HC Deb 08 June 1999 vol 332 cc463-79 3.30 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair)

With your permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement on two subjects: Kosovo and the European Council in Cologne which I attended on 3 and 4 June, accompanied by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The conclusions of the Council are being placed in the Library of the House.

A large part of the European Council was taken up with the crisis in Kosovo. President Ahtisaari came straight from his mission to Belgrade to brief the Council. The peace plan that President Ahtisaari and the Russian special envoy, Mr. Chernomyrdin, presented to Milosevic was accepted by the Serb Parliament and the Federal Yugoslav Government on 3 June. The plan incorporated all NATO's demands. It provided for the immediate and verifiable end to violence in Kosovo; the withdrawal of all military, police and paramilitary forces according to a rapid timetable; the deployment of an effective international security presence and a civil administration—the document specified that, in any such force, the substantial participation would be that of NATO, and that there would be a unified command and control—and for the force to be authorised to establish a safe environment for the people in Kosovo and to facilitate the safe return of all displaced people and refugees.

So the document presented by President Ahtisaari embodied all the conditions set by the international community: all Serb forces come out; an international force with NATO at its core goes in; and the refugees go home in safety and peace. However, we did not—and do not—take Milosevic's assurance on trust. The Balkans are littered with his broken promises. That is why NATO has insisted all along that the bombing will not stop until a full and verifiable withdrawal of all Serb forces from Kosovo has begun.

To give us the certainty we need about Serb withdrawal, the commander of NATO's forces in Macedonia, General Sir Mike Jackson, met representatives of the Federal Yugoslav military on the border at Blace on 5 and 6 June. Those talks ended early on 7 June after the Yugoslav side repeatedly failed to accept the document put forward by NATO. Instead they tried, among other things, to insist on large numbers of Serb troops remaining. That was and is unacceptable.

However, this morning, the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues from the G8 group of countries completed their work on the text of a Security Council resolution. I can confirm to the House that agreement has now been reached in the G8 on a text that enshrines the Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin plan and its detailed terms.

The text is strong and clear and meets our requirements. It will now go forward to the Security Council. It comes under chapter VII of the United Nations charter, which means that the resolution will be legally binding on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and it authorises, through its detailed provisions, the use of force to ensure its implementation. It requires, in particular, the withdrawal of all Serb forces from Kosovo, and authorises the deployment of our forces as part of a substantial NATO component in the international security presence, which will have a unified chain of command. The members of the G8 that are also on the Security Council—the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Canada—have agreed that they will co-sponsor the draft.

If we need any reminder of the regime that we are dealing with, let me give the House one account, delivered by a refugee when the United Kingdom Government's war crimes co-ordinator, David Gowan, visited Albanian and Macedonian refugee camps last week.

A professional in his late 30s or early 40s said that he was one of more than 2,000 men picked up by Serb forces in early May in villages south of Pristina. They were separated from their families, beaten and transferred to the prison at Mittrovica. The prisoners were forced into cells and made to stand, shoulder to shoulder, for 24 hours without food, water or access to a lavatory. They were then beaten again, systematically, in the prison.

Yet that refugee still said that he was among the lucky ones. He had witnessed himself summary executions when he was detained at the village of Vushtria, and had heard reports of a mass execution of 103 men in the nearby village of Studime. So when the refugees say that they want to be sure that the Serb troops will go out, and that our troops will go in to guarantee their safety, it is not hard to understand why.

The next step, therefore, will be further military talks to put in place the necessary technical agreement. They are taking place today at Blace. Given the progress on a Security Council resolution, there is no excuse for the Yugoslav authorities to drag their feet again. Provided that the Serbs now, at long last, honour their undertakings and begin a verifiable withdrawal of their forces, NATO bombing can be suspended and the Security Council resolution passed, and the international force can start to be deployed in Kosovo before the end of this week.

It is time, however, that Milosevic realised that the longer he tries to draw this out, the longer and harder his forces will be hit. We have achieved this agreement only by showing total resolve and determination; we shall need to be as resolved and as determined now in implementing it. We are close to having all the elements in place, but until we are certain that Milosevic has embarked on the withdrawal of all his forces, NATO's military action will continue.

We can also now start planning in earnest for the reconstruction of the Balkans to give the peoples of the region the security and prosperity that they need to avoid future wars. The future of these front-line states, many of which I have visited in the past few weeks, should be one of peace and prosperity, not ethnic conflict. The people of a democratic Serbia can also benefit from reconstruction and integration into the mainstream of Europe, but let me be clear: that cannot happen while there is a nationalist dictator in power in Belgrade. Until Milosevic goes, Serbia cannot take its true place in the family of world nations.

Events in Kosovo overshadowed other issues at the European Council, but other important work was done too. The European Council appointed Javier Solana to the new post of Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative for the common foreign and security policy. Mr. Solana is a friend of Britain, and a highly capable operator, as we have seen during the Kosovo crisis. His new appointment will boost the effectiveness and credibility of the common foreign and security policy, and I warmly welcome it.

There was a full discussion of economic policy. The European Council unanimously reaffirmed that sustainable, non-inflationary growth and increased employment required comprehensive structural reforms at European Union and national levels. The message is clear in the broad economic guidelines, which the European Council approved, and in the new European employment pact.

As for the future development of the Union, the European Council took a number of important steps. It heard a strong statement from the President elect of the Commission about his plans for reform of that institution, and the Council pledged its full support for Mr. Prodi's approach to reform. The Council welcomed the new European anti-fraud office, whose establishment was agreed at the ECOFIN Council on 25 May, and which will permit the Union to step up the fight against fraud, corruption and mismanagement. Agreement was reached on the further development of a common European security and defence policy, building on the ideas that we outlined last year, which were warmly endorsed by NATO at its Washington summit in April.

The European Council confirmed that an intergovernmental conference would be called early next year to resolve the issues that were left open at the Amsterdam European Council, which need to be settled before enlargement. The Council also endorsed an initiative by Prime Minister Guterres of Portugal to convene next March, under the Portuguese presidency, a special meeting of the European Council, which will be entirely devoted to economic reform and employment. The initiative is very welcome, and follows the call for such an event at the Anglo-Spanish summit on 10 April. We are making real headway in promoting economic reform in Europe, which—as I have repeatedly said in this House—is essential to ensure sustained growth and the unqualified success of the single currency.

The Council rejected the notion of ending tax competition or of the harmonisation of business and income taxes. Instead, the Council decided, sensibly, that merely harmful tax competition should be avoided; and it actually advocated lower business and labour costs. Unfortunately, although we had the support of 13 of the 14 other member states, we could not reverse the duty free decision taken in 1991 by the previous Government, as they had agreed to its being reversible only if there were unanimity.

At the Council as a whole, therefore, substantial progress was made on economic reform, but, as I said at the outset, it was rightly and understandably dominated by Kosovo. Let us hope that the process begun at this Council and taken forward today at the G8 will come swiftly to a secure and just conclusion, ending the obscenity of ethnic cleansing and obtaining justice at last for the people of Kosovo.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks)

I concur with the Prime Minister that the outline agreement on Kosovo reached last week is very encouraging, as indeed is some of the further news that he has announced about today's agreement of the G8, and that we must now ensure, through all the difficulties that are bound to arise, that those agreements are implemented in full.

We agree with the Prime Minister that the air campaign must not stop until there is a verifiable withdrawal of Serb forces. On that, the Government have the support of the Opposition, as they do on the announcement of the additional deployment of British troops to the region.

The key test of any agreement is whether all the refugees can return in safety to their homes. That raises a number of questions. First, does the Prime Minister agree that the ground force will have to be effectively NATO led, and that the unified command structure to which he has referred will have to run throughout the whole of Kosovo, to avoid any de facto partition of Kosovo? Will the United Nations resolution achieve that?

Secondly, is the Prime Minister confident that the Kosovo Liberation Army will demilitarise as set out in the agreement? What exactly does demilitarisation mean in that context, and how will it be achieved?

Thirdly, the Rambouillet accords provided for an international meeting, three years after the agreement entered force, to determine the mechanism for a final settlement based at least partly on the will of the people. The provision was excluded from last week's outline agreement. In what way will the views of the Kosovar Albanians be reflected in the determination of the final status of Kosovo?

Both sides of the House agree that there is still an enormous amount to do. We must oversee the refugees' return, and of course we must ensure that the events in Kosovo are not repeated there or elsewhere. Will the Prime Minister elaborate on plans to bring greater stability and peace to the region in the longer term, so that people may enjoy, as he has said, peace and prosperity, instead of ethnic conflict, in the future?

Kosovo was the most pressing issue at Cologne, but many other decisions taken there were important to Britain. Why did the Prime Minister not make the case for the type of Europe that the British public want—a Europe that does less and does it better, and that cleans up its act? When will he stop saying one thing in Britain, and then caving in during negotiations?

Two years ago, the Prime Minister vetoed a proposal on European defence on the grounds that it would weaken the United States's commitment to Europe, and that it was an "ill-judged transplant operation". Why has he now supported a proposal that is effectively the same? Is it not a mistake to create a second defence alliance in Europe, which will overlap with NATO and threaten to undermine the United States commitment to NATO? What is the EU doing proposing an army when it cannot even run an audit system properly?

The Prime Minister has always claimed—he claimed it again today—that he will resist tax harmonisation. However, the communiqué says that good progress has been made on proposals on the taxation of investment income"; that agreement on proposals for a Directive on the taxation of savings will be reached this year; that work on a framework for the taxation of energy will continue; and that a further report on "reinforced tax policy co-operation" is being prepared. Why did the Prime Minister agree in Cologne to the most comprehensive plan

yet for tax harmonisation? Why, when people in this country want to maintain the veto, did he agree to a communiqué that calls for the extension of qualified majority voting—in other words, a further erosion of the veto?

Finally, can the Prime Minister explain the lamentable summit shenanigans over the single currency? The Prime Minister of Luxembourg said memorably that the moment for unfettered panic has not arrived". Instead, the summit opted for a spot of carefully controlled panic. Statements were issued and then withdrawn. As The Times said: European leaders …. bungled an attempt to bolster the ailing euro", spreading confusion through the foreign exchanges, sending the euro tumbling towards fresh record lows". We read that, from now on, only two people in Europe will be allowed to speak about the single currency—judging from the Prime Minister's European election campaign, he is not privileged to be one of them.

Is it not time that the Government's position at such meetings reflected the views of the people of this country? Is it not time that the Government's priority was to act in the interests of Britain, rather than seeking at every opportunity to go with the flow in Europe? Does the Prime Minister not recognise that most people in this country do not want any more powers transferred from Britain to European institutions? They want their taxes decided in this House, and oppose his plans to scrap the pound. They want to be in Europe, not run by Europe.

The Prime Minister

First, I shall deal with what the right hon. Gentleman said about Kosovo. I thank him for his support. The force must have a NATO core and a unified chain of command. That is clear. There must be no question of a de facto partition of Kosovo.

On the future of the Kosovar Albanians, the Rambouillet accords are specifically mentioned in the resolution. There will have to be discussions about the right future for Kosovo, but in the meantime there will be a civil administration that is internationally guaranteed, and there will be substantial autonomy for the people of Kosovo. I cannot see them having any confidence in rule from Serbia while Milosevic remains in power. That is very clear.

In the longer term, it is essential that we begin work as soon as possible on a regeneration programme for the Balkans, because many of the front-line states—such as Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia and Albania—have given us support in circumstances of intense internal difficulty. Theirs has been a far more difficult path than that of countries such as ours. It is essential that they should be given their reward for that. We must show them that there is a different path for the future. In some of those front-line states, there are forces that would be happy for their politics to be dominated by ethnic conflict. We have to show that the values of democracy pay off. When we consider how much the international community has spent over the past 10 years on resolving conflict in the Balkans, it is at least worth thinking about how we can make some prudent investment in ensuring that we never have to go and sort out further conflicts. It is important to begin work on that as soon as possible.

On Europe, the right hon. Gentleman did not accurately set out the terms of the agreements that we have entered into. He asked why the agreement on defence is different from that proposed at Amsterdam. The reason is simple: at Amsterdam we were asked to agree to something that would have clashed with NATO. As a result of getting involved, we have ensured that Europe's common defence policy is expressed in terms completely consistent with membership of NATO.

As for qualified majority voting and the veto, we have said that we take a case-by-case view. In some circumstances, qualified majority voting might have been in Britain's interests—I mentioned the example of duty free. The difference between the Conservative party as it used to be and the Conservative party as the right hon. Gentleman has made it is shown by the fact that the biggest extension of qualified majority voting was agreed by the Conservative Government as part of the passage of the Single European Act. It was right that they did that. They did it not because they were betraying the national interest, but because it was in the interest of this country to develop a single market in Europe. That is the choice for this country. Over the past few weeks, the right hon. Gentleman has defined the modern Conservative party by its hostility to Europe.

At the very beginning of his questions, the right hon. Gentleman asked me why I did not go to the European Council and argue the points that he made in his Budapest speech a few weeks ago. In his first question, he asked me for what is effectively a renegotiation of the treaty of Rome and Britain's entry into the European Union. [Interruption.] They are nodding away; let us test them. Such a renegotiation requires the consent of the other 14 members of the European Union. Can they name one that supports that proposition?

If the right hon. Gentleman had been in my position, he would have gone to the European Council seeking a renegotiation of Britain's terms of entry into the European Union, and not a single other European country would have supported him. The Conservatives would return this country to precisely that position. We would be without influence, power or any authority in Europe. That is not all, however. They want to cancel the changeover plan for the single currency so that even if we wanted to join, we would be unable to do so, and they would cancel the defence initiative that we have undertaken, even though NATO has now endorsed it. It is also true that many Conservative candidates in the European Parliament will not even join the European Conservative parties.

That is a recipe for complete disaster for this country. There are short-term tactical reasons for going for it, but it is a big, long-term strategic mistake, and the choice for this country on Thursday is leading in Europe or leaving it.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

It now looks as if Kosovo will be seen as a famous victory for international order and justice, but one thing is clear from the conflict: the reputation of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the United Kingdom has been mightily enhanced by the clear leadership that he and other Ministers have given. How does my right hon. Friend propose to reach beyond the Milosevic Government and get the message clearly to the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that they have no future under Milosevic and that they must have a leader who is capable of mending fences with the west? How can he ensure that war crime investigators enter Kosovo speedily to ensure that the evidence of war crimes is not destroyed by the barbarians?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I have two things to say. First, it is important, perhaps particularly now, that we do not regard the conflict as having been won in any sense until the refugees go back and are safe. Some people asked why we were less than euphoric last Friday. I will allow myself to feel relieved when it actually happens. We have to watch Milosevic and his games and tricks every single inch of the way. He must be under no illusion whatever that if he starts them up again, our force remains there. He should realise that, and it should give him the incentive that he needs to make sure that this is concluded properly.

I am pleased that the draft resolution makes specific mention of the jurisdiction of the war crimes tribunal. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we have to reach out to democratic forces in Serbia. I know that many people in Serbia bitterly opposed the NATO campaign, even those who are also opposed to Milosevic. However, they must now understand that he has been obliged to accept terms that he could have accepted 10 weeks ago. He has devastated their country, ruined its economy and made it an outcast from the world of nations. It is a proud nation which, in many ways, has a history of which its people can be proud. If they want to regain their place in the community of nations, Milosevic's going is the best way of achieving that.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Is it not true that it is not over until it is over on the ground in Kosovo? Until that happens, we must judge President Milosevic not by his words, but by his actions. That means that we must keep up the military pressure—the only language that he understands—and the pressure from the air. Does the Prime Minister agree that that means also continuing to make those preparations that NATO has made more recently for the use of ground troops, if necessary? Despite that, the events of the last week ought to give NATO, the Government and the Prime Minister personally good cause for satisfaction as they are a vindication of the policy that they and he have followed.

Is not the last-minute wrangling and wriggling by Milosevic an attempt to evade three unshakeable principles: first, that all Serb authority must be removed from Kosovo; secondly, that there must be an international force with teeth and with NATO at its core, backed by a Security Council resolution; and thirdly, that the refugees must return in peace, live in freedom and have a future in security?

In the Balkans, the devil lies in the detail, and there are four brief questions that I wish to ask by way of clarification. First, will the Prime Minister confirm that the interim status of Kosovo will be, de facto if not de jure, as an international protectorate or trusteeship? Will he tell us who the sponsor of that will be? Will it be the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe or the European Union?

Secondly, will the Prime Minister confirm that just as Rambouillet did not exclude self-determination in the long term, nothing in the present agreement excludes it? The agreement may not include it, but it should not exclude it.

Thirdly, does the Prime Minister agree that we must not repeat the mistake made in Bosnia of putting the civil administration in too late? It should go in as early as possible.

Lastly, will the Prime Minister refer back to his own statement, in which he mentioned the experience of the refugees? They will not go back if they see Serb troops. However, small numbers of Serb troops—lightly armed, or maybe unarmed—may be on the borders. Will he reflect on what the refugees will think if they see Serb troops on the borders? Will he consider this as a proposition: that every detachment of Serb troops anywhere in Kosovo should be matched by a detachment of NATO troops who will be there to reassure the refugees and, if necessary, afford them protection?

The Prime Minister

We cannot take anything for granted until the killing stops on the ground in Kosovo. Until the Serb forces are fully withdrawn, all options remain open. The basic principles are that Milosevic's forces go out, the international force goes in and the refugees go back—that is the simple mantra by which we must be guided.

On the right hon. Gentleman's detailed questions, the interim status of Kosovo is as an international civil administration, so it is guaranteed by the entire international community in that sense. We must establish it provisionally, and then put in place the proper democratic mechanisms. Secondly, nothing is excluded in the long term. Thirdly, I agree that the civil administration should go in and get to work as soon as possible. Fourthly, it is important to remember that certain Serb troops may go back in to do certain tasks that need to be done, but they are not going back in to be the guardians of the people in Kosovo. Those envisaged as going back in under the Ahtisaari agreement are fewer in number than those envisaged at Rambouillet.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Will the Prime Minister tell the House when the draft UN resolution will be published? To whom will the international force be accountable—the Security Council or NATO? Have the Russians and the Chinese agreed to support the resolution before the bombing stops? Is the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia endorsed in the resolution? Has the Kosovo Liberation Army agreed to disarm and to be decommissioned? Does the UN resolution require the removal of Milosevic?

Is it not clear that had the matter been taken to the UN with the support of Russia and China weeks or months ago, this solution could have been made possible without the destruction of Yugoslavia, the use of depleted uranium weapons, the pollution of the Danube and indeed the destabilisation of the area? History may not view a NATO that tore up the UN charter in quite the way that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues appear to.

The Prime Minister

The terms of the Security Council resolution are circulating now. I do not know what proper arrangements I should make for its being made available, but whatever I am able to do I will do. Obviously, we want the resolution to be passed as soon as possible. The Russian position on the resolution and the bombing has always been clear, but so has our position: that we must be sure of the verifiable withdrawal of Milosevic's troops before the bombing can be stopped.

On the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the current proposition is precisely what was available at Rambouillet and could have been accepted 10 weeks ago. The KLA' s agreeing to disarm was also in the Rambouillet agreement. From discussions that I have had with KLA people, I believe that they will abide by what the international community has decreed, but they will of course also want to know that the Serb troops really are out of Kosovo. That is hardly surprising.

No, the removal of Milosevic is not required. We have made it clear that that is not a war aim, but I have also made it clear—and I am sure that this will be the position of the international community—that Serbia cannot be part of international reconstruction and regeneration until he goes and there is a democratic Serbia, because otherwise, for one thing, any money that went in there would simply add to his very large personal wealth rather than going to his people.

The solution was not available weeks ago. If my right hon. Friend is saying that if only we had picked up the phone and called the Russians and the Chinese everyone would have come together and made an agreement and we would not have needed to do all this, I really must ask him to reflect on that and on the lessons of what has happened. We tried for months and months. There were 72 UN resolutions against Milosevic. He will not accept any resolution from anyone unless he knows that the alternative is force. I am afraid to say that that is obvious to most reasonable people at the conclusion of these events.

My right hon. Friend is entirely entitled to take the view that he does, but the choice was either to allow ethnic cleansing to continue unchecked or to do our best to stop it. I do not feel any sense of triumph at what we have achieved, because I know how many people have died and how many lives have been made miserable, but I honestly believe that if we had allowed ethnic cleansing to continue unchecked the consequences would have been far more devastating for people in Kosovo, for Balkan stability, for the world as a whole and the values of civilisation.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

In which policy areas would the Prime Minister keep the veto?

The Prime Minister

Taxation, for example, and defence, but not in—

Mr. Forth

Is that all?

The Prime Minister

Immigration is another example. There are lots of areas in which I would keep the veto, but I would not take the view of today's Conservative party—a view that it never took in government—which opposes qualified majority voting in any circumstances. That really is not sensible. We could not have got the beef ban lifted on that basis. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, however hostile his party is to Europe today, not to ignore the possibility that it might be in government once more. It should start at some point to get back to a sensible position on Europe.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

On European Union issues, will my right hon. Friend circulate in the Official Report a list of the matters to which the Leader of the Opposition has objected this afternoon that would be made inevitable by the Single European Act, which his party guillotined through the House of Commons?

On Kosovo, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Serbs' wrigglings, evasions and attempts—still, at this point—to get out of the agreement come after their Government and their Parliament have assented to it and there have been weeks of bombing and months of negotiation? That being so, can my right hon. Friend speculate on where we would be today if we had adopted not his resolute approach but the view of the appeasers, from whom we have heard this afternoon, that we should have appealed to the better nature of that indicted war criminal?

The Prime Minister

On Kosovo, I agree that it is obvious that Milosevic will evade his responsibilities, even now, if he thinks that our will has weakened. That is why it is important that NATO makes it clear that it stands ready to take action should he try to do so at any point.

In respect of Europe, I think that the speech that the Leader of the Opposition made in Budapest a couple of weeks ago was an important speech on behalf of the Conservative party. It revealed that the Conservatives would renegotiate the terms of entry into the European Union. I asked them earlier but they could not name one Government who agreed with that. I do not believe that they could name one Conservative party, apart from this one, that agrees with that. It would not merely be a policy of complete futility but the most extraordinarily inept way to conduct our foreign policy. It is surely sensible that at long last we understand that we are part of Europe and we should make it work in Britain's interests.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

Where do matters now stand on the withholding tax?

The Prime Minister

Exactly where I said they stood in the House the week before Whitsun. We will not agree to any tax being imposed on Britain from Brussels and we will not agree to any measures that damage the City of London. What is more, we will succeed in obtaining our objective.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Does the Prime Minister have any hard evidence that the KLA would be any more willing to surrender its arms than the IRA?

The Prime Minister

There have been statements from KLA leaders in the past few days saying that they will abide by the will of the international community. Of course, one of the reasons why we have to have a substantial international force in Kosovo is to ensure that that happens. However, given what the Kosovar Albanians have been through, it is hardly surprising if people there are resisting by force. It is necessary that we, through the international military presence, ensure that we can bring about a proper civil administration in Kosovo so that the rule of law is once again upheld and people are not terrorised on the basis of their ethnic background. In other words, those things that have characterised Milosevic's rule in Kosovo must be brought to an end.

Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton)

Does the Prime Minister believe that the present British troop commitment in the Kosovo area can be sustained in the long term without the raising of more infantry battalions and, especially, engineer regiments? Do we have an Army big enough for all that we are asking it to do?

The Prime Minister

Yes. We are sure that we can make the commitment necessary in Kosovo—we would not have made it otherwise—and at the conclusion of the strategic defence review we will be in an even better position to do so.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that not one European Union Government would support the Conservative party's proposals to renegotiate European Union treaties suggests that that policy is tantamount to a call to withdraw from the European Union? Is not that the reason why respected former Conservative Members of Parliament, such as Nicholas Scott and Sir Julian Critchley—[Laughter.]—have today written to national newspapers to say that they cannot bring themselves to vote Conservative on Thursday?

The Prime Minister

It is a measure of the new extremism in the Conservative party today that people such as Ian Gilmour, Nicholas Scott and Julian Critchley are derided when their names are mentioned. [Interruption.] I say to those Conservative Members who are shouting and bawling and parading their anti-Europeanism that one day they will regret it.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton)

The fact that the NATO objectives during the conflict appear to be enshrined in the UN resolution is a cause of great satisfaction and justifies the cross-party support that the Prime Minister has had during this campaign. Does he expect China to support the resolution when it goes before the UN?

At the Cologne summit, was there any discussion about how funds will go into Kosovo? Does not the European Union need to do more than it has in the past and make a more cohesive effort to ensure that Kosovo can restore its economy and the fabric of its society, as well as its democracy? The responsibility of the European Union to accelerate the process of enlargement will also require increased funds. Is that fully understood? The welcome attempt by Europe to play a greater defence role within NATO requires real leadership if the public are fully to understand that such great progress in politics will not come cheaply.

The Prime Minister

First, in respect of China, I cannot speak for the Chinese Government but we hope that they will support the resolution.

Secondly, in respect of the Cologne European Union summit, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there was discussion of the fact that we need a substantial commitment to regeneration and reconstruction in the Balkans. I agree entirely with his remarks about Europe's common foreign and security policy, enlargement and defence capability. One reason for our desire to engage in the debate about a common defence policy is that it had been intended that Europe would have a common defence and security policy in any event. We faced a choice between engaging with that debate and shaping it in a way that was fully consistent with NATO, and opting out once again. I am afraid that the latter option is the view of those on the Opposition Front Bench.

I think that opting out would be foolish, but I agree that the debate does imply changes of policy in member states. There is no question of abolishing the British Army in favour of a European army. That has always been an absurd scare. However, if Europe is to develop a proper and serious defence capability, we must examine the strategic capability of European defence and the European defence industry to see what changes are necessary. Kosovo has brought that lesson home to us in a very stark way.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

Is my right hon. Friend able to tell the House who will be responsible for the civil administration in Kosovo? Will it be the United Nations? Also, what does he envisage to be the likely legal status of Kosovo? Will it be an international protectorate under the United Nations, or an independent state, or will it still be subject, however nominally, to Serb sovereignty?

The Prime Minister

As I said, the civil administration will be guaranteed by the international community, and discussions will be held about Kosovo's eventual status. However, even if the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is respected, there is no question of the Serb authorities being able to govern the lives of people in Kosovo, as the question from my right hon. Friend implied. That is precisely why all the Serb forces, police and paramilitaries must leave the region and why a proper civil administration must be established there. It is also why we want Kosovo eventually to be returned to the democratic will of its people.

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)

May I return to a question from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the Prime Minister did not answer? Why has one of the key provisions in the Rambouillet accords—that after three years there should be an international meeting to determine the final status of Kosovo—been dropped from the agreement reached with Milosevic?

The Prime Minister

That is not right: the resolution specifically states that full account must be taken of the Rambouillet accords. However, part of the reason why that provision has been overtaken by events is that people will now have to discuss what Kosovo's future will be. That discussion, of course, will take full account of the wishes of the people of Kosovo. Independence for Kosovo was not part of the Rambouillet accords, although the idea of having a later conference to determine the matter was. However, under the resolution that is being passed, a discussion of Kosovo's proper status in the future will continue over the next period of time.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that even today when Milosevic is defeated, refugees crossing the border into Macedonia are being asked by the Serb authorities to renounce their citizenship before they are allowed to proceed? Will he reconfirm his resolve that Milosevic, as an indicted war criminal, must sooner or later stand trial before the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is no hiding place for criminals such as Milosevic?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that the Serbs continue to act as she says toward people who are fleeing from Kosovo. The indictment of Milosevic stands. Another indicted war criminal was picked up yesterday by British forces—those people are slowly but surely being picked up—and those not yet picked up are having to live perpetually in hiding. I agree that there must be no hiding place for indicted war criminals.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

Is not the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) right to say that it is not over until it is over on the ground in Kosovo? Is not the reality that NATO forces will face years of vicious guerrilla warfare and a situation not dissimilar to that faced by the German army there between 1941 and 1945?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not believe that. It is right to say that it is not over until it is over on the ground, but the agreement that we have made and that must be implemented is that all Milosevic's forces and paramilitaries must go. I do not believe that what the hon. Gentleman has described will in fact happen. If Milosevic fails to abide by the agreement, military action will follow, and he knows it. The alternative espoused by the hon. Gentleman would have been infinitely worse, allowing ethnic cleansing to continue unimpeded so that hundreds of thousands of people would have been driven from their homes or butchered. That is not acceptable.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the only reason for shame would have been to have taken no action alongside our allies against terrible crimes and atrocities against humanity? That would have been a stain on our country's reputation for years to come. The appeasers have been proved totally wrong, and it would do no harm if they offered some self-criticism. If Pinter is ashamed to be British, as has been reported, the remedy surely lies in his own hands.

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend's general remarks. It is too early to talk about the situation being over, but if we succeed in having the UN resolution implemented, that will have happened only because we were prepared to use force. That is axiomatic.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

May I ask the Prime Minister about the indictment of Mr. Milosevic? Now that Mr. Milosevic has been indicted as a war criminal, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how he expects Mr. Milosevic to be brought before the tribunal? Am I right to think that it is not contemplated that NATO will effect an arrest, at least in the short term? Am I further right in thinking that the UN resolution makes no provision for an arrest?

Am I right to suppose that it is intended that the people of Serbia should depose Mr. Milosevic and then deliver him up? If that is so, is it not likely that Mr. Milosevic will cling all the more vigorously to power? What will happen if, in order to effect a peaceful transfer of power, the people of Serbia agree to let Milosevic live in peace in Serbia? Would we seek to reverse that decision?

The Prime Minister

There are those who say that we should never have acted. There are others who say that we should have gone all the way and removed Milosevic, but it was not possible to have that as a war aim. The UN resolution makes it quite clear that the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal stands; the tribunal does the indicting, and all member states are obliged to give it whatever support and help they can. I cannot comment on how matters will proceed except to say that we shall proceed as we have on other indicted war criminals. It is far better to have reached our present position than to have done nothing at all about Milosevic.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

Switching to the European Union, the Prime Minister made passing reference in his statement to enlargement. Given the obdurate refusal of a number of member states to agree to the reform of the common agricultural policy, how hopeful is my right hon. Friend that we can stick to the timetable for enlargement, or, is it not the case that we are now facing the threat of a two-class membership of the EU?

The Prime Minister

Without provoking shrieks and shouts from Opposition Members I can say that we should be able to get reform of the CAP in part due to the fact that much of it will be done by qualified majority voting; otherwise, there would have been a danger that much of the reform could simply be stalled. We would have preferred more radical agricultural reform, but as a result of the reforms that we agreed at Berlin, the British consumer will be saved about £1 billion a year. The agricultural reform process is absolutely necessary for enlargement, so we will push it as hard as we can. I hope by that to avoid what would be a significant problem for us, to which my hon. Friend rightly drew attention.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

Does it remain the policy of the Government and their allies that the KLA terrorist organisation must be wholly disarmed? Will the Prime Minister say how on earth he intends that that should be done? As for the right hon. Gentleman's rather unusual reference to the success of the single currency, will he make it abundantly clear—true or false—that if the Labour party is successful at the next election, there will be a referendum on a single currency shortly after the election?

The Prime Minister

We have made our position on the single currency clear time without mention. The hon. Gentleman's position is that we should never join a single currency. The position of Conservative Front-Bench Members is that they would not join for two Parliaments. Our position is that we should join a successful single currency, provided that the economic conditions are met. That is a sensible position. What is foolish is to rule out joining for ever. Even more foolish is to say, as those on Conservative Front Bench do, that they will not join for two Parliaments but will, in the meantime, cancel the changeover plan so that they could not join even if they wanted to do so. With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, he is perfectly entitled to his view that Britain should withdraw from the European Union, but I do not think that that would be in the country's interests.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Why not answer the question?

The Prime Minister

I have; I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman just does not like the answer.

On disarming the KLA, the disarmament process is set out in the United Nations resolution. Of course, the logistics are for the international force to work out.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Is the Prime Minister aware that yesterday Kenneth Baker, a Pentagon spokesman, said that many Serbs will want to exercise their freedom of movement and leave the province when NATO moves in? Given that the bombing was meant to try to prevent ethnic cleansing, which we apparently did not, will the Prime Minister give the House the guarantee that he will do everything possible to prevent further ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in Kosovo, many of whom have been ethnically cleansed from Krajina already?

The Prime Minister

Of course I give that undertaking. The international force is there to ensure that people are allowed to live in peace whatever their ethnic background. My hon. Friend cannot dismiss the fact that the ethnic cleansing that took place in Kosovo was of Kosovar Albanians. In relation to Serbs, I think that Mr. Baker was simply indicating—incidentally, my hon Friend offered a slight misconstruction of his comments—that the Serbs are free to go or to stay as they wish, but the international presence will be there to guarantee the peace, security and safety of all ethnic groupings. I was asked about this matter on television last night. Of course, it will be difficult because of what has happened and there is no point dismissing that or thinking that it will be easy for those communities to come back and live side by side with each other again.

We undertook the action to reverse the policy of ethnic cleansing and to install a proper, objective security presence. I have no doubt that British troops will be entirely objective in their handling of both ethnic groupings.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey)

At the summit, did the Heads of State of those countries that have joined the euro still think that it was going to work, bearing in mind that their economies are now diverging rather than converging? Was any estimate made of the sorts of cross-subsidy that will be required to maintain convergence? What will be the cost of meeting that end in terms of our contributions to the European budget?

The Prime Minister

None is the answer to the last part of that question, since the budget contributions were determined at Berlin. Before the hon. Gentleman and others dance on the euro's grave, let me point out that he and many others like him said that the euro would never happen. Whatever the fluctuations of the euro in the first few months, I think that it will require a little more time than he is prepared to give it to make an assessment. The answer to the first part of his question is that I believe that there is a very significant determination among those countries that are members of the euro to make it succeed. I think that he is a little premature in writing it off.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush)

If, as I hope, we are moving from the military to the political phase, to rebuilding political stability in the Balkans, can the Prime Minister assure me that we will do everything possible to keep Russia locked into the process and encouraged in that way?

I should not like this occasion to pass without placing on record our appreciation of the professionalism of our armed forces. The Prime Minister's leadership has been outstanding. I hope that he receives many letters of apology from all the armchair critics who told him that his policy was doomed to failure and that all that we could do was to watch ethnic cleansing in Europe on our television sets.

The Prime Minister

Our troops have done a wonderful job and are now going to be called upon to do the most difficult part of their task: escorting the refugees back and making sure that they can live in peace. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary was out with the troops earlier today. They can be immensely proud of the role that they have played, particularly the humanitarian help that they have given. In respect of my hon. Friend's other points, the important thing now is to make sure that the peace is properly implemented and won as well.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Is there not a danger that the indictment of President Milosevic will be seen by the Serb Government as a matter of no consequence and by others as amounting to no more than a gesture unless NATO and the Government take practical steps to bring it into effect? What practical steps can he and his fellow Heads of Government take to ensure that an indicted war criminal is brought to justice?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that anyone, least of all Milosevic, regards his indictment as merely a gesture or as insignificant. Some people say that we should be prepared to invade Serbia and bring Milosevic to justice, which is the only sure way of doing that, but for the reasons that I have explained, I do not think that we should take that position.

We are obliged to give all help to the International War Crimes Tribunal. We shall judge the best way that we can do that. Slowly but surely, the main war criminals from Bosnia are being picked up there. In the most recent period, I think that 13 have been picked up. While there is a limit to what we can feasibly do in these situations, we intend to go on doing everything possible to assist the International War Crimes Tribunal, which we support.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Will the interests of the valiant people of Montenegro, whom we do not talk about much, be fully safeguarded in discussions over the next few days, particularly when the sides return to the famous tent in northern Macedonia to consider arrangements for the withdrawal of Serbian forces? I seek an assurance that they will not pass through Montenegrin territory because that could destabilise that part of Yugoslavia.

The Prime Minister

The people and Government of Montenegro and President Djukanovic deserve to be congratulated on their courageous stand over the past few months. We have made it very, very clear indeed that the troops are to withdraw to Serbia.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

Can the Prime Minister explain why, following the Cologne summit,

those European Commissioners tainted by sleaze are still at their desks, drawing salaries and building up their pension rights?

The Prime Minister

They are going. An entirely new Commission is going in. [HON. MEMBERS: "Entirely new?"] The Commission has to be reappointed again. [Interruption.] The Commissioners are all there under contracts signed when the hon. Gentleman's Government were in power.

Audrey Wise (Preston)

Will my right hon. Friend tell us what steps will be taken to deal with the pollution of the River Danube and with the other environmental consequences of the war? Will additional economic, or other, conditions be placed on Serbia before reconstruction of its extensively damaged infrastructure can take place?

The Prime Minister

I would not pay too much attention to some of the allegations that have been made about environmental damage before evaluating them properly. For example, after investigation by wholly independent people from the UN, some of the allegations made about such damage were found to be false. I do not know the answer to the question of what environmental damage there is, but I suspect that there is a good deal less than some of the people who have been supporting Serbia would accept.

What we are saying is clear and straightforward: we cannot put international money into financing the reconstruction of Serbia while Milosevic remains in power. People would not understand it if we did so. It is important to give a democratic Serbia the prospect of being able to be part of Balkan reconstruction if it embraces the values of democracy.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Would the Prime Minister recommend entry to the euro at the current exchange rate?

The Prime Minister

We are not at the stage of discussing what exchange rate the pound and the euro should have, if we enter the euro. I believe that our policy is sensible. The hon. Gentleman's policy would effectively rule out the euro and cancel the changeover plan, which would mean that we could not join the euro even if we wanted to. That is not a sensible policy. If I were him—one of the younger, aspiring Members on the Conservative Back Benches—I would think about where he wants his party to be in a few years' time, rather than joining in—[Interruption.] Take it from us; we learned a long lesson in the 1980s. The way to get power is not to behave irresponsibly; the anti-Europeanism of the Conservative party is irresponsible.