of real resources to prevent such emergencies and build up the standard of living of many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In that one regard, in terms of the debt situation, I commend the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and all those who vigorously pursued the implementation of the enhanced Trinidad terms. No one could have argued more strongly than the Prime Minister or my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in international forums this year. Debt is a drain on the resources of the least developed countries which cannot continue if we want to bring them back into the family of nations and into the genuine world of international development.
The Commonwealth has not been mentioned today, but it was mentioned in the Gracious Speech. I am a great supporter of and believer in the Commonwealth. It is a unique organisation and it is now seeking a new role, developing new contacts and seeing where it can function 174 in the next millenium. One of the ways in which it has gone forward is in the promotion of democracy within and outside the Commonwealth.
In the previous Session of Parliament I was lucky enough to bring in a Bill which became the Local Government (Overseas Assistance) Act 1993. That Act enables local authorities in this country to transfer skills and technology to any local authority anywhere else in the world, subject to certain conditions. It works successfully in terms of the know-how fund because money is specifically allocated for that type of transfer, something which is valuable in central and eastern Europe. I also want that to be developed in countries where the needs are even greater, especially in Africa.
I want my right hon. Friends to consider a suggestion for the agenda of the next series of Commonwealth meetings. There are biennial meetings of Heads of State, and the parliamentary link—the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—is a good system. I should like to think that we shall start to discuss, in this House and in other forums within the Commonwealth, the creation of a local government forum. It would act as a broker between local authorities within the Commonwealth and the wealthier Commonwealth countries—such as Australia, Canada and ourselves—to transfer the very necessary resources which create the roots for democracy.
I commiserate with the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) who has not been chosen to speak, as I have often been in the same position. Often I have sat through a debate only to have to rush through my speech at the end. Will the usual channels consider whether future debates on foreign affairs could be more specific? It would be far better to have a half-day debate on one subject instead of a general debate in which hon. Members incoherently discuss subjects which range all over the world. That would be fairer to hon. Members who are interested in one country.
I have only sat through the entire debate because I have tremendous respect for my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, especially the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The role of the Foreign Office and its importance to this country are underestimated, and I recognise the links with the Secretary of State for Defence. So much of our humanitarian work is undertaken by his officials and by his, and our, troops. I therefore welcome the fact that he is to reply to the debate.
§ 2.1 pm
§ Dr. David Clark (South Shields)
This has been a good debate. It is a pity that it has been foreshortened and I regret that some hon. Members who have sat through it have been unable to speak. However, the debate on the Queen's Speech lasts for several days and I hope that they may yet catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The quality of the debate has been superb. Every participant has brought his or her own insight. Members of the House are a unique repository of knowledge and they added to the quality of the debate.
At the beginning of the Gracious Speech we see that,The Government attach the highest importance to national security.An admirable statement, but one which, frankly, lacks credibility. The Government's actions do not match those fine words.
Throughout the defence community, uniformed officers and civilians are in deep dismay. From the very top to the 175 very bottom, from the highest air chief marshal, to the most humble private, there is a strongly held belief that the Government are not serious about our security. I do not believe that any Government of any party have been weaker on security since the end of world war two. One has to return to the 1930s to find a Government who have placed such a low priority on the defence of our realm and on our national security. I shall return to that subject.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)
I think that you ought to end it there.
§ Dr. Clark
No, I shall come back to it.
Our present security needs are different from those in days past, when we were involved in the cold war. The collapse of the Soviet Union has obviously changed things dramatically. The START 1 and 2 agreements gave us hope, but they did more than that—they added to our security. It is vital that START 1 and 2 are ratified and acted upon.
During the past six weeks, the Secretary of State and I have both visited Russia, and I am sure that we both spoke to Russian officials. I am certain that he is as worried as I am about the stability of that region. I was greatly concerned to learn that not one nuclear weapon in the former Soviet Union has been destroyed. Given the highly unstable nature of politics in that region, that represents a great potential danger to world security. The Secretary of State and the House know that by 1997, 4,000 nuclear weapons are due to be destroyed under START 1, but no progress has yet been made. Some weapons were collected, but they are stored in highly unstable conditions. The Government's much-vaunted programme of assistance has only just begun, with the delivery of equipment to Russia —but they have ruled out any further action.
Two years ago, we called for extra assistance to the former Soviet Union for that specific purpose but nothing happened. Other countries reacted more swiftly. Britain plans to spend only £30 million over the years, whereas President Clinton plans to spend at least £1,000 million on Russia alone and additional sums will go to the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. That matter is of vital urgency and our Government should react more speedily.
The second comment on defence in the Gracious Speech refers to NATO, and rightly so. My right hon. Friends and I have always recognised that NATO is the key to our collective security. In fact, a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin, was the driving force behind the establishment of NATO in the late 1940s. It was through NATO that we were successful in winning the cold war.
That era is over and NATO must dramatically change. Some right hon. and hon. Members suggested how that change might be brought about. Progress was made at the London, Rome and Oslo summits, but more fundamental change is needed. The question of admitting the democracies of the former Warsaw pact countries cannot be postponed indefinitely. Some day, we will have to grasp that nettle.
One welcome change announced at Oslo allowed NATO to act out of area. Its first activity was in Bosnia. I pay tribute to not only our troops—superb as always—but the French, Spanish, Canadian, Norwegian, Dutch, Kenyan and Nigerian troops, all of whom are doing an admirable 176 job. I get sick of people knocking the United Nations. It does not have the apparatus to do the job. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) made that point when he spoke about intelligence gathering and communications, which are vitally needed. Those troops, of whatever nationality, are serving in Bosnia to ensure that humanitarian aid gets through, and it is not their fault if it does not.
Having said that, I was concerned by the Foreign Secretary's announcement earlier today, in which I thought that he was signalling to the world that we are contemplating withdrawing British troops from Bosnia. If that is the case, I should regret it. Our view is that British troops should remain there as long as their mission is attainable and the United Nations believe that is possible. The signal that the Foreign Secretary gave today was not particularly helpful at this moment.
We must continue trying to get aid through. We may have to change the rules of engagement to do so, but we cannot stand by and allow tens of thousands of innocent people on all sides to perish. Food is there—on the coast, in Croatia. Some of it is rotting because it cannot be sent through. We must continue our efforts to get it through.
A further worry is the attitude of the Government to any post-peace settlement. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) said earlier, if a peace agreement is signed by all three sides—two of the sides have signed and a settlement should be reached soon-we shall need to have 50,000 troops available and to be able to put them in quickly, within days if possible. We cannot have a repeat of Vietnam, where troops were dribbled in.
With that prospect in view, as the Secretary of State for Defence knows, the Secretary-General of the United Nations unofficially asked NATO to put together a coalition. At the end of September, he wrote to the Government asking how many troops we would contribute to the post-settlement group that will ensure that the settlement is kept.
Sadly, the Government have not even responded to that letter. Why not? The Secretary of State must know, as I know, that NATO is deeply concerned about the Government's attitude to the matter. How can NATO make any plans when it does not know where the troops will come from?
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South said, numbers are critical. We shall have to contribute British troops. I am sure that the Secretary of State has in mind where the troops could come from. He might have to draw them from the rapid reaction corps in central Germany. If there is a peace accord, we believe that British troops must play their part in ensuring that it is operable, in bringing some peace and in easing the suffering in Bosnia.
Another part of the Gracious Speech refers to the comprehensive test ban treaty and the non-proliferation treaty, but perhaps we should first consider our own independent nuclear deterrent. I had hope earlier this week. Stories emanating from the Ministry of Defence made me believe that the Secretary of State had finally seen the light and was going to fall in line with what the Labour party has been suggesting for a number of years—that the number of warheads on the new Trident system should not exceed the number on Polaris. We did not believe that it made sense to increase the number of warheads from 192 to 512. When the rest of the world was reducing warheads under START, the British Government would be increasing them. That 177 simply did not make sense and it endangered the non-proliferation treaty, which comes up for review in 1995.
I was delighted when I heard the stories. I welcomed them and said that the Government were doing something right—only for my hopes to be dashed the following day, when I discovered that, far from reducing the number of warheads to 192, the Government intended to double the number from 48 per vessel under Polaris to 96 per vessel under Trident.
Does not the Secretary of State understand that that is the wrong message to send to the world? We should not double our nuclear capability at this time. We should at most be keeping it at the level that we had under the Polaris system. By such means, we could at least show the rest of the world that we are prepared to make sacrifices to try to ensure permanent continuation of the non-proliferation treaty.
I am pleased that the Government have finally come round to the suggestion that we should be in favour of a comprehensive test ban treaty. However, they have been laggards and I believe that the Government have said it out of convenience and not out of conviction. Nevertheless, they should start saying it loudly, because, with the other available means, we no longer need to do any nuclear testing.
I began by accusing the Government of being weak on defence. Obviously, with the end of the cold war, there is scope for us to reduce the amount that we spend on defence, like virtually every other country in the west and in the rest of world. However, one cannot expect our troops and armed forces to perform all their past functions if the men, the women and the money available to spend are reduced in future. We need to assess the threats that face Britain and our security and reshape our forces accordingly. We need a full defence review. Such a review is supported by almost all the military, by almost all political parties and by a considerable number of the Secretary of State's Back Benchers. That is the way to ensure that morale in the armed forces is kept high and it is the best guarantee of the protection of the security of Britain and Britain's interest.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)
The House always enjoys the attempts of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) to present the Labour party as the champion of defence and the armed forces. It was perhaps significant that in searching for supporting evidence for his claim, the hon. Gentleman had to go back as far as the days of Ernie Bevin for his only hard material. The reality of the Labour Government 1974–79 was that they cheated our armed forces so badly and provided such miserable incomes for the soldiers, sailors and airmen that there was a huge exodus of service men from which we still suffer a crucial shortage and that period is known as the black hole—one that the armed forces have suffered ever since.
I always listen to the hon. Gentleman with great hope but little satisfaction, hoping that I shall hear an alternative Labour defence policy. Originally, I thought that it was the House only that was deprived of an alternative defence policy until I read with some interest a recent interview that 178 the hon. Gentleman gave to the New Statesman and Society —presumably a friendly journal—on 12 November. It reads:Fifteen months into his job as Labour defence spokesperson, David Clark gets annoyed at the suggestion that he has been keeping a low profile.He goes on to assure the interviewer, as he has assured the House today, that the Labour party believes that there is scope for further cuts in defence spending, a subject to which he has no doubt given a good deal of thought. No doubt he knows the sort of areas where he would like to reduce defence expenditure.
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman nods, but it does not seem to be the case. When asked that question in the article, he is described thus:Clark is vague, however, as to where the cuts should fall".He says:Just now, I simply don't know.That is a clear statement of Labour policy and one which will be of benefit to the armed forces in their search to understand the Labour party's view.
Today, in reference to nuclear policy the hon. Gentleman said that we must send a proper message. He accused the Government of sending the wrong message on nuclear policy, presumably implying that the Labour party would send the right one. The matter of Trident is dealt with in the same article. The hon. Gentleman told the interviewer:I wouldn't scrap it.That is clear enough and is a considerable improvement on past Labour party policy. The article continues:'I'm not saying that we'll use Trident,' he says somewhat excitedly. 'I don't think we would. We just need it there as a standing reminder.'That is sending the real message to a potential threat to this country.
§ Mr. Rifkind
On the contrary. If the hon. Gentleman believes that a proper definition of a deterrent is to say in advance that in no circumstances will one use it, it is highly unlikely to deter.
§ Mr. Rifkind
It is no use the hon. Gentleman implying that he did not say that; that is exactly what he said. His words were:I don't think we woulduse it. The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting contribution to defence debates. There has been a debate for some time about the principle of no first use of nuclear weapons. The hon. Gentleman believes in no first use and no last use. Nevertheless, he seeks to maintain that that is a credible defence policy.
§ Mr. Corbyn
What the Secretary of State is saying is all very interesting. There are only 10 minutes left for his speech Perhaps he will tell us exactly what is the purpose of the Trident submarine and against whom the 192 or 512 179 nuclear warheads are targeted. Does he not think that in the modern world the best thing would be to abolish Trident and nuclear weapons altogether?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. Sadly, we live in a nuclear world and even in 10 years' time, when the two super-powers have, we hope, made massive reductions in their nuclear weapons, they will still have more than 3,000 strategic nuclear warheads. That figure does not include other nuclear powers. My statement earlier this week revealed that Trident will have an explosive yield comparable to Polaris. The precise number of warheads is only one factor to take into account. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that what is relevant is the total destructive force of the system. I have made clear what that will be in practice.
The article about the hon. Member for South Shields in the New Statesman concludes:Clark's credulousness is of little concern to the Labour leadership, which sees foreign affairs and defence essentially as a matter of party management.What a vote of no confidence that is in the hon. Gentleman and in what he seeks to do.
I now turn to some of the more constructive and interesting contributions in the debate. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir. D. Steel) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) properly referred to the disturbing evidence coming from North Korea. North Korea remains the world's last Stalinist state. It is a powerfully armed country which represents a potential threat to the security of its region. We are all clearly concerned about the possible development of nuclear weapons in that country. I believe that it is right that the response to that threat should come from the international community and not from any individual country. It is highly relevant to the discussions that will take place on the continuation of the non-proliferation treaty and to the importance of ensuring proper verification procedures.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), in a characteristically thoughtful and highly relevant speech, properly warned us of the growing importance of China in world affairs. He properly referred to the fact that China has been one of the relatively few countries recently to increase its defence expenditure. There is substantial expansion of the Chinese navy and we are all conscious of the fact that not only is China the world's largest country in terms of population, but it has permanent membership of the Security Council. It has played a relatively modest part in global affairs over the years. It has been essentially a regional power and has not shown much interest in matters beyond its own immediate region. However, it is reasonable to assume that as the Chinese economy develops, possibly dramatically, and as its military power also increases, China is likely to play a more global role, which will have profound implications for the whole world.
The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) asked for an assurance about the Hawks going to Indonesia and he expressed concern about that matter. When I was in Jakarta earlier this year, I discussed that very question with my Indonesian counterparts. They have given a clear assurance that the purpose of the Hawks is to ensure the 180 external defence of Indonesia and that they will not be used for internal purposes. We attach importance to that assurance as one that can be seen to be reliable.
There is some difficulty in understanding the Labour party's policy on arms sales. We regularly hear ritual speeches from the hon. Member for South Shields and his hon. Friends about the unattractiveness and unacceptability of arms exports. Yet when we try to pin the hon. Gentleman down, his policy appears to be little different from that of the Government. The question of arms sales was raised in the article from which I have quoted. The hon. Member for South Shields is quoted as finding it worrying that Britain is the second largest arms exporter. He then goes on to say, with regard to various countries to whom we sell arms:Sales to allies: no problem. Sales to friendly Governments, such as Saudi Arabia: all right. As for British Aerospace's proposed sale of Hawk ground-attack planes to Indonesia … Clark is in favour. South-east Asia needs a stronger security system, he says, and Indonesia must be part of it.Once one has gone through that list, there are hardly any countries left to which the United Kingdom does sell arms. The hon. Gentleman knows that the United Kingdom has strict rules about those matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) referred to the circumstances of the debate about the Western European Union and NATO. He is correct to emphasise that the WEU must be seen as a complement to NATO and not an alternative. NATO remains the absolute foundation of our collective defence. At one stage last year, we were concerned about what appeared to be a rather inconsequential debate about the precise relationship between the two organisations, and the absurdity of both WEU and NATO assets being used in the Adriatic at the same time, which resulted in a considerable over-supply of naval assets and made little contribution to the problems in that region.
The WEU may have a useful contribution to make in circumstances where the United States does not wish to be involved, or cannot be involved for some reason, or where the European countries of the alliance wish to work closely together.
As for the reserves, my hon. Friend made some interesting suggestions about the Household division. It is important that we should have the most flexible approach to the use of the reserves. They are less expensive than regulars and are keen to be used. There was considerable frustration during the Gulf war when, unlike the reserves from the United States, Australia and other countries, our reserves—apart from a number of individuals—were not used in any effective fashion. The recently published Government proposals indicate our desire to see a much more flexible approach, and we have suggested the possibility of a pilot scheme whereby a unit from the reserves might be made available for one of our UN commitments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) referred to the situation in Russia, an issue to which not enough attention has been given. In recent months, we have seen a development of Russian policy to what it has chosen to call the "near abroad", and that is a significant term for the former republics of the Soviet Union which are now independent sovereign states.
When I was in Moscow earlier this year, I was concerned that even among the Russians close to President Yeltsin—those who would consider themselves strong 181 reformers and not reactionaries like Rutskoi or Khasbulatov—there was an inability to accept that Ukraine and other former republics are now sovereign independent states, with the same absolute right to independence as any other country in Europe. There was a tendency to assume that somehow Ukraine, the Baltic republics, Belarus or other states of the region should have some relationship with Russia that recognises particular Russian interests of a kind that could have significant implications.
There cannot be a new Monroe doctrine for Russia in the present circumstances. It is important that in the current debate about the possible enlargement of NATO we do not make the mistake of allowing some division of Europe —however unintentional—to separate the Poles, the Czechs and the Hungarians on the one hand from the Ukrainians or the Baltic republics on the other. We have an interest in the security of all those countries, and it is highly satisfactory that the recent United States proposals entitled "Partnership for Peace" offer a relationship with NATO that would be available not just to Hungary, Poland and the Czechs—important as that is—but to countries of the former Soviet Union, although the nature of each country's individual relationships might vary depending on circumstances.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) for the remarkable way in which, for some time, she has championed the interests of the marsh Arabs. She has once again enlightened not only the House but the nation as a whole on the proper basis for concern about what is happening in that region. We would view with the gravest concern any evidence revealed to the United Nations—which is studying the situation in southern Iraq—that might give it reason to believe that chemical weapons might have been used in that part of the country. Clearly, the use of such weapons is contrary to Iraq's international obligations; moreover, it gives rise to a particular sense of abhorrence which is felt not only by all hon. Members but by the international community as a whole. I have no doubt that if Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein wish to make progress in being readmitted to the international family of nations, any evidence of use of chemical weapons will render that impossible.
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed on Monday next.