§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Holderness—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign —We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, in opening this part of the debate on the Motion for a humble Address, I should perhaps begin by saying that I shall concentrate on foreign rather than defence policy questions, leaving the latter for my noble friend Lord Arran to deal with when he winds up. This debate is most timely. It coincides with dramatic, indeed historic events in Eastern Europe. In his reply to the gracious Speech yesterday my noble friend Lord Holderness eloquently expressed the excitement and optimism of us all at these events. Issues such as these supply the context within which the Government's foreign and defence policy is conducted. The broad object of that policy, for this as for any government, is to assure the security of this country, its citizens and dependent territories. In that term, I include national security in both its direct and indirect senses; security in both physical and economic terms.
The Government are fully conscious of our responsibilities in these areas. We are working, and working effectively, to maintain and strengthen Britain's security on two main fronts. First, and closest to home, are this country's most immediate physical and economic security interests, centred in our Continent of Europe.
Secondly, and more indirectly, there is our interest in the consolidation of a stable framework of international relations that preserves order and promotes co-operation; a framework that allows us to work with others to address potentially destabilising regional conflicts and other challenges. We face some difficult challenges, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, noted yesterday. I agree with him that we should meet them with our partners in NATO, the European Community and the Commonwealth and I look forward to hearing his contribution to our debate this afternoon.
Lord Stanhope records of Pitt the Younger that, on hearing the news of Austerlitz, he remarked of a map of Europe:Roll up that map, it will not be wanted these 10 years".We enter a new decade in similar need of new guides to the political geography, if not to the borders of Europe. The pace of change in the eastern half of our continent has been astonishing. Two weeks ago, and literally overnight, the Iron Curtain to most intents and purposes disappeared from the centre of Europe. The Berlin Wall survives as little more than a quarry for souvenir-hunters. Today, as we watch events unfold in the GDR and elsewhere in Eastern 26 Europe, we find ourselves like the Red Queen in Carroll's looking glass world, believing six impossible things before breakfast.
What was once inconceivable is becoming commonplace as Poland, Hungary, the GDR and even Bulgaria embark on the path of renewal and reform. The Czechoslovak people too are stirring. Change in these countries is occurring at different speeds, and is being led by different forces. But a common factor in every case is the stimulus of economic crisis and the patent bankruptcy of Communist ideology. The political, economic and military implications of this retreat from the Communist past are profound.
These events are occurring against the background of great improvement in East-West, including Anglo-Soviet, relations. This is most welcome and something for which the Government have long worked. We freely acknowledge the indispensable contribution which the new policies of Mr. Gorbachev have made to the process. The Government were consistent in the defence of western values and western security in the years when we faced a very different Soviet Union. While we continue to stand steadfastly by those values, we are also now consistent in our warm encouragement of Mr. Gorbachev's policies of perestroika at home and new thinking abroad. We hope that the forthcoming US-Soviet summit will further strengthen the new mood in East-West relations. It is timely and opportune. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be discussing the prospects with President Bush in two days' time.
We in the West see no threat from greater democracy in Eastern Europe. Quite the reverse, and it seems that Mr. Gorbachev, in declaring that he supports freedom of choice for those countries, also acknowledges that the Soviet Union need not fear political and economic reforms in its neighbours. Change is not always consistent with stability, at least in the sense of immobility. But the peaceful evolution towards democracy and more market-based economies in Eastern Europe is a constructive kind of instability —so long as it remains peaceful and evolutionary.
What must be avoided at all costs is the sort of destructive instability which could interrupt the immensely encouraging trend towards democracy. We must rely heavily on the sound judgment and restraint of those at the centre of events —the peoples of Eastern Europe and their leaders —and, at this exciting but uncertain time, we must look for the protection of our fundamental security interests to the Alliance to which we are committed. We must also avoid offering any challenge to legitimate Soviet security interests.
A strong, united NATO must remain a central element in Western strategy if we are to meet these challenges effectively. There is no doubt in the Government's mind as to the strategy the West should pursue at what may be a turning-point in Europe's history. We believe the West should actively encourage the peaceful process now under way. A freer Europe will be a more secure Europe for all Europeans.
27 We should make clear our view that political reform should lead to genuinely free elections. Where it is clear that governments are irrevocably committed to hold free elections, as in Hungary, or that as a result of elections they enjoy the confidence of their people, as in Poland, we should be ready to extend economic assistance. The West can offer no alternative route to reform. But we must, as a matter of instinct and of interest, do all we can to help those reforms to succeed. Britain has already joined with other Western countries in offering packages of assistance to Poland and Hungary. Once the Polish Government have agreed an adjustment programme with the IMF, we will be ready to extend further support in priority areas, including debt rescheduling in the Paris Club.
We see a vital role for the European Community here. The Community has long been a focus for the aspirations of our Eastern neighbours. We have substantial resources, material and human, on which to draw. The Community is currently co-ordinating food aid to Poland, and has extended project assistance to Poland and Hungary worth over £210 million. Wide-ranging trade and co-operation agreements with those countries offer a basis for further action. And at their meeting on 18th November, Community leaders agreed to step up existing aid, and to look at further ways in which we might help.
With our Community partners, we are ready to consider similar assistance for the GDR. But as Chancellor Kohl has made clear, an essential precondition must be thoroughgoing reform, including free elections. Much ink has been expended on the implications for Germany, and for Europe as a whole, of the recent changes in the GDR. We remain of the view, in the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, that real and permanent stability in Europe will be difficult to achieve so long as the German nation is divided against its will.
For now, however, the priority is the achievement of full democracy in the GDR. Until that is achieved, the people of the GDR cannot choose whether or not freely to exercise their right to self-determination. We are conscious of our legal, political and moral responsibilities towards the German people as a whole. But we must look to present priorities, and allow the future to take shape on that basis.
We apply that same rule to the development of the European Community, which is central to our conception of Britain's economic security. It is a sound and realistic rule. In the Community we have a clear and agreed priority in the shape of the single market programme. Completion of the single market in 1992 will do more to strengthen Europe's economic security and political credibility than any step undertaken since the signature of the Rome Treaty.
Britain is fully committed to the single market programme, and we welcome the excellent progress achieved so far. Our record on implementing agreed single market measures is exemplary. Of 68 measures 28 now supposed to be in force in Community countries, we have put into effect 65. By contrast, France, the next best performer, still has nine to go, while Italy brings up the rear with 33. Britain was the only major member state last year not referred to the European Court of Justice to answer any alleged treaty infraction. Our commitment to the competitive principle of the single market is reflected, too, in the level of our industrial subsidies —lower than any of our major partners. For example, state aids to manufacturing industry in the UK are now one-eighth of comparable Italian aid.
A lively debate is now taking place about the future evolution of the Community. We welcome that debate. But we see its purpose in terms of exploring possibilities, and not of fixing upon ambitious and unrealistic blueprints and timescales for the Community's development. We do not believe that it is sensible to plan future stages in that development without seeing how those immediately before us work out in practice. Attempts to force the pace can only be divisive and damaging for the Community as a whole. That assessment lies at the core of our objection to Stages 2 and 3 of the Delors plan for economic and monetary union in the Community.
We are committed to Stage 1, and have stated that we shall join the exchange rate mechanism. We have set out the factors which will determine the moment when we do so. But we believe that thorough discussion of what might follow Stage 1 is required. The Delors plan offers one way forward. We have suggested an alternative, evolutionary approach which makes full allowance for market forces and the principle of subsidiarity. This is now for detailed consideration.
We believe that the same liberalising principles and respect for national practices should govern Community attitudes in the social sphere. The agreed Community priority here is job creation, an area in which the UK's record has been outstanding in recent years. But the plain fact, underscored by our own experience, is that you do not create jobs, or strengthen economic security, by imposing on business compulsory requirements which damage its flexibility, efficiency and competitiveness. There will be a full discussion of these matters, along with events in Eastern Europe, at the Strasbourg Council next month.
I have stressed that the Community must remain open to the East. But we hope that the single market will work as a generator for propserity across Europe. Particular attention must be paid to strengthening links with EFTA, the Community's largest trading partner. We look forward to further progress in this area following the EC/EFTA ministerial meeting on 19th December.
More widely, it is important for Europe to find economic security as an integral part of the global trading community. We still have work to do to reassure our main trading partners on this score, and in particular to achieve a successful conclusion to the GATT Uruguay Round. Events in both halves of our Continent are making Europe's future, and with it Britain's future, more secure. We shall 29 continue to pursue policies designed to strengthen this encouraging trend.
The Government's responsibility to assure a secure and stable future for the people of this country is matched by a similar responsibility towards the peoples of Britain's dependent territories. We have made great progress in exercising this responsibility on behalf of the people of the Falkland Islands. Without compromising our commitment to respect their desire to remain under British sovereignty, we have agreed important steps towards a more normal relationship with Argentina.
We are also continuing to do all we can to reassure the people of Hong Kong about their future. The tragic events in China last June, so out of step with trends elsewhere in the Communist world, delivered a major blow to Hong Kong's confidence and sense of security. That is a matter of direct concern to the Government. So far as China is concerned, we have with our Western partners made clear that a full return to normal relations will only be possible when the Chinese authorities have shown that they are ready to return to the path of genuine reform. But we accept that it would be in no one's interest, least of all that of the people of Hong Kong, to drive China into isolation. The work of the Joint Liaison Group is continuing. Both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to the Joint Declaration which remains, in the words of the Foreign Affairs Committee report,the best and surest Treaty base for the future of Hong Kong".It is important that China should demonstrate that commitment in practice. The Chinese authorities have a massive stake in Hong Kong's continuing success, both economically and politically. We shall continue to emphasise to them how closely their self-interest depends upon the way they approach these issues. As part of our efforts to restore confidence, we are first working on a scheme of assurances to give key people, in both the public and private sectors, the confidence to remain in Hong Kong. We hope to announce details of that scheme within the next few months.
Secondly, we are reviewing the pace of democratisation in Hong Kong. Our paramount concern here is to ensure that decisions taken are the right ones, reflecting the wishes of the community as a whole. We shall do nothing that prejudges the outcome of discussions in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, we expect a Bill of Rights to be published by the Hong Kong Government before the end of the year.
Thirdly, we are promoting, and shall continue to promote, support for Hong Kong's future stability and prosperity among our friends and partners. This support is vital if Hong Kong is to maintain its status as an international and regional economic powerhouse. The economic interests of third countries in Hong Kong mean that they have a natural interest in Hong Kong's future. We are content to be judged by our actions. They reflect a substantial and undiminished commitment to Hong Kong, maintained in good faith, and implemented in every possible way, along every possible channel.
This is a difficult time for Hong Kong. It is made no easier by the presence in the territory of almost 30 57,000 Vietnamese boat people, who are taxing its resources to the limit. Over half have arrived this year. Nearly 90 per cent. of those now arriving are unlikely to qualify as refugees.
Are we to suppose, if nothing is done, that the dimensions of this human tragedy will subside? They will not. They will continue to grow. Thousands of people, who cannot be classed as genuine refugees, are living in crowded and temporary accommodation because no homes can be found for them outside their own country, in Hong Kong or anywhere else. Unless action is taken, more will continue to arrive, to be disappointed and wretched in their turn. The only humane solution, as the international community has recognised, is for those who are not genuine refugees to return to Vietnam. The Government are seeking assurances from the Vietnamese authorities that those who are returned will be properly and fairly treated, and that their conditions will be adequately monitored. We are ready to consider assistance with reintegration.
As my right honourable friend the former Foreign Secretary said in another place, it is soon going to be necessary to tackle the very thorny question of involuntary repatriation. Noble Lords will appreciate that a decision on this would not be easy for any government to take. It will not be taken lightly; but it must be taken in the light of what has already been agreed in principle by the international community, and in the absence of any realistic alternative.
The problems of Hong Kong and the Vietnamese boat people place a special responsibility upon Britain, although they are also of concern to the international community as a whole; but there are other problems, international in their scope, where this country's involvement is more indirect. Nevertheless, the Government believe that our contribution to solving those problems should be active and constructive, in the interests of more stable international relations as a whole.
As the decade draws to its close, many long-standing conflicts remain on the international agenda. Our consistent, patient approach is to combine with our friends and partners in seeking movement, and to build on movement when it is achieved. Diplomacy by ratchet is a sound philosophy where the issues are often intractable. Nowhere is that more true than in the Middle East. We believe that only a freely negotiated settlement, ideally within the framework of an international conference, is compatible both with Israel's legitimate security interests and the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations to self-determination.
There has been some movement. We have welcomed the PLO's renunciation of terrorism and recognition of Israel's right to exist. Egyptian efforts, which we support, have brought closer the prospect of talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives. We call on Israel now not to place obstacles in the way of those talks, and to contribute to a climate conducive to progress by exercising restraint in the occupied territories.
For years Lebanon appeared, in the words of Walid Jumblatt, to be a country where even the law 31 of the jungle had broken down. Now there are some grounds for hope. Lebanon has a legitimate leader once more. We welcome the Lebanese Parliament's ratification of the Taif agreement, and its election of President Moawab. We shall continue to support the efforts of the Arab league, and all Lebanese of goodwill, to achieve a settlement that restores Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and unity in conditions of national reconciliation. We shall also continue to explore every possible avenue, and exert every possible pressure, to secure the release of our hostages in Lebanon; but we remain firm in our refusal to make concessions to terrorist kidnappers.
In the Middle East, peaceful change may remain a matter of progress by degrees; but in Namibia, we see it as a fully-fledged reality. Supporters of democracy everywhere will have been heartened by the great success of the recent elections, in which 97 per cent. of Namibians voted. The Government consistently, and often in the face of much ill-judged criticism, supported the US-led negotiations which permitted implementation of the UN plan for Namibia to commence, and this moment to be reached. We gave moral and material support to the UN role in the run-up to the elections. We shall maintain that support as the process of negotiation between the Namibian parties to agree a new constitution begins. The establishment of stable democracy in Namibia will be good for the security and stability of the region as a whole; but lasting stability will require change and genuine democracy in South Africa.
President de Klerk has indicated that he accepts the need for change. We welcome the steps that he has taken since his election to release prominent detainees, permit greater freedom of expression, establish a dialogue with Church leaders and, most recently, towards the abolition of the Separate Amenities Act. Those moves are a beginning; but they must lead on to peaceful negotiations with genuine representatives of the black majority that will allow South African society to be transformed. We shall continue to urge the South African Government to advance in that direction. In the meantime, we shall maintain our opposition to additional, punitive sanctions which would serve only to delay the change we desire, and to inflict poverty and hardship on those whom we most wish to help.
The year 1989 may justly be called the year in which the troops went home, in many parts of the world. Cubans are withdrawing from Angola as the South Africans leave Namibia. Soviet troops have left Afghanistan, and Vietnamese combat troops, Camboida; but in both those countries, unrepresentative governments remain in place as the residue of external intervention and occupation. Lasting security for both countries lies in genuine self-determination for their peoples.
The Khmer Rouge's history of atrocities and mass murder in Cambodia adds a special dimension of horror to that problem. Our recent statements in Parliament and in the UN, together with the statement of the French presidency in the recent UN debate, underlined our total rejection of the Khmer 32 Rouge. With our friends and partners we have reflected that view through changes to the language of the relevant resolution of the General Assembly. We remain committed to a comprehensive political settlement that reflects the wishes of the Cambodian people. A military solution is not acceptable. Meanwhile we continue to do all we can to alleviate the suffering of those caught up in that tragic conflict. We are therefore increasing our humanitarian aid, channelled through the UN and non-governmental organisations. In that connection, two officials, one from our embassy in Bangkok and the other from the ODA, will shortly be visiting Phnom Penh to report on the situation at first hand.
There has been some criticism that the Government's policy has not adjusted sufficiently to take account of the present situation in Cambodia. I would reply that we have adjusted it as far as we believe to be right. We shall keep our policy under review and seek to restore the momentum of diplomatic negotiation to achieve a settlement. We shall continue to play a full part in the international effort to achieve peace and reconciliation in Cambodia, including any reconvened session of the Paris conference.
Peace and reconciliation are also urgently needed in Central America. Recent events are jeopardising the Esquipulas peace process. We deplore the Nicaraguan decision to end the ceasefire with the Contras, and the decision of the FMLN in El Salvador to break off dialogue and launch an armed offensive. Hundreds of civilians in San Salvador, including tragically the British journalist David Blundy, have died as a result. The brutal murders of six Jesuit priests during the renewed violence have shocked the world. We join with the US in calling on the Government of El Salvador to establish the circumstances of those murders, and to bring the killers to justice.
Violence begets violence, and the innocent, and ultimately democracy itself, are the victims. We urge the governments concerned to abide by their commitments under the Esquipulas agreements, and the insurgent forces to accept dialogue and negotiations. There is no other way in which the security of the region and its peoples may be assured.
I have argued that the Government are actively engaged in working to enhance regional security. We are also facing up to the challenge posed to the security of our planet itself by the threats to our global environment. That is a challenge no country can side-step. Britain has led in pressing for such co-operation, and in initiating action in specific areas. There will be time to address these matters at greater length in your Lordships' debate next week.
I will simply recall that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister described what we are doing in her address to the United Nations General Assembly on 8th November. For example, she announced the establishment in Britain of a new climate change prediction centre, and further funding for the management and conservation of tropical forests —a valuable carbon storehouse and a priceless genetic library. Britain is making a major contribution to global efforts in this important area, and will continue to do so.
33 I have ranged widely in my speech —I hope not too widely for your Lordships' legendary forbearance. My purpose has been to demonstrate the Government's consistent and determined pursuit of this country's security interests, in the broad sense I described at the outset. We have missed no opportunities. We have shirked no challenges, however difficult or far-reaching their implications. We have stood by policies we believe to be right —sound and realistic policies; policies we have sought to base on the values for which we stand: freedom, economic liberalism, and the rule of law.
My Lords, at the end of an historic year and an eventful decade, Britain's stock is high. We are active and engaged across the range of issues facing our foreign policy. We stand by a record of commitment and success. That is our achievement, and I commend it to your Lordships.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, on behalf of the whole House, perhaps I may congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, on his first speech as Foreign Office Minister in this House and wish him well in this important office. He has given us a comprehensive view of government policy and I shall try to deal with some of the main points he raised as I proceed.
As the noble Lord has said, our debate takes place during the most remarkable events in post-war history. In a short space of three weeks, a revolution has occurred in East Germany which has fractured the fabric of a political system which most people believed would survive for many years to come. The Berlin Wall, the grim symbol of a divided Europe, has crumbled and free elections have been promised in East Germany. After decades of oppression, people have breathed the air of freedom and all of those of us who enjoy freedom have rejoiced.
The word "historic" is sometimes overused, but I think that we would all agree that we have indeed witnessed historic events. Television has brought them into our homes; we have seen the tears of reunited families and the wonder in the eyes of those who have walked through gates which have been closed to them for over 40 years.
So far, and inevitably, we have been almost incredulous spectators. But we must react to these great events, with urgency, common sense and good will. Our reactions must take into account the implications of the events in Germany and also those in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, for NATO and our defence commitments. We must listen carefully about the problems implicit in the debate about the possible unification of Germany.
It is against this background that we and our partners must do all we can to encourage the development of free institutions in East Germany and to ensure that, above all else, West Germany remains firmly and happily within the European Community. There is no comfort for anyone in the destabilisation of Warsaw Pact countries, or of areas of the Soviet Union itself. The consequences of that would be unpredictable.
34 For we do not want to see history repeating itself in the Balkanisation of Eastern Europe, in growing ethnic and territorial disputes or the re-emergence of the so-called "German threat". My immediate reaction is to refuse to regard this as a threat because I see the German leaders and people as committed to democracy at present. However, the existence of a reunited Germany of 80 million people, with massive economic power, would be a deeply significant development. But that is not likely to be an immediate prospect, and I know that all these matters are very much in the minds of noble Lords on all sides of the House.
The great question is how the West and the Soviet Union should respond to this tremendous challenge. We must certainly learn from the lessons of the history of the first decades of this century. The West should first formulate an aid package for Eastern Europe, commensurate with the challenge. The people of this country would prefer to support an aid programme which would make for a stable and therefore peaceful Europe than to put up the shutters and to hope for the best.
The noble Lord has referred to the weekend Summit. We on this side welcome President Mitterrand's initiative in calling it. We are glad that the meeting agreed, without dissent, to give its full support to reform in Eastern Europe and said that the Community should now prepare to forge new links with the emerging democracies in the Soviet bloc. We welcome the fact that the Prime Minister subscribed to this unanimity, so essential at this time, and that she supported urgent aid for Poland. For several reasons, Poland is a crucial cornerstone in a democratic structure for Eastern Europe and I welcome the assurances about Poland which the noble Lord gave in his speech.
Like the noble Lord, we also welcome the forthcoming Summit meeting of President Bush and Mr. Gorbachev and wish them great success. There could not be a more opportune moment to exchange views about the future of Eastern Europe and they will, I feel sure, show a willingness to co-operate with the Community in seeking firm and sensible solutions.
I noted that one observer has asked whether events will outstrip the capabilities of governments, East and West, to deal with them. It is a key question. Her Majesty's Government must play their full part in ensuring that the challenge is met. Winning freedom is one thing, preserving freedom is another.
We note that the Prime Minister is to meet President Bush in two days' time and I hope that we as a country will not take a meek stance that the future of Europe is a matter for the superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, alone. With our partners, we should play a full and equal part in finding and implementing solutions. The Paris Summit recognised this last weekend. That is not to underestimate the superpowers in any way, but I believe that we must get the balance right. Nor is this the time to begin to talk about dismantling NATO, although there is much talk about the reduction of United States forces in Europe. We have noted, for example, what Mr. Dick Cheney, the United States Defence Secretary, has said about this.
35 However, what can and what should emerge from all these developments is a readiness to pursue disarmament negotiations with greater urgency and greater hope of success. There is, for example, a case now for adding short-range nuclear weapons to the agenda of the Vienna talks. These and other practical matters relating to defence will be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Irving when he speaks at the end of the debate.
Although change was then afoot, when we last debated foreign affairs in this House we did not anticipate that events would have marched as rapidly as they have by today. Taking the long view, we have to admit, and indeed the world has to admit, that it is the steadfast firmness of the Western democracies, with NATO as their bulwark, which has slowly turned the tide of history. But it must also be acknowledged that the man more immediately responsible for the change —the catalyst which triggered the change —is President Gorbachev himself. It is the radical and far-reaching changes which he has engineered in Russia that we now see reflected in events in East Germany, Poland and elsewhere. All of us have noted carefully the comments which he has made about these changes over the past few days. He has shown great courage, skill and imagination in guiding the Soviet Union thus far. But he has immense obstacles to overcome, not least the economic regeneration of his own country. If he survives and succeeds, he must emerge as one of the great figures of history.
Mr. Gorbachev said recently:It is time to recognise that the world today does not consist of two mutually exclusive civilisations. It is one common civilisation in which human values and freedom of choice have primacy".That takes us a world away from Stalin and Brezhnev. He said he welcomed events in East Germany, but he then went on to make some reservations, notably about the unification of Germany and the continuance of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. That we can understand. Although we and our allies are committed to the aim of a united Germany, we also believe that it is not negotiable until a democratic government is established there. Incidentally, we must also remember that Mr. Gorbachev remains a communist. He is a different kind of communist, more liberal, less doctrinaire and less embedded in the past, but he is not about to apply for membership of the London Stock Exchange or the Carlton Club.
It is clear that the most complex problems lie ahead. However, this country has the overriding duty to play an active and constructive role with our partners in the European Community and in NATO to help to resolve them. At no time in the history of Europe have the opportunities been greater than they are today. President Bush and Mr. Gorbachev must grasp these opportunities and we, with the Community, must urge and encourage them to do so. The penalty for not taking the opportunity could be disastrous for Europe and the world.
Although Europe is predominantly in our minds, we are concerned with other world problems which are mentioned in the gracious Speech and which 36 were also covered by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, in his speech. The Prime Minister's statement following the Commonwealth Conference in Kuala Lumpur gave us the opportunity to express our views on the Government's performance there. We may disagree with the Government's reluctance to pursue a decisive policy towards South Africa, but I agree with the remarks of the noble Lord; namely, that change is taking place there since Mr. de Klerk took office. Eight prominent ANC leaders including Mr. Sisulu have been released and the policing of rallies has been less brutal. Further, the beaches formerly reserved for whites have been opened to the black population. However, we must wait to see whether these are the first steps in a real move towards freedom and the dismantling of apartheid.
For we cannot forget that the ANC is still banned in South Africa, that Nelson Mandela is still in prison, that thousands are detained without trial and that the press is severely restricted. At this moment I regret to say that apartheid is still a harsh reality in South Africa. I must therefore urge the Government to rethink their attitude towards sanctions once again, not only because it is inconsistent with their attitude towards sanctions against other countries and not only because it leaves us isolated in the Commonwealth on a basis of 48 to one, but also because it is totally inconsistent in my estimation to give a joyous welcome to the eruption of freedom in Eastern Europe while refusing to join more positively in the effort to bring freedom to the native population of South Africa.
We do not always appreciate the widespread destabilisation which has occurred in South Africa, but the report of the Catholic Institute of International Relations brought that home forcefully to me when I read it a few days ago. The report estimates that since 1980 over a million people have been killed in southern Africa and damage totalling 35 billion US dollars has been suffered by the six neighbouring states. The fact is that political reform in South Africa is the essential solution to the acute problems of the region of southern Africa as a whole. I know the whole House will wish Namibia well, as did the Minister, under her newly elected government. Perhaps the Minister who is to reply will give some indication of the assistance we are proposing to give Namibia at this crucial time in her history.
As the Minister mentioned, in the Far East Hong Kong and Cambodia are very much in our minds. The Minister spoke of our commitment to the Joint Declaration. However, we must also be aware of the concern in Hong Kong about the draft Basic Law, and about democratisation and the government's proposals about elections next year. There is concern also about the right of abode and other matters. I hope it will be possible for the House to have a full debate on Hong Kong and the problems of the boat people —the Minister referred to them —in the near future.
On Cambodia, we have expressed our concern that Khmer Rouge dominates the Cambodian Mission to the United Nations. It is difficult to contemplate a more bizarre arrangement. I note what the Minister 37 said, but the allegation that the SAS has been training troops which are part of the so-called national army dominated by Khmer Rouge is also disquieting. The Minister who is to reply will help the House if he makes a comment on that. Is there any truth in the allegation that the SAS has given this assistance on the authority of the Government?
The Minister will have noted that the gracious Speech refers to a,search for a settlement in Cambodia".What precisely does that mean? Helping to train the so-called national army will certainly not lead to a peaceful settlement. The ordinary people of Cambodia are deeply worried at this time about what may happen if a reasonable democratic government is not established and sustained there.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, also referred to the problems of Latin and Central America. I hope I may suggest to the Minister that, if our speeches are not to be too long, that issue also deserves a separate debate. Like the Minister, however, we also deeply regret the news of the deaths of David Blundy, who was a most able and popular foreign correspondent, and of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador where a wicked and unnecessary civil war is going on. The only ray of light seemed to me to come from the Central American conference held in Honduras in August. Perhaps the Minister who is to reply will give the Government's reaction to the conclusions of the conference, especially in view of our close interests in that area.
It has often been said by noble Lords in our debates over the past few years that a third world war will not break out in Europe but at some flashpoint elsewhere. The experts always point to the Middle East as the most likely flashpoint. As the Minister himself indicated, that is not surprising. All I propose to say in this debate is that it is disappointing to know that the efforts to reach a settlement on three fronts in the area have so far failed. President Mubarak's 10-point peace plan based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338 has made no progress. The effort of the US and Egypt to set up a Palestinian delegation acceptable to all parties has also come to a halt.
There is, however, a strong belief that the US administration is determined to pursue its initiative. Again, I shall be grateful if the Minister who is to reply will tell us how the Government react to this and whether they support the United States. What, if any, are the results of the recent talks between Mr. Shamir and President Bush? Again, the so-called national dialogue in the Lebanon and the charter for national reconciliation drafted by Lebanese MPs have made no progress. It is a sad and depressing scene. One is more and more driven to the conclusion that a strong and stable Europe could best provide a foundation for world peace.
Britain must work through the United Nations and through the Commonwealth, but it is here in Europe and through the Community that we can make our greatest contribution. As one views the world scene, one is driven more and more inescapably to that conclusion. I note what the Minister said about the European single market and 38 its importance. My noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel will speak on that subject when he opens the debate from this side of the House next Tuesday.
Our duty to the next generation is to ensure that we do not lose the opportunity to turn the revolution of 1989 in the direction of a stable democracy and towards a stable Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic. That is clearly the dream of the people of the West and the East. We shall strongly support the Government in every effort they make, in every sacrifice if necessary, and in every enterprise on which they embark to realise that dream.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I must first apologise and explain that owing to a long-standing commitment I shall have to leave before the end of the debate, but I hope very much to return before it is completed.
I too should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, on his speech today in introducing the debate. In their speeches both he and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, ranged widely over the world. However, as there are 33 speakers to succeed me today I am sure that the House will be grateful to me if I do not imitate the noble Lords, no matter how much I admire the way in which they performed their duties. I therefore propose to concentrate on a much more limited field than my two predecessors. However, I join the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in hoping that we shall have an opportunity soon for a full debate on Hong Kong and to pursue the matter of Cambodia, which is a cause of great anxiety among many people at this time.
The defence implications of the debate will be dealt with from these Benches by my noble friend Lord Mayhew.
Listening to the words of the Queen's Speech and relecting on the events of the last few months and the policy of Her Majesty's Government over the past few years, it seems to me that if one is to limit the field over which one will range it is impossible to avoid as the central issue of the debate this country's relations with Europe. That means among other things this country's relations with the European Community. It also means the European Community's relations with the wider Europe of which we are all members and, in particular, as has already been mentioned, with Eastern and Central Europe where our gaze must be and has been fixed these past few months with a mixture of excitement and celebration and an element of apprehension.
We can share with the Prime Minister her appreciation of the immense importance of the events taking place in that part of the world. We can support wholeheartedly her view that, whatever our response to those events, it must not be and it must not be perceived to be an attempt to dissolve the Warsaw Pact. It must not appear to be in any sense a threat to the security of the USSR.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, indicated, the revolution which we are witnessing was initiated by President Gorbachev. The links 39 between the events in Eastern and Central Europe and the USSR are very close. The success of President Gorbachev is closely linked with the success of those revolutions. But those revolutions which we are witnessing, the collapse of an ideology, the collapse of an empire and a political system, mean among other things that a huge geographical area is in the midst of a condition of confusion, flux and instablility which inevitably brings with it dangers. Secondly, it means that the geographical and political expression which was buried at Yalta —Central Europe —has been exhumed. Thirdly, as has been said already, it means that "the German problem", as it used to be called, is with us once more.
I do not say that reunification is inevitable. All I say is that it is on the cards. It is no good saying, as some people have said, that it is not on the agenda. Reports from Washington this morning in the Independent state that Mr. Genscher made it clear to President Bush that he considered East and West Germany one nation awaiting unity. He also said:There is not one capitalist nation or one socialist nation. There is one German nation".So the prospect of German reunification is on the agenda and is a possibility that we have to consider most seriously.
That is where the European Community came in. After all, the motive which inspired the European Community was to bind Germany indissolubly within Western Europe by political and economic links, and to balance German size, population, economic and potential military power with the populations, economic strength and military power of France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Benelux.
Hence the possibility of a reunified Germany, which alarms the French and scares the wits out of the Poles (and who should blame them!), makes the consolidation of Germany within the European Community —a European Community in which the United Kingdom must play a full and not a semi-detached part (in the phrase of Sir Leon Brittan)—a matter of the utmost importance. It means that the European Community's political and economic institutions need further development and reinforcement to meet that new, prospective challenge. The idea that such developments should be postponed while Eastern and Central European issues are sorted out is, to my mind, the very reverse of the truth.
As we saw last weekend, the best instrument for helping Poland, Hungary, possibly Czechoslovakia in the future, and the GDR, and the best instrument for avoiding the dangers of instability, is the European Community acting as a community. I draw the attention of the House to the statement in the Financial Times yesterday that:With the summit meeting of the Twelve on Saturday evening the European Community has taken on a new political stature as an actor on the world stage. The support which the heads of government have agreed to give to political reform … can only reinforce the Community's role in any future political dialogue with the east".Not only have we seen the Community acting in unity and producing a united policy towards the 40 East, but it seems to me that it is the first occasion on which it has asserted its leading responsibility towards Eastern Europe. That is something that Presidents Bush and Gorbachev will have to take into account in Malta. That has been possible because the Community is not simply another association of nations, another inter-governmental organisation, but a community in which the members have pooled certain elements of their sovereignty and which, by acting as a community, can influence events in the multipolar world in which we now live.
Hence, one can only deplore the semi-detached role which this country has played and the isolation to which it has led. One can only disagree with the Prime Minister's astonishing statement yesterday that:isolation is … leadership, and winning the argument". [Official Report, Commons, 21/11/89: col. 23.]The isolated leader without any troops is in an extremely vulnerable position. When in 1940 this country was fully isolated it was in desperate straits until it had some more friends.
Nor is politics simply about winning arguments; it is more about getting one's own way.
Isolation is not the best way of getting one's own way. The Prime Minister's confrontational approach of "No, never" rather than "Yes, but" has not only isolated this country, but appears to be isolating her from many of her former colleagues. In recent weeks not only Mr. Heseltine, Sir Leon Brittan and Mr. Lawson, but also the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, have each demanded from the Government a more forward stance in relation to the European Community, and in particular in respect of the ERM.
We cannot for a fourth time see Europe develop in our absence. We must not use the revolution in Eastern Europe to excuse delaying further development of the European Community. On the contrary, the revolution in Eastern Europe underlines the need for building a strong and stable Community in the West in a world of flux and change. This country has a part to play in that important task. It has a responsibility to fulfil and we dare not miss that opportunity once more. We must seize it with both hands.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
My Lords, the commitment of Her Majesty's Government to the preservation of peace with freedom and justice, articulated in the gracious Speech, must surely be welcome by all in your Lordships' House. Uppermost in our minds as we reflect upon that peace must be the astonishing events in Eastern Europe, events which continue to surprise and move us daily. But there are other areas of the world where the course of events continues to trouble us. It is about two such areas that I should like to speak this afternoon.
The first area is El Salvador. We were shocked at the recent news of the murder of six Jesuit priests who were leading teachers in the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. There are now reports that the Anglican Episcopal Church is also under threat. 41 Nineteen members of that Church have been detained and their whereabouts are not known. A press release today from the Archbishop of Canterbury's office expresses the concern that we feel for them. I press the Government to make urgent inquiries about what has happened to them. We are concerned to know their whereabouts and to be assured of their safety, and concerned that pressure should be brought to bear to ensure their release.
The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States has written to the President of El Salvador, and the Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, one of whose citizens has been detained, has requested his government to call for accountability from the Government of El Salvador for those acts. Officially it is denied that the El Salvador National Guard is involved, but that does not absolve the El Salvador Government from responsibility for ensuring the safety and release of those people.
However, it is about another part of the world that I wish chiefly to speak this afternoon —the strife-torn and devastated country of Cambodia. The Government have committed themselves to play their part in the search for a settlement in Cambodia. I welcome the commitment given in the gracious Speech and repeated by the Minister in opening the debate this afternoon. I should like to add my congratulations to those already expressed to the Minister by the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Bonham-Carter, on the fine opening that he gave to our debate.
The search for a settlement in Cambodia is undertaken in the context of a country ruined first by the United States bombing during the Vietnam war and then, more completely, by the repressive, violent and barbaric regime of the Khmer Rouge under its inhumane and notorious leader, Pol Pot. Noble Lords need no reminding of the horrors of that regime, and if I recall them it is only in order to express the sense of revulsion and outrage which we felt when first the news of Cambodia's suffering under Pol Pot reached Europe.
I well remember the disbelief with which we heard this story. It was a story not merely of mass execution and murder but of the systematic destruction of dams and canals, of roads and markets; the systematic closing of hospitals and schools; the desecration of temples and holy places; the destruction of all that made possible an ordered and settled existence. Those who were not killed —and between 1 million and 2 million were said to be killed —were left desperately clinging to life, starved and overworked, without the means to sustain even the vestiges of a normal life. When we heard that story, many of us recalled another devastation —that perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the holocaust. It seemed to us that here was another grim addition to the list of crimes against humanity, for we were all diminished in our humanity by those catastrophic and traumatic events brought about by a savage and inhumane regime.
When the Khmer Rouge were ousted by the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, whatever our feelings about the politics of the situation we surely felt that a scourge had been removed from the Cambodian 42 people and that never again would they suffer under Pol Pot. Yet today it seems that the unthinkable might be about to happen. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are involved in a civil war against the existing government of Hun Sen. Moreover, they are involved with the apparent legitimacy of a share in the coalition which holds the Cambodian seat at the United Nations and of being named as participants in a possible interim government which the United Nations would like to see established in Cambodia. That is despite the frequent condemnations by the Government and many others of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and the repeated intention that the Khmer Rouge must never again be allowed to rule in Cambodia —an intention repeated by the Minister in opening the debate.
But the people of Cambodia today are frightened —indeed terrified —that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge may once again come to power. It seems that events are drifting and that that is happening because there is a gap between the words and the deeds, between the intentions expressed and the actions to bring those intentions to reality. The reason for that gap is clear. It is the hostility towards the Vietnamese invasion of and rule within Cambodia —a hostility which continues to be projected on to the present government of Hun Sen despite the Vietnamese withdrawal from the country.
The result of that hostility is the continuing support for the coalition's seat at the United Nations, which means that it is the killers who are representing their victims. From that follows the denial of development aid from the United Nations to a desperately needy country —the only third world country not to receive such United Nations aid. It results in the support given in aid to the border camps —support which will inevitably reach the Khmer Rouge forces. It results in the continuing supply of arms from China to the coalition forces under Prince Sihanouk—forces which include the Khmer Rouge.
I welcome the recent announcement by the Foreign Secretary which indicates a change in the Government's policy towards Cambodia. That includes the sending of a diplomatic mission to Cambodia, the provision of aid through United Nations and development agencies to Cambodia and the acknowledgment of the Vietnamese withdrawal from that country.
But the major objectives have still not been met. Those must surely be, first, the isolation of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from the other parties in the coalition so that the parties led by Prince Sihanouk and the former Prime Minister, Son Sann, may again become involved in Cambodia without any fear of a Khmer Rouge return. Surely the major thrust of policy must be to ensure that the Khmer Rouge never again take part in the government of that country.
The second major objective must be the provision of that substantial aid which is needed through the United Nations. It is surely a nonsense that £13 million worth of aid is channelled to some 300,000 people in the border camps while £1 million is channelled to the 7 million population of the 43 country. As a consequence of that policy, 145 in every 1,000 children in Cambodia die before reaching their first birthday.
The chief concern of the Church in relation to Cambodia is not so much the political situation but the need and desire of the ordinary people of the country to rebuild their lives and their society. The Church's agencies wish to work in co-operation with them to enable that to happen but it cannot happen without a proper political framework. It is for that reason that I, a layman in the world of politics, dare to suggest some political moves which, in the Church's view, might enable an ordered society with space for personal fulfilment to be sustained.
Such a policy would need to stop any supply of arms through Thailand to the coalition and at the same time any supply of arms to the present Hun Sen Government. It should bring about a United Nations supervised cease-fire. It should recognise the Hun Sen Government as the de facto government of the country and one which is beginning to be recognised as having accomplished some impressive achievements with slender resources. It should exclude the Khmer Rouge from any recognition as a participant in an interim government. It should enable the United Nations to prepare for supervised elections and it should press for the visit of a United Nations development programme mission to the country.
I accept that of those proposals the most contentious is the recognition of the Hun Sen Government. However, I quote some words the New York Times noted in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, which seemed to me to express the sentiments of many of us:The Hun Sen government still lacks legitimacy, but is clearly preferable to another round of Khmer Rouge killing.The article goes on to say that a Khmer Rouge involvement:before the vote guarantees that there will be no elections".This policy is hindered by the continuing presence of the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations within the coalition. The British Government are well placed, as the only Western power on the Security Council without a previous involvement in Cambodia's history, to press for such a policy and for the removal of the Khmer Rouge from any United Nations' recognition. It is clear not only that the people of Cambodia fear Pol Pot's return but that they have grounds for such fear. Recently a Christian Aid representative spent time in the country and returned with the report that many of the people whom she met were convinced that the Khmer Rouge were returning. It is to the voices and apprehensions of the people of Cambodia that we should listen at this grave and critical moment in their history.
§ 3.52 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate, whose speech I am glad to follow, said at the start that the main theme of this debate must inevitably be the events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. With his understanding, I shall return to that theme. It is not that I do not have a 44 great deal of sympathy with what he said about Cambodia. I spent a number of years in the 1960s trying to induce the Soviet Union to join with other countries to secure the neutralisation or non-alignment of the South-East Asian countries. The Americans were drawn into the problem and they lived to regret it bitterly, and I think that they will never want to intervene again in the land mass of Asia. So we have to realise the limitations of power in that area. Nevertheless, should the Khmer Rouge inherit the power, I am bound to say that I should feel very anxious for the Cambodian people. No doubt my noble friend who is to wind up the debate will have taken note of what the right reverend Prelate had to say.
Lately I heard a very experienced and distinguished American diplomat describe his country's view of Mr. Gorbachev's Russia and Eastern Europe as "seeing through a glass darkly". In his opening speech my noble friend Lord Brabazon used the analogy of the looking glass. We in Europe are closer geographically to the sea but the effect of Mr. Gorbachev's reforms —glasnost and perestroika—have been so convulsive economically, politically and socially, that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to point a clear way ahead. That is doubtless the reason why the two men who perhaps matter most in this context of East-West relations —President Bush and President Gorbachev —have decided to meet without an agenda and to feel their way ahead in the hope of discovering scope for joint action in relation to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The decision may be undramatic but I think that it is infinitely wise at this stage.
Chancellor Kohl and the Prime Minister of East Germany, the two principals on the continent of Europe, have decided to follow that pattern. Following the dramatic exodus from East Germany there was speculation about the prospects of a rapidly united Germany. I believe that second thoughts were wiser in insisting that the priority, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said, must be to achieve democratic elections in East Germany and to design a constitution and institutional machinery which will carry the democratic responsibilities which they hope to achieve.
There has been an explosive revolution and revulsion expressed by millions against the demoralising philosophy and practice of communism. Understandably that has been accompanied by waves of euphoria in anticipation of the freedoms of which those people of Eastern Europe have been deprived for so long. But now for those countries in Eastern Europe hard and calculating decisions lie ahead. The first and most daunting of them all is whether any kind of power-sharing with the Communists is possible or indeed desirable. The Communists are clearly reluctant to concede power and it may well be that a coalition between people desiring freedom and the Communists who have so far held the power is a contradiction in terms.
I think that it is quite impossible for anybody outside Eastern Europe to help very much in that respect. There will need to be the highest quality of 45 leadership and statesmanship shown in each of those countries because there is no common blueprint which can be applied to all. We hope that that leadership and statesmanship will be forthcoming if they are to carry through successfully the months and possibly years of economic and political reconstruction. We must pray that that will be so because the future stability of the whole of that vast area depends upon it.
With hindsight it has become clear that the main motive for Mr. Gorbachev's reforms was economic. The centrally directed economy of the Soviet Union and the satellite countries has reduced the area to bankruptcy. There is no prospect of recovery unless the Soviet Union is helped and assisted from outside by the capitalist world. An enormous programme of reconstruction will be needed and some are talking of a plan as ambitious as the Marshall Plan. I believe that a plan of such scope will probably be necessary.
If Mr. Gorbachev's reforms are to show results —which surely is strongly in the interests of the Western democracies —I think that something on the scale of a Marshall Plan of economic aid will be required. But that concept would undoubtedly be much more acceptable to the Western capitalist world if Mr. Gorbachev could lift the menacing cloud which has hung over Europe for decades by reducing the conventional forces of weaponry in the Warsaw Pact to a point where the threat of aggression would be seen to be removed. I believe that that would make the whole difference to the situation.
The concept of hard cash for security, put in the way in which I have put it, is perhaps rather crude, but I have a feeling that reality will demand it and it is the price that we have to pay if we are to gain a peace which is real and lasting.
I make the point because Mr. Gorbachev has now been in office as Prime Minister and President of his country for four and half years. Yet when I look at the statistics for Russian tanks in the Warsaw Pact compared with those in the NATO alliance, there is still an overwhelming strength on the Russian side. If he wished, Mr. Gorbachev could reduce that threat tomorrow.
I hope that the negotiations between the President of the United States and Mr. Gorbachev will be fruitful. However, there is one way in which success may perhaps be assured. It is the link between economic assistance for the Soviet Union, in which Mr. Gorbachev must be intensely interested, and disarmament, of which he has very great control.
I have no more to say today. I was brought up in the political school which held that if you had nothing to say, do not say it. With that I shall close. I hope that the debates in this House and in another place will clarify the situation and introduce us into a more hopeful age in which there really will be accommodation, and when confrontation between East and West will cease in favour of co-operation over a wide field.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Home, immediately in saying, as he did, that one of the greatest sources of trust 46 and confidence in Europe would be if there were a reduction in arms in the most heavily militarised part of the world —that is, in central Europe. Like the noble lord, I trust that the conventional forces negotiations that are now taking place in Vienna will be brought to a rapid conclusion. As he said, if the Soviet Union were to destroy the 30,000 tanks which it has put on the table now, and if the 320,000 Soviet troops were to be withdrawn —and these are both practical propositions —I believe that there would be a very strong case, quite apart from other motives, for a huge attempt to restore the economies of the Eastern European countries. They would not be restored by money alone. Indeed, the burdens that would be required are so great that I wonder whether it would be possible to devise a Marshall Plan, given some of the difficulties of the West; but the effort should be made. I strongly support what the noble Lord said.
I have no more to say about defence this afternoon except to put a related question to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, who will reply. He will remember our exchanges last week when the noble Baroness,Lady Jeger, asked a Question about war widows' pensions. I wrote to him afterwards on this matter. I believe that there is a great deal of interest in this House on the subject. I should be much obliged if when he winds up tonight he could say something further about the consideration that he promised. If he has something favourable to say, we shall all be delighted to wait to hear him, however late it is.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, on being selected as the mover of the humble Address to Her Majesty. If I may say so, he is an old friend. Like many others, I have always admired his modesty, unselfishness and sense of public obligation. Admittedly, he is led astray from time to time. He had some odd words to say about the social charter yesterday. But I have no doubt that his good sense will, as always, return him to the straight and narrow path in due course.
I should like to say a word about the phrase which was used by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, who said so much with which I agree. He asked: will events outstrip our capacity to manage them? I should like to put one or two thoughts before the House about the way in which we might strive to keep control in what is, I utterly agree, a gathering crescendo of change.
Until now the cold war, together with Moscow's iron grip on the satellite countries, have kept many of Europe's ancient feuds and antagonisms in the deep freeze. The Brezhnev doctrine proclaimed the Soviet Union's right to intervene in the internal affairs of the satellite countries if the communist hegemony was challenged; and it did not hesitate to do so. Mr. Gorbachev has now withdrawn from that position. Each country, he says, is free to go its own way. We give three cheers for that. But we should also remember that the ending of the doctrine could lead to a revival of some of these ancient and long sustained deep-rooted differences. The very freedom of speech and opinion that is a part of democracy can lead to an expression of a very ugly form of nationalism, to the fomenting of the grievances of the ethnic minorities, with the consequential unrest, 47 violence and even worse. We have seen some of it already. Indeed, some would say that there is a danger of the Balkanisation of Eastern Europe; for some of these countries, let us remember, do not have the long experience of the conventions and restraints that a democratic system imposes. So far as possible, Europe must manage these changes.
I agree with my noble friend that there is a danger amid the exhilarating and breath-taking events that we have all welcomed that the countervailing difficulties that may arise as communism recedes will demand the utmost attention from us. I make this tentative suggestion. One way would be for the whole of Europe to embark upon a properly structured dialogue to exchange ideas. I suggest that a possible forum would be to revive the conference on security and co-operation in Europe which took place largely during the time that I was Foreign Secretary between 1973 and 1975 and resulted in the Helsinki Agreements. Not enough attention is paid to the consequences of those agreements, which among other things gave a notable holding line for dissidents in Eastern Europe; a charter against which they could measure the deeds of their own rulers and which enabled them to expose the iniquities and shortcomings in some of the communist countries.
There were also many other issues in the Helsinki Agreements. But —I remind the House of the procedure —those discussions and negotiations were not intended to result in an international treaty. They ended in a series of political engagements and declarations unanimously agreed by the signatory states. Every European state took part, together with the United States, Canada, and of course the Soviet Union, but not the European Community. Now that another 13 or 14 years have expired, that omission could be remedied.
It has been largely forgotten that the final act of the conference was to declare that the member states should continue the multilateral processes initiated by the conference by proceeding to a thorough exchange of views on the deepening of their mutual relations, the improvement of security and the development of co-operation in Europe by organising meetings among their representatives to achieve those ends. That was the follow-up paragraph of the CSCE.
If there is, as I believe, a case for starting a structured dialogue on those issues, the CSCE would be a suitable forum in which to focus discussions on a debate which has already begun. I believe that the European Community should be a participant in its own right. It may lead to a greater understanding of the difficulties of each country and of its aspirations. In time it may lead to the discussion of Europe's future security arrangements. I realise that such a conference would need careful planning. However, I envisage that it could mark the beginning of the construction of a new concert of Europe whose prime aim would be to agree an acceptable political framework guaranteed by a credible security system.
I do not believe that such a conference would interfere with or slow down the current discussions between the European Community and East European or other states about association or other 48 arrangements. But it may lead to the emergence of a clearer picture of the future role of the European Community. I have no doubt that the Community will be the major force in Europe's development and the centre of gravity for all European states. But so far we are unclear about the development of its relations with EFTA, the neutrals or the non-aligned in Europe. They all exist. In the CSCE there is an instrument ready at hand to discuss the problems. It may lead —as I think is likely —to a closely co-operating group of states making up the core of the European Community and an outer ring of nations with fewer obligations. In that case, I trust that Britain will be inside the central core.
The gracious Speech assured us that the Government will work to complete the single market. However, as the Government understand, much more work on that is required. If Britain is to have much influence on the future shape of the European continent, I believe that the Prime Minister needs to change her style. At present it is not productive towards securing the influence of this country which is commensurate with our real strength. For example, we should now take the initiative in starting discussions on the necessary action to join the European exchange rate mechanism. We should play a full and constructive role in examining the Delors proposals. I agree that in some respect they are futuristic but they contain the seeds of the greater integration necessary for the welfare of our people and the prosperity of Europe as a whole.
Finally, I shall say a few words about the future of the two Germanies. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, whether we like it or not unification is on the agenda. The Federal Republic of Germany, and even more when united with East Germany, will form the dominant political and military power in Europe. We have always assumed, as have some noble Lords who have spoken today, that, given the opportunity, the people of East and West Germany will plump for unity. That may still be the case, although I am not as certain as I always was. However, in the changed face of Europe it will be for the two Germanies to decide; that is subject to certain conditions being fulfilled some of which have already been mentioned.
I point out to the House that, 44 years after the end of World War II, there is still no peace treaty between Germany and the allied powers; the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and France. That could turn out to be a cause of instability in the new emerging Europe. It is a most sensitive question which embodies not only the relations between the Soviet Union and the former allied powers but also the future borders of Germany. We must pick our way with care and choose our words carefully. Some people say, "Let sleeping dogs lie". However, as has been said, they are already awake.
I remind the House that the official position of the Bonn Government is that Germany's borders remain those of 1937; that is to say, reincorporating into Germany what is now partly Polish and partly Soviet territories. However, a proviso has been made by the Bonn Government, that that will remain its position unless and until a peace treaty leads to an 49 alteration. Western powers —ourselves and others —have gone along with that formulation but are by no means committed to it. Here lies a wicked prospect for discord.
I speak with due appreciation of the difficulties arising from what I shall say but it is easier to say by those not in government than by those in government. It would contribute to the stability of Europe if the Bonn Government declared that it finally, completely and unreservedly recognised the present de facto position of the border along the Oder-Neisse line as Germany's definitive border and it firmly renounced the 1937 borders. Incidentally, that would also help Mr. Gorbachev with many of his other difficulties.
There is a second condition to be fulfilled. Is it not an extraordinary development that, in the hope of saving its skin, the Communist Party in East Germany should find it necessary to promise free elections, independent courts, autonomous trade unions, a liberal press and independent scrutiny of the security forces? They have opposed all those things for many years. Those reforms must be carried through. I speak in the context of those who talk of the reunification of Germany. The emergency party conference, called by the Communist Party for 11th December in order to debate those proposals, will be a test of its good faith. But if free elections are held and a democratic government is established in East Germany, and if the definition of the borders in Germany is finally resolved, it will then become possible to discuss a peace treaty. I agree that there are several "ifs". As was said today by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, what was once inconceivable is now commonplace. Twelve months ago I would not have believed that what I have suggested this afternoon could swim into the public agenda. I believe that if it is not already there it will be upon us in a short time.
I wish to make clear that any attempt to unify the two Germanies in the absence of those two conditions will create massive insecurity. If unification is to occur, and does so as a result of the free choice of the German people, I submit to your Lordships that it must follow and not precede a peace treaty. Who should sign such a treaty? It will be necessary for the leaders of what will be two democratic states of Germany to do so. Joint signatures will help to stabilise their relations with each other. That will free the way for a decision to be taken by them as regards the two Germanies; that is whether they wish to proceed separately or together. It will lead to the withdrawal from Berlin of Soviet, American, British and French troops.
I do not believe that all that lies a long way ahead. I know that the Western powers have been nervous about discussing these matters but I do not hesitate to bring them before your Lordships. I am convinced that the settlement of the future of the two Germanies and their relations with their neighbours and the Soviet Union is the key element in the construction of a new concert of Europe.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, we are indeed privileged in this House to be able to listen to speeches such as 50 we have heard today from two highly distinguished and experienced Foreign Secretaries, with yet another Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, taking part, as are many others of your Lordships who have great experience and distinction in the matters which we are discussing today. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and other speakers have said, this is an exciting and frightening time, but a time full of opportunity and potential for good as well as for evil.
We must realise what a great debt we owe to those wise statesmen who, 40 or 50 years ago, had the concept of the European Community. They realised then the problems which one day would arise, long after they had died, as regards Europe as a whole, world peace and the eventual probability of reunification of Germany. They realised, as did all of us who in our different small ways supported the concept of Europe, that close though our relations were with the United States and great though the power was of the United States and the Soviet Union, something else was needed besides that. The form of government of the Soviet Union at that time, and indeed today, is quite alien to what we stand for here. While the United States has much in common with us, it lacks —and it is just as much aware of this as we are —the centuries of history on which our experience and, I like to believe, our wisdom is based.
It was no good thinking that the individual countries of Europe, the great powers —this country, France, Germany and Italy —could carry the weight that the super powers inevitably would carry and are carrying today. The only way in which the combined wisdom and experience of Europe could be brought into effect and have its impact upon world affairs is by Europe working closely together as one Europe and formulating its own policies. Those policies are frequently similar to those of our friends and allies in the United States but do not always slavishly follow what is said by that great super power.
I hope that I am not being unduly chauvinistic in saying that for Europe to succeed —and although it has had its drawbacks, slownesses and hurdles to overcome, it is succeeding —it is necessary for the voice, wisdom and experience of this country to be heard and to be listened to in Europe itself.
Sadly, we are very close to becoming, economically speaking, the sick man of Europe. I do not wish to encroach on the economic debate which will take place shortly, nor do I wish to descend into party politics. However, there is no getting away from the fact that today, when we compare ourselves with Germany, France or even Italy, we have a higher rate of inflation, the worst balance of payments and higher unemployment than any of them. Therefore, it is not surprising that our voice is not listened to with the respect which we should like and which our great experience warrants.
However, there is another aspect to this problem which is far too often forgotten. We are the only member of the European Economic Community which has ties, and very close ties, with a vast range of countries in other parts of the world and largely in what is called the third world. Of course, I refer 51 to the British Commonwealth of Nations. We in this country cherish our ancient monuments. Many of us feel that we do not pay enough attention to them or devote enough resources to them. However, for all that, we believe that we have a national heritage which should be preserved. I suggest to your Lordships that the Commonwealth is one of our great national heritages.
There have been other empires as great as the British Empire; for example, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire and the Austrian Empire. They have gone. They have left some architectural and literary monuments but they have left no monuments of their empires as such. Those who presided over what has sometimes been called the dissolution of the British Empire had far more vision. They had a vision similar to that of the founding partners of the European Economic Community. With help from other members of the Commonwealth, they have created the British Commonwealth which now embraces something close to one-quarter or even one-third of the total population of the whole world, and comprises 49 different countries. Indeed, it is a Commonwealth upon which the sun never sets. It is not, as some of those say who rejoice in denigrating such matters, an odd assembly of undemocratic, single party, racialist states intent upon their own advancement or the advancement of their own politicians riddled with corruption and inefficiency. It is not that at all.
Of course, there are things which go on in Commonwealth countries which we do not like. There are things which go on in this country which we do not like. We cannot pretend that we in this country are a model of Westminster democracy when for 10 years we have been governed by a party which received 42 per cent. of the votes of the electors and which today is continuing to lose support among its own members. We cannot hold ourselves up as a model of democracy or, alas, as a model of complete freedom with a lack of racial prejudice or any of the other matters which we condemn certain of our fellow members of the Commonwealth for practising.
Do not let us try to find fault in a small way or even in a large way with other people or, indeed, with ourselves. My remarks are not made for that reason. I mention those matters solely to suggest to your Lordships that the criticisms of members of the Commonwealth which are now becoming increasingly fashionable are not well founded.
It is sad to look back not so many months now to the meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government in Kuala Lumpur. What the people remember about that primarily is the argument over South Africa. However, perhaps I may read to your Lordships the comments of a distinguished journalist who was present at that meeting and who writes:It has to be pointed out that although South Africa has once more been made to appear in this country as the subject that dominated the conference once again, the fact is that the Heads of Government spent less than five hours in a six-day meeting discussing the subject …52They had much more on their minds than that one subject—they wanted to talk about drugs, climatic change, debt, the incredible changes in the relationships between the super-powers and so forth …The other 45 leaders had all gone to Kuala Lumpur agreeing to disagree with Mrs. Thatcher on sanctions. No one wanted a fight again and they were deeply upset to find themselves forced into one".The Commonwealth is far more than a meeting of people once every few years whose job it is to argue about sanctions against South Africa. They have far more important things to talk about than that. I would remind your Lordships that there are not only the meetings of the heads of government every year or so but that they have periodic meetings of finance ministers, health ministers, law ministers, education ministers, ministers concerned with women's affairs, with youth and with labour, and of course with industry, trade and agriculture. They meet together to discuss all these matters, reach agreement and formulate policies for mutual benefit.
There are various bureaux —the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Parliamentary Association, as many of your Lordships know —and so on. This commonwealth of nations is a real and living entity. The greatest contribution that we can make to the councils of our colleagues and partners in Europe is that when we come there we bring with us the experience and advice that we receive from these 48 other nations that comprise the Commonwealth.
When we have to help to solve the problems that other noble Lords have already mentioned —and that I am sure those who come after us will increasingly be speaking about —let us not take a defeatist attitude. Let us not say, "Poor old Britain. It is now a third-rate power. It has to play second or third fiddle to its partners in Europe. Nobody listens to it any longer because of its economic decline". That is not so. We still have a major role to play, and part of the importance of that role is our association with the Commonwealth.
I would ask your Lordships to do all in your power —and I would ask Her Majesty's Government to do all in their power —to promote yet further, and create yet closer, ties with the Commonwealth, not only for our sake (and that is important enough) but for the sake of the influence that, through the European Community, we as a member of the Commonwealth can bring to bear on the solution of all these exciting, dangerous and important problems that confront us.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, at the outset perhaps I may apologise to your Lordships that I have to absent myself from part of the debate. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, I sincerely trust that I shall be here at its conclusion.
I think that all of us who have listened to the previous contributions to this debate will agree that it is impossible at the present moment to predict the eventual outcome of the upheavals in Eastern Europe. I had at least hoped when the debate started that we would all agree that no one, no Western power, was going to attempt to exacerbate the 53 disturbances, upheavals and changes that are now taking place. I had also hoped, using the words that the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, used, that the question of the boundaries of Europe was not on the present agenda. He disagreed with that. Here I must say that I agree totally with what the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said on the subject. Until a peace treaty is signed I can see no point even in raising the question of redrawing the boundaries of Western Europe as agreed at the Yalta Conference.
This of course —and this has been said by many —is not the time to lower our guard. That, however, does not mean that we should maintain it without realising that our opponents—mainly the Warsaw Pact powers —have changed, or are changing, their stance. The Vienna negotiations on conventional forces and the START negotiations in Geneva, which were resumed more or less at the same time, were immensely important when they were launched. If they were important then, they are, as the noble Lords, Lord Home of the Hirsel and Lord Callaghan, have said, more important now.
It is six months since President Bush declared that an agreement should be sought in Vienna in the space of a year. I found it therefore rather amazing to read in The Times of less than a week ago that Mr. Tom King, the Secretary of State for Defence, does not believe that the present CFE negotiations will lead to dramatic changes in NATO's military posture, and that no one has yet worked out what impact possible cuts will have on members of the Alliance.
If President Bush and Mr. Gorbachev —not to mention the peoples of this country, of Western Europe, of the United States and the Warsaw Pact powers —are not to be bitterly disappointed a lot of work has to be done quickly. One can only suppose that when he spoke Mr. King was unaware of the news coming out of Washington —and not only leaks from the White House but Mr. Cheney's own speech —that the United States is considering even deeper cuts than those proposed by President Bush six months ago: cuts not only in numbers but cuts in actual armaments, discontinuing certain major and costly projects, and cutting defence expenditure.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Home, about the importance of seeing that disarmament or arms control —whatever we wish to call it —goes hand in hand in our consideration of the changes now taking place in Eastern Europe. I do not believe that significant political changes will take place unless there are parallel changes in the military postures of the two sides.
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that the aim of the Vienna talks is to reduce the dangers of military confrontation and to eliminate the possibilities of surprise attack by achieving a balance of forces of the two sides at a reduced level. The level will have to be reduced differentially by restructuring forces, by eliminating asymmetries, and by changing deployments.
Because of the nuclear environment I am one of those who over the past 30 years have never believed that there was any chance of an attack by either side except, it is conceivable, by inadvertence. There is 54 far less reason today to believe in a possible surprise attack from either side. Therefore the time is now ripe to undertake real measures of arms control without hazarding our security. The public has been promised for too long that such measures are on the way, and it has been disillusioned.
There is disillusionment now about what is happening to the US-USSR agreement to eliminate the dangers of chemical warfare. The news that I have heard is that the US has now proposed an 80 per cent. reduction in stocks of chemical weapons, with production continuing of the more modern binary chemical systems. One may well ask: against whom are these weapons being designed and whom are they going to strike? The US is not going to strike the USSR with chemical weapons. Surely this is no way to encourage other countries to desist from chemical warfare.
I find the nuclear problem of much greater importance. It emerged in congressional testimony four years ago that NATO planners have pinpointed some 18,000 short and mid-range Warsaw Pact targets for nuclear destruction, of which 2,000 were designated as priority targets. I am not exaggerating because these are the figures, and they mean total nonsense. One can only suppose that the Russians have a complementary list. The planners operate in an unreal world. It is to be hoped that General Galvin, the present supreme commander of NATO, has since reduced the size of his target list.
Many of those targets were in Poland and in the east of East Germany and therefore well beyond the range of the short-range so-called battlefield weapons to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, referred in his address. Those targets were assigned to the so-called strategic weapons target list. I hope I am safe in assuming that the START negotiators in Geneva have removed them from the list.
But much more urgent is the need to realise that the issue of eliminating shorter-range nuclear weapons—the so-called third zero option —has been vaporised by recent events. Now that West and East German citizens are mingling freely across what was once a solid wall, these weapons have become even more pointless militarily than they were before. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, indicate more or less the same thing on television the other night.
We now have to realise that the very people at whom NATO nuclear weapons are targeted are the ones who today are demonstrating for democracy. Nuclear weapons will not discriminate between them and the leaders whom they are trying to displace. Nuclear weapons will not help anybody to achieve the freedom they demand and what we take for granted.
Less than a month ago the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, asked a Question about the Government's attitude to a resumption of talks to transform the partial test ban treaty into a comprehensive ban. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, replied and told him that it remains a long-term goal of Her Majesty's Government to achieve such a transformation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, then reminded your Lordships that he 55 was the Minister who at the time represented the United Kingdom at the talks which led up to the 1963 treaty. I was his scientific adviser at the talks.
I remember every moment of those nearly three weeks when we sat around the table arguing about commas and full stops in a document that had been prepared for the final discussion. The noble and learned Lord went on to say that he believed that while nuclear weapons exist,there is not the slightest possibility whatever of the nuclear powers agreeing to a total ban on tests underground".—[Official Report, 7/11/89; col. 542.]As scientific adviser to the noble and learned Lord at the time, I agree with him that then there was no such chance. There was no chance of the US and the USSR agreeing to a total ban, but I would differ from him now in the present situation.
He will recall, as I do, that Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of the day —the late Lord Stockton —was passionately concerned to achieve a comprehensive test ban. We failed because we were only the junior partner in the negotiations and in the discussions that went before the final talks. We had little influence on the eventual outcome. We knew then that a partial ban on testing would not stop the nuclear arms race. Underground testing has helped it to accelerate.
I have to ask: to what benefit to anybody, from the point of view of security, has the nuclear arms race been over the past 20 years? Mr. Macmillan had told President Eisenhower as long ago as about 1960 that half-a-dozen or so strikes against about six of our major cities by megaton bombs in the existing stockpile would be enough to destroy England. Whatever modernisation of megaton warheads has taken place in the past 30 years, they would do so today. Nuclear deterrence was as real as it is today.
Nor has the elaboration of battlefield weapons of the kind to which we now refer concerning the third zero option helped any field commander to fight his battle against a similarly armed opponent. It is a fallacy that one can fight with nuclear weapons. Their existence deters but their use would not defend. The concept of an exchange of nuclear weapons on European soil is a hangover from the early days of NATO when we in the West had a monopoly of nuclear weapons, and also of the days before our military leaders realised that their destructive effects excluded them from the category of usable weapons. It is worth noting that Mr. McNamara —the architect of what we regard as the present policy of NATO —in the two words "flexible response" has rejected them totally over the past few years. He does not believe that flexible response is a meaningful policy when its final step would be the use of nuclear weapons.
In those early days the main argument against concluding a test ban was the problem of verification. At the time Mr. Macmillan believed that the issue was being exaggerated. I was sent with the noble Lord, Lord Penney —a Member of your Lordships' House —to the United States twice to argue that our seismologists were content with the existing situation; but we lost that debate.
56 Today, verification of underground tests —that is, the differentiation between an underground disturbance due to a small nuclear explosion and a natural event —is no problem at all, right down to such small limits of kilotonnage that do not matter. There are those who say that we can go down to a single kilotonne now. It is not only the seismological techniques that have improved; it is a fact that the USA and the USSR have allowed their respective bomb experts to calibrate their testing grounds for underground background noise. It is even reported that they have offered each other the use of their underground hideouts for testing each other's bombs.
Testing is not carried out as a routine measure to ensure that nuclear weapons in stockpiles will go off if fired, as one noble Lord seemed to think was the reason for testing in the exchanges which took place when the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, put his Question. Testing continues today because political leaders on all sides have not yet had the courage to put a stop to the design of new weapons which, whatever their purpose, would make little or no difference to the strategic position of East and West.
Where I differ from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, therefore is in the view that the two super-powers would never be prepared today for a programmed end to testing. Mr. Gorbachev imposed a unilateral moratorium on testing at the time of the INF Treaty and maintained it for nearly two years until it became clear that the United States was not going to follow suit. In 1987, 128 nations voted in the General Assembly for resumption of negotiations to achieve CTB. We, the United States and France, voted against. The USSR was among the 128 in favour. Today a carefully prepared programmed plan for stopping tests has been sent to the White House and to Congress by a group of US experts headed by Cyrus Vance, a previous deputy Secretary for Defence and Secretary of State. I hope it is being carefully considered. A START agreement in Geneva today, without a promise to end testing, will be a poor thing.
I have followed the nuclear debate for too long to be starry-eyed about the future. However, I believe that however long it takes to bring about a CTB, unless the USSR and the US mutually decide how to end their bilateral nuclear arms race and to reduce their stockpiles —the last thing I suggest is a total reduction of nuclear stockpiles —the dream of ex-President Reagan remains a dream today, as it was then. I do not believe that other nuclear power states are likely to move; and non-nuclear states will continue to believe that there is some merit in becoming nuclear powers, unless the US and USSR bilaterally decide to bring about the cessation of tests and the reduction of stockpiles. I go further. Only if the two superpowers act together will there be a chance that the non-proliferation treaty will be renewed in its present form when it comes up for review in 1995.
We should bear in mind that today's world of emerging nationalism is far more hazardous than the one of the late 'sixties when the non-proliferation treaty was concluded. We should not over-emphasise the unique influence that the UK can exercise alone 57 in these matters. It will be time to consider our own and the French position as nuclear powers when the US and the USSR act together to reduce —to eliminate if possible —the nuclear menace and to help restrain regional military conflicts.
We are powerless now to do more than cheer them on as they reach their conclusions. My own conclusion is simply this. I believe that in the light of what we have been listening to about events in the Warsaw Pact countries, and in the light of the economic and environmental problems that affect us all, the military confrontation between East and West has become an anachronism.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, there is no one in your Lordships' House who knows more about nuclear weapons than my noble friend Lord Zuckerman and probably no one who knows less than I do. I hope therefore he will excuse me if I do not follow him but return to Europe.
It alas suddenly become very fashionable to say that this country must join the EMS without delay. I wonder whether that is anything more than a desire to have a dig at the Prime Minister or is it based on a belated understanding of how the EMS works. I asked a number of prominent people —ex-Ministers and the like —if they would explain to me just how EMS would affect our exchange, our interest and inflation rates. I did not receive a single clear answer. In fact the pro-Delors lobby reminded me of Cardinal Newman's great hymn:I do not ask to seeThe distant scene: one step enough for me".That will not do. The turbulent events inside Russia and the consequential events outside Russia make it essential to re-examine the distant scene. Tomorrow, Europe is not going to be like it was only yesterday when the full details of the Delors' plan were put on the table. Therefore one asks: what effect should these dramatic changes have on the institutions which are being designed to accompany the single market in 1992? One has to see how the world is changing. Today power is being redistributed faster than at any time in history. The technological revolution has been making every nation dependent not just upon its neighbours but also upon the whole world. That is a process which cannot be arrested; it has much further to go.
The most pressing problems we shall all have to face will be less and less national, or even continental; for example, exchange rates, world agriculture, the environment, terrorism, aid to less developed countries, nuclear weapons and human rights. Would the integration of Western Europe be a useful step on the way to dealing with such global problems? Alternatively should we go straight for groups like the G7, which are so much more practical because they reflect the world distribution of power?
To deal with the consequence of President Gorbachev's reforms, new alliances will have to be negotiated. Harold. Macmillan said that any worthwhile alliance was always held together by fear. What are we afraid of today? The threat of Soviet aggression is much reduced. Leadership, being no 58 longer so closely tied to military power, gravitates to economic strength: to Japan in the Pacific and to Germany in Europe. Is that latter movement something to be afraid of? Not if Germany, as we all believe, has learnt the lesson of the two wars and not if a revised NATO takes account of the shift in the nature and spread of power.
I cannot see how America could be left out of the revised treaty, nor how the alliance would work if in the future it did not embrace economic as well as military co-operation. Further, if the door is to be left open for the former Communist states to join, it must be an alliance of sovereign states. The return of sovereignty is a central objective of the emerging democracies.
Nations inside the USSR, as well as members of the Warsaw Pact, are clamouring for the restoration of their separate historic identities. Estonia, for example, has just asked Moscow to give it back its own currency and its own central bank. That is what the people want. If we gave up our currency and the Bank of England to the Commission in. Brussels, I wonder how long your Lordships think it would be before the British people asked for them back?
Our feelings about sovereignty reflect differences between us and those who live on the other side of the Channel. I wonder whether we are sufficiently alike to work harmoniously with them in institutions where decisions are to be taken by majority voting, and where M. Delors' principle of subsidiarity means in effect that the government in Brussels can decide what are those issues which the governments of the member states can be left to get on with.
It is not good enough to say that we shall accept majority voting because we draw our civilisation from the same roots; that is, Greece, Rome and Christianity. Recent experience has left us with some very important differences. Ireland and Portugal excepted, we are the only one of the Twelve who were not defeated in battle, occupied by the enemy or ravaged by civil war. Their sovereignty did not save them. We believe that our sovereignty saved us. That is a distinction which makes a deep mark on the pride and obstinacy of the British people. Perhaps in defeat one learns a delicate kind of wisdom: one learns not to think so highly of the framework within which the disaster occurred. We have not had to learn that lesson and I am glad for that fact.
There is another difference between us and those who live at any rate in the southern half of the Community. Whenever any national interest —which may be quite trifling — is at stake, they are accustomed to break the rules to which they have put their names. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said today, if a judgment of the European Court goes against them, they disregard this and do absolutely nothing about it. I am not calling your Lordships' attention to the superiority of our respect for the law; I am simply pointing out that their standards are different from ours. If one joins a club with rules which some members keep and others think nothing of breaking, trouble is certain. Therefore those who want us to go the whole way with the Delors plan must not be squeamish. 59 They must say openly when they go in that they will play the game in the same self-regarding manner as do the others.
That prospect presents us with a very disagreeable choice which the Prime Minister sees very well and which she very much dislikes. If it were put plainly to the electorate I wonder what they would say. My guess is that the older people would not want to go beyond joining the EMS. On the other hand, those born too late to have had any experience of the last war seem to care less about giving up sovereignty over certain important domestic issues.
A young man told me the other day that he would much rather be a successful European living in Europe with his family than remain an Englishman hanging about these narrow and damp islands. He said, "Money is the thing which I and my friends are after. We think that we could make our fortune quicker if we went all the way into Europe". I told him that, apart from the fact that there are other considerations in life apart from money, he would be able to make his pile just as well if we stop at the single market. However, that was some months ago.
The arguments deployed at the Madrid Summit must be looked at again. The Russian economy is on the verge of collapse, the Warsaw Pact is breaking up and the reunification of Germany is a possibility. Naturally those in the Delors lobby do not want to pause and reconsider the distant scene. They know very well that delay would endanger the implementation of stages two and three. Why do I say that my Lords? I say that because the redistribution of power in Central and Eastern Europe, which is now bound to happen, will make it inevitable that fresh alliances are made between the West and the East.
We should proceed with extreme caution until we know how President Gorbachev's reforms will work out. NATO will have to be revised; and if the new treaty does not embrace economic as well as military co-operation, Europe will become top-heavy and dangerous. What President Gorbachev called our common European home is not viable unless American power is with us to balance the power of central and Eastern Europe.
My conclusions are these: let us help in every way to make a success of the single market in 1992; secondly, although I do not fully understand how it works, let us join the EMS, provided that we can stop there and go no further; and, thirdly and much more important, let us revise NATO in such a way as to leave the sovereign member states free to combine ad hoc among themselves, and with nations outside Europe, to solve the world-wide problems that are now on the horizon. I hope that that view is in line with the Prime Minister's policy. Mrs. Thatcher should be supported in her lonely effort to make British common sense prevail over the irritating ambitions of the Commission in Brussels.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I shall confine what I have to say to the part of the general debate which proceeds from the question of defence. I shall take 60 the pacifist position and endeavour to defend it; but the introduction to any profitable debate on what should be done now must be a recognition of the gulf that is now spreading, in view of the collapse of certain elements in the contemporary situation particularly ideollogically, upon which the whole of Western Europe and our environment now largely depend.
Your Lordships have heard this afternoon of elements of achievement. The problem is the opportunity that those achievements, or failures, henceforth present. In that kind of emptiness, I offer evidence to support the proposition that we are in desperate need of fundamental thinking, and particularly fundamental practice.
I shall not add much to what has been said about the mess in which the Communist world finds itself. It is long since that I believed that its failure to recognise the national question, and its commitment to general armed violence, would incapacitate it in the long run. I do not now hear in the open air those old arguments about the dictatorship of the proletariat, "workers of the world unite" and the various propositions about the expropriation of the expropriators. I am sure that in many respects classical Communism is a dead duck. There are of course certain elements in it which are by no means dead.
The underlying concept of Socialism on my reading was far more present in Marx than in what Engels thought Marx was talking about; and the commitment under Leninism to the prosecution of the Communist case by the violence that accompanied it over the years are elements in my judgment, such as it is, which would commend to me the belief that there is an opportunity now to present that which underlines the principle of Socialism.
Apart from the question of whether one agrees with Socialism, it is interesting to find in the daily newspapers that the evidence is now accumulating that the proponents of the Marxist argument are now asking us to believe that they have been led astray from the fundamental principles of Socialism and that therefore the knowledge of Socialist principles is largely neglected. That may well be true.
What experience I have of talking in public convinces me that there is a desperate lack of fundamental thinking about the alternatives to Socialism, and I do not find privatisation a satisfactory answer. It is in the vacuum that I shall briefly offer the pacifist case which for me derives from the Christian gospel.
I am well aware that there are meanings and interpretations of the foundation principles of the Christian faith which are by no means ignored and which are entitled to respect. Therefore, with due care I remind myself that the essential case for the non-violent presentation of goodness lies in the fact that it was expressly said by Jesus that those who would take the sword would perish by it; that he refused the preparations for an armed revolt and he refused to be a resistance leader in the general sense in which religious leadership and the dissident leadership proliferated in the days in which he lived.
61 It is impossible to correlate the meaning of the Cross even with the most desirable or most understandable requirements of armed violence. The early Church was a pacifist Church, and a Church which has strayed from that is in fault. That is at least a permissible interpretation, which I accept, and which I believe should be introduced into the argument and the vacuum which has now been created. Thank God that some evidence now comes from inside the Iron Curtain countries that in the Christian Church they recognise the fulfilment of those things that they cannot find outside it. I understand that that pacifist attitude will be regarded as fanciful, irrelevant and inoperative. I share the difficulty of seeing how it could operate. However, I pretend at least to know that there is evidence today of a breaking of the logjam in people's minds such as I have not known in my long life.
Where did the youngsters in Eastern Germany, in the various other satellite countries and in Russia learn the freedom which they now express with such vitality? Where did they get it from? Is it not evidence of that final truth that one cannot extirpate the spirit in man, and that even in the worst of circumstances all kind of extraordinary results may follow from the outbursts of that freedom? I therefore take my comfort not from the imprecise knowledge of what would happen if we unilaterally renounced armaments, but from what I believe to be the imperative need to regard all warfare as proscribed; from the evidence of the Christian faith and the basic doctrine of Christianity.
What I cannot say, and what your Lordships would not expect me to try to say, is anything more particularly related to what immediately will happen. However, I believe that nothing as revolutionary has happened in the past 500 years to compare with that which apparently is happening at this moment. I am desperately anxious because the prospect of involvement by people who need to be awakened and are ready to respond will transform the general situation. If one regards that as a fancy, I would remind myself that the evidence of the past few years makes me increasingly doubt whether there is any outlet for the beleagured human race except by the total renunciation of those means of danger and death dealing which have corrupted us for so long. This is a plea, and I recognise it as such, but I believe that it is a plea which belongs to the nature of the circumstances which we see before our very eyes. I remind myself that there is some evidence of this awakening.
I sometimes wonder why at every Armistice time people sing the Christian hymn, or rather the Jewish psalm which includes the words:Sufficient is thine arm alone,And our defence is sure".I think that they want to believe it, and in some sense, of course, I do. I am reminded that in the evidence that is to be found in the Old Testament, some famous walls of Jericho were not breached by shooting but by shouting. There is, I commend to your Lordships' House, an element of hope in facing these unprecedented events and in believing that the once satisfactory idea that war is the last implementation of justice should be replaced by a 62 new conviction that under no circumstances whatever can a believing Christian have any part to play in the exercise, the preparation and the prosecution of war.
I know that this is a plea. I make it in a vacuum very largely created by our past mistakes and I venture to hope that in unilateral disarmament we shall discover some way out of the difficulties in which we find ourselves and achieve the rescue of the kind of society in which we live.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, there can hardly be anyone who does not rejoice at the destruction of the infamous Berlin Wall and at the explosion of popular emotion which occasioned it and which bids fair to result in the establishment of some kind of democracy in the DDR. These events in East Germany will also undoubtedly assist in the general revolt against one-party Communist rule which has already been successful in Hungary, largely successful in Poland and even Bulgaria and which will probably soon move to Czechoslovakia too. However, at the same time we can hardly avoid being disquieted by the possible results of this revolution —for that is what it is —unless it is handled with the greatest care. In 1848 Europe was in turmoil, but things hardly worked out in the way the revolutionaries wished.
One factor which has dominated all discussion of these recent events has been the possible reunification of Germany. As a result, one thing is clear. If the East German Government become genuinely democratic and pluralistic and decide that they want to join Western Germany, nothing, save possibly Russian intervention, can prevent them from doing so. But there seems to be substantial agreement among many forward-looking politicians in both countries that the Germans just do not want reunification, anyhow not for a considerable time.
Outside Germany there is also considerable unease at the obvious possibility, or probability, that reunification would result in the virtual dissolution of the two existing alliances and the consequent departure of American troops from Europe. Indeed, any reunification would inevitably have this result. Congress simply would not vote the money for United States troops when Germany seemed quite capable of defending herself.
As I see it, there are two or perhaps three broad possibilities. First, the most likely one in the near future, is a continuance in some form of the two alliances, even if the relations with the West of the Soviet satellites, including East Germany, are materially improved by some form of association with the present European Community. That includes the United Kingdom, which should retain its capacity for political development. This —the maintenance of the European Community as a political entity —is indeed necessary if West Germany is to remain in the West and is not to slide off into some sort of "European house". which we shall come to in a moment.
This assumption implies the continued maintenance of at any rate some Russian forces 63 between the Elbe and the Soviet frontier and substantial United States forces in West Germany. This will no doubt by itself ensure that the Soviet Union never invades that country. The last thing that the present Soviet Government, or indeed any successor wants, is war with America. But they might conceivably put successful pressure on the West Germans if the Americans ever quit.
The second broad possibility which we must now contemplate, along with Mr. Gorbachev, is the virtual abolition, in the not too far distant future, of the two alliances, with all national forces being withdrawn to their own countries and, more especially, the Americans to America and the Russians to the Soviet Union. That is what is suggested. This would involve the effective reunification of Germany and the probable economic domination of Eastern Europe —or Mitteleuropa —by that country, to say nothing of some calling in question of the Eastern frontiers of the new vast German Reich, whose GDP would probably exceed that of the United Kingdom and France together. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, has rightly drawn attention to that grim possibility.
It is quite conceivable however that Russia, while remaining a superpower, might agree to all this, subject to certain conditions. After all, Mr. Gorbachev would have achieved what is probably the main object of his foreign policy, namely, the withdrawal of the Americans from Europe.
However, it is very doubtful whether any British Government emerging from the next elections —to say nothing of the French —would welcome the virtual abolition of NATO, if not of the North Atlantic Alliance, the almost certain disappearance of the EC in its present form, and its replacement by some vague European house, perhaps including Russia. How exactly this European house would be organised is far from clear. Pending world disarmament would it have any defence capacity, to say nothing of a common foreign policy? How would it take decisions? Where would its centre be, other than Berlin? Would Russia west of the Urals be a member, or the whole Soviet Union? Probably in the long run either Germany or Russia, or both, would have to impose some kind of order in the face of the many conflicting and unrestrained nationalistic emotions that would arise.
Surely it is much more sensible from the point of view of Europe as a whole, and in accordance with what I suggest are the real interests of the German people, to contemplate the independent existence, in close association with each other and with the EC, of three German states —Austria, Prussia and the Federal Republic. The latter would continue to be a full member of the European Community. After all, we should remember that the whole German people have only once been united under one ruler. That precedent is scarcely encouraging.
I may well be wrong, but it has always seemed to me that Eastern Germany —that we may call Prussia —had a rather different Weltanschauung from the old Confederation of the Rhine. It was more Protestant than Catholic, more disciplined, 64 more authoritarian and more socialistic in a sense. I remember many years ago reading a work entitled Preussentum and Socialismus by Oswald Spengler. Who knows, when its present love affair with the West —this applies to other Eastern countries too—inspired by 40 years of communist misrule wears off, East Germany may conclude that there is much to be said for a largely independent existence.
It need hardly be added —this is the last and gloomiest possibility —that in the perhaps unlikely event of a total break-up of the Soviet Union and ensuing anarchy or civil war, all bets are off. A highly dangerous situation, including a possible attempt by Great Russian nationalists to restore the empire by force of arms, would arise which the West would have to deal with when and if it came to it.
That is all the more reason to guard against such a possibility by pushing ahead with the union of Western Europe which should also retain some defensive capacity of its own. The same applies to conventional defence generally. The prospects for arms cuts seem for the first time to be reasonably good, but only if we proceed on the lines that it is negotiation for agreement between the two alliances that really matters and not unilateral declarations of reductions by one side or the other.
But, whatever our hopes or fears for the future in the light of recent events, and whatever our views on the likelihood or the inevitability of the reunification of Germany, one thing is evident. We should stop being in a perpetual minority of one in the Community and not oppose the general view that only by the acceptance—this is subject, of course, to negotiations and subject to all parties doing what they have already agreed to do —of some further steps towards the pooling of sovereignty can we form that European political union of a new type —not a federation —which we have repeatedly said is our ultimate aim. This is now essential if Germany is not to go the wrong way. It is also essential since, by its very existence, it can increase the chances of some fruitful association with the possibly more socialistically minded nations of the East.
Let us hope that our reconstructed Government will in practice be guided by such principles at Strasbourg and that we shall not be left clutching our Union Jack in no doubt splendid isolation but, in fact, in a state of impoverishment, and stranded.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lord MacLehose of Beoch
My Lords, the Minister and other noble Lords have referred to events in China and their impact on Hong Kong. I am sure the Government are right to continue to base their policy on implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as the Minister said. There is of course immense underlying strength in Hong Kong, in its economic capacity, in its resilience and in its capacity to get on with its great neighbour. Given time, current difficulties might be expected to pass and intergovernmental business could be pursued in a calmer atmosphere. But unfortunately time will not wait, and, as the Minister indicated, the Government have several thorny issues that will have to be addressed this Session.
65 The Minister mentioned the return to Vietnam, in accordance with international practice, of those arrivals who are not refugees qualifying for settlement elsewhere. This implies, sooner or later, compulsory repatriation. The distastefulness of such a course and the criticism that it will provoke are obvious. However, I believe the criticism would at least be less than that resulting from leaving those unfortunates in prison camps in Hong Kong, and thus from not forestalling further arrivals from Vietnam when the south monsoon starts to blow in March and April. The worst possibility of all is that of a breakdown of patience in Hong Kong, with all that that would involve. This problem is all the more difficult for the people of Hong Kong to absorb because of their preoccupation with the final drafting of the Basic Law which will be their future constitution. One of the major issues left to settle is the method of election of the Legislative Council and the speed of the stages by which it is introduced.
The pace of democratisation in Hong Kong is of course closely related to that. I believe the Minister said that the Government would await a clear view from Hong Kong. I hope that as soon as the Government are satisfied that there is a substantial majority of people in Hong Kong in favour of any particular formula they will go ahead and announce their plans and thus end the present field of controversy and uncertainty.
However, I am told that the issue that is most important to the people of Hong Kong is still nationality. The demand for British citizenship for all British dependent territory citizens has been rejected by both the Government and the principal opposition party. However, something has to be done. The Minister indicated that the Government were working on a package to give key people an assurance that they may remain in the territory. I await those proposals with great interest. That course is a second-best option and unavoidably it will be divisive. However, it could still be valuable and work, but only if it provides two things. First, it must provide a right of abode in the United Kingdom without having to leave Hong Kong to qualify, because the whole point will be to encourage people to stay and to continue to manage the success of Hong Kong.
Secondly, the numbers must be large. Favouring a small isolated group just would not help. With the prospect of lack of support from large numbers, the people in that group would simply leave. The number must be large enough to have a major psychological impact. It must also include the dependants of those key people as well as the individuals themselves. Therefore, to have the desired result the potential number will have to be very large indeed. I shall not bandy figures about the House tonight because the matter would be much more suitable for a separate debate on some other occasion. Of course none of this would be so fraught were it not for the over-arching perception of China in Hong Kong. That has not been helped by tensions in relations since June.
In conclusion, there is just one point I should like to make about those relations. In the past the key to the success of Hong Kong-China relations has been 66 the steady application of prudent, commonsense restraint about what was done or said, or perhaps more importantly what was not done or said, by both sides. That fact of life was generally well understood. However, after the events of June something seems to have gone wrong. I shall say nothing today about what China should do to repair the situation. But from our side we must remember that the principle of one country, two systems is double-sided. It is easier for us to know what we mean by China not interfering in Hong Kong than to define what should be done in Hong Kong to avoid appearing to interfere with China.
I was therefore glad to read the governor's wise words in his speech last month about the importance of people in Hong Kong not becoming directly involved in China's domestic politics and to hear of the support that he has since received from senior figures in Hong Kong. If those facts of Hong Kong life are observed a calmer atmosphere could be achieved, to which the Chinese Government might respond and in which the urgent problems to which I have referred might be addressed to the advantage of Hong Kong, China and ourselves.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I do not believe that there is anyone in the House who can speak with greater authority on the affairs of Hong Kong than the noble Lord who has just spoken. I am sure that the Government will pay great attention to what he said. I shall not attempt to follow him into that subject, which requires a special knowledge which few of us possess.
I should like to say a few words about the problem of the reunification of Germany. I accept that that problem creates a number of potential headaches. There are several steps that need to be taken before reunification could take place, not least the holding of genuinely free elections in East Germany. I trust that the Government will not manoeuvre themselves into a position in which they appear to oppose the reunification of Germany because I believe that reunification of Germany ought to happen. It was never the intention of the Western allies that Germany should be so divided. It happened because the Soviet Union was determined to make the part of Germany which it occupied a Soviet satellite. Therefore I say that the reunification of Germany ought to happen. Moreover, it will happen.
Although support for reunification is not yet as great in East Germany as I believe it will be, I am quite certain that it will grow as the months go by. There is already evidence that that is happening. Since it ought to happen and will happen, we should be very ill-advised even to appear to oppose it.
As I said, one necessary prelude is genuinely free elections. That also applies to our attitude towards the other nations of Eastern Europe. We are all aware that although there has been immensely encouraging progress towards freedom in the past weeks, we do not know whether that ground is yet firmly held and will be retained.
I remember that when I was endeavouring to learn the German language the textbook that I used had 67 at the end of each chapter a few quotations from German writers and German proverbs. One of them ran:"Gegen Demokraten hilfen nur Soldaten";that is to say that against democrats only soldiers are of any use.
That is a view which is evidently held by a number of governments, or if not governments, people who have been in government. There have been ugly scenes in Czechoslavakia and Mr. Honecker of East Germany seems to have studied that proverb. Our approach to Eastern European countries must be conditioned by whether they hold genuinely free elections giving an opportunity for public opinion to form and to contest elections.
Some of those countries already have parties other than the Communist Party, but they are only parties which are permitted by the Communist Party. They are shams and not really representative of public opinion. There will have to be time for public opinion to form and for genuinely free elections to be contested.
I believe that that can be done, but the governments that result will be heirs to a very unhappy economic legacy. Their countries will be desperately poor and surrounded by great economic difficulties. There is a risk that the new, and, one hopes, democratic governments of Eastern Europe will become increasingly unpopular owing to the enormous economic difficulties with which they will be struggling. The whole process might slide back into discouragement and despair.
It is here surely that the West must be ready to give economic help to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. I was very glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, had to say about that in his opening speech. I hope that we shall be kept regularly informed as to what progress the Western countries and the countries of the EC are able to make to help the countries of Eastern Europe. If the EC is to do its job properly it will need to be united and work together. Here I share the regret of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that the Government always seem to find themselves out on a limb and to be on their own in European arguments.
The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, addressed us on the subject of sovereignty. Several times in our relations with Europe we have followed an illusion of sovereignty to our disadvantage. It was sometimes used as an argument for not entering the Community at all. We must consider that if we stay outside European monetary arrangements in a sense we shall have sovereignty —the right to have the exchange value of our currency tossed about by the winds of chance and fortune instead of the discipline of a system devised for Europe as a whole.
The search for that kind of sovereignty —saying that we shall have it our way even if we cannot really control events —is similar to the advice that King Canute's courtiers gave to him. They endeavoured to persuade him that one could exercise sovereignty over the tides. One cannot. One cannot exercise sovereignty over the movement of economic affairs in the whole of Europe. If we want to be an effective 68 force in the West we have to see that the Community becomes a more united force. The Prime Minister in particular is preventing us from doing so.
I ask therefore that we should play our part in trying to make the Community a more united and closely knit body. One of the purposes of that at the present juncture is to give effective help to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. If we can see emerging from Eastern Europe governments which are genuinely based on free elections we shall be on course for solving the much more elaborate problems such as were spelt out by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We shall be in a better position to deal with those problems once we have a closely knit Community in the West and emerging democracies in the East, with the possibility of genuinely free elections.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Whaddon
My Lords, I also wish to take this opportunity to air a few thoughts on the collapse of the Marxist systems of Eastern Europe and particularly to comment on the position in Poland. In so doing I must begin by expressing an interest since I have been involved in trade with those countries for the past 30 years. Events there have moved with astonishing speed, but they are the culmination of strains which have built up over decades and there have been indications of such developments.
When I first visited the area in 1960 the Stalinist system was in full flower with all the factories organising cartels under central administration, all the foreign trade conducted under a monopoly of trade organisations and the whole organisation administered by the Nomenklatura —the system of trained Marxist administrators. To a man or a woman —there were many women among them —they were virtually all enthusiastic idealists who believed that they were building the system of the next century.
It was inevitable but in its way quite sad to see the disillusionment of those people set in over the past 30 years. They were able to explain away and rationalise to themselves fairly easily the problems in the GDR in the 1950s and even the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Those countries had been with Germany —with the Nazis—during the war and Communism had not had time to take full root. The Prague spring of 1968 produced a much greater crisis of confidence because that country had been opposed to the Nazis. It had a long Socialist tradition, yet here was a Communist Government against a Communist Government. That caused considerable disillusionment among the Communist Nomenklatura. However, even there, many people rationalised away the problem because so many intellectuals were involved in the Prague spring and not so many members of the working class.
I wonder how many noble Lords have noticed certain other indications at the very highest levels of the Communist hierarchy. I was particularly taken by the BBC's television coverage of the funeral of Mr. Chernenko at which, to my astonishment, I saw two Orthodox priests stood by his body —something 69 which was blasphemy in Marxist terms, yet there it was on television. Shortly after it was reported that Mr. Malenkov had joined the Orthodox Church. That was quite astonishing; but obviously the Marxist philosophy had begun to be eroded. I believe that it has now completely collapsed. One now has great difficulty in finding a single serious Marxist in Eastern Europe. One finds a few here, but one does not find them in Eastern Europe.
The watershed —the point at which Communism began to collapse as a belief—came with the rise of Solidarity in Poland. That country was foremost among those which had opposed Naziism. It was not a rebellion of the intellectuals in that country. It was a move on the part of the working classes and, above all, of the young working classes —the very people who had never known anything else, had grown up under Communism and were supposed to have benefited from it most. So that intellectual basis upon which the convinced Marxists had run their country was rapidly eroded once Solidarity fell into its stride.
What have the members of Solidarity demanded? I have known and spoken to many of them over the past decade. It is easy enough to find out what they are against. They are against Communism, but many of them are also critical of Western materialism as they call it. We must not assume that they will automatically embrace full market forces. They want prosperity, but they also want security. Only two weeks ago an enthusiastic supporter told me that they want the efficiency of competition in their industry, but they do not want to see their children sleeping on the streets, as happens in London.
It therefore seems to me that the most likely way in which Solidarity will develop —although there are a number of strands to its thinking —is as a kind of social democractic movement similar to that in Sweden. That is not certain, but it is likely. Premier Mazowiecki has made a most encouraging start. He has declared himself in favour of evolution, not revolution. He has kept the Nomenklatura in place. Without them, the whole system of everyday administration would have collapsed. That pragmatic approach is greatly to be welcomed, but the problems that he faces are mountainous —a unique complex of financial and organisational problems, and the problem of motivating the Polish people into enthusiastic co-operation and production.
On the financial side, our Government have uttered most encouraging words. I am sure that they will keep them, but I beg them to realise the urgency of the problem. The problems mount week by week and inflation becomes hyper-inflation day by day. This morning I learnt that a man I know went into a shop in Lodz only yesterday to buy a washing machine. The system there is that one goes to the counter to order the goods, then goes to the cash desk to pay. He went to the cash desk to pay, and between paying and going back to collect the goods he sold his receipt for 50 per cent. more. Tremendous hyper-inflation is setting in. The intervention of the IMF is imperative, not within months, but within the next week or two.
70 I should like to ask the Minister whether he is urgently considering the replacement o f the ECGD. That was suspended in 1981. It has been reintroduced in a limited form, but, if trade is to blossom, it is imperative that the ECGD be restored in full at the earliest possible moment. It is good not only for the Poles but also for our exporters.
On the structural side, Poland faces massive needs in its industry. In the long run, foreign help is not enough. The vast majority of the effort must come from the Polish people themselves in their own factories. They must be inspired to enthusiastic effort. However, joint ventures, which the Polish Government encourage, can be of considerable assistance. We must not waste time on this matter. German industry is leaping into the opportunities with both feet while we tend to drag our feet. Joint ventures can be of great assistance, partly by bringing in foreign investment and partly by bringing our know-how into the Polish marketplace.
However, I must remind your Lordships of Bismarck's saying: "The big decisions are easy; the devil lies in the detail". There is plenty of difficulty in setting up the joint ventures. I was involved with setting up one of the very earliest. Clearly it was a good idea from the word go. It took us only eight weeks to arrange the agreement in principle. It then took 18 months to arrange the detailed documentation of the agreement. Although the business heads on each side agreed very rapidly, the lawyers and accountants simply did not speak each other's language or understand each other's psychology, and they did not dare trust each other in case they were making mistakes. So training in capitalist and Western methods is of the greatest urgency.
There are two things that the Government can and should do. I should like to urge the Government to institute a channel of education in this country to inform British industry of the opportunities. Her Majesty's Government carried out an enthusiastic campaign to inform industry of the implications of the 1992 single market. A similar effort is necessary to inform British industry of the opportunities in joint ventures that are to be had in Eastern Europe and in particular in Poland before our friends on the Continent take away all the opportunities before our noses.
With regard to trade, I must offer the Government my congratulations on the £25 million grant which they have already announced. That is a great help. More will be necessary in due course. However, do they think that it is being used in the best possible way? The British Council is to administer it. Does the noble Lord believe that the British Council has the necessary commercial and industrial expertise? It is a wonderful body but would it possibly be better to have a special attaché and staff attached to the British embassy in Warsaw? Would he consider that course? Moreover, I suggest that, when we bring Poles to this country to study, sandwich courses—possibly between our polytechnics and industrial offices and factories —would be of the greatest value.
By history, inclination and culture, Poland is a mainstream European nation. It has suffered more 71 than any nation should suffer. As its economy is rebuilt along lines held in common with its Western neighbours, we must be prepared to welcome Poland into ever closer relationships with us. One iron curtain has crumbled away. We must not imprison Poland in a new cage of debt and tariffs. We have willed the end; we must be willing to vote the means.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, at this stage of the debate there is bound to be a certain sameness about the speeches. I apologise in advance should I repeat some of the points that have already been made, even if I do so less eloquently.
First I should like to hark back to the debate on the Address in June 1987. I quoted then from an article written at that time by Mr. Davidson of the Financial Times. With remarkable foresight he wrote:I have the strongest sense that we may be standing on the threshold of a period of change and movement unlike anything we have seen for 40 years".I agreed with what Mr. Davidson said then and I thought that there was, as never before, an urgent need for speculative examination of long-term possibilities in international affairs. I ventured to suggest to the Government, and especially to the Foreign Office, that they should try to look far into the future and be ready for great change. But in fact those changes have now occurred with surprising suddenness and we are faced with policy decisions of great difficulty and immense importance in both the economic and political areas.
How are we to react? Events have climaxed in the past few weeks. Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, has long been in a parlous state economically, but now its peoples are demanding political and social changes of a revolutionary character. The temptation for some is to try to race ahead and create a new Europe —even a new world —in the shortest possible time. In my view that would be a serious mistake. My impression is that most Members of this House share that view.
We all need time. The people who have initiated these remarkable and unexpected changes need it especially. They need time to make up their minds about where they wish those changes to lead. They need time to create the constitutional means to take the right democratic decisions and to weigh the consequences.
From where are the colossal resources to come to revolutionise their economies, and how rapidly can those resources be applied? The noble Lord, Lord Home, referred to the possibility of some kind of Marshall fund. Certainly enormous sums of money are required. They will be expected to come from Europe and from the United States —and why not from Japan? Japan has already invested in Eastern Europe. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, thinks, but no doubt Japan could be attracted and might well be interested if money is being applied to Eastern Europe.
We in the west, in the European Community and the NATO Alliance, equally must think carefully how much or how little we want to alter the scenario 72 to which we have long been accustomed. What is certain is that the United Kingdom Government must play an appropriate part in reaching future vital decisions. It is still not clear how President Gorbachev will deal with the problems of his patchwork empire; nor is the future of Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia fully assured.
At the centre of these problems may lie the question of the possible reunification of Germany, which personally I regard as ultimately inevitable and indeed necessary in the long run for a stable Europe. It is a question that concerns us all and is one in which the Soviet Union has a major and legitimate interest. If it is handled without willing Soviet acceptance, all the progress that has transformed the international atmosphere will be destroyed. If the German people decide to unite, the decision must be seen by the world to have been taken in an unquestionably democratic manner. Only in that way can acceptance by the Soviet Union be reasonably demanded.
Nevertheless, the Soviet Union must be expected to strike a bargain and seek guarantees. That bargain assuredly would require a fundamental and possibly beneficial change in its defence arrangements and in ours. For myself, I hope to see the present EC, now I believe in danger of being overtaken by events, transformed and broadened. Nothing that the EC does in the immediate future should make it more difficult for other countries to participate in the membership of a new, broader and better conception of a European Community, democratically accountable and without the extremes of political integration. In what forum can all these interlocking questions best be argued out? It is a very complex problem. I was very interested in the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, about the use of the Helsinki pattern. But there has obviously to be governmental consultations for a long time, including a very wide number of players.
I should also like to see the present military alliances eventually made into an instrument for maintaining peace, not only in Europe but —perhaps this is fanciful —even assisting the United Nations to assume a more authoritative role in the settlement of worldwide disputes.
It is inevitable that Europe tends to occupy our minds at the moment. However, I should like briefly to mention three other matters. The first is the Middle East situation. It has been repeatedly discussed here. If I remember correctly, on the last occasion there was a general agreement that an early solution was beyond reach. I do not expect that many of us would see reason to change that verdict. I certainly do not. Slightly ambiguous statements by Yasser Arafat caused a brief euphoria, but since then the PLO leader has done little except to confess on television to being a small millionaire. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians seem near to discussion, which would tackle the fundamental problems. Indeed, there is a good deal of disturbing mystery about what is going on in the area.
Of course sometimes it is better not to advertise what is happening, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government have a clearer idea than the public. There are events which are inadequately explained. 73 For example, rumours surround a huge explosion in Iraq. Chemical weapons are clearly in production. What is the purpose of these sophisticated armaments? Are they purely defensive? It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us more of the truth, for if that can be told it must be relevant to our defence plans for the future.
The second subject is South Africa. I agree with the Prime Minister's stand on sanctions at the Commonwealth Conference. I have had a certain experience of Commonwealth conferences over several years and I am not too impressed by their sometimes emotional and often ill-informed resolution. Like the noble Lord, Lord Walston, I have a great respect for the Commonwealth. However, the work through the conferences is not always of the best. The meeting at Kuala Lumpur was in many ways a re-run of the 1971 conference in Singapore when Mr. Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister, was a special object of attack about South Africa. But on that occasion the Australians and the Canadians were more realistic and more conscious of their own shortcomings. President Obote led the attack on the United Kingdom, only to be deposed on his return to Uganda by Idi Amin who did immense damage to the moral claims of all Africans. Only the most prejudiced can deny that President de Klerk has achieved much in South Africa in what has been a short time. There are now signs of important black groups talking among themselves —the ANC, and Chief Buthelezi's group. Could this be a prelude to talks with the government? But even if the ANC and Chief Buthelezi's group agree, they do not adequately represent all black opinion. All sides need time, understanding and help. To my mind the best way is not to harass them but to leave them, as we should leave the Germans, to work out their own solution to the situation which, if mishandled by however well-intentioned outsiders, has the seeds of a great catastrophe. If we are invited to help, we should do so.
Lastly, perhaps I may refer —as I have done before in debates —to a widely different subject: the administration by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the remaining islands of the British Empire. I exclude Hong Kong. I exclude the Falklands. I have St. Helena particularly in mind. I should like to be assured by the Minister that the affairs of these small territories, for which we are wholly responsible, are not being neglected and that the best traditions of the old Colonial Office are maintained and indeed improved upon.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord Cockfield
My Lords, with much of the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow I agree, although the conclusions that I would draw from it are not always the same. I do not believe that time is on our side. Events are moving very rapidly. We must be ready and prepared to deal with those events. We are seeing events in Europe which have no parallel since the decline and fall of the Roman Empire a thousand and more years ago. We are seeing Russia withdrawing within its own borders. We are seeing the liberation of the occupied territories. That inevitably leaves a power 74 vacuum in the centre of Europe; and it is essentially and primarily for Europeans to fill that vacuum. It is not primarily for Americans or for Russians. We owe a great debt to the Americans, both in relation to the last war and to the period of reconstruction in the times of great tensions which followed that war. But this does not mean that the future of Europe should for all time be determined by the United States of America.
On the other side, Russia is withdrawing from Europe. But, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, that what emerges in Europe, if not acceptable to the Russians, at least must not result in violent reaction from them.
However, we as Europeans have to shoulder this burden. In that connection it means that it will be the European Community which will take the lead in this matter. It means that the Community must be strengthened and developed. It does not mean that development in the Community should stop or that the Community should be weakened.
The Community is now making steady and purposeful progress towards fuller economic and ultimately political integration. I wish to make it clear that by political integration I do not refer to a pattern such as that of the United States of America. As I have said on many occasions, the United States is too unitary and centralised a system to prove a useful pattern for Europe. However, I believe that nearly all the member states will go to full economic union. Most of them ultimately will go to political union.
Interestingly, a great impetus to this movement was given by the Prime Ministers' speech at Bruges. I do not think that that is what she intended but that is what happened. One could see that the following day from the immediate reaction of Prime Minister Martens of Belgium; of Federal Chancellor Kohl, of President Mitterand, of President González of Spain and of the Italians. Many of us who believed that economic union was more than enough for our own lifetime and that political union could await a new generation, now believe that if we are put in the position where we have to fight, all right, we have to fight. The gauntlet was thrown down and a large number of people picked it up. Therefore, the European Community will form the focus of the development of Europe in the future.
There are already in existence a large number of association agreements of one kind or another made between the Community and other countries. The most important are the free trade agreements between the Community and the EFTA countries. But, in addition, there are economic co-operation agreements, free trade agreements and other forms of association with a large number of other countries, not only in Europe but also on the borders of the Mediterranean sea. In addition, we are now seeing a number of countries applying for Community membership.
It is now essential to create a structure in Europe which will accommodate these developments in a rational, acceptable and stable fashion. There is no doubt that for many countries the free trade area, or free trade association, will prove to be the system of 75 choice. But the countries in EFTA where there has been a free trade agreement since 1959, wish to go much further. For example, we have the Luxembourg declaration of June 1984 which envisaged a development of relations between the Community and the EFTA countries beyond free trade. I am glad to say that when I was in the Commission I was able to do a great deal to further the progress of that effort. A great deal of work is now in hand in the EFTA countries and in the Community to hammer out a closer form of association.
I believe that the most promising form that might take will be an extended customs union. The essence of a customs union is that there is a common external tariff and a common external trade policy. In addition, and subject to that, once goods have lawfully entered the territory of the customs union they have the legal right of free circulation throughout the whole of that territory. If that approach were extended to services it would form the kernel of what we know as the "1992 Programme".
As was said by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, it is not the position that our Government fully support the single market programme. They do not; they fully support those parts with which they agree. However, that is a little different from the original programme as I launched it in the White Paper in June 1985. It was endorsed by the heads of government at Milan in the same month and incorporated in the Single European Act. I say that only because it is the kind of structure which, as an extended customs union, is very close to what is already the United Kingdom's interpretation of the 1992 Programme.
If we had that kind of structure in Europe —that is, a community associated with it and not members of it; and that distinction is crucial —we should have a group of countries which formed a customs union extended to cover services as well as goods. Beyond that we should have free trade agreements with those countries which wished to enter into such a relationship with the Community. If we had such a structure it would be stable and flexible. It would be stable because people could, if they so wished, stay where they were. Alternatively, and subject to agreement, they could progress from free trade to the extended customs union and from that to the full European Community. That is quite different from the traditional argument about a two or even three-speed Europe. The Community would be a separate body and the other two groupings would be associated with it in the way that I have suggested.
I shall say a few words about monetary union because the subject has been introduced. It is not the work of bureaucrats in Brussels. Monetary union is deeply embedded in the policies of the Community. It formed part of the Community acquis when we joined and we were committed to it by the Treaty of Accession. It was reaffirmed in the solemn declaration on European union which was signed in Stuttgart in June 1983 by the heads of government and their foreign ministers. They are by no means bureacrats, particularly bearing in mind that two of the signatories were Mrs. Margaret Thatcher and Sir Geoffrey Howe. It would be rather derogatory to describe either of them as "Brussels 76 bureaucrats". It was reaffirmed once again in the Single European Act which was approved by a substantial majority on a Vote in the other place. Therefore, it is an accepted part of Community policy.
I turn to the Delors Committee. Even my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has described it as being a group of technical monetary experts. It was not. It consisted of the 12 governors of the central banks of Europe, two former finance ministers, two other bankers and one leading academic. They were not merely technical monetary experts; they were people of great standing and experience.
The document containing the Treasury's response to the Delors report —and presumably by "the Treasury" we mean the British Government —is headed, "An evolutionary approach to economic and monetary union". There is no pretence that we are rejecting economic and monetary union. All that the British Government are doing is setting forth an alternative approach to the same objective. However, it suffers from one serious flaw. That is, that it is based on the philosophy of "every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost". However valid that philisophy —and I shall not discuss that point today —it is quite inconsistent with the philosophy of the Community, which is based on co-operation, cohesion and mutual assistance. That is why this approach is unlikely to be adopted by the Community as a whole.
Perhaps I may also take up a point which was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. Our Government seem to have drawn some solace from the fact that the president of the Bundesbank has made some comments which might be seen to support the approach in this document. How naive can you get? The reason that Doctor Pohl has supported that approach is set out on page 3 of the document, which reads as follows:Greater use will be made of low inflation currencies at the expense of high inflation ones".What will happen? If that policy is adopted, the pound sterling will disappear from the scene and the deutschmark will in fact become the single currency of Europe. Of course that is supported by Doctor Pohl because it would then mean that he would determine the whole monetary policy of Europe without the disagreeable necessity of talking to the governors or representatives of the other eleven member states. The only way in which we can possibly support and defend our own interests as a nation, as a country, is if we go into the formation of monetary union and take a full part in its development.
My own view, one which I have expressed on many an occasion, is that we shall see a single currency in Europe by the end of this century. The only question which is open is whether we in this country join in or whether we stand on one side. However, there is more at stake than just whether or not we join in a European movement, because if we do not join in the monetary union, what will inevitably happen will be that the financial centre of Europe will shift from London to Frankfurt. If that happens, neither this generation nor future generations will ever forgive us.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, the noble Lord will understand if I do not follow him; but I express my appreciation of his great knowledge and expertise in his particular subject. That was made transparently clear in his speech this evening.
I thought it was right that very early in his speech this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, should mention Cambodia. That is probably one of the most horrible situations which now exists, and it will be recorded as such in mankind's history. It is the south east Asian holocaust.
With the assistance and help of the Government Chief Whip's Office, I had agreement before Prorogation to raise a debate on the Floor of this House on that subject. But the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, quite rightly and properly pointed out to me that due to his enormous workload, he could not do justice to the debate unless he was given more time. In consequence, the debate was postponed.
I have mentioned that because many people who understood what might take place wrote to me. They were very disappointed. I tried to explain that was the sensible course, and that ultimately we shall have a debate on the situation in Cambodia.
We cannot pretend that the situation does not exist. I ask the House to note that tens of thousands of people including children were put to death under the Khmer Rouge and the evil Pol Pot so that their dead bodies could be used as compost to create new forests. I should have thought that that would shock and shatter everybody in this Chamber, as I am sure it does. I hope that if I am privileged to open a debate on the situation in Cambodia this House will make it quite clear where it stands. I say quite clearly to the Government that while I realise they appreciate the situation, appreciation of such bestiality is not in itself enough. Something must be done. The international forces and great national powers of the world must make their contribution to stop the bestial activity which is going on now.
I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for mentioning Argentina. It is very sensible that we should now commence an increase in our trade with that country. I hope that more people will visit Argentina. Trade and aid are two good things. Of course, the more trade there is, the less aid one has to give. Also, on another view, jaw, jaw, is better than war, war. Therefore, let us continue to talk and increase trade. That will be good for Great Britain and good for Argentina.
The situation in the Middle East is probably one of the most appalling paradoxes at present in mankind's history. We can all remember what was happening in the mid-thirties when it was an appalling offence to be a Jewish person. Some of us went to Germany to see for ourselves. We did not really know what was happening to our fellow Jewish human beings and of the terrible holocaust which was revealed at the end of the war. I am very proud that it was my country which first started to take on that wretched, evil organisation known as German Nazism. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, that with the aid of decent people and with the aid of the British 78 Commonwealth, we made the largest contribution to wiping out Nazism. Therefore, let us not be too eager to run down either Britain or the British Commonwealth because that was one of our greatest achievements.
That was followed by a very sad situation. I remember that some of the young soldiers under my command, as the war in Europe eased to an end, were sent to the Middle East. They did not know much about the Balfour Declaration —and nor did many other people come to that. It was very agonising, and I know people who lost sons. In those early days British soldiers were slain by Israeli terrorists. It cannot be said that it is quite all right for Israeli terrorists to kill British soldiers and that it is only other forms of terrorism that are wrong. In this House this evening I condemn that yet again because those British lads were totally innocent. They were there to do a difficult job. They were doing it in a typically British fashion with a good sense of humour and with the understanding of ordinary people. I was very sad that those killings should have taken place.
In addition to that, what has happened since is also a terrible paradox. We all know and have seen the horror of the European holocaust and what happened to Jewish people. However, not one single Arab was involved in that. The perpetrators of those crimes were European Christians, were they not? Therefore, once again, we have this terrible paradox.
It is wrong for any country to invade another's land. If it was wrong for the Germans to try and occupy my country, it is wrong for the Israelis to occupy Palestinian land. The quicker they get out the better, because if they do not, there will be a real change of attitude internationally. Possible progress might have taken place many years ago and the problem could have been resolved due to the wonderful work carried out by Mrs. Golda Meir and King Abdullah. Unfortunately because of his civilised approach to the problem, King Abdullah was assassinated. However, there is now hope that the Egyptian President, Mr. Mubarak, and the Israeli Minister of Defence are slowly coming together to try to work out in a civilised way how peace can be restored and then kept for ever.
I have found in many lands —Arab lands, the Far East, Africa —that one thing is pointed out to me. When I was in Tunisia a few weeks ago I went to the local synagogue and I had been to the mosque. I could not find a church, but that did not really matter as I have my bedside at which I can say my prayers. There was something these people were pointing out to me. They said, "Look, my very good friend, our families have known each other for hundreds of years. They are Jews. We are Moslems. We have never had any problems whatsoever, and we do not have them now". Things of this nature were said to me in Israel. What is remarkable is that they were said not by great intellectuals or massive military men. They were just ordinary people who had lived together in a civilised and peaceful way for centuries. I hope that their example will in the end triumph; and after these momentous and remarkable happenings over the past few weeks, we have to hope for the same thing. It is hardly believable.
79 In 1961 we heard of the terrible, communist brutality being exercised among East Germans, some of whom were alleged to have been communists themselves. Under Stalin and Brezhnev it did not matter what you were, whether capitalist or communist, if you did not toe the line, you had to pay with your life or with appalling beatings. That went on in other countries in Europe as well. The agony was that we in the West could do very little about it. We knew of it; we were sorrowful; but there was not much that we could do.
This House —government and opposition parties —acknowledged the remarkable breakthrough that has taken place in the last few months. That was created in the main by Mr. Gorbachev. In years to come, that will be a name as honoured as Winston Churchill, Aneurin Bevan, Ernest Bevin, and our good and great colleague the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. In that list of good, famous people will be the name of Mr. Gorbachev. He has now given us an opportunity. It is not going to be particularly easy.
There is something that we have to note for the future. Whenever a fascist or an extreme communist wants to make a move, he has one priority. It is not to get rid of judicial systems or Members of Parliament, but to get rid of the local trade union movement. That was Hitler's first move. That was Stalin's first move. Destroy the trade unions, and you have taken the guts out of any nation. Anyone who tries to find excuses to damage trade unions in this country or in any other is treading very softly in the footsteps of both Hitler and Stalin.
This has been said earlier, but it is worth repeating. Now that Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries are getting their freedom, the freedom of Poland was won by that great trade union movement, Solidarity, led by Lech Walesa. That is probably now one of the most famous trade union movements in the world. They deserve our support, but they need more than support.
This also has been said, but I have to repeat it. I hope that our country and our British Commonwealth will set about seeing how much we can do to help economically those countries that have been brutalised by communism and rendered bankrupt by communism. I hope that we will now give aid in any way that we can.
I conclude with this suggestion, which I hope the Government, the trade unions, the CBI and all the big organisations in our country will consider. As soon as it is reasonably possible, I hope that members of the CBI, the TUC, and our youth movements will start to visit all these countries. I hope that there will be an exchange of visits of ordinary people, specialists, trade unionists, commercial folk, Members of Parliament and Members of this great House.
This action too has a vital contribution to make. The name of this country —which the world has heard of as always standing up for the rights of ordinary people —will be quoted to these Eastern European countries in order that they may understand what sort of people we are. Above all, 80 they will recognise that we are folk who can be trusted as well as honoured, as indeed we are honoured in Eastern Europe. If we can do those things, it will not merely be good for Great Britain, it will be a good and wonderful thing for the people of Eastern Europe. They are now groping forward towards a freedom that they dream of and which they can now see is going to become a reality.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he has said, but I am sure that the whole House particularly appreciated his remarks about Cambodia, as it did the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon earlier. The House needed to have its conscience quickened, as it were, by reference to that matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, concluded his speech —a remarkable speech in many ways—with words to the effect that the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was probably now an anachronism. He is almost certainly right about that matter. With his great experience of these matters, it was a significant ending to his speech. It does not mean that we should get rid of NATO, but it means that we should reassess the position of Nato vis-à-vis the Western world and vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact itself should revise its own position. I suspect that in NATO it should quickly lead to a two-tier or a two-pillar approach to NATO, which we have never really had —the European pillar and the North American pillar joined together in an Atlantic alliance.
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, put forward an attractive proposition; that is, that we should use the procedure that led to the Helsinki Agreements as a framework, or an umbrella, to try to bring Western and Eastern Europe together at the present time. There is a great deal to be said for that. But I thought that the noble Lord was on much less sure ground when he pointed out that there had not been a peace treaty after the war, and suggested that we should revise this matter as a means legalistically —as I understood it —of controlling procedures hereafter.
It seemed to me that the noble Lord had partly forgotten that the Treaty of Versailles, brought into being only a year or two after the First World War, in no way inhibited Hitler's Germany from attacks. There is a great danger at the present time in accepting a legalistic approach on these matters.
When the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, said that time was not on our side, I suspect that he was right. I suspect that the pressure for a unified Germany is going to be much greater than the pressure for a unified Western Europe at the present time. That may carry with it serious consequences. One of the most valuable suggestions I have heard made before, but today it came from a great authority. It was the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Home, that we need a Marshall Plan. I am certain that it is in the interests of Western Europe and of the world that all possible material help should be given to the Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union.
That brings me to the main burden of what I hope will be my short speech this evening. This is a matter 81 suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill: what about Japan? It is right that we should ask the question: who actually won the cold war? Inadvertently I think it may have been Japan, if there was a winner. Historically it never planned this. It was non-aligned in the early years. It certainly took no active part in it. By a series of historical accidents plus, let us face it, the ingenuity, the resource, the industry and the drive of its people, 40 years after the cold war began Japan is economically and financially the most powerful country in the world. Its per capita income is now 10 per cent. ahead of that of the United States. Who would have foreseen this 40 years or 20 years ago?
We have a good deal to learn from Japan, and I am sure that Japan has a great deal to contribute at the present time. I believe that we have a good deal to learn by looking at the process by which Japan achieved this position. Basically, the reason lies in what happened after the war. Japan lost the war and there is no doubt that it was absolutely shaken by what occurred at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The policies and procedures of General MacArthur put Japan on the right path. It had a constitutional prohibition on a defence establishment. While the United States, Western Europe, Russia and the Iron Curtain countries were spending trillions on defence, Japan was not.
We have to face the fact of Japan's predominant industrial position. God forbid that it should ever turn to the production of armaments, because if it wanted to and did so Japan could become one of the most powerful —if not the most powerful —military countries in the world in a matter not of years but of months. As the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, quite properly pointed out, the speed of change at the moment is fantastic.
Another reason for Japan's predominance is that under the Bretton Woods arrangement for exchange rates the Japanese yen was fixed at something like 360 yen to the dollar. That rate was not changed until the abandonment of the fixed exchange rates in 1971. The figure did not even reach 200 yen to the dollar until 1986. The springboard for Japan's rise to its industrial and financial position, which is probably the highest in the world today, was the undervalued yen. That is a lesson for us in this country when we are trying to maintain an overvalued pound and endeavouring always to support the City of London at the expense of our own national industry.
A further factor is that Japan is in the van of the telecommunications revolution that is taking place. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, is not in his place at the moment. I am sure he was wholly right when he said that the human spirit is expressing itself in East European countries. He asked the question: where did they get their ideas from? I am sure that it is partially due to the normal reaction of the human spirit in countries which, after all, share, or did share, the Christian ethics which we inherited in Western Europe. There were the same foundations in Eastern Europe. They were also greatly assisted by the telecommunications revolution.
The Berlin Wall may have been all right for keeping in people but it could not control the sound 82 waves, the television pictures, the telephones or the modern communications systems. Since a great deal of the telecommunications development came from Japan, that country had a part to play in the changes that have taken place. I am particularly concerned about the help that Japan can give through the way that it has developed. There are lessons to be learnt by Europe in particular from the accession of Japan to the position of probably the individual country which is in the strongest position to help in the world at the present time.
Japan has already 400 units of production planned or in place for the 1992 developments within the Common Market. It is going to be in a position to influence Eastern Europe a great deal. Therefore it is a tragedy that Western Europe has not proceeded further on the way to integration. I entirely agree with the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. He has rendered a signal service to this country by coming to the House and giving us his views based on his great knowledge of these matters.
It is impossible to concede that we can in any way revert to the idea of the sovereign nation state as being an acceptable status for any country to make a contribution in the world at the present time. It seems to me that we are trying to fight tomorrow's battles with yesterday's approach in so many instances.
I have already referred to the telecommunications revolution. It has ensured that the pace of change is going to be very fast indeed. Because of the way in which Japan has developed I believe that it has a contribution to make in all these matters, and for the sake of the world it should be brought into consultation. It has a tremendous contribution to make in the rehabilitation of Eastern Europe and in teaching it some of the techniques of production which are necessary. The sooner that Eastern Europe is in a much happier position economically the safer will be the world.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords,Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour".So wrote Rupert Brooke, celebrating with the high exhilaration of youth the outbreak of World War One. Now, 75 years later —75 years of weariness and experience —we may reasonably repeat those words for an exactly opposite reason, believing as I do that there is at least a chance of peace in our time and a peace not based on and secured by the Independent nuclear deterrent.
To me this is a far better cause for exhilaration and excitement. Some might say —some certainly do say —that as soon as we are sure beyond a doubt that the cold war is over, there will be no more reason to keep or to manufacture nuclear weapons. No more there will, as far as the USSR is concerned. But these weapons can never be wholly abolished from the world. Even if we leave the USSR out of our calculations altogether, we still live in a dangerous world in which something like a dozen nations already have either the ability or the potential ability to construct nuclear weapons.
83 As long as this is so—it will always be so, and probably worse —it would be madness for us to give them up. Defence against the Warsaw Pact may become a necessity of the past. I believe it will, and it is almost so already. But the necessity for defence in general will remain until the end of foreseeable time. That is why we must keep these weapons though in fewer numbers, not as a deterrent against the Warsaw Pact, but for the safety of the nation.
The Labour Party has never agreed with this but now, since its own policy study and the party conference at Brighton, we learn that the party also means to retain the weapons. You must admit that it is a bit weird, or would be if it were true. For years it banged the drum of unilateral disarmament and then suddenly, when the possibility of a nuclear exchange between NATO and the Warsaw Pact seems to have shrunk almost to invisibility, and after some hearty arm-twisting by its own leader, it decides to go multilateral, like the Tories. Do you believe this, my Lords? Do noble Lords really think that Labour policy has performed this spectacular volte face? Of course, it has not.
I personally know of nobody in that party who has actually stated that it has. It will surely be agreed that a defence policy is a policy for the defence of the nation and keeping it safe. This newly-announced policy of the Labour Party is a policy for winning the next general election and has nothing whatever to do with defending the country. The truly extraordinary matter is that everyone knows this, and it was frequently referred to even by members of the party themselves at the conference. But none of the media seems to think it worth more than passing notice.
The Labour Party has been agonising, perfectly openly and properly, over the problem of how to become electable. I believe it is important that the electorate should understand that this great party is up to something pretty unusual. It is engaged in a process unique in British parliamentary history; indeed, so far as I know, in parliamentary history in general. Nobody has ever before witnessed the spectacle of a great fully-formed party looking for a policy. Parties come into being for a purpose. People do not form themselves into a party and then fall into discussions as to what they are there for.
The Labour Party, for example, was formed to support the trade unions and to improve the lot of the working man. These objects have been achieved so successfully that with the general decline —to use a rather mild word —of socialism the majority of the electorate has decided that the party has done its job and is now redundant. Where then is it to go? Logic answers loud and clear:… fold their tents, like the Arabs,And as silently steal away".The party is naturally reluctant to do that and we have the spectacle of a party looking for a policy; for an escape from the dustbin of limbo; for a raison d'etre. The policy document is the result.
There is nothing in any way improper about that. I am making no accusations. The party saw, with a clarity of vision induced by successive electoral defeats, that it had become unelectable like, say, the 84 SDP or the PDSA, or whatever it is called. This policy document is simply designed to make it electable again. Your Lordships may think it a somewhat basic, even embarrassing, ambition for a party to have to admit to; but there it is and reasonable enough at that, as I think your Lordships will agree.
It is also a bit weird, as I indicated just now, to decide to keep the independent deterrent at almost the exact moment when, as some might think, it really looks like becoming unnecessary. It is tempting to wonder —and nobody succumbs to this temptation more readily than I —whether we are not witnessing a demonstration of a large-scale missing of the point, for it is not just the Labour Party that has become non-electable but socialism itself. All over the world —yes, even in China —belief in public ownership as a means of production, distribution and exchange is sliding inexorably into the discard. This is true whether the said socialism is practised under totalitarian regimes or in the homelands of party democracy. It appears to me now that the decline of the Labour Party into irrelevance began with the untimely death of Hugh Gaitskell. Think how much more firmly it would be placed now if it had kept the independent nuclear deterrent and abandoned Clause 4.
I do not think, therefore, that there is any serious danger of the Labour Party winning the next or any other general election. If I suppose that, or I do not think there is this danger, why should I worry about what the Labour Party is up to? The answer is that I may be wrong. There is also the unforeseeable future to be considered and there is still plenty of time for some self-inflicted disaster on the part of the Tory Party. That is not an unheard of event. I may be asked: what then? Has not the Labour Party said that it will keep the independent nuclear deterrent, and is that not what everyone wants? Of course it is what I want; but is that what the party said it will do? I do not think so.
True, the Labour Party conference said so, but it also voted for a sizeable cut in defence spending and it was promptly and publicly announced that that would not appear in the manifesto when the time came. If the national executive committee is not bound by the decisions of conference in one case, why should it be bound in the other? Has it ever been bound by anything yet? I do not think so. My guess is that when election time comes the so-called multilateral decision will appear in the manifesto. If it did and if, thanks to its appearance, a Labour Government were returned to power, what then? Well, manifestos are not written on stone. This particular policy, or pseudo policy, having achieved its quite openly admitted aim of getting the party elected, could and no doubt would be quietly dropped. And why not?
Defence and foreign affairs, which occupy the composite field which we are debating this afternoon, are uniquely hedged about by secrecy. What could be easier than for a new Prime Minister or Minister of Defence to change his mind on reading all the hitherto hidden —that is, hidden from him —and unseen intelligence assessments of the outgoing government? If this should happen the rest 85 of us would be in no position to say that we had been treated in any way dishonestly. It would have been a trick, certainly, but performed before your very eyes —like the conversation going on just across the Chamber from me —like a three card trick or a thimble rig. If we fell for it we should have only ourselves to blame.
I referred earlier to hearty arm-twisting by the party leader. Is he then the leader newly dedicated to the cause of multilateral disarmament, or not? If he were, he would be bound, in order to retain any shadow of credibility whatever in this particular field, to have resigned from the CND which, with him, is dedicated to unilateral nuclear disarmament. The Labour Party is engaged in a confidence trick, a perfectly honourable one, but a confidence trick none the less. Your Lordships have been warned.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, I do not intend to travel down the road that the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, has opened up for me. I merely say that I should have thought it much more sensible, if you have got a weapon and negotiations are taking place, to agree in those negotiations about the use of the weapon. That seems to me to be all that the party is saying at this moment.
I want to speak about other matters. We are living in very interesting and exciting times and I suspect that this Session of Parliament will be a very testing one. I agree with the noble Lords who have greeted the changes in Eastern Europe with joy and expectation. However, the present developments in Eastern Europe, while they are pregnant with opportunity, are equally pregnant with danger. I hope therefore that they will be handled with the utmost care.
It is not only in Europe that there are changes taking place. It is these changes in other parts about which I wish to speak this evening. There are changes taking place in Southern Africa. They are connected with what is taking place in Eastern Europe, as your Lordships can imagine, because they have both been affected by the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev; by the consequential improvement in East-West superpower relations, and by the desire of the Soviet Union to reduce much of its extra territorial obligations and to concentrate on reforming and improving its economy. What is happening in Eastern Europe and in South Africa owes a lot to that.
Now —and I can say joyfully —23 years after the United Nations General Assembly revoked South Africa's mandate over Namibia and ordered South Africa to withdraw; 22 years after the establishment of the United Nations Council for Namibia (which was supposed to administer Namibia on the United Nations' behalf until independence but which, of course, was never allowed even to enter the territory); 18 years after the International Court of Justice gave its opinion that South Africa occupied Namibia illegally: after all that time we have had elections in that territory to elect a constituent assembly to draw up a constitution for an independent Namibia. The constituent assembly has met and elected a chairman 86 and has now embarked upon its task. The hope is —and this must also be accompanied with a prayer —that the progress to Namibian independence will continue unimpeded and that no further obstacles will be placed in its way.
The assumption that independence will be achieved means that an independent Namibia will need a great deal of help and support. I say that because although Namibia is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, with rich mineral deposits, fertile coastal fishing grounds and plenty of good stock farming land, the majority of Namibians live in extreme poverty. That poverty is a result of the economic, political and social policies and structures which were imposed upon Namibia by South Africa. Therefore, after independence, huge problems will remain.
The international community must be prepared to help the new Namibian Government to cope with such problems. It must also insist that Walvis Bay, which is Namibia's only deep water port and which was annexed by South Africa, be returned to Namibia, so that it can play its essential role in the economic development of the country. The United Kingdom has a long association with South Africa and also with Namibia. We must be in the forefront of the endeavour to secure the return of Walvis Bay to Namibia. After all, Walvis Bay was annexed by Britain in 1878. Therefore, we have some residual responsibility in the matter.
It is expected that after independence Namibia will join the Commonwealth. We hope that there will be concerted Commonwealth help for this new country. It is also expected to become a signatory of the Lome Convention. There again, I hope that all the help which Britain can give will be given.
As regards South Africa, it would seem that the Government have understood —at least, I hope that this is so —that the military option to resolving political differences is too costly. At present, South Africa's economy is in great difficulties. There is a substantial flight of capital from the country and resources are stretched to the limit in the government's attempts to control legitimate black opposition and organisation. Moreover, the attempted destabilisation of its neighbours —which is one of the really sad aspects about South Africa's behaviour —is proving expensive and adding to its isolation.
Through their new president, the present government have been making statements which suggest that they realise authoritarian government is not the way to a successful future and that a way must be found to enable the people of South Africa to live together in equality and freedom.
The National Party's manifesto and its five-year plan, although a big document, at least recognised the need to negotiate. However, the problem is the agenda. Moreover, a Law Commission report released earlier this year called for the enactment of a Bill of individual rights approved by the entire nation, regardless of race and colour, to be preceded by the abolition of residual apartheid laws. Such an enactment requires a common franchise. I cannot see how it can be approved by the whole nation 87 unless the whole nation votes for it. If this report is accepted, and there is a proposal for its implementation, this would certainly create a new climate.
The release of all political prisoners, the unbanning of the African National Congress and other exiled political movements and the abolition of the state of emergency are all essential prerequisites to the opening of negotiations. It is important that the South African Government recognise that the abolition of the Group Areas Act, the Population Registration Act, and the other Acts which have been used to underpin apartheid, is as important as any of the other matters to which I have referred.
The South African Government seem to a certain extent to have recognised that fact. They have removed some of the fringe features of apartheid. In fact, they have promised to abolish the Separate Amenities Act which prevents people from using beaches, parks, sports facilities and other such amenities. However, they have not yet shown a willingness for more fundamental changes. There must be more fundamental changes. If the right climate for negotiation is to be created, the government need to be encouraged to take bold steps. They have the power to do so. All the matters to which I have referred are actions which can be taken by the South African Government at this time. Further, if such actions had been taken, the climate would be quite different.
The British Government have a duty to spell out this need to the Government of South Africa. I say that because it seems to me, after listening to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, that the Government and their supporters insist it is friendship with South Africa which will enable changes to take place. Therefore I say that it is the duty of this Government, and of those who think like them, to spell such matters out to the South African Government. It is no use the South African Government believing that all they need to do is to make a few superficial gestures, while ensuring in the final analysis that they continue with white rule. That policy is not on. They must be made to understand that fact.
I want to say a word about sporting contacts with South Africa because that subject seems to arise a great deal. The ban on sporting links with South Africa must be regarded as a sanction which is no different from the ban on the sale of arms to South Africa. It has been imposed to bring pressure to bear on South African society so that pressure is brought to bear on the government to bring in change. It does not carry a legal sanction, but under the Gleneagles agreement governments undertook to use their utmost endeavours to discourage sporting contacts with South Africa. I doubt whether the British Government use their utmost endeavours to discourage such contacts.
Whenever a rugby or cricket tour to South Africa is announced, the Minister for Sport says that the Government disapprove of it, but in the same breath he goes on to say that people are free to go if they wish. The Government should indicate, in the 88 strongest possible terms, their opposition to such contacts and should explain to the sportsmen that they are wrong when they think that they are not taking part in politics, because they are making a political statement in support of apartheid when they accept an invitation to play in South Africa.
Sporting contact with South Africa cannot be justified on the basis that it contributes to the development of non-racial sport within the country, because the very structure of South African society and the actions of the white minority government necessarily confine non-whites to second class participation in sport just as they confine them to a second class participation in all other aspects of South African society.
Nothing can justify giving comfort to the apartheid regime or, what is equally important, undermining the position of other sportsmen and sportswomen who remain faithful to the Gleneagles agreement. The Government should spell out that fact to sportsmen and sportswomen in this country because they should understand what they are doing.
Finally, I wish to speak about the Lomé agreement. The news that I receive suggests that we are not meeting the needs of the ACP countries in the new agreement. The present Lomé negotiations are affected by a climate in which commodity prices are low; there is the debt question; and the fear of the consequences of 1992 on islands such as those in the Caribbean. The people fear that their bananas will be unable to come into Britain on the same terms as they formerly came in and that they would be subject to competition from bananas from Latin America which could wipe out the industry. Coffee producers fear the consequences of the Uruguay round. All those difficulties surround the negotiations.
The information I receive suggests that, as usual, this country is dragging its feet with regard to the European Development Fund. I hope that on this occasion we will not, as we have on previous occasions, force the Commission to provide funds lower than other members wish to have. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that that will not happen this time.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, the international situation seems to me at the moment to be so heartwarmingly encouraging that I am surprised my noble friend the Minister did not begin his speech by intoning, as Lord Curzon did in 1919 at the end of the First World War, the first strophe of Shelley's "Ode to Hellas":The world's great age beings anew,The golden years return …".It is encouraging to be present at a debate such as this when there is general agreement that the cold war seems to have come to an end. It is especially satisfactory when that should have occurred in a year when we are marking the French Revolution. How splendid to have a satisfactory counter-revolution in that year, and one which so far, as I understand it, has been attended by no bloodshed. It is also satisfactory to notice that the 89 remarkable change in events in relation to the destruction of a creed (Marxist-Leninism) which believed that the role of the individual was of no importance in the realm of human affairs has been brought about primarily by the energy of one individual—Mr. Gorbachev. In respect of him, another line of English poetry comes to my mind. It is that of Marvell in relation to Cromwell, who he said did,By industrious valour climb to ruin the great works of time Casting the kingdoms old into another mould".I am sure that, as with Lord Curzon, my noble friend the Minister and his right honourable friend the Secretary of State will soon find, if they have not already done so, that the problems of peace are as complicated as those of conflict. For example, the President of the United States, Mr. Bush, recently said that he expects that in future it might be possible to move on from the containment of communism to a period when the Soviet Union might play a part in global co-operation. It would be a great achievement if the United States were to persuade the Soviet Union to play a positive rather than an obstructionist part in the United Nations. I wonder if we have thought enough about whether the United Nations, as it now is, is the right organisation to preserve peace in the last 10 years of the century. I have not seen any evidence that any thought has been given to that point. It may be that the organisation which was set up in 1945 on the inspiration of my noble kinsman Lord Gladwyn, and probably others in the Chamber, does not need any form of revision. If it does, this may be the moment to consider it.
However, there is of course the qualification that the chance of the Soviet Union playing a positive part in global co-operation depends upon its holding together, and that may be an assumption we cannot make.
Events in Eastern Europe plainly make it necessary for us to consider the future of NATO. NATO has played an astonishingly important part over the past two generations. Now we are faced with war between the great powers being apparently more unlikely than at any time since 1933 and perhaps since the end of the last century. Obviously in the short term NATO must remain as a guarantee of Western security and the possibility that things may go wrong in the Soviet Union and against the fact, to which our attention was drawn by my noble friend Lord Home, that the Soviet Union still has a colossal armoury in Europe. Perhaps NATO can play a part not just in securing disarmament in Europe, especially central Europe, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, said, on a larger scale than that. However, that is a very imaginative leap. I suggest that the fuure of NATO will have to be considered, just as the future of the United Nations will have to be considered, in the next few months and years.
Even more important than the challenge which these events make for the organisations I have already mentioned, there is the challenge which they pose to the European Community. First, there is the beguiling concept mentioned today of the common European house which has been spoken of by Mr. Gorbachev on so many occasions. When I first heard 90 it discussed in Moscow during a meeting of the Anglo-Soviet Round Table, before Mr. Gorbachev was in power in 1984, it seemed fairly clear that the concept of a common European house was propaganda. I remember a distinguished Soviet lady speaking of it and saying, "Why don't we all collaborate? After all, we are all Europeans". That of course meant that we were not Americans.
Now we have suggestions that all 36 members of the European Security Organisation which first met in Helskini in 1975 might be looked on as members of a common European house. Surely that is far too broad to be an effective organisation. I say this with all due respect to the interesting comment on the matter made by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. It certainly seems that Mr. Gorbachev speaks sometimes of the common house as a synonym, or another way of saying that he, like Peter the Great, wants a window on the West.
Then there are the events in what used to be referred to as the satellite states. We have become used to referring to them as Eastern Europe, but before 1914 we spoke of them as Central Europe. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was entirely correct in her speech in Bruges when she insisted that the cities of Warsaw, Cracow, Dresden and so on were as much part of the heartland of Europe as any of those which are in the European Community. Of course they are. They played a great and important part in European culture and history.
Once the states of which those cities are the capitals or important cities have emerged from communism, carried out elections successfully and become able to be defined as democracies, it is difficult to imagine that they would not think of applying to join the European Community. Under Article 237 of the Treaty of Rome. confirmed by Article 8 of the Single European Act —the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, will correct me if I am wrong —it is difficult to imagine that their applications would be turned down.
The idea therefore must be that within the next 10 years or so we may have about 10 more European states seeking to join the European Community. How will this affect the future of the Community? Will it mean that the Community will disintegrate; or, on the other hand, that we shall have to devise a central political authority of the kind which we have not yet devised, in order to cope with the challenge that these applications by ihemselves will pose?
Then there is the question of Germany. I personally feel that the application of East Germany to join the European Community is not likely to be such a demanding challenge as applications from some of the other countries of which I have spoken. After all, once East Germans get to West Germany, they are looked upon as West German citizens and therefore, presumably, as European Community citizens. I suppose that if they wished they could come here immediately and do what they liked—perhaps found water companies in London or whatever undertakings members of the European Community may be expected to carry on in the next few years in this country. That does not seem to be such an important matter.
91 The question of European unification is of a different character and I quite agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, when he insisted that we should not give the impression that we were hostile to that. Anything we ourselves might do on the matter is not likely to be of determining importance.
Those who feel anxious about such a possibility may perhaps feel less so if they recall that the Germany of 1989—even if we include both Germanies —is only three-quarters the size it was in 1937 and only two-thirds the size of Germany in 1910. Perhaps those people would also be comforted to reflect that, after all, the German birth rate is declining and not increasing. Finally, if those points do not satisfy them, they may come to the conclusion that the best approach to the problems of East Germany might well be to ensure that the great historic states of Saxony, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg might be enmeshed successfully in a European union.
All these events occur at a time when the future of the European Community itself has once again entered a period of controversy. I as an observer feel that I have some sympathy with both sides on this question. I have no doubt that noble Lords will feel that that is an irritating position to take up. All the same, I can see, on the one hand, that we have all tended to neglect the remarkable achievements of President Mitterrand in the past eight or 10 years in taking France away from its Gaullist position of isolation and converting it into a country which is willing to collaborate and to lead in Europe. Certainly in many ways it is collaborating in NATO.
I can also partially sympathise with the position of M. Delors, although I do not think it would be good if 80 per cent. of the major economic decisions were taken in Brussels, any more than I think it would be good if 80 per cent. of the economic decisions were taken in London, in respect of the British economy. I do not agree with him there. However, I sympathise wih him in his dilemmas. It is rather as if he were a rugby player who had spent a long time during the match in the scrum and had seen the opportunity for an opening. That player knows perfectly well that he has to bruise his way over if he is to get anywhere at all.
In exactly the same way—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, would agree with this—anyone who works with 11 or in this case 12 European democratic countries and sees an opportunity of getting them together on any issue must feel that he has to act as quickly and forcefully as he can, since such an opportunity will surely not recur.
On the other hand, I have every sympathy with those in the Government who are reluctant to make further concessions on sovereignty, given the large number of concessions on sovereignty that we have already made since 1973. They are so many that it seems to me that Mr. Nigel Lawson's reflections on his desire for "a Europe of nation states" was rather out of date when he gave that interview on television. We have made so many concessions that I can perfectly understand that those responsible for our 92 affairs must act with caution about the timing of entry into organisations if they are not certain which is the best mechanism.
Nevertheless, I was persuaded by the arguments against the Treasury's proposal for competing European currencies which were put by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. It also seems to me that if we are to make a success of the Common Market, the single European market to which we have committed ourselves and devoted such attention and patience, in the end a single currency may well be the right course.
I am glad to see that the gracious Speech makes it plain that the Government are going to throw their weight as forcefully as they can behind the idea of some form of monetary co-operation. However, the language is rather cold, or not as warm as the firm commitment implicit in the 1987 Conservative electoral manifesto. That manifesto quite rightly stated that this was a Government who had taken Britain away from the sidelines of Europe to the mainstream.
The word "mainstream" is important as the essence of the Community is that it is a stream flowing onwards towards further integration. I hope therefore that the Government will regard it as one of their major responsibilities from within the European Community to assist in the formulation of a satisfactory political framework for the future. That should certainly involve fighting against excessive centralisation or new regulation, seeking a proper democratic accountability, making it possible for other European nations from the East to join and preparing the country as a whole for a European future in a Europe of diversity. That will be a Europe des patries no doubt which I would interpret as a Europe of nations, but which cannot be a Europe of nation states. The difference seems to me fundamental. The mood which I hope the Government will breathe as regards our and their European future is that of Churchill who (in relation to social reform) said in 1910 that he did not fear to see the changes which were to come.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, Her Majesty's gracious Speech drew attention to the need for Her Majesty's Government to:encourage the forces for peaceful change and reconciliation in Southern Africa".Many noble Lords have spoken of the exciting political changes in Eastern Europe. I believe that southern Africa is going through a similar historical potential breakthrough. With the constraints on time in this evening's debate, I wish to focus specifically on South Africa which has been my home for over 28 years. After the obvious stalemate position of the past decade, a real sense of realism seems to be emerging for peaceful negotiation. The recent successful elections in Namibia, the withdrawal of Cuban and South African forces from Angola and the new leadership under President de Klerk in South Africa have raised a hope and belief that residual apartheid can be eradicated and that a new constitution, recognising the vote of all persons in South Africa, can ultimately be successful.
93 Central to any chance of success in South Africa is the need for a climate of mutual trust. That will be a major hurdle. We all welcome the recent repeal of the separate amenities legislation. That point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead. Further, we welcome the release of many political prisoners and the partial lifting of the state of emergency through the non-interference by the police in the recent defiance campaign launched by the mass democratic movement. Obviously now the call must be for the unbanning of all political parties, particularly the African National Congress.
The recent election result, although totally excluding the black vote, showed a clear vote for reform. In previous speeches that I have addressed on this issue, I have raised three categories of South African white voters. There are the so-called thousand year reich Nationalists who believe that the status quo can continue for the rest of their lives and their children's lives. There is the après nous ledéluge movement which is constituted of those who believe that the situation will perpetuate for their lifetimes, but perhaps not for those of their children. Then there is the more liberal moderate movement. The recent election showed a clear move to the more moderate liberal movement with a real realisation that black majority rule is inevitable. In his most recent address to the Foreign Correspondents' Association on 13th November, the state president said:We South Africans must learn to understand one another and our country better. We must bridge the gulf of ignorance, misunderstanding and distrust which still separates our people. The future of South Africa will ultimately be influenced much more by communication than by confrontation. We stand on the threshold of great developments in Southern Africa".Clearly there are a number of complementary objectives between the orchestrators of reform and those of revolt. These are the objectives of one nation, one constitution, one citizenship and the preservation of a strong economy. Despite a major disinvestment campaign from South Africa, the economy has remained reasonably resilient. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, remarked on the efficacy of sanctions, and more specifically sporting sanctions. Being a very keen sportsman myself, while I initially supported sporting sanctions against South Africa, I cannot but feel that the international community has moved the goalposts. When the initial Gleneagles Agreement was brought into force, its aim was to discourage countries from playing sport with South Africa until the latter changed its domestic sport. It was not a ban. Surely now the aim of the call for sanctions, specifically sporting sanctions, appears to be that none of the international sporting bodies should play against South Africa until there is a total change of government. Sanctions in targeted form may have a certain amount of assistance psychologically, but it is the threat of sanctions more than their implementation that has been effective. I certainly welcome the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding their strong stand against this unnecessary measure.
Dr. Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, the former leader of the opposition Progressive Federal Party, succinctly summarised the current position by distinguishing 94 between three distinct but interrelated processes that currently take place in South Africa. These are talking about negotiation or position bargaining; creating the conditions for negotiation or determining who will shape up to bargain; and negotiation on bargaining itself or settling an acceptable alternative constitution. I believe that South Africa is still involved in the first process and is tentatively moving towards the second.
There are so many issues I should have liked to raise in this evening's debate, but I shall merely list a few of what I believe are the moot points that could be raised in future debates on this issue. Black urbanisation will jump from 57 per cent. to 75 per cent. within the next two decades. South African cities are politically unprepared for the socio-economic consequences. If apartheid legislation is not scrapped, it will ultimately be ignored.
There is currently almost a 3 per cent. population growth rate with the economy battling to rise beyond a 2 per cent. growth rate per annum. The skills for a future economy will increasingly depend on today's black youth. There are 19 educational bodies in South Africa. Surely this is a complete farce and a total waste of money. A single educational body must be achieved.
I wish briefly to raise the issue of the interdependence between South Africa and its neighbours. South Africa has 63 per cent. of the paved roads, 56 per cent. of the total rail lines, and 50 per cent. of the ports. Gavin Relly, the current chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, at a recent address at the Centre for European Policy Studies, remarked:Southern Africa cannot hope to develop without the participation of South Africa. Any attempt to de-link the economies of Southern Africa from South Africa and to pretend that aid and assistance from the international community can more than make up for the natural linkages and participation of South Africa will perpetuate rather than eradicate the problems faced by the region".In conclusion, I do not believe that there is any "quick fix" for the South Africa dilemma. The ritual mantra of releasing political prisoners, removing the ban on the exiled movements, and abolishing the state of emergency as the essential prior steps necessary to initiate negotiations should not be taken as a one-off package of immediate change. It should rather be seen as part of a purposeful process of change which is not amenable to simple timetabling.
The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, raised the issue of the Nationalist Party five-year plan. I agree that it is a particularly vague document. However, at least it recognises the need to negotiate. Further reform in South Africa will be beset by risk and many difficulties. I believe, however, that a true democracy in South Africa is now a reality and not just a pipe dream. I warmly support Her Majesty's Government's endeavours to encourage that process.
§ 7.52 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken. I believe that he is correct in saying that there is a great deal of unjustified prejudice in this country 95 against South Africa. I met someone recently who said that he had seen no sign of apartheid during his visit to South Africa. I am aware that South Africa has great problems, but I believe that it is trying to tackle them.
I should like to say a few words about what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, said. It is worth remembering how we have arrived at the present extraordinary situation in Europe. I should like to recall the background. At the start of the war in 1914, everyone said that if only politicians could get round the table they would settle the matter. I believe that probably that was true. That is exactly what is being done now by the President of France. He has called people together to consider what is happening.
What is happening? Seven or eight countries are experiencing the start of what looks very much like a French revolution. People are gathering in their hundreds of thousands to say that they cannot tolerate the way the government is being conducted. How did that situation arise?
After the First World War there was the Versailles Treaty. The Versailles Treaty was founded on hatred of Germany and a desire to punish Germany. Noble Lords may recall the words of Edmund Burke that one cannot indict a nation. One cannot indict a nation today. To do so was the gravest of errors.
I was a student in Germany at that time. Anything that went wrong in France was a matter for great pleasure in Germany. Anything that went wrong in Germany gave great pleasure to France. That was an intolerable situation, but it provided the fertile soil which gave rise to Hitler. If one was in Germany and realised that Germany was held in disrepute all over the world, one could readily understand how a leader like Hitler could gather the country together. I could see that: it was as clear as crystal that something would happen, even in the very early 'thirties. Something did happen.
What happened then? What happened after the six years of the Second World War? The whole of Europe was handed over to Stalin. That I am afraid is what the American President agreed to and what we were unable to prevent. I asked a Hungarian how his country became in that situation. He did not know. Hungary had suddenly found itself under the control of Russia. Now there have been revolts. The position is unique. It may not last long. How are we to use the opportunity?
There are many options, most of them calling for democracy. Democracy is a delicate instrument which needs very careful handling. Democracy is not a test of wisdom, it is a test of opinion. One has to recognise that the majority decision is not by any means necessarily the right decision, but it is the way in which one gets support behind it.
We can help very much in the way that those countries set themselves up. I believe it is not a question of the theory of politics that we should teach them but how to handle democracy. I should like, like the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, to make a German quotation from Goethe: 96Grau alter Freund ist alle theorie, and grün des Lebens goldener Baum".Theory is grey; it is the golden tree of life which matters. That is what we could teach those countries—the golden tree of life; how they can manage their affairs properly.
Where does the European Community come into this? The European Community should make itself as easily available as possible to the countries of Eastern Europe. I have to say with respect to my noble friend Lord Cockfield that I do not believe that we should tread too far on the political side. The Queen's Speech refers to the free market. I hope that we shall achieve that. However, I do not believe that we should think of going further on the political side until we have had real experience of how the market works.
I do not want to detain your Lordships longer than necessary. However, the European Commission has to show itself as being more competent. We know very well that large sums—not millions but billions—have gone astray. Professor Tiedemann, German professor of economic crime, has said that the common agricultural policy is the greatest incentive to crime in Europe. I say to my noble friend that that has to stop. The Commission has some 3,000 employees and can stop the crime. It is up to the Commission to see that it is done. It should not set a bad example.
Countries from Eastern Europe will not be attracted to join an organisation which cannot keep its hands on money and cannot prevent crime. I believe that that has to be put right before the European Community can look forward to the day when the eastern European countries can join in a common market covering almost the whole of Europe. That is important.
I believe that there is a great incentive. I do not believe that we should worry too much that the Prime Minister is in a minority. I believe that the Prime Minister is more often right than wrong and that criticisms, particularly on television and elsewhere, are not justified. We have an opportunity and we should not let it pass.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Viscount Hanworth
My Lords, with this number of speakers it is difficult to say anything new, but I want to emphasise some points that have already been made and to consider another which I believe is a major factor in regard to the future.
At the outset I should like to digress for a moment to make the point that governments should not simply be categorised as democratic or communist. There are, and should be, half-way houses. I do not believe that our own type of democracy is completely exportable to developing countries where, initially, for them, a more autocractic regime might be necessary. Experience seems to support that view. It may also apply to former communist regimes if too sudden changes are made. Most of us here think that capitalism is the only way to promote economic efficiency, but it must be controlled to avoid its potential excesses. Again, a half-way house and some new thinking might be the right answer.
97 Returning to the subject of the debate, I must say that I have always been fearful that, if autocratic communism was breached, there might be chaos because the public and their leaders went too far too quickly and a situation like that in China resulted. To a relatively minor degree, that happened in Czechoslovakia and may happen elsewhere, even in Russia. My guess is that a return to rigid communism in the West will not result. It was once said by Shakespeare, and repeated later by the German Iron Chancellor, Bismarck, that there is no power equal to an idea whose time has come. I think that that is true today in Russia.
However, my fear is that the Red Army, whose members will lose some of their prestige, jobs and promotion prospects under the Gorbachev changes, might resolve to bid for a takeover in Russia. That possibility does not seem to have been fully appreciated in previous defence debates, probably because Gorbachev's ideals were not so clear then as they are today. With that in mind, we must support him as far as we can. What would happen if the Russian army took over power is anyone's guess, but there is little doubt that we should need strong NATO forces in a way which some might question while the present euphoria lasts.
What worries me today far more than Russia is the new nuclear capability being acquired by some of the smaller nations. A small 100 megawatt nuclear power station might be able to produce enough weapon-grade plutonium for a nuclear bomb in one month. That is up to 10 bombs a year —a frightening statistic, even allowing for the difficulty of extracting pure plutonium from the fuel rods.
Perhaps I may pose a hypothetical question. What would happen if, for example, a near Eastern extremist leader started using a nuclear weapon? Would it initiate a major nuclear war with the superpowers becoming involved? I hope that this and other possibilities will be discussed between the major powers, Russia included.
I have not mentioned chemical warfare. Again, there is the probability of smaller nations acquiring that capability. Unfortunately, the time has passed when the West could effectively control those developments, but we should continue to try to slow them down. It is time that the anti-nuclear lobby targeted the threats which I have described.
Even if we can largely eliminate the ridiculous over-kill of the American and the Russian nuclear arsenals, we must keep a massive superiority in relative terms against newcomers in the nuclear field until the time when we can eliminate all such arsenals.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Lord Geddes
My Lords, with the forbearance of the House, I shall return to the subject of Hong Kong. Until July 1997, and indeed thereafter, the people of Hong Kong are our responsibility. Those people are not being granted independence. Not to mince words, we are handing them over to a country whose values presently have little in common with our own. The freedom of the individual, the freedom of the press and an independent judiciary are an 98 integral part of our life which we take for granted, but those concepts are alien and almost unknown to the people of China. Can we depend on the Chinese to allow the people of Hong Kong to enjoy those basic rights without ensuring adequate safeguards? The whole world knows what happened in China earlier this year.
As was said in the gracious Speech, the basic premise from which all subsequent negotiations must stem is the Joint Declaration of 1984. Paragraph 3(5) of that declaration states:Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region".But the Basic Law which is supposed to put the Joint Declaration into practical effect must surely be seriously undermined, if not nullified, by the provisions that the powers of interpretation and amendment of that Basic Law are vested in the National People's Congress.
In his excellent opening speech, my noble friend the Minister mentioned the probability that Hong Kong will have a Bill of Rights. As I understand it, it is proposed that Hong Kong should adopt the human rights provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and that the People's Republic has agreed to that. But China does not recognise the covenant and it is, to say the least, questionable whether the covenant itself will be enforceable.
The Chinese may have pledged that the present social and economic systems in Hong Kong and the lifestyle enjoyed by its people will remain unchanged, but they must be given incentive to keep that pledge. The only incentive available is Hong Kong, as it is now. Its buoyant and hugely successful economy is, and should continue to be, of tremendous benefit to China. But if the people who make that economy successful—those hard-working and (I say this advisedly) brilliant entrepreneurs—are no longer there, that incentive goes with them.
The only real safeguard that we can offer the people of Hong Kong is to hand the territory over to China in its present form and to do that, its people must be given the confidence to stay. There is only one way of encouraging them to stay and that is to give them the freedom to leave in the future. At the moment the brain drain is running at around 42,000 a year and it is expected to rise to about 55,000 next year. About 24 per cent. of those emigrants are professionals—technical, administrative and managerial—who in turn make up only 5.5 per cent. of the total population. We are therefore talking of a core number of about 300,000 professionals. If 13,000 of those people leave each year—supposing that that rate does not increase further—nearly one-third of that vital core of the population will have left by 1997.
A Hong Kong devoid of those people is of no value to China. Those people do not want to leave their country. Indeed, why should they? They live in one of the most invigorating and exciting places in the world. I had the very real privilege of living there 99 for three years. They are leaving because they fear for their future. We have the power to allay their fears by granting them the right of abode.
The fact that the Government recognise the truth of that proposition was demonstrated in his speech by my noble friend the Minister. However, he was silent on numbers and referred only to "key people". I have heard mentioned a figure of 150,000. Although that would be a good start, it is still a woefully inadequate number. If the British Government were prepared to grant the right of abode to a substantial number of British passport holders —I agree with my noble friend Lord MacLehose and I shall not be tempted into trying to double-guess what that number should be, but I repeat "a substantial number"—surely other countries, not least in North America, in all probability would follow our example. A team of British economists led by Professor Corry of London University came to the conclusion that, even if all the 3.2 million British passport holders were to come to the United Kingdom, that influx could well be of great benefit to this country.
However, the reality of the situation is that it is highly unlikely that many Hong Kong people would want to leave Hong Kong, let alone come to the United Kingdom. In a recent poll conducted by Survey Research in Hong Kong 62 per cent. of those polled said that they would stay in Hong Kong even if they were granted the right of abode in the United Kingdom. Only 6 per cent. said that they would emigrate to the United Kingdom.
As I did last week at Question Time, I refer again to the situation in East Germany. The citizens of that country now have freedom of egress and right of abode in West Germany, but most of them have chosen to stay in or return to their own country. Cultural ties should not be underestimated.
The greatest danger of all is that position in which China inherits a Hong Kong which is of no benefit to it. There is then no incentive for China to keep its promises and those who can do so will leave Hong Kong. The world may rally round and accept those new refugees, but the British obligation will be the greatest. We shall be forced to accept possibly the weakest members of the refugee population which would impose on us an enormous burden.
In an ironic way that burden would not be totally dissimilar from that presently imposed on Hong Kong by the influx of Vietnamese. My noble friend the Minister has given the numerical scale of the problem. It does not need a statistician to appreciate that the equation is hopelessly unbalanced. The number of Vietnamese in Hong Kong is growing at an alarming rate. However unpalatable it may be in theory, in practice mandatory repatriation is the only available solution. The conditions in which those people already live are overcrowded in the extreme and border on the inhumane.
Quite simply there is nowhere else for them to go. Hong Kong itself is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. If we do not act now, an already grave situation will become a serious crisis. Those who have been refused refugee 100 status—the economic migrants—must be returned to Vietnam as a matter of urgency. It is to be hoped that that in itself would prevent many more from leaving. For that to happen, we must have the co-operation of the Vietnamese Government. Clearly it cannot be a one-sided decision.
The Vietnamese Government themselves have made very clear that economic aid is needed to persuade them to take back their citizens and restrain further departures. One may well feel that that is tantamount to being held to ransom. I do not disagree, but it must be the better of the two solutions. To put it in its simplest terms, the choice is either to pay the Vietnamese Government to take back their economic refugees and allow them to make some kind of life for themselves, or to incur vast expenditure, keeping them in the appalling camps in Hong Kong. Realistically, there can only be one answer: mandatory repatriation.
The reference to Hong Kong in the gracious Speech included two words of key significance: "restore confidence". In this country we have a number of fundamental duties in that respect. Such duties must include insistence—I use the word quite deliberately—that Peking demonstrates in both word and deed that it will honour all aspects of the Joint Declaration. We ourselves must demonstrate our total commitment to Hong Kong and its people by granting them the right of abode in this country and by taking an even stronger lead in resolving the Vietnamese refugee problem.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe
My Lords, given the remarkable events in Eastern Europe, I think it perfectly natural that many of the speeches this evening concentrated on that aspect. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, observed that there is very little to say that is new. That is probably correct if one takes that limited European scene.
I should like to turn to a subject not mentioned in the gracious Speech but first I shall refer to a sentence about the Middle East that did occur in it; namely, that Her Majesty's Governmentwill continue to work for a peaceful solution to the conflicts in the Middle East".The Speech went on to mention Cambodia. During my time in politics, I have often wondered why there is such an enormous concentration on the affairs of Israel. Israel is a country which is the size of Wales and has a population of some 5 million people. Yet the attention paid to it is out of all proportion. Such attention derogates from the consideration of other extremely serious problems that are facing the world.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is one of those who persistently raise in this House the question of the Middle East and Israel. In his speech tonight he regretted the assassination of King Abdullah. I hope that he equally regrets the assassination of Palestinians who try to work with the Israeli authorities to improve the situation. There is an almost obsessional interest in Israel, the latest manifestation of which appeared in a report in The Mail on Sunday which reported a visit to Israel of 101 the British Council of Churches and commented on a report since produced. Hugh Muir, the man who wrote that report says in the second paragraph that the report compiled by the British Council of Churches:compares the suffering of Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel with that of the Jews during the Holocaust".That seems to me to be absolutely grotesque. I wish to draw attention to a situation that I believe is desperately serious and far worse than anything that may be described in the British Council report. Earlier the right reverend Prelate said that he would stray from the main theme of the debate up to that time by mentioning two places: El Salvador and Cambodia. He said that he would introduce two fresh places and I thought at first that one of them might have been the Sudan because there is a substantial Christian community there.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, mentioned Cambodia. I heartily agree with his remarks about the situation in that country; but it is not dissimilar from the situation in the Sudan. I welcome his interest in Cambodia and invite him to join me in pursuing the problems of the persecuted minorities and the people in the south, in particular in Sudan, who are suffering so gravely. Sudan is the largest country in Africa. It is a million square miles, with some 25 million people. Yet I believe that I am the first speaker in this debate who has mentioned it. It is an incredibly diverse country and yet little is heard of it.
I have been inquiring about Sudan in the past few weeks. Some of the information on the problems there has been given on an entirely confidential basis because if the source became public very grave consequences would flow for those who have supplied the information.
However, there has been a good deal of comment over the years in the press. In the summer of last year James Grant, the director of United Nations Operation Lifeline Sudan, wrote an article discussing the historic agreement between the Government and the SPLM which allowed the safe transit of food supplies to the war ravaged south. In his article he outlines some of the problems. He states:Two years ago, there were roughly 6 million people in southern Sudan. And in the last two years of civil conflict, 1.5 million of them have fled to the north, nearly 500,000 to Ethiopia, Uganda and other places, and 300,000 or 400,000 to beleaguered garrison towns like Juba and Wau".He continues:Well over 300,000 have died in those two years",and writes of the impact that this has had not only on the economy but on the whole structure of the social pattern of the country.
In May last year the Independent carried a headline stating, "Sudan's Dinka Tribesmen 'Facing Extermination'". The article refers to women, children, teenage boys and the elderly herding together in conditions that are virtually like those which were known in Auschwitz.
In the same month The Sunday Times referred to,horrific evidence of genocide, slavery and mass starvation in southern Sudan".102 The article referred to,'walking skeletons', and a missionary has described the scene in one camp as 'like Treblinka' ".Under the heading "Sudanese Refugees facing Starvation" the Guardian described the appalling conditions. Other newspapers such as The Times have lately carried accounts of the appalling catastrophe. Yet it is a country which has the resources to sustain a good standard of living. But such has been the deterioration in the economy that it is now described as a complete economic disaster, and it is forecast that economic activity as such will come to a standstill almost completely in the comparatively near future.
In this House we cannot always deal with every problem which is facing the world and different continents. However, at least we ought to try to share out our concern and to make sure that there is not over-concentration on one particular area to the detriment of conditions such as I describe, and as the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, described earlier with regard to Cambodia. We should widen our horizon and try to get away from over-specialisation.
The Times describes the problems in particular with the southern area and the slavery which is practised by Arab raiders, to which I shall refer shortly in a little more detail. One of the problems is that the junta which is at present in control is trying to impose sharia law on the entire country. This obviously gives rise to very great difficulties. A report in The Times of 27th July this year refers to,a revival in government ranks of sympathy with Islamic fundamentalists and a stress on the country's ties with the Arab world, factors which do not augur well for reconciliation with the Christian and animist south".I hope that this can be surmounted. One would draw attention to the very great tolerance in this country of minorities. Indeed, only recently your Lordships' House rejected an amendment which would have removed the protection from Sikhs on building sites. We have an honourable tradition in this country of respect for minorities and I hope the Government will attempt to persuade the Sudanese authorities that this should be extended to their own country.
The last quotation with which I shall weary the House comes from News From Africa Watch of 25th September this year. In the first paragraph an article states:Sudan's new military government has dismissed dozens of judges who objected to the violation of the rights of civilians facing trial in special military tribunals. It has also closed down all independent newspapers, has detained lawyers and trade unionists and threatens to move against its critics in the university".It is an appalling picture that I have described. The leader of the SPLM, Dr. Garang, has said that it is not a simple problem as some would try to say: that it is north against south. It is central control against the regions which make up this great country. There is a substantial Christian community in this country. I had hoped that from the Bishops' Bench we might hear some concerns expressed. I do not refer to the right reverend Prelate who is present. Over the past few years there has been no contribution from any of the right reverend Prelates with regard to the Christian community in Sudan. 103 There is a need for a latter-day Gladstone to take up this cause and crusade for these people as he did for the Bulgarians during the famous Midlothian campaigns which set the pattern for modern campaigning. I was glad to hear today that under the auspices of a former American President, Jimmy Carter, there is to be a meeting in Nairobi on 1st December when peace talks are to be resumed.
Many people said they were unaware of the excesses that were being perpetrated in Nazi Germany until it was too late and nothing could be done about it. I hope that this appalling situation in Sudan will be fully discussed in your Lordships' House. I hope that the Government will do what they can to exert pressure to bring about a peaceful solution, and that when these horrors are fully detailed we shall not have to say, "If only we had known we would have tried to do more about it".
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, this has been an extremely interesting debate, travelling north, south, east and west. I should like to go further south than the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, and draw attention to a country about which some noble Lords may not have heard. I had not heard about it until I went there. It is a country called Bophuthatswana. It lies between Botswana and South Africa. It is an independent country and yet it is unrecognised as such. It is fully democratic with universal franchise and a sound and expanding mixed economy. It has over 1,100 schools with good education; 10 hospitals; 145 clinics; a good health service; a social security system; a university with about 2,500 students; an ombudsman who looks after human rights; and a self-funding development corporation with about 450 factories creating 40,000 jobs. Last year the corporation showed a good profit. It is the world's third largest platinum producer, producing 35 per cent. of the world's supply. Its economy depends on tourism, mining and commerce. It is a place where black people from the republic can acquire land on which to live. It is a multiracial country where everyone lives in harmony. Its philosophy is that it is a Christian country with free enterprise and it is fully democratic. Its motto is "people are people" regardless of their colour. The president is elected every seven years. Its parliament has 108 seats, to which 72 are elected, 24 are appointed by tribal nominations and 12 are appointed by the president.
Sadly, because South Africa granted independence to Bophuthatswana—which I shall now call "Bop" —it is not recognised by the world even though there is no apartheid and it is obeying all the rules and criteria of an independent country.
I turn to its history. In 1871, through the Keate award, the British Government awarded all land north of the Vaal River to the Batawana, the people who live there. In 1885 Sir Charles Warren set aside the Bechuanaland Protectorate by a British Order of Council; that is to say, the area of Bop and Botswana. In 1888 the British Government promised not to incorporate British Bechuanaland into the Cape of Good Hope. Seven years later, and without 104 consultation, they incorporated the southern part of the country into the Cape.
Under the Act of Union 1910 the Southern Batawanas were put into union with South Africa and they were made second-class citizens with no political rights. Under the Land Act 1913 the Southern Batawanans were deprived of all their traditional land, and their tribal rights were abolished.
That situation remained until 1977 when at last they regained their independence from the RSA but they were not recognised by the world. That is most unfair because Lesotho and Swaziland are recognised merely because of their different history.
Does Bop meet with the criteria for international recognition as a free country under the Montevideo Convention? Are the boundaries clearly defined? Is there effective internal autonomy? Does it have control of its foreign policy? It has clearly-defined borders. It is not a big country but the Vatican is a lot smaller. The borders are defined, yet many countries such as Israel, Kuwait and Kashmir have disputed borders. It is a disjointed country, but that is not unusual. For example, the United States of America is disjointed; Alaska is disjointed from the mainland. The Greek Islands are also disjointed. Bop has total internal autonomy and full responsiblity for all its administration. It has elected government, universal franchise and good administration. It is an example to many other African countries. It is more democratic than most other black countries. It is economically viable and perfectly capable of having its own foreign policy if it is allowed to do so.
However, one asks how that can be so when it is surrounded by South Africa. There is a mutual defence pact. That is not unusual because almost every other country, including ours, has such a pact. It receives financial help from the RSA to the extent of 20 per cent. of its budget. Bop could survive without that, but it says that if the money is there it might as well have it. But that is not unusual because every African country receives help from the West. Indeed, we did not lose our sovereignty when at various times during our history we received help from the United States.
There is also the argument that there is an umbilical cord to the RSA. That is no more true than it is of any other front line state. As a result of its financial strength that is less true than in many other countries. Opponents of independence may sneer but its government is independent of the RSA, which does not interfere. However, that does not mean that it is not friendly. There is nothing unusual about trying to be friendly to your neighbour. It is successful, enlightened, democratic and independent. Yet it is denied recognition by other countries of the world, many of which have no human rights, few if any elections, are economically dependent on hand-outs and unable to pay their debts.
One argument against independence is that when there is no apartheid in South Africa there will be no need for an independent Bop; the need will be deemed to have disappeared. However, it will not have disappeared for the Batswana. They do not 105 want to be part of South Africa. They do not want to be part of the RSA. They do not to be part of black South Africa because they would be swamped by the Zulus and the Causa. The Batswana are intelligent and peaceable people compared with the Zulus and Causa, who are largely warlike and aggressive.
The Batswana are as different from the Zulus as are the English from the Germans or the Italians. It is racially arrogant to lump all black people into one country merely because they are black. It is the same as a black country drawing a line between Hamburg and Trieste and saying that because everyone is white it will put everyone to the left as one country and everyone else to the right in another.
The ANC want Bop to be part of the South African electorate in order to swell the numbers. Yet while the ANC speaks from self-appointed leaders with their influence founded on terror—as it is —the wish of the Batswana is expressed through the ballot box. They have made their decision and they want an independent Bop controlled by the Batswana.
If we believe in self-determination —and presumably we do or we would not have gone to the Falklands or kept Northern Ireland —why should the Batswana not be able to have the type of government they wish? Unlike the ANC they are democratically elected. They know that if there was one man, one vote in a unitary South Africa Bop would be swamped. Yet that appears to be the only thing which will satisfy the rest of the world. If they cannot be independent they would at least like to be joined with Botswana or, at worst, in a loose federation with South Africa.
Why do they need recognition and independence? They need academic and technical assistance. They want British Council scholarships. They need scholarships to UK universities and they want access to City and Guild places. They want loans from the world's banks. Other nations receive soft loans which sometimes they squander. On the other hand, Bop's financial discipline and record is exemplary. They also want to join the Commonwealth.
Furthermore, Bop cannot be declared as a country of origin. That is peculiar because Taiwan, which is not recognised, can be so declared. Yet here is a country helping itself down the road that the world wants Africa to go and it has something to offer. It is extraordinary that it is denied recognition. It is also extraordinary that the British Government refuse to find out the facts about what is going on. They are determined to remain prejudiced by not sending officials to discover what is happening.
There are 2 million people in the country receiving no help from Britain. They have taken themselves out of the apartheid situation. They are developing a democratic country regardless of colour. They have dignity and status and they deserve recognition. I do not request that the Government recommend that they receive world recognition, but merely that they should send officials to discover the facts so that Britain's policies can be based upon what is happening rather than upon prejudice.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Lord Alport
My Lords, I believe it is a very agreeable feature of our debate that amid all the great issues which we have been discussing my noble friend Lord Gisborough should have the opportunity of bringing before us the problems of a small and isolated country, semi-independent or independent, as he would claim, in Southern Africa.
I follow him only in that most of my remarks will deal with Africa, because the real theme of our debate today is that we are living through days of immense historic importance. The events in Europe have been so remarkable that I can think of no parallel in peacetime, except in the year 1848. In that year, Sir H.A.L. Fisher has written:Constitutions came down in showers from the trembling hands of penitent and dissembling princes".At the end of the next century they will be the hands of palsied and frightened presidents. It is as if some giant has shaken the kaleidoscope of European politics and produced a new pattern of colours and shapes, the consequences of which no one can today accurately assess.
However, as I said, it is not the problem of Europe at which I wish to direct my remarks this evening, except in one aspect. It is certain that the security of the balance of power in Europe, which we have had for generations, will be radically changed. There are dangerous years ahead for Britain, as the Secretary of State for Defence said last week. In those years we shall need all the friends we can muster.
The handling of our relations with our fellow members of the EC over the past couple of years has raised antagonism against our Government and country which will not easily be forgotten or forgiven. Our special relationship with the United States under the Reagan administration is now replaced by a special relationship between President Bush and Chancellor Kohl. Britain, weakened industrially and increasingly isolated politically, needs all the friends it can muster and the friends with whom I am concerned are our fellow members of the Commonwealth.
I was appalled by the isolation in which the British Government found themselves in the latter stages of the Commonwealth Conference in Kuala Lumpar and even more by the reaction to the outcome of that conference in the predominantly conservative UK press. The gist of that comment was that it was high time that the Commonwealth was abolished and that Britain should forthwith cease to be a member. It was reported that that line followed guidance given unofficially by some spokesmen of the British delegation in Kuala Lumpar.
I can understand the indignation to which the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, referred in his speech at being lectured by Mr. Obote in Singapore. No doubt it is annoying to be criticised by leaders of countries whose records are not above reproach. However, the fact is that by the end of the conference Britain was in a minority of one, not only opposed by the new Commonwealth but the object of unrestrained and bitter criticism by the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
107 The problem of South Africa which caused that unprecedented and deplorable situation to arise has immensely greater significance for the rest of the Commonwealth than it has, apparently, for the United Kingdom. What is more, countries such as Zimbabwe are heavily involved in the South African situation and have a greater sense of realism about it than seems to be apparent here.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of how effective sanctions can be, the fact that the leaders of the core anti-apartheid movement regard them as an essential way of bringing pressure for change and the fact that 48 out of 49 Commonwealth governments agreed, let us look at the real situation, as I see it at any rate—which is not the same as the view of the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso—of that beautiful and bedevilled country.
The problem is simply one of power: black power or white power. The Financial Times got it right when it said:Nearly 80 per cent. at the last election voted for either crude apartheid and a bizarre version of a white homeland or a modernised version of white domination concealed in the rhetoric of 'group rights' and 'power sharing'".Power does not mean allowing blacks to sit on benches in the public parks in Pretoria or surf on the beaches of Muzanburg. It does not mean allowing a few old men out of gaol after a quarter of a century or even the elimination of the Group Areas Act. It means the transference of political power from 5 million whites to 30 million blacks.
Already the political initiative is passing from the old ANC generation to the new young activists. As their impatience breeds extremism, resistance among the Afrikaner nation will grow. I realise that the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, was talking from the liberal point of view in South Africa, which is widespread among the population of British origin. However, I am concerned about the position of the Afrikaner nation, which has the power in South Africa at present. When the crunch comes, as it may and will do, the Afrikaner majority will take up arms and fight it out.
Two or three years ago I asked a leading spokesman of the then National Party whether he thought that in certain circumstances there could be a military coup. He said that that was a distinct possibility. I am quite sure that that will happen unless the pressure by the international community is so great that even the isolated Afrikaner nation, with all its historic memories and racial prejudices and fears, can be made to face up to the realities of their country in the present day.
I remind your Lordships that in Rhodesia, where the ratio of white to black was less, where the Afrikaner element was small and the liberals much more numerous than they are in South Africa today, it took seven years of civil war and 20,000 dead to achieve the transference of power from a white minority to a black majority.
To suppose that the mild-mannered President de Klerk with the rump of the National Party or the pallid idealism of democrats can solve the problem of power in South Africa is an illusion. Obsessed by 108 that illusion, as I see it, the British Government have forfeited their leading role in the Commonwealth and have alienated friends which they so badly need in the old and new Commonwealth alike. They will be stigmatised internationally, as the situation in South Africa between now and the end of the century unfolds, as being the only major government who sided with apartheid. Their motives will be said to have been not to prevent unemployment or distress among the black population but to protect British interests in South Africa's industry and mines.
I find it extraordinary, perhaps from a historical point of view, that the Government should have appeared to side with elements in South Africa which have historically always been anti-British against the judgment and sensibilities of the countries of the Commonwealth, old and new, which have been our friends. For the latter, membership of the Commonwealth with all its links of history in the field of trade, the professions, parliamentary governments, public services, armed forces, language and institutions remains of great and continuing significance. The welcome return of Pakistan to the Commonwealth shows how strong are those ties, and we shall be dealing with legislation facilitating that in a very short time. For Britain, the strength which its influence in the Commonwealth gives it —not as an imperial power but as the origin of so many of the values and institutions which the Commonwealth countries enjoy —is just as important.
On all that, I believe that there is general agreement. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Holderness in his excellent speech yesterday referred to that. To throw all that away by clinging obstinately to the pursuit of a line of policy which will increase the basic resistance to change in South Africa, which will intensify the probable violence in the outcome and leave Britain isolated and impotent and alienate this country from Commonwealth friends, seems to me to be inexplicable. Fortunately, Commonwealth members are politically sophisticated. They have seen aberrations of judgment by British governments before; for instance, Suez. On that occasion quick and effective steps were taken to mend Britain's Commonwealth fences under a different leader.
I hope that the Government, with a new Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, will seek actively during the immediate future to repair the damage done to British interests and Commonwealth unity at Kuala Lumpur. I hope that the Minister when he replies will give some assurance that this is now the Government's firm intention.
§ 8.51 p.m.
The Marquess of Ailsa
My Lords, I wish to say a few words about the Horn of Africa, and in particular about Somalia. Somalia has been an independent state for 29 years following the independence given to the former Protectorate of British Somaliland and Italian Somalia. This year, 1989, is President Said Barre's 20th year in office. Until last year, 1988, Somalia had a very unhappy and unsettled relationship with its neighbour, Ethiopia. It had open warfare, aerial bombardments, invasions and every other means of difficulty thrust in its way.
109 However, last year, fortunately, an accord was reached between Ethiopia and Somalia. I am given to understand that that accord is working well. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for what is happening within Somalia itself. In May 1988 a group of Somalis who had previously been in Ethiopia invaded northern Somalia. During the last 18 months there has been much bitter fighting, with an exceedingly high death toll and a considerable amount of damage covering vast parts of the country but mainly in the north, and considerable human misery has been caused. The government's reaction to this has been extremely severe. Many anti-government individuals and groups have been imprisoned or detained.
As for refugees, while prior to 1988 the numerous refugee camps in Somalia were occupied by persons who had come from Ethiopia, since the troubles began in May 1988 the camps have removed themselves to Ethipia. They are populated mainly by Somalis who have fled from the various towns and bases to try to get away from the exceedingly fierce fighting that has been taking place around them.
So far help has been provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and by the various voluntary agencies. All this though has had a vital effect on Somalia's precarious economy. Somalia has limited material resources, and in the past has received various kinds of aid, both bilateral and multilateral, but the effects of the present civil war situation have been catastrophic. Unfortunately, many of the development projects and ideas have had to stop because of the security conditions. Equally, a number of governments have been reluctant to proceed with their aid programmes owing to the suggestions that there have been violations of human rights.
The Somali Government itself is very much aware of the problems within its country and is endeavouring to restore normality. It has declared an amnesty for all those who are in rebellion against it. It has released—and is releasing—vast numbers of political prisoners. It has set up commissions to investigate the reasons for people's discontent, and it is seeking discussions with all dissenting groups. It is also amending its constitution so that the elections that will take place for the Somali general assembly in 1990 will be open to everybody from whatever party they come. It will be a multi-party election.
I hope and trust that Her Majesty's Government will watch events in Somalia, and that Her Majesty's Government will, with others, do their utmost to encourage all the various and varied Somali groups —both those supporting the government and those against the government—to come together and support the 1990 elections and to bring the present tragic situation to an end. If this can be done not only will it be exceedingly beneficial to Somalia, it will do a great deal of good within the Horn of Africa.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Lord Kagan
My Lords, the tidal wave of change sweeping through the East has delighted us all. But 110 should we be surprised? I think not. Soviet leadership, ever since Stalin's death, fully realised that a centrally-directed 100 per cent. planned economy was a terminal cancer in the state. It could only be sustained by total terror and would inevitably lead to the eventual destruction of the Russian empire. This was known from Kruschev onwards.
From the very beginning of his peace offensive, President Gorbachev stated his aim clearly. It was a common European home, and was also to create a European superpower in which Russia hopefully could play a leading and decisive role. This was President Gorbachev's aim in starting his peace offensive, and the natural partner for Russia to achieve this is —and since Bismarck was—Germany.
With German help it could hold its empire and its satellites together. Russians and Germans feel comfortable together because the Germans had Hitler to live down and the Russians have Stalin to live down. They do not feel as comfortable with the West, because there has always been this sort of inferiority complex. They want to play the role in world politics that their economy justifies.
The guiding principle of German imperial policy always was to look East for its development opportunities. This was welcomed by Russia seeking industrialisation. If you visit the Russian railways, the steel industry in the Urals, the coal mines of the Ukraine, you will find German names from 1908, 1912, etc.
Even Hitler shared that vision. In 1941, when the German army invaded Russia, the local populations of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Ukraine and White Russia received the German troops with open arms as liberators from Stalin's yoke. I was there at the time and watched it. On Hitler's instructions the occupation was handed over to the Gestapo and the stormtroopers, much against the will and over the heads of the professional army. Hitler, indulging in his paranoia, started the brutal mass killing and genocide. The local people realised that their future under Hitler's Germany would be as sub-human slave labour for the master race. Only then did resistance arise. Had Hitler not done this he would have cut through the Soviet Union like a knife through butter.
President Gorbachev, with his consummate insight and skill, has seen that the vision of Russian-German co-operation may again be realised. The only price required would be the shedding of the communist straitjacket and with it the artificial division of Germany. The reaction to this in West Germany was ecstatic. We all saw Gorby-mania when Mr. Gorbachev visited Germany. In Western Europe there is not the same enthusiasm for this idea, but rather puzzled apprehension. I suppose that we found ourselves in the classical dilemma that sometimes "God punishes us by granting our wishes."
The United States might very well welcome the emergence of a strong superpower from the Rhine to the borders of Japan as a counter-weight to the emergent Japanese-Chinese challenge of the nineties and possibly the third millennium. NATO and the EC will have to accept the eventual fact of German 111 reunification. If the two Germanies do not get our approval they will live in sin together and, if necessary, without our marital blessing. No matter how much they protest that they are merely good friends that will happen.
Germany will concentrate on its opportunities in the East, in central Europe and the Balkans. It will be much less interested in, and certainly less dependent on, the EC and NATO. It will not be hostile to those organisations but disinterested. The borders of Europe have shifted from the Elbe to the Rhine. As far as Russia is concerned the so-called German threat is becoming the German promise. Germany's success and popularity in the Soviet Union will be easily achieved. The impact of German managerial skills on Russian industry will easily raise the standard of living from the abysmal low level that exists now. After all, all that the people who live there want now is not a second home or a second car, but soap, razor blades and toilet paper. These are the luxuries. The German impact will certainly get a warm response from the Russian labour force.
Where does this situation leave the rest of Europe and these islands? In my opinion we must get closer to our partners in Europe. The special relationship with America, pleasurable as it was, will not be available. American troops will leave Europe as soon as it is safely possible. The Americans may love us and we love them but, alas, with the communist threat gone they do not need us. But the French, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Norwegians and so on need us and we need them for collective survival if we wish to stay in the first league on the world stage.
Our Prime Minister may not like M. Mitterrand and he may not prefer our Prime Minister. But it might be prudent for them to enter into a marriage of convenience for the sake of the identical and complementary interests of the two countries. Internally, we may have to resist the full luxury of adversarial politics and return somewhat to the discipline and consensus politics of the type practised by Winston Churchill during the war. In those days Britain's survival was at stake and Churchill offered, and the nation accepted, blood, sweat and tears to avoid defeat.
Nowadays it is not military confrontation, but economic competition and defeat that can be just as painful. A military confrontation is not likely to happen again, but the economic challenge is right here. If we cannot meet it we shall simply decline to third world status. That would mean that our children will inherit a quaint island of great interest to tourists and an industry as a sub-contractor for assembling Japanese cars and American washing machines. It may be that our leaders will have to offer the nation happily not blood this time but sweat and tears in order to hold our own and to regain our position.
Whatever party finds itself in power it will need to have the support of the other major parties to carry out measures that may be necessary but not popular. Ever since 1945 British Prime Ministers have known very well what was required and to quote one of them, the trouble was not the difficulty 112 in establishing the diagnosis, but getting the patient to take the medicine. It was almost axiomatic that if the government did what was economically right it would prove to be politically disastrous; if they did what was politically right it would prove to be economically disastrous.
Therefore, in the national interest it will be necessary to create a broad band of national objectives agreed and supported on a bipartisan basis more or less on the American lines. If this challenge is accepted, our chances are good. This island is blessed with abundant energy and is the only major power in Europe which is. Effectively it is a block of coal swimming in a lake of oil. Our universities produce innovators and scientists second to none. English is the universal language in the financial world and as a financial centre we give way to no one. Therefore the future is in our hands.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Lord Willoughby de Broke
My Lords, this afternoon we have heard many eloquent expressions of welcome for the moves to freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe. However, as we watch these extraordinary events unfold, I have to remind your Lordships that while so many lives will be changed in the most radical way for the good by this rush to democracy, there is one place where the reverse could happen. I refer to Hong Kong. There in 1997, under the joint agreement with China, we are due to hand over 5½ million people to the last great totalitarian regime; where personal freedom is circumscribed; where political freedom is non-existent and where the only answer to peaceful protest is brutal repression.
The joint agreement between China and Britain is a fact. The people of Hong Kong, although not consulted on the terms of the agreement, have to accommodate themselves to the arrangements made on their behalf. Their safeguard that the agreement will be honoured by China in both its letter and its spirit lies in the Basic Law, which is due to be presented to the National People's Congress for enactment in 1990.
My noble friend Lord Geddes has mentioned two particular points in the Basic Law dealing with the independence of the judiciary and its civil rights guarantees which need further clarification. There is at least one further question which needs to be addressed; that is, who will be responsible for declaring a state of emergency in Hong Kong with all that flows from this? Will it be the elected chief executive or will it be a figure from the mainland?
A further safeguard which the Hong Kong people would now welcome is to have in place a fully democratic system of government by 1997. Progress to this end should be swifter than hitherto, and I suggest that it would be an insult to the people of Hong Kong to imply that they are not ready for democracy. If we do not foster a fully representative government sooner rather than later, can anyone seriously believe that the Chinese Government will do this for us after 1997? If we believe that, we will believe anything.
113 A Basic Law that genuinely reflects the letter and spirit of the joint agreement and quicker progress to fully elected government are two of the ingredients in a package to guarantee a future for Hong Kong in the face of the increasingly aggressive line being taken by China. The third ingredient is one that has been dealt with ably by the noble Lord, Lord MacLehose, and my noble friend Lord Geddes, but it is of such paramount importance that I hope your Lordships will bear with me while I make my own small contribution. This is the question of passports; specifically, the number of full British passports to be issued giving their holders rights of a vote in this country and the countries of the EC. I am sure that your Lordships do not need reminding that until 1962, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, all 3 million holders of British dependent territories passports had the right to enter and remain in this country.
The principle that Britain should give passports to certain Hong Kong citizens is not in question. It is the numbers that make both the Government and the people of Hong Kong jittery, though for very different reasons. I recently visited Hong Kong and it was emphasised to me in the strongest terms that it would be damaging to Britain's own interests, a savage blow to the future of Hong Kong and a negation of our responsibilities if a really generous offer of passports is not forthcoming.
It has been argued that it would be irresponsible to give a large number of passports based on the theory that they will not be taken up; in effect, to write an insurance policy on which we are unable to meet a claim. This insurance policy analogy is dubious at best. No insurers write their policies on the basis that all policy holders will crash their cars or have their houses burgled. There is a careful calculation of the risks involved. Surely if the Government have confidence in their arrangement with China they should have nothing to fear by issuing passports, for very few people would then wish to leave. However, it cannot be repeated too often that the purpose of giving these passports is to give people the confidence to stay in Hong Kong. These are people who enjoy political and economic freedom in Hong Kong; people who would not wish to move from their jobs and their families and who are at home with the climate, language and culture. They live in a society which epitomises the virtues of self-reliance and enterprise and all of them still have strong family ties with mainland China.
We now have a once and for all chance to get the passport figure right. The passport package should include not just senior management and executives but also people in public service, education, medicine and transport as well as foremen and technicians. There should also be room for those who at a lower level have given loyal service in the public and private sector—in short, the people who make Hong Kong tick.
Were Britain to take a really generous lead in the matter, there is no doubt that other countries would follow. Indeed, at the recent Heads of Commonwealth Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore offered 25,000 passports to Hong Kong to be taken up over the next five to 10 years 114 without—and this is the important part —a period of residential qualification in Singapore. I believe that Canada and Australia have indicated that they are prepared to help, but they are waiting to see the colour of our money. The USA, as Hong Kong's biggest single investor, would surely be persuaded to join such a scheme.
However, we must take the lead and develop a plan along the lines already indicated by Singapore. All residential requirements to acquire citizenship in the country concerned should be waived in favour of the requirement to stay in Hong Kong for the qualifying period. This would at a stroke staunch the present outflow of skilled people which is so damaging to Hong Kong. In the end, can we really do anything less if we are to hand over to China a stable and prosperous society as the Joint Declaration requires?
Those are some of the measures which are needed to restore confidence in Hong Kong. I was pleased to hear from my noble friend the Minister that this is the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and other noble Lords who have asked that an early debate on the subject of Hong Kong be arranged. Time is not on our side.
In conclusion, I shall quote from a letter which I received recently from Hong Kong. It reads:The course that Britain takes will be judged not only by its own subjects in Hong Kong, but by the international community. We in Hong Kong have always believed in the fundamental fairness and decency of British people. We believe that they will see that Britain has both a moral obligation and a constitutional responsibility to support its subjects in their hour of need".I share that sentiment and hope sincerely that the Government will heed the arguments which have been put forward today.
§ 9.16 p.m.
My Lords, I wish to speak this evening as briefly as I can on various aspects of the Middle East situation, some of which may not be well known to your Lordships. I shall also speak on the continuing problem of human rights violations. Once more both these subjects were mentioned in the gracious Speech; but it is sad to relate that, in striking contrast to the amazing détente in East Europe, there has been no real progress in either of these spheres in the past year. I should perhaps mention here that I speak as vice-chairman of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.
Further, despite the peace-making efforts of President Mubarak and others, the stagnation on the Arab-Israel front continues to be especially disturbing. Indeed, this was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Greenhill. The Arab resistance to the Israelis, the intafada, continues undiminished, as does the Israeli repression of the Arabs. I should mention here that this is the eighth year in which I have spoken in this sense in your Lordships' House. One is inclined to say with Shakespeare,a plague on both your houses".Moreover, there is still no sign of the international conference on the Middle East problem, which has 115 been referred to many times in this House; indeed, a great many questions have been asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and other noble Lords. The problem is that without the participation of the PLO such a conference can make no real progress. Yet, as I am sure noble Lords are aware, neither the Americans nor the Israelis are prepared to recognise that body.
The American attitude is well illustrated by recent happenings in the village of Bait Sahour. These have not been prominently reported by the British press. It is a village—or perhaps one might call it a small town—near Bethlehem. It is supposed to be situated on or near the site of the shepherds' fields. The problem there is that the Arab inhabitants have refused, and steadfastly continue to refuse, to pay the taxes demanded by the Israeli authorities. As a result of that refusal, the Israeli authorities turned the whole area into a closed zone, cutting telephone communications with the outside world and forbidding any sort of access to the area. Later, they started confiscating property of the non-payers, who constituted the greater part of the town.
On 7th November, the Security Council condemned that action and ordered the return of the confiscated goods, but the Americans used their veto to oppose that motion, which otherwise won universal support; a strange attitude that, but one which illustrates all too clearly that the Americans are still hand in glove with the Israelis, whatever they say. It is perhaps worth mentioning that our man in Jerusalem managed to overcome the Israeli blockade of Bait Sahour, much to his credit.
Let me turn briefly to the problem of the Israeli closure of Arab schools in the occupied areas. That subject has also been discussed several times in your Lordships' House. It is perhaps the most harmful example of Israeli repression in the occupied areas. Unlike Shakespeare's schoolboy who,creeps like snail unwillingly to school",the Palestinian Arabs welcome education with open arms because it offers them the possibility of escape from their restrictive surroundings.
Most of the primary and secondary schools in the Arab areas have remained closed for all but two months in the past two years. However, they began reopening again in July-August of this year, but were recently once more closed until late January 1990. However —this is an important point which I do not believe has been brought out hitherto —all the Palestinian universities have remained closed since October 1987. I see the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, nodding his head at that. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether Her Majesty's Government have protested against that action and, if so, with what result.
I shall say a word or two now about the recent Jordanian general election. It was the first to be held for 22 years and followed one of the most open and clean campaigns in the whole Arab world. Of the 80 seats, the Moslem Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group, won the largest share (20 seats) and other radical groups were fairly well represented, despite King Hussein's call for moderation. However, with 116 the help of tribal leaders, the liberals and others in parliament, King Hussein will probably be able to resist pressure for the implementation of the more severe of the Islamic codes and a change in his pro-Western policy, which of course we should all regret.
I now turn to human rights violations, about which, as your Lordships know, I feel strongly. I have mentioned this subject in various ways on several occasions in the past few years. The latest Amnesty International report, which I do not have time to discuss in detail, regrettably reveals little change on those of previous years. It is sad that many of the new Commonwealth countries in Africa and elsewhere remain on the black list. That terrible pattern of terror, torture, senseless slaughter, degradation and despair appears to remain as before. I hope to raise that problem in more detail in your Lordships' House on a future occasion.
In regard to the Ugandan situation, about which I spoke some nine or 10 months ago, I should like to put on record that President Museveni has been working hard to overcome human rights violations, and according to my latest information there has been some notable improvement in the northern part of the country.
I should mention the Sudan, where trade unionists, government officials and others have recently been detained without trial. I must also refer to the continuing oppression of the Iraqi Kurds by the Baghdad Government which the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, revealed to your Lordships in such distressing detail earlier this year.
Finally, I wish to pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who was the greatest help to me in replying to various speeches, both when he was wearing his home affairs hat and also when he was dealing with foreign affairs. Perhaps I may congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, with whom I have had some amusing exchanges on railways and other related subjects. It is splendid to see his translation into this new sphere, where I am sure matters will be most adequately dealt with.
I also wish to say, as regards the two fronts of the Middle East and human rights—I am sure all Members of your Lordships' House will echo this —how much we regret the deaths of Lord Chelwood and Lord McNair, whose counsels and contributions in these spheres were of great benefit to your Lordships' House.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for being unable to hear all the debate as I have temporarily been incarcerated in the Tower! Many of your Lordships have already said what I was going to say, only rather more elegantly and eloquently. So your Lordships will be especially relieved that I shall be even more brief than usual. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara. It is very nice to see him on the Front Bench.
There is an old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times". My Lords, we do. We now see 117 the results of perestroika and glasnost. The Iron Curtain is creaking down; people are pouring out of East Germany; the Berlin Wall has cracked; the Czechs are parading in the streets. Every day some new drama unfolds; another piece of freedom emerges. It is like a huge glacier rushing into a greenhouse-warmed sea. The slow, solid ice is cracking into boulders, icebergs and rocks.
To escape the Chinese curse, we must remain calm. We must make our times less interesting. Now more than ever it is important for us to remain strong, to preserve our NATO alliance. We must do this for two reasons. First, the Warsaw Pact countries are still closely involved in their alliance. If we push too hard against that alliance and try to fragment it a new system of deep freezing may emerge. The 118 warm springs of humanity may be smothered and refrozen into blocks of ice. When our hands are icy cold we do not plunge them into hot water to thaw them; the pain is too great. They must unfreeze gradually in cold water. We must all have time.
Secondly, when we are in a river full of floating and dangerous rocks we need to keep ourselves secure. My youngest noble kinswoman recently went white water rafting in Nepal. When the water became turbulent she held firm to the paddle. If she fell, she fell into the security of the boat, not among the rocks and the rushing water. In this way she continued until she reached calm waters. We too must stand firm. We must not push too hard. We must not relax our defences until we are all safe in the still, calm waters of democracy and peace.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, the debate has revealed some sharp differences of opinion, sometimes brilliantly expressed, on Britain's role in the Community. I thought that the balance of argument went in favour of the position set out at the outset of the debate by my noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter. But at the same time it seems that there has been a total consensus on the reality and importance of the Gorbachev revolution.
It has long been evident, and has been stated many times from these Benches, that Mr. Gorbachev has been wholly committed in his international policies to drastic cuts in Soviet military expenditure, and to disengaging the Soviet Union with as much dignity as possible from its former domination of the East European countries. The subsequent changes in East Europe have divided and vastly weakened the Warsaw Pact. I feel it is an anomaly that in spite of this there has as yet been no official announcement at all of any change whatever in the future level of British defence expenditure or in our defence policy. Perhaps the Minister who will reply tonight will give us some indication of whether our policy is totally unchanged from the days of Brezhnev, in spite of all that has happened since.
Our policy as set out in this year's White Paper takes pride in the fact that our conventional capacity is increasing and will continue to increase in the 1990s. It takes pride in the fact that we are spending more on defence than before and that our expenditure will increase in the years ahead. It commits us once again to insisting on the modernisation of NATO short-range nuclear weapons, to replacing our own free-fall nuclear bombs, and of course vastly increasing our strategic nuclear capability with the prompt completion of the Trident project. However, there is an anomaly here. I hope the Minister who is to reply can help us here. The fact is that the Government have been slow to accept the genuineness of Mr. Gorbachev's intentions. Last year, and this year still, we were told that we must judge by actions and not words. We were told not to believe the assurances of Mr. Gorbachev that he intended to cut the defence budget, and not to take seriously the withdrawal and destruction of Soviet tanks from Eastern Germany.
We were told constantly that there was no change in British defence policy. We were also told that strength and firmness of policy were essential and successful when communism was strong. However, these past few months that has not been helpful when communism was collapsing. What was needed then was something different. Reassurance, conciliation and help to Mr. Gorbachev were needed. I regret to say that the Government have not really complied with that. They still take the view, as they have consistently done and as they did in the debate we had on the Defence Estimates, that we had to prepare to deter aggression by the Warsaw Pact.
In his extremely positive and interesting speech today, the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, having made a most interesting and helpful suggestion that a Marshall Plan is required for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, then made 120 the surprising statement that he was worried about the threat of aggression from the Soviet tank force in Germany. I find that hard to believe. Indeed, I believe that the Government themselves have conceded that there is no present threat of conventional aggression at all. When one looks at the threat of possible future conventional aggression, one has to make a whole number of unusual assumptions before the threat becomes credible. One has to assume a new backlash regime in the Soviet Union that is hostile to the West. One has to assume that the regime succeeds in re-unifying the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and succeeds in re-indoctrinating them against the West so that they feel the West is an enemy rather than something to be copied and a friend.
Even after that one has to assume that the new regime has reversed the run-down of Soviet military forces while at the same time so strengthening the Soviet economy as to be capable of sustaining conventional war. That is not credible, even as a future threat. It certainly does not justify the present level of defence expenditure of the NATO countries and of this country.
An unusually high proportion of our GNP is devoted to defence. I was taken to task in the debate on the Defence Estimates in July for suggesting that the proportion of our GNP spent on defence should be cut. I should be interested to know whether that is still the view of the Government. Perhaps the Minister can tell us when he winds up.
The Government of the United States have taken a much more realistic view of the implications of the changes. They have already announced their proposals for a major cut in defence expenditure, including a major manpower cut in American forces in Europe. I believe that America's allies in NATO are entitled to complain about the manner in which those decisions have been taken, without consultation either with NATO or the Soviet Union. They have made the cuts unilaterally, precisely according to the method recommended in this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and according to the policy of CND. That is most unusual. The Russians have also been making unilateral cuts.
One has to wonder how that will affect the validity of the CFE talks on disarmament. It would certainly be very odd if the multilateral negotiations, with their insistence on reciprocity and watertight verification, were to act as a brake, rather than a spur, on the scale of disarmament.
Be that as it may, we on these Benches are in agreement with the Government on a number of points. I do not have to detail them all. We agree entirely that the integrity of the Warsaw Pact and NATO must be maintained in this difficult period, even if their task is largely to negotiate their own replacement by something more relevant. We agree that reunification is a matter for the German people. We agree that the first requirement must be for free elections, and so on. We agree that aid should be channelled collectively through the Community.
However, we believe that the Government are still under-estimating the speed of change, as they have 121 done most notably in the years preceding the breakdown of the Berlin Wall. They seem to assume that some years will pass before the most sensitive and difficult questions reach the agenda. On these Benches we agree entirely with the line taken by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. We cannot be sure of that. In particular, the question of German reunification and its implications for the future of NATO and the Warsaw Pact and the question of the German borders are very difficult and sensitive questions. But it is not wise to assume that they are not on the agenda.
The Government argue that. They have some support internationally, both in the East and in the West. Once again, on these Benches we feel that the Government may be taken by surprise. We note that they were singularly unmoved by the warning that they were given from these Benches in the defence debate in July that they should prepare for the collapse of the East German regime. Once again we do not believe that the Government have taken on board the nature, scope and speed of the changes that have taken place.
Who can be sure that the Soviet Union will not quite soon propose formally, as it proposed formally 30 years ago, that the troops of NATO and the Warsaw Pact are wholly withdrawn back to their own frontiers? They could suggest that in Malta. As things stand, I judge that that would not be acceptable to NATO, but it might be acceptable to public opinion in Germany and perhaps in some other NATO countries, not excluding the United States. There is a first class crisis of most dangerous proportions.
Perhaps we may turn to the question of German borders which the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, raised. As the noble Lord realises —and I agree with him that it is not enough —the West German Government have most formally and solemnly abjured any attempt to alter those boundaries other than by negotiation; and they will never be able to alter them by negotiation. Nevertheless, I am sure that we on these Benches agree with the noble Lord that much more needs to be done before there can be a peace treaty and reunification of Germany.
However, all those things seem to be capable of happening quickly. Who can be sure that free elections next year in the German Democratic Republic will not lead to immediate demands for German reunification? There is some danger in refusing to discuss those matters, delicate as they are, until they come our way. It would be much wiser either for NATO and the Warsaw Pact to discuss contingency plans, first within themselves and then together, or perhaps, as the noble Lord suggested, for the CFE organisation to take those matters on board. There should now be discussion of contingency plans in the event that those most difficult and sensitive problems suddenly present themselves. Above all, we must ensure that the security system which has served us well for 40 years and which is now becoming obsolete does not disappear until there is a new security system agreed with the members of both pacts in its place. That is vital.
122 I can reassure the noble Earl, Lord Arran, that the House will not expect him to give precise, official answers to all those questions in his summing up tonight. However, perhaps he will say something about whether changes are being considered in British defence policy and, if so, along what lines. A clear answer on that point would be interesting and helpful to the House.
These are great days for everyone in Europe, but perhaps most of all for those of us who, in however humble a role, were involved in the worst of the cold war, who had to try to cope with Vyshinsky and Molotov and who flew into Berlin during the blockade with food and messages of encouragement. It was a great thing to be in at the birth of NATO; and then, with resolute colleagues of all parties, to share in the fight against communism, It is a great thing indeed to now see the Berlin Wall crumbling and the triumph of the ideas for which we have been fighting.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, it is a remarkable commentary on human affairs that, when an event comes about for which millions of people have prayed—namely, freedom from oppression and fear in many countries of the world —the result should be fear and confusion about what we should do. An ex-bishop speaking from the pulpit conjured up future Nuremberg rallies. Others who are afraid that history will repeat itself begin to make prescriptive statements about what Germans should do. Some still believe that it is all a Russian plot to lull us into a false sense of security when, at some stage or other, they will pounce upon us. Others express the need for caution which, rather than being a rational appreciation of what is happening, is a sign of lack of understanding of what is happening or what to do about it.
We should look upon what has happened as a heaven-sent opportunity to help build a wider, freer, democratic Europe and a more stable peace. In that process the one option not open to us is to do nothing. It is a time for political leadership, vision and imagination. For those who are afraid that history will repeat itself, historians are largely agreed that leaders from Woodrow Wilson to Neville Chamberlain made grievous mistakes. We must try to do better.
The question is: are we getting the political leadership that we need to prevent history repeating itself? Despite the rather fulsome tributes to his own government made by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, many people will think that we are not receiving that leadership. Of the Mansion House speech the Independent wrote:Mrs. Thatcher last night exploited the 'historic changes' in Eastern Europe to bolster her longstanding campaign against greater European unity".The Guardian was even harsher and called the speech:A misbegotten disaster. The UK's contribution, for what it is currently worth, brought nothing of imagination or vision to events which demand statesmanship from statesmen".123 Those are very harsh judgments. However, as one looks around one sees in many fields a series of erratic actions which have increasingly marginalised Britain's influence everywhere. That is true of the EC, true of the Commonwealth and in some respects true of NATO. Many people, including a number of Conservatives, fear that at this critical time, when we should be working with our friends in these organisations to strengthen them, we are isolating ourselves from the main sphere of influence.
Who finds it difficult not to sympathise with the plaintive comment of Mr. Douglas Hurd, a life-long supporter of Britain in Europe, when he said that:we ought to be inside helping to shape things rather than being outside throwing stones"?New thinking and properly ordered change are vital if we are not to descend into chaos or to see change without the prerequisite for co-operation; namely, free and fair elections. We need an orderly reduction of Warsaw Pact and NATO conventional forces.
As it happens, I do not believe that the Warsaw Pact will collapse. In any case we should do our very best to prevent it. I believe that already there are moves, by some members of the Warsaw Pact, which have obtained some sympathy on the part of the Russians, to change the nature of that pact. They are not against change. What they need is what we need: orderly and properly managed change.
We warned the Government of the consequences of pressing for the modernisation of the Lance missiles. We said that it was contrary to the spirit of the INF treaty, that it would not strengthen NATO but destabilise it, and that in any case no German government could agree before the next general election. In the event, President Bush sided with the Germans against Mrs. Thatcher, thus marginalising further our influence with America and strengthening the American-German relations at our expense.
Yet events have shown just how wrong-headed was that policy. We warned that early use of those weapons, which was NATO policy, would kill a lot of Germans and probably many British soldiers too. Now we must add thousands of East Germans with whom we wish to co-operate in future.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said recently that the changes in Eastern Europe had made the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons laughable. As the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said, that is a failure to respond to these dramatic changes which mean that the erstwhile policies are no longer relevant in any sense.
Indeed, the doctrine of flexible response is now patent nonsense. We propose that those small nuclear weapons should be included immediately in the mandate of the Vienna talks with the possibility of an agreement on a "third zero". If that were to happen the Soviets would get rid of 14 times as many weapons as we would. As recently as 2nd April 1989 Mrs. Thatcher said:The United Kingdom would not be prepared to accept the denuclearisation of Europe which would leave us dangerously exposed to Soviet superiority in conventional weapons".124 Despite Mrs. Thatcher, we believe that the argument about the stationing of nuclear weapons in Germany is over. In both Houses her Ministers were protesting, as recently as the Defence Estimate debates in July, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said, that there was no sign that anything had happened in the Warsaw Pact countries as a result of Mr. Gorbachev's activities. But the International Institute for Strategic Studies tells a different story. In recent surveys it states that the unilateral cuts in the Soviet armed forces which were announced 12 months ago were making a surprise attack 'barely plausible'. The necessary units are being withdrawn. Differences between members of the Warsaw Pact —those holding out against change and those embracing it at a breathtaking speed —render its use for offensive purposes even less credible.
But something of this has been known for the past two years. The Defence Group of this House went to see General Rogers, and the following year General Calvin. They both said that a surprise attack was most unlikely.
According to the press, the Government have rejected plans by the Bush administration to base nuclear capable B25 bombers in Great Britain. This is a significant shift in the position of the Prime Minister which until now has been in support of American nuclear modernisation plans. I think that the action would in any case be contrary to the spirit of the INF Treaty. We welcome the change of heart and perhaps wonder what the Prime Minister's motives have been for the change: perhaps to teach the Americans a lesson for not supporting her in the short-range weapon argument.
The comment of Mr. Dan Plesch of the British American Security Council was perhaps not inappropriate:The British Government appears to be all in favour of nuclear modernisation as long as it is in Germany.Equally the events of the past week or two made Mrs. Thatcher's preoccupation with nuclear weapons, and in particular with Trident, just a fantasy which has cost us a great deal of money, has weakened our conventional contribution, and which, in my view, we shall never get to use in an independent way.
However, what is even more astonishing in the light of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, is that over the weekend there appeared in the press a very detailed account of a secret defence review that has been taking place with the intention of shifting resources from the army to the navy, with the £1 billion plan for a new battle tank for the British Army of the Rhine, and the anti-tank missile planned for the 1990s being scrapped.
Let me say at once that we have no objection to the navy receiving more money. We have complained on a number of occasions at the failure of the Government to maintain our commitment of 50 ships to NATO. The neglect has been so great that at one time in an emergency only 31 ships would have been available within a reasonable time, to say nothing of the Government's neglect of the merchant marine without which we could not operate even a Falklands style operation.
125 Yes, we need a defence review, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said. We have been asking for it for some time. But we are not sure that the secret review by the Government is what this country needs or what the situation demands. In the 1980s a botch was made of the review. We had the extraordinary situation of the noble Lord, Lord Pym, then Secretary of State for Defence, marching up Downing Street with the Chiefs of Staff protesting at what was happening, the preoccupation with nuclear weapons, in particular with Trident, leaving the rest of the forces in a sorry state.
If there is to be a review —and we think it is appropriate that there should be one —let us have a public debate in which everyone who is involved and interested can take part. If we had a public debate in this very changed situation there may well be more agreement than the Government think on many sides of the House.
It seems a strange time, in the middle of great events and before the outcome is clear, to start a secret defence review. However, if there is to be a review it should be a total review, including all our weapons and services. It should address the provision we need in the future when we transform forward defence into what is needed for non-provocative defence. It is important in the stages when eastern countries are not only getting rid of the yoke of communism that we assure as much stability as possible by maintaining and strengthening the institutions which exist and which have served us so well. That applies to NATO. It applies to the EC. It applies also to the Warsaw and NATO security pacts. They are the only instruments through which disarmament can be managed.
I believe that there is sympathy on the part of the Russians for the transformation of the Warsaw Pact into a different kind of pact, including some non-communist people; to change it from being purely military into a political organisation which could conceivably join with NATO in a proper assessment, in the changed situation, of what is necessary to provide proper security in Europe.
Clearly Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev will be the means by which change can be managed. It is hoped that after their meeting in December they will put forward a plan for progress with the requirements necessary to enable the communist nations—or the ex-communist nations—to enter into full co-operation with the West. Democracy with free and fair elections must be the basis and we should assure Russia and others that once that is achieved the West will help in every way possible. We ought not to forget that it was the generosity of the Americans in the Marshall Plan that facilitated the recovery of Europe on democratic lines.
Whether or not there is a new unified Germany, I believe that much of the money and vast savings in Western Germany which are looking for investment will in any event go to East Germany and therefore there will be considerable recovery. I hope that they will advance the cause of disarmament. In my view, that is the key to almost everything else in developing trust and confidence and for taking out of each of the alliances the menace which the other may find.
126 Clearly NATO must examine its own priority. I cannot believe that if the process of perestroika should continue and succeed either side will wish to maintain as many troops in Europe as they have done for the past 30 years. I believe that before many more years have passed there will be a public call for the removal of troops in Europe. Success lies in making countries such as East Germany, properly reformed, feel at home in the West. There is no certainty that the East Germans will wish to join with the Federal Republic. In certain fields East Germany has created a persona which makes East Germans feel that the state is worth supporting. That is especially so if the tyrannies, oppressions and so forth are removed and freedom is given.
However, it is important to say that any undue criticism of its right to decide freely what it should do is more likely to drive Germany into neutralism than anything else.
I understand that the CFE talks are making good progress. I hope that Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Bush will help. I understand that the proposals that Mr. Bush will bring to the Mediterranean will include one for a second round of CFE talks to be much more extensive than the first. We should congratulate Mr. Bush on the way in which he has conducted himself during the past few months. He has been right to do nothing to arouse a suspicion that the United States are seeking to impose a condominium on Europe. I believe that in Malta he intends to assure Mr. Gorbachev that he and those in the United States wish for the success of perestroika and that nothing will be done to destabilise the Warsaw Pact or entice its members to leave. He also hopes to persuade Mr. Gorbachev that it is in his own best interests that they will be served by continuing American presence in Europe, further, that it will be in everyone's interests, including the Soviet's, for the united Germany to be anchored in the Western alliance rather than in a force dominating Central Europe. He attaches great importance to the deepening process of integration in Western Europe. All those issues are very much on the right lines.
America sees the future of a reformed East Germany as a matter for the Germans and unification can come in a number of ways. It can be full federalism to that of a friendly neighbourhood on the Austrian lines with the new Germany becoming a full member of NATO. We face an extraordinary situation when, as has been said, the people of the East are clamouring to join us and not to fight us. It may turn out to be one of the biggest sea-changes in history. However, we shall not be forgiven if we fail to take advantage of the opportunities to reinforce freedom, peace and prosperity in Europe for all.
§ 10 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, before I begin my winding up your Lordships would wish to know that we have heard since the beginning of this debate of the death of President Moawab of the Lebanon, who was tragically killed while leaving an Independence Day reception this afternoon. We send our sympathy to his family and to the Lebanese people.
The defence policy of the United Kingdom, as a part of NATO, is intimately bound up with the 127 developments in what used to be called the Eastern bloc. In these remarkable days it has become customary —indeed, almost automatic —to begin any remarks on either defence or foreign affairs with a reference to the great upheaval and political change under way in the countries of the Warsaw Pact. So it will come as no surprise to noble Lords, and particularly as no surprise to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, if I address this subject briefly first.
Indeed, it would be difficult to do otherwise. Apart from the sheer historical moment of the events of recent weeks, the security and international interests of the United Kingdom cannot be sensibly discussed unless it is against this backdrop. How to respond to the new order emerging in the East is the greatest challenge facing NATO at present, and it is in this context that our defence policy must be understood. I shall endeavour not to re-tread ground covered by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara but rather will concentrate on the implications of the current rapid change for our defence policy.
We applaud the recognition of many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Stewart of Fulham and Lord Greenhill of Harrow, that whatever the speculation about the reunification of Germany the key must be self-determination for the German people. The first step must be genuinely democratic elections in the GDR.
We appear to be witnessing Soviet changes of attitude to the whole question of military power. Military doctrine, it is said, is being re-examined to conform to Mr. Gorbachev's concept of reasonable sufficiency. What this will mean in terms of the structure and strategy of Soviet forces is not yet fully clear. But there is a growing acceptance of the need to reduce the crippling burden imposed by Soviet military spending. This is reflected in negotiations on arms control, on which I shall say more in a moment.
My noble friend Lord Brabazon referred in his speech to some wider perspectives on the concept of security, and the ways in which the Government are pursuing it. I should like to discuss this briefly from a more military point or view. It is argued in some quarters that the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact is diminishing. Certainly we do not believe that the Soviet Union intends to attack the West, and the changes now taking place make it even less likely. But we need to keep absolutely clear in our minds that we have to base our defence on the concrete rather than the intangible, in response to capabilities rather than intentions. And even after the unilateral cuts that have been announced by the Soviet leadership the Warsaw Pact will continue to have a significant superiority over NATO in almost all areas.
That point was heavily underlined by my noble friend Lord Home in what I may say was a typically wise and pragmatic speech. So long as there exists a significant military threat to this country and her allies our first priority must be to ensure that we retain our ability to counter it, and thereby to rule out the option of military aggression as a way of achieving political objectives.
128 Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that it is because of the long and steadfast determination of the West to defend itself that Christianity and compassion have been able to flourish in so much of the civilised world.
Never must we lose sight of the fact that in terms of reducing military threats to stability it is NATO that has consistently set the agenda, and it has taken many years for the Eastern bloc to come round to a position from which constructive talks can be held on security and matters of mutual interest. In other words, we must never lose sight of NATO's achievement, a point again strongly reinforced by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition.
My Lords, I do not believe that you would expect me to disagree with my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery that it is our steadfast policy of negotiation from a position of strength that has led to this success. When the countries of such a monolithic and ideologically controlled power bloc as the Warsaw Pact begin to reform and liberalise themselves, and the alliance to which they belong begins to take steps towards reducing the instability caused by its military policies, it is only right that the spotlight of world attention should fall on the leadership that has made it possible.
We should applaud Mr. Gorbachev for his vision —as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford —his courage and his diligence in being willing to contemplate change, and the peoples of Eastern Europe for grasping the opportunities for freedom. Nevertheless, we must recognise, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said, that Mr. Gorbachev is a communist, and we must not delude ourselves that the policies NATO has followed consistently since the Harmel Report in 1967 are in any way losing their relevance. On the contrary, the very turmoil in the East shows us the necessity for NATO to remain consistent and united, a policy which was reaffirmed in the Comprehensive Concept agreed at the NATO summit in May. We would be failing in our responsibilities if we did not bear in mind very fully the unpredictability of events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe at the moment. My noble friend Lord Alport warned us of the dangers of ignoring this factor.
I would at this point take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, in that we already have an alliance of two pillars, and we in the United Kingdom will continue to make a significant contribution to the European pillar. That is not to say that we should stand idly by at one of the most exciting moments in European history since 1945. Indeed, quite the opposite. We should do all we can to encourage the peaceful change in the East, and to take full advantage of the easier East-West relations to attain lasting measures that will remove still further the possibility of war. But we must move forward responsibly and hold firmly to the maintenance of our security as our first objective, as indeed their own security is to the Soviets.
We also need to bear in mind the effects that an improvement to the security climate in Europe will have on public perceptions. These perceptions shape the internal policies of all members of the alliance, 129 and public support for a credible and forward-looking defence policy will be vital. We must continue to ensure that NATO's case is fully understood and appreciated. That is the rejoinder I would make to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, on his perception of public expectations.
The message of the continuing relevance of NATO's approach must be fully brought home, for it is not sufficient for our policy to be valid and well thought out—it must be clearly seen to be this. We must carry public opinion with us. Past experience has shown that the public are willing to accept reasonable argument, but this will not always be easy at a time when wild and unsubstantiated speculation about the future of our defence is all too readily offered.
An important aspect of this will be demonstrating that our attentions are focused on enhacing mutual security, and we are doing this in the talks on conventional forces in Europe at Vienna. These negotiations, which started in March, have as their aim the removal of disparities in conventional force levels, the elimination of capabilities for massive offensive action or surprise attack, and the achievement of stability and balance in conventional forces at lower levels. These agreed aims themselves are a breakthrough, as they indicate that the Soviet Union has finally accepted the implications of its massive conventional military superiority and is prepared to negotiate on the same terms as NATO in many areas in the interests of creating a safer Europe. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence said, these reductions do not invalidate the tried and tested policies of flexible response and forward defence. Therefore I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman.
At the same time, the United States and the Soviet Union are negotiating reductions in their strategic nuclear arsenals at the START talks which resumed this year. The objective of these talks is the reduction of American and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons by 50 per cent. Significant progress has been made in recent months with the Soviet agreement to decouple START from the defence and space negotiations, and their acceptance that the Krasnoyarsk radar station is in breach of the ABM treaty, and must be dismantled. In addition a number of further measures on verification and confidence building were agreed when Mr. Shevardnadze met Secretary of State Baker in Wyoming in September. I was most encouraged by the message I received at an international conference which I was attending in Munich yesterday when both the US and the Soviet ambassador to the START talks said that an agreement was in sight.
The third area of arms control talks, and, again, one in which there have been significant developments in recent months, is the negotiation of a convention on chemical weapons. These negotiations are far from straightforward, given the relative ease with which these horrific weapons can be manufactured from legitimate civil sources. In the past couple of months both superpowers have reaffirmed their determination to rid the world of this form of weapon. President Bush has offered to 130 cut US CW stocks by 80 per cent. provided the Soviet Union reduces its stocks to the same level, this as a step towards a global ban. Together with an agreement at Wyoming for the bilateral exchange of CW data and verification between the US and the USSR, this proposal marks an important practical move to boost confidence and should give added impetus to the negotiations in Geneva. For our part, the UK has continued to take an active role in the negotiations and has made a particular contribution in the form of our pioneering work on practice challenge inspections.
We share the concern of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, at the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons' capability. We shall continue to do all we can to promote the non-proliferation treaty. All these three areas of negotiations, as well as those on confidence and security building measures, and the defence and space talks show signs of promise, some more immediately than others. In addition, the relationships between Eastern and Western leaders remain close with all the valuable potential that provides for using summits to resolve points of difference and agree broad objectives.
In this context we look forward to the forthcoming meeting between President Bush and Mr. Gorbachev next month. As a number of noble Lords have said, we should not let the remarkable events in Eastern Europe blind us to the importance of the rest of the world. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, raised a number of points in his speech. South Africa was also touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, the noble Lord, Lord Pitt and the comments of the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, were most welcome.
The Government remain firmly of the view that punitive sanctions will create an economic wasteland without ending apartheid. Our contribution to the United Nations' plan for Namibia is 15 million and assistance with the return of refugees. Other forms of assistance have been British election monitors and 170 men for a signals unit there. Cambodia was the main interest of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. We shall not deviate from the practice of successive Administrations not to comment on allegations of the involvement of special forces. We help to promote a political settlement through the United Nations and the Paris conference, not a military solution.
Together with many other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, raised the question of the United Kingdom's role in Europe. I cannot accept the depiction of the situation put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. As my noble friend Lord Brabazon made fully clear in his opening speech, the development of the Community is essential to our concept of Britain's future. We shall continue to participate fully in that process.
I listened with interest to the words of my noble friend Lord Cockfield, but I have to say that at the same time I also noticed with interest that my noble friend Lord Selkirk did not altogether agree with 131 him. Yes, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is very much more usually right than wrong, as my noble friend Lord Selkirk quite rightly brought out.
The noble Lord, Lord Whaddon, raised the question of official export credit guarantees for Poland. I can tell my noble friend that no decision has yet been taken to resume these and they are but one of a number of avenues for help under consideration. This course would have the disadvantage of increasing Poland's already large debt burden.
On the subject of Hong Kong, we heard some very interesting words from the noble Lord, Lord MacLehose, and also from my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke. We have great confidence in Hong Kong's future on the basis of the Joint Declaration. We are doing all we can to restore the confidence of the people of Hong Kong in themselves. Above all, we want them to stay in Hong Kong to continue the territory's economic success.
Many other points were raised on the rest of the world and perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I press on with my speech and write in reply to the points which I have not been able to deal with now.
For the United Kingdom to continue to play a major part in the alliance we will need both excellent manpower in the Services and modern and capable equipment. I was rather surprised, if I may say so, that no speaker among your Lordships actually highlighted the British Services. Everything said was directed towards the Eastern bloc. The British Services remain, and will always remain, of the utmost importance to the defence of this country. Our most valuable asset is the quality of our Servicemen and women. But the implications for the Services of the notorious demographic trough are serious and we are continuing to devote much effort to overcoming problems both of recruitment and retention.
To reduce the outflow of trained personnel, we are introducing many measures to improve the quality of life for Service personnel, as well as to increase job satisfaction. We have in place measures to assist the homeowning serviceman, and we are considering what more we might do to help servicemen meet their housing needs. Likewise, we have taken a number of steps to enhance the recruitment effort. Spending on recruitment advertising was increased by more than one-third this year, allowing a number of new initiatives to be taken by the Services. In addition, entry requirements have been adjusted, while ensuring that standards are not affected. In some cases special courses are being run to help bring potential recruits up to the required standards.
Finally in this context, I should mention that we are fully aware of the need to draw on currently under-utilised resources by enhancing the role of women in the Services and increasing recruitment from ethnic minorities.
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, made mention again of the war widows. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, knows very well from his own experiences as a former Prime Minister the problems and the 132 difficulties that relate to war widows. Equally, I hope I made it perfectly clear in Question Time last week that I said I would report the situation and the feelings of your Lordships to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State; and indeed I have done that.
Turning to equipment, the modernisation of our strategic deterrent, replacing the Polaris system with Trident, remains on course for the mid 1990s. The first two Vanguard class submarines are at an advanced stage of construction, and we plan to place the order for the third boat by the end of the year. It is not just in strategic systems that the Royal Navy contributes to NATO. We continue to keep the Navy up-to-date and up to strength.
The Army too plays a major part in Britain's contribution to NATO. The sixth Challenger regiment has now been delivered, and a seventh is on order. As regards the replacement of our Chieftain tanks, we are funding a demonstration phase to allow Vickers Defence Systems to show that it can meet our requirements in developing a new model of Challenger. The Royal Air Force also continues to be updated. The first squadron of Harrier GR5s became operational this year. Four squadrons of Tornado F3s are now operational, and a fifth has been formed.
If we are to meet our NATO commitments, we need to match our resources to them. The defence expenditure plans announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement last week reflect the continuing resolve of the Government to maintain a strong defence and sustain the United Kingdom's responsibilities within the NATO alliance. I strongly stress that point to the noble Lords, Lord Mayhew and Lord Irving of Dartford.
By far the largest single commitment to NATO comes of course from the United States, and there have recently been some suggestions that there may be proposals to make some reductions in its defence budget in future. We are not aware of the details of these proposals, which are a matter for the US Government and which would anyway have to be approved within the administration and by Congress. We are conscious of American budgetary pressures. Nevertheless, it is important that any reductions are consistent with progress being made in arms control, and with NATO commitments. I have no doubt that any proposals by the United States will be the subject of consultation with its NATO allies.
In the field of procurement we continue to refine the policies we have introduced in order to introduce competition into defence procurement and to ensure that we deal with our suppliers in a fully commercial and realistic way.
While 95 per cent. of the United Kingdom's defence expenditure is devoted to NATO, we should not forget the part that our armed forces play elsewhere in the world. Whether they are contributing to the United Nations forces in Cyprus and Namibia, serving in garrisons in dependent territories or responding to emergencies such as Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean, we should be proud of the role of British servicemen and the benefit they can provide to Britain's standing round 133 the world. To take just one recent example, the assistance that we are providing to Colombia in dealing with its terrible internal problems with the drug barons shows the part the armed forces can play. I believe that that assistance is very welcome.
Finally, any talk of our servicemen's tasks world-wide would be glaringly incomplete without a strong and continuing appreciation of their duties at home. I am sure that noble Lords would join me in paying tribute to the continuing dedication of the servicemen and women in Northern Ireland. The murderous intent of the terrorists has been demonstrated brutally in the past week, with the killing of three soldiers at Mayobridge last Saturday and a further export of violence to the mainland in the bombing of a staff sergeant and his wife in Colchester.
Today's remembrance service in Canterbury reminds us of the cowardly attack on the Royal Marine musicians at Deal. These are just the latest in a long list of heinous acts of terrorism that continue to plague the Province. They profit no one—least of all the community which the terrorists claim to represent. The men and women of the armed forces who act in support of the RUC in combating this menace continue to show the courage and the professionalism that we have come to expect of them in the most difficult circumstances.
The wide range of topics that we have discussed today demonstrates not only the extent of the interest and knowledge of Members of this House but also the number of areas in the world where the United Kingdom has a role to play.
I have tried to answer most of the points which have been raised. I apologise if I have not covered at least one point made by each noble Lord who has taken part in the debate. However, my noble friend Lord Brabazon and myself will cover such points. I can assure noble Lords that we shall write to them on these matters.
The debate has shown that no one can doubt that the most momentous events are being played out on the stage of Eastern Europe; few would hazard a guess as to what the situation will be there in a year's time. Such events always produce a fountain of prophesies —already pundits are re-writing the vocabulary of East-West relations, declaring that we shall no longer have any use for terms such as the Iron Curtain or the Cold War. We are told by the newspapers that NATO and the Warsaw Pact will wither away. We are told all sorts of things; but I am sure that some of the judgments are over-hasty. We should, above all, be aware of the new problems and challenges that the situation presents and be prepared to meet them in a considered and far-sighted manner.
This is a time when we must all keep cool heads, as my noble friend Lady Strange, said, and stand by the policies and institutions which have brought us this far. We must tread a careful path. In doing so, we hope for a new relationship in which the people of Eastern Europe are free of military intimidation —a new relationship in which arms control aids all people in turning the seeds of war into the fruits of peace.
§ Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Reay.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past ten o'clock.