§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead rose to call attention to Her Majesty's Government's method of conducting relations with foreign countries; and to move for Papers.702
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, one or two noble Lords have expressed a little uncertainty as to exactly what I had in mind with this Motion. Therefore I shall begin with a word of explanation. What I intend is not a compendious tour d'horizon of the substance of our relations with every important country in the world but rather a consideration of the style of conducting foreign policy; at the balance of power between 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office; at the deficiencies or otherwise of the foreign service; at the advantages or disadvantages of megaphone diplomacy and government by indignation; and at the exercise of effective influence within the European Community.
§ First, I shall consider the state of relations across Downing Street. Historically there has been a good deal of fluctuation in the balance between the Foreign Office and No. 10 Downing Street. Until 50 years ago Prime Ministers who interfered substantially in the conduct of foreign policy were very much the exception. There was Disraeli, who was most exceptionally present at a diplomatic conference and with Bismarck stole the limelight at Berlin. There was Salisbury, who did not need to interfere with the Foreign Office. For nearly the whole of his 14 years as Prime Minister he was primarily Foreign Secretary and ran the government rather in his spare time, with 10 Downing Street as an outstation of the Foreign Office. There was Lloyd George, who, according to Curzon, treated his Foreign Secretary as a valet, almost a drudge, but in whose crashing downfall foreign policy certainly played a major role; and there was Neville Chamberlain, the 50th anniversary of whose diplomatic triumphs we have just been celebrating.
§ At the other end of the scale there was Baldwin, who looked amazed at Austen Chamberlain, his Foreign Secretary, when he asked him for advice, saying, "But you are Foreign Secretary"; and nearly, but not quite, Attlee. It was certainly under the latter that the Foreign Office played its most dominant role in the first half of this century and under Ernest Bevin set up, for a mixture of good and ill, the main lines of British foreign policy which have persisted to the present day.
§ The crucial good was the Atlantic commitment of the United States, which has been the single most important factor in making post-1945 so different from post-1918. The ill, in my view, was the beginning of the semi-detached attitude to Europe which was enthusiastically continued in the Eden Foreign Office and by most subsequent British Governments. Some would add the Middle East, but I have never there felt the simplicities of certainty.
§ It would not be possible today for any Prime Minister to play such a self-effacing foreign policy role as did Baldwin or Attlee. The impact of the White House and of presidential diplomacy, the 13 year-old habit of yearly Western economic summits and the only slightly older introduction of European councils into the affairs of the European Community combine to preclude that. But this does not mean that foreign policy is best conducted when a Foreign Secretary is frequently overruled or when the foreign service, with the exception of a few favoured 703 members, is regarded by 10 Downing Street as less ideologically sound than even the Bench of Bishops or the ancient universities.
§ The Foreign Office is the only one of the three great traditional departments of state of which I have not been temporarily—nominally, if one likes—in charge. But I have nonetheless had exceptional and considerable opportunity, and from an unusually detached position for a British politician, to observe the British foreign service in operation and to be served directly by several of its most outstanding members as well as by diplomats from other countries. This experience has led me to the firm conclusion that, first, the foreign service is by and large of very high quality. Indeed, I have sometimes wondered whether a disproportionate amount of our top quality public service talent is not concentrated there. Secondly, in my experience, the foreign service is effective at safeguarding and promoting the interests of this country. I can think of one or two rather isolated examples where, as a result of being too stridently demanding, I have seen a senior British diplomat achieve less than he might have done. I can think of none of any significance where I have seen a legitimate British interest thrown away.
§ It very much depends on whether one believes that the object of foreign policy is to achieve results or to strike attitudes. At the beginning of December we saw a rather striking example of that dichotomy in the notorious case of Father Ryan. At the end of a week or so of explosive headlines, I was left in serious doubt as to whether the Government had wanted him extradited to this country, or whether they preferred the pleasures of expostulation to the reality of a trial.
§ If they wanted him here, they could hardly have gone about it in a more counter-productive way. If the prejudicial statements made in the House of Commons had been avoided and the matter left to a little quiet diplomacy by our much maligned diplomats, I venture to think that there would have been a better chance of his being delivered for trial.
§ That leads me to what I referred to at the beginning as "government by indignation". It has achieved quite ludicrous proportions. On that occasion at the end of November and in the first days of December, each morning we read, by courtesy of Mr. Bernard Ingham and the lobby system, a daily report on a kind of Richter scale about the force of the previous day's volcanic eruptions. There was more variation in direction than in intensity. One morning the Prime Minister was "seething with anger" against the Belgian Government and next she was "boiling with rage" against the Irish Government.
§ It is not totally new that the Downing Street press office should think that it owes the nation daily spiritual guidance. That is not only on the level of the Prime Minister's indignation but also on the standing of various Ministers. I have known some fairly odd things take place in the past under previous Prime Ministers, and not all of one party. But it seems to me that the present practice piles Pelion on Ossa and is not by its very nature likely to be the most skilful or sensitive way of conducting foreign relations. I believe that lessons were learnt from the incident of the Queen and Mr. Gorbachev and that that is 704 unlikely to be repeated. It was remarkable that the Government's hypothetical advice to the Sovereign about an invitation which had been neither sent nor received should be announced in advance by an unattributable briefing.
§ A view exists that this is all more than made up for by a robustness which gives British interests a special protection and has greatly increased our influence abroad. I do not deny that in the recent past top level relations with the United States and the Soviet Union have been good. That is a major factor. But we have firmly decided—and the Government have frequently proclaimed it—that the European Community should be both a focus and a vehicle for much of our foreign policy effort. I do not believe that there we exercise an influence conmmensurate with our desire or our much proclaimed new economic strength.
§ Since the late 1940s nearly every British government, perhaps with the exception of that of Mr. Heath, have mishandled our relations with the Continent of Western Europe because we have failed to understand the force of the European idea and, in particular, the importance to it of a sense of political direction and ultimate purpose. It is not that there is a great danger of our being swept along faster than we want to go. On Monday the noble Lord, Lord Roll, rightly said that lack of progress in the Community is a far greater practical danger than premature federation or uniformity.
§ The practical divide is not so great as the theoretical divide. However, an unnecessary theoretical battle between us and most of the rest of Europe can nonetheless do enormous harm to us and the interests of this country. On Monday I was most struck by the difference in tone between the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham. They are both practical men with a business background. It is probable that what they want to achieve at the end of the day is not vastly different. However, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Young, the difference which came across clearly is that one understands Europe and the other does not.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield—who must wonder whether warm congratulations, in which I fully share, are a wholly adequate recompense for being kicked out—has been accused of "goingnative". If that means a comprehension of the forces with which one must deal, I wish that more people would go native.
§ In any event, the concept that a British Commissioner who becomes part of the core of the Commission, instead of standing ineffectively on the periphery, and who understands the force of the simple concept which has inspired people as different as Monnet and Soames, Spaak and Schmidt —the idea that someone who has grasped that has sold out to the Euro-fanatics is hardly a contradiction of the sin of semi-detachment which has so damaged our European influence from the beginning.
§ The fatal view is that our relations with the Community are a zero-sum game: either they win and we lose or vice versa. It simply is not the case that intransigence mostly pays. I shall never forget the 705 second major crucial issue which occurred during my time as President of the Commission. The first was the creation of the European Monetary System, when there was for me deep disappointment that my own country was the only one which stood out of the scheme which I had tried to initiate. However, although there was disappointment there was not embarrassment because, as was my duty, on that issue I was manifestly playing a European rather than a British hand.
§ The second crucial issue was the first major round of Britain's budgetary dispute with the Community. I was convinced of the essential justice of Britain's claim and believed that a fair settlement was crucial to Britain's healthier relations with the Community and was also in the interests of Europe as a whole. But I believe that a more partial view of my motives may sometimes have been taken in Paris and perhaps also in one or two other capitals.
§ The position was made much more difficult by the Prime Minister's method of negotiating—or rather, demanding, because there was very little negotiation. At the second European Council on the issue, a very good offer was made by Chancellor Schmidt and President Giscard. The Prime Minister turned it down flat. Another month of bad temper and unnecessary labour had to be spent on putting together an alternative solution. In substance it was no better, but it was cosmetically different. It was skilfully negotiated by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, after a marathon session. Nothing was gained by the delay but a great deal of exhaustion was caused and a great deal of goodwill lost.
§ Therefore, I believe that without in any way sacrificing legitimate British interests, we could exercise a much more central and beneficial role in the affairs of the European Community. That would require a change not so much of substance as of style. However, I believe that that would in any event be desirable in itself. A little more confidence in the qualities of our foreign service, a little less stridency of tone and a little more regard for the authority of the Foreign Secretary, who, in my view, has on the whole done a very good job, would enable results to be achieved and Britain's influence to be more effectively deployed. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for giving me this opportunity to dispel some of the current popular myths about the Government's conduct of this country's foreign relations. Indeed, his speech itself reflected some of those myths. I shall therefore try to explain why I believe the noble Lord's views are in some cases misplaced and why his apprehensions are unfounded. As with the leave of the House I shall have the chance to reply to this debate, I propose now to concentrate on the fundamental principles underlying the conduct of our foreign relations. I will deal with other aspects in detail when I wind up.
Perhaps I may begin by stating what our foreign policy is for. Methods and means after all only exist to service particular ends. The objectives of our foreign policy are threefold: to enhance the security 706 and prosperity of this country: to promote and protect our interests overseas; and to work, with allies, partners, and others to advance freedom, resolve conflicts and increase prosperity elsewhere. These objectives are quite clear. They stem from fundamental views that we have traditionally held and upheld. And they have been consistently, collectively and effectively pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
We cannot afford not to conduct our foreign relations effectively. We have worldwide interests to protect. We are responsible for 16 dependent territories across the globe. We export 27 per cent. of our GDP. We are the world's second largest overseas investor. Five million Britons live and work abroad. Global problems also affect us and we cannot tackle them alone. Whether it be the fields of arms control. combating terrorism and drugs, playing our part in the management of the world economy and environment, we need to work with others. Multilateral consultation and negotiation are a growing element in our diplomacy.
We live and work in a rapidly changing world. Who could have foreseen, for example, only a few years ago, the transformation that has taken place in the climate of East-West relations, or the new sense of purpose that characterises the approach of the UN to regional conflicts? The conduct of foreign policy must be flexible enough to adapt to such changes in circumstances. That is where the analysis of those who believe in a fixed strategy or rigidly-defined priorities, fails. We must be certain of our objectives—that is fundamental to any concept of policy.
The framework of our foreign policy is also determined by the treaty and other obligations and commitments that we believe can best secure our objectives. Thus, our active participation in NATO, in the European Community, the U N and the Commonwealth is unquestioned. But new opportunities may require new approaches, a reassessment of priorities or a change of emphasis. Recognition of this reality lies at the heart of the pragmatism which has traditionally characterised British foreign policy.
In all this, ultimate responsibility for policy and its conduct rests with Her Majesty's Government. It is a collective responsibility. It devolves principally upon my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Both enjoy the immense advantages of long incumbency. This year sees the 10th anniversary of the election that returned the Conservative Party to office, and the Prime Minister to her present position. She is already the longest-serving Prime Minister this century. Yesterday, my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State became the longest-serving continuous holder of his office since Sir Edward Grey stepped down in 1916. The combined experience of my right honourable friends spans changes of leadership in many other countries. They have also seen numerous British ambassadors and officials come and go. Their experience has given direction and consistency to the conduct of our foreign relations.
Perhaps I should now tackle the first myth about our foreign policy—a myth regrettably reflected in 707 the noble Lord's remarks—that the Prime Minister plays too prominent a role, and that her contribution is not a wholly constructive one. I am somewhat astonished by criticisms of this kind. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister's international stature and authority are great assets to our diplomacy, and my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State works closely with her. Noble Lords might not like the fact, but she is an eloquent and effective spokesman for the values in which we believe. It is surely right to speak frankly in defence of those values. The warm personal relationships she has established with other world leaders have served this country well.
Those who seek to criticise my right honourable friend's role sometimes seem to forget that holders of her office have traditionally been prominent in foreign affairs. The noble Lord gave instances of the past. I am sure that the noble Lords, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff and Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, who I see in his place, would not disagree. I seem to remember, for example, the idea of a Commonwealth mission to Vietnam, and the "HMS Tiger" talks on Rhodesia. Both were personal initiatives, doubtless undertaken with the best of intentions. The fact is, as the noble Lord knows full well, that it is cabinet government which gives the Prime Minister an essential role in the formulation and presentation of policy. To suggest otherwise is to be inaccurate about the past and mischievous about the present.
Another school of thought perpetuates another myth. It is in a sense the other side of the same coin. It is the idea that there exists some sinister and pervasive "foreign office view"; one that insinuates itself into the foreign policy-making process and corrupts the otherwise healthy instincts of Ministers. This is an extraordinary allegation. Ministers formulate policy. Officials inform, knowledgeably; they advise, wisely; and they implement, faithfully. But it is Ministers who make the decisions and justify them to Parliament. As I have indicated, in many cases they can often draw on an experience in office longer than the time they have been served by their officials.
In the conduct of our foreign relations we are well served by the dedicated professionals of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for his recognition of their skills. Their abilities allow us to build on the experience and prestige of my right honourable friends. This country is better thought of abroad as a result.
Clear objectives, the authority and experience of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, able professional personnel: these are all assets our foreign policy enjoys. There are others. As I have mentioned, there is our membership of NATO, the EC, UN and Commonwealth; and also good established bilateral channels of communication, notably with the United States, (a point made by the noble Lord); our commitment to a strong defence; our economic recovery as a result of this Government's policies, and the respect it has earned us abroad; and our language and culture which are reflected in many countries and admired in many more.
708 An effective and successful foreign policy means applying these assets successfully. That is exactly what we have been doing. Through bilateral and multilateral contacts, through public and private representations, we have worked to advance our objectives. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, spoke of megaphone diplomacy; but megaphones are only necessary for a dialogue of the deaf. That is not the sort of dialogue we seek. Rather, where we have differences with others, we identify and acknowledge them so as to be better able to look for common ground.
The range of tools available to our diplomacy includes neither megaphones nor hearing aids. Sometimes it is necessary to make clear and forthright statements on important issues. Public statements inevitably attract the most attention, but much patient work goes on behind the scenes.
Precisely this combination of a firm stand in public and much detailed groundwork in private characterised our long pursuit of a more equitable British financial contribution to the European Community. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was a member of the government whose renegotiation of our Community membership failed to resolve this fundamental question. If he dislikes the kind of diplomacy that thumps the table in order to resolve a difficult problem, how much more must he dislike the diplomacy that thumps and achieves nothing?
There is more that I should like to say about our attitude to the European Community, since the noble Lord expressed dissatisfaction with it in a number of important respects. But I hope he will understand that I should prefer to return to this subject at the end of our debate when others will have had the chance to make their opinions known.
I am sure that we shall hear a wide range of opinions expressed this afternoon. I hope however that we can agree at the outset on our objectives and on the need for a policy to serve them effectively. I am convinced that this Government have turned the conduct of foreign relations successfully to this purpose.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for enabling us to have this debate, and for his impressive opening speech. We are also thankful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for giving a government view of the Motion.
How governments conduct foreign affairs, how they formulate foreign policy and the relations between the Prime Minister of the day and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary—and generally between No. 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office—are not only interesting topics but they are of crucial importance to Parliament and the nation. In this House we are fortunate to have noble Lords who have held the highest offices of state and others who have been ambassadors and permanent secretaries in the Foreign Office and who therefore have immense experience of the matters under discussion. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said, our Foreign Service is of the highest quality. I agree entirely with that.
709 I am sure that all the many experts in this House agree that while successive governments pursue policies which are in general design and objective not dissimilar, every Prime Minister and every Foreign Secretary brings his or her own style to the task. That is no had thing. What would cause disquiet is a radical switch in foreign policy objectives or a series of misjudgments which might damage relations with allies or affect Britain's reputation generally. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, drew attention to this, particularly in the context of the Community. I am sure that Ministers will pay careful heed to what the noble Lord said because he speaks with considerable authority in this field.
I am probably old-fashioned, but I still believe that the parties represented in our Parliament should, if at all possible, seek to achieve a bipartisan foreign policy. Although there have been peaks and troughs, this has been, on the whole, a tradition in this country. This means that the Government should take careful account of Opposition views, especially on major issues. The onus is mainly on the Government; but all oppositions must also avoid raising niggling, petty objections on every issue, great and small, for short-term political advantage.
There are times when the Opposition must voice their criticism clearly as a matter of public duty; for example, on the occasion of the Suez crisis or currently on the Government's policies on southern Africa.
We know that some Prime Ministers, and indeed many Presidents of the United States, have assumed office without a close knowledge of foreign affairs. Others have been fortunate to have wide experience. I am sure the Prime Minister concedes that she was probably in the first category. She was therefore fortunate when she entered No. 10 Downing Street to have the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, an old hand, to guide and advise her as he did on the Rhodesian problem. It is to Mrs. Thatcher's credit at that time that she accepted the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and changed her position. This of course led to the subsequent settlement of that long-standing problem. That was an example of close and effective co-operation between No. 10 and the Foreign Office. It was also an example of a successful bipartisan approach to a major issue.
It is also generally true that the longer Prime Ministers remain in office, the greater their interest becomes in foreign affairs. That is inevitable, especially in these days of rapid travel and communication; though even 70 years or so ago Lloyd George was much criticised for spending too much time in Versailles and too little in the House of Commons. Honourable Members expecting to see him in the House were disappointed because he was not there; they only saw his pictures in the newspapers with Presidents Wilson and Clemenceau and Signor Orlando. Lloyd George had a great responsibility to discharge in Versailles but the view of some was that he overdid it a bit.
As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, suggested, the ideal is to get the balance right between Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. If the Prime Minister wants to do all the work, then he or she should take on the Foreign Office portfolio as well. In 1924 710 Ramsay MacDonald, who had always taken a close interest in foreign affairs, did just that, largely upon the advice of Arthur Ponsonby, the grandfather of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, who correctly predicted that he would not be in office for long and that it would therefore be possible for MacDonald to combine both great offices of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. I think it is now generally admitted that Ramsay MacDonald was an effective Foreign Secretary but he was also criticised, as Professor David Marquand tells us in his excellent biography,for devoting too much of his attention to the mysteries of foreign policy and too little to urgent domestic problems of employment and economic stagnation".The present Prime Minister has played an increasingly active role, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, referred to her style and some of her incursions into foreign relations. It is impossible at this stage to make a full judgment of the right honourable lady, but we are entitled to comment on certain aspects of her policies. As has been said, she is now one of the longest serving national leaders. She has a reputation for what some would call plain speaking and what others have seen as tactless outbursts; and she has formed relations with other world leaders, notably President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.
Britain is not a superpower. Our influence is most significant when we work constructively through our alliances and associations. Those were listed by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, in his speech—the Community, NATO the United Nations and the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has used these platforms to air her views; but she has not always done so to the best advantage and that must be conceded in this debate. She has been described as "meddlesome", "interfering" and "negative". There are times when one has the impression that the Foreign Secretary is tiptoeing softly behind her carrying a large oil can.
It is possible to underestimate the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, but I have a great deal of respect for him and for his patient and reasonable handling of foreign affairs. It has not always been easy for him. He handled the Hong Kong problem skilfully, supported by the Prime Minister after her hiccup in Peking. When he is going around the capitals of the world I must confess that I feel quite relaxed and satisfied that his calm diplomacy will not let this country down.
During her 10 years in office the Prime Minister has developed her own methods. That is not necessarily a bad thing provided of course that there is agreement and understanding between her and the Foreign Secretary. In his recently-published memoirs the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, makes the following interesting comment. Given the respect with which he is held throughout this House I believe that we must note his comment very carefully. He said:Margaret Thatcher evinced at times a distrust of the Foreign Office, a determined attitude that it didn't stick up for Britain and was softly conciliatory when the reverse was needed. I found that this sentiment was never far from the surface and could erupt in impatient hostility unless ably countered …".That was the view of the noble Lord.
711 Of course there is a time for plain speaking if that is clearly in the interests of the country and if it has the support of the Foreign Secretary and of the Cabinet. As we know, foreign affairs is the second subject on the Cabinet agenda every Thursday morning and Ministers have the opportunity to express their views on major issues at that time. If the Prime Minister speaks with the accord of her colleagues and with the agreement of the Foreign Secretary then, even if we in Opposition may disagree with what that policy is, we cannot complain. It is government policy decided by agreement between the Prime Minister, who is primus inter pares, her chief foreign affairs Minister and her colleagues in the Cabinet.
But the reflections of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, must cause some unease. Noble Lords may have read a recent book on British foreign policy since 1979 that I found most revealing. Mr. Bulpitt of Warwick University writes this in the book:Between 1979 and 1987 British foreign policy was presented as the policies of one woman, so that in many aspects this method became the message".While the Prime Minister has many admirers at home and abroad, it is also true that her handling of foreign relations has often caused tension and unease and brought about unnecessary discord between Britain and friendly nations. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has given examples of this and the reactions of our European partners to them. There was the interview given by the Prime Minister in the United States in November when she made a partisan remark about the main issue of the Canadian general election that was taking place at that time. Mr. Turner, the former Canadian Prime Minister said:I can only say with considerable regret that Mrs Thatcher's comments are inappropriate".She should not have behaved like that in a foreign country. I believe that there should be general agreement in this House that her action was misguided. It was not a myth but a fact.
The way in which she handled the Patrick Ryan case to which reference has been made, whatever the merits, did nothing to improve the relations with Belgium and Ireland. If it was in the public interest that Patrick Ryan should be extradited to this country, the handling of the matter by the Prime Minister made sure that he was not. Finally, the premature warning that the Queen would not be advised to visit Russia was crude and unhelpful. I say again to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, that these are surely not myths.
The way in which policies are worked out is one thing; the way in which they are handled publicly is another matter. We must hope that policies are the end product of close consultation and that the Prime Minister's subsequent handling of those policies when she does intervene is agreed upon by the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet. If the Prime Minister starts shooting from the hip heaven knows whom she may hit next.
But the Prime Minister does have important contributions to make. She described her relations with President Reagan as "very, very special" and there is no doubting their real friendship. She has also 712 said that President Gorbachev is a man she can work with and that is encouraging. These relations can be put to good use provided they are seen in the right perspective.
However, friendships do not add up to a foreign policy. We must realise that our strength comes from our partnerships and alliances and the way in which we strengthen our influence within them. In the book on foreign policy to which I have referred, Mr. Michael Smith makes a perceptive remark. He writes:British policies have become more regional and European while American orientations have become a strange hybrid of globalism and insularity. Personalities can delay or divert this process, but they cannot halt or reverse it".I believe that the House will agree that there are more opportunities today to create international stability and to move towards substantial disarmament than have existed for many decades past. With our allies and with wise leadership we can contribute towards this. If we do so I know that the House will give its full support.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, in a discussion on the conduct of foreign relations, I might be considered a prejudiced witness as for 25 years I was a member of the diplomatic service. I have however for approximately the same time been engaged in other occupations in what the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry seems to enjoy calling the "real world". I hope therefore that in this discussion I shall not be unduly partisan.
One of the occupations in which I have not engaged has been party politics. I should therefore like to try to avoid dealing as directly with current personalities as some of the previous speakers. I am bound to say that when I first saw the Motion on the Order Paper it seemed a little opaque. I did not know whether the noble Lord wanted us to discuss the direction of British policy or the means and mechanics by which the Government tried to implement it. But all this has been clarified by his extremely interesting speech which reminded us that he is a distinguished historian as well as a statesman.
In the debate on the Address last November 1 drew attention to the formidable foreign affairs agenda that faced the British Government. But I suggested that there was at last a hope that some long deadlocked problems showed some promising signs of solution. I concluded that there might be opportunities for initiatives by the British Government either alone or more likely in concert with others in alliances or through the reviving United Nations Organisation. I believe that subsequent events have confirmed those views and that the general thrust of the Government's policies merits our support. In East-West relations, in arms control, in disarmament, in the Middle East and in other regional problems, even in southern Africa, in my view Her Majesty's Government are aiming in the right direction and they are well equipped to contribute positively. On certain questions I am glad to see that the Government and the Opposition are coming nearer together. The recent exchange between Mr. Waldegrave and Mr. Gerald Kaufman illustrated that very clearly.
713 In European affairs there is room for domestic argument. But I believe that Monday's extremely interesting debate showed that the majority of us accepted a policy that involved a series of practical steps rather than prematurely debating ambitious goals. The number of people in other countries who favour the same line will become increasingly apparent.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has criticised megaphone diplomacy. In my view, megaphone diplomacy can be sometimes right and sometimes wrong. After all, Sir Winston Churchill's famous Fulton speech was an example of beneficial megaphone diplomacy. There is also a useful variation of megaphone diplomacy which is sometimes referred to as "Jericho diplomacy". It is the policy that when faced by an obstruction you march round and round it making as much noise as possible in the hope that the obstructing walls will eventually come tumbling down. The Prime Minister did this very successfully when she succeeded in getting a much more substantial rebate from the European Community. She was criticised at the time, but I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was one of her critics then.
It is highly desirable and indeed essential that Prime Ministers and departmental Ministers should make public policy speeches about foreign affairs. They are usually the best judges of when it is appropriate to do so as they naturally have domestic as well as foreign targets. A comparatively recent development, and one not welcome to me, is that in this country we no longer have a large measure of consensus on foreign policy. There is therefore a temptation for politicians on both sides to speak too loudly and often too soon. It seems to have become customary to react to any event or development immediately in order to get first place on the television or the radio. This produces an immediate reaction from Opposition spokesmen and from other governments whose actions are criticised or applauded. In very quick time there is a crisis in relations which makes constructive diplomacy more difficult. Nevertheless, I see no alternative and we have to get used to it. I do not see that Ministers are likely to resist immediate access to the television screen, but we must hope that they will from time to time look carefully at the possibility that an immediate, excessive political reaction may create long-term obstacles to a good solution in the interests of all.
But it is right in my view that government leaders should have a high profile. No one can deny that our international status has benefited from this and that we are held in higher esteem now than at any time in the past three decades. But I regret to say that this esteem is from time to time diminished by the decline in British manners, to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, refers in his autobiography, and by the loutish behaviour abroad by people of all kinds.
As the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, mentioned, we are extremely fortunate in having a Foreign Secretary who has long and continuous experience in international affairs, both as Chancellor of the Exchequer and in his present post. There are those who criticise him and question his ability and the 714 ability of his department to offer good advice to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet as a whole, which is ultimately responsible for approving foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, however, has spoken well of the Foreign Office but there are others who maintain that the vision of the Foreign Office is too narrow. They say that it should be more open to ideas from outside. This is a longstanding view which to my knowldege is totally misplaced.
Foreign Office Ministers and members of the Diplomatic Service do not live in a world of their own. They are influenced by what is said in Parliament and by other powerful Whitehall departments. They read the newspapers of our own and other countries and they are bombarded by television and radio pundits. They are in touch with the opinions—the useful and powerful opinions—of the academic world. Their views are also informed and influenced by the flow of opinion and information from our missions abroad and from their official contacts with foreign governments. They also have access to the products of our intelligence services. They clearly cannot be faultless. They make misjudgments and mistakes.
Those who distrust or doubt the Foreign Secretary and his advisers believe that the Prime Minister needs a group in No. 10 to second-guess them. To a large extent a Prime Minister already has this. He or she has contacts of their own. There are highly competent people in the Prime Minister's private office. There is the joint intelligence committee on which several departments are represented, and there is a senior Cabinet committee of the most influential Ministers. In our own comparatively recent history and in the example of the United States we have seen how a rival centre of official advice carries serious risks. These risks are of course diminished if the relations between the group in No. 10 and the Foreign Office are cooperative and not confrontational.
Some years ago a senior Commonwealth Prime Minister tried a personal staff of this kind. I asked one of the members how the staff got on with civil servants. He said, "We don't talk to them; we only talk to Ministers". That is the way not to do it. It is unfortunately human nature that two centres of official advice more often than not foster departmental rivalry. This was certainly the case in the United States in my experience when the State Department was constantly in conflict with the assessments of the CIA. Prime Ministers certainly want and must have first-class advice. In the limits of my experience there is no reason why the present system cannot provide this. It taps all relevant sources.
Do our missions abroad do a good job? I believe they do, provided they are given adequate resources. Those Members of the House who served under the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, on the Select Committee on Overseas Trade were able to see for themselves when we visited Tokyo just how efficient an embassy can be. There are occasions when missions fall short but the view of several committees of this House and of the other place confirm the generally high standards.
In summary, this country is well placed both in personalities and in machinery to take a proper place 715 in the development of a safer world. There is greater hope now than for many years for the solution of some obstinate problems. I believe that we can help.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for his choice of an interestingly worded topic for the Motion today. The whole discussion raises the question of why we have a Foreign Office. It has not been raised yet, but it used to be raised in circles which looked forward to rapid European integration and could see the time coming when policies could be formulated, at least among the West European countries, by meetings of functional civil servants—the idea that civil servants from, for example, Departments of Transport could meet and settle everything. One would have a kind of function merge, to use computer language. That has not happened and could not happen. As long as sovereign states remain, sovereign states with sovereign democratic parliaments, each of them will need a Foreign Office, simply because there is no one else to give orders to those who are carrying out the negotiations and to set their terms of reference.
In his interesting speech, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, set out some aims of national policy. I do not think it matters where they came from. I do not know whether they were new or old and, if old, whether they have been endorsed by many recent British governments, but they certainly are the sort of thing that successive British, French, German, Soviet, U.S. and all governments set themselves on those occasions when they do anything so dangerous as to draw up a list of national policy aims.
I should have liked a lesser emphasis on preserving and maintaining the interests of this country and a greater emphasis on doing what this country best could to attain a certain general condition of the world. But what condition would that be? How should the desirable condition of the world be defined? Obviously it would be peaceful, it would be prosperous, it would be just, and so on. Then, reasoning back from that, what is the best detailed general line of conduct for a given nation having our characteristics? For instance, being roughly democratic, being middle-sized, speaking a world language, and so on. A rational list framed according to that procedure could, I imagine, become rather more useful as time goes on.
We are now seeing—this has not been mentioned —the growth of political co-operation among the countries of the Community through the mechanism which used appropriately to be called PoCo because there was indeed molto poco of it. There is now some more and, no doubt, the time will come when it becomes molto enough to allow a formalisation of it with the consequent effect on the national foreign offices of the countries concerned. In the meantime, I do not think that we can go much faster than we are going in that direction. Indeed, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that that does not depend on whether a given Prime Minister takes up a strident or a conciliatory attitude towards his or her colleagues in the European Community.
716 There has been this recent eruption—principally, I think, in The Times newspaper—of what looked like a campaign but then did not really turn into one, for the Prime Minister to have her own foreign policy unit in No. 10. The suggestion was quite boldly framed by some apparently very eccentric people as being something which would enable her to override the bad advice from the Foreign Office because it would have sole possession of a higher truth; namely, a truth which did not come from observing the lie of the land beyond our shores, but from higher principles altogether. We should be glad that we have not heard any more of that suggestion.
I must say in passing that I was surprised that the Foreign Secretary found it necessary to take part in that discussion. I do not know whether we should infer from that that its wings did brush him more closely than we should have wished. I shall, however, return to the Foreign Secretary later on.
Of course the Prime Minister can be his or her own foreign secretary, as Lord Rosebery was—a fact pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. In which case he can and does use the existing Foreign Office and, one hopes, trust it.
§ Lord Kennet
I am sorry if I said Lord Rosebery, it was of course Lord Salisbury. On the other hand, if the Prime Minister is not being his or her own foreign secretary it is a recipe for absolute and immediate disaster that there should be a separate department to serve him or her. In this day and age prime ministers should not be foreign secretaries. The present one has not been and if she were ever to take on that duty—I do not attempt to disguise my own view—I believe that it would be an absolute disaster too.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said that the Prime Minister stands for the things in which we all believe. Well, she does not, you know. The only thing which we believe that she stands for is that the interests of this country should be interpreted and pursued as best one can. But what they are is an issue upon which we are very sharply divided. Many of the values she proclaims around the world are matters in which not many people in this country believe. It would make an easier relationship with other countries, and an easier relationship internally in this country, if she were to examine on which points she does express the generally held view of her people, and on which she does not. She is a Prime Minister whose convictions and whose courage run very far in advance of her comprehension. It would be possible for her to know this and the better, by knowing it, to benefit us from her great courage.
I should like to endorse everything said by the Leader of the Labour Opposition about Sir Geoffrey Howe. Life with Mrs. Thatcher and without Sir Geoffrey Howe would be almost too alarming to contemplate. If she had anyone less skilful as Foreign Secretary, less calm, less broad in his approach to the world, then the country would be very poorly served indeed.
Kind things have been said about the quality of the British foreign service, and I endorse them. We have 717 a good foreign service, and we are lucky to have such a good one. However, we want to avoid complacency. I do not think that it has always necessarily been the best. There have been two or three people in it over the past 40 years who have risen near the top, despite a degree of overestimation in their own abilities and underestimation of the opinions of other persons and other countries. Indeed, two or three absolute fools have shot through the firmament, but they have not done much harm in the end and by and large the standard has been extremely high.
Over the years the Canadian foreign service, especially in the Third World, could have been an example to us which we did not always follow. And in Europe I have been much impressed by the standard of technical performance—which says nothing about the policies from time to time of their government—of the German foreign service. I believe that we could, certainly in the past, and possibly still now, have something to learn from both of those.
One thing which we may unreservedly welcome is that the great impetus of the 'fifties and 'sixties to commercialise the Foreign Office and the foreign service is now forgotten. The task of promoting the commercial interests of the firms of a given country is not historically especially close to the task of diplomacy and of achieving harmonious relations with other sovereign governments. It has its bearing; but it is not on the same main line, and it was rather a mistake ever to think that it was.
Traditionally, those who opened up the world to British commerce, and the sale of British industrial products, did not rely on the ambassador or the consul too much. The personage of the commercial counsellor had not of course been invented in the great days. In those days, from the 13th century right up to the early 20th century, the person they relied on was their agent on the spot—that is, a native of the country concerned—and on an increasingly sophisticated network, cohabitation, and interaction between the agents of different countries, different industries, different firms in a given country; so as to build up a more light-footed basis of trading and trading knowledge and one which was less hampered by the sovereign interests of the sending country, which can indeed get dreadfully in the way of trade.
Therefore I am glad that the commercialisation of the service is going no further. However, is it not surprising that hiving off these duties—privatisation of advice from government to traders, merchants and industrialists abroad—has not been more to the fore? The Government could logically hive off those functions to the private sector while of course keeping up a central core of advice and keeping in touch with everything that goes on. The reliance by the private sector of industry and trade on government advice abroad has been simultaneous with, perhaps in part has caused, the relative collapse of British industrial exports over the past 30 years.
Lastly; the Queen and the invitation to Moscow. If the Soviet invitation ever had been given—it must have been expected—would it have been to the Queen solely as the Queen of this country or would it have been to her partly as head of the Commonwealth? It 718 is difficult to disentangle the two functions and sometimes it is highly undesirable to try: but when the Queen is invited on a state visit to an important country does the Prime Minister convey to the Queen the advice only of the United Kingdom Government or does the Prime Minister also convey the advice of the Commonwealth Secretariat or individual Commonwealth countries? If the Prime Minister does not convey that advice, who conveys it to the Queen?
I realise that that is an opaque area about which little knowledge exists. The matter should be looked at in a future debate, or in some sensible way, first, to find out what happens and then to see if there could be an improvement. It could be part of a general examination of the whole relationship between the Queen in Parliament and the majority in one of the two Houses of Parliament which might become—I shall not say crucial—a lever, or possible spark point in the future, the longer the majority in the House of Commons continues to represent a minority in the country.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for introducing the debate. My enthusiasm for the debate is slightly tempered by a point which he made at the beginning of his speech, as did the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, and I was not sure that I understood what his purpose was in putting down the Motion in the terms that he did. I therefore listened with great interest to what he had to say and now of course we know what his purpose was. He identified, and I think that I wrote them down correctly, five guiding principles as to why he thinks that the Prime Minister has too much effect on our foreign policy. He especially dislikes her style.
I speak as someone who was recently a Foreign Office Minister for four years. During that time I had the advantage, and enormous interest, of travelling to some 60 different countries. I can only say, speaking from my experience then, that the Prime Minister was held in high regard throughout the world. She was admired for her courage; for the fact that she stood up for Britain around the world; and for the Government's economic policies.
I can assure your Lordships that I had some unexpected and unusual conversations, not merely with governments which might be described as right wing but frequently with governments which were unquestionably left wing, which were trying to find out about Britain's economic policies and how we had succeeded in reversing Britain's relative longterm economic decline. One must recognise the influence that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has had—a point to which I shall return.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, began by talking about the European Community. We all know and appreciate the great work that he has done in Europe and his great knowledge of the Community. In no way do I pretend to be an equal expert; but I look upon myself as someone who is committed to Europe. I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House in 1971 in support of the principle of Britain's entry to the Community. I have 719 always stood as someone who is a great supporter and believer in the great European ideal. I look upon the whole development of Europe as unquestionably one of the great political developments since the Second World War.
What has happened over what is regarded as the style in Europe is that there have been great differences of opinion about what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister meant in her speech in Bruges. Often what was reported in the press bore little relationship to what she said if one read the speech. That is often the case when one reads what is said and compares it with what is reported.
Basically, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister set out in that speech five principles about Europe. The first was the willing and active cooperation between independent and sovereign states. The second was that Community policies should tackle problems in a practical way. I should have thought that that was something that most people in this country firmly support. It has been not only the work of the Foreign Office, to which I shall come in a moment, but the work of the Prime Minister which has made enormous improvements to the budget of the Community and Britain's share of it. The Prime Minister has also intervened to do something about the common agricultural policy, which everyone understands has become expensive and out of control and in many respects has had extremely damaging effects, especially in the Third World. We must give credit where credit is due.
The Prime Minister said that the Community's policies should encourage enterprise; that Europe should not be protectionist. There again, one of the greatest economic dangers in the world today must surely be that there might be a trade war between Europe and the United States in which both would be bound to be the losers. That would be damaging and needs to be avoided. Secondly, protectionist policies would be dangerous to Third World countries.
The final point was the importance of European defence through NATO. I believe that those views reflect what the majority of British people think about the Community. I do not believe that at present most people in this country want something like a federal system. I greatly respect the views of my noble friend Lord Cockfield—unfortunately I could not be here on Monday to hear the debate, but I read it—and I recognise that he holds firm views. Who is to say that he will not be proved right and that we shall not have a single European currency by the year 2000? However, I do not believe that at present most people in Britain think of that or a central bank or close political alignment as priorities. We are moving in a pragmatic way towards Europe. A great many practical steps are being taken. From my experience in business as a director of a bank and a business, I know that an enormous amount of thinking and planning is going on for 1992. I hope that that is going on up and down the country, because there are enormous benefits to be gained. However I am not sure that we would gain anything by leaping into great decisions which would not have the support of people. That would be very divisive. It is right that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister 720 should spell out clearly what some of these things are. Some will move more quickly, some more slowly and after all, some people will not even move at all as regards the European Community. I think that we have got this about right. The great point at the moment is that we should be making preparations for 1992 and the benefits which that will bring, not only to ourselves but to the whole of Europe.
Perhaps I may now turn to the reality of the relationship of the Prime Minister with my right honourable and learned friend Sir Geoffrey Howe and to the Foreign Office. I believe that the Foreign Office not only exists to implement the policy of the Government but it builds on the tremendous experience—my noble friend Lord Glenarthur drew attention to this—of both the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, made the point, with which I agree, that we as a country have benefited enormously from the particular relationship between the Prime Minister and President Reagan. I have not the slightest doubt that there will be a good relationship between the Prime Minister and President Bush, just as I believe—and I am sorry that he is not in his place this afternoon—that there was a very good relationship between the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and President Carter. It is in the interests of Britain that there should be a good personal relationship between our Prime Minister and the President of the United States.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said, the fact that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had said that she could do business with Mr. Gorbachev signalled that this was going to be a good relationship. We are already seeing the benefits of that. I believe that there are very many instances in foreign affairs in which the fact that there has been a good relationship between two Ministers has enabled foreign policy to progress.
Having said that, I worked very closely with my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary for four years. I was very glad indeed to hear the tributes that have been paid to him personally. The country has very often owed far more than it knows to his patience, his unending good humour and his very great negotiating skills. I watched them closely in the negotiations on Hong Kong, to which reference has already been made. I know that his negotiating skills have been used extensively in Europe, in the whole area of arms control and on the big issues of the Middle East, and they will be so used in the future. Nothing would be more unfortunate than to think that he has been other than a very great Foreign Secretary. The country should be grateful for what he has done.
He is well served by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I cannot claim, like the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, to have had 25 years there, and perhaps some people may think from what I say that I too have been brainwashed in some way. I have been told from time to time that one of my faults is being too outspoken, but perhaps I may be forgiven for what I say. One of my ministerial responsibilities was administration and I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and others have paid tribute to the high calibre of people in the Foreign Office. We 721 are very fortunate there and also we are fortunate that the Foreign Office is still recruiting some of the most able graduates from our universities, despite the temptations of often far higher salaries in other jobs for these young men and women, who are actively headhunted by many people. One is very struck by, for example, their skills as linguists. It is probably, person for person, as good as or better than almost any other foreign service in the world. I well recall a time when I did not myself have ministerial responsibility for China. I was asked to host a lunch for a Chinese mayor at which half the people present were Chinese and the other half from the Foreign Office. I suddenly realised that I was the only person at the table who did not speak Chinese. That was a very unusual occasion but it brought home to me in a real way the kind of skills we have, skills which we could use to advantage.
There is one other point which I wish to make about the Foreign Office and which we forget today. What is often seen by the outside world as an immensely glamorous job is a very dangerous one today. It may not be necessary to say so in this House but in the four years when I was there a member of the Foreign Office was assassinated, as was a member of the British Council. There were a good many people who were threatened, and I remember that one young girl in a Latin American embassy came to a party when she had only just come out of hospital, having been stabbed while waiting for traffic lights which were red to turn green. The kinds of dangers our people abroad are up against are real and I am sure that none of your Lordships has visited an embassy abroad without being struck by the fortifications around the embassy. They are there because they are necessary, and that is something to bear in mind.
As a consequence of our success—and I think it has been a success—in foreign affairs we have been able to build on the expertise of Ministers who decide the principles of Foreign Office policy. But we carry our policy through by the skilful negotiations of our people who are professional diplomats.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to three areas. One only has to look at the whole area of disarmament, where we have a very real input into conventional arms control and where we are part of the negotiating team. We have made a real input into the whole area of the control of chemical weapons, particularly on verification and on the principles of NATO's arms control position. The 50 per cent. cuts in the United States and the Soviet strategic arms, the chemical weapons ban and the elimination of the conventional imbalance in conventional forces were agreed between the two principals, President Reagan and the Prime Minister, in 1986. The detailed working out, where there has been a measure of success, comes from our professionals. If we look at the Middle East, again we played a leading role in the work at the United Nations which led to a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq. We initiated and drafted Resolution 598, which set the terms for an international settlement of the Gulf conflict.
Commercial work has already been referred to and I think that we often forget that 30 per cent. of Foreign and Commonwealth Office frontline 722 resources overseas, and a significant proportion of those at home, are devoted to supporting United Kingdom commercial effort, particularly our exports. This strengthens the economy of the United Kingdom and it therefore helps Britain's foreign policy.
Perhaps I may conclude on that point, where I began. I believe that since 1979 we have seen that Britain's role in the world and the respect and regard in which Britain has been held have risen. That is due to a number of factors, not least the success of Britain's economy and certainly not least the success which the leadership of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has given to the country. However our success abroad is equally important in the work of my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who, by his tenure of office and his skills, has also put his stamp on what has been done both in Europe and in the great negotiations which are going on.
We must all surely want success in our foreign policy for the very reasons set out by my noble friend in his speech, because the aims of' the foreign policy may be very big words like "peace" and "prosperity in the world" but, after all, they are what we all want.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I must begin by apologising for the fact that owing to a long-standing prior commitment, I shall be unable to stay until the end of the debate. Secondly, I should like to say at the outset that, contrary to what some Members of the House may be expecting, I am not going to devote any time this afternoon to the Diplomatic Service, although it may be quite well known, at least among some of your Lordships, that I have some experience —perhaps not as much as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, or the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill. However, it is experience in a rather different context of our embassies and high commissions overseas, of the Foreign Office in London and of relationships between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and home departments.
Something I should like to say however—and I have listened with great interest to what others have said about this—is that I do not think anybody ever doubted the high calibre of our foreign service. What some of us doubted when we looked at it in the late 1970s was whether the best use was made of that high calibre at all times. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, made one or two points that I would perhaps on another occasion like to take up; but this afternoon I want to concentrate on some of the issues already raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead.
It has been said by some commentators that the Government have achieved a new-found confidence in their relationships with other countries. It has been argued that this greater self-confidence since the mid-1980s is based on a much stronger economy. I would contend that the self-confidence is in fact apparent: indeed, it often takes the form of overbearing and arrogant over-confidence. However, I cannot accept that it is built on a substantial and long-term improvement in the nation's economic position. If we accept the importance of a country's economic 723 strength in determining its significance and "clout" in the role it is able to play in the world—and surely we must accept this—then there is no justification for the apparent belief that Britain is now in a stronger position to dictate to foreign powers or to get its own way in either bilateral or multilateral negotiations of various kinds.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, talks about myths; but he is guilty of spreading just such a myth in referring to our economic recovery, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Young. On the contrary, Britain's underlying economic weakness continues, and no amount of propaganda, either at home or abroad, can hide it from the discerning observer. Since the end of last summer we have had a series of appalling trade figures, which demonstrate more clearly than anything else Britain's failure to earn its living by selling goods abroad. Unemployment still stands at around 2 million, which represents a terrible waste of human resources. Since 1979 manufacturing output has gone up by only 4 per cent., compared with 35 per cent. in the USA and 40 per cent. on average in Western Europe. In GDP per head, Britain is far below most of its competitors in the other OECD countries. Within three or four years North Sea oil, which has helped to shore up our persistently weak economy, will run out. No, my Lords, in the central area of international economic relations Mrs. Thatcher and her Ministers have no reason to be self-confident.
In spite of the harsh reality of those facts, Mrs. Thatcher continues to prance around on the world stage as if this country had not lost its empire, had not slipped even further behind other nations economically and had not had to accept its military insignificance in relation to the superpowers. Continuity in office, which several of your Lordships have already referred to, may have turned the Prime Minister into a world leader who has been around longer than most. It has not, in my view, turned her into a statesman who both accepts Britain's much reduced power and behaves accordingly.
The most important adjustment required is a willingness to accept that relations with foreign countries must increasingly be conducted through multilateral channels. As a middle-ranking European power with a much less successful economy than that of West Germany and a rather less successful economy than that of France or even of Italy, the Government need to accept that our chances of influencing other countries will be greater if we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into trying to make Britain's voice effective within Europe. In this respect, as in others, I strongly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, has already said.
While of course it would be foolish to abandon the strong links with the United States that were maintained and developed during the post-war years, I believe that Mrs. Thatcher has relied much too heavily on the special relationship at the expense of fostering good connections with Europe. Mrs. Thatcher's friend, President Reagan, has now retreated to his ranch in California; and in spite of what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said, I 724 think it is doubtful whether the present or any subsequent Prime Minister can repeat the act with President Bush or with any of his successors. Even Mrs. Thatcher's pal, President Reagan, did not tell her in advance that he was going to invade a Commonwealth country. It is in fact dangerous to rely too much on personal factors in the pursuit of foreign policy, as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos said.
As a result of the Government's relative neglect of Europe with respect to cultivating friendships in favour of the USA, the Bonn-Paris axis continues to be the dominant relationship in Europe, leaving London all too frequently on the sidelines. Devoting a substantially greater proportion of GDP to defence than either of those countries has done little to alter the balance of power within Europe; nor can it be claimed truthfully that it has made or will continue to make much difference to our relationship with the USA. Our military might is so minuscule in relation to that of the United States that a percentage off the proportion of GDP that goes to defence would hardly alter the balance between Britain and the USA.
Continuing to run an overstretched defence budget is another symptom of the illusions of grandeur of our Prime Minister. It also represents a failure to understand that our security is not just a function of how much we spend on our military effort, but it is also a function of other things. Some of the recent investment in arms would have been better spent on non-military scientific research, on government support for innovation in new technologies, on training, and above all on aid and development in the Third World. All these things, I contend, would have done more to enhance our international reputation.
One of the happiest international developments to take place in recent months has been the resolution of the conflict in Namibia and concomitant improvements in the situation in neighbouring Angola. The successful outcome of the agreement to establish at long last an independent Namibia depends on the willingness of the major industrial countries, including Britain, to fund United Nations efforts to get the new county operating. This of course will include a peace-keeping presence and the organisation of connections. It is in Britain's interests to promote peace in Southern Africa; and Britain also has a moral obligation to do so. Instead, I am afraid that Britain has led the haggling over the provision of funding for this activity. It is a disgraceful example of the Government's petty meanness in supporting an international agency in vital work to promote peace and justice in the world. It well-illustrates the Government's mistaken priorities, when the costs involved are compared with our over-inflated defence expenditure.
Turning to a rather different subject, the protection of the environment—both within Europe and globally—has become an important item on the international agenda. The Prime Minister's recent conversion to a green approach has manifested itself in quite a lot of rhetoric about the global environment. However, we can only improve that global environment with more support for less developed countries, whose own activies which are 725 damaging to the environment are frequently a function of their extreme poverty. It really is hyprocrisy to to talk about improving the global environment at the same time as keeping aid to the third world at a level well below that provided by many other western industrial countries. Within Europe, despite the rhetoric, the Government's record until recently has been to drag their feet on such important matters as radioactive emissions into the sea and sulphur emissions into the atmosphere. On social and employment issues the Government's record in Europe is equally poor. They recently used their veto to prevent progress being made in relation to equality for women at work, despite the fact that a number of the changes involved actually brought other EC countries into line with improvements already achieved in Britain.
In general Britain's approach to discussing these and other matters in Europe has been both nationalistic and chauvinist. An issue where the Prime Minister perceives sovereignty is at stake, regardless of the intrinsic merits of reaching a common European position on it, evokes a hard-line refusal to discuss it. A good recent example of this is border control. Eventually the Government will be forced into accepting that agreed European regulations will be needed, and absolutely nothing is achieved by initially taking a nationalistic stance and refusing to co-operate. Instead the benefits of positive but hard bargaining at the outset are lost, and the end result is frequently a rather ungracious and grudging acceptance of the outcome of such multilateral discussions, because in the end we have no other choice but to accept.
Conducting relationships with foreign countries requires a mixture of realism about the power and influence that we can rely on to achieve our objectives, consistency and clarity about priorities and the employment of the right means to achieve those priorities, and also a willingness to compromise when necessary. The Government are failing in all of these respects, as I have tried to demonstrate. Moreover, they are led by a Prime Minister whose behaviour is becoming more autocratic abroad as well as at home, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has said.
Being around the longest does not give her the right to lecture and hector her peers. It is certainly counter-productive to treat the heads of foreign governments like members of her own Cabinet. They have ways of getting back at her which her own Cabinet Ministers singularly lack. It is not Mrs. Thatcher's reputation that concerns me; it is Britain's. Unless there is a change in heart in the way our relations with foreign countries are conducted, it will be seriously damaged.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Lord Bridges
My Lords, like others who have spoken in this debate I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for introducing this Motion. Unlike many other discussions on foreign policy in your Lordships' House where we generally tend to concentrate on the substance of foreign policy, we are here invited to consider the methods by which foreign policy is conducted. I believe this to be 726 an important subject in its own right, and I should like to stick rather closely to this theme in what I have to say this afternoon. I do not propose to follow some of your Lordships who have entered into questions of personality, nor the subjects treated by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on the more general issues of foreign policy.
The reason why I think methods are so important for us to consider is primarily that the circumstances in which our foreign policy is conducted have undergone a fundamental change in the last generation. This is clear to most of us when we think of the decline of the nation state, the emergence of two superpowers, the growth of multilateral organisations, the birth of the European Community and our own membership of it, and since the passage of the Single European Act its commitment in the field of foreign policy. One has to add also our own relative decline.
All these factors have rightly brought about a considerable change in our methods. For example, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has already said, there is a much greater emphasis on multilateral diplomacy. This is necessary. There is too a much greater involvement between domestic and international business. Every member of the Cabinet finds himself involved in foreign affairs to some extent. There is also, interestingly, much more direct contact between Ministers in one country and in another. This can he an extremely helpful process. There has been naturally a change in the role of our foreign missions, but I believe that they have not declined in importance.
However, there is another significant change which seems to me to be worth drawing attention to, and that is the increased importance of public statements by governments. if you think of the situation 50 years or more ago the normal way of conducting government business was by private and relatively informal discussion between governments. Nowadays there is far more emphasis on public statements; on declarations which set out national positions for all the world to see.
Ideally their purpose is to prepare for negotiations which may follow and to indicate the broad lines of approach which may be adopted. I presume that this was the purpose of the important speech that the Prime Minister made in Bruges recently. Such statements seem to me to be desirable and indeed necessary in democratic societies. The world has accepted the objective of "open agreements openly arrived at". By this I understand that the opening and concluding phases will be available and visible for all to see, and the purpose of the public declaration is to set the negotiating process in train and on the right track.
For me the question underlying the Motion before us this evening is whether this is what our Government are in fact doing, and my approach is thus somewhat different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, in his most interesting and learned speech. In my view a firm statement of principle is a desirable prelude to a negotiation. In Britain this is naturally so because of our traditional preference for strong government; a preference which incidentally is 727 much stronger here than in other parliamentary democracies.
Other countries have come to expect this of us. They expect our public statements to be strong, clear and consistent. In the fluid world of international politics it is to our national advantage that the rest of the world knows where we stand and understands what we are saying. Those who have attended the debates of the General Assembly of the United Nations know how quickly a too carefully expressed speech, a too refined modulation, will sink without a trace.
Nobody would accuse our own Government on this score, and there are definite advantages to the national interest that we have pursued a consistent and clear line since 1979. But this firmness, clarity and consistency are not enough of themselves. Public statements need to encourage the process of negotiation and facilitate movement towards the objective. I am not sure that this part of the technique has been as well thought out as it might have been on some occasions.
I sometimes think that it would be useful to study the techniques of the trade union leaders in this country, whose methods I think could sometimes be applied in other areas with advantage. They are the people in our society who seem to have understood the techniques of negotiation best. By this I do not mean that we should follow all the suggestions which appear in books on what is called the theory of international relations, but which it is suggested that you should advance a false objective in order to abandon it at a later stage of the negotiations, or that you should soften up your adversary with the rough edge of your tongue, or stage a walk-out. These seem to me to be rather artificial devices. But I believe that public statements should be carefully calculated; that they should set out the principles to be adopted in a negotiation and that they should leave sufficient flexibility for the conduct of those negotiations. The words we use should give the impression to the other side that a successful negotiation is posssible, if that indeed is our objective.
What I am suggesting is that we need a more calculated and less instinctive approach in our public statements on foreign policy. It is of course natural that in our country, given the strength of our parliamentary institutions and the forceful nature of our political and public debate, there is sometimes observable a freedom of expression which is not sufficiently calculated. Other countries do not behave as we do in that respect, and where fewer policies may emerge unexpectedly from the pressure of a parliamentary debate.
Indeed, I sometimes think that image reversal is at work here in that we tend to think of ourselves as a uniquely calm, deliberate and phlegmatic political society. The reality I suggest is the reverse and we are sometimes more instinctive, more emotional than our Continental neighbours in our political debates. I do not intend that in any way to be a comment on the proceedings in your Lordships' House; but it is something which I have observed generally in our own society.
728 I should like to commend to your Lordships one positive example of the way in which that process of public statement of principles and detailed negotiation should work; namely, the result of the Brussels European Council in February 1988 when the Government secured a very important agreement on a wide range of Community issues. That was a long negotiation on the structure of the Community's finance and agriculture which had been pursued in effect since 1979. The objective would not have been achieved, I believe, without a firmness and determination, stated with consistency and clarity over a long period.
One may perhaps question (as the noble Lord. Lord Jenkins, has done) whether the negotiations need have been quite so long. The important point to stress—and we are dealing with very long-term issues—is that sufficient flexibility was retained in order to reach an agreement in the concluding phase. Everything must depend on the limits of that flexibility; but in that particular case the method chosen produced a final result which was very satisfactory. I find that encouraging and worth bearing in mind.
We are now in the middle of another very important Community debate regarding its future financial structure. Other noble Lords have spoken on that subject and we had a very important debate on the matter in this Chamber on Monday. I do not prejudge the issue, and as we are debating methods today I shall say only that I hope that in those particular negotiations the Government will be able to adopt the tactics which were in the end successful in the negotiations of the Community budget—and in the Hanover European Council—and maintain the necessary degree of flexibility for the crucial stage of the discussion. If that is done, I see no reason to despair of a good result. That would be very much in the interests of this country and of the Community as a whole.
Another difficult test lies ahead of us. That concerns the negotiations on disarmament and arms control. The methods which we have employed hitherto on that subject have been successful in reaching the very important agreement on the zero option for intermediate nuclear forces. The technique adopted in that case was the well-tried one of negotiation between the superpowers and close coordination between the United States and her allies in NATO. Seen simply in terms of methods, the next phase looks more difficult because of the use of the CSCE Helsinki forum, where a much wider variety of interests will be involved which will be more difficult to reconcile, and the likelihood that fundamental questions may arise for Germany —as we have seen in the reactions in the past few days in the Federal Republic to the statements by Foreign Minister Shevardnadze.
We shall have a very important role in those negotiations because we are one of the most important members of NATO, one of the two Western European nuclear powers, and—a point I would particularly emphasise—because of our ability to maintain confidence on the western side during the negotiations, as was done most successfully after the Reykjavik meeting.
729 I should like to emphasise the importance of trust and confidence. Inevitably that will include the personal relations of the principal actors on the western side. It has always been that way in such negotiations. I hope that the Government will make use of the considerable opportunities which are open to them because a great deal may depend on it. You cannot expect an ally to trust you on vital security issues unless you have built his confidence in you across the board in preceding years. Confidence is indivisible.
We have heard about megaphone diplomacy, but I am not sure that that is a very helpful catchword. A megaphone after all is a useful instrument to have handy if one is trying to speak to someone who is very deaf, although your Lordships will have noticed that even the deaf object to being shouted at. My own bugbear is rather different, what I should term monotone diplomacy—the unchanging style, the unvarying cadence or argument.
The best way of entering Jericho is to persuade the inhabitants to open the gates. The most effective statesmen on the world scene are those who have been able to vary their arguments and their approach to the needs and national interests of the leader to whom they are speaking. That may be more easily said than done, but I am sure that the truth of that maxim is well known to the Minister of State and his right honourable and learned friend.
I cannot recall a moment in contemporary history when the international scene was changing more rapidly than it has over the past year. To a large extent that is the result of the appearance on the scene of a new Soviet leader. The outcome of his efforts is still difficult to predict. We have already seen some important results: the Soviet agreement to withdraw from Afghanistan; the prospect of Cuban withdrawal from Angola; the zero option agreement on INF; and the European Community agreement at Hanover, which I have already discussed.
Her Majesty's Government made a significant contribution on all those subjects. For that reason, I find it hard to agree with some noble Lords who have suggested that the Government's methods have been wholly at fault. My own view is that even sterner tests lie ahead. I hope that some of the reflections which have been contributed to the debate this afternoon may help the Government to register further success.
§ 4.58 p.m.
The Earl of Bessborough
My Lords, I am very glad to have the opportunity of taking part in this debate. which was so ably initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, said, is a most distinguished historian and statesman.
It was a most interesting and indeed agreeable experience to be associated with the noble Lord when he was the first British president of the European Commission in the 1970s and I was the first British vice-president of the European Parliament. I need hardly say that we were both European-minded. Some people may have said that we were going native—a criticism which has been levelled at my noble friend Lord Cockfield, to whom we must all have listened with great interest on Monday. In 730 parenthesis, I must say that I cannot quite understand what that phrase "going native" really means. After all, we are all natives of Europe, and I do not see why the phrase should be in any way pejorative. It is true that my mother was French but I admit to being a native of the United Kingdom. Yet some of my closest relatives are French, Greek, Italian or American.
Although not all your Lordships are perhaps so internationally and intimately involved, many noble Lords must have Saxon, Roman, Danish, Norman or other Continental Euro-blood coursing through their veins. Therefore I cannot see how any of your Lordships could be opposed to a more united Europe or to our consulting our allies and other EC member states on major international and perhaps some domestic issues.
In my view the European Community should be the rock base for our conduct of relations with other countries, within the context, of course. of the British Commonwealth and our special relationship with the United States of America. At all events, I hope noble Lords will agree that being accused of going native because one has spent a few years of one's life in Brussels and elsewhere on the Continent of Europe should not make one suspect as a British national. Perhaps I may sum up in a few words. I believe that the Government's method of conducting foreign affairs should be such that in the Western world those of European stock should he united on both sides of the Atlantic as they are, more or less, in North America.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, called attention specifically to HMG's method of conducting relations with foreign countries. I have worked closely with the foreign service ever since I was a League of Nations official before the Second World War as well as during the second part of the war in West and North Africa. After the war I served in our embassy in Paris and later as chairman of the first Atlantic Committee in the 1950s. Later still, I was a Minister concerned with science and technology on a more or less global basis and I was also naturally concerned with foreign affairs as a Member of the European Parliament.
I therefore know something about the increasing complexity of conducting our relations with other countries and what the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, well described as multinational diplomacy. The complexity results not only from our membership of the United Nations but also because we are members of NATO, the European Community and other international organisations. As members of the global village, we work together more and more closely. I came to see that very clearly only yesterday when participating in a USIA World Net television and radio programme at the American Embassy with, incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and others in Washington and Europe. One hardly needs to cross the Atlantic any more. We can converse by television and radio very naturally and easily, as indeed we did yesterday.
In different ways therefore I continue to be involved with foreign relations. In all the association that I have had with the foreign service I have come greatly to appreciate and respect its work. I was very 731 fortunate indeed to be for a while a member of that service.
I feel that in this debate it must be our membership of the European Community that most concerns noble Lords at this time, especially in view of the debate on Monday that was so ably initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Kearton, and in which I regret I was unable to take part. However, I agree very much with the remarks made then by my noble friend Lord Reay.
I have recently expressed my own views on the European Community in the European Atlantic Journal, in a review of various new books on Europe which are concerned mainly with 1992. As I said there, I do not believe that we shall ever have a United States of Europe on the same pattern as the United States of America. Each member state of the EC will retain its own language and cultural characteristics. Nonetheless, I hope that by 1992 we shall have a Western Europe without trading frontiers—though clearly joint measures will have to be taken by member states in the prevention of terrorism and drug trafficking.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and my noble friend Lord Cockfield, I hope that we shall soon join the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system, even if all member states cannot yet agree to the establishment of a European central bank and complete monetary union. I would have said that on Monday. Noble Lords must forgive me for saying it now but it seems to me to be a point that I ought to emphasise.
I was encourged by the recent remarks of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister that the European currency unit, the ecu, could be more widely used, as it is already in the issue of Treasury bonds. Above all, I agree with my noble friend Lord Cockfield that we should take the lead in achieving a more integrated Western Europe, economically, monetarily, and politically, and not hop on the bus rather late in the day as we did in 1972–73.
Certainly political consultation greatly improved when my noble friend Lord Carrington was our Foreign Secretary, as I believe it has under our present Foreign Secretary, my right honourable and learned friend Sir Geoffrey Howe, and our Minister of State concerned with Europe, my right honourable friend Mrs. Chalker. Her two speeches last week to the European Atlantic Group were in my opinion absolutely first class and in fact were not basically—I underline the word "basically"—so very far removed from the views of my noble friend Lord Cockfield. We cannot all yet agree on a common currency; but do not let us get left behind as we did in the 1960s.
At this point I should also like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Young. In particular, I agree wholeheartedly with all she said about my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.
At all events, in agreement with Paul Johnson in his article in the Daily Mail early in the new year, I hope that by the end of the century Europe will have been transformed and that the single market will be going ahead full blast, making the European Community by far the world's largest economic unit. 732 I agree too that although Western Europe may have a gross national product twice the size of that in the USA, it will not become a federal superstate like America.
It will be interesting to see whether China emerges as a superpower in the next century. Having followed events there for some 12 years, and specifically on two fairly recent, separate high technology missions, I am not certain what will happen there, with Japan being so very close both geographically and now industrially. Whether the People's Republic will start to give greater autonomy to its many regions, as may happen in the USSR—with not only the Baltic States but also perhaps Armenia, Georgia and other republics becoming independent—I do not think any of us can clearly predict.
As regards the USSR, I believe that President Gorbachev—I hope that the Soviet Embassy will note my remarks—would certainly win the approval of most countries in the world if he declared his intention to grant independence to several of the Soviet republics, just as we British gave independence to member states of the British Commonwealth and France took the same course.
In the conduct of our relations with foreign countries, we must bear all those possibilities in mind. I think that the methods of our foreign service, and indeed of No. 10, in the conduct of our relations with other countries have been wise, sensible and correct. As has already been said, most Prime Ministers must be—indeed, nearly always have been—closely involved in foreign affairs.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for having given us the opportunity to discuss these matters. I certainly look forward to the comments of my noble friend Lord Glenarthur on what many of your Lordships have said or may yet say.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I wish to concentrate on one example of the Government's method of conducting relations with foreign countries. That is the Prime Minister's speech in Bruges, to which reference has already been made. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that I have a full copy of the speech as issued by the Conservative Political Centre. I have not relied simply on newspaper reports. I happened to be in Europe with a group of British business people when the speech was delivered, and there was general alarm and consternation. Re-reading the speech reinforces the reasons why that would have been so. When one reads it one realises that the Prime Minister was to a large extent in many parts of the speech tilting at windmills. For example, she said:It would be folly to try to tit them"—the European nations —into some sort of identikit European personality".Who is trying to do so? Nobody. Within Europe, many people yearn for, and believe that we should have, a form of European unity. I believe that it is the majority feeling in this country. I am sure that it is the majority feeling on the Government Benches. Most sensible people realise that the Community is a unique organisation. It is formed by independent 733 sovereign states. There is no precedent for it. It will obviously evolve into its own form of unity. It cannot slavishly copy any federal constitution because the formation of the United States, Australia or Canada, and other examples, took place in totally different circumstances. I think that every sensible person in Europe realises that.
What dismayed people about the Bruges speech was that it was a slap in the face for those who believe in real progress towards European unity. It is pointless to lecture, as did the Prime Minister, that Europe,never will prosper as a narrow-minded, inward-looking club".In context, that implied that the other countries of Europe constituted a narrow-minded, inward-looking club and that we were not prepared to join it. One has the impression on reading the speech—which I have now read many times—that Britain wants what it can get out of Europe but is still extremely reluctant to make a real contribution and to become a full participant and to pull its weight to achieve European unity.
I quote from page 3 of the Prime Minister's speech to show the conflicting views that come over from it:The European Community is the practical means by which Europe can ensure the future prosperity and security of its people in a world in which there are many other powerful nations and groups of nations".That is a sentiment with which I entirely agree. However, let us consider the next paragraph.We Europeans cannot afford to waste our energies on internal disputes or arcane institutional debates. They are no substitute for effective action".What does that paragraph mean? Does it not mean that Europe has to agree entirely with us before we make any progress? That is what it amounts to. The contradictions in the speech follow. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the five principles that the Prime Minister laid down then. I quote from the first principle:I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice. I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it he in trade, in defence, or in our relations with the rest of the world".The next paragraph states:But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy".How are we to achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, has properly described as the framework under which countries can develop towards national unity unless that work is done in Brussels and unless the framework is set up there? It seems to me that, if the Prime Minister is right, we should have seen great progress in Europe, speaking with one voice on trade and defence, in relation to the rest of the world. Where is that progress?
If we isolate the words "better together than alone", they mean this. West Germany is the best example of a country in Europe which is so powerful economically that she could do many things as well as, or better, on her own than in Europe, but she does not do so. France could do the same. I have no doubt that we could do the same. There are other countries in Europe which are in a less favoured position and which can do things better together with European 734 partners than alone. If the Prime Minister's words mean that, if Britain can do things better alone, then she will, whatever disadvantage that course has for other countries in the Common Market, I do not think much of that proposition.
The Prime Minister stated:Working more closely together does not require power to he centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy".Our Civil Service is an appointed bureaucracy but it has been and is essential for the effective running of our country. If in the Prime Minister's view the bureaucracy in Brussels is insufficiently accountable, the answer surely lies in institutional change, to which she is incredibly opposed.
What Brussels must do is to set up the necessary framework to enable the Community to work through its individual members towards common ends and to create the right means whereby— in the Prime Minister's words—the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice".One had the uneasy feeling—and I still have it—that she never intends that Europe should speak with a single voice unless the single voice happens to be hers. The Government should surely spell out in clear and unequivocal terms how they see their obligations to Europe developing.
In his very impressive contribution to the debate on Monday, and in his evidence to the committee whose report was under debate, the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, quoted from the Single European Act, which states:the Heads of State … approved the objective or the progressive realization of Economic and Monetary Union".There is no doubt that our Government agreed that objective. As the noble Lord pointed out in the debate on 23rd January 1989:The commitment that has been undertaken in the present case is a commitment to monetary union; not simply a commitment to monetary co-operation".—[Official Report, 23/1/89; col. 467.)Government spokesmen and others have constantly talked about that.
The Bruges speech was a very carefully considered document. It is headed Britain and Europe. The invitation had been issued a long time ago. What was the Prime Minister trying to achieve? It seems to me that she was deliberately trying to hold up the forward development of the Community in the direction of unity. This is a tremendously disappointing attitude.
The Foreign Secretary—with whom I have had a friendship for a great part of my life—is a man for whom I have the greatest respect. He could not possibly have delivered the Bruges speech. It was a case of the Prime Minister stepping in over and above the Foreign Secretary to lay down a position which I think is intended to dishearten our partners and to hold back progress in what is a misconceived effort to protect the interest of our country. I believe that the time has come for the Government to set out clearly what the Prime Minister intended to achieve by that speech, because it caused a great deal of dismay in Europe and within our own country.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I know the enormous regard in which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, is held in the chambers over which he presides and it is easy to see why after his speech this afternoon. I rise to support the Motion moved with so much historical wisdom and elegance by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and very effectively followed by my own Leader and by my noble friend Lady Blackstone. I hope that I am in order in saying that we on these Benches are glad to have someone among us to counter the youthful charms of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. In the age of Thatcherism I do not believe that her sex is of any disadvantage.
On the last occasion I spoke, I referred to the megaphone diplomacy of the Prime Minister in her dealings with the Ryan case. I shall return to that in a moment, but I shall not speak about it at any great length. I do not want to strike too tragic a note. I remember the late Randolph Churchill saying in my hearing to the late Evelyn Waugh that he was thinking of joining the Catholic Church. Evelyn Waugh replied that the Church had no reason to be unduly worried because it had survived many tribulations. No doubt that is how the intemperate strictures of Mrs. Thatcher are viewed in Ireland.
Before I say anything that could be regarded by the Minister as remotely unpleasant, I shall say something that I am sure he will be happy to hear. I regard the Anglo-Irish Agreement, in which on the British side the Prime Minister took the lead, as the best thing that has happened in my overlong experience of Anglo-Irish relations, with the possible exception of the Sunningdale Agreement which was cruelly sabotaged. I hope and believe that this agreement will not only endure but will lead to still more fruitful arrangements.
Still seeking to be pleasant, I can say other nice things. When I opened the debate on unemployment in Northern Ireland in the summer I referred to the confidence in which Mr. Tom King, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is held among the Catholics of Northern Ireland and, to the best of my belief, in the Irish Republic. Sir Geoffrey Howe—who has been referred to more than once today—is recognised as a good friend of Ireland.
Sir Patrick Mayhew aroused enormous annoyance and indignation when he declined to prosecute certain police officers in what came to be known as the Stalker case. I have seen him at an Irish gathering on very good terms with his hosts. So I do not think that we can put any blame on him. Mr. Douglas Hurd was, from the Irish point of view, a rather unknown quantity until recently but for the moment he has become very popular by sending the Guildford Four back to the Appeal Court once again. We can only hope that justice will prevail, which brings me to the Prime Minister.
On 29th November she used this language:the … failure to secure Ryan's arrest is a matter of very grave concern to the Government."—[Official Report, Commons, 29/11/88; col. 575.]At col. 574 she said:It is no use Governments adopting great declarations and commitments about fighting terrorism if they then lack the resolve to put them into practice".736 That was hardly a tactful way of dealing with the people with whom one wants to develop good relations. She was so pleased with that way of putting it, that a minute or two later at col. 575 she was announcing:although the Government of the Republic of Ireland make fine-sounding speeches and statements, they do not always seem to be backed up by the appropriate deeds".Again that is not always the best way to establish good relations, which I suppose if one asked her she would say was her purpose.
The trouble about Mrs. Thatcher, if I may say so with proper respect, is that she cannot get it into her head that the Republic of Ireland, the 26 counties, is an independent country whose status in the world is precisely the same as that of Britain. It is true that Eire is much less powerful than Britain, but Britain is much less powerful than the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Mrs. Thatcher, to do her justice, would never allow herself to be bullied by the United States or the Soviet Union in the way she has tried to bully that small, proud country, Ireland.
When the Irish Attorney-General published his considered reasons for not agreeing to the extradition of Mr. Ryan, it will be recalled that he laid stress on the impossibility of Ryan securing a fair trial in Britain. He said it would be impossible—I personally believe that he was right, but that is a matter of opinion—in view of the publicity already given to the case in the British tabloid press and in the House of Commons. I will quote one paragraph from a long statement made by the Irish Attorney-General. He referred to the general assumption in the media and among Conservatives in the House of Commons that Patrick Ryan was guilty not only of the offences comprised in the warrant, hut of other offences in respect of which no charges have been brought:It is clearly apparent that a wide range of reports contained or were based on information which could only have been originated from some official source".When one looks closely at that I do not think it will be believed that he was mistaken there.
We are all aware that the media in this country are independent and so are Members of Parliament, including the Conservative Members who insisted on referring to Patrick Ryan as a guilty terrorist. But this Government possess, for good or ill, a propaganda machine, already touched on this afternoon, of highly-developed skill and far-reaching influence. The name of Mr. Bernard Ingham I suppose is more famous than that of any public relations officer ever employed by any government in the past. No one can deny that the intemperate line adopted by Mrs. Thatcher in the House of Commons was taken up gleefully by her supporters in Parliament and the press.
I am not suggesting that relations have been damaged on the Ministerial or official level, although I am not in the confidence of the present Irish Government. The Irish Prime Minister seems to have taken Mrs. Thatcher's measure and to have known how to deal with her in a dignified way. It is understood that she was going to tick him off in no uncertain fashion. He prudently let it be known that the meeting must await his convenience. His attitude was referred to as "cheeky" in some of the 737 government-controlled press here, but I am afraid that that is not how it will be seen in Ireland where it is felt that he stood up to someone who was trying to bully the small country that he represented.
I imagine that the Irish Ministers regard Mrs. Thatcher's bark as worse than her bite. I do not think that they are therefore very upset by her outbursts, but that is not true of the general public, which is like the general public anywhere else when denounced by the Prime Minister of a country supposedly friendly. The Irish people as a whole bitterly resent being treated as recalcitrant members of a third-rate girls' school. That is how the Irish people undoubtedly feel and English people would feel exactly the same if the Irish Prime Minister began addressing them in that kind of language.
However that is not my last word this afternoon. As I have said these things pass. Mrs. Thatcher has said that she will go on and on and on. I wish her a long and happy life whether or not in active politics, but the time will come when she is gathered to a heavenly Downing Street and there will still be a proud country called Ireland. One must not be too overwhelmed with sorrow at these happenings.
I hope Mrs. Thatcher will go down in history as the person on the British side who built up the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That will be her epitaph and it is a fine epitaph. Her strictures will by that time be forgotten.
In order to finish on an optimistic note I should like to say what I believe to he true; namely, that during my life there has never been a time when the future of Anglo-Irish relations has been as bright as it is now.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, it is 35 years since I wrote a book on the subject which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has invited us to consider—the general conduct of foreign relations by democratic governments and the relationship of the conduct of such policies to the opinion and political processes of those countries. I do not believe that this is an occasion to suggest the outlines of yet another work on the general subject. In part I have been convinced by the noble Lord and by other noble Lords that it is difficult to separate the general question of how the conduct of foreign relations is organised and carried on from specific issues which illustrate the strength or the weakness, as one might see it, of that particular system. I have informed the Minister therefore that I shall concentrate on a subject which was touched upon today during Question Time but which has not so far figured in our debate. It is the proposed mediation or intervention of the Government of the United Kingdom in the making of peace in the Arab/Israeli dispute.
I do so because I regard the achievement of peace in that area as perhaps the most important immediate issue confronting the world. Noble Lords will understand why I hold that belief. I also believe that a false step in the process towards such a peace might set back one's hopes.
I am convinced that that peace will not come about through an international conference. How can one 738 have an international conference including the five permanent members of the Security Council when two of those countries have no diplomatic relations with Israel? I believe that it will come about as a result of Israeli withdrawal of its initiative from the vast bulk of the occupied territories. It will not be as a result of negotiations, and still less of external pressure, but because public opinion in Israel is beginning to realise what many of its leading figures have said for many years; for instance, Mr. Abba Eban. It is that it is not healthy, or even possible, for Israel to continue in occupation of large territories which are almost entirely inhabited by persons of alien religion, outlook and aspirations. It will come to that conclusion, and is doing so, partly under the impact of the experiences of the young conscript soldiers who discover that there is a great difference between being in an army of occupation and the purpose for which they were called to the colours: the defence of their country and its frontiers.
If that is likely to happen, and I believe it to be the only way in which it is likely to come about, we must then ask what are the external changes in the environment which are likely to encourage this movement in Israel to the point at which either its present or a successor government will accept the logic of the situation.
I do not attach to one of them the importance that is attached by some people: no doubt they have their reasons. I do not attach great importance to the change in the language of Mr. Yasser Arafat. To be willing to accept two bites at the cherry rather than one is no doubt a move. However, in the light of some of the points made during Question Time, it is not sufficient or important enough to bring the confidence which would be required.
As the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, reminded us, we do not know how long Mr. Gorbachev is likely to remain in power or be successful. But if he and Soviet policy continue along present lines—and it has included the development of some kind of diplomatic links with Israel —and if it were to be brought to its logical conclusion and the Soviet Union came to regard the establishment of peace in that area as a national interest (which clearly it has not for many decades), that would be important.
An importance is attached—and clearly that must he so—to those countries which can directly speak to the two parties. The United States has, and is bound to have a considerable degree of influence if only because Israel in the last resort is wholly dependent upon American good will both economically and militarily. However, for political reasons which one does not need to rehearse, it is unlikely that in the immediate future the United States will be very active in the area.
It is therefore understandable that the United Kingdom Government—which among the countries of the Twelve has the closest links with the area and the longest experience of it—may well be seen as a mediator. In undertaking that task the United Kingdom faces considerable difficulties. History is remembered on all sides and there is a legacy of misunderstanding and times of hostility between the United Kingdom and the Arab National Movement, and even more strikingly between the United 739 Kingdom and Israel. I regard that relationship to be the core because we are talking about persuading the Israelis to give up land for peace.
It is common ground that those relationships were ameliorated by the Prime Minister's visit to Israel a couple of years ago. My noble friend Lady Young did not mention it as being among her achievements, but undoubtedly it was one of them. Therefore in Israel she commands serious attention to what she has to say and would be a possible interlocutor at some point.
I now touch on the main theme of our debate. Unfortunately it appears that the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Waldegrave and Mr. Kaufman—the three British statesmen who have most recently busied themselves in the area—have been given inadequate advice, if one is to judge by their statements. It may well have seemed appropriate for whoever advised my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary on his speech in Kuwait to say something to indicate Britain's interest in furthering the peace process. However, if one is trying to persuade Israeli domestic opinion—and everything turns on that—it is unwise to do so in Kuwait, which is best known in Israel as the main supplier of finance to the PLO. Whatever one thinks of the PLO's change of heart today, no one seriously denies that in the past money has been spent on terrorist activities.
Similarly, I do not quarrel with anyone who refers to the somewhat murky past—and I am perfectly prepared to accept that word—of the present Israeli Prime Minister or indeed of his Likud predecessor. They do not excite universal admiration in Israel or in the Jewish Diaspora. However, it seems to me that it was enormously unwise of Mr. Waldegrave to make reference to that if at the time he was hoping to persuade the Israelis that they had good friends in this country and in Western Europe and could therefore take the risk of withdrawing their forces to an area or lines of demarcation which would be less favourable to them in terms of immediate military balance.
I believe that that was unwise and for the same reason, if I may say so to noble Lords opposite, it was also unwise of Mr. Kaufman to give the impression that the important thing was to talk to Yasser Arafat. The Arab position is known. It is understandable. If one were an Arab, one might well take that position. However, the Israeli position is the one which has to give if there is to be peace. Therefore I believe that it was also wrong to give the impression that because we have these good relations at the moment with the Arab movement it is sufficient to concentrate on that in our diplomacy.
If, for instance—and I put this forward simply as an example; I am not in the confidence of any of the parties involved—it had been indicated that if Israel withdrew from at any rate most of the occupied territories Britain would reconsider its lack of partiality in arms supplies in that part of the world, and if Israel could then be told that it could rely on Britain balancing the arms which it has given or sold to countries which are, at any rate on paper, at war 740 with Israel, that might have made a very considerable favourable impact on Israeli opinion.
It seems to me that though one may in general say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its ambassadors abroad have done sterling work for this country, the Middle East has always been an area in which there has been an official line which the Israelis—and if one looks at the documents it is not surprising—regard as basically inimical, and the task of British statesmanship in the Middle East today must be to remove that impression.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for initiating this debate and for giving us the benefit of his experience in the Foreign Office and in Europe. Like my noble friend Lady Young, I was also rather mystified as to what this debate was about, but I now see that largely it seems to be about attacking or defending my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I have many European and American friends who would give almost anything to have her as their Prime Minister. Her actions and achievements speak for themselves so splendidly that there is no need for anyone to defend them.
Perhaps I may quote from Caxton's preface to Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, which says that it may be seen as,noble and renowned acts of humanity, gentleness and chivalries".He goes on:Do after the good and leave the evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and renown".I might be quoting from President Bush's inaugural speech instead of from a 15th century romance, but it is so. There is a new spirit abroad of gentleness and kindness, as evinced by President Bush's speech and by President Gorbachev's promotion of perestroika and glasnost.
There is still a massive imbalance on the defence side in Europe against NATO and there is a long way to go. However, the idea of Soviet disarmament is a very good start. There is even talk of dismantling the Berlin Wall, which must be good, but there too there is danger that if West Germany became closer to East Germany its commitment towards NATO might be less. Even so, all over the Soviet Union little candlelights of freedom and friendship are beginning to twinkle out.
I believe that that has come about largely as a result of Britain's fair but firm and friendly foreign policy over the past decade. We have stood out against aggression and yet we have always taken the hand of friendship even if it is still wearing a pistol holster.
It seems significant to me that President Bush, who was a director of the CIA, and President Gorbachev, who was a member of the extreme Politburo, are now both promoting kindness, gentleness and openness. Those are qualities which we in Britain act for and believe in. Perhaps, having seen the barren rocks at the end of the world, they have come to realise the importance of spring flowers and green pastures.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, most of this debate focused, understandably, on the conduct of British policy in relation to Europe until the noble Lord. Lord Beloff, introduced a very relevant alternative topic; namely, that of British policy in the Middle East. I should like to follow him in making one or two comments on that and in particular on that part of the Palestine problem which relates to the question we are discussing: the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.
Many years ago I remarked to a member of Mrs. Thatcher's Cabinet, who shall remain nameless, that the Foreign Secretary, then the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was doing very well on Palestine. He replied, "Well, of course, he is big enough to resist the Finchley factor". By that I assume he meant, first, that in forming her views on Palestine the Prime Minister was unduly influenced by constituents who were supporters of Israel. and, secondly, that having formed those views she expected them to be accepted and implemented by the Foreign Secretary.
That that should happen is undoubtedly the hope of the Israelis and of their supporters. I was very struck not only by the speech we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, but by his typically cogent feature article in The Times on Monday. After criticising the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Waldegrave rather more sharply than he did today, and after criticising very sharply indeed what he called the permanent pro-Arab bias of the Foreign Office, the noble Lord concluded as follows:If Britain is to mediate, it may well he that Mrs. Thatcher will have to do the job herself: no one will accuse her of being the mouthpiece of officials, least of all for the officials of the FCO".That is true enough. No one will accuse Mrs. Thatcher of being the mouthpiece of Sir Geoffrey Howe. Truly she is a conviction politician.
Unfortunately, there is no place in the world less suitable to the exercise of conviction politics than Palestine, especially when those convictions are based on a one-sided view of the conflict. For many years there has been a tendency for the Arab-Israeli conflict to be seen differently by politicians and by diplomats. That is true not only of Britain but of European countries. It is very true of the United States, where the State Department is often attacked by the politicians and by Israeli supporters as being pro-Arab. Yet events are showing conclusively that the judgment of Israel and her supporters on the future of Palestine has been badly flawed and that the warnings of the diplomats and Foreign Office officials have been fully justified.
That, after all, is what one would expect. By their nature politicians work and have close contacts both with the Arabs and pro-Arabs and with the Israelis and pro-Israelis. As we all know, that is far more true of diplomats than it is of Western politicians. Nor are diplomats as vulnerable to the political pressure of the Israeli lobby. They are not nearly as vulnerable as are many politicians. That is particularly true, again, in the United States, where Congress, unlike the State Department, has lost much of its freedom of judgment where Israel is concerned.
Thus, while it may be true—and it is true, as the noble Lord insists and as many other people have 742 stated —that there is a difference of view between, on the one hand, the Prime Minister and, on the other hand, the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Waldegrave and Foreign Office officials, it by no means follows that the Prime Minister's view is better informed or that it should be imposed upon the Foreign Secretary.
I give an example. A few weeks ago, alone among all the member governments of the United Nations, Britain abstained on a General Assembly resolution opposing the refusal by the United States of a visa to Mr. Arafat to go to New York and address the General Assembly. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, explained that the British Government supported the visit of Mr. Arafat to New York and opposed the refusal of a visa to Mr. Arafat, but abstained because the Government did not like the wording of the resolution. That abstention was an abrupt departure from the policy of the Foreign Secretary; the policy of concerting Britain's position on the Palestine problem with the position of the European Community and the policy of encouraging Mr. Arafat to fill out the details of the new and more moderate policy outlined in Algiers. The reason for the abstention was not of course the wording of the resolution but the personal intervention of the Prime Minister.
Shortly before that Mr. David Mellor, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, spoke out boldly against Israel's conduct in Gaza and the West Bank. He was fully supported by the Foreign Secretary. However, shortly afterwards the Prime Minister decided that his talents were badly needed at the Ministry of Health.
We discussed megaphone diplomacy and the personal intervention of the Prime Minister in relation to many parts of the world: to Ireland, Belgium, the Bruges speech (which was so admirably analysed by my noble friend Lord Hooson) and in relation to poor Mr. Delors. However, on the Middle East the position is different. There has certainly not been any handbag diplomacy where the Israeli Government are concerned.
With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, it was encouraging to hear him refer to the need for and likelihood of a major withdrawal of the Israelis from the occupied territories. It was also encouraging to hear him say that the next move must come from the Israelis, which is a crucial judgment. However, I am bound to say that the part that Britain can play in achieving that is not to offer to send arms to the Israelis, who have more than enough arms, more than they can afford and more than they need from the United States. Britain's part must be to seek by every means possible to increase the security guarantees for Israel in the event of withdrawal, including with the European Community——
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will permit me to intervene. I did not intend to suggest that Britain should offer Israel arms at the moment. I said that after Israel's withdrawal to frontiers which might appear less defensible Britain should make it clear that she would then be impartial in arms deliveries between Israel and her neighbours. That is an entirely different point.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I apologise if I have misunderstood the noble Lord. I understand his position. I still feel that a more constructive and practical approach by the British would be to say to the Israelis, "We are working with our Community colleagues and inside the United Nations to ensure that after the withdrawal there will be security guarantees on the ground in the form of an international peace-keeping force, with teeth, to which Britain could and should contribute". In addition, there should be a treaty which would neutralise and demilitarise the area to give, so to speak, an Austrian-type status of neutrality to the new state of Palestine. Those are more constructive ways of dealing with the situation than offering to deliver arms, but of course it is a difference which is not so very wide.
As my noble friend so admirably explained with great historical insight, the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary is an extremely difficult one. The relationship between Attlee and Bevin, of which I had some personal knowledge, seemed to be admirable and produced a well-managed and effective British foreign policy; whereas the relationship between Chamberlain and Eden was bad and British policy at that time was badly managed and disastrous.
It is my view—I believe it is a strongly and widely held view in this country—that at this time, on this terrible Palestine question, Sir Geoffrey Howe, Mr. Waldegrave and the British Foreign Office are doing well. They have the support of all parties, including the Labour Party—
§ Lord Mayhew
—and the excellent and well-informed support of Mr. Gerald Kaufman. Therefore they deserve the support of the Prime Minister too.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, as other noble Lords have pointed out, this has been a difficult debate to prepare for since at least some of us were unaware of what charges the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, intended to bring against the Government.
One of the charges which the noble Lord seemed to be making, or declared he was making, was that the proper balance of power between the Foreign Office and Downing Street had in some way been upset. It would be extremely naive and unhistorical to argue that the conduct of foreign affairs should be left by the Prime Minister exclusively to the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was far too knowledgeable to do that.
There are innumerable examples in history of Prime Ministers taking over the conduct of foreign policy, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so, without those examples having been thought to raise a constitutional issue of any kind. Indeed, unless the Foreign Secretary was provoked into resignation (even the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, did not suggest that that is about to happen) such occurrences get more attention from subsequent biographers than from the general public at the time. I am sure the 744 general public treat it as being within the natural and expected order of things when Prime Ministers decide to take over the conduct of foreign affairs.
The noble Lord referred to Lloyd George. In Kenneth Rose's biography of Curzon, Superior Person, Curzon is quoted as describing A. J. Balfour, who was then Foreign Secretary—this was at the time of the Paris Peace Conference—as being in a state of "supine subservience" to Lloyd George. Curzon went on:He steadily day by day pulled the extinguisher more firmly down on the head of his Department, until it almost ceased to have a separate existence".But no better a fate attended Curzon when he became Foreign Secretary to Lloyd George. In the words of Kenneth Rose:Humiliation and disappointment alone awaited him. Lloyd George, he soon discovered, was determined to be his own Foreign Secretary".As Curzon himself put it:He (Lloyd George) set up his own personal secretariat to operate behind the back of the Foreign Office, conducting intrigues, sending messages, holding interviews, of which we were never informed until it was too late, or only heard by accident or gathered from the intercepted telegrams of foreign governments".Kenneth Rose concludes:Insulted in Cabinet, ignored in private and ridiculed behind his back, Curzon nevertheless refused to resign; if he could not have the substance of power, he would at least enjoy its shadow".Even the noble Lord—much though he would no doubt have enjoyed doing so if he thought it was plausible—did not attempt to draw a picture of comparable subjugation of the Foreign Office to Downing Street today.
As it has been mentioned, Neville Chamberlain is another example of a Prime Minister who imposed his own policy on his Foreign Secretary, bringing about Eden's resignation in the process. And what about the Prime Minister under whom the noble Lord enjoyed his own ministerial career but to whom he did not refer; namely, the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, as he now is? Who was it who conducted all those headline-catching negotiations with Ian Smith, unsuccessful though they were, both before and after UDI?
As the noble Lord also said, there have been Prime Ministers who have left foreign affairs entirely to the Foreign Secretary. Baldwin (about whom the noble Lord has written a biography) is a case in point. The result is not necessarily better, as the noble Lord will recall. Samuel Hoare, left by Baldwin to his own devices, stopped off in Paris on his way to a skating holiday in Switzerland and signed with his French opposite number the infamous Hoare-Laval Pact which aimed to dispose of Abyssinia. In fact it disposed of himself as Foreign Secretary and very nearly of Baldwin as Prime Minister.
So it is plain that whatever the noble Lord is complaining about falls well within the limits of the power arrangements which have been tolerated and which have been usual in the past. It seems to me that we would do better to pay more attention to the results to which the noble Lord paid lip service, but little more than that, and which no arrangements can guarantee, than to the manner in which those results are achieved.
745 The foreign policy achievements of this Government have been outstanding. Whatever the noble Lord says, the European Community has made unparalleled advances in the past few years. There has been nothing comparable since we first joined. Britain's budget grievance has finally been remedied under the Fontainebleau arrangement that was confirmed in Brussels last February. It succeeded where the so-called renegotiation of 1974 failed. Though the noble Lord sought to rehash those negotiations, I do not think that he succeeded in establishing how the result could have been better either for us or for the Community.
At last substantial progress has been made in the reform of the CAP and a stop put to the escalation of support prices and the accumulation of surpluses. Great and rapid strides have been taken towards the completion of the internal market and the Single Act. That is an extraordinarily bold and constructive constitutional advance. It was passed in order to break down the paralysis in the Community's decision-taking procedures and to make attainable the single market objective.
In all of these achievements this Government played a leading, if not the leading, role. I believe that it is impossible to imagine such things having been achieved except with a Prime Minister whom the British people instinctively believe they can trust to safeguard the national interest. The Community apart, the United Kingdom's relationship with the United States (so vital for the security of the whole of the Western world) could not be in better condition. No one can accuse the Government of failing to cultivate the transatlantic relationship, and this has not been gainsaid. Neither can it be said of relationships with the Soviet Union.
Thanks to the recovery in Britain's economy and finances, which only the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was unable or unwilling to see, and the Government's clear-sighted perceptions of where this country's interests lie, we have maintained a sound and credible defence posture. There have been other foreign policy successes. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, acknowledged the importance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is a most significant milestone in the short history of the United Kingdom's relationship with the Republic of Ireland. It is an agreement that is of immense importance to both our countries to maintain and develop.
There has been the remarkable agreement with China over Hong Kong. No doubt an example of the megaphone diplomacy that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, deplores was the Prime Minister's Bruges speech, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, devoted his speech. As I saw it, that speech gave a ringing reaffirmation of Britain's commitment to Europe. The words were:Our destiny is in Europe as part of the Community".At the same time it drew attention to several undesirable tendencies that should not be allowed to determine the character of the Community in the future. To be specific, these were protectionism, over-centralism and socialism. I entirely agree. These remarks may have offended the noble Lord and others, and that is to be regretted.
746 I come back to the point that the noble Lord made but did not develop. Would one prefer a foreign policy that produces results or one—whether it is conducted in a style of which the noble Lord would approve of more or not—that produces nothing of substantial value? I do not wish to follow the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who is so knowledgeable and rightly concerned about Anglo-Irish relations, as regards the Ryan case. I do not see any useful international purpose being served by raking over the embers of that row today. Heated feelings should be allowed to cool. We continue to need the cooperation of all countries in the fight to defeat terrorism.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, called for more regard to be paid to the authority of the Foreign Secretary. We are fortunate to have the outstanding, popular and immensely experienced Foreign Secretary that we have. I am also quite convinced that our foreign service yields first place to none in the intelligence, talents, skill and dedication of its members. Graceful tributes have been paid by other noble Lords to both of them. But to expect any Prime Minister to leave the Foreign Office and the conduct of foreign affairs quite alone is entirely unrealistic and undesirable. Where is the borderline today? What are Community summits except regular occasions for the conduct of foreign relations by heads of government? A lack of interest in foreign affairs in a Prime Minister today would not simply be surprising; it would be a disqualification from office.
The noble Lord's case is misconceived, and I hope that the next time we come to debate foreign affairs the focus will be back where it normally is—on the policies themselves rather than on the purported inadequacies of the means or the style of their implementation.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, much of the debate has been centred on Britain's position in Europe. One of my reasons for opposing Britain's entry into Europe was my fear that we would become a part of a small, white, privileged area of the world and forget the rest. In his opening speech for the Government, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, used these words:We must be certain of our objectives".I agree. Does he agree that one of the objectives of British foreign policy is justice and equity for all peoples of the world? If he does, has he read The State of the World's Children 1989, published by UNICEF this month? I should like to quote a relevant passage to put into context the wider areas of British foreign policy which I want to introduce into the debate. It says:For almost 900 million people, approximately one-sixth of mankind, the march of human progress has now become a retreat. In many nations, development is being thrown into reverse and after decades of steady economic advance large areas of the world are sliding backwards into poverty. Throughout most of Africa and much of Latin America average incomes have fallen by 10 per cent. to 25 per cent. in the 1980s".That is the state of the world today. We are entitled to ask what our Government are doing about it.
Later in the report it is shown that last year 43 billion dollars was transferred from the third world to 747 the rich world. In other words our affluence, our festivities at Christmas, were being financed by the malnutrition and the death from starvation of children throughout the third world. Last year alone more than half a million extra children died from malnutrition. Millions of children are undernourished. Large numbers of children throughout the world are having to leave education because their parents cannot afford to keep them there. I ask again: what are our Government doing about their position in the global village?
The answer is stark. In 1979 the Government of this country were providing 0.53 per cent. of GNP in overseas aid. Last year the figure was 0.28 per cent., a drop of almost one-half. When those of us who are concerned about the British contribution to world justice and equity have asked the Government repeatedly over the years why our overseas aid is falling we have been told regularly—I hope the noble Lord will listen to this point because I wish to ask him a direct question—that our overseas aid is falling because the British economy is declining. We are now told by the Government that over the past two years the British economy has attained a new and previously unreached prosperity.
If the Minister believes that the British economy is prosperous today, why has not the percentage of overseas aid from this country to the third world increased as our prosperity has increased? Surely that would be the logical conclusion of the answer which the Government have regularly given us; namely "we cannot afford to provide the kind of overseas aid which was being provided by the Labour Government in 1979". If he genuinely believes that Britain is now a prosperous country, why is not that prosperity reflected in the provision of greater aid to those who are dying from under-nourishment and lack of food?
I want to ask another question. I asked the Minister this question in a previous speech but he did not answer it. He did not have time to answer it and I have not received an answer by letter. Is it the case that the British Government are refusing to provide project aid to Zambia until the Zambians agree to the IMF terms, which when they were imposed 12 months ago led to food riots within two weeks? As the noble Lord knows, the Zambians have started to put their own house in order. After their elections in October they devalued the kwacha by 25 per cent. They are reducing subsidies. They have to do it gradually or people starve. That is the grim reality faced by the Zambian Government.
I ask again whether it is a fact that the British Government are refusing project aid until the IMF agreement is signed. Is it also the case that when Mrs. Chalker visited southern Africa she avoided going to Zambia, although she had been invited to go there, because she was embarrassed to tell the Zambians that Britain would not offer greater aid? Is it also the case that when the Prime Minister goes to southern Africa she also avoids Zambia? This policy of linking British aid to the policies of the IMF is surely disastrous. Even members of the IMF are now realising that many of their prescriptions for the restoration of economic stability have had a socially disastrous effect.
748 My next point concerns the Commonwealth. The point arose in our debates many years ago about British entry into the Common Market. Would entry be at the expense of the Commonwealth? A great many pious words have been spoken about the Commonwealth this afternoon, not enough perhaps but the subject has been referred to in passing. What are the Government doing about our membership of the Commonwealth?
The first thing they did—this was the personal responsibility of the Prime Minister at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in the Bahamas four years ago—was to stand out like a sore thumb as the one country that refused to apply to South Africa the sanctions that the rest of the Commonwealth wanted to apply. Despite the report of the Eminent Persons Group, of which the noble Lord, Lord Barber, was a member, which was appointed by this Government and which said in stark terms:Either sanctions, or continuing violence",the Government, led by the Prime Minister, have been the ones standing against the rest of the Commonwealth and lowering the position of Britain within it.
Moreover, can the noble Lord explain what the Government's attitude towards the Commonwealth is in view of the fact that this year alone they are raising the rent of the offices used by the secretariat of the Commonwealth? In one case the rent of one office is being increased from £12,000 to £232,000 a year. The whole rent bill of the Commonwealth secretariat is increasing this year from something over £600,000 to £1 million. Is that the way in which the Government are supporting the Commonwealth?
Further, what is the attitude of the Government to the Commonwealth Institute? How is it that this year they are cutting by 12 per cent. their contribution to that very fine institute which gives so much pleasure, education, insight and imagination to so many children in this country? There are bus-loads of school children outside the institute every day, and yet the Government are reducing their contribution to that valuable educational work by 12 per cent. is that the attitude of the Government to the Commonwealth and to their membership of it?
Finally, I turn to the attitude of the Government towards the Government of South Africa. It is only four years ago since the Prime Minister was entertaining at Chequers the man who was detained during the last world war as a Nazi sympathiser, President Botha. How is it that the Government consider that someone who was quite openly supporting the Nazi cause during the last world war is a respectable statesman but that those who are fighting, and have been fighting now for nearly 100 years, to get simple justice and equality in the state of South Africa are terrorists? How do the Government square that circle?
Are the Government on the side of what has been described in the American election as "state terrorism" led by president Botha; or do they support those who have tried for many years, by peaceful means and by passive resistance, to achieve constitutional change in order to acquire human 749 rights and who turned to violence—that is, selective violence—only when all constitutional means were blocked? Where do the Government stand so far as concerns their attitude to South Africa? The Government have shown themselves to be the odd man out in the international community, behind even Congress in the United States, in their pressure on the South African Government to grant human rights to the vast majority of its citizens.
I hope that when the noble Lord winds up the debate he will answer those specific questions and that he will answer them in the context of the position of Britain in the global village, not just in prosperous Western Europe.
§ Lord Bauer
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may ask him whether he recognises that the aid which we are giving does not go to the starving children and the other destitute people living in the third world. It goes to their rulers. That is a big difference. Quite often the rulers themselves are responsible for the appalling conditions which prevail in those countries. Sudan and Ethiopia are only two examples among many.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I always welcome interventions from, if I may so call him, my noble friend Lord Bauer. Less than two years ago he and I debated this very subject on television. I think that we won; indeed, I think that I won. As regards the direct answer to his question, if he will read the very notable book of Rene Dumont, published 25 years ago and entitled False Start in Africa, he will see that I have criticised the elite in Africa and in other third world countries just as strongly as he has. Moreover, I still do.
Nevertheless, I believe that during that period we have learnt a great many things and that the Africans and other third world peoples have also learnt many things. Further, a great deal of what I fully admit was the corrupt use of a part—only a part—of our overseas aid has now been virtually stamped out. I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, to tell us whether it is not the case that the Overseas Development Administration is now carefully monitoring the aid which is sent from this country to ensure that it goes into productive purposes for the use of increasing the standard of living of the people and not to the small elites which the noble Lord quite rightly said have in some cases in the past taken an overwhelming share.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, I, like other noble Lords, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for introducing this debate on a subject which has been full of historical allusions and lessons from the very beginning. On this side of the House I think that we have all been touched by the recognition by many noble Lords on the other side of the impact of the economic achievements of this Government internationally. Even the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, recognised that Britain's standing is different from what it was 10 years ago. Furthermore, Lord Greenhill's statement of that was especially convincing and encouraging. Again, the 750 recognition by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was the most encouraging change in Anglo-lrish relations in his lifetime also gave us a lot of heart on this side of the House.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, my message was not intended to be entirely complimentary. I thought that the noble Lord understood that.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
Nevertheless, my Lords, I think that they were the words used by the noble Earl.
It is true that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, criticised the style of the Prime Minister, although we all listened with some attention to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Bridges—a recent distinguished ambassador—felt that an explosive style, even a trade union approach, sometimes had its benefit. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, also thought that the Prime Minister's method of negotiation of the revision of the Europen Budget had in fact yielded benefits. Of course style is an important question, but I suppose that there are many people who would have preferred President Giscard D'Estaing to have had a less cold style, and some people who would have preferred Lord Curzon not to have spoken with a Derbyshire accent.
The historical analysis of prime ministerial/foreign secretarial relations made by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, makes it unnecessary for me to go again into what has happened in the past, although surely it is fair to point out that a prime minister who in the late 20th century adopted the position of Mr. Baldwin would be properly condemned. It is also surely fair to point out that all the Prime Minister's colleagues, as heads of government in the European Community and in the case of France, head of state as well, have far larger foreign policy advisory apparatuses than No. 10 Downing Street. However, at the end of the debate I do not especially wish to defend the Government's policies, which have been amply defended; I wish humbly to suggest ways in which they may be even further improved.
In the course of the debate it has been generally recognised that the foreign service has admirable achievements to its credit. However, the noble Lord, Lord Franks, in his report on the Falklands crisis suggested implicitly that admirable though the foreign service has been for the past few generations in describing and analysing what has been happening in the world, it has sometimes been less impressive in presenting suggestions for long-term policy, especially if the policies involved affect domestic, colonial or imperial affairs. That is an important matter. After all, there are many issues where foreign policy in present circumstances is not confined merely to relations between nation states. For that reason, when I intervened in the debate on the Address two years ago, I said that I believed that it would be desirable for the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to be required by Parliament to present an account annually, before the passing of the Foreign Office Vote, as to what foreign policy was on a large range of issues.
751 I was criticised by the Minister who suggested that that proposal was undesirable since a policy statement of that nature would be bland and boring or indiscreet and dangerous. The Foreign Secretary also pointed out that he regularly makes speeches about what he is trying to do, and that probably serves the aims which I suggest are desirable. It is true that he makes such speeches and they are admirable. However, they are necessarily short and addressed to particular audiences.
We now accept foreign experience as a guide to our actions much more often than we did in the past. Foreign experience suggests that it is possible for the Secretary of State in the United States, when being accepted by Congress, to describe what he is trying to do. The statement, for example, made by Secretary of State Haig sticks in my mind as an admirable statement of what American foreign policy might be in the 1980s although he did not follow the terms of his own instructions. That is a matter the Government might like to consider.
That is especially the case in relation to three issues which are of much greater importance than any others at present. First, there is the question of the Commonwealth, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, alluded. As it happens, I do not share all his views about the Commonwealth, but I believe that he is right to say that some thought should be given to what its future should be. Is it an organisation of peculiar importance to us? Was the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, right to suggest that President Reagan's intervention in Grenada was especially condemned because it was a Commonwealth country or did it matter less than if it had been, for example, a country that was directly attached to the European Community?
If we believe that the Commonwealth is a good idea, are we interested in trying to extend it? Do we hope that Pakistan, under Prime Minister Bhutto, will rejoin? What are the long-term possibilities of Ireland joining the Commonwealth? Is that issue something that should be discussed?
The second question to which foreign policy should give attention is whether issues have arisen which in some way alter how such matters are considered within the Government. For example, surely the most striking change in the past few years has been the revival of religion in the world as an active political issue. Are we certain that the geographical departments within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are properly geared to deal with the changes in the political position of not merely Islam and the Roman Catholic Church? The third question relates to Europe, to which a great deal of discussion has been devoted today. That is the most important matter. It is especially important because our relations with the European Community are definitely not the relations which we were used to having with independent sovereign states. The fact that we refer to the European nations as our partners is an indication of that point.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which deals with foreign and Commonwealth countries, should speculate that if it is to continue to deal with 752 Europe it should perhaps change its name and become the Foreign, European and Commonwealth Office.
The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, pointed out that Ministers are constantly meeting one another within the European Community. That goes also for civil servants and other organisations. European law, as the House knows well, applies to this country as if it had been passed by the British Parliament. That makes relations between continental countries and ourselves different from anything else of which we have had experience.
In relation to the future of Europe, the Government sensibly have said that they favour a step-by-step approach. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, said that on Monday. My noble friend Lady Young said it today. The Secretary of State has often said it. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, spoke of practical steps. That of course is a good Anglo-Saxon position. Get the shape, size and colour of the tomato right and the greenhouse will in some way build itself. I have an instinctive preference for that approach since, as we know only too well, during the 20th century Europe has had many heady and disastrous visions of the future.
All the same, the image of a step-by-step approach presupposes that there is some kind of staircase. Staircases have different gradients. Some staircases go down easily to a Roman bath and others go sharply upwards like the pyramids in Chichen-Itza causing vertiginous anxiety en route. All staircases, presumably, have a view of the top or the bottom. It is plain that there are many Europeans, headed by Mr. Delors, who have one plain view. The Government do not agree with that view about the future of Europe and most of us concur in that disagreement. But is the Government's view quite clear as to what the future of Europe should be? Is the Opposition's or indeed the nation's view clear? I do not think so. All of us favour economic union which even if there is no common currency goes further than any such relationship which we have entered into previously. All of us who have any historical knowledge must know that economic unions of this nature in the past involving the United States, Germany or Italy, have always led far faster than has seemed likely to some form of political union.
Clearly an economic union in the 20th century must have political implications, so some kind of political structure is necessary. At least an umpire is needed to tell the club members how to behave. How strong will that umpire be? Where are his sanctions going to come from? As I see it, Britain stands for a Europe of diversity. The Prime Minister and Lord Cockfield, I suspect, arc in agreement in this respect. A centralised government in Europe is not in our interest and I suspect that most Europeans agree. However, to ensure an effective Europe of diversity surely needs more work and more thought than seems as yet to have gone into the matter. Maybe there have been many excellent long papers within government explaining exactly what our long-term aims are, in the same style, say, as the famous papers written after 1945 defining our relationship with the Soviet Union and the United States under the auspices of Mr. Ernest Bevin. If such papers exist, 753 that is all right, at least Ministers will know exactly where they stand. But if such papers do not exist, if such thought has not yet been given, there is a very strong case for some special inquiry into what we hope will have been achieved in Europe by the end of the century and in the 21st century.
When there was a crisis of similar uncertainty about the future of a part of what was then the empire; namely, Canada in 1837, the Government appointed the then Lord Durham to write his famous report which formed the concept of the 20th century empire by suggesting that we could keep the empire by allowing the colonies to govern themselves. I suggest there is a very strong case in the late 1980s for asking a modern equivalent of Lord Durham to write a similar document which would ensure that the characteristics we regard as desirable in the Europe of the early 21st century are safeguarded.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I listened to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, with great interest, and I shall return to them in a moment. A number of your Lordships have expressed in the course of their speeches some mystification as to the precise meaning of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead which is before the House. However, that does not seem to have prevented many of them saying a great many things, and in consequence the debate has ranged extremely widely over a large number of topics. I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has my deepest sympathy in having to wind up. I notice that he shakes his head in complete confidence, but how he could foresee all the points which were going to be raised and answer all the questions which have been shot at him will interest me very much when I listen to him.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, raised a number of interesting issues, in particular suggesting that we require a modern version of Lord Durham. I think it would be extremely difficult to find or recreate him in the age in which we live. However, I hope the noble Lord is right.
I was interested in his comments on Europe and the ingenious hut, I thought, unconvincing—I do not believe that he even convinced himself—defence of what he called the step-by-step approach. If we are to have a step-by-step approach—and that is one means of locomotion—we must know what our objective is. We have not heard from the present Government precisely or generally what their objective is in the context of Europe. What is our destination? Where are we going? How fast and with what objectives? Of course, the noble Lord is totally right in saying that it is not enough simply to have economic union, desirable though that is. Directly there is economic union one has to have a political superstructure or infrastructure; call it what you like. That may perhaps define the distinction between two schools of thought: those who think we can get by with a political infrastructure (hut then it will be accused of being a bureaucracy); and those who say that it must be a political superstructure; in which case it must mean giving more powers to the European Parliament. On those critical matters we have had no guidance from the Government.
754 As for the Europe of diversity, I do not think anyone who considers the past or the present of Europe can possibly envisage a Europe which is not diverse. One of the Prime Minister's eccentricities in respect of Europe is to believe that we may be swamped by European culture, as though we were not part of it ourselves. But what is even more eccentric is the idea that the French would ever agree to a political organisation which was somehow or other going to drown the French culture.
A far greater danger which faces this country's cultural development is not Continental culture swamping us but satellite television beaming in—as the first programmes of Mr. Murdoch's Sky television indicate—nothing but American soaps, American quiz shows and American films from his own company, 20th Century Fox. If we are frightened of this country losing its cultural identity, that is the source of which we should he afraid.
When I consider some of' the problems facing the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, when he winds up, I think he will have to do rather better in his defence of the Prime Minister's record than he did in his opening remarks. Some shrewd comments have been made in the course of the debate and it is no good just saying "Everyone loves her". We know perfectly well that there are large numbers of people at home and abroad who far from love her. It is no good pretending that you are The Times or The Sunday Times and can simply issue statements which you expect your readers to accept without any qualification.
I find it difficult to believe that Mr Delors is fascinated by her charisma or that Mr. Kohl altogether agrees with her or, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, that Mr. Haughey is altogether pleased with her. Taking them in no particular order, we cannot altogether forget the unwarranted intervention in the Canadian election. We cannot simply pretend that the Bruges speech, as The Times, The Sunday Times and, I regret to say, the Economist pretended, was a great European statement. Anyone who has set foot on the Continent of Europe or has spoken to anybody on the Continent and who is interested in the European Community knows that this was a cold shower. It produced shock. It was regarded as a hostile statement. It requires almost unbelievable insularity for people in this country to pretend that that was interpreted by anyone who had the European idea at his heart as a speech that was anything other than hostile. To suppose that this was not the case is to delude ourselves.
Nor can we pretend that the Ingham affair and the invitation to Moscow to Her Majesty the Queen were trifling. They were not trifling. When I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, in connection with a speech he made or a Question he answered in this House—I cannot remember which—to ask him what it signified, he replied that there was nothing more he could say about it because it was purely speculative. What was speculative was the invitation; what was not speculative was the statement issued at a briefing meeting by Mr. Ingham
So these things cannot just be brushed aside as matters of total indifference; nor can the Ryan affair; nor can the Carrington quotation referred to by the 755 noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn; nor, I must admit to my noble friend Lord Greenhill in his defence of megaphone diplomacy, do I find the Fulton speech a very good example. Mr. Churchill was not at that time a member of the Government. He was not exercising diplomacy. He was expressing his opinions in a speech and that is a different matter in very different circumstances.
As I have said, in the course of this debate people have touched on a very wide range of subjects and it seems to me that the reason, as has been said, is that it is difficult to separate the method of conducting foreign policy from the policy that is being conducted. What I would like to look at briefly is how we in this country and how NATO as a whole are responding to the changes following the arrival of Mr. Gorbachev on the world scene.
It is perhaps somewhat surprising that so little attention has so far been paid today to this important event. Owing to the arrival of Mr. Gorbachev, we have moved from diplomatic trench warfare into open diplomacy, from techniques developed over the past 40 years in response to the cold war, of tiny advances and tiny retreats, to a diplomacy of manoeuvre. Again and again the Western alliance has found itself false-footed. Again and again it has found in Mr. Gorbachev a kind of Rommel in this sort of diplomacy of manoeuvre. The fact is that NATO has failed to develop any comprehensive posture with which to meet this diplomatic offensive. Of course I recognise that a co-ordinated response from the 15 democracies which comprise NATO, and France in addition, in the face of the USSR, which remains a highly centralised and authoritarian polity, is very difficult to achieve. But to recognise the difficulty, it seems to me, is not to diminish the importance of trying to construct a comprehensive, positive and coherent response which will have the assent of the members of NATO together with the support of the populations which elect the governments to NATO.
It seems to me transparently true that Mr. Gorbachev has had an enormous impact on public opinion in Western countries. It is not only in Germany that anti-Americanism has been growing in the past year or so, dangerously in some ways. If one may take another example, in Spain, according to a recent poll, the USA is regarded as being more likely to be the cause of a war than the USSR. Elsewhere, where opinions are not so strong, I have a feeling that there was disappointment in the response of NATO to the succession of unilateral initiatives made by Mr. Gorbachev and his colleagues, which by any reckoning appear to be unprecedented, surprising and pleasing.
NATO's response appears to have been consistently negative. The withdrawal of 500,000 troops produced the response that it was a political gesture. Some political gestures are very important, and it seems to me that was one of them. When Mr. Shevardnadze, at the end of the Vienna meetings recently, made his speech, The Times reported:The West sees his offer as a ploy to exploit their differences".British sources, in another report, said that Moscow had not yet specified which six divisions would be 756 removed. The point most people noticed was that six divisions would be removed. They did not actually want to know their names. One Western diplomat moaned:The Russians pull one surprise after another and now they have done it again".All that is not from the subversive BBC, from the dangerous Guardian or from Thames Television's "Death on the Rock". It was from the Downing Street press: from The Times.
I think that represents the kind of reaction people feel we are getting from NATO in this momentous change which has occurred over the past three years. It is a momentous change, and NATO appears to be peeping over its trenches with its little periscope, sniping away with its Enfield rifle, in a war of diplomatic manoeuvre which swirls around it, catching it by surprise on every occasion. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said, three years ago no one foresaw the faintest prospect of the revolution in which Mr. Gorbachev is engaged. He has opened up possibilities that none of us dared to envisage; and it strikes me that it is one of the most exciting and encouraging prospects that has occurred since the Fulton speech rang down the Iron Curtain.
In those circumstances, at first the Prime Minister seemed to see and to seize this opportunity with great courage and perspicacity when she found that Mr. Gorbachev was someone with whom you could do business. Since then it appears that, whether from ideological prejudice or her determination to keep in step with the USA, she has become more cautious. I shall perhaps be told that her determination not to disagree publicly with the United States is a wise and prudent policy whereby she strengthens the special relationship, and that this policy has given her unequalled influence.
I think we must examine with some scepticism the idea of the special relationship. I would hope that she would engage in constructive dialogue with people other than the United States and South Africa. The special relationship, as Mr. Macmillan discovered at Suez, is in my view a British delusion. That is confirmed by the priorities announced by President Bush. He accords first priority to the United States-Japanese relationship, and within Europe, if there is a special relationship, it must be with Germany. If you want confirmation of that, look at the ambassadorial appointments.
However, that is not to say that we must let down our guard. It is not to say we must not act with caution. Mr. Gorbachev may fail. He is faced with huge economic problems at home, and there is no good economic news from Russia. That is bad news for us, but it means that the necessity for arms cuts, the necessity to transfer resources from defence to consumer industries, is all the more important. At the same time, the United States faces a dreadful economic problem which equally will demand on its part arm cuts, and Europe will be asked to look after itself in security terms to a greater extent than ever before. If that is so, Europe must play a larger part in forming a security and foreign policy of its own. If it is to do that, it means that we must develop a political superstructure rather than a political infrastructure.
757 I therefore conclude by reminding your Lordships of some words spoken by Sir Michael Howard, formerly Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, in a lecture that he gave in September this year at a conference. He said that governments are inevitably cautious, and went on:Their spokesmen will make weighty statements to the effect that it is too early to judge and we must wait and see, as if that was the end of the matter. But of course it is not. Statesmen should not confine themselves to reacting to circumstances. They should have some vision of the way they wish to see the world develop, and some capacity to move it in that direction".
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, we have had an extremely interesting debate. Whether it went on the lines that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, intended when he set out the words that described it I do not know, but I cannot honestly believe that he thought that this House would spend the whole afternoon debating the methods of foreign policy and not the content of it. It was inevitable that the debate would go as it has with considerable excusions into the substance of foreign policy.
On the question of method I should like to say first that it is striking that there have been no serious criticisms of the quality of the diplomatic service itself, and indeed many friendly tributes paid to it. This I hope—though with no particular confidence —will he noticed by some organs of the press who regard attacks on the Foreign Office and those who work there as a regular dish to be served up every now and again when they are short of something else. The truth is that this country is very well served by its diplomatic service. One could go on in considerable detail suggesting changes here and changes there, but I do not know that that is what we want to do now.
The other question that came up early in the field of method was the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office. The two are bound to be closely related because the Foreign Office is concerned with questions of power, from which a Prime Minister can never dissociate himself. It is inevitable that the two Ministers will either work closely together or tread on each other's feet, and we must hope that it works out for the best.
It is interesting to notice—and it may perhaps encourage among professional diplomats a certain amount of smugness—that if we look at three major errors of British foreign policy in this century (I refer to the series of acts labelled appeasement which led us to Munich and then into a war that we ended at a terrible disadvantage; secondly, the Suez adventure; and thirdly the resumption of sales of arms to South Africa in 1970) all were urged on the Foreign Office by the Prime Minister of the day and were against the weight of official opinion in the Foreign Office.
I say that this entitles professional diplomats to perhaps a certain amount of smugness when they are criticised for anything that may have gone wrong. The moral of it seems to be that it is not desirable for Prime Ministers to tread into the foreign affairs field without first informing themselves carefully and realising that it is quite possible that the Foreign Secretary, who has been specialising in it, and the 758 professional diplomats who have been specialising in it for years may know a little more about it than the Prime Minister. That degree of caution is necessary if Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries are to get on well together.
I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was correct in his analysis of the Father Ryan episode, which was a striking example of an ill-judged, infelicitous action by a Prime Minister with unfortunate effects on the conduct of affairs by the Government as a whole. In the course of the debate several other infelicitous acts have been quoted, but we do not want the debate to become exclusively one about the merits or demerits of the Prime Minister.
On the question of style of diplomacy, I understood the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, to speak in favour of what he called calculated statements. The question was not so much whether they were delivered through a megaphone or quietly or whether or not they were explosive but whether they had been thought about in advance and were well judged for the situation. Here it is clear that the Prime Minister's speech at Bruges on European matters was not in that sense calculated, or if it was it was most disastrously calculated.
What in fact did she do? She urged her hearers against the perils of in effect a federation of Europe—which nobody was asking for. The impression she created was that she did not want any steps taken in the direction of greater unity. It is possible, by selecting the appropriate sentences from her speech, to represent her either as a friend or as an enemy of closer unity between the states of the European Community. But the plain fact is that most of her hearers got the impression that she was opposed to any greater measure of unity between the European countries. That, I am sure, is the very last impression that we want to create at the present time.
It is an absolute condition of the conduct of British diplomacy today that we have to recognise that we work in groups; that we are not a country that can, by its own motion, alter the whole course of world affairs. We can only be effective as a member of the various groups to which we belong. They are NATO, the European Community, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, pointed out to us the importance of having some concerted policy in NATO; that the actions taken by the Russian Government, which I think have been a welcome surprise to us in many directions, require an appropriate response from NATO. Admittedly, as was suggested, it is rather harder for 15 democracies to reach a common policy than for the Government of the Soviet Union to make a decision, but it is surely something that we have to do.
At present we have a series of sorties made by the Russian Government proposing this or that measure of disarmament, to which no convincing replies are made. We cannot let that situation continue indefinitely. I fear that the Prime Minister's attitude towards Europe has produced the result that we are not regarded as a country that is likely to be cooperative in trying to work out together a common policy with NATO. I hope that that is not so. I hope that we can reach agreement on how to do 759 business—to use the Prime Minister's phrase—with Mr. Gorbachev. However, we do not appear to be going in that direction at present.
There has also been mention of the importance of a common currency. I wonder whether it is realised that before the First World War, although Europe did not have a common currency, practically every country was on the gold standard. That is to say that each nation regarded it as its business so to conduct its economic affairs as to give a certain value to its currency. Consequently there was a stationary comparative value with all other currencies. We talk as if that was almost an impossibility instead of something to which the whole of Europe used to be accustomed.
I think that we ought therefore to show a greater willingness to accept the principle of a common currency for Europe. I believe that that is bound to happen, if not in the lifetime of some of us certainly in the lifetime of our children. We have to be prepared to accept that and to recognise that a far more united Europe than the one we have known is going to come into being. I think that it is a disservice to British foreign policy for the Prime Minister to have given the impression, whether intentionally or not, that that was not a direction in which Britain wished to move.
To take another example of working together in harmony with other countries, it is proposed that there should be an international conference to solve the vexed question of the Middle East. I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said in arguing against the proposition. Quite frankly I do not know whether that is what should be done, but I think that we both have to accept that that may be attempted and that Britain in one form or another will have to play some part in trying to create a peaceful solution to the problems of the Middle East and the disputes between Israel and her neighbours.
What worried me about Mr. Waldegrave's remarks was that they were in tone and in nature a rebuke to Israel, whereas in Israel's situation surely what should have been addressed to her was not a rebuke but an encouragement and a reassurance. What is it that we are asking Israel to do? We are asking her to take the enormous risk of giving up the possession of certain territories which, even if uneasily, give her some kind of security and put herself in a position in which she may be in deadly peril. Unlike her Arab neighbours, Israel can afford to lose only one round in the conflict between Israel on the one hand and the Arab countries on the other. Arab countries can be defeated and can return to the harassing of Israel. A defeat for Israel will mean extinction. Israel is aware of that.
If Israel is to be persuaded to take risks she must be offered encouragement and reassurance. One of the problems for which we have to find a solution is this: whatever method is used, international conference, United Nations or whatever, at the end of the day there must be some guarantee of the agreed solution. If there is no such guarantee one cannot expect Israel to put her name to it. Here again I am afraid it was all wrong for that style of remark to proceed from a Foreign Office Minister. That kind of 760 remark can damage the work of a well-intentioned Foreign Secretary and a diligent and highly talented diplomatic service.
We have heard a great deal, and understandably, from noble Lords opposite about the economic strength of this country. It was just as well that we had a warning speech from my noble friend Lady Blackstone reminding us that there is not quite the rosy and assured picture that has been set out by noble Lords opposite and that we should be making a mistake if we conducted our foreign policy on that assumption.
In the ancient world if a country wanted the best possible advice about what it should do next it sent a delegation to the oracle at Delphi. It was not very useful because the oracle gave an answer for which there were two or three different interpretations and it was up to you to judge which interpretation to adopt. However, above the shrine where one went to consult the oracle there were two very valuable mottos. One of them said, "Know thyself', and the other said, "Nothing too much".
Britain has to know itself. It has to know that it is no longer a power that can act except in groups, and in groups with which it cheerfully and willingly cooperates and which it wants to see strengthened. When we congratulate ourselves on such economic progress as we have made in recent years we should also remind ourselves, "Nothing too much". We should not build too much on that and not be too sure that everything is going to be rosy in the future.
There is one very dark shadow on the horizon. It was referred to in particular by my noble friend Lord Hatch and by my noble friend Lady Blackstone. The Prime Minister has never in her various speeches given foreign policy a jolt in the direction of further regard for the needs of the third world or further efforts to get the South African Government to change their policy. That is putting us in the position where we are being increasingly regarded as of all countries in Europe the one most favourably disposed towards the present Government in South Africa.
That is a position of great danger because I think that it is quite clear to all of us that the present Government of South Africa will not last. It is walking down the road at the end of which is doom. No one can see any way of diverting her from it except by a complete change of heart, of which there seems to be no sign whatever. It is extremely important in the final crisis that Britain is not regarded as the one friend who advised and encouraged South Africa along that road when everyone else was trying to discourage her.
That is the kind of issue which our foreign policy ought to be spelling out. If Prime Ministers, or anyone else, want to give foreign policy a nudge in any particular direction, that above all is the direction they should choose.
It is my feeling therefore that we can congratulate ourselves on having an admirable diplomatic service. We can hope that we are in a stronger position to contribute to the wealth and security of the world than we were a decade ago, although we ought not to read too much into that. There are available to us 761 groups with which we can work—NATO, the Commonwealth and Europe—and in which we can make ourselves effective. But we put ourselves at terrible risk by choosing to be on what will inevitably he and is increasingly as the years go by the wrong side in that very great world issue. It is that we must avoid.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, we have had a good debate with many notable contributions to which I have listened carefully. To the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, I say that I agree and that I have indeed been set something of a challenge. With a certain amount of material before me I shall try not to detain him too long.
I should like to begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Young and the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, in particular. My noble friend's interesting recollections of her time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are valuable. I share her impressions. I have not been in that office more than 18 months but after those 18 months I hope that no one will accuse me of either being brainwashed or having gone native, to use two of the phrases that have been referred to today. The speech of my noble friend Lady Young illustrated some of the themes that I addressed at the outset. The experience of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, on the professional side of the Foreign Office is well known to everyone. I am grateful to both my noble friend and the noble Lord and for all other tributes that have been paid to the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for which I know they will be grateful.
It is sometimes alleged—indeed the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, hinted at this—that Ministers are too dependent upon the advice of officials, whether it be in the Foreign Office or at No. 10. Although in my opening speech I emphasised that Ministers and not officials take the decisions, there are those who suggest that Ministers need greater access to alternative views and to a greater political input. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, that it is not as if my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs are at present wholly dependent upon the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for foreign policy advice. Of course they receive information and suggestions from a wide range of sources, and that includes political advice. Indeed there is a strong political dimension in British foreign policy. It could hardly be otherwise when those in charge command years of experience of leadership in a government who have achieved radical political and economic change.
However it is the responsibility of governments successfully to combine political instinct with pragmatism. I said that we should avoid too rigid an approach to foreign policy. The world in which we are seeking to make our influence felt will not fit comfortably into a preconceived set of political prejudices. Where we wish it did, we often lack the means to compel it to conform.
As my noble friend Lord Reay hinted, we have to face up to the realities of foreign policy-making in a complex and often recalcitrant world. A narrow, 762 ideological approach is no basis for a credible, effective foreign policy, as even the Soviet Union now acknowledges.
We have heard criticism of the speech made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in Bruges and more generally of her dealings with European colleagues. I too acknowledge and respect the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, to the European ideal and his experience in these matters. Both qualities shone through not only in his speech today but in his thoughtful contribution to our debate on the Loyal Address on 23rd November. I must say to him that criticisms of the kind that he and others have put forward today overlook the facts. I agree with my noble friend Lady Young that too many people have read the headlines about the Bruges speech and too few have read the speech itself—even though the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has read it. Some have even read it selectively. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has read the speech in detail and I hope that he and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, will acknowlege that it made many thoughtful and constructive points on European co-operation. My noble friend Lady Young spelled out what they were and the support that they received in this country.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister emphasised in Bruges that Britain's destiny is in Europe as an active and committed member of the Community. She has played a leading and positive role in European Community questions and negotiations with our partners. Since last summer, in addition to the European Council in Rhodes, she has visited five Community countries for discussions with colleagues and held bilateral talks in this country or elsewhere with a further four Community Heads of Government. That constant round of communication and consultation all too often escapes the notice of the press.
Obviously in a Community of 12 nations there will be differences of approach and of emphasis on some issues. That is natural and, as I have suggested, it is more healthy to acknowledge than to deny them. Our cultural diversity and differing national traditions are our strength, not our weakness. Many of our partners share that feeling.
I am struck with the fact that the pragmatic British approach to Europe has increasingly become a hallmark of Community activity, and I am glad that my noble friend Lord Bessborough shares that view. As a result, over the past year we have reached agreement on the future financing of the Community and made an excellent start on reform of the common agricultural policy. There is still a lot to be done but the will is there and, as we have long proposed, the focus of Community activity is now completion of the single market. The single market programme is a practical and evolutionary approach to fulfilling our treaty commitments and goals.
Another recent event that was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, and discussed by my noble friend Lord Beloff was the meeting of my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with the chairman of the PLO. I shall not attempt to follow the example of my noble friend Lord Beloff by giving quite so much 763 detail, nor indeed that of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, who also went into detail on that topic. But that was a good example of the flexibility of approach which allows us to respond appropriately to changing circumstances. The private groundwork for the meeting was extensive and established the conditions that allowed it to take place. The PLO had accepted Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, recognised Israel's right to a secure existence and renounced terrorism. I believe that this was a clear vindication of our firm policy over the years and merited that forthcoming response.
My noble friend Lord Beloff implied, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, endorsed the view, that my honourable friend was too publicly critical of Israel. That charge does not stick. As a staunch friend of Israel for over 40 years who sees the damage that her policies and practices in the occupied territories are causing to her international reputation, we are bound to express concern. We believe that the PLO's new, moderate position deserves to be tested in face-to-face negotiations. Israel has nothing to lose by negotiation and everything to gain from a peaceful settlement which offers her the security that she has craved for so long. When we speak out in this way it is not megaphone diplomacy; it is a friend's concern for Israel's future.
My noble friend Lord Beloff told tales of pro-Arab bias in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and no doubt can claim that these always make good anecdotes. Maybe that is true. It is equally true that many in the Arab world regard us as pro-Israeli. In this and other contentious areas perhaps the best test of whether we are achieving balance in our policy is when we draw equally strident criticism from those on both extremes. Judging from the many times that questions have been asked in this House on this particularly difficult and intractable issue, on which there is now progress being made, I endorse that view.
Our common sense and patient approach to foreign policy has scored notable successes in the multilateral organisations to which we belong and to which others have referred this afternoon. Through these organisations we have worked effectively to magnify our influence and move towards what would have been beyond our reach had we acted alone.
As my noble friend Lady Young said, in NATO the three key principles for arms control agreed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister with President Reagan at Camp David in 1986 were subsequently endorsed and developed by the whole alliance and the firmness and unity that we had consistently advocated within the alliance have brought us the first of those priorities; namely, an INF agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, suggested that our attitude to the new style of Soviet foreign policy was not imaginative enough. Exciting the prospects may be, but I think that there is a critical difference between showing imagination and indulging in fantasies. Of course we welcome the more constructive Soviet approach on human rights, arms control and regional issues. Our response is imaginative. But let us not forget that we are dealing 764 in realities. As my noble friend Lady Strange said, it is too early for us to conclude that the changes in Soviet internal and external policies are permanent. For example, subversive KGB activity abroad—there is nothing too gentle about that—seems hardly to have been affected by the new mood. While cuts in the Soviet armed forces and Soviet military expenditure are of course welcome, they are cuts in the fat, not in the lean meat. The Soviet Union retains a substantial advantage in almost every category of weapons facing NATO in Europe. Where NATO's defences are concerned, we cannot afford simply to trust in Soviet good intentions, much as we should like to. We must put those intentions to the test. That may not be a headline-winning approach. But it is a steady, tested and reliable route to greater security.
NATO is a vehicle which we are using effectively to safeguard peace and stability in Europe. Our policy seeks also to bring that same peace and stability to other regions of the world, more troubled than our own. We have long been convinced that the United Nations can make an important contribution. That is why this country has played a leading part in reactivating a sense of common responsibility and purpose in the five permanent members of the Security Council. As my noble friend Lady Young has pointed out, the first fruit of that co-operation was the acceptance by Iran and Iraq of Security Council Resolution 598 as the basis for a ceasefire—a resolution for which the United Kingdom was largely responsible. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, will appreciate from his own experience how ably our permanent representative Sir Crispin Tickell has executed his tasks.
All these successes are the results of a foreign policy consistently pursued. The principles underlying our approach to these diverse issues have been the same, our objectives uniform. If we had failed or faltered in the conduct of our foreign relations, would we have achieved so much? I very much doubt it.
Perhaps I may turn to some of the specific points that were raised on different aspects in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, made the charge of government by indignation. I am sorry that the noble Lord bases his comment on the lobby system on the sole and doubtful authority of the media on this issue. He will not expect me to be drawn into commenting on important and sensitive policy questions on the basis of what may by some be viewed as a certain amount of mischief-making. However, the important matter is that it is the Government who pronounce on the policy—which we do regularly from this Dispatch Box—and the noble Lord ought not always to take too much account of what he reads elsewhere in the papers.
In an important speech, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, raised the comments that the Prime Minister made about the free trade agreement between the United States and Canada when she was in Washington in mid-November 1988. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was addressing an issue of international interest and concern. It is widely known that she was a keen supporter of free world trade. She has never hidden this view and it is not a new one. I would therefore argue that it was 765 only natural for her to comment on this subject in the way that she did. My right honourable friend's remarks did not amount to the interference with which those who do not subscribe to her views charge her.
I am hesitant to go further into the matter of the Patrick Ryan case, to which reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford. However, there is no doubt in my mind that the Prime Minister was right to speak as she did. She reflected the views not only of the Government but of the vast majority of the people of this country when she spoke of her dismay at the Irish decision to refuse our request for extradition. No one denies that there is a proud Ireland—to use the phrase of the noble Earl, Lord Longford—but the reason given by the Irish for their decision—that Ryan would not receive a fair trial—was in our view totally unacceptable and unjustified. The noble Earl would do well to remember, as I am sure he does, that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has personal experience of a bomb in Brighton that was set by the IRA. We would all do well to remember that.
One speech with which I found myself in almost total disagreement was that of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. I am sorry that she is not in her place so that I can respond to elements of it. She made a number of different charges: that we were in no position to dictate; and that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was not a statesman. One of the more extraordinary charges that she made was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, in his winding up remarks. That was her comment about the economy. The fact that the GDP in this country is at its highest-ever level can hardly be described as bad news. That we are now into our eighth successive year of sustained growth averaging over 3 per cent. cannot be described as bad news. The fact that the United Kingdom economy has grown faster than those of all other major EC countries during the 1980s contrasts pretty starkly with the previous two decades when the United Kingdom was bottom of the league.
When the noble Baroness reads Hansard she may do well to remember the famous dispatch from Sir Nicholas Henderson when he was in Paris in 1979. It subsequently reached the public eye. This dispatch surveyed Britain's position throughout the period since the war compared with that of France and Germany. The opening section was entitled ominously, "The account of our decline". Sir Nicholas went through the economic figures one by one, comparing British performance with that of France and Germany. By every yardstick—gross GDP per capita, productivity, exports, average earnings, car ownership, and industrial output—Britain had once had leadership over France and Germany and had now lost it. Only in strikes had we apparently extended our lead.
It is harsh to believe that an ambassador in 1979 should be forced to say that at least in France in many public statements Britain was mentioned as a model not to follow if economic disaster was to be avoided, and to continue by saying that it made life extremely 766 difficult for an ambassador to conduct his normal responsibilities in the present uncertain state of our economy and of our European policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, raised a number of important topics which go well beyond the focus of the debate, though that has ranged fairly widely. I shall study his remarks in detail even though I have probably answered many of those questions before. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will not be visiting Zambia. But this is not a question of a snub or anything like that. The visit involves a very tight schedule and my right honourable friend wishes to see two Commonwealth countries that she has never visited, unlike Zambia, which she has already visited. The noble Lord ought to be aware that my right honourable friend Mrs. Chalker was in Zambia for two days last week.
I think that the noble Lord is confused over the matters of aid. He is confusing programme aid with project aid. The latter—project aid—is ongoing. We shall resume programme aid when an IMF-approved economic reform programme is in place.
The noble Lord raised points about the Commonwealth. The importance that we attach to the Commonwealth has been spelt out by Ministers at this Dispatch Box many times. He referred to the rent for the Commonwealth secretariat building. The secretariat occupies Marlborough House rent free. It has commercial leases on the other office accommodation necessary for the staff that cannot be accommodated in Marlborough House. The rents from these properties are subject to normal commercial terms, including five-yearly rent increases. I fear that the noble Lord has the wrong information on that.
Grant-in-aid to the Commonwealth Institute is one of a number of items met from the FCO vote and is assessed annually on the basis of all competing claims. It now stands at £2.5 million as opposed to £2.665 million in the previous financial year. That is still a very respectable and considerable sum and reflects the continuing importance we attach to the institute's educational work.
As for aid volume and the third world, I acknowledge the importance which the noble Lord attaches to helping where we can in the third world. I have seen in the last 18 months a very great deal of the third world, admittedly not Africa but other parts of the world. The Government have accepted the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GDP, but like previous administrations and many other donors we have not set a timetable for reaching it. Progress towards the target must depend on economic circumstances and the extent of other calls on the resources. The noble Lord has heard me say that before, but for those who challenge that view there is the point that it would be easier to reach the GNP target if the GNP were lower. The other aspect which is important to bear in mind is that since 1979 we have reached the 1 per cent. UN target for aid and private flows in every year but two.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the noble Lord has not answered my question. The Government pleaded the poverty of the British economy as a cause of the decline in the percentage of GDP given in aid. 767 Now they have been boasting for years that the economy has recovered. Why is it that the percentage of GDP given in overseas aid has not also recovered to the figure that it was in 1979?
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, if the noble Lord likes to look at the figures he will find that compared with the original overseas aid budget this year of £1337 billion, the figure for the coming years represents an increase over the period in cash terms of 18 per cent. or 5 per cent. after allowing for expected inflation. The important thing is to look to the future not always to the past which appears to be a feature of the noble Lord's comments.
My noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton made some important points about the Commonwealth, religion and its role in politics and Europe. I shall take note and carefully study the remarks that he has made. I do not propose to go into the question of South Africa again this afternoon. It is a matter which has been dealt wth very fully in debates on that subject. I believe that the noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord Stewart of Fulham, are fully aware of our views upon it.
Returning to the theme of' the Motion that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, put down, we have an effective foreign policy and an active diplomacy. All the elements are pulling in the same direction. No one should doubt our intentions or our capacity to work constructively in the field of foreign affairs. We are fortunate in my right honourable friends who determine our policy and in the officials who carry it out. Far from being divisive or damaging, our method of conducting this country's relations with foreign countries has identified areas of common ground, and has built solid structures upon them.
Ours is a policy that works. It is a simple statement of fact that in the world today, the United Kingdom is held in well-earned respect far greater than we have enjoyed for many years.
These are exciting times in which to be engaged in foreign policy. We shall not shirk the challenges ahead. We can take confidence from past achievements, and we are ready to continue giving a lead.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for his comprehensive reply as I thank the other 17 noble Lords, apart from myself, who have contributed to the debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Greenhill, and Lord Bridges, for the expertise and experience that they brought. I am also grateful for the gracious remarks which were made by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, replying directly to me, talked about the Bruges speech. I did not mention the Bruges speech on this occasion in my remarks. Nonetheless it has figured in the debate to a considerable extent. The noble Lord must realise that the impact that a speech makes must be the 768 responsibility of the person who has made it. The impact which that speech made is undoubtedly very much as described by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. There are parts of' it which are good and there are parts which are less good. I am reminded of a comment made on a book many years ago when somebody said "This book does not make much sense". "On the contrary," it was said, "If you only read every other sentence it makes perfect sense". That is true of the Bruges speech. It depends whether you start with the odd sentence or the even sentence as to what impression you gain at the end of it.
I particularly enjoyed the speeches of' the noble Lords, Lord Reay, and Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. The noble Lord, Lord Reay engaged me directly in an argument which was slightly nostalgically reminiscent of another place. I thought that some of the points that he made in his argument were sound and some were interesting. Perhaps those that were interesting were less sound and the other way round. Nonetheless he made me think again on one or two points. I thank him for paying me the compliment of engaging me so directly with a series of interesting arguments. He certainly convinced us that prime ministerial interference in foreign policy to a high degree is not something which is entirely new. He was less convincing on whether it had been beneficial from the examples which he and others cited.
I much enjoyed the attempt of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, to wrestle with his own preference for qualitative leaps and his loyal defence of a step-by-step approach. I cannot think of anyone more likely to be attracted by a qualitative leap than he is with his swooping intellect and his liking for the metaphysic of history. He has indeed made some qualitative political leaps himself over the period since I have had the pleasure of counting him as a friend. However, as I understood it, he reconciled it all with a striking simile about tomatoes marching up the broad bare staircase of their duty in the greenhouse, which left me a little confused as to how he had brought this altogether in this single metaphysic. However, I greatly enjoyed his speech and those of other noble Lords.
I hope that the debate has been worth while. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, wondered whether the debate had taken the direction that I expected. I assure him that broadly it did. It was a mixture of form and substance. I thank all noble Lords who have participated and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.